politics, pop culture, social justice

Save the Net! Hug a Laptop!

So the thing about Net Neutrality is, it’s the kind of phrase that’s really easy to ignore when you’re scrolling through Twitter at 2AM trying to convince yourself to put the phone down.

Which, it turns out, is a bit of a problem, because Net Neutrality is what’s going to allow you to keep accessing random pictures of puppies hosted on the blog of that girl you used to go to high school with who was always kind of weird, but now she has this really frickin’ cute puppy… Net Neutrality is also what makes it possible for all seven of you to notice that my little blog exists when there are other blogs out there that seventy thousand people are reading. Blogs that people get paid to write. Blogs that are actually websites, and websites that (if Net Neutrality is murdered) could afford to “fast track” their exposure online in a way that I personally would probably never be able to do.

Lucky for you, I’ve been in Texas for two days and I’m already bored of job hunting! So I’m taking a little time away from Witches of East End to explain in simple terms what Net Neutrality is, why we need to keep it, and what you can do about it.

Also lucky for you, I learned almost everything I know about this from John Oliver on “Tonight with John Oliver” so here’s him, being funnier and smarter than me:

I sincerely recommend you watch that video, but if you didn’t, here’s a very simple recap:

1) There are only a few companies that provide internet, and they are evil

2) The guy now in charge of the FCC (aka Federal government Craps on online Communication) is the guy who used to be one of the top lobbyists for cable companies

3) Right now on the internet, all data is equal

4) The FCC wants to introduce a class system into the internet that will require companies to pay extra for faster speeds, better service, etc. Meaning, some data will be privileged over other data

5) There is very little we can do about this, because they are regulating themselves

6) What we can do is go online to fcc.gov/comments and tell the FCC how we feel about this potential change

Now here’s where it gets (more) irritating, because if you go to that website, you’ll notice that it looks like this:

FCC comment page 1And if you click on the numbers to the right of one of the many titles (title for what, the website does not make abundantly clear) you are directed to a list of comments that looks like this:

FCC comment page 2

 

Not exactly inviting or easy to navigate. Lucky for you, I have lots of time on my hands. And I used that time to create step-by-step instructions for where to go and what to say to make it clear that you want the internet to remain an equal opportunity circlejerk. So if you do nothing else today, do this:

1) Go to fcc.gov/comments and select one (or all) of the many numbers to the left of the titles on the screen.

2) If you select the first one (“proceeding 14-57”) you can file a comment on the pending merger of Time Warner and Comcast–which will create an even larger and more harmful cable company monopoly, so I highly recommend you do! Here are a few links to some excellent examples of individual criticisms of the merger!

3) If you select the third one, (“proceeding 14-28”) or the twelfth one (“proceeding 9-191”) or both, you can file a comment specifically on the issue of net neutrality. Here are myriad links to excellent examples of individual pleas for the legal preservation of net neutrality.

3b) A lot of people are also demanding that internet providers be classified as “common carriers” which would solve a whole bunch of our problems, too!

4) No matter which proceeding you want to comment on, you will be directed to a page that looks like this:

FCC comment page 3

4b) Fill in your personal information at the top, then add your comments! If, after the million examples I linked, you still don’t know what to write,  you all have my permission to copy this:

I urge the FCC to implement strong and unambiguous legal protections of Net Neutrality. A “tiered” system will only lead to discrimination online, and can do nothing to support the innovation and growth for which the free and neutral internet has been, thus far, a fertile breeding ground.

The greatest power of the internet has always been its role as a level field for communication and commerce. Allowing cable companies to take monetary incentives to privilege one user over another goes against the nature of the internet as it has come to be used. Companies like Time Warner and Comcast, which possess near-monopolies on the market as it stands, do not prioritize the interests of the consumer, and cannot be trusted with free rein to control the internet.

It is the responsibility of the FCC to protect the consumer, and ensure equal access to online resources for all Americans. Therefore, I strongly support the legal re-classification of the internet as a “telecommunication service,” to be regulated under a title II “common carrier” framework.

5) Once you have entered this basic information, you will be redirected to another page, where you will be asked to confirm what you have just written. Click “confirm!” Then you’re done.

