Time travel for girls

An unexpected side-effect of being more or less trapped on the sofa for weeks (as a result of the ongoing activities of evil micro-organisms) is finding yourself on an unexpected sub-warp journey to a 1970s-80s world.

This is courtesy of the only daytime tv that’s left after watching enough “factual channels” to be able to pass post-graduate courses in How things are made; What scientific myths can be busted; Ancient history, and the Origins of the universe.

I take for granted that the endless stream of programmes about WWII battles and big building projects aren’t watchable. And obviously anyone would rather saw their own foot off with a rusty steak knife than watch hours of exploitative confessional shows (like Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer) or talk-shows featuring minor celebs.

So ancient detective stories – such as Columbo – are almost the only half-watchable daytime tv. Which causes temporal distortion after a few hours and I start to feel as if I’m living in the 1980s.

There are series like Murder, She Wrote, Golden Girls and Cagney and Lacey. Which come as a real shock.

Programmes with female leads. And the female leads are clearly not there for decoration. What are the chances of seeing ANY 21st century TV programme in which the female stars are not glamorous? There are few enough ongoing drama series with female leads who aren’t “desperate housewives” or people who work in fashion or femmes fatales.

OK, Law and Order always has a (good-looking) female lawyer. CSI has (good looking) female CSIs. At least they have jobs. But they aren’t exactly the central characters. Could you imagine these roles being played by the sort of women you see in the Golden Girls? Of course not.

Post-feminism, my arse. These ancient tv programmes seem to have almost come from a mythical golden age, when women in the media could appear in a whole range of forms. Assuming that you don’t watch tv or read newspapers and that you doubt for a minute media representations of women are now actually much more “pre-feminist” than they were twenty-odd years ago, here’s Dell’s new site for women customers.

This exists to reach out to the heads of women who might find a non-gendered tech-selling site too sciencey and off-putting. It focuses on the exciting range of different coloured laptops that you can match to your lifestyle.

(“Complement your personal style with a choice of colors or a distinctive pattern (starting at $40)”)

There’s a featured artist. Don’t think da Vinci. (A laptop printed with details from the Last Supper would indeed tempt me, I have to admit) No the artist is

Featured Artist: Robyn Moreno
Robyn is the author of the popular style book, Practically Posh: The Smart Girls Guide to a Glam Life (Harper Collins, July 2008), and is the editor-in-chief of a Turner Media website devoted to fashion. She hosts a web series called “Darling Robyn” on The Dell Lounge, a lifestyle site on Dell.com, and is a lifestyle columnist for Ty Pennington at Home magazine.

Basically, this site assumes that women are only interested in shopping and how well their laptop will fit in a tote bag. Or as the Register says, with justified scorn:

Della has four sections that emphasis the humane, nurturing, collective, and caring aspects of… purchasing Dell computers; “products”, “tech tips”, “giving” and “featured artist”.
The site appears mainly focused on punting Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook to ladies. It’s a computer, the company emphasizes, that will fit in your purse and let you stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues through email. And everyone knows broads fall for that kind of stuff.
Della’s “tech tips” section offers seven “unexpected” ways a netbook can change womanly existence, including helping you “find recipes online, store and organize them, and watch cooking videos”. Or maybe you’re the kind of chick that prefers to “use your mini to track calories, carbs, and protein with ease”. That just about encompasses everything you need.

If this backwards time-travel carries on for much longer, we’ll soon be handing back those pesky votes. Though we’ll be way too busy shopping and becoming bitchy but glamorous Stepford wives to notice, so I don’t suppose it matters.

Raising an eyebrow

Time for a new topic. Why do so many women pluck or wax their eyebrows?

I find this really hard to understand. By definition, pulling hairs out by their roots has GOT to hurt. A lot.

So why is this a well-nigh universal female practice?

(Except for people like me, blessed with such a depth of vanity that we assume we are naturally close enough to perfect. And would, at least, need some damn good proof to the contrary before we underwent some painful beautifying process. )

Everybody wants to look acceptable, at least to the degree that strangers don’t stare and point at you in the street.

I’m not an eyebrow purist. If you have an embarrassing novelty eyebrow, I can’t see any problem with correcting it. It would seem perfectly reasonable to me to shave off the middle of a total unibrow. If your eyebrows were growing into eye moustaches and reaching your cheekbones, fair enough. Cut the buggers.

I’ve been carrying out an unscientific survey of men’s eyebrows. (This involves looking at brow ridges quite a bit more than would be considered polite if they were other body parts.) Even in this groomed-within-an-inch-of-its-life world, men’s eyebrows are still allowed to grow as they choose. And I haven’t seen more than – oh, I don’t know – one in a hundred men of any age who have eyebrows far enough on the outlying edges of a conceptual normal eyebrow-size-and-distribution curve to warrant a second look. Let alone a shriek or an instant gagging response.

So, do a disproportionate percentage of women suffer from gross eyebrow deformities? Perhaps there’s a bizarre tendency for women to grow comedy eyebrows, that can only be kept in check by pulling hair out at the roots.

All the same, I shudder to imagine a natural eyebrow growth of such a luxuriant excessiveness that it would be weirder than the eyebrows that I see on women every day. (Some of which actually do make me want to point and giggle. At the least, my eyes are inexorably drawn to the novelty eye furniture, to the point of being unable to take in anything the wearer says.)

