Escaped the 100-degree heat in Portland this weekend with a trip to blessed air conditioning to see Kung Fu Panda. And while you can't escape its exploitive racial sterotyping and fat-phobia, it did provide a good takeaway lesson for my 8-year-old daughter.
We've run articles on many a controversial subject here at Bitch, and readers have responded with appropriate ardor to such topics as fat suits, pro-porn theory, eating disorders, the "hasbian" phenomenon, and more. Yet some of the most impassioned letters we've gotten in the past year or so hinged on a short piece in issue #35 about the disturbing equine makeover of My Little Pony. (It's not archived on the site yet, unfortunately.) Responses to Jesse Rutherford's Love/Shove — which took a close look at the evolution of the 1980s toy-box staple and concluded that Hasbro's aesthetic tinkering has yielded an undeniably sexualized parade of ponies — ranged from assertions that it was "terrifically over the top" and "creepily overstated" to veiled accusations that Rutherford's interest in the redesign was "the kind of logic only someone who is unreasonably sexually obsessed with ponies would arrive at."
I was reminded of this the other day when I read a recent New York Times piece on the new makeover of Strawberry Shortcake, another classic of '80s playtime who continues to be a touchstone for girly nostalgia. It seems, according to the American Greetings company —Shortcake's sugar daddy — that today's girls weren't feeling the icon's Raggedy Anne styling, Calico-cat companion, and unhealthy preference for gumdrops over fresh fruit. (I was never a fan of the doll, so I can't verify personally whether I ever got the latter directive from Shortcake and her pals, but I will say that my childhood friend Pilar had the whole fruity family — Apple Dumplin', Huckleberry Pie, Orange Blossom — and the sickly, chemical scent of them emanated from her bedroom as a kind of pastel fog.)
Since today is Father's Day, I want to take some time to reflect on my dad, and try to start giving voice to some ideas and pain and anger that have been simmering in my mind.
My dad died this past winter after a shitty and long battle with cancer (he was a life-long smoker). He was 67. Now I know this might seem like a particularly loaded way of bringing politics down to the level of personal (and thus emotional), but here's the thing. I've been doing a lot reading lately. Of books, of blogs, of zines, magazines, chapbooks, of vision statements and organizing principles of self-described radical organizations and people... I've also been doing a lot of listening. And struggling to find the language to pull these ideas and feelings out of my head/heart, thoughts about identities and experiences. Critiques of which ones are validated/politicized and which ones aren't, and which others aren't even considered as possibilities for political analysis. And I've been struggling to even speak because, who knows? Maybe I haven't considered enough. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I haven't been as thoughtful as I think I have. Maybe I haven't searched hard enough.
I finally unpacked from last weekend's NCMR, and unloaded the special NCMR tote bag. I've learned from the past couple conferences I've attended that tote bags are apparently a necessary part of every conference. Am I being an ungracious a**hole when I say I find this ridiculous? Sure, tote bags are helpful in organizing all the conference materials and other items handed out at workshops, but don't people bring their own bags?
Lately I've been thinking about the process of coming out and identities/shifting, and how for so many of us it's an ongoing/lifetime process. In part because we as individuals change, and/or in part because our environment changes, and/or in part because our identities can't be read on the outside, and/or because some of us feel the most comfortable in those in-between spaces yet sometimes feel compelled to "pick a side" (so to speak/referencing here the dualism so prevalent in mainstream Western culture), because the struggle to have our identities validated (or even finding language to define ourselves and our experiences) simply becomes too much work. But then when we "pick that side," we might eventually feel the weight of that boxed-in identity start to hurt, so we begin the process of coming out again... Or geez, to put it most simply, because things just change...