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December 15, 2008

Downtown

Blogbased Introspection

Hello!
So I felt like I should say a little bit more about myself, and the effect that this blog has had on my self image. As I mentioned in my little bio blurb, I'm really into introspection as an agent of change. I think we should really encourage people to take a look at who they are, and what makes them happy and what informs their decisions. So I felt like this blog is a good forum to share my own reflection, and maybe encourage other's (?). Anyway, I had started seriously considering about the deconstruction of gender in general earlier this semester after seeing a performance by the fantastic Kate Bornstein. As I mentioned during the conversation with Lana that's posted, I've never actually made any serious changes to my behavior, so I can't really say that I know what gender performance I'm most comfortable with. However, I've been moving toward making those changes - cutting all my hair off, not wearing makeup, not apologizing for talking too loud or my bodily functions.

Focusing more on the title of the blog, I've been really considering what performances I partake in. More significantly, which of those performances are influenced by my happiness. I know the following things:

-I like wearing makeup. As much as it's also a reaction to my perceived flaws, I love playing with my face. I'm sort of an artist (insomuch as I like to make 'art') and I like to use my face that way.
-I like the way my partner looks at me when I dress like a 'woman'. I love them, so it makes me happy to make them happy, and thus being feminine is in my best interests.
-I don't always like my body. Usually I'm madly, deeply in love with it, but some days, I just can't stand it. -When I hate my body, I want it to more feminine. Whether that's because I've been socialized to idealize that body type or because, as I said, it's certainly in the interest of my happiness to continue to perform that role.
-I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I love how it makes my body look, but sometimes I feel like I'm just trying to attain the ideals that society wants me to strive for. Also, sometimes it hurts and I don't feel like doing it, and the feeling of guilt I get when I don't is ugly.

That's all the introspection I have in me for now, more later. Perhaps a beautiful, angsty Monday series about my self reflection.

Have a fantastic week!

-B

December 14, 2008

Remy and Betsy Explore Balance and Power

"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances" -Oscar Wilde

If clothes make The Man, what am I making
with pink and purple?
with too tight "girl jeans"?
Am I making this for me,
or for what you perceive?

Maybe this cloth glues me together each day.
Would my skin escape
if I didn't hold it in away from you?
Or do my ties connect us?
If I press against your back
hard enough to stop our breath
do we disappear?

What if I desire you when you're wearing my sweater?
What if you desire me when I'm wearing your skirt?
I've got a blind spot where our palms meet.
Can you see the boundary there?
Can you feel our orbits collide?

What do you look like as your happiest, most fulfilled self?
What do you wear when you're all alone?
Do those look alike?
What would happen
if you did it all the time?
What would happen
if you dressed for your self?

Butler

"I will understand constituting acts not only as constituting the identity of the actor, but as constituting that identity as a compelling illusion, an object of belief."-Judith Butler

December 13, 2008

Lana and Betsy on the Social Construction of Gender

December 12, 2008

Some Thoughts Connecting Whiteness, White Supremacy and the Professional Class

Whiteness is- the center, the norm, the dominant cultural narrative. It presents itself through consensual hegemony (Gramsci). Through certain performances in the professional class one identifies with their subject position to hegemonic authority. Forces that are implemented by the ruling class by ways of systems, most notably white supremacy.

