Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vagina Comodification

Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina.

Why is the word Vagina such a loaded word? Why are vaginas left out of mainstream culture? Why do our movies censor women and female genitalia while normalizing the penis?

How can vaginas be so censored, so vulgarized in today's society, but yet so comodified ?  Free the Vagina!

When we see movies and television today  we are likely to come across a joke, between men, about sex and penis. Penises today are so normalized: we see them in movies, we have jokes about them, we draw them on people's faces, but yet vaginas remain censored in every media domain. As a society,  we are taught to think of vaginas as dirty, as pornographic,  as inappropriate, as gross. Basic vaginal functions are shunned and are forbidden to discussion and the only time we hear vaginas discussed in sex is as an object of conquer, a "thing" to fuck. Vaginas are not a body part to be proud of like the penis, it is something to be ashamed of. Vaginas are offensive. It,  in fact, is the most offensive word in the english language. CUNT.

So we live in a society where we have this very strange juxtaposition. A society where vaginas are censored and dirty, but yet they are so comodified. Vaginas need to look a certain way, we need to shave a certain way, we need to smell a certain way. They sell us our own vaginas in porn, in advertisements, in movies. We are taught how a normal vagina is supposed to function, an image we are supposed to project to the male population,  that is no where near how our vaginas actually smell, look, function. So we portray this image and work and pay for this image. Because, God forbid , if our vaginas do have hair, or do smell, or do bleed, or orgasm  we as a whole our shunned from society. And the best part of society. Sex. We are bombarded by media telling us that men will refuse to give us sex unless our vagina fits this perfect comodified model.

Which brings us to this strange juxtaposition, which now doesn't seem so strange. Isn't it just about control...?

So how can we take back our vaginas? How do we take it back from the porn industry, media, men?  How do we beat this double standard? I'm not quite sure. It might be doing whatever the hell you want with your vagina. And throwing around awkward vagina talk in the faces of all your misogynistic colleagues. But I'm not quite sure. :p =(l)=

Fashion and Body Hair

When, I began to read the posts from The Last Triangle blog I began to think of how much time I spent shaving. It personally has never bothered me to shave. However, I found it ridiculous, that there is a changing fashion about the amount of pubic hair one has, for both males and females. Why does it matter what people do with a part of their body that is usually covered?

I think that is a personal choice. The article “Brazilian waxes, ball ironing and other summer fun” really stood out to me. I don’t think men should have to endure ball ironing or women should need Brazilian waxing, but I am not opposed to it if someone wants to have it done for his or herself. I am also not endorsing anything like this as it does sound extremely painful.

Perhaps I am open minded about the subject because my family did not really care about whether or not I shaved. However, I did hear about shaving in middle school and decide to try it. So, my opinions were probably socially influenced as well. Yet I am comfortable with how I am. I think if one is comfortable with their choice of whether or not to shave, other people should respect them. 

However, it is reasonable to assume that with the media promoting hair removal products that this will not happen readily.
It just is really disconcerting that so much time is put forth to convince people whether or not they should shave their pubic hair to fit in to the fashion in society. In the article “The Bush is Back”, that author speaks about mannequins with pubic hair. Okay sometimes there is a hype about pubic hair, supposedly. Yet, it seems rather unnecessary.
I think whatever one wants to do with his or her genital region should be considered acceptable. That should be left up for an individual to decide based on how he or she feels about it. It should not matter what is usual. Some people may not want to shave. They point out that there is no medical benefit to shaving and that shaving can be painful, or irritating to the skin. Other people claim shaving is great because it makes the body feel smooth. I think both of these sentiments have great points. There are pros and cons to shaving that one must consider. Yet, if someone does not want to shave there is no reason they should have to, and the same goes for if someone does choose to shave. This is an issue of personal choice and preference.

At the end of the day, the choice to shave should not be one coming from the desire to fit in or impress others, but rather what makes one feel his or her best. In today’s society with the influx of commercials and hype surrounding the issue of shaving, making a personal opinion can be influenced by these outside factors. It is not an easy decision to make. Yet people should try to be aware that commercials and society may be framing their decision and at least think about the issue before deciding what he or she wants to do.

