Monday, March 31, 2008

The final Ministry tour…no, they’re serious this time!

I get concert information e-mailed to me from a number of sources (LiveNation, friends, the venues themselves, Live 105 Radio), and guess what I found recently? Ministry is doing a farewell tour. Which is great, but…um, wasn’t that what they said last time? I distinctly remember going to what was supposed to be their farewell tour a couple of years ago. And yet here they are again.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just kind of funny. How many farewell tours are they going to do? Is this going to be like when a furniture store has a “Going Out Of Business” sale that lasts for five years? In 2010 am I going to be getting another set of “come see Ministry’s final performance!” messages?
Eh, maybe Jorgensen has kids he needs to send to college. Now there’s a scary thought.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Body stuff, the TMI edition

OK, so there’s something that I keep running into in all corners of the blogosphere and the media, and it’s annoying me.

Personal grooming issues. Why are these any of anyone else’s business? I mean OK, if we’re talking about people who do not bathe and are thus offensive to the sensitive nasal passages of those who have to be around them then I’m right with you. But when it comes to stuff that’s purely cosmetic? I’m just not seeing why this is or should be a matter in which public opinion is relevant. Especially not public opinion that’s based on either traditional gender roles or the desire to defy them.

So here’s my story. I am generally not a fan of body hair, on either sex. I have never dated a hairy man and never will. I have been shaving my legs and armpits since I was about 11 and have no intention of stopping any time soon. Even really hairy arms turn me off. This does not mean that I feel any need to interfere in other people’s grooming habits – see post below. Unless I’m sleeping with them it’s really none of my business.

However, despite generally falling into the anti-body-hair camp the common assumption that women will remove all of their pubic hair annoys me. And don’t get me wrong – I have done so, and will probably continue to do so sometimes. I started trimming the sides as an adolescent because I practically lived in the swimming pool and didn’t much care for the sight of hair protruding from swimsuit. I started shaving everything off in my mid twenties because I was living in California and it was really hot one summer. I did it on a whim, liked the way it felt and decided to keep doing it.

I always hated the way it looked, though. I hate the way it looks in porn too – I feel the same way I do looking at bald heads. Like, something is missing and I find it aesthetically displeasing. It’s not even the political argument about it making women look childlike with me, because honestly, an adult woman with huge breast implants and a shaved groin does not look like a child. She does however look a little odd to me, and not in a way that I like.

I’ve never liked the way it looks on me either. It makes me feel sort of bald and oddly unsexy. Which interestingly enough is Mr. C’s take too – feels cool, looks weird. He shaves most of his public hair off too, mostly for tactile reasons and to feel less sweaty when it’s hot. So nobody in my immediate vicinity is exerting pressure in either direction. And politically I’m totally neutral on this issue – I don’t think it’s a political issue at all, but an aesthetic one.

And aesthetically I don’t like the way I look fully shaved. So I’m letting some if it grow back. I seem to be leaning towards the neat little triangle look, because landing strips make me think of Hitler mustaches and that’s just not sexy at all. Or the stripes that they paint on the highway – also not sexy. The way I feel with the little triangle of dark hair though? Totally sexy. Which generally leads to better sex, which is a good thing.

Note that I have no opinion one way or another about what other women do with their pubic hair unless I’m sleeping with them. It’s just not relevant to my life in any way. I am not critiquing other women’s choices or suggesting that they change what they do.

How the hell did this ever become a politicized issue in the first place? And why are we letting it stay that way? If I see one more discussion about this on a feminist website I’m going to start throwing things at the screen. And men who feel the need to opine about the pubic topiaries of women they don’t even know and what they feel would be best for them to do…STFU. Nobody cares, she’s not sleeping with you anyway, your opinion is irrelevant.

Why can’t issues of personal aesthetics be just that? Why the need to impose ones own preferences on the world at large? Can an aesthetic preference not be just an aesthetic preference?


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Body Stuff part 2 (the short bit)

Meant to write about this earlier but have been in a bit of a mood this week.

So last weekend I saw a girl that made me smile, and the reason why is sort of relevant to all this body stuff. She was maybe in her early twenties and was taking a walk with her (really, really cute) puppy. Left the puppy tied up outside the coffee shop/health food store while she went in to shop. Many longing looks from puppy, where oh where has mommy gone and is she ever coming back, etc.

The part that made me smile? It was a really nice sunny day and so the girl was wearing a little cotton minidress. Kind of alterna-looking girl in general, sort of punk/rockabilly, with tattoos all over her calves. And hairy legs. In a girly mini-dress.

I sat there watching people walk past and react to this girl, saw them double-take and try to grok pretty feminine girl + hairy legs + tattoos + cute puppy. It was so much fun – people love to slot everyone into neat little categories and this girl was clearly fucking with them big time. And it was marvelous to behold.

There’s something really great about watching a woman be completely comfortable in her own skin. Maybe because you see it so rarely. Anyway, it put a smile on my face.