Hegemonic identification is based on culturally dominant beliefs which stem not from a collective but from a system that upholds a ruling class. To have a hegemonic identity may not mean one will receive inclusion to the group with power but the performance that identifies one to this group recognizes this group’s authority. Often consensual hegemony stems from a desire to be granted privileges from this group, for their subject position to this ruling class (American Oligarchy). This identity usually makes up a lot of norms that are not so clearly defined yet unmistakably understood as whiteness.
There are particular opportunities to trade up with agency, privilege and power in the professional class. By displaying certain behaviors and beliefs social interaction creates meaning which recognizes hegemonic authority. This is achieved by recognizing and privileging dominant ways of being, doing and knowing over other ways.
Hegemonic identification sustains existing hierarchies.
White Supremacy, Capitalism and Patriarchy are the three main systems used to socially construct US identities. As a consequence the three main ways people identify in the US are by race, class and gender. One gets called into being a white or black subject. Whether or not other races are called into being does not matter as much as being a white or black subject. A white supremist society insures the most power and privilege goes to those who are identified as white and the most oppression and exploitation to those who are identified as black. It is what the system was founded on. In short one gets called into being as a subject. Like a mirror what propels one into social existence also shows one which subject position or identity will be recognized as and thus more likely to be claimed.
How is making a subject identity is connected to hegemony? There is a power dynamic a subject relationship which one is in power to call the other, recognize them. Who gets to be recognized into existence? What rules govern the compelling nature of such laws making something (performance)/someone (identity) worthy of being called on? Is calling on a particular behavior, in fact a means by which to socialize one to be dependent on drawing conclusions outside of themselves?
Is this in fact a training to become someone, something else? Is it to be an object of a belief (Butler)? Was this a consequence of systemic oppression or a strategic move to encourage the perpetuation of it? Hegemonic identities (meaning people who are no less human but willingly conform to dominant cultural beliefs and identify with dominant narratives) cannot go back and reference their personal experiences if those experiences disrupt their subject position.
It seems that these days in the US the dominant model that holds privilege and exploitation together has to do with the acceptance of certain narratives and a covert or overt alliance with those in power. One enticing consequence of agency is that one can move with fewer restrictions and more privileges (which can appear, if one is not critically aware to be freedom).
In order for agency, power and privilege to exist there has to be a source from which people can be recognized in this way. These people responsible for controlling at least institutional aspects of oppression are called the American Oligarchy. When people discipline themselves according to norms in society they are conforming to hegemonic notions of identity. Are these norms, beliefs and alliances with the dominant cultural narrative then used to manipulate the masses for the will of the ruling class?

Lana and Betsy on White Supremacy and Business Dress

How to Dress Like a (Business?) Woman

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The businesswoman is classy. She is simultaneously feminine and masculine, blurring gender boundaries while also following a strict code of dress unique to her position. Faultlessly polished, she operates in a world outside convenience and comfort - a world where she is powerful, but often only a vassal in a world of predominantly male feudal lords. Perhaps Ann Marie Sabath puts it best in her article in the Summer 2000 edition of BusinessWoman:

"Those who seem to be hand picked for promotions long ago figured out that their professional lives consist of one big job interview! And that includes when you begin a new position....One of the things that most of our Mothers never told us was to save those flowery prints and gingham checks for aprons rather than wearing them to work. Instead, prints that say, “I mean business? are better suited for the workplace. A safe rule of thumb for women to follow is to ask determine if the print would make a good tie for a man? If so, it probably would be equally as appropriate for business casual attire."

1. First, and certainly most important BE. RICH. Or, in the absence of funds, pretend to be rich. The business woman never admits her poverty. She soldiers on, wearing only the 'highest quality' garments, though during tough times she might need to cut down on the number of items, always focusing more on QUALITY QUALITY QUALITY. No synthetics here!

2. Don't be a 'slut'. According to Sabath, the business woman always follows the '11 inch rule': she makes sure there a skirt always has at least 11 inches of fabric covering the legs. With her world populated by powerful, amorous men, it is the business woman's responsibility to keep herself attractive, yet inaccessible, never drawing the stares of her coworkers. No matter how fantastic your job performance, no one's going to promote the cow if he can see more than a few inches of thigh for free!

3. For each asexual action the businesswoman must be equally feminine. To achieve this balance, pair your power suit with 3 inch heels. The elevation will make you feel more powerful, while you simultaneously feminize your image. Your male coworkers should not feel that they could coax you into bed with little effort, but they should enjoy watching you walk down the hall.

4. Dress for versatility. You should be ready for anything, be it going about your daily business or jetting off to Rome for the meeting with a client your boss just couldn't make it to at the last minute. The day you wear your $30 Target brand polyester skirt to work, that sports only 10 inches of fabric covering your legs, will almost certainly be the day your boss contracts avian flu and has to cancel that meeting.

