Target Women and the Woman Question

Women have been in the media a lot lately, and the reproductive health controversy is sparking debates about ethics, morals, and the female body itself. Honestly, it reminds me of the Victorian England “Woman Question,” that I have discussed a bit previously.

This type of rhetoric and debate about the physical uterus and its “proper place” has been an underlying current in Western society since gender roles were invented. Yes, they were invented, and they are still being solidified, broken down, and rebuilt through everything we participate in: conversations, news broadcasts, advertisements, and media.

In a bizarre turn of fate, Rush Limbaugh recently decided to (continue) to be an outspoken anti-women and anti-choice bully, and jump started this already prominent conversation in politics and social media. However, his subsequent scapegoat status does not solve the problem of gender biases, inequality, and a continuation of gender role alignment with heteronormative morality. In other words, the sexist beast that shadows our culture is still out there. It has been there for years, but perhaps Lumbaugh’s latest line crossing remarks have finally made a larger audience aware of its existence.

His recent derogatory comments have drawn attention to our binary gender system- have we really changed our beliefs about gender so little since the Victorian period. Well, many prominent men and women still very much prescribe to the Victorian gender binary, and all of its moralistic connotations. A very specific, gendered brand of moralist rhetoric is still continuously permeating our culture, belief systems, and feelings about what women (and men, their supposed “opposites”) “should” or “should not” be.

Rhetorical analysis is fun, right?

For those of you interested in gender and the way it seeps into every part of our daily lives, you should check out the hilarious Sarah Haskins from Current  Media. She humorously analyzes advertisements geared toward a pretty large target audience: Women.

Although these videos are a bit older now, you can see many similar advertisements focused on “women” if you turn on your television, Hulu, or YouTube. By the way, for you educators out there, this is also a great tool to teach rhetorical analysis, and also to teach audience consideration, advertising, and a host of other possibilities for older students.

I like Haskins’ approach because she is funny, relatable, and because she points out just how absurd some of the underlying assumptions about women that these advertisements derive from.

Have you seen her segment before? What do you think we can learn from Haskins and the recent media attention about Women and their reproductive organs?

Regards,

Miss E

The Grapes of Wrath

I am still reading the books from my ridiculously ambitious list as mentioned in this post. 

When I started reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Penguin Classics version), I have to admit that I was doing it more out of a sense of obligation than an interest in the plot or characters.

I have heard so much about the novel throughout the years, from sources that vary from friends who have read it to literary tests that discuss its overarching themes and character struggles. I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in middle school or early high school. While I thought it was well-written, I also felt like it wasn’t an experience I’d like to repeat.

I also don’t think that I’d like to see the movie version.

The movie version that I don't care to see- fun poster though!

I feel the same about The Grapes of Wrath to a large extent. The last 80 pages or so were pretty depressing. I mean, I did know that it was a novel about the struggles of one family through the depression, but at a certain point I did feel a bit like I was torturing myself by continuing.

The characters suffer so much, and the “epic” narrative style paints an American capitalist process that I’m not necessarily fond of. Large corporate interests overtake hard working “common” men and women during the great depression, and those men are literally driven off of “their” land (which they stole/ was stolen for them from Native peoples), then pretty much slowly starved because a few greedy landowners want to make more of a profit.

The novel switches between a close and distant narration, alternating chapters between the telling of one specific family, the Joads, and the larger narrative of American “progress.” I found this description chilling and timely when we consider the wealth disparity now in place in our country. It is not only the small farmers and tradesmen/women who are struggling now, but it is also the home-owning middle class.

In the novel, the Joads, along with hoards of other tenant farmers from Oklahoma and surrounding areas, are pushed off the land they tend by the banks, quite dramatically with large plows. In this telling scene, many of the family members are looking for someone to talk to about the matter, for someone to fight with about it. However, they soon find that what they are fighting is so large that they are not even able to find it, let alone fight it.

The Bank is driving them, but they are unable to respond. I feel like this ties directly into the current argument being touted by the Occupy Movement, that corporations are Not people. The fact that Steinbeck was already addressing this phenomenon in 1939 so eloquently, and also the fact that the machine that is the Bank destroys human life, destroys crops, and destroys community, is pretty astounding to me.

One of the quotes I think best illustrates this feeling comes early in the novel. In one of the chapters where the narrator is distant, he points out the conversation one feels is echoed by thousands.

We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you’re wrong there—quite wrong there.

The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in the                       ~bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is ~something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but ~they can’t control it. (emphasis mine -sorry, the formatting got all wonky when I pasted the text).

I feel like this discussion is very relevant for today, and because of this, I think that I devoured this novel with more zest than I was expecting. It made me appreciate how far we have not come in our understanding of the capital machines that still control and drive our country.

