In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

To Tip or Not to Tip

I always tip in restaurants, even if the service is crappy. Why? Because I know that service jobs really suck, that the waitperson is probably making less than minimum wage, and that they’re on their feet all day probably dealing with rude and difficult customers. But tipping is also awkward. What if you do get really, really bad service — as in, a waiter who is purposely rude? And how much do you tip for things like beauty treatments? If I get a haircut or my eyebrows waxed, is 15-20 percent still standard? What if it’s a more unpleasant treatment, like a bikini wax or a pedicure? Do you tip more for those?

Now, one person is advocating a European-style service charge instead of a tip — at least when it comes to the restaurant world. I’ve gotta say, I think it’s a good idea for customers and waitstaff alike. And is anyone else disgusted that waiters get paid as low as $1.59 per hour in Kansas and $3.85 per hour in New York City?

Side question: what is an appropriate tip for things like cab rides, haircuts, and beauty treatments? Does anyone know for sure? Any beauticians or cab drivers wanna give your two cents?

One cocktail waitress weighs in. At this point, does anyone not know the dollar-a-drink rule?

The Dove ads that won’t end

Like nearly every other feminist blogger, I’ve written about the Dove ads before. And yet, I have more to say.

These ads have created quite a stir, and not just in feminist circles. They’ve prompted op/eds in major national newspapers. They’re being discussed on blog after blog. And you can’t turn on the TV, read a women’s magazine or walk down an urban street without seeing them.

There seem to be a few camps of thought out there when it comes to these ads. First is the group that says, “Real women! Right on!” and ends with that. Then there are those that say, “This is another ad campaign, still negotiating women’s bodies to sell products, and that is bad.” And then there’s the “These women aren’t models, how dare they be on billboards” set. To me, though, all of these views are insufficient.

Twisty, as usual, has a really fantastic take on the ads. Read her post. I agree with her. But at the same time, I don’t dislike the ads as much as she does. And while I find them problematic, it’s for slightly different reasons.

For me, it comes down to one question: What do we, as feminists, want from advertising culture, and what do we reasonably expect? There are those of us who see advertising as inherently evil, and will argue that any form of it is dehumanizing and bad. If that’s where you’re coming from, then it’s perfectly consistent to dislike the Dove ads. But, if you’re coming from where I am — which is where you’re critical of advertising, but recognize its necessity in our economic system (or at least recognize it as something that isn’t ever going to disappear) — then the Dove ads become harder to criticize.

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Elements of Style

From the fashion pages…

Shopping while black — even Oprah can’t escape poor treatment in department stores, as she was recently shut out of an Hermes boutique in Paris. The Voice has more.

Feminist fashion: the petticoat, apparently. I’ll admit, I love long floaty skirts as much as anyone — I’m rockin one right now. And even though the article isn’t exactly laced with feminist politics, it’s nice to see someone using the word “feminist” in a positive and normalized way.

“Wow! She’s fat!”

At first, I was taken aback by the Village Voice article on the new Dove ad campaign, as it starts with calling the model “fat.” But what I like about it is that it admits that when many of us (myself included) see an ad with an average-sized woman, there’s a moment of shock. Then there’s a moment of, “Yeah, right on!”

So, we’re walking down the Bowery a week or so ago and we see that Dove poster everyone is talking about, the one with a indisputably voluptuous “real” woman posing in her underwear and before we can censor ourselves we murmur practically out loud, “Wow! She’s fat!” and then we’re instantly ashamed because of course we’re too politically correct to ever think that for real except—we did.

In fact, this beaming, frankly fleshy model, big as she is, is a lot younger than we are and let’s face it, in truth she is no fatter than we are—and she looks to be in far better shape.

Though we like to think of ourselves as the most progressive person on earth, it turns out we are a lot more similar to most people than we care to admit: We, like everyone else, are so accustomed to looking at skinny, skinny women in magazines, on television, in movies, and virtually every place else that when we’re confronted with someone of a normal weight she seems completely freakish. So insidious, so poisonous is the tyranny of the super-thin that we recoil, if only for a second, at the sight of an average woman on a billboard.

