Skinny Privilege and Why I Just Literally Can’t Even Right Now

As I drove home from the gym today the song “All About That Bass” came on.  I have unabashedly loved this song from the first moment I heard its walking bass line.  Meghan Trainor’s voice is super satisfying – it’s got so much colour, depth, and core.  I want to applaud her voice teacher, wherever he or she may be, for teaching Trainor some good techinque.  And obviously I like any song that’s about booty because booty is trending right now and I’m a pretty trendy girl (and just FYI: pistachios.  Pistachios are the nut right now).

meghan-trainor

Trendy like Trainor! Just look at her!

You know, the first time I heard this song was this remarkably happy moment in my life.  I mean, it’s just so catchy!  Who even cares what it’s about!  I just want it to circulate through my Facebook and on the radio and at every party because we just aren’t listening to enough jazzy soulful chicks.

But then, like the entrance of the Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute, a bunch of people had to write articles talking about how it’s actually not an empowering song and ruin this thing that was so plainly good.  This, THIS my friends is why we can’t have nothing nice.

In an article entitled “All About That Bass Might Actually Be Bad for Female Body Image”, we learn it’s actually about body-shaming and, based on one girl’s experience after having taken a course on eating disorders last semester and being skinny in high school, it’s highly offensive.  Not only are the lyrics “it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two, but I can shake it shake it, like I’m supposed to do” offensive, but so are the lyrics “I’m bringing booty back, go on and tell them skinny bitches that“.

The first quoted lyric is offensive to some because it can suggest that if you can’t shake it shake it then you’re not womanly and attractive.  The second quoted part is offensive because she calls some skinny girls “skinny bitches”.  Despite the fact that in current popular culture nobody is calling anybody a “bitch” anymore to relay an insult (we can thank the fall season and the advent of the popular, though potentially lost-on-most-users, hashtag #BasicBitch, for that one), the author says “that’s not nice”.

Oh.  It’s “not nice”?  That’s what you have to say about that.  Ok.  Well, I mean…I just…I hate to say, “I can’t even”, but…

meme

By that I mean to say: your argument is weak and irrespective of popculture right now and it’s not doing a very good job of convincing me that Meghan Trainor is a bad bitch.  Aw shit, that means she’s awesome!  I’m sorry, I just can’t insult her.

Girls are creatures of many emotions.  Me personally, I’m running on approximately 48 discrete emotions per day.  On Friday night past, after an evening out, I actually confined my post-drinking friends to a snuggle position, stopping a friend from answering nature’s call because I was all of “so happy” and “love this moment so much I’m scared it will end if you get up and then it will be gone and I will miss it”.  Four.  In a sentence.  Stopping a person getting up and being normal because I was having four emotions: three present and one future.

Thus, with that in mind, I don’t judge a person who may hear that song and have some emotion that it isn’t positive.  My condolences, sister, because this song is LEGIT THE ILLEST.

When I saw that article posted on my Facebook the first 50 times I couldn’t read it.  In fact, just looking at the title was infuriating.  It was clear what the article was going to be about – skinny privilege.

Skinny privilege is the sister of white privilege, upper-middle-class privilege, male privilege.  It makes life easier, it makes dressing, and looking nice and pulled together easier.  Society has always conditioned women to be small (and, in fact, as small as possible) and it comes fully equipped with lots of envy and lots of privilege.

Nobody is hating on you because you’re skinny.  We are all trying to be you.  As a slender person myself, I look at every slender-er person around me with such envy.  I can’t help it!  I like to think I’m a confident lady, but it’s a thing.  Skinny is what we want.  It’s enviable.  It’s a privileged state.  Meghan Trainor’s song isn’t about skinny girls.  It’s not for skinny girls.  It’s not hating on skinny girls.  After living a lifetime until suddenly now (with Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and others hustling for the big bootied), sit down.  The main thing?  This has nothing to do with you, skinny minnies!

Although the above-referenced article is old, this annoying parody by some gorgeous skinny bitch is not.  I have to admit, I only got as far as her annoyingly perfect smile and modified chorus about how any dude that wants to change her can move along when again I put my hand to my forehead and thought to myself…

download

As a final note, if you love this song the way I love this song, get a load of this.  This girl is clearly the only chick who was capable of getting more love from me than Trainor.  Look at her rock that upright bass.  What a babe!

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Extra, extra!: Manning, Misogyny and #nlpoli

When I was in music school there was something wrong with me.  I didn’t believe in feminism.  I held, as some still hold, that the discussion contributed to the problem of inequality and that it further and aggravated segregation between genders.  When I went to law school I like to think I grew the hell up and have realized the error of my ways.  This is very good news, at least for myself.  A friend told me over drinks after I had had my moment of clarity (of realizing I was a bit (okay a lot) closed-minded, misguided and misunderstood on the subject) that she had always thought I was a reasonably intelligent person except for that one thing that just made me look like an idiot.  Valid point.

