Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Shame Machine

Here are more of my promised ruminations about the Modern Screen magazine I bought. I have been busy writing and FINISHING (yay!) a novel, which I will talk about in a later post, so I am slow in getting this up. I will make the promised scans later. The Lysol Douche ad really needs to be seen to be believed.

I grabbed this one up because of the screaming "Divorce- the Shame of Hollywood" headline on the top. It made me laugh, what with the irony of it all. Divorce in 1950 Hollywood was shameful, but not nearly as shameful as divorce in 1950 middle America. But both still happened.


Well, all of the obvious reasons, I suspect. People finding out they just weren't compatible, infidelity, mismach of agendas, etc. So what did Modern Screen have to say to the whys of this Shame Epidemic in Hollywood? Nothing, actually.

The article in question starts out saying that statistics DO NOT point to there being more divorces in Hollywood than the general population. That, in and of itself, is interesting. The article went on to say that actually, there was just a lot more media coverage of Hollywood divorces, and that was what made them seem more numerous. Wouldn't the fundie-nut 50's lionizers just shit a brick when they realized that people of that time period were not, in fact living the Ozzie and Harriet dream? I am very surprised that the article is intellectually honest enough to admit the "Show Business" types weren't a uniquely sinful aberration in an otherwise peaceful marriage-loving society. What the article really is about is the toll divorce takes on children. As this was before joint custody became the norm, there were some odd and truly egregious situations befalling children of divorce who were often completely abandoned by one parent (usually the father), or torn apart from siblings in what was then a regular practice of awarding custody of one child to one parent, and custody of others to the other parent. The article actually goes to point out celebrity splits that work (Ronald Regan and Jane Wyman were cited as divorced parents who dealt well with the child-rearing issues). Why then, the sensationalized "Shame of Hollywood " headline when the article itself didn't match the tone?

You have to read the rest of the magazine for the answer to that. This magazine was obviously marketed to women, and all of it's contents point very strongly at a propping up of conventional gender roles. This magazine is a great "how-to" manual on Ideal Femininity, Circa 1950's. Every story, every picture, every ad glorifies femininity, chastises women who aren't feminine enough, and offers ways for women to buy their way into the good graces of society, and the men in their lives. Almost every ad plays upon fear, so it makes sense that the headline would, too. Women were obviously used to reacting to shame, and it probably felt good to them to think that someone else might be shameful, too.

Unfortunately, we haven't gotten too far from that shame tactic. Ads targeted at women still extol model femininity, and still imply that most women don't measure up. Advertisers have just gotten a little slicker in their delivery, and have had to dump some of the most patently dangerous and offensive material.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Modern Screen 1950

I just found a February, 1950 Modern Screen magazine at a local thrift store today. Wow, is it packed with goodies! I'll probably spend a couple of posts delving into all of the stuff in here. For example, did you know that the ladies of the early 1950's :

  • were obsessed with douche
  • sometimes still used regular soap in their hair
  • thought the men in their lives would leave them for things like bad breath
  • were dismayed that Hollywood stars got divorced
  • measured their desirablity by how smooth their hands were
  • apparently didn't have dress sizes below 10
  • all looked like they were 35-40 years old

Hmmm. Some things have changed so much; others are just the same today as they were then. I know I'll have fun looking at all of this, and I'll try to provide lots of good scans, so that you can enjoy my little find, too!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hmm- Are All Women A little Bit "Bi"?

This is the question asked in a article about women's sexuality. The answer they seem to come up with is "yes". I think they were asking the wrong question, personally. I think the better question is, Are all people a little bit bi?"

Yes, they are, and is that really breaking news? I mean, how long has the whole "continuum" model of sexuality been around? Oh, yeah, that's right- since Kinsey in the 1940's. Silly me- that's just too recent for most people to have heard of, especially sex researchers, right?

Apparently, that's the case, because according to the article, researchers are still doing experiments designed to test whether or not "straight identified" people will respond to same-sex stimuli sexually. Why would this be, you ask? Here is my humble opinion.

First, let's back up to what the article says.

"Why are women so turned on by watching other women?" asks a doctor in a story on women and bisexuality in the New York Times. The
story, pegged to the screening of a new documentary called "Bi the Way,"
explores the idea that women's sexuality is more fluid than men's -- something
that most of us understand anecdotally, whether from pop-culture reports of
dalliances between Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson or from simply logging a
little time in college dorms.

Now, maybe I've been living under the same rock as the behind-the-times sex researchers I just took a swipe at, but I've never seen anything that would make me believe that "women's sexuality is more fluid than men's" except maybe for the proliferation of porn that purports to show lesbian sex, but that obviously is created by men for men, so that doesn't really count. Actually, from where I sit, lesbians are about the most invisible segment of our population, sexually. Quick quiz- when I say "homosexual", do you think two men, or two women? If you answered "men", you are probably in the majority. Lesbians make nice fodder for men's sexual fantasies (I think that's what fuels the old "women's dorm" trope above- I've never seen tons of hot lesbian action in dorms, and I've lived in/ been around several of 'em), but when it comes to, you know, actual lesbians having actual sex, society pretty much closes their eyes and turns the other way. And bisexual people in general are given short shrift, so I'm sorry to report that both in my personal experience, and in the larger media, I just don't see much out there about bisexual women.

