Appropriate This

As I was getting ready to go back to London for a few days, I did as I always do and started digging around for my favorite clothes, shoes, and accessories, being frustrated all the while by the fact that I mostly wear adult Garanimals (i.e., all black), which makes distinguishing one piece from another difficult without my glasses, which I also could not find. Not being able to rock any terribly original outfits at the moment thanks to the limitations created by having a cast up to one’s knee, I accessorize to emphasize and as such went in search of a very specific pair of large gold hoops I bought a few trips ago, knowing that they would add a little ‘yes, I swear this outfit was bought in this century and is not an oversized BabyGro’ legitimacy to my monochrome and monosyllabic ensembles. But as I took them out of their pouch to make sure they were intact and had not interbred with one of the long necklaces I often throw in with them, I remembered something I had recently read admonishing, “White girls, take off your hoops.” Without giving this moronic plea too much attention, I will summarize the story by saying that a Latina girl at the extremely pricey Pitzer College in Southern California decided that white women who wear hoop earrings are culturally appropriating from their Latina counterparts, and believed in her heart of hearts that this issue rose to the level of requiring an “all campus” email proclamation. We’ll just leave that there for a sec.

I lived in the UK for many years and while there became a fan of Rugby Union, and especially like national rugby competitions such as Six Nations and Rugby World Cup. The England v. Wales game is traditionally the biggest rivalry of Six Nations, and the atmosphere and camaraderie is second to none. Both nations of course have their official anthems, but the unofficial anthems of Welsh and English rugby are borne of a love of group drunk singing and were, I feel certain, chosen almost entirely on these criteria. The chosen song of Wales is Delilah, which makes more sense when you remember the god that is Tom Jones is Welsh; the anthem sung in unison by English fans is Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Less clear what the correlation is there, but it’s slow, deep, and easy to slur-sing, so I never had need to question it. Plus, I’m always enjoying myself when I’m at rugby matches, so I never have need to question anything other than calls which go against my team of choice. “Enjoying myself”: words millennials never use and do not understand. Anyway, over the last few months, feminists have petitioned Welsh Rugby to discourage or even ban (don’t know how you get 80,000 drunk Welshmen to do anything other than drink more, but okay, moonbeam) singing of Delilah because it is “a song about domestic abuse and could or may inspire acts of domestic violence as a result of its lyrics.” While you’re absorbing that, fast forward a few months to the fact that the English rugby team is being criticized for culturally appropriating Swing Low, Sweet Chariot because it is an historic slave spiritual.

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The Bullies are Back in Town

I’m on the other side of forty-five. As those who read my blog know from other posts, I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, having worked in advertising for more than twenty years. I speak three languages and have three degrees, two undergrad and one post-grad. At my last job, I was the second highest paid person the company; I’ve done quite well for myself. I was divorced twenty years ago, but refused child support or alimony because I wanted to raise my child — who is now twenty-one — in the manner I saw fit. Though I am very happily divorced, we still spend Christmas morning with my ex-husband and my ex-in laws because we have known each other our entire lives and therefore still function much like a family. I take no shit, personally or professionally, and am either famous or infamous for it, depending on whose point of view you solicit. I was not born to a wealthy family, but I was born to one rich with unconditional love, being told almost every day of my life that I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whatever I wanted to be, as much — if not more so — by my dad as by my mom, that support being no small reason for the person I am today.

Thirty-five years ago, I was a chubby, freckled red-head with a heart condition and the highest IQ in a school district replete with future Ole Miss beauty queen wannabes. If you don’t know what that means, it’s not that difficult to explain or to understand, whether it was the head cheerleader or homecoming queen at your school, or just one of the many mean girl portrayals you’ve seen in the movies. The difference is there wasn’t just one; there were loads. Such was life being raised in a small town in the South where your family was either rich or it wasn’t; they either belonged to the country club or they didn’t. You were either pretty or you weren’t, and the male counterparts – though fewer – were themselves no better, often being the ones who dug the moat and defended the walls of the stuck up clique who doled out condescension and abuse like Pez from a dispenser of hostility and pretense. I was almost mercilessly abused on a daily basis from the ages of six through sixteen. And then.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, something changed. The baby fat that had bade its farewell to most girls my age two years prior finally decided to take its leave from me. Realizing it was beginning to atrophy on its own, I became encouraged and began dieting, swimming more laps in our pool and hitting more balls on the court in the heat of the day. Finally, down to a size six of then which is probably a four of now, 5’8” tall, with thick strawberry blonde hair, I was beginning to feel an inner confidence I had never before known. Much to my father’s dismay, I saved up my money and went to the best hairdresser in town and had my thick mop chopped to a severe, ‘80s Molly Ringwold type do. With what money was left, I bought a pair of much-coveted long clip-on earrings from the fanciest store in town (I wasn’t allowed to have my ears pierced in my very strict family) and changed my style almost overnight. When we returned to register for school in August in the very casual atmosphere that day allowed, in the upstairs library still dressed in a short Esprit skirt and matching tee, one of the few football players who had — admirably — always been my friend, walked up from behind to me to introduce himself, asking me from whence I’d transferred. I turned to look at him, assuming he’d recognize me when I did, but the transformation had been so drastic and so complete that he did not. “Thomas,” I said, “it’s me, ” the pause between my last word and the final look of recognition on his face pregnant both with his confusion and my amusement. When finally the other shoe dropped, he picked me up off the floor and hugged me and said, “Girl, you look FIIINNNEE.” He was genuinely happy for me — he was one of the few good guys — but still not as pleased as I was for myself. For the first time in my school-going life, I did not dread the next day.

