F-Bombs for Feminism

November 7, 2014 § 4 Comments

FCKH8.com, a website dedicated to eradicating hatred, posted this video a few weeks back.  Not surprisingly, it caused a bit of a sensation

After all, we can’t have little kids swearing, can we?  Never mind the fact that they’re noting the ridiculous gender imbalance in our world.  Of course, that’s not shocking.  Denise Balkissoon published this devastating opinion piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail today; she argues that the Jian Ghomeshi situation is not some magical watershed for violence against women, reciting a long litany of shocking moments that should’ve marshalled our collective anger to stop it.  And this is just the Canadian context of violence against women.

But it’s not just violence.  A couple of weeks ago in class, two of my female students commented on their own experiences.  Both are incredibly intelligent young women, and both come from a place of privilege.  They are white, and they come from relatively affluent backgrounds.  Both grew up treated equally and fairly vis-à-vis the boys, but when it came time to graduate from high school and go to university, they discovered the world was not so fair.  Both report they received diminished opportunities in comparison to the men they knew, in terms of their choices for university, the internships they received, the jobs they got.  Why?  Because they’re girls.

The Facebook post I first saw this FCK8 video on had a bunch of comments tut-tutting about the foul language of these little girls, not on the fact that what they were saying was true.  And that is the entire point.  If it takes a famous Canadian radio host beating his dates, a South African athlete killing his girlfriend, or little girls swearing to draw our attention to this general societal problem, we’ve failed.

Acura #Fail

October 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Acura is a luxury car maker, owned by Honda Motor Company.  It has a new ad on TV I’ve seen a few times, and every time I see it, I’m completely gobsmacked.  The ad, which I’ve posted below, shows a generic luxury car, but it’s the music that shocks.  That’s Sid Vicious, former “bassist” for the Sex Pistols, mangling “My Way,” Paul Anka’s song made famous by Frank Sinatra.

Vicious, real name John Simon Ritchie, wasn’t a musician.  His bass was usually unplugged when the Pistols played live.  He was a junkie and a general degenerate, what would today be called a ‘gutter punk.’  On 12 October 1978, Vicious killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, in a drug-stupor in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan.  He stabbed her once in the abdomen, and she bled to death.  Vicious was arrested.  He eventually died of a drug overdose on 2 February 1979.  No major loss, really.

Aside from the fact that Acura has clearly missed the point of 1970s punk, a movement against corporate rock and other creeping commercialisation, Acura has completely lost the plot in casting a girlfriend-killing junkie’s music as a means of selling a car.  This is a complete and utter disgrace and a #fail.

Bad Fashion and the Importance of History

September 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

kent-state-shirt-625Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy, having a long history of doing stupid things the-young-hipster-shopping-mecca-urban-outfitters-offends-parents-yet-again-with-t-shirts-that-seemand offering up offensive products to tasteless and tactless hipsters.  A sample of the company’s idiocy sees anti-Semitic t-shirts and accessories, racist board games, and the like.  But this week, we got an offensive sweatshirt.  Urban Outfitters began selling a “vintage” Kent State University sweatshirt (at $120, a price only a clueless hipster would spend) that looked like it was spattered with blood, complete with what looked like bullet holes.  This, of course, recalled the 1970 Kent State shootings, when four students were killed and nineteen injured when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed protesters.  Almost immediately, the company was besieged with howls of protest, calling this move insensitive, at best (do a Twitter search for some more colourful responses).  It then responded with a typical corporate nothing-speak empty apology:

If you click on the link in that tweet, you can read the end of this empty apology, which talks about sun-faded vintage clothing and discolourisation and “how saddened” the company was by public perception.  Given the company’s history of provocation and offensive behaviour, I see nothing sincere here.

ikyo9YeJkiIQIt’s been a bad stretch for clothing makers, last month, Spanish clothing retail giant Zara tried selling a children’s pyjama that recalled the uniform Jewish prisoners were forced to wear in concentration and death camps during the Holocaust.  Faced with a similar storm of protest on Twitter and elsewhere, Zara withdrew the item and issued a similarly empty corporate apology. In its version of the gormless apology, Zara said this pyjama shirt was meant to recall the star sheriffs wore in the American West. Sure.  Right.

I won’t even get into the downright daftness of hipsters wearing aboriginal headdresses.  That’s an entire dissertation on stupidity, cultural appropriation, and a how-to guide on offensiveness. (There is, however, a Tumblr devoted to mocking hipsters in headdresses).
But all of this idiocy reinforces the importance of history and the impact a little bit of historical knowledge can have on the world.  Someone in my Facebook feed today suggested that fashion companies simply hire someone to be an historian-minded vettter, to ensure plain, outright stupidity like this doesn’t happen.  But the very fact that these two items of clothing actually got to market displays an epic failure of corporate oversight.  In order for something to get from design to retail to production means that both items went through many checks, were seen by many eyes.  And no one thought, “Hey, this is a bad idea.”  Or, no one cared.  Certainly, one can come to that conclusion vis-à-vis Urban Outfitters, given the serial nature of its offensiveness and lack of good corporate citizenship.

The New Yorker and Serbian Aggression: Re-Writing History

September 12, 2013 § 5 Comments

I like reading The New Yorker.  It’s generally a pretty good general interest magazine and I appreciate its particular slant and humour.  But sometimes I read things that are profoundly stupid.  Like in the 2 September issue, in a profile of the Serbian tennis player (and world #1), Novak Djokovic.  Djokovic grew up during a difficult time in the former Yugoslavia, as it disintegrated.  And he grew up during a difficult time for Serbia, while it was committing genocide.  So, when the author of this piece, Lauren Collins, casually mentions that NATO began bombing Belgrade, without any context, I was left gobsmacked.  Belgrade was bombed by NATO during the Kosovo War, during which the Kosovars fought for their independence from the remaining rump of Yugoslavia, which was really just Bosnia.

Serbian troops, with their wonderful record of genocide in Bosnia/Herzogovina (in conjunction, of course, with Ratko Mladic’s Bosnian Serb army) were suspected of committing genocide, or at least engaging in genocidal massacres, against the Kosovars.  Hence, NATO, as it had done in 1995 during the Bosnian genocide, stepped in.  In the end, it turns out that Serbia wasn’t exactly committing genocide in Kosovo, merely “”a systematic campaign of terror, including murders, rapes, arsons and severe maltreatments” (to quote from the BBC), the Serbian army sought to remove, not eradicate the Kosovars.

Whether NATO was right or wrong to drop bombs on Belgrade, Serbia has a history of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity.  There’s a reason former Serbia President Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in The Hague whilst on trial for war crimes and former Serbian general Ratko Mladic is presently on trial in The Hague.

Clearly Collins is trying to engender a sympathetic audience for Djokovic, who, as an 11-year old boy had nothing to do with Serbian genocides, and it is largely an entertaining article.  Nonetheless, she is guilty of a gross misappropriation of history in describing the bombing of Belgrade in an entirely passive voice: “When he was eleven, NATO began bombing Belgrade…”, she then goes on to explain the young Djokovic’s means of survival.  She goes onto write “In the aftermath of the war, as sanctions crippled Serbia’s economy, Djokovic’s family struggled to support Djokovic’s ambition [to be the world No. 1 tennis player].”  Again, this is a tragedy for the Djokovics, but there are very real reasons why Serbia was hit with economic sanctions by NATO and its allies, and that’s genocide.

The New Yorker and its editors, as well as Lauren Collins, should know better.  It’s that simple.

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