Social commentary

Dumb & Getting Dumber

Dumb & Getting Dumber
Article by Judith Halberstam, Illustrated by Martha Rich, appeared in issue Masculinity; published in 2005; filed under Social commentary; tagged bad movies, gender roles, gender stereotyping, heroes, manliness, masculinity, mid-life crisis, rites of passage, spongebob squarepants, stupidity.
Sideways, Spongebob, and the New Masculinity

In 2004, every corner of popular culture was populated by men in crisis, and I don’t just mean George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. We had men in trouble, men in triumph, men in uniform, men on the cross, men in square­pants; men being men with other men, talking about masculinity—what it is, how to have it, keep it, get it, make it last. We might even call it the Year of the Man, but the response to such a title could reasonably be, So what’s new? Isn’t every year the year of the man?

Kiss Me, I'm a Fashionable Bigot

Article by Rachel Fudge, Illustrated by Danforth France, appeared in issue Fake; published in 2004; filed under Social commentary; tagged advertising, pc, politically correct, politically incorrect, race, stereotypes.
Cashing In on Misguided Irony

Two years ago, the preppy mall staple Abercrombie & Fitch released a line of t-shirts that paired early 1900s–style caricatures of Chinese men (complete with coolie hats, big grins, and slanted eyes) with slogans like “Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White” and “Wok-N-Bowl—Let the Good Times Roll—Chinese Food & Bowling.” The clothing chain then professed great surprise when Asian-American activists cried foul; A&F’s pr flack Hampton Carney told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We personally thought Asians would love this t-shirt.... We are truly and deeply sorry we’ve offended people.” As a result of continued protests, the shirts were eventually pulled from stores (and quickly became hot commodities on Ebay).

Women and Children First!

Article by Melissa Morrison, appeared in issue Fame & Obscurity; published in 2002; filed under Social commentary; tagged chivalry, gender roles, media, war, weaker sex.
What's Up With War Reporting's Chivalry?

“At least 19 victims, mostly men and children, were taken for treatment to the hospital in Kandahar.” “The Israeli missile...took the lives of at least 14 other people—including three men and nine children.” “Tens of thousands, including men, children and the elderly, were victims of chemical weapons attacks.”

These quotes from recent news articles may read a bit strangely, but they’re all accurate (from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times, respectively), with only one change: Each story documented the number of female victims, not male. The gender swap clarifies one writer’s point: “It’s bad enough that innocent people died, but they were among society’s most vulnerable.”

Queens of the Iron Age

Article by Justine Sharrock, Illustrated by Carrie Christian, appeared in issue Fame & Obscurity; published in 2002; filed under Social commentary; tagged consumer culture, crafting, domesticity, gender roles, housewives, misogyny, post feminism, second wave, third wave.
On the New Feminist Hygiene Products

When i was 8, my father organized a present for my sisters and me to give my mom for Mother’s Day: a pressure cooker, wrapped up with other fun kitchen items like tea towels, pop-up sponges, spatulas, and an apron. It seemed like a good idea—Mom was the one who was always in the kitchen, and this was the day to celebrate her. But the minute she opened her present, even I knew we had the wrong idea.

The Common Guy

Article by Audrey Bilger, appeared in issue Transformation & Reinvention; published in 2002; filed under Social commentary; tagged Alice Walker, internalized sexism, language, pc, politically correct, visibility, you guys.
One Seemingly Benign Phrase Makes a Man Out of All of Us

Oprah says it. My yoga instructor says it. College students around the country say it. The cast of Friends says it, as do my own friends, over and over again. At least 10 to 20 times a day, I hear someone say “you guys” to refer to groups or pairs that include and in some cases consist entirely of women.

My Meidel Is the Centerfold

Article by Deborah Kolben, appeared in issue Premiere; published in 2002; filed under Social commentary; tagged jewish stereotypes, playboy.
Is Playboy's first Jewish bunny a role model?

Growing up, I learned a few things about Jewish girls from the copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes my brother kept in our bathroom. In addition to being frigid and cheap, I learned that we love Bloomingdale’s, dislike oral sex, and prefer circumcised penises—as the joke goes, we like everything better when it’s 20% off.

Grrrl, You'll Be a Lady Soon

Article by Rachel Fudge, appeared in issue Music; published in 2001; filed under Social commentary; tagged grrl, grrrl, lady, reclaiming, riot grrrl, second wave.

Last fall, at a reading for Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, a 50-ish audience member questioned the thirtysomething authors’ ever-so-casual usage of the word “ladies.” To this woman (who turned out to be tireless second-­wave activist Laura X, creator of the Women’s History Research Center), the blithe use of “ladies” ran counter to everything she and her generation of feminists had fought for—and against.

But to the authors, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, and their peers, the lady words can spill forth with ironic glee.

Sister Outsider Headbanger

Article by Keidra Chaney, appeared in issue Music; published in 2000; filed under Social commentary; tagged fanzines, hip-hop, metal, music, race, stereotypes.
On Being a Black Feminist Metalhead

I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened, but at some point in my childhood I began to think I was a white guy trapped in the body of a black girl. And not just any white guy, either—a guitar player in a heavy-metal band.

Solid Gold Dancer

An interview with Gina Gold by Siobhan Brooks, Illustrated by Julie Feinstein, appeared in issue Issue #11; published in 2000; filed under Film, Social commentary; tagged directing, Exotic Dancers Alliance, film, Lusty Lady, phone sex, race, racism, self-empowerment, sex work.

gina gold is a writer and filmmaker who spent five years in San Francisco’s sex industry, starting out as a phone sex operator, then becoming an exotic dancer at the Lusty Lady, the Market Street Cinema, and the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater. Her first film, Do You Want Me to Stay?, grew out of an autobiographical one-woman show that she wrote, directed, and performed at the Luna Sea theater last spring. She is currently working on The Island of Misfit Toys, a memoir.

Go Forth and Multiply

Article by Eve Kushner, appeared in issue Issue #11; published in 2000; filed under Social commentary.
Pronatalist imperatives on film

ah, movie magic. hollywood always manages to make difficult situations turn out well after two hours—and nowhere is this more apparent than with cinematic treatments of unplanned pregnancy.


Unexpected conceptions occur onscreen with surprising frequency, but filmmakers routinely play it safe, avoiding substantial discussions of a pregnancy’s pros and cons. They keep abortion out of plots and even out of dialogue, ensuring that movies end with a heartwarming birth. Female characters rarely feel any ambivalence about carrying unplanned pregnancies to term—and why should they, when life always works out so perfectly? An unhappy and unwilling dad-to-be will convert to a pro-baby stance in time for a happily-ever-after ending. If mom isn’t too crazy about dad and would prefer to parent by herself, she’ll soon find that single motherhood is a cinch. Although childrearing seems expensive in the real world, money isn’t much of an obstacle for film parents (and made even less of one by the fact that most movies feature middle-class women with plenty of resources). 


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