Now I not only believe strongly in feminism (though I do like to say equalism), but have actively spent time endeavouring to learn about it, how it affects people in varying societies, and at varying income levels.  Some of my favourite parts of the discussion for my socio-economic demographic are about women in politics.  Questions abound in this area: why aren’t there more candidates?  Of the candidates that do exist, why aren’t more of them successful?  Why do women get treated so radically different during their campaigns, their tenures, their retirements?

A great way to highlight the kind of scenario I’m talking about is through a question regarding US politics.  Why do people refer to President Obama and Senator Clinton in the same sentence, using the pronouns “Obama” and “Hilary”?  Undoubtedly, the knee-jerk answer is that there has been a former Clinton in US politics who was a male, so using her first name lends clarity to the conversation.  But is anybody under a mistaken impression that Billy C. is somehow involved in a conversation about the President of the United Sates and current US politics?  If it’s appropriate to go on a first-name basis, arguably we ought to refer to “Barack and Hilary”, no?

Barack and Clinton

Barack and Clinton

This week, in a fascinating turn of affairs, new Newfoundland and Labrador premier Paul Davis announced a somewhat mind-boggling reorganization of the government, including killing the Department of Justice and in place announcing the creation of the Department of Public Safety, and appointing non-politician, but actual lawyer, Judy Manning as Minister of said new department as well as as Attorney General of the Province and as the minister responsible for the status of women.  When this happened, we ranted and roared like true Newfoundlanders, and for all the parts of the conversation that were legitimate there were at least three questions or comments posed by the media that were somewhat enraging.

For The Media: How to Discuss Women in Politics

Name It. Change It. is a nonpartisan, joint project of the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run.  The organization strives to identify, prevent and end sexist media coverage in politics.    In 2012 they published the Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates + Politicians.  Among other things, the Guide set out the Rule of Reversibility:

The most workable definition of equality for journalists is reversibility.  Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or debate her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive unless the same adjectives would be applied to a man.  Don’t say she’s just out of graduate school but he’s a rising star.  Don’t say she has no professional training but he has worked his way up.

Sexism can also refer to the type of coverage, often about personality, appearance, or family, that is given to women politicians  but not male politicians.

Chart of Reversibility (Name It. Change It.)

Chart of Reversibility (Name It. Change It.)

In the case of Manning, the media has, of course, played a very active role in her appointment.  Arguably, the most important article that has or will be published about Manning was that of the CBC: “Judy Manning ‘surprised’ by questions about PC Party connections“, which was posted the day following the Premier’s announcement.

The article certainly doesn’t embark in direct sexist writing – and in fact, violations of the Chart of Reversibility are  rare!  But as Name It. Change It. tells us, it is not simply the exact language used but sometime the context and the topics.  The language used is, generally, aggressive and has the look of a cat with its back arched.

Adorable but arched and ready to hiss.

Adorable but arched and ready to hiss.

As the facts are relevant to this article, it is important for readers to understand that Manning’s long-term partner is Leo Power, an active supporter and volunteer for the PC Party.  Her uncle is Fabian Manning, former Newfoundland and Labrador MHA and current Senator in the Senate of Canada.

BristledWhen People are Imputed With Emotions They Didn’t Portray

The CBC wrote:

During an interview with CBC News, Judy Manning, the new minister of public safety and attorney-general, bristled when asked if her unconventional and surprising appointment was influenced by the fact she is the partner of longtime PC supporter Leo Power.

You know, I would hate to present a fact without knowing it to be true.  With that in mind, I watched O’Neill’s interview with Manning.  This first statement is interesting for me in light of the word “bristled”.  The Merriam-Webster online dictionary tells me that “bristle” means “to show signs of anger” or “to become angry”.

As I watched the interview, I simply did not see Manning become angry.  I saw a woman respond strongly and clearly to a question about whether or not she got appointed to AG of Newfoundland because she’s banging someone.  I thought she did a fine job, quite frankly.  I’ve seen anger, guys, because once when I was 17 I went drinking, and mother and father Stockley showed me what anger looks like.  It just doesn’t look like a smiling Manning saying “no”.

So, why then was the word “bristled” used?  Did the CBC hope I would assume she was bristled or angry?  And, if I did assume she was actually angry, what would that mean?  I associate being quick-to-anger as a negative, childish emotion.  In other words, her being bristled would lead me to forming a negative association with Manning.