5. Casual attire does not ever mean casual attire. Your employer might give you control of your dress code a few days of the week, but he expects you to look your best anyway! Spend just as much on your 'casual' clothes as you do on all your other garments - just because it's casual doesn't mean anyone wants to see you in JEANS!

6. Always. ALWAYS. wear nylons. It might seem implicit in the second rule, but even while following the '11 inch rule' the business woman covers those legs. You wouldn't want to get caught sitting at your desk with your legs uncrossed without a nice, constrictive barrier between you and the prying eyes of your coworkers. An added perk: your untanned legs can seem appropriately pigmented without the expected trips to the salon!

7. Accessorize! Related to rule #1, this aspect of the businesswoman's appearance is key. She demonstrates her class and wealth through the quality and quantity of her accessories. According to Ann Marie Sabath, our expert, your best bet is the 'rule of 13' - your list should include your earrings, necklace, watch etc, as well as the jazzy buttons on your jacket or the French cuffs on your blouse.

8. Wrinkles kill (careers). When purchasing your high end garmentry make sure you're either getting something permanent press, or are willing to press it yourself. And you HAVE to be willing to do it every day. One wrinkle on the wrong day could cost you that promotion!

9. Dress 4 success. Take your cues from the highest-ranking woman in your office: no matter how little you respect her, she's more successful than you, so you should do your very best to emulate her style.

10. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, NEVER WEAR APRONS TO WORK. As Sabath discusses in her earlier quote, the very worst think you could do for your career as a woman would be to wear your favorite paisley apron to work.

-Ms. Legs

December 11, 2008

Critique by Lana: Pippa Brush “Metaphors of Inscription: Discipline, Plasticity and the Rhetoric of Choice?

The article discusses the idea of “free will? around shaping and sculpting the body and how power is responsible for the choices women and plastic surgeons make and how. Plastic surgeons are told that they should do research in classical art before they begin shaping faces and bodies. Bodies are described in this article and I would add quite accurately, as texts that show cultural values. Who is subscribing to them and why? Bodies in this article are metaphors of inscription that are taken to be real again, creating a disturbing socially constructed image that most believe to be true. The inscription part happens when the body is manipulated to adhere to hegemonic cultural norms about white heterosexual beauty images of women. There are three main ideas that help to explain this process and why it is so powerful:


Plasticity: There is a way of thinking about the body called the mind/body split. People are allowed to view their bodies as something separate from their minds, something they need to do something with. Bordo refers to this as “plasticity as the postmodern paradigm? (24). Which means “going some way towards making the body seem more like an object then the location of self? (26). Why would images of women’s bodies be separated from their minds? If white images beauty form from straight white men (classical art and the people who run the system today), why do manifestation of the women’s bodies appear to be dead, hollow or empty? Beyond this not so complex question of privilege vs. exploitation there is a more pressing issue that ties this to the use of power and control of a subject through their own mind. Bordo mentions bodies are something that can be literally viewed as an object that can be sculpted or shaped. ‘If the body can be sculpted, like an object, where does this leave the subjectivity-the ‘mind’? (26). This statement explains that the powers that be are exercising themselves within our minds. This is further explained in the following paragraph, which is about the second of the three main ideas.

Discipline: There is a way people are being socialized to disciple their bodies that can appear on many levels. Whether cosmetic surgery or diet and exercise there is an internalization of power that Foucault writes about called an “inspecting gaze? this is a way the individual does their own surveillance. Another way to put this would be long looks in the mirror comparing oneself to magazine pictures or weighing in. This is a way of subscribing to a belief of hegemonic beauty standards. How is hegemony consensual to dominant culture? There can be no dominant culture if people do not subscribe to hegemonic identities. They also discuss in the article how the normalizing factor can come down to a goal of being perfect, leading to the third point.

Rhetoric: To maintain this discipline there have been many rhetoric’s that have been created to make adherence to norms seem natural and necessary. First there is the rhetoric of choice- self determination. Foucault defines this as, “discipline controls on the body through the production in the disciplined subject of the desire to conform to the presented norm? (36). Bordo refers to this as “Postmodern subjectivity? (26). So then this self-determination becomes responsibility for our bodies. Not just any responsibility, responsibility to the norm. Is it a choice or free will or self-determination if it’s a responsibility like that? Also within plastic surgery the “doctors? have created rhetoric of necessity where, wrinkles sound like deformities and postmodern patriarchal capitalism sound like cultural standards.