Friday, January 30, 2015


This week the idea of time is what resinated with me. How body image, treatments, and technologies have adjusted as everyday standards kept changing. Both the Sailor Jerry Film and the “hairless norm” readings eluded to time. I found the parallels between the timelines of tattooing in the ‘rebel’ world and hemlines in the ‘sophisticated’ world interesting and, ultimately worth exploring. World War II seemed to be the era for change in society. Other courses have taught me that as WWII was beginning, soldiers in America were too obese to fit into the airplanes and tanks, which influenced the west’s first PE classes and gym teachers. With the new ideas that women were equal to men, they also began to exercise and the ideal woman’s body changed along with the healthy lifestyle. Despite the early beginnings of gender equality, society continued (and continues) to focused on female appearances and presence. This meant that despite the exercising like men, they could not smell bad, not look groomed nor have the freedom to wear what they wanted. The urban women continued to conform through their shorter hemlines, hair removal and makeup. Meanwhile, the soldiers at war began defining themselves through unique modifications such as tattoos. 
Through the readings and video’s it seemed to me that in the early WWII days there were two extremes: clean and innocent or totally “tatted up”. I would be curious to see when, in time, the middle grounds became popular. 
Myself, for example, began putting a bright colored streak in my hair when I was 16. It began with violet, to blue and now I have red with a feather. While I love this little extra touch, I don’t think I could ever get a tattoo or another piercing. But I also know that I could not go a month without shaving, fixing my eyebrows or even letting my nail polish chip. 
 We spoke in class about if we actually have a choice in how we esthetically modify our bodies. In the case of WWII extremes, did they have a choice? What do you think you would do? 

The Politics of Hair

            I have been fascinated by hair as a symbol for liberation since I first saw the musical on Broadway. Hair tells the story of teenage “hippies” in 1969 who are protesting the war, while receiving draft cards. Their “hair like Jesus wore it” protests the traditional buzz cut for soldiers. With their hair, the young men are expressing their disagreement with the government and politics.
            At the same time, African American hippies grew out their “afros,” as an expression of racial pride. 1969 was the end of the Civil Rights decade, and African Americans used their hair to express newfound power and rights. In showing off what was natural of their hair, African Americans were not conforming to, nor accepting standards of Caucasian hair, and thus Caucasian ideals of beauty and appearance norms.
            Women were also rejecting beauty standards in 1969 via their hair. In growing it out, “long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty,” they were protesting ideals of femininity, concurrent with the Women’s Rights movements in the 1960s.
            Today, men and women of all races are also using their hair as forms of expression. As the LGBTQ revolution progresses, androgyny in fashion is becoming popular. Men are not considered “feminine” for taking care of their hair, and the “man bun” (long hair put in a bun) are seen as attractive.
            As women are gaining power and equality, shorter haircuts are also very normal. Women are no longer expected to have perfectly managed long locks, and more professional, short cuts are acceptable.
            While hairstyles may be used as a form of liberation for men and women in 2015, another type of hair is setting back the progress gender roles. With the growing popularity of internet porn, women are under pressure to be perfect, and thus pubic shaving is becoming more and more socially necessary. Since many men expect their partners to look like the porn stars they see, women are becoming ashamed of public hair, just as they became ashamed of leg and armpit hair.
            We discussed in class if it was necessary for women to shave. The public scrutiny of women with hair is too hard for many to justify the lack of razor. The pain women endure with leg and bikini waxing could be compared to the pain of foot binding.

            So what direction will hair take society next? Will men and women’s androgynous haircuts soon mesh into one shaved do? Or will we all grow everything out and do away with the waxes and razors?  

Shaved or Unshaved: Personal Choice

            Before reading the posts in The Last Triangle blog, I have never questioned my shaving practice. Since the age of 12, I have taken my time in the shower to shave. Thinking back, it wasn’t until that day, that embarrassing conversation, that I started to shave. As the sun shined, we lounged on the pool-sided chair. In the middle of our conversation, my male friend (who was around the age of 16 at that time) said in that horrified tone of his, “You need to shave! There’s hair on your armpits.” My face turned tomato red in an instance; my 12-year-old self immediately became embarrassed. After that day, I have always been very self-conscious about shaving. Summer days were extra worrisome. There was a constant reminder in the back of my head asking “you shaved, right?” on the days that I wore a sleeveless shirt.
            Meredith Dault’s posts on her blog The Last Triangle strikes home in more than one occasion. It’s easy to simulate with the things that she writes about, particularly in the piece Somewhere to start. She mentioned that shaving not only gives women one more body issue to worry about, but also, a new set of esthetic services to enlist and heap more of specialty product to buy. As more time passes, the less hair a female body should have (at least that’s how things are going in the mainstream). Females have constantly been told to “keep it under control, or keep it covered.” This no longer solely apply for visible areas such as legs and underarms, it also goes for genital area.
            It never bothered me that I have to shave, per mainstream customs, because I do feel cleaner and fresher when I’m shaved. However, I’m exceptionally annoyed by the phrases that are said to describe unshaved women. It’s the individual’s personal choice to shave or not, to remove certain body part’s hair or not, and others should respect that choice. Despite this, many commercials advertising razors still uses discourteous words, describing the practice of shaving pubic hair as “mowing the lawn” for females. Is there a need to tell women to shave so that they will “feel tidy and together?” Are females not tidy and together if they are unshaved? The answer is no, and no. As noted by Dault, we have managed to “sell women on the idea that the curly little strands associated with physical and sexual maturity are unclean and unruly, unsexy and untamed.” I believe I have fallen victim to this hairless scheme that started before I was even born. It should not be thought that those who aren’t hairless are dirty; this is just a personal choice.