Who could have predicted that when people in highly developed countries had more than enough to eat, the result would be a bizarre combination of widespread obesity and rampant self-starvation?

The rest of it gets a little shallow, but it’s an interesting read regardless.

Body Impolitic and the Dove Campaign

Badgerbag pointed out an interesting blog that studies the Body Politic, aptly named Body Impolitic. See their picture galleries of beautiful unconventional nudes.

One of the first posts on their blog today discusses the Dove brand “Campaign for Real Beauty,” a campaign that I was at first skeptical about. Looking at their site, however, has given me something to feel hopeful for:

Dove’s global Campaign for Real Beauty aims to change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty. A view of beauty that all women can own and enjoy everyday.

In order to achieve this important goal, the Campaign for Real Beauty includes the following initiatives:

  • Creation of a forum for women to participate in a dialogue and debate about the definition and standards of beauty in society
  • Release of a global, academic research study that explores the relationship that women from around the world have with beauty and its links to their happiness and well-being
  • Advertising that inspires women and society to think differently about what is defined as beautiful
    Fundraising initiatives (sponsored by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund) to help young girls with low body-related self esteem
  • Self-esteem workshops with young girls in schools to help them foster a healthy relationship with and confidence in their bodies and their looks
  • Establishment of the Program for Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard University, through a grant from Dove, which will continue to examine the way we think and talk about beauty in popular culture and the effect that this has on women’s well-being
  • Creation of a global touring photography exhibit, Beyond Compare, Women Photographers on Beauty, showcasing diverse images of female beauty from 67 female photographers, and demonstrating that beauty is about much more than stereotypes

I can’t decide about the campaign. On one hand it is refreshing to see women outside of the Hollywood norm being represented with respect and presented with a considerable deal of sexiness and attractiveness because of/despite their unconventionality. Additionally, the goals listed above are awfully third wave. On the other hand this campaign smacks of the old “Girl Power!” theme in which we are sold beauty products through messages of feminine empowerment.

The overall message seems to be that women are entitled to “feel beautiful.” By buying Dove products, you too can reach your full potential.

Maybe I’m not so hopeful.

Poise Pro-Choice Messenger Bag

For now the feminist ad network is on hold, scratched in favor of a person-to-person deal promoting an item I love, the pro-choice messenger bag. Bonus: when you buy one, Cinnamon donates $15 of your payment to your favorite pro-choice non-profit.

Cinnamon Cooper, creator of is a handbag designer with a grand vision. Her foray into handbag creation began as a way for her to support the plethora of non-profit organizations her heart was devoted to, even though her wallet was slim. After donating several bags to silent auctions and raffles she decided to create a website where she could sell her bags which would permit her to raise money for more of those organizations as well as keep her fabric supply stocked. In 2003 she heard about the March for Women’s Lives which would take place in April 2004 and knew she had to find a way to help. The “No More Hangers: We Won’t Go Back: Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” symbol haunted her for days until she found a way to transfer it to a bag which was then donated to her local NOW chapter. The compliments were plentiful and requests for the Pro-Choice Messenger Bag began pouring in.

By April 2004, she’d made enough bags to be able to sponsor a young woman to take a bus from Chicago to Washington D.C., as well as make donations to several other reproductive health organizations. While being surrounded by more than 1 million women was fulfilling, she knew the fight wasn’t over so she kept selling the bags and kept permitting the buyer to decide which reproductive rights organization would receive $15. It’s remained her most popular item and she’s given money to more than 13 organizations, many more than once. Not only does she love wearing her politics on her ass, she loves the conversations people strike up with her.

“I’m proud to be able to support Lauren and Feministe. Not only has this site provided me with hours of
procrastination material it’s created a community of forward-thinking, respectful men and women who make me
think on a daily basis.”

Cinnamon has sent me a few things in the past from the Chicago Craft Mafia, of which she is a member. This group rocks. And this completely unpaid endorsement goes out to Mark Smithivas for his Lemongrass Mint soap and making Ethan and I smell like the garden.

