Everybody Has Nipples

During the halftime show of the 2019 Super Bowl game, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 treated us all to a topless performance that generated a lot of discussion. Reactions were mixed. Some fans loved it, some people hated it, and others wondered why it was okay for him to take his shirt off on the televised stage, but we’re still talking about Janet Jackson’s nip slip 15 years after it transpired. The ‘wardrobe malfunction” of 2004 occurred when Justin Timberlake pulled part of Jackson’s shirt off at the end of his song, resulting in her right breast being exposed for 9/16ths of a second on live TV (her nipple was covered by a decorative shield).

Whether this event was premeditated is still up for debate, but the fallout disproportionately effected the female half of the duo. Both performers apologized, but Jackson received most of the blame and criticism. Weeks after the incident, CBS revoked her invitation to present at that year’s Grammy Awards, but let Timberlake’s invitation stand. Viacom removed Jackson’s music videos from their rotations on MTV and VH1, but not Timberlake’s. Litigation between the FCC and Viacom went on for years.

Not everyone appreciated the bare-chested look that Levine flaunted this year, but the backlash was mostly limited to Twitter outcry and cyber mocking. The lack of substantial blowback in the form of fines, FCC complaints, and blacklists demonstrates the prevalence of a significant double standard. This is just one example of how female nipples are sexualized in our culture, while male nipples are not. Why is that? Who decided?

It was men. Lets just get that out of the way now. Also, side note: when I googled the phrase, “why are female breasts sexualized?”, the first results were explorations as to why men like breasts. I don’t care why men like breasts. I want to know why a body part I have that’s intended use is to nourish babies is considered erotic and private.

The main argument I see for why female breasts should be censored is that they are considered sex organs. Okay, fine. But why are mine sex organs, and my husband’s are not? His literally don’t serve a purpose. Mine have a biological function that, I assure you, is not sexy. So what makes them sexual? The fact that men are attracted to them? There was a point in history where women wouldn’t expose their ankles because someone determined that they were indecent. ANKLES! So I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should base anything off of what men might find erotic. The other part of this argument is that many women find nipple stimulation during sexual activity to be arousing. This is supported by a 2006 study, which found that 82% of the female participants between 17 and 29 years old reported that nipple and/or breast stimulation heightened sexual experience. However, if this is the standard being applied, then male nipples should also be considered sexual, because 52% of participating men claimed to be aroused by having their nipples manipulated. And why stop there? Might as well cover all of the human erogenous zones if the objective is not to expose erotic body parts. From now on, we’re all covering our knees, wrists, ears, necks, and scalps.

Thankfully, all 50 states have passed legislation protecting women’s rights to nurse their babies any and everywhere that they see fit. This is necessary and appropriate; however, it sends an odd message. Essentially, these laws allow that lactating breasts are not sexual. So…breasts are sexual from the time they develop, except when they’re being used for their intended purpose? Okay. Some states, my home state of Ohio included, have passed laws affording women the right to go topless as desired. Unfortunately, many cities, towns, parks, etc. within those states have declared ordinances forbidding toplessness. Personally, I am not bothered by this, provided the ban applies to both sexes. Female breasts are no more sexual than male breasts, and nudity policies should reflect that.

Could someone please ask Facebook to catch up? And Instagram? In both of their nudity policies, they specify that female nipples are allowed only in breastfeeding images or photos of art. You know what there is no mention of? You got it-male nipples. I even tested the policy for kicks. I know from personal experience that female nipples will, in fact, be flagged on Facebook (even if no other user reports them), and the poster will be suspended from interaction. A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of myself, in a private group that I belong to, that showed my breasts (because they’re MINE, and I CAN, and there may have been whiskey involved, but that’s none of your business). Within seconds the image was removed, and I received a 24-hour suspension. Just to see what would happen, I reported a photo of my husband at the beach for nudity that revealed his nipples. The answer is nothing. Not a damn thing. No communication with him or me from Facebook. This is asinine. And unfair.

On behalf of Janet Jackson, and women everywhere, can we drop the pretense that female nipples are more sexual than male nipples? Please?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kreps, D., & Kreps, D. (2018, June 25). Nipple Ripples: Revisiting Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/nipple-ripples-10-years-of-fallout-from-janet-jacksons-halftime-show-122792/

Levin, R., & Meston, C. (2006, May). Nipple/Breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16681470

Krischer, H. (n.d.). 7 Unexpected Erogenous Zones. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/7-awesome-erogenous-zones#2

 

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Sexualizing Murder

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Recently I have read a lot of criticism over Zac Efron’s portrayal of the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. The film, which will be released on Netflix later this year, is being accused of sexualizing a depraved man convicted of numerous brutal rapes and murders. Naturally, there is no shortage of people clambering to dissect just how damaging that kind of depiction could be, especially during this period of true crime obsession in pop culture (not to mention the traumatic effect it could have on the real people close to the situation).