There you go, internet weirdos! copy and paste my words. It will take you three minutes. Just go! Do it! Help prevent cable company fuckery!

This puppy believes in you.

 

 

Also Check Out These Articles!

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Articles I love, pop culture

You Say “Pink is for Girls,” I Say “Screw you”

A great article was recently published by the NY Times about the growing market for “aggressive” girls’ toys in the wake of female action heroes like Merida from Brave and Katniss from Hunger Games taking the box office by storm. I’m glad that these kinds of toys are taking off, but what I’m not so happy about is the fact that all of these toys are pink, purple, and “feminine.”

Apparently, bow and arrow sets, nerf guns, and sling shots are only for girls if they have names like “Rebelle Heartbreaker” and “Pink Crush,” and come in all the same colors as cotton candy.  Why is a plastic sword only supposed to be appealing to a girl if it has glitter on it? Why is a girl supposed to still be pretty while she’s taking down evil sorcerers and scary monsters? I truly do not understand why the toys that parents’ buy their little boys will not suit their heroic little girls equally well. If these toys weren’t marketed exclusively for boys, parents might not see the problem, either.

It reminds me of the whole Easy Bake Oven debacle. Apparently boys can only cook if their cooking toys can double as the bomb in their next James Bond-themed game, and girls can only do it if the oven is the color of unicorn poop.

I think stores (and consumers) ought to be taking a page out of Marks & Spencer’s book and stop dividing all the toys between what is “for girls” and “for boys.” Absolutely some girls will still gravitate to pretty pink dress up clothes (and some boys will, too) but we don’t need to tell them that This Toy is Only For Girls.

Toy Companies: Please Stop.

 

Also, there’s this:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/gender-neutral-isnt-always-the-answer/

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art, media, pop culture, social justice

A Letter to the Strasburg School Board

Hey team. It’s been a while. I know, I’ve missed you, too!

So in the time that I’ve been away, I got a twitter! And I started following John Green, whom some of you may know as one half of the Vlog Brothers, and others of you may know as the talented YA author of books like An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in Our Stars, and Looking for Alaska.

Well, through the magical twitter machine, it has come to my attention that some of Mr. Green’s books, along with several other fantastic YA books by authors like Scott Westerfeld, C.S. Lewis (seriously), Mark Haddon, and M. T. Anderson, are being offered in an elective YA literature course being taught in Strasburg, Colorado. And these books are also being challenged by some parents for poisoning their kids’ impressionable little horny minds with “excessive profanity, explicit sexual scenes, and illegal acts,” which the parents believe will, “degrade their minds–and in some cases may lead them to committing such acts themselves.”

First off, I want to say that, if reading Uglies causes some kid to hop on a hoverboard and overthrow a totalitarian society, I am very, very down with that. Secondly, I want to say that the books on that list are the kinds of books that can be a bright spot in the dark and confusing world of being a teenager. The people who need them most are the children of the parents trying to get them banned.

So Mr. Green tweeted, and I got angry, because if there is one thing I hate more than censorship, it’s people who don’t read well, and this issue seems to combine both of those things. In his tumblr, Mr. Green gave out the necessary information for how to contact the school board and voice your support. I decided to. And since I know that writing letters like that is annoying and time-consuming, I decided to also post the full letter here for you to re-use if you want, like me, to email the school board and voice your support. Just send your letter to StrasburgYALiteratureCourse@gmail.com. Tell them how great those books are. Write your own letter, or you can use my words (and John Green’s. I borrowed a line from him. Thanks, John!). Change them however you want. Here. You have my permission:

To The School Board:

It has come to my attention recently that a group of Strasburg parents have challenged the curriculum of a planned elective YA literature course. Although I am not a resident of the Strasburg, CO area, I wished to voice my support of the curriculum proposed by the course’s teacher. I believe that it is imperative that modern teens have access to literature that is both of high quality and pertinent to their own experiences, and the books planned for the course fit perfectly with this model of what a YA literature course ought ideally to embody.