Capitalist pigs, Thomas Friedman, and me

Due to various Net Nanny restrictions, I’m unable to get to most of the websites and blogs that interest me – Feministing, Alas, the Village Voice, AlterNet, even Slate are all usually blocked. I can trick it into letting me get to Feministe by clicking “refresh” seven or eight times until it gets tired of blocking me, but it doesn’t fall for such ploys with websites like that of the Voice (and I’m not even going to waste my time trying Salon or Nerve). So my access to information of interest is highly limited. Luckily, I can get to my beloved New York Times so that I can keep up a basic understanding of what’s happening in the world, but when it comes to the issues I’m most interested in – feminism, reproductive rights, sexual freedom – I’m not able to read much. So, after a frustrating day in an internet café in Cagliari, I’m back in my internet connection-less room typing on my laptop, with the idea that I’ll copy this into the blog next time I have internet access. Hopefully this will help to cure my blog deprivation.

Of course, the main problem with blogging in MS Word, without an internet connection, is that you don’t have much to write about when you can’t link out. So I’m forced to do something seldom seen in the blog world (I refuse to use the term “blogosphere”): write about something that I read on paper, something that I didn’t find online. An actual book. Purchased at a bookstore, and read over the course of a few days.

And this book, which so piqued my interest and which I’ve been recommending left and right, isn’t even about feminism (well… not directly, anyway). It’s about money. And economics. And the global economy. And a bunch of other boy things that nice liberal-arts-educated girls like me aren’t supposed to care much about. So, despite what should be general disinterest (at least according to the Larry Summers crowd), today’s post will be a bit long.

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Take Back the Language of Empowerment

This is actually a real advertisement:

Take Back Your Saturday Morning

This spring and summer, Mr. Clean MagicReach™ is empowering women across America to free themselves from the tiresome task of household cleaning with the plea to Take Back Your Saturday Morning!

Mr. Clean MagicReach is a new and innovative tool from Mr. Clean® that makes cleaning the bathroom easier, faster, and less physically demanding. So, now that you won’t have to spend your Saturday morning cleaning the bathroom, Mr. Clean MagicReach invites you to spend your newfound time celebrating you!

In each Take Back Your Saturday Morning city, Mr. Clean MagicReach will be hosting events at local spas where you can concentrate on yourself, rather than cleaning your bathroom. Activities will include:

  • Free manicures with our exclusive CoverGirl® shade I Took Back My Saturday Morning
  • Demonstrations of how to use Mr. Clean MagicReach
  • A Take Back Your Saturday Morning workout designed by celebrity fitness expert Kathy Kaehler
  • …and much more!

I can think of one cleaning product I won’t be buying in the near future. Or ever.

via Teen Pulp

Buy Ford

Why? Because the AFA is boycotting them.

The AFA, the nonprofit group run by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, criticized Ford for donating money to gay-rights organizations (Ford offers to give up to $1,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination for every Jaguar and Land Rover it sells to a member of GLAAD, the company said this week). The group also complained that had Ford sponsored gay pride celebrations, advertised in gay-oriented publications and was “redefining the definition of the family to include homosexual marriage,” Randy Sharp, the organization’s director of special projects, said Tuesday.

If anything, Ford says, the AFA is not giving it enough credit.

Marcey Evans, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an interview Wednesday that the AFA was misusing “diversity” by treating it as a code word for “homosexuality.” But “to Ford, diversity is a much broader definition than simply homosexuality,” she said. “Diversity is very important to Ford, and it goes beyond homosexuality.”

This move by Ford may also be about the new turn against buying large trucks and SUVs, but then, I’m a cynic.

Burgers, babies and Paris Hilton

First, Carl’s Jr turns out an ad featuring an animated baby in utero (and I say “baby” because this thing looks more like a three-month-old than a fetus or even a newborn) mouthing off to mama because she’s eating a spicy burger.

Now, it’s bikini-clad Paris Hilton washing a Bentley and eating a burger.

“We liken our advertising to more of what the beer brands do,” said Brad Haley, evp of marketing at Carl’s Jr. (which targets men 18-34) in an interview with Brandweek earlier this year. “There’s a lot of male attitude, personality and edge. Sometimes sex appeal enters into it on occasion. It’s something younger guys are interested in.”

Beer ads. Now there’s something to imitate.