The article goes on to say:

What's key to cranking hetero females' dials is sensuality -- images of
masturbation, of couples having sex, regardless of their gender. And yet, when
one researcher asked subjects to rate their arousal to watching certain videos,
both gay and straight women rated videos of other women highest. One doctor
suggests that there "may greater potential for bisexuality in women than in
What I think is different is the fact that women are willing to talk more openly about sex/sexuality. Women are allowed to sit around and talk about what turns them on with their friends. Women are encouraged to scrutinize their own bodies and other women's bodies, and to see them as sexual objects. Women are encouraged to have tight bonds with other women- we even call it having "girlfriends"- bonds that may cross the border into the sexual, or may at least appear to do so. We also trivialize lesbian sexuality, making it less of a "deal" if a woman admits to sexual experimentation with other women, because lesbian sex is often seen as not "counting", especially if it is not penetrative.

Society, for the most part, allows men very little wiggle room on sex. They are supposed to want it all the time! They are supposed to be totally, 100% het! And aside from "conquest stories" or dirty jokes or talk on a sex chat line, men aren't supposed to talk about sex, and they especially can't seem to be too interested in it from an emotional standpoint. Wham, bam, thank you ma'm is the order of the day. So, if men are straight-identifying, but experimenting with homosexuality, they aren't likely to talk about it. If men find other men attractive, they aren't likely to bring that up in a conversation with their friends. I doubt they would even respond honestly in situations like the research cited above. And since men are encouraged to have "buddies", not "boyfriends", even things that could be taken as homosuggestive- naked locker room bulshit sessions, sports with lots of physical contact- all get framed in very masculine terms that leave little room to interpret these relationships as sexual. I bet that makes it seem a whole lot like men are less "fluid" in their sexuality.

Frankly, I think people don't really want to rock the male hetronormative sexuality boat, so they spend a whole lot of time looking at female fluidity of sexuality , and not much time looking at male fluidity of sexuality . It's a lot more fun to prop up popular stereotypes that are safe and fun, but seem to be a little transgressive, then to push at the monolith of male sexual privelege. I doubt lots of straight-identifying females are going to freak out after reading this article, or seeing the mentioned documentary, and attack the person(s) responsible just to prove once and for all that they "ain't no fag". A documnetary about all men secretly being a little bi? Oh, yeah. I could see all sorts of bad things befalling the person brave enough to put something like that out.

Besides, I bet the guys who watch the documentary on female bisexuality will get all hot watching scenes of "lesbo" action!

Isn't that the point?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Been A While, But I'm Back!

A big shout-out to the three people who read my blog! I've been pretty busy over the past few months, but I'll try to start posting again over the summer, as I have more time. What's on my mind right now:

Macho men and their macho cars. Yep. The penis car isn't dead yet, according to this mind-numbingly stupid and stereotypical article featured by my favorite source for grade-F schlock, Yahoo. seems that most of the outlandishly expensive status cars are owned by men. It couldn't have anything to do with the income gap between men and women, or the constant barrage of socialization men receive to "like" cars from day one, or anything:

Nah. That can't be it.

Politics. I can't really get too excited about the current crop of candidates. Sure, the Dems had a historic primary, with a woman battling an African-American for the nod, and that was cool, except for the fact that neither candidate was/is at all inspiring from a policy standpoint. Clinton, who became my sentimental favorite in the primary due to her having the same sex chromosomes as myself is the definition of the Establishment candidate policy-wise. Obama? What exactly does Obama stand for? After reading his slick website I feel like I have a better idea of what he wants to do, but not the how. As ambitious as his calls for "change" are, that makes me nervous. He feels a lot like Kennedy in '60, who unfortunately translated into a lot of feel-good talk, and not much real action. McCain? Well, he's just... Yikes. I mean, all of his unscripted rancour is good for a laugh, but as a president? Hell, Nooes! He's horrible on women's issues, his support of the Iraqi invasion is scary, and his pandering to the Family Values nutbags, despite his own checkered past is dissapointing. Bob Barr for the Libertarians? No thanks. The Greens are still up in the air- Cynthia McKinney looks like their best hope at the moment, but we'll have to wait until after the convention in July to know for sure what they will do. Frankly, they need to get a lot more energetic in their bid for ballot access if they want to have even a symbolic impact. So, for the moment, I guess I'm for Obama, but with reservations. I just get all itchy when someone seems to be too good to be true, because he probably is.

"The Pill Kills" Day. Last Saturday was coined "The Pill Kills Day" by the American Life League. I'm interested in seeing if anyone actually buys that crap. Seriously. WorldNet has an article from the ever-nutty Jill Stanek chastizing "pro-abort" forces for keeping the "truth" that the Pill "kills babies" from women. She says they do so because they get so much money from the sale of the Pill. Really? Who is it who makes big bucks off of the Pill? Oh yeah. Pharmacutical companies, those dastardly "pro-abort" monsters! Who else could she be talking about? None of the advocacy groups like NARAL make money off of the Pill, Planned Parenthood sure isn't rolling in the dough from providing the pill for free or at reduced rates, so I guess that just leaves the drug companies. I wonder if Jill and Co. would really like to go on record saying drug companies are the "pro-abort" profiteers she hates so much. I bet not- it probably wouldn't do good things for her stock portfolio.

Ghost In The Shell, Stand Alone Complex. Good stuff! I can't say I liked it better than the original movies, but I think it gives more substance to the franchise, and explains the techno-angst it portrays a little more completely. I like that the Major is a strong female character- she runs the show when she is on a mission, and no one can match her. I'm now working my way through Second Gig.