During my teenage years I personally read more than half of the curriculum proposed by the teacher of the course, and I found these books engrossing and edifying. I wish to offer the course instructor my complete support in her choice to teach these books, and my approbation for her decision to stand by her selections in front of the school board. I wish also to urge the school board to remember the importance of reading books critically and thoughtfully as a whole, rather than focusing on individual scenes ripped from their context.

I do not believe that these books could in any way be damaging to a High School-aged reader, however I understand that the course is an elective. Therefore, for parents who believe that their children may not be mature enough to handle the books’ content, it is fortunate that their children can easily be spared from having to try. I hope that this factor alone will be enough to sway the school board’s decision in favor of maintaining the already-approved curriculum.

Respectfully,

AlmostActivistWaitress

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Holidays, pop culture

A Last-Minute Holiday Resolution

So. What the ever-loving #$%&  is going on with all the Christmas that has been blasting me in the face every time I walk into a store since before Halloween?  I saw the first Christmas decorations up, in 7-11, on the Wednesday before Halloween. That’s two full months before Christmas.

The weekend following, while people were still stumbling drunkenly through the streets in slutty pancake costumes everywhere I turned, I went to Target and found an enormous display full of trees and lights and all that stuff. I looked around, and, even with a concerted effort, the only Thanksgiving-related products I could find occupied one measly shelf in the craft/office supply area of the store. So what gives?

Well, obviously, there’s some corporate greed going on here. Clearly, Christmas is the most lucrative holiday of the year, and Thanksgiving is not even close, so all these big ole’ businesses are saying to themselves, “hey  guys, I bet if we made the Christmas season twice as long, we could make twice as much money! Right? Right?”

And they may be. After all, the minute I walked into Target and saw all those cheery, glittery bits calling my name, I was struck with the thought that it would be so nice to get a jump on my Christmas preparations this year. It would be convenient to have that extra time to prepare, and I could enjoy the holiday more if , come December, I didn’t feel so stressed out about everything I had to do. All the things I had to buy, all the stuff I had to get and wrap up in all that wrapping paper I would need to procure, and…

Well, pretty much immediately,  my very perceptive partner, D-bizzle (names have been very slightly changed), pointed out to me that not two days ago I had been speaking bitterly against the greed of companies who thought it was ok to bypass the relatively cheap holiday about togetherness and family (Thanksgiving) in favor of the relatively expensive holiday about togetherness and family (Christmas). It didn’t and doesn’t sit well with me.

I’m faced with this dilemma: having Christmas stuff available two months before it’s needed is undeniably convenient, but I feel morally obligated to fight back against corporate greed at its most obvious. It’s the same reason why I never go to black Friday sales. I don’t feel inclined to buy a bunch of things I don’t need just because it’s cheap at events where people are not unlikely to make the news for being trampled to death inside Wal-Mart.

I have settled on this compromise: this Sunday is November 24. That is precisely 1 month before I need to have all my Christmas doodads in a row, so that is when I will begin preparing. No sooner. Even though all that glitter. I realize just one person making this decision is not going to send any kind of message to corporations. At least, not right now. While it’s only one person. But I intend to make this a permanent rule for myself. You’re welcome to do the same.

We can feel all cool and hipster-y together buying tinsel at Target on November 25.

SO EXCITED.

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art, media, pop culture, Uncategorized

The Princess Problem

Let’s talk about how all I wanted for much of my childhood was to grow up and be a princess. How I dressed up in cute costumes and sang cute songs and told everyone that I was either going to be a princess, a secretary, or the president of the United States. Awwww. So. Cute.

Now let’s talk about how, even though I grew up loving Disney, I have come to believe that “the Disney Princess” is a serious cultural problem.

What really brought the problem of Disney Princesses to my attention was this recent interview with Frozen animator Lino DiSalvo. According to DiSalvo, “Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty …So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression.”

You have to keep them pretty. The words that sank the ship of “I still love Disney, even though they’re kind of sexist, because…such good songs.” No. It’s over. I have to admit that these people are holding girls back from being fully realized human beings because we all have to stay pretty. Apparently, nothing else matters.