VintageWhen Words are Embedded With Meaning They Didn’t Have

During the interview, Manning discusses the difference in pay she will receive as being evidence of her commitment to her new role.  Manning says it isn’t about the money, it’s about her desire to be of public service.  In her discussion of this, Manning uses the word “vintage” and “level” to describe well…her vintage or level…as a lawyer.  Having been called to the bar in 2005, she, and other lawyers of her vintage or level, would stand to make approximately $50,000 more than what she will earn as a public servant.  Commentary about issues of her remuneration aside, the CBC did a tricky thing with her quotes, when the article read:

Manning emphasized that she is also taking a “significant” pay cut by agreeing to take on the job, pointing out that she will receive a ministerial salary of just over $54,000. 

She said that is less than half of what a lawyer of “my vintage” could earn.

Now, certainly, this is what Manning said, but she also said a lawyer of “my level”.

It’s funny about that word, vintage.  When we think “vintage”, we think fine, aged wines and fancy, enviable clothing.  Ultimately, the word “vintage”, in general parlance, can come fully equipped with a host of automatic associations, including arrogance as it tends to mean things are better or more valuable.  By isolating that word in quotations, the CBC isolates the associations we are encouraged to make.  Because we have now made Manning arrogant, we have given her a negative quality.

Interestingly, I have this inclination Harvey Spector’s vintage brings in many of his clients.  So why are you trying to direct me to perceive it as a negative quality for Manning?

"Harvey Specter likes to win. So while he might be ruthless, manipulative, aggressive and staggeringly arrogant, he’s also the type of person you’d want to sit next to, rather than opposite, in a negotiation."  (See more at: http://www.bigpartnership.co.uk/blog/344-harvey-specter-reputation-protector-communication-tips-from-tv-s-most-arrogant-lawyer#sthash.pu7n0a3z.dpuf) Interesting...Harvey gets to be arrogant and it leads to a mancrush.

“If you’re detecting a hint of a man-crush here, you might be right  And in truth, he’s not always a very nice person.  But nice guys finish last and Harvey Specter likes to win. So while he might be ruthless, manipulative, aggressive and staggeringly arrogant, he’s also the type of person you’d want to sit next to, rather than opposite, in a negotiation.” (See more at: http://www.bigpartnership.co.uk/blog/344-harvey-specter-reputation-protector-communication-tips-from-tv-s-most-arrogant-lawyer#sthash.pu7n0a3z.dpuf).
How interesting…Harvey gets to be arrogant and it leads to a man-crush.

As a final note on this point, the word “vintage” also forms a part of another quote in which arrogance is less apt to be imputed to Manning.  With that in mind, is it even more possible that the word is not one of arrogance with Manning but rather just some word she uses without thinking?  It’s difficult to see how Manning’s verbal habits are sufficient cause for me to view her negatively.

Connections: When Interviewers Ask Inappropriate Questions Posed as Fair

The actual best part of this article is its select discussion of the line of questioning regarding whether Manning owes her appointment to her “connections” (do note that the pluralization is found in the article).  The CBC writes:

During an interview with CBC News, Judy Manning, the new minister of public safety and attorney-general, bristled when asked if her unconventional and surprising appointment was influenced by the fact she is the partner of longtime PC supporter Leo Power.

“I’m a little surprised that has come up. Quite frankly, in terms of my predecessors, I don’t recall the media ever approaching any of our previous cabinet ministers or our previous premiers about with whom they were sleeping,” she stated in reply to a question from CBC reporter Chris O’Neill-Yates.

In the article, the subject matter next veers to a discussion of the Premier Davis defending his decision to appoint Manning.  In real life, what actually happened was different.  In real life, this was not the flow of the conversation nor the end of Manning and O’Neill-Yates’ conversation on the point.  In real life, Manning proceeded to convey that she believes the question – clearly not about her uncle but only about her partner – indicates there is work to be done in her role as minister responsible for the status of women.  If it can be believed – and I myself almost could not believe it – O’Neill-Yates replies: in what sense?

In full, O’Neill Yates’ question is: “What part of the question is unfair, if your long-term partner was part of getting Mr. Davis to where he is today as premier, in asking whether his relationship with you had any role in getting you the position that you occupy today?”

I hate to jump in where Manning should have when asked such a surprisingly misogynistic question by a fellow female, but here is why it’s unfair: because you would not ask a man if he slept his way to the top, and that is the actual substance of your question.  Your failure to see how that is an inappropriate and unfair question is enough to turn my stomach and make me stop reading all but BuzzFeed.com forever more.  I’m so scared I will stumble upon more of this anti-women line of questioning that I almost want to boycott the CBC for fear I will have to feel offended like this again – and there is nothing I hate more than feeling offended by an entity on a Sunday.

A Few Lies, a Few Manipulations

Interestingly, though the article comments on Manning being the niece of Senator Manning, O’Neill-Yates asked, at least in the video provided by the CBC, only about Power.  Interesting, that.  Curious, that.  Are you, the CBC, tampering with the actual content of the article and the responses you got in order to help formulate and direct the shape of my opinions?  Wait, didn’t you also do that with the strategic inclusion of the word “vintage”?