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The Trolls, The Taliban & Ugly Betty

Oh the trolls, the trolls, how droll their scolds, though through their spite, I derive insight. Granted, that sucks as poetry or prose, and no, this isn’t really about the Taliban or Ugly Betty, but it is both an apt description of how I’ve decided to make use of the dozens of less than kind missives that have been directed at me in the last few days on Twitter, and those who aimed them at me, all because of the post I wrote about The Exclusionary Arrogance of Western Feminism. I kept a log of my favorites, with the intention being to have a weekly “Troll Tuesday” post that summarizes the best, along with what my riposte to them would have been given more than 144 characters and ample time. But as I re-read through them all, trends began to emerge which were indeed insightful, and which helped better crystallize what it was that so bothered me about this event.

What most quickly became clear is that my trolls fell into three categories: angry feminists, millennial cisgenders and Muslim men. But of these three groups, the only one with a unified message and any conviction were the Muslim men, most of whom wanted me to shut up and sit down, and all of whom agreed that I should not have the right to speak, whether sitting or standing. And good for them, too. Having worked in advertising for most of my career, this is one mantra we often preach – once you decide your mission statement, stay on brand and on message; consistency is key. Given that their particular brand of oppression has been around for centuries, it would be difficult to re-craft a message now, so – meh – why try. When it works, it works.

For their part, the millennial cisgenders were a handbook in poor grammar, airy diatribes, pointless platitudes and whining. I literally could not make head nor tails of most of the tweets from this group, each of them seeming to know the one who came before, their tweet an attempt to one up them with non sequitor babble of monumental vapidity. Things like, “also too as well therefore when we consider the impact of the merry-go-roundification of the total largesse of the progressive doublespeak.” Okay not really; theirs were all less comprehensible. Yet when I genuinely asked them what they were trying to say, they would respond with monosyllabic ad hominem attacks. The worst of the lot – some guy from DC whose Twitter handle is wanggop or some such – replied to my assertion that I had no idea what he was trying to communicate with, “I’m hardly surprised.” Nor am I; I do not speak mealy-mouth millennial.

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The Exclusionary Arrogance of Western Feminism

fem·i·nism

ˈfeməˌnizəm

noun

the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.

If the above is the simple definition of feminism, the women marching across our country today — and indeed in major Western cities across the world — are not feminists in the true sense of the term. As many before me have asked without reply, what rights are there from which we as American women are restricted? Again perfectly manifesting the left’s inability to see irony in any of their deeds or words is the fact that they, as women, are being allowed to freely march in cities across our nation unrestrictedly, despite the fact that doing so greatly inconveniences many who simply wish to go about their day or earn a living unimpeded, and also alienates those of us who are secure enough in our ability to steer our own ships that we shun such efforts wholesale.

If this march was stirred because of fear of losing funding for programs such as planned parenthood — and I can think of no other single perceived women’s issue that was discussed during the campaigns — then these women are selfishly appropriating that as a singularly female issue, ignoring the fact that men, too, are offered services by PP, and only further highlighting the narcissistic vapidity of their effort. But why bother with an inconvenient truth when baseless hyperbole is so much more effective for their cause.

Also asked of those participating in and defending #womensmarch is why they do not apply similar zeal, resources and attention to the legally and culturally oppressed women in countries around the world who not only do not have the equivalent of something like planned parenthood, but who cannot even turn to authorities or even family members in the case of rape or assault because their societies are conditioned to immediately cast them as Jezebels who brought said offenses upon themselves. Freedom of speech for any sex is likewise illegal in many of these same countries, the combination thereof creating the most toxic environment possible for the most vulnerable amongst their populations. Yet my gender marches, shouts, cries and inspires celebrity outcries and support for an entirely imaginary lack of rights in our nation. Which brings me to this:

What exactly is it that Katy Perry, America Ferrera, Chrissie Teigen, Madonna, Julia Roberts and others who have more than ample resources do with their time when they are in other countries that has made them so willfully blind to true oppression of women? One not need go far to witness it, and quite contrarily, one would have to go somewhat out of their way to ignore it, even and perhaps especially in the finer hotels of that most frequent destination of left luvvies, London. I lived there for 8 years and go back almost every month; I saw a frightening example of it over the course of those 8 years and witnessed it again as recently in September of last year, and when I am reminded of it I am both frozen to the core and heartened by the fact that I am protected by the passport I carry, by grace of birth, which is a shield these women cannot employ.