I have not seen the movie and I can by no means claim to be an expert on Ted Bundy, but it seems to me that an inaccurate representation of him would be a disservice to everyone he victimized. If he was charming and charismatic, and those qualities helped enable him to prey on people, then that is how he should be portrayed. I don’t recall anyone claiming that Charlize Theron sexualized Aileen Wuornos by portraying her as a hooker in the 2003 film, Monster. Why? Because prostitution is inherently sexual, and her profession as a sex worker was included because it was relevant to her story as the men that she killed were her clients. Bundy’s story also has sexual undertones, and a refusal to shy away from them is not a glorification of him. Frankly, to ignore them would be a simplification of him.

It does not make sense to get upset over the supposed sexualization of a man who did actually use sex appeal to aid him in committing violent crimes. It may be more comfortable to imagine villains in a more Disney-fied way, but it isn’t realistic. Ted Bundy was a sadistic killer. He was also a man that many women assessed to be alluring and innocuous. That is part of what made him so terrifying. To sexualize something means to make it sexual. It is, by definition, impossible to sexualize something that is already sexual. Unless they made the creative decision to dress Efron in porn worthy bondage gear (which is possible, but again, I haven’t seen it), I do not believe that the project is guilty of sexualizing a murderer.

I Am Not a Single Mom

I am not a single mom. I am a mother of two young children, and I am happily married to their father. Our situation is somewhat unique, because my husband is gone approximately 70% of the time for his job. Most weekdays I get the kids ready, fed, and get them out the door with all their stuff on my own. I drop them off and pick them up at different schools at different times. I deal with the extremely painful process of getting homework done, alone. Dinner and bed time are all me. If someone gets sick or has an activity or an appointment to get to, I take care of that, too. One especially challenging time last year comes to mind. My son and I both got the flu and felt absolutely miserable for a week. It happened to be the week of my daughter’s birthday, as well as picture day at school. Because OF COURSE. Parenting while sick is version of hell I wouldn’t wish on anybody, and not feeling up to celebrating your child’s birthday is heartbreaking.

Merriam-Webster defines a single parent as: a parent who lives with a child or children and no husband, wife, or partner. According to this definition, I could be considered a part-time single parent, and in fact I have been referred to that way by well-meaning acquaintances. But claiming that for myself wouldn’t be fair to the millions of single parents out there who meet more than just an arbitrary dictionary criterion. I asked people what they thought constituted a single parent and got a variety of interpretations, some with stricter standards than others (for example, whether or not the parent receives financial support from the other parent), but the bottom line is this: single parenting means shouldering the responsibilities associated with raising a child alone. I do a lot of the day to day stuff by myself, but I am not raising my kids alone. I don’t make big decisions alone, I don’t pay for their expensive shit alone, and I don’t worry incessantly about them alone. My mother-in-law raised three boys on her own. That is a level of badassery that I have not had to reach inside myself and find. To call myself a single mom would be an insult to people like her who don’t have what I have.

When I gave birth to both of my children, my husband was there with me. When my son broke his arm at one year old, my husband was there with us. When my daughter had surgery last year, my husband was there with us. Sure, there are things that he misses. Some of them are big things, like our daughter’s first steps and the great influenza battle of 2017. But the fact is that I have a supportive partner and our children have two parents that they know they can count on.

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I am emphatically pro-choice, but I have struggled with whether my voice is needed on this issue at this time. There are many people with relevant medical or emotional experience that makes them more qualified to speak and more interesting to listen to on this topic. For that reason, I will keep this brief, but I am choosing not to stay silent in honor of those who cannot speak out for fear of retaliation or judgement from employers, family, neighbors, etc. I am currently in a position where my livelihood and support are not at risk if people don’t appreciate my pro-choice stance. I am using that freedom to say:

Your abortion is none of my business, but if you choose to make it my business, I will support you in any way that I can.

You are entitled to make a choice that works for you.

You are entitled to privacy while you make that choice, and after, should you desire it. You are not evil.

You are strong, and you are valuable, and I am here for you.

You’re Not a “Grammar Nazi”, You’re an Asshole

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The word “Nazi” is instantly recognized as a reference to the genocidal ideological party whose violence and atrocities are infamous throughout history, particularly in the years surrounding World War II, but also in current events. It is not a term that most of us would readily choose to be associated with, for good reason, and yet many of us enthusiastically embrace the label of “Grammar Nazi”. Is it out of some misplaced sense of superiority linked to a strong grasp of the structural rules of the English language? Or do we just think its clever? Whatever the reason, it is way past time to acknowledge that it is offensive (or at least, insensitive). It is minimizing the horrific experiences of millions of people.