My favourites include the one where the browridge has been depilated to the bone and the eyebrow replaced with an approximation of a eyebrow. Drawn on. Using a jet black pencil. Even when the wearer’s head hair has been bleached to a brilliant yellow. What do I mean “even when…” . The correct phrase is “especially when…”

This artwork is based on the “incredibly surprised” model from “Drawing cartoon faces 101”.

More sedate eyebrow models include simply plucking the hairs until the eyebrow is about 2 mm thick and starts to sprout just above the pupil. This also tends to make the wearer look constantly surprised, if slightly more mammalian.

(When I was at school, there was a brief fashion for girls to shave their eyebrows completely and then draw an unskilled approximation of a curve onto their newly-blank forehead canvases. This was initially quite impressive to a 14-year-old me, until the impressionist sketches were seen to be nesting in a visible lawn of brow prickles a week later.)

It’s hard to see what possible advantage this brings anyone, in terms of attractiveness. Do men really think “Well, I quite fancy her but she doesn’t look surprised enough?”

White feathers

In a Guardian interview with Jessica Stevenson, the woman from Spaced who’s now in Dr Who,, she compared women today to the women of the suffragette era.

I wondered how women – so enthused, so galvanised, so passionate – could have organised one of the most successful political campaigns in British history. Compare that with now when they are obsessed with scented candles. Not to say that all women are like that but it’s still depressing that politicised, sophisticated women are few and far between. It’s a direct result of rabid consumerism.

One of my main rants against the world is how so many women seem bent on becoming mindless Stepford wives so there’s less than no argument from me there. Continue reading

Say No to Veils

(a response to the previous post here)

Interestingly I somewhat agree with a ban on veils in schools and any other places in which there is a “dress code” or uniform to be worn.

Using schools as an initial example, there are a multitude of reasons behind saying “no” to a veil (not the least the fact most Islamic organisations agree with a ban).

IMHO the reason for being in School is to learn from your teachers and interact with your peers. This is pretty much the only reasons I can think of to “waste” 10 years of your life which could be much better spent cleaning chimneys.

By its very nature, the Islamic veil prohibits this interaction and creates a barrier between the teacher and student, as well as between students. Teaching is interactive and relies heavily on student participation. As humans we rely heavily on body language (including facial reactions) to judge how the person we are talking to is responding to what we say. When you speak to some one who is veiled this is gone.

At school, in the UK, “we” are trying to instil in the pupils a willingness to learn and  understand other cultures. Being veiled, while “showing a different culture” is a pretty blatant statement that the person is removed from the interaction. How are other school kids supposed to learn to talk and interact with what is effectively a talking, black, postbox? The argument that this exposure will teach kids about the different cultures is weak and it is very one sided.

The last point I am going to make for now is the nature of uniforms. The idea and concept behind school uniforms may be up for debate (and if so, is a new debate entirely) but where they are in place what on Earth is the justification for the veil?

There is no Koranic obligation for the veil and it is a fairly modern invention. I cant help but feel the children who are “demanding their human rights” are being used as pawns by others who seek to cause trouble and spread discord – both Islamic and non-Islamic.

This is not a “civil rights” issue any more than objecting to having to wear clothes in public is… The people are not being told they can not follow their religion of choice…

Veil of tears

Sorry, couldn’t resist a lame veil pun. There’s something about the veil that brings it out. I defy you to find many newspaper articles about the latest veil story that aren’t going down that route for a headline, so I felt obliged to join in.

I don’t feel obliged to join in the nonsense debate about Muslim schoolgirls wearing the veil to school or not. See story on today’s BBC. It’s just more islamophobia as far as I can see.

What is about the veil that gets everyone’s backs up? OK, I find the whole belief system behind it to be dire and depressing. The combination of extreme sexism and religious fervour is always a winner.

However, it’s just an item of clothing. Teenage girls who choose to wear it are trying to establish some sort of identity, in the same way that the girls who dress as footballer’s wives, crack hos, goths or girls next door are. It’s part of being a teenager. The veil lets them annoy their schoolteachers (always a winner) while believing they have the moral high ground (different type of winner, but just as much a part of adolescence.) Is it really more offensive to people that soem girls choose to cover themselves in tents than any other things.

In most cases, people grow up and see things differently from the way they appeared to their teenage selves. You would think that a few years living in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia would probably quench the desire to be veiled as much as anything.

The only reason I can see for banning the veil in schools is that it would deprive those girls who want to resist cultural pressure to wear it of an unarguable excuse. This is the strongest argument for such a ban, indeed the only one worth considering.

The deeper problem is the issue of why veils stir up such passions in the non-Muslim population? Is it more in your face (really poor pun) than a Jesus loves you t-shirt. Do we have a problem with people wearing crosses?

Dare I say that it’s an ugly combination of sexism and religious prejudice that leads everyone to treat veiled women as somehow the representation of evil? (Women in the veil are now often considered to be really disguised male terrorists.) Jack Straw’s notorious rant about his constituents removing their veils was the Trojan Horse that allowed in a free-for-all demonising of muslim women.

(I wouldn’t argue about teachers, certainly not the teaching assistant who seems to have taken the job just to make some comedy political point about the veil and what would happen if a male teacher came in… Small children can’t be expected to understand instructions from someone when they can’t see their movements and expressions. Not to mention being a really poor role model for little girls.)

If we consider that women are often oppressed in Islam – and I certainly do, although Islam has no monopoly in this noble tradition – doesn’t that make us the worst type of bullies- picking on the already victimised.

In any case, how can suppressing the expression of belief advance the cause of rationality? Making martyrs always brings more converts to fanatical world views. Is this the objective?