Of course, it’s totally cool to be not-particularly handsome if you’re a man, according to Disney. Just ask Kuzco, the Beast, Ralph, Quasimodo, Woody, and Milo. And those are just humanoid male leads. I don’t even have time to get into all the strange-looking supporting roles filled by men. And yes there are sexy disney princes. Absolutely. But apparently it’s not hard to keep them from looking too much alike. You know who didn’t get unnecessarily sexualized in ways un-befitting to either age or accustomed activities? Mowgli. Or Arthur. Or Pinnochio.

According to (one of) my feminist hero[es] Caitlin Moran, “the residual hold [princesses] have over female ability to imagine our own future is sneakily harmful” (How to be a Woman, p. 294). Moran believes  that the idea of “being a princess” correlates with the cultural idea that women must “be” while men “do.” Kind of like Aurora is a beautiful, naturally talented singer (as a hobby) who sleeps attractively while Prince Whatever-His-Name-Is gets imprisoned, escapes, and fights evil shrubbery and a witch who is also a dragon.

Being a princess comes with “wealth, glamor, and privilege,” but also, the “implicit acceptance that your powerful husband is going to cheat on you and that you just have to accept that” (293-294). In other words,  because all you’re good for is being really pretty, your social currency both devalues as you age and is essentially interchangeable with the currency of all other similarly pretty and compliant women.

The harmfulness of the Disney princess as an aspirational concept has never been clearer to me than in the response to David Trumble’s cartoon princess renderings of ten real-life female role models. This includes Anne Frank Princess and Princess Harriet Tubman, all of whom look like glittery, toothy fools compared to their real-life selves. According to Trumble, he created the images as a response to Disney’s more sexualized re-design of Brave  heroine Merida. The sparkly, simpering, and certainly more-sexualized image of the adventuresome heroine sparked outrage among fans of the film as well as feminist groups who felt that the new image enforced the idea that even someone as downright  cool as Merida had to change and be “prettier” if she was going to fit in and be a “real” Disney princess.

Trumble says he created his “real world princess” images because he, “wanted to analyze how unnecessary it is to collapse a heroine into one specific mold.” He says, “I decided to take 10 real-life female role models, from diverse experiences and backgrounds, and filter them through the Disney princess assembly line…The statement I wanted to make was that it makes no sense to put these real-life women into one limited template, so why then are we doing it to our fictitious heroines?”

Now, I totally agree with what he’s saying. The problem is, I don’t think his project worked. I saw a few people re-post the articles about Trumble’s art on various social media outlets, and a lot of people don’t seem to be getting the subversive message Trumble is trying to put out there. In fact, a lot of people thought the concept was, like, so, so cute! What a great idea! Trumble himself even notes that some people who saw the image, “saw no harm in it at all and wanted to buy the doll versions of them.”

Part of the reason I don’t think the project worked is that “Disnified” versions of other characters and re-imagined Disney characters are really popular on the internet right now, so it’s likely that people glanced over the pictures for five seconds, said oh, cute! and went on their merry cyber-ways. Which is, in my opinion, terrible, because it says to me that the idea of the Disney princess as a positive cultural force is so ingrained in us that plenty of people don’t see any problem at all when real women are turned into 2-dimensional characters whose main traits are white teeth and glittery dresses. It says to me that there are plenty of people in the world who are still OK with women being, first and foremost, pretty.

Caitlin Moran says that finally realizing she would never be a princess is the thing that has given her, “the most relief and freedom in [her] adult years” (294). This is because it made her realize that if she was going to change the world, she would actually have to do something. She couldn’t just be someone’s pretty, well-dressed muse. 

What I’m trying to say is, I’d like to see the reverse of what Trumble has done. I don’t want to see any more real women turned into princesses. I want to see some princesses turned into real women.

So. Any artists out there want to tackle that for me?

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Holidays, pop culture

Get Spooky with Your Waitress

Let’s talk about Halloween costumes.

I’m a crafty lady, and I love making my own costumes. I’ve been Peter Pan, Cruella DeVille (favorite costume award: strangers on the street sang the theme song to me all night long), Sailor Moon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a flapper, a clown (three years in a row. I had an odd childhood.), a pirate, and I can’t even remember what else. Most of these costumes I made myself. Some of them were sexy, and some of them weren’t. But I’ve never been anything where “sexy” was part of the concept of the costume. Peter Pan is a little boy, so, guess what? Not sexy.