In addition to the fact that it’s a wildly distasteful term, the behavior that it describes is obnoxious. Who do we think we are? Literally no one died and made us the grammar police. The internet, especially social media, has given us greater opportunity to judge each other than ever before. We judge each other’s photos, senses of humor, political beliefs, and anything else we are given access to. In all fairness, it is the internet. When we sign up for social media, we sign up for the ugliness that lives there. The more active you are, the more you expose yourself for scrutiny. But at the end of the day, does it really matter if someone uses the wrong form of their/there/they’re in a Facebook post?

I used to be a self-professed Grammar Nazi. I took great pleasure in correcting people’s grammar online, especially during an argument. The level of satisfaction that I felt when I replied with, “*you’re” to an ignorant political comment is shameful. I reveled in the glory that I was clearly the more intelligent participant. I mean, come on, this other idiot can’t even spell. In my mind, I was dropping those corrections like a mic, and it was delightful. Obviously, I, and my superior intellect, won the debate with that crushing blow.

Now, I view this behavior differently. For one thing, if I’m as smart as I think am, then surely I can understand someone’s point even if they utilize the wrong form of a word. Calling attention to it doesn’t make me look smart, it makes me look like an asshole. Also, everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes typing too passionately, or too quickly, results in an error. But even if a person genuinely doesn’t know how to differentiate between common word forms, it does not necessarily mean they are stupid or uneducated. It is possible to graduate from high school, and even college, without mastering this concept. If the person goes on to find a cure for cancer, who fucking cares if they can spell? I have a friend that can do things with computers that I cant even begin wrap my mind around, but who also constantly misuses and misspells words. So what? He is laughing his genius ass all the way to the bank. I still give him a hard time about it, though. Sorry, Todd.

Now, I am not saying that the internet isn’t full of morons. It is. I am simply suggesting that a typo, or a weak grasp of spelling and grammar, does not make someone a moron. Imagine the interesting people and ideas that you could be missing out on because of a misplaced sense of superiority. It is time to turn in the badges. There is no Grammar Police force.

The Pink Tax

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Gillette took on toxic masculinity in a powerful ad that has, predictably, hurt a lot of fragile male feelings. In the video, the company asks men to take on the responsibility of modeling healthy behaviors to young boys, particularly regarding the way that they treat people. Obviously, this crosses a line. How dare we ask men to be accountable for their own actions and mindful of the examples they’re setting for younger generations. What’s next? Are we going to ask them to pay more for personal care products than women? Not likely. That is honor reserved for the ladies, which is why the concept is (affectionately?) referred to as the Pink Tax.

The Pink Tax refers to the difference in price between gendered, but otherwise comparable, items. Since I opened by mentioning Gillette, let’s look at shaving products first. I was pleased to find that Gillette actually prices their top-of-the-line products identically across gender lines. That is fantastic news, however, they offer far more economy choices for men. The least expensive four-pack of razor refills for men’s razors is $10 cheaper than the least expensive four-pack for women’s razors. Women also pay $2.99 for bargain-basic shaving cream, while men pay only $.97. Of course, to be fair, Gillette is not necessarily required to produce an equal number of options for men and women. After all, women typically shave less frequently and shave less surface area than men, right? So it’s FINE.

Price discrimination is not limited to shaving products. A quick visit to Target’s website revealed that Dove Deodorants that are labeled for women not only cost more, but also come in slightly smaller sizes (in ounces). Head & Shoulders is equally sneaky. In addition to their gender-neutral baseline product, they also offer shampoos with scents that are traditionally masculine or feminine. The items with more masculine scents actually cost the same amount as the items with feminine fragrances, buuuuuuuut they contain up to 3.6 more ounces of product. Essentially, it costs less to smell like a manly tree, and more to smell like a feminine flower.

In 2015, the New York Department of Consumer Affairs performed a research study on this very topic. The results should be surprising to women nowhere. They found that the Pink Tax impacted not only the personal industry, but also toys and accessories, children’s clothing, adult clothing, and senior/home healthcare (From Cradle to Cane). The average industry price gaps ranged from 4-13%. Now, as frustrating as this is, in many cases women do have the option of buying gender neutral varieties, or even male versions of products. But, as indicated by the study, the Pink Tax reaches beyond the scope of personal care. Most women, especially in the professional world, cannot wear men’s clothing or men’s accessories to work. They are in many instances required to wear makeup, sometimes as part of an explicit dress code, and other times it is not-so-subtly “encouraged” by management. The makeup, of course, is also taxed. AND THEN THERE ARE TAMPONS, and pads, and menstrual cups, which men like to call “luxury items”. I personally can think of greater luxury items to stick up inside me than a blood catcher, but whatever. Ultimately, it all evens out, because women in this country make more money than their male counterparts for performing the same jobs…oh wait.

