Tag Archive: wtf


Today’s Post-Intelligencer features a short post about Cecil Andrus, who visited Washington state recently — and who governed my home state for most of my childhood. By the time I was old enough to vote — just four years after Andrus left office — the idea of Idaho electing a Democratic governor was absurd, almost surreal. As far as I can tell — from my elitist, bike-riding catbird seat — that is still largely the case.

The piece is largely complimentary, but also nostalgic for the party’s imagined heyday: “Andrus is what the ‘D Team’ used to look like in days when Democrats represented guys (and some girls) at the workplace and stood for education, family-supporting jobs and conservation,” the writer of the piece, Joel Connelly, gushes. The emphasis is mine, because isn’t that parenthetical a little odd? I mean, women, especially blue-collar women, have always worked; Idaho was the fourth state in the nation to grant women the right to vote; women voters favor Democrats by a much wider margin than men.

But, you know, whatever. Everybody slips up from time to time, including writers whose commentary skews progressive. Connelly continues in the “in the good old days, all Democrats cared about was fair wages and the environment” vein, a position I have taken myself. I’m glad union membership has increased — however slightly — in the last couple of years. I’m glad we’re talking about taxing the rich again. That birth control is even an issue this election cycle makes my stomach churn.

But then Connelly goes on to say:

“Our state’s Democrats seem preoccupied with social issues and talk ceaselessly about birth control, same-sex marriage, legalizing marijuana and the right of women to terminate their pregnancies.

“Andrus took an opposite tack, stressing Inslee’s independence and willingness to buck the majority in his House votes against bank deregulation and the resolution authorizing the Iraq War.

“Inslee, too, was sounding like a lunch bucket Democrat with talk of hooking up Washington to the new energy economy, and “chowder heads in the Legislature” who once tried to cut money to rural schools.”

“‘Didn’t last. Soon, Inslee was back referring to “access to contraceptives” and the right to choose.”

These gosh darned Washington Dems and their gosh darned fringe social issues, basically! Why can’t they just stick to fair wages and creating wilderness areas like we did in the ’70s? Could we stop pandering to the pot-smokers and the gay-marriers and the birth controllers ALREADY? Is it so hard?

(Never mind that environmental issues — and funding for education — have been considered fair game in the culture war for some time now, at least in the inland Northwest.)

The answer is, in part, that it’s not the ’70s. The world got more complicated, the big tent got bigger and let more people in, and some of the people who’d always been there started talking about stuff that wasn’t on the table before. Also, the Idaho Dems — and Andrus in particular — had a lot of support from loggers’ unions and unions in general. National policy killed the unions and a combination of dwindling resources and NAFTA killed the timber industry. The voting base left, or did other things, and turned on AM radio.

But also: anybody who thinks “access to contraceptives” and “the right to choose” are not economic justice issues is either trolling or willfully ignorant or both. A copper IUD installed using Title X funding costs about a grand, all told — a fraction of the cost of educating a kid in public school for just one year. People who care about family-wage jobs — including those who don’t happen to have ever held one, including many women — care about contraception and abortion, too.

“Some girls” aren’t the only folks with a vested interest in improved access to contraceptives, either. Never mind, either, that Democrats are not the only ones who need or use birth control. Loretta Lynn’s only political contributions have been to Republican politicians and generally right-leaning groups; maybe because she had four kids before she became legal, she seems to get it just fine.

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It’s rare, very rare, for me to buy a print magazine of any kind these days, but I totally got suckered into buying GQ last month because, uh, Zach Galifianakis was on the cover. Actually, it was worse than that: they were doing this collect-all-three-covers thing to trick me into buying three copies, and it almost worked except I never have impure thoughts about Tracy Morgan, and I couldn’t really justify buying two of the same thing just because Paul Rudd’s face was also available. I’m not calling this nonsense nonsense by way of claiming that I’m somehow above it; to the contrary, I’m letting you know that I considered it very strongly, because I’d really prefer it if all of you lost all respect for me right this second.