Like many people, I’m getting a little tired of the pre-packaged sexy costume trend. Want to be a “Sexy Pineapple?” I’m sure there’s a way to make that happen. Which I guess is cool? if a little weird. My problem with The Sexy Costume is not that I have a problem with sexy costumes. I’m pretty into sexy costumes, to be honest. I think people should totally be allowed to be sexy if they want, not just on Halloween, but on every day of the year. There’s really nothing exotic about loving your body and wanting to show it to people, and the idea that Halloween is the one night of the year that women can sex it up with impunity is absurd. It plays into the idea that a woman’s sexuality is somehow taboo. As taboo as zombies, even. Which is just crazy talk.

So my main problem with the pre-packaged sexy costume is, as I said, that it exoticizes female sexuality. Also,  I think it’s boring.  If you’re going to dress up as a Sexy Ant, at least have the creativity to make your own costume. Buying a cheaply made polyester one for two hundred bucks off the internet is sort of an extreme waste of money, and it screams “I have the creativity of a rock, so we’re probably not going to have very much to talk about if you approach me at this party.” Which, I don’t know, maybe that’s your intention. In which case, by all means, buy that $150 Sexy Tampon costume. It’s so you!

But just because I don’t think Sexy Pancakes are very interesting, doesn’t mean I’m offended by them. I don’t think that the Sexy Blank Costume craze is ruining Halloween. I think it’s interesting and kind of sad that some people do:

The folks at the Real History Project have created this website. It’s a really unique Halloween website, in that it’s run by historians who created a bunch of historically accurate DIY costume ideas for women. So it’s great because 1) the ideas are really unique, and 2) it’s an opportunity for easy crafting! If you get a costume idea from this website I will be impressed and love it, and maybe even love you! The costumes on this site say to me, “I’m pretty smart and I like history and feminism, so we’d probably have a lot to talk about if you approach me at this party!” So I love everything about this website except the name: Take Back Halloween.

What exactly are we taking Halloween back from? Did “we” own it before, and then the sexy slut brigade stole it, preventing us from ever again using Halloween for what it was initially intended to be, which is a time for adults to dress up like historically accurate characters and talk about politics over bowls of candy? No. No one owns Halloween. The idea that there is a right way to do Halloween is like saying there is a right way to do any other holiday: “you celebrate Christmas but you didn’t go to church? Uh, oh, better take that holiday back from you.” “You celebrate Thanksgiving by eating Chinese food? Nope, not gonna fly, you’re going to have to give that holiday back. You’re doing it totally wrong.”

Halloween is a chance to party. Halloween also often involves children. It is supposed to be fun. And, it‘s the one day of the year that you can dress up as absolutely whatever you want, and no one is going to bat an eye. Want to be Adam and Eve, complete with no clothing whatsoever? Seen it. No one cared. (ok, there were pasties.) Want to be a sexy piece of bacon? Please, please, do. I would actually love to see that. (Guess what, I thought I was just making that up, but here it is.)

Now I know there is more to be covered in the “what is an appropriate Halloween costume” conversation than just the sexy/not sexy/”your grandmother is going to see those pictures” debate. For instance, this student group at Ohio University created a really smart ad campaign about the stigmatizing influence of racist costumes, which I think is totally rad. And while I think that we need to be careful about when we say appropriation is “bad” I do agree that there are some things that are pretty uncool. But ultimately, decisions about when cultural appropriation in a Halloween costume is acceptable are personal decisions, often made with an awareness of who you’re going to be around when you decide to dress up as, say, a Nazi.

Depictions of Halloween traditionally incorporate frightening, shocking, and bizarre images. You are likely to be put in situations where people are actively trying to scare you. With that in mind, the modern culture of Halloween embraces the idea that people can dress up as anything–there are no taboos. No one thinks that if you dress up as sexy corn, it’s because you have a corn fetish. I think it’s sort of understood that whatever you do on Halloween, it’s not real life, and tomorrow at the office, you’re going to go back to being your normal, culturally sensitive, maybe-sexy-maybe-not self. Which I think is so great.

Bring on the Sexy Pizza.

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