 

 

 

 

From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/partners/gender-pricing-study.page

My First Grader’s Makeup Looks Better Than Mine

I originally titled this post “My 6-Year-Old Is Obsessed with Makeup and That’s Okay, So You Can Fuck Right Off with Your Judgement (But Please Send Help Because I Don’t Know How to Girl so How Can I Be Expected to Teach Someone Else How to Girl?!?), But it seemed a little lengthy, so I tweaked it. My daughter’s first personal experience with makeup came in the form of a Little Mermaid bath toy. When she was four, her aunt and uncle gifted her a Princess Ariel vanity set which included lipstick, eye shadow, and blush that washed off with water in the tub. She took to it immediately and quickly depleted the supply of makeup. After that, she began to occasionally ask me to put a little bit of my makeup on her before we went somewhere special. I complied with the classic light-colored eye shadows, clear lip glosses, and maybe a little bit of blush combination that mothers indulge their toddlers with. It didn’t seem like long before the requests were not only becoming more frequent but were also accompanied by more specific demands. She wanted more color, more sparkle (who doesn’t, amIright?). She wanted to be able to see the difference when she looked in the mirror.

The summer just before she turned six she started sitting down beside me each day as I applied my makeup, and doing her own using her mismatched collection of pieces accumulated from her figure skating competitions and my drawer of unused stuff. She got pretty competent (with little direction from me), but she was still limited to fairly innocuous colors. About a month after school started, she asked if she could wear makeup to school. I hesitated briefly, because it was freaking kindergarten, but the response I settled on was, “if you are otherwise ready to walk out the door and still have time, THEN you can do your makeup”.

Y’all. We were never late to school again.

———That’s a complete lie. We were late many times, BUT it was rarely her fault. Usually the toddler or the puppy was to blame………

Throughout the school year her interest in makeup waxed and waned. I honestly assumed it would eventually fizzle out completely, so naturally the opposite happened. We are now a few weeks out from the start of first grade, and she has been consistently applying makeup at least once a day, sometimes wiping the slate clean and starting over mid-day, or simply layering on top of her last iteration. She has recently become proficient in applying mascara AT SIX YEARS OLD.

At this point I think it’s important to note that I am not a big makeup person. While my daughter prefers a bolder look, I am an eyeliner, mascara, concealer, and go kinda woman. When the mood strikes me to rock a more daring look, like red lip color, I almost always wipe it off because I’m not confident that I can pull it off. My daughter has no such complex, and I am damn sure not going to give it to her. I can handle the obvious looks in the grocery store from people who don’t approve of letting little girls have so much cosmetic freedom, after all I got plenty of practice when I let her put pink dye in her hair when she was four. But lately, I have been thinking that it is time to have a conversation with her about it, because school is quickly approaching and she is going to have to settle into a regiment that doesn’t require 45 minutes, three makeup remover wipes, and a dozen q-tips. It would also be fantastic if she developed a look that doesn’t leave me anticipating a note from her teacher.

I started researching ways to talk to young girls about makeup and was disappointed in the results that I found. Most were geared toward parents of preteens and teens. The ones that did address younger kids generally took the position that makeup should be allowed rarely, if ever, at before middle school. This is not the approach that I am choosing to take with my daughter. I refuse to die on this hill, and I have no desire to add to the allure of makeup by forbidding it. She likes makeup. Since she was very young, she has had a unique style of dressing and her favorite activities have always been the kind that mean I find beads and glitter in every corner of the house. Makeup honestly seems like a natural progression in her creative journey of self-expression, and I see no reason not to embrace it. Her face is a canvas, and she is exploring different ways to make her art. The results of these experiments vary from tasteful to Mimi junior, but she is figuring out what she likes and I am not going to discourage that process.

What I would like to do, however, is ensure that she maintains a healthy relationship with makeup. I never want her to wear it for anyone but herself. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin without it. I also want her to understand that there is a difference between competition/performance makeup and everyday makeup. Multiple layers of glitter and mascara look great from the bleachers of an ice rink, but are not necessarily appropriate for school. These are the topics I would like to cover with her, but they are delicate and the internet is not offering the guidance I am looking for. In this case I am going to have to use my own words and hope for the best. I’ll keep you posted.

Signed,

The mom who lets her kid dye her hair pink and wear makeup