Where was I? Yeah, so I bought an issue of GQ. Now, I should explain that I used to really love GQ. For a couple of years in my early 20s, it was the only print magazine I subscribed to. It would be more accurate, actually, to say I was moderately obsessed with the gentleman’s !Quarterly. It started out innocently enough: I was on break during my last week of work at a bowling alley in a resort, had finished my book and as the alley was absolutely dead, decided I needed additional reading material. The gift shop upstairs lacked for any of the sorts of magazines preferred by upper-middle-class, latte-drinking, Saab-driving liberals (and also, people who work in bowling alleys but read the exact same magazines as those people). In the absence of Harper‘s, or the New Yorker, or even Vanity Fair or Vogue, I was growing a tad desperate. Then I noticed that the new issue of GQ — a special, fat anniversary issue — boasted pieces by James Ellroy, Michael Paterniti, and Jeffrey Euginedes. Of course, the cover also featured a photo of Heidi Klum wearing a whip cream bikini. It was sort of mortifying to haul the thing around, but these are the sacrifices we make in this life.

Of course, while there were almost always at least two or three unrepentantly gorgeously-written and -researched articles about, uh, Issues or whatever, I was also obsessed with the way the magazine presented the World of Men. It turned out I could read about bespoke suits and brush and soap shaves and how to win at craps all day long. I’m not sure why this is, really. I have a similar fascination with good sportswriting — the rhythm and voice of it rivets me even when I have no idea what the writer is going on about, or if I just don’t care. Granted, shaving and tailoring are actually things I do know a thing or two about, as a shaver of my own legs and a sewer of some of my own jackets. Still, these topics are never presented to women in the same way. Women’s magazines talk to you about bikini waxes or new blazers in a way that tries to make them sound exciting or just presents a new variation that’s cheaper or more convenient (or, you know, deconstructs that we have to bother with these things at all). Men’s magazines talk about these things as if they’re initiating the reader into a newer, classier, sexier way to live. They spoke to my own struggling, middle-class aspirations in a way that, oh, say, Vogue or Cosmo never could. And a brush and soap shave is just flat out sexy.

But like a lot of people my age, and maybe a lot of people in general, I sort of stopped buying print magazines years ago; I haven’t subcribed to a newspaper since I last wrote for one (in mid-2005). I’ve never been a “print is dead” person, since it’s my general observation that declaring things dead, or declaring other things The Future, is a great way to look like an idiot in two years. (People said “the future of content is online” a lot in 2000, and then look what happened to the Internet. I mean, right after that. Not in the long term. Shut up. You know what I mean. Also I had a friend in high school who was fond of saying that Apple was doing ti disappear within a year, and 10 bucks says that guy is seething through a Genius Bar appointment as I write these very words.) Still, I was a little surprised by the information presented in a, um, two-page advertorial spread extolling the virtues of Magazines, saying that Contrary to What You May Have Heard, magazine circulations are going up! Especially among 18-to-34-year-olds! They had a point! I’m 18-to-34 years old, and I was reading a magazine right that minute. However, the fact that this magazine felt the need to call my attention to the fact that I was doing this, and presumably also the reassure advertisers who might be thumbing through the magazine that, definitely, people like me were doing this…it felt a little sad and uncomfortable for everybody, really.

And that wasn’t the only thing that felt sad and uncomfortable about that experience. I really ennjoyed a lot of the magazine, really. The piece about Garry Shandling (who I’ve adored since I was about six) was both fascinating and off-putting; I enjoyed learning that Bill Murray is just as brilliant and just as much of a dick as I always imagined (and also a little bit of a dirty old man!), and because I’ve always been a sucker for the Interview magazine, circle-jerk style of article where a pair or group of famous people talk to each other about stuff I may or may not care about, I enjoyed the article where the three cover boys talked about the future of comedy. I just realized that I sound like I’m being sarcastic here. No. I really do like Bill Murray being a jerk, and celebrities being gross with each other. I told you. I’m an idiot.

Still. This goddamn magazine. As I said, I always got and liked that GQ was about the world of men, and that that world seemed so exotic and strange compared to the world I lived in! I loved it! And either I’ve outgrown my fascination with brush and soap shaves, or GQ — and other men’s magazines, I’m surmising — haven’t really caught up to the world around them. I’d say something snotty about the three-month lead time, except that really isn’t it. Even Vanity Fair, after running that stupid piece wherein Christopher Hitchens ripped off something John Belushi said 30 goddamn years ago , decided that actually, quite a few women these days are pretty funny! And ran a cover story about them. There were valid criticisms to be made of that; first, that some really fascinating high-profile comedy ladies were omitted; second, the way all the cover ladies were sexualized (and I get that, because comedy ladies used to be so desexualized based only on their funniness, even if they were actually pretty good-looking); third, that, OK, you get it. It was all still way better than the stupid Hitchens piece or the time VF decided Maureen Dowd should get to write 10,000 words about how Tina Fey used to be fat. (And hairy! And also fat! But men found her attractive. Even though she was fat! And hairy! And also fat! There, I just saved you the chore of actually Googling and reading this thing.) It all felt a little like 1992 being the year of the woman or whenever the hell that was. A little token.