            Another issue that I have with the languages of razor commercials is the sexism involved in those words. Why females’ version is “feeling tidy and together” while males’ version is “making the tree look taller?” What one can infer from these two phrases is that if females don’t shave, they are unclean, if males don’t shave, their genitals wouldn’t look big. So, it’s fine for guys to be unshaved because they will still be clean regardless? If females are told that they are not clean if they don’t shave, then males should be told the same thing (even though there is no medical research supporting the fact that shaving is cleaner).

            What I’m trying to get at is that shaving is a personal thing. If someone choses not to shave, it is their preference. Society’s view has changed. Individuals are pursued by the mainstream to shave unwarranted hair in areas such as underarms, legs, pubic, and even arms. We should respect whether one choses to become hairless or not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Male privilege and false consciousness

One of the postings from The Last Triangle was “Waxing the Boys” easily found under the ‘men’ tag. I knew there was going to be a post about defensive men in response to the subject matter.  
Men are also feeling social pressures to remove their body hair. Weightlifters and body builders, particularly those who participate in men’s physique competitions remove their body hair because it makes muscles more visible and it’s more aesthetically pleasing. This seems ironic to me since weightlifting and bodybuilding are usually seen at the height of masculinity. Nevertheless, I know that my coach does it and I will have to as well when I compete in the coming year. However, I agree with Meredith Dault in that it isn't fair to compare the reasons for men and women hair removal.  Most of us don’t feel unsanitary or self-conscious if we don’t trim frequently. Like Dault mentioned, we’re also not targeted by corporations the same way that women are. Today I learned a lot about women’s razors (it may have just been me), but what was surprising to me was that all the women in the classroom seemed to know a lot about razors targeted to both men and women. They’re very aware of the dichotomy that exists between both genders.
            This is probably the main reason that men get defensive—we don’t want to recognize our unearned privilege. And we don’t want to recognize it particularly because it’s unearned. It’s hard to acknowledge our political, economic, and social advantages that are made solely on the basis of our sex. Dault’s reference to Toerien and Wilkinson in the “Youth and Power” post was incredibly insightful—“given that body hair may be understood both as a signal of sexual maturity, and as a symbol of masculine strength, the requirement for women to remove their hair may thus reflect the socio-cultural equation of femininity with a child-like status, passivity and a dependence on men.”
            One last thing that I wanted to address was the idea of false consciousness. Derived from a Marxist theory of social class, false consciousness is the idea that refers to capitalist society with institutional and systematic misrepresentation of interpersonal relations in the consciousness among different classes. In Dault’s “My First Guest Blogger” post, Tocxica talks about how she used to be an avid shaver and makes clear that a lot of reasons given in favor of shaving are unnecessary and wrong (i.e. being on one’s period, because of exercise). Tocxica would probably agree and say that these women are subject to false consciousness. One of her friends even said that while she didn’t mind some hair “down there” she didn’t want it looking like Chubacca. The question here is: what if some women do prefer little to no hair? For the sake of the argument we will concede. Still, Tocxica might argue that they are still subject to false consciousness, however by doing so could still be considered a form of oppression. Doing so implies that these women that say they prefer to shave are incapable of true conscious choice, giving consent, or free will. What we have then is a form of a double bind. If she chooses not to shave, then she may be seen as ‘unruly’ and if she does, she will be conforming to patriarchal standards. 

The Hairless Norm: Is It Normal?

I spent hours reading through post after post, page after page on The Last Triangle.  I was truly captivated by all the different viewpoints presented in the blog posts, comments, videos and hyperlinks.  I found myself constantly making connections and being reminded of things while I read each post.  So many questions were being raised in my mind.   I couldn’t get my mind off of the topic.