And the puppy, which attempted to jump into my lap and licked my toes and was generally friendly and full of energy – gah! I want one.

Interesting how cool people always manage to raise cool pets. This one was a rescue puppy that the girl found on the street and it was so happy and well-socialized that you just knew she was doing a great job making it feel loved and wanted.

And there ends today’s story.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Body stuff, part 1

On an e-mail group I’m part of there’s been a discussion going on about how appearances can affect a person’s perception of the world, and by extension their personality and possibly even their politics. That happens to be a subject that interests me so I thought I’d bring it back over here and broaden the discussion a bit.
I think that the way a person looks can have a huge impact on the way they see the world. For a start it affects the way other people treat you. There are certain expectations and assumptions attached to people who are tall, or people who are fat, or people who are thin, or people who are unusually attractive, and in most cases those assumptions have both positive and negative elements. People who are tall are expected to have leadership abilities, which is great if they do, but must kind of suck if they’re shy and retiring by nature. Weight carries all kinds of expectations and assumptions, wherever a person falls on the size scale. And so on and so forth.
The interesting question for me is if a lifetime of being reacted to a certain way, having most people one meets make the assumptions that go along with being tall, or fat, or skinny, or pretty, or ugly, or whatever, actually has an impact on an individual’s personality. I think it does. How can it not? Human beings are social creatures – we define ourselves largely in relation to each other.
It gets even more interesting when you look at appearance issues that are tied up with gender presentation. I have had many short male friends who have noted that their lack of height is assumed to mean that they are less masculine somehow – there are social penalties attached to being short and slight for a man. For a woman it’s the opposite – models may be idolized but in general women are more likely to face mockery and gender policing as a result of being tall than as a result of being short. In some ways being short is actually an advantage for a woman (and I say this as someone who stands just over 5ft2) – men don’t feel threatened by women who are short, and one can get away with being a lot more assertive in terms of personality without being gender policed if one is physically unthreatening. A tall woman with my personality would probably be seen as a ball breaker, but because I’m small and femmey and entirely physically unimposing I get away with behavior that I’ve seen other women called every sexist insult in the book for.
In general people of either sex who are considered to fit the stereotypes associated with their gender well in a physical sense have a much easier passage through life. I’ve actually done experiments with this, and can report that when I go out in public in skirts and figure-hugging tops and make-up and heels people of both genders are a whole lot nicer to me. It’s not just about men wanting to get laid either, because straight women are a lot friendlier and more helpful too. I get better service in stores and restaurants, co-workers are friendlier, the wheels of the social system seem to be greased in many ways. When I go out in jeans and sneakers people aren’t rude or unpleasant, but the sense of friendliness and niceness does drop. The difference is more noticeable in men than in women – when I’m decked out in full girlie regalia men actually go out of their way to do favors for me – but it’s there in women too. I used to have a job at which every time I wore a skirt at least 3 or 4 female co-workers would stop me in the corridor and compliment me. In all these scenarios it almost feels like I’m being approvingly patted on the head for conforming perfectly to what is expected of my gender, even though my personality remains as assertive and non-girly as ever.
Male friends report a similar pattern in reverse (except without the random women going out of their way to do favors, because our society does not encourage that at all). Every femmey guy I’ve ever known has reported harassment when they’re all femmed up, and every one has said that on those occasions where they make a point of looking more masculine the harassment magically vanishes. It’s a weird, interesting phenomenon.
I wonder how much of this is homophobia. Gender non-conforming appearance is often taken as a sign that the person is queer – could that be why there’s such a difference, or is there more too it? If that’s the case, then why are openly gay people of either gender generally less likely to be harassed if they’re fairly gender conforming in appearance? And how does the day to day experience of being a butch woman or a femmey man and being greeted with covert or overt hostility and confusion, or being a gender-conforming person of either sex and thus being allowed to be more or less anonymous, affect the way the individual experiencing those reactions sees both themselves and the world around them?
I’m still mulling all this over. Particularly in reference to feminism as a movement. Anyone else have any thoughts?
Goth alert!

Was everyone aware that there’s a new Bauhaus album coming out? I’m not kidding – I got a little e-mail notification the other day. Is that awesome or what? It’s been about 25 years since the last one, which is kind of scary to think about…I was just a kid when they broke up, so how old does that mean they all are now? And they might even tour, which should be wierd...are they still up to running around on stage?
Also, what is it with all the old goth icons coming back? I went to see Siouxie last month (she was pretty good, BTW, although whoever is running the mixing desk at her shows really needs to turn her mic up louder). And The Cure are back out there too. And it’s not just old goth bands either, because The Pixies came back too. Did some marketing genius finally realize that older people will go to shows if you give them something they actually want to see?
In any case this little mini goth revival is making me happy. And I will most definitely be buying the new Bauhaus album. If I wasn’t so damn goth I’d be positively cheerful.
(Currently listening to Double Dare)

And of course there’s always the all-time ultimate goth song…

The bats have left the bell-tower, dude.