But GQ’s comedy issue, on the other hand? You want tokenism? Try a half-page feature on five up-and-coming female comics, with about ten sentences devoted to each. While it’s I guess a little annoying that Olivia Munn is described as a “bro with breasts” (even though I’ve been described in similar terms by many a man-friend) and Rashida Jones is so pretty-yet-nonthreatening that “your girlfriend wants to make out with her” (zzzzZZZZzzz), I’m not even quite irritated at the reductiveness and the oh-yeah-guess-we-should-talk-about-female-comicsness of the feature. For the same reason that when I stumbled upon a one-page, front-of-the-book feature from a woman explaining that it’s actually totally OK to make dirty jokes in front of us, and in fact some of us get really peeved if you don’t. Not because I disagreed; it’s just that, in a world where everyone who can afford a GQ subscription can also afford an Internet connection, torrent all the Sarah Silverman routines they like and read countless potty-mouthed blogs by potty-mouthed ladybloggers, the idea that women can, in fact, actually deal with dick jokes is…um, not front-page news.

Might this be the reason that expressions like “front-page news” are merely metaphor? I mean, it’s entirely possible that I’ve become so cool that these magazines have nothing to teach me anymore. Or that I’m not really as much of a bro as I might have imagined. Granted, Judd Apatow himself has yet to figure out that there’s no legal injunction against assigning more than five funny lines per movie to a female character — nor does he realize that while there are plenty of men and boys like the ones his movies portray out in the real world, a lot of those men and boys have women friends, not all of whom they’re trying to sleep with, who can be just as weird and irresponsible and insecure as their male counterparts.

I mean, maybe I’m too deep in my own self-selected Internet universe here, with all its feministy blogs and Garfunkel & Oates videos, but it hardly seems that anyone with half a brain these days is really unaware of the fact that women can be quite funny! Oh, it’s true, many people I know who have more than half a brain are wildly dismissive of books written by ladies about lady stuff, or of music made by ladies, but I really thought we had this whole funny-ladies business thing down. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe GQ‘s not wildly out of touch. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m not, I guess there’s something I can clip out and hand to the next gentleman who stops himself from making a fart joke just because I’m in the room.

Though it would be so much easier to send him a link…

Tag Team. Back again?

So one of my favorite (and also least favorite) things ever is Internet Conspiracy Theories. They make me giggle. They make me furious. Often at the same time. More accurately, they make me giggle until I realize PEOPLE ARE SERIOUS and then I have a stroke contemplating their ridiculousness.

The vaccines-give-you-autism crowd, for instance. Such delightfully absurd premises! Such refusal to concede even as each and every one of those premises is dashed to hell! It’s a laugh riot, until you remember that children are dying because of this nonsense.

(ASIDE: While I’m here, I’m just going to say that I’m also kind of galled that Jenny McCarthy hasn’t been called out for her ableism. I mean, seriously, Jenny. You don’t care how many kids have to die before we get the never-actually-linked-to-autism-and-also-in-reality-removed-from-vaccines years ago additives out of MMR shots? Because autism is a fate worse than death? Really? Because that is absolutely the message your advocacy has sent, and on behalf of autistic-spectrum folks and their families everywhere, I’m going to eschew nuance and social niceties here and say FUCK. YOU. JENNY MCCARTHY.)

Anyway, don’t EVEN get me started on Birthers. Just don’t. The road from ha-ha-people-are-so-ridiculous to good-lord-people-are-terrifyingly-ignorant-I’m-never-leaving-the-house-again-where’s-the-tin-foil-yes-I-see-the-irony-here-seriously-make-with-the-tinfoil is even shorter.

But every once in a while a conspiracy theory will come along that merely charms me. And such is the case with the…the…dude, I can’t even TYPE this without giggling…the Whoompers. That is, the folks who’ve noticed a stunning likeness between some dude who had a three-second cameo in the 1993 video for Tag Team’s “Whoomp, There It Is!” and the President of This Fair Nation.

The great thing — as the Gawker post points out — about the Whoomp theory is that having been pretty much discredited already, it has evolved and spawned meta-conspiracy theories.