It also made me appreciate the taste of food more. I definitely understand why it’s an American classic. It tells our story pretty poignantly, and asks some questions about the capitalist value system that are not only necessary, but that are also still being asked.

Points taken away: There are definitely a few offensive-to-contemporary-readers storytelling moments in which the characters glorify the old colonial period and the killing of Native Americans, but I also don’t feel like Steinbeck necessarily agreed with those sentiments as much as he was trying to portray the Joads and other Oklahoma residents in the truest way possible.

I would give this book 4.5 of 5 stars for its beautiful writing, its interesting character details, and its importance in our current historical moment.  I would also highly recommend it.

Read with Milk, and some sort of rustic camping food such as fried potatoes, baked beans and coffee.

Regards,

Miss E

Movie Store!

So, challenge to myself is that I am trying to post at least once a week. This past one has been busy, but I still wanted to post tonight.  Since the last post was extra long, I felt it was time for a fun short post for you!

I have really missed going to the video store. It used to be a family tradition of ours, and was really enjoyable. For me, it is also easy to just watch netflix  or hulu for like 3 hours and lose track of my day, so I’m not a big fan.

When I go to the movie store, I feel more involved with real life somehow. The media is more difficult to access, and it is a whole endeavor, making the movie itself seem much more special. Browsing the titles and seeing other people from your town looking for movies to rent adds to the movie viewing experience by making the choosing process more sensory and social.

I haven’t been to a video store in almost 3 years, until the other night, when a friend called me and asked me to meet him. It felt almost surreal, as I didn’t even know video stores still existed. However, in Seattle, they do.

We met at Scarecrow Video, and spent an hour just browsing titles. It was amazing. They have such a huge selection of dvds from all genres and many different countries. I was very impressed to see the Literature room, and they even have an “England” section. Joy.

The "Englad" Section of Scarecrow Video

The layout of the store was fun and interactive, and the shelves have bright colors. It’s like being in a used bookstore, except with movies. Awesome.

The workers were friendly and answered all my questions. I even made an account. It was good to see a small local business thriving in such a difficult niche. So, the next time you see a movie review here on Looking for Pemberley, there is a good chance that I will have rented it here.

Shopping for new films to review,

Miss E

Be a Man, Read Some Trash

Writer: Allen B 

I had something odd happen to me the other day. I was sitting at the Elliot Bay Book Store (great place, if you don’t know it, go find it, get a coffee and a book and improve your sad, sad life) reading a novel I had recently bought. The book was called Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton and for those of you who have never read her work, it is a collection of hot sex, horror, hard-boiled detective, with a tip of the hat to the great Anne Rice and a flip of the finger to those sparkly angsty characters of another series which I will not here name. Some might call it trash but in my not at all humble opinion, it’s better than candy.

Sipping my coffee, I looked up to see a very good looking man reading a book by Slavoj Zizek, one of my favorite political theorists. I smiled, he smiled back, I thought about getting his number, and then he glanced at the book in my hands. He didn’t say anything, nor did I, but for a moment, I felt a sting of embarrassment. I know it doesn’t matter that from time to time I read novels that may go on for pages (or chapters) about how hung a sexy vampire is, but for some reason I didn’t want to be thought about as the kind of guy who reads… that sort of thing at that moment.

I wanted this to be a symptom of intellectual snobbery, I know what that is and to be honest, I’m fine with it, but it wasn’t. I was embarrassed in the same way I was when some boys from my middle school saw me looking at the Barbie’s at the toy store in the mall. For some reason, I felt insecure because on some level, palpable caught there in the stare of that tall, sexy man, I didn’t think it manly to read romance. I went as far as putting the book in my bag and pulling a copy of James Clavell’s Shogun off the shelf when I went to the café to see if I could find him.

Sadly, he was already gone but as I stood there with the manly book (which I already owned) in my hand I wanted to know what the hell was wrong with me. I’m not one, in general to give a shit what other think of me, I’m a god damned lit student, people already think I’m a confusing mess, so why should this moment be different? I know the answer, you probably do too. There are some times when gender norms extend, however ridiculously, even to books. Once again I was caught looking at Barbie dolls in the toy store. Even worse, this time I was playing with them. I was more than a little annoyed at myself and rather than take the long bus ride home hiding the book in my bag, I picked it out of my bag, found a table where I could look at the passing guys (yeah, I’m kind of a dog), and then sat reading it shamelessly for anyone to see, even getting a kick out of being in public when the main character talked about things having to stretch.