How-To: Tie a Full Windsor Knot

December 10, 2008

How-To: Dress Like A [...] Man

The business world is a serious place with an even more serious dress code. Behind the cut you'll find the Top 10 Helpful Hints to Aid Your Climb Up the Corporate Ladder.

-Dr. Power Tie

10. Pay attention to hygiene and grooming-- these should be your first steps to getting dressed for success! No one wants to be distracted or disgusted by the scent of your armpits or sight of yellow scum on your teeth. You have the money to take proper care of yourself, so use it.

9. Your tie is almost without fail the most important piece of your outfit. A tie should cost at least $100, because this is a direct measure of the power it will instill in your subject-position (for the first $100 of tie cost you earn +5 power points, accumulating an extra +2 for every $50 after that, until you reach $1000, at which point you earn double points for each $100).

8. When picking a shirt/tie/jacket/pocket square combination, allow one piece to be your accent. For example if your tie features a bold paisley pattern, you might want to choose simple solid colors for both your shirt and jacket, while foregoing a pocket square in order to avoid a cluttered appearance. Clutter is suggestive of disorganization, and that is definitely not a message you want to be sending.

7. There are many ways to tie your tie, but the most powerful is obvious: the wide, menacing Full Windsor. This knot demands control and is sure to give you that extra boost in any negotiation.

6. Be sure that your shoes always match your belt. If this doesn't make sense, ask your grandfather.

5. Don't wear jewelry. Period. Not even studs in your earlobes, not even a Livestrong band on your wrist. None of that matches your suit anyway.

4. Keep your hair short and neat, above the ears. Shaggy and/or long hair is for girls, college students, poor people, queer people, and people of color.

3. Clothes with wrinkles, tears, or colors that are too loud proclaim that you either don't care about proper business dress or you don't know what proper business attire is at all. Always have your clothes ironed the night before so as to avoid an embarrassing and unprofessional appearance.

2. If you have to wonder or ask someone else if an outfit is acceptable for the office, it probably isn't.

1. Understatement is undoubtedly the hallmark of the well-dressed. Generally after a business meeting your associates should not be able to remember what you were wearing-- they should only remember that you were well-dressed.

Always well-dressed,
Dr. Power Tie

Links for Exploration

Anti-Corporate Ideas
The Businessbib
CounterCorp
Global Exchange - Anti-Oppression Coalition - Useful Definitions
Hegemony According to Emory University
Oligarchy USA

December 9, 2008

Betsy.

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Betsy is a second year student intending to graduate in 2011 with a major in Conservation Biology with a minor in Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. With her diverse interests, she intends to pursue a career in Natural Resources, while simultaneously exploring and deconstructing the status quo. Interested in introspection and awareness as agents of change, she is constantly reevaluating her personal identity as well as the image she projects to the world. Betsy is passionate about environmental justice, Kurt Vonnegut, her family (biological and otherwise) and self expression.

"Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now.?
-A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick)

Lana

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Lana identifies as a white, middle-class, queer, disabled woman student at the University of Minnesota. A member of the Women Student Activist Collective, Lana intends on graduating in 2010 with a BA in Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. Recognizing her imposed subject position she remains critically aware and hopeful of change to this day. People describe her as honest. She describes herself as a queen.

Remy

Remy is definitely not a woman and probably not a man either.

Remy identifies as a white, queer, trans, sissy, filmmaker and wordsmith. They don't eat meat or exercise their right to vote as a U.S. citizen. Though they do their their best to not support the perpetuation of hierarchies, they are currently dog-paddling through the University system and frequently content with the goal of one day teaching there. Perhaps they just really want to wear blazers with elbow patches while smoking loose leaf tobacco from a classy wooden pipe.

In any case, Remy doesn't usually pass for their age. They do often wonder for what they are passing.