First, there is the thing this is really about race, you know, whiteys’ presumption that all black folks look alike. Which it is, of course, but that’s only part of it. Don’t forget that black people are also cooler than us. Obama, especially, is just sort of cooler than any President we’ve ever had, despite having all sorts of stuffy-ass credentials (like having been a corporate lawyer and attended the very conservative University of Chicago Law School).

I mean, GWB had a broadly-acknowledged fratty affability, sure. Clinton was easily the coolest president we had before that, but he also liked, um, that musical act that I generally refer to as Fleetwood Mac Ewwww Change The Station OMG OMG. (Note: I do admire Stevie Nicks for some reason, and have a particular fondness for “Tell Me Lies,” as it’s the first song my father ever dedicated to me on the radio.)

But Barry’s favorite TV show is The Wire, for crying out loud! And while he was probably actually just working in some shitty, non-air-conditioned office engaged in some particularly un-glamorous aspect of community organizing during the exact three seconds allegedly captured in the video (like I bet he was calling some people for a meeting and had just gotten a busy signal, or maybe he was getting a paper cut while licking an envelope), I believe in my heart that Obama is cool enough to have been in that video. No other president is cool enough to have been in a hip-hop video. Not one. Not even in a weird Ron Howard kind of way.

But there are other facets to this story as well. SO, SO MANY MANY FACETS. Perhaps, I mean, Tag Team — they didn’t have any other big hits, right? Perhaps THEY planted this story as a way to STAGE A COMEBACK! (And if Obama is as cool as I want him to be, he will totally give a wink and nod to the Whoompers by inviting Tag Team to play at the White House sometime!) I mean, seriously, has no one thought of that? Also, I’m not going to fuck up this theory by Googling them only to find out that they’re dead or not talking to each other or something. THAT’S NOT THE POINT.

(EDIT: Just kidding. I have to ruin everything for myself. Except as far as I can tell none of the Whoompers have even contacted TAG TEAM for comment. And there don’t seem to be any “Where are they now?” stories about them anywhere either, except “tag team” is such an overused phrase that it’s hard to really Google this sort of thing anyway. I mostly got wrestling articles. Oh, except this thing — which I remember hearing about as a teenager but assumed was an urban legend or something about how the song was actually ripped from an earlier song, and the lyrics were DELIBERATELY ALTERED to make it sound like they weren’t talking about butts! Which I guess would explain the White House’s silence! Being in a video for a song that is allegedly about butts might not be considered very presidential, in some quarters!)

IN THE ABSENCE of any recent comment from Tag Team themselves, or any word on where they are now I am going to stick by my assumption that they planted this story deliberately, maybe to restart their hip-hop careers, or maybe merely in an act of CULTURE JAMMING. Like, “Sure, we could be out there making really long videos about killing men and feeding them to people, but whatever boring. We’re also responsible for that story about swine flu being totally made up. By the way, who do you think killed Jack Ruby? That’s right. TAG TEAM. BACK. AGAIN.”

EDIT: Via Mark, someone did ask! BARACK OBAMA IS ACTUALLY A RAPPER NAMED LA SNOW. WE’RE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HERE PEOPLE.

So I posted this thing yesterday to my Facebook that I liked a whole lot, a thing from the Awl that purports to offer a primer to young dudes about this thing called Feminism that might, just might, give them the tools to be more decent human beings, specifically as relates to Having the Relations with the Ladies:

The crux of the matter is that while you are out there enjoying all this freedom, you’re not really — if you be completely honest with yourself — affording the same to the ladies out there. You do things like convince yourself that every time you sleep with a girl, it’s her first time. I’m not going to go into some long diatribe about Christianity and the fetishization of the virgin, but you know what I mean. It just sits weird if you know or think about her being with another dude. You put it out of your head.

Now this is a pretty tame example, because it gets worse. Like, take a dude who’s dating a girl but it “hasn’t gotten serious yet.” They’re “just talking” and “have hooked up a few times.” Dude is free as a bird, right? He’s sleeping with an ex, flirting with some ladies at the bar, just hanging out, being a dude. But introduce to him even the idea, the unsubstantiated, perhaps wholly illusory idea that this girl he’s just talking to is sleeping with someone else. His stomach turns. He gets visibly, perhaps violently, perhaps morosely upset. The word “whore” may start to crop up in bar stool conversations.

When I read this I spit out my tea giggling and was like, OH MY GOD HIGH FIVE, DUDE WHO WROTE THIS. I WILL BE SURE TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO YOU IN THE FUTURE!