In the post “The Courage to Quit”, I noted, just as the author did, that using the word “courageous” to define the act of not shaving seemed kind of ridiculous.  When we think of the words like courage, bravery, and fearlessness, growing pubic hair is probably not what comes to mind.  So why is it that defying this trend is being seen in this way?  Do these “courageous” people stop shaving because they realize they don’t have to?  Because they don’t want to be told what to do with their bodies?  To prove that they don’t have to?

The question of whether or not I wanted to stop shaving has crossed my mind, not because I wanted to defy the norm, but because I just hate shaving.  It’s time consuming.  It’s expensive.  It’s annoying.  I began to think about why I started shaving in the first place.  I did ballet and gymnastics when I was younger so as soon as my armpit hair began to grow, I shaved it without questioning.  When I was in fourth grade, some girls had begun to shave their legs and by sixth grade, everyone was.  Everyone but me.  I had begged my mom to let me shave and after a few months, she finally agreed to it.  I have been shaving regularly for ten years.  Sure there are times where I go two or three weeks without shaving (hello, winter!) but I have never gone more than a month without shaving because I feel dirty and it gets sort of painful.  I know I’m not the only girl that feels like this—I’ve had more than one conversation with my sister, my aunts, my best friends about it—and we all feel the same.  My question is Why?  Why do we feel unclean?  Is it just because I am so used to having smooth legs?

I have a lot more to say just about that, but I think I’ll save that for another time.

On to my next thing: the influence and pressure we are putting on young girls (and boys).  I mentioned a few children’s toys in class and was pretty satisfied when I saw that everyone had the same reactions I did when I found out about the products.

First, the “Bath Time Play Shave Set” marketed towards young children.  I have seen many varieties of these on the end shelves of Target over the past two years.  Spongebob, Superman, Hello Kitty, Barbie, Spiderman.  What kid wouldn’t want a toy that makes them “all grown up”?  I was shocked, though, when I looked these up and found out they ranked among the best children’s toys by Parent’s Magazine.  So now companies aren’t just targeting young girls, but three-year-olds who want to be “just like dad” or “just like mom.”

Next, and what is more horrifying, are Monster High Dolls.  These dolls came out in 2010 few years ago and are targeted towards girls aged 5-10.  A little girl that I babysat over the summer got a bunch of these dolls for her 7th birthday.  I was helping her open the packages and we were reading the character’s profiles.  I was shocked to hear one of them that talked about flirting and shaving.  I remembered this while I was reading The Last Triangle and looked it up again.  Here is the excerpt from the doll’s profile:

“Freaky Flaw:  My hair is worthy of a shampoo commercial and that's just what grows on my legs. Plucking and shaving is definitely a full-time job, but that's a small price to pay for being scarily fabulous.”

In addition, her favorite activities include “shopping and flirting with boys.”  She calls herself “gorgeous and intimidating.”   

Doing further research, I found an interview with a spokesperson from Mattel (who makes the Monster High dolls).  The spokesperson claims that "Monster High characters deliver a positive message of celebrating ones imperfections and embracing those of others."

I can't help but laugh out loud at how preposterous that is.  Why on earth are toys and values like this being targeted towards girls who don’t even know what flirting, shaving, or plucking is?  Now it’s not just an issue of trying to fit in, but girls are being told flat-out that “it’s a small price to pay.”

Mary Mik

Bound to Tradition

As a young adult who has grown up in a free will society, trying to understand how individuals could not and did not stand up for their beliefs can be difficult. In recent American news, it is becoming the norm for the people to create unrest when they don’t agree with something. Consider the results of the following: the Michael Brown court decision,

The results of the results is arming police with military grade equipment. In fact, they have received government funding for this equipment. Police are being trained to utilize these weapons properly, as they should. However, if they’re being taught tactics similar to the military, the question arises: are police truly decompressing civil unrest for a better society, or do they view civilians almost at enemies?
Although these outbreaks may appear more serious, both these American situations and Chinese foot binding stemmed from powerful beliefs that drew out damaging results.

reflecting upon Chinese foot binding
I commend Americans for displays what they believe is morally incorrect, however, I find respect in the Chinese staying silent in situations that could have caused unrest. Clearly, our money has been dumped into policing due to the results of America’s civil unrest. I’m nearly classically conditioned to wonder who and how the people will oppose to a decision or situation.