I have yet to decide how I feel about Judy Manning in a meaningful sense as to her being in the roles which she now occupies.  However, the obvious attempts of articles, like the one discussed above, to encourage me to develop a negative opinion about her before seeing her in action does tend to do the opposite for me.  In watching her interview, and the various others that have happened since, Manning is confident, collected, steady.  She’s a strong, obviously well-educated woman who isn’t scared to call out misogynist questions.  Maybe it’s my love of hood culture or my own immaturity, but the attack on her person makes me just want to tweet “U Jealous? #YUMad #NLPoli”.  Because, frankly, the trite direction this conversation has taken is no more mature, responsible or enlightening than such a tweet would be.

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If you have an interest in this subject, you can find more helpful resources and discourse at NameItChangeIt.org, where a rich discussion of how we can help women who are acting in, striving for and excelling in politics can be found.  Click here.

Excellent Timing and the Spectacle That Is My Person

Do you know that sometimes my timing is spectacular?  And I say that with all of grace, humility and a firm understanding of some import of time (owing to being a lawyer and living my life in itty bitty units of 6 minutes).  But anyway, back to my timing being so spectacular.

Have you seen this fantastic flow chart created by Shea Strauss and published in Playboy Magazine on August 24, 2014?

should-you-catcall-her

I saw this several days after its publication and I immediately started following Shea on Twitter.  I’m looking forward to favouriting and retweeting everything she has to say.  Almost like a stalker but more like a really, really, really avid fan.

Interestingly, after seeing and loving this, I got a serious catcall when I was walking home from work.  I don’t usually get catcalled so this is why I say to you: that timing of mine – just so good.  As I got whistled at, then yelled at, then whistled at, and then beeped at by an oldish bald dude in some sort of suped up Mustang with the bass turned up hella on his favourite, reminds-him-of-his-youth ballad by the Hip, “Bobcaygeon” while waiting for the light to change, I had to ask myself what is this person getting out of this?

Here is what he was not getting:

A smile, wave, my number, high five, legal advice, dating advice, hair advice, car advice, jovial laughter, confirmation of musical taste, validation that he is actually not that old, validation that his Mustang is actually cool, or even a little head shake and smirk as if to say, aww, that was nice.

So, what then?  What did he get?

I imagine he feels like one of those teenagers who draw little moustaches on billboards that have pictures of smiling people on them.

...Right?

Like these.

Like these.

Pretty funny.

Pretty funny.

…Right?

And so, the catcaller in the car is just sitting there, busting a gut, like a wannabe hoodrat pre-teen who thinks this is the best graffiti moustache in the most comedically placed part of town that anyone has ever seen.  Oh, how they’ll laugh.  Big, great, laughing laughs.

And I assume he did as he drove in that Mustang of his down Kings Bridge Road at 6pm on a Wednesday.  I assume he wasn’t drunk and that the catcall was just a fleeting, quickly forgotten moment of fun.  I mean, I was dressed very provocatively in my black and white high collared, knee-length, H&M flared sheath dress with my Vero Moda knitwear on top of that.  Actually, it was probably my gladiators.  Maybe my myriad of bags.  Whatever it was – I was definitely just asking for those whistles and yelling and beeping – all in good fun, of course.  Maybe he meant it as a compliment.  Maybe this man in the Mustang, who is still mourning either his youth or his hair loss by listening to heart wrenching lost-love jams from the late 90s, was just trying to say hello.

And I then realized, as I stopped smiling and pondered this whole scenario and walked a bit faster even though it was 6 in the day, that it was real and true objectification.  Like I said, I don’t spend a lot of time being catcalled.  St. John’s isn’t the walkathon city of New York or Toronto or even Montreal or Vancouver.  We spend more time in cars.  Maybe it’s the elements, too, as when it’s cold here our many layers of bundling render our gender senseless.  What’s more, you’re usually you’re with other people and it somehow is easier to stomach.  But alone, you realize the person views you as not really a person but instead just a spectacle – because those are the things one would do if they passed a spectacle in the street.  If you happened to see a busker and you liked what you saw, you would whistle and yell and beep.  Because the performer has invited you to objectify their art – their art has become a commodity to whistle at and to cheer at and to applaud.  This is part of the currency in which you may pay the busker.  You encourage them to continue doing what they’re doing, this thing for which they desire approval, their art, their spectacle.  So, too, my catcaller seems to endeavour to encourage me for tomorrow.  To approve of today’s wear and encourage that tomorrow I will once again don my spectacular costume and strut into the world, performing the show that is my being female and, apparently, sufficiently attractive to warrant his applause.

God.  I didn’t realize that flow chart would actually mean so much that day.  And that’s why I say to you: my timing – really and truly spectacular.