Whereas my friend Jeremy said it was like watching a priest ride a skateboard: all this “dude” and “bro” talk made it sound like the author was trying to get on a level with the kids. Which actually just tells me that Jeremy spends too much time reading Overcoming Bias and other libertarian blogs he sometimes links me to so he can wreck my day, and not enough time reading funny, bitter feminist blogs, which refer to dudes and bros all the time in slightly endeared and slightly embittered ways!

However, he made the additional excellent point that almost all the pop culture references are 15-plus years out of date. Which is funny, because the first time I read this thing, I thought, Man, I wish every guy I had ever dated had been handed a copy of this on, like, his 16th birthday. Or maybe they could have had it waiting for him on his desk at his first dorm room, along with all the orientation folders and student handbooks and ads for Student Advantage cards and such. When I was a freshman, they also had these bags of trial-sized toiletries sitting on our desks when we moved in; I assume the boys got something similar, only it was full of aftershave and manly-scented deodorant instead of tampons and pink disposable razors. So, right underneath that bag of Axe deodorant, a nice little guide to feminism for the dudes.

Except that Jeremy is right. The tone is all wrong here for actual converting anyone. This thing would totally not work on today’s 18-year-old male, about whom I admittedly know very little, to the Way and the Path of maybe not being a total shitbag to all the ladies he meets. And I suspect that is not why it exists. Instead it exists to make women like me laugh and say, YES. HIGH FIVE BRO.

“Women like me” meaning women who are right around 30 (thus the pop culture references are relevant to the years we were just getting these things figured out ourselves, and in many cases remain kind of fist-pumpingly relevant), and who still find ourselves tearing our hair out and screaming, “JESUS. SERIOUSLY. HOW. DO. YOU. NOT. GET. THIS” at the various dudes we meet, and then drinking wine in the bathtub and texting our best friends, “I’M GOING TO DIE ALONE LIKE DOROTHY PARKER,” while still reclining in said bathtub.

We’re being hyperbolic and funny of course (OF COURSE WE ARE! BEING FUNNY IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DOROTHY PARKER ALONE-DEATH SYNDROME, AS EVERYONE KNOWS). And we probably aren’t that freaked out by the idea of dying alone anyway.

But still it can be really dispiriting to encounter dude after dude who does not seem to grok that there are people walking around who have 1) vaginas 2) brains AND 3) feelings, and that most of us actually make use of all of these things on a pretty regular basis. It can be really dispiriting to, again and again, explain that you do not need to be given a speech about “crowding” or “not wanting anything too serious” simply because you asked for – or better yet, AGREED TO – a second or third date. It can be really dispiriting to explain again and again that it is not ever OK to use the expression “been around the block too many times” in reference to the prior dating life of a woman you are interested in — ABOUT whose prior dating life, by the way, you have no actual information, just that it exists. WHAT. If I had bothered to tell him I was not just dating and such for the previous 10 years or so, but also that I did lots of other stuff for the almost-30 years before he met me — that is, that I did not just spring to existence right there in the bar the night we met — I think his head might have exploded. Good thing I didn’t do that!

It can be easy to just write these jerks off individually, but when they stack up like this, you start to think, OK, things are just getting effing weird around here. This is a fairly diverse crop of dudes I’m talking about here. I mean, not actually. They’re all white and I think most, maybe all, would consider themselves liberal; it’s almost like I live in Portland or something. Ha ha!

You start to think, OK, there are a lot of individual jerks running around, who hold some pretty backward sexist beliefs they really ought to have shed by now, but it’s like…it’s like something got into their heads and totally messed them up and made them think messed up things about themselves and the women they spend time with.

What could that thing be? Oh yes. It’s you again, THE PATRIARCHY. How have you been, THE PATRIARCHY? You’re looking quite dapper, by the way.

The nice thing about reestablishing THE PATRIARCHY as a target is that while it’s a little clumsy and a lot vague, it’s a lot more fun to get mad at THE PATRIARCHY than at individuals who behave in rather sexist ways or say rather sexist things all the time. Because that just gets exhausting. Yelling at them gets exhausting. Writing them off gets exhausting. Egging their cars gets exhausting. Actually, a lot of the men I know don’t even own automobiles, and what am I going to do? Egg their bikes? Torch their bus passes? That’s just mean.

Instead, I am going to ask you READERS a question. Ladies, what are the things you wish the dudes you know had been debriefed on long before you got to them — the things you are surprised to have had to explain? Dudes, what are the things you wish you had been debriefed on when you were a youngin’, specifically as relates to Gender Relations?