Mary Mik

The Ambiguity of Art

There is not a particular line between body modification and mutilation; between the two lies a vast area of ambiguity. Those undergoing body modification to symbolize a cultural tradition and/or to feel positive about themselves are more widely accepted by society than those who mutilate themselves under a negative mindset or with no end benefit. Unlike mathematics, there is no definite answer to what body play is to body mutilation. Moreover, individuals have contributed a plethora of ideas to which is which. One strong viewpoint asks what the drive behind the body modification is. In either case, the way a society reacts to the modification plays a key role in whether the action may be considered abnormal or distraught.
For example, it was radical for flappers to chop their hair and wear short dresses in the twenties. Society was unsure of how to react to a drastic visual representation of this new viewpoint on life. Over time, however, the rather traditional viewpoint of how females should and should not dress softened. As a result, females can wear short skirts and bobbed haircuts across various situations in American culture today. In this case, the flappers’ actions were considered surprising but not particularly abnormal, as over a handful of years, the clothing and hairstyles became a cultural norm.
Mutilation, however, does not seem to follow a similar timeline. Over and over again, mutilation is persistently looked down on by society. The reason? Psychologists, psychiatrists, and outsiders alike have yet to discover a true benefit of self mutilation. On the other hand, what is considered as body art and modification is more widely accepted by those not participating in such actions. In “My 60 Years of Body Play,” Fakir Musafar described his suspension experiences as liberating out of body experience. Those who practice meditation, a widely accepted practice in many societies, may say the same. Musafar’s reason for his body modification is to achieve this relaxed, out of body state, a goal others attempt to achieve with accepted practices like meditation. As mentioned, the difference between a beneficial and deviant body modification depends on the underlying meaning.
Like flappers, those practicing body modification and self mutilation may use it as an outlet or symbolize a drive to make a statement.That statement, however, varies across cultures and moral standing (i.e. cultural body play versus self mutilation.) Further, two factors between the a remain the same: both may be practiced for instant recognition.
For example, Aztec and Mayan females would wear a certain sized labret. This was for immediate identification of which stage of her life she was experiencing (e.g. entering adult life, getting married). In a more modern context, military personnel inked themselves with tattoos to be recognized as who they were in combat. Individuals considered to self mutilate may want to be recognized, as well. For example, those who cut or burn themselves with negative implications in visible places may do so to be recognized by others; it may be a quiet call for help in that he/she may not be able to speak the issue himself/herself. Further, the individual may be struggling to identify who they are in particular. In both cases of body modification and body mutilation, one who participates is one who must make choices: what is the underlying context for the action, what does it make one feel, and what is the benefit?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reflective Ink: What Tattoos Really Represent

After reading the section from Hardy's book and watching the Sailor Jerry film, I wholly understand why Hardy entitled his biography Wear Your Dreams. To Hardy, Jerry, and thousands of other body modifiers, their art is truly their life. In regards to Ed Hardy, from a very young age he was destined to be a tattooist. Much like many of his counter parts, he was inspired to tattoo by his surroundings, the Wild West Museum near his home, tattoos in comic strips in the local paper, paint jobs on hot rods, and even Picasso. Although these muses struck his immediate interest, the artwork he is known for today is not at all reflective of these images. Hardy's style of tattooing formed over a period and with this help and influence of more experienced tattooists, including Sailor Jerry himself. 
From the film, Sailor Jerry struck me as the kind of guy who takes no ones bullshit and does whatever the hell he wants. With this in mind, I think his designs were similarly influenced by his surroundings. Like we talked about in class, Jerry's work emulated "International Folk Style". This, while reflective of the limited technology of the time, I find also imitated Jerry's personality. The fact that customers were limited to choose one of Jerry’s pre-designed flash tattoos, struck me as something he would’ve chosen to do even if the technology had allowed for different. I can imagine him saying, “pick one or get out” or “you get what you get”. Regardless of how limited the selection was, Jerry’s work was truly reflective of his life. The ever-popular anchors and pin-up girls really emulated the era he lived in.
 This is where I find that Hardy and Sailor Jerry differ. Though both were inspired by the cultures they grew up in, I find that Jerry’s work was much more reflective of this, while Hardy was influenced more by his teachers. You can see in the images below how Hardy’s work is almost a blend of his predecessors, Jerry and Oguri.

Of course I appreciate how talented of an artist Hardy is, but it is almost harder to appreciate his work when it does not seem one hundred percent original. 

I used to watch Project Runway, and I remember Tim Gunn asking contestants if they had seen last season’s Alexander McQueen or Givenchy because their designs were nearly identical. Of course, it is always difficult not to have some form of similarity to your inspiration but with that it is just harder to appreciate. Personally, I prefer when tattoos are “culture inscribed on your body”, when there is a story behind them, and to me, Sailor Jerry’s are is truly reflective of his life and who he is.