In the end nobody cared. I wanted to know though, are there things that others have never read because of the ideas attached to them? I’m not talking about political ideas, I’m not going to try to talk any hard core right wingers into embracing The Grapes of Wrath, at least not today, but is there anything you chose not to crack open because it wasn’t ladylike or because it wasn’t manly? Guys, have you ever wanted to read Little Woman or a Jane Austen novel? Ladies, were you ever just a little curious about why some guys love Tom Clancy or John  Le Carre?

In the end, perhaps it’s helpful to remember that reading a novel with some erotica or that centers on a marriage plot won’t cause a man’s nuts to pull up inside of him like 40 degree water, and that some gun play and loveless sex won’t make hair grow on a woman’s chest. But maybe the problem has nothing to do with what we think these books will do to us and everything to do with what we think our friends will do to us.

Would I make fun of one of my guy friends for reading Sense and Sensibility? You bet your sweet ass I would; I’d ask him if his lady parts hurt and tell him to hold on because one day his prince will come. (Don’t hate me for the move into heteronormativity, I was after all brought up in America.) If I saw Miss E. reading some Hemmingway I’d make fun of her too, “Breaking out of the kitchen through fist fighting and womanizing?” But should that keep The Sun Also Rises out of her hands or a dirty erotica novel out of mine? To be honest, reading things that are out of my normal field have helped me to learn a lot about myself and where I stand in terms of sexuality, choices. I sucked it up and read Danse Macabre at the café in the bookstore.

So let’s be honest, it won’t threaten my manhood to read this kind of thing in public, and I was being a fucking sixth grader for reacting that way. Try it this week; go get something you’ve always been curious about. Some of the best nights I’ve had in my life have dealt with pushing the limits of my curiosity, (I’m talking literature and so much more.) If it makes you tingle in places you don’t want to talk about, all I can say is congrats. If you feel like your manhood is in question or your womanhood is being put upon, keep reading—you need to be threatened.

Pondering Publishing in Barnes and Noble

Today I was at Barnes and Noble, contemplating the demise of Borders and the state of the publishing world today. I felt conflicted. Let me give some context for this. As an English-y person, I have kind of become a bookstore connoisseur. I go to all bookstores and libraries- independent, corporate, independent-used, and coffee shop bookstores. I have even been to a bookstore with a bar. I have never been incredibly discriminating about my bookstores, at least not the ones I will go into and purchase a book from. If there are books there, usually I will buy them.

However, since I have moved to Seattle, a place where local business thrives more than anywhere else I have ever lived, I have been going to a ton of great local bookstores. For example, yesterday afternoon I was in a charming bookstore in my neighborhood, one I was seeking out even on short visits before I moved. So yeah, it’s that amazing.

Anyways, at said charming independent bookstore yesterday, I had the best customer service I have ever experienced in a bookstore. I as having a casual conversation with an employee there who was really friendly. He was stocking books and we began discussing what I like to call “Bus Books.” I ride the bus to work every day, and so far I have finished 3 books on the bus. I don’t read them anywhere else- they are just for my commute. They have to be both light, and intriguing enough to grab me at 6:50am when I may have slept 5 hours the night before.

He knew exactly the book he thought I should read. One by Thomas Hardy- Far From the Madding Crowd. Apparently there is also a very amazingly cheesy looking movie. I have not read much Hardy, but from what he described from the story, it seems perfect for both me and the bus.  Has anyone else read this one or seen the movie?

I found the image a few different places, but linked to one of the websites below with a review of the book: http://myggm.org/book-discussion-far-from-the-madding-crowd/

At the corporate bookstore today, I just wasn’t feeling it. Everything felt so sterile, despite all of the books on the shelves.  All the books were shiny and new, many were hardcover, and almost all of the employees were wearing suits (it was in a fancy pants shopping center downtown).  Compared to the bookstore from the day before, I felt isolated and uninspired to buy.

I have not been buying most of my books at full price this whole summer, but more for cost-cutting and a sort of pseudo rebellion against capitalism. However, I feel guilty about it. About only buying books from my favorite, local, bookstores. Conflicted, as stated earlier. Why?

If we don’t support the bookstores that buy their books directly from the publishers, they may stop being able to make books altogether. I do not enjoy reading from a nook, thank you very much. I want that book smell, that physical relationship with the book where you eventually break the spine from reading it so much. So, in order to keep book production going, and be able to go to my favorite local used bookstore, I may need to buy an occasional book from Barnes and Noble. Because if Borders is any indication, the market for paper copy books is diminishing and may continue to decline as online and paperless media rises. So when I finish my current bus book, I may go to a B&N before hitting up my local place for another one.

What do you guys think? Do the pros of local bookstores outweigh the possible cons?

Cheers,

Miss E