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Sheep and Stereotypes

My last entry, which even the most humor-challenged amongst us could have surely understood was a tongue in cheek pontification of a single, liberal nation-state on the “Left Coast,” brought upon me an avalanche — or storm from snowflakes — that I had not quite anticipated. I had, of course, observed that the election had brought out the worst of behavior on both sides, but even in taking several steps back, it did seem quite clear that the left had behaved in a manner far less tolerant than the right, and when they did attack, did so with far greater vitriol. Indeed if we learned one new fact about liberals with any degree of certainty during what I think we all agree was silly season, it would be that they collectively possess zero sense of irony. The great tolerators would not tolerate; the love, peace, and potcicle brigade would protest, shout expletives and damage property to emphasize their moral superiority. Some of their most prominent mouthpieces are millionaire performers or media figures of one ilk or another who preach about higher taxes, non-engagement, the AAC, open borders and more, yet some of whom were revealed in the Panama Papers to have made use themselves of elaborate tax avoidance schemes offshore. They’ll fly their G6 to the grocery store, but lecture the rest of us on climate change. They want us to accept refugees but argue against applying even the most basic of common sense checks and balances to that system in order to secure our country because they are afraid of offending strangers, but expect the U.S. citizenry to continue to buy their music and movies. They do not even understand or make an effort to comprehend that a large part of the reason for the now historic refugee crisis is our non-engagement in Syria, whether in supporting regime change or in committing real force to combating ISIS.

But yesterday in receiving the first of my mean tweets — my new badge of honor – I realized that I’ve seen these people before. I see them almost daily in the research that I do for my work. These are the women who are anti-GMO, but want us to feed children in Africa, not understanding the correlation between the two. They give vaccines to their children and would accept life-saving cancer treatment if they needed it, but do not understand that the same biotech that creates those cutting edge drugs is the same that is used in GMO seeds. These are the people who venerate a movie star who produced a documentary called “Cowspiracy” about how agriculture is causing climate change, but who himself likely cannot remember they last time he flew on a commercial plane.

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Celebrity Disparity

What’s that you say, my fragile snowflake?
Upset no one cares, though your outrage is fake?

You’re not different, hun, it’s a thing called life.
You’re bad hair day doesn’t qualify as strife.

Is your father in jail or your mother on crack?
Are you afraid of your partner because you think they might snap?

Do you wander all day just looking for clean water,
Or loathe your “one child” because, oops, it’s a daughter?

Were you born in the slums and raised by strangers?
Would you not recognize life if it weren’t filled with danger?

Do your hear a noise, drop to your knees and cower?
Was your worst ever shower comprised of gun-powder?

If your answer is “no” to all of these questions,
Then I hope you’ll take my only suggestion.

Give up on the pout and stop all the whining,
And get over yourself, Miss Hollywood & Vining.

On Fear of Change

Thursday of last week, I was on a conference call regarding a change – a fairly fundamental one – that needed to be made in order for a client to move their marketing efforts forward, or even into 2016. But this conversation involved another, third-party vendor of this same client. This third party supplies something that is out of date and that is very much holding back said client and is in urgent need of being replaced. But rather than being a good partner to the client (long-term view), they quickly became combative, protective and launched into a litany of negative “you can’t” preceded by comments on how and why this change would be detrimental. But not to the client; to them (short-term view).

When the call was finished, I was speaking with a colleague with whom I have now had the joy of working at four different companies. We have a similar work ethic, thought process and skill set, so our take on this conversation was likewise the same. Except that from amongst the thorny, more than fifty-minute call, he had extracted one observation that not only succinctly summed this particular situation, but also another parallel conundrum we currently face. He essentially said that it’s companies such as this third party supplier, who made their money on one single attribute that has long since been outdated, which go out of their way to hold back their clients from progress because they have failed to – or refused to – make progress themselves. They have one last piece of leverage they hold onto and over their clients’ heads in order to ensure they remain – if not relevant – at least necessary to the client. Like the clingy ex who would rather be needed for what they have (required and resented) than loved for who they are (chosen of free will). Not attractive.

Ironically, also on Thursday, late in the day as I was cleaning out my inbox from the emails I had skipped over in preference of those more pertinent, I came across an all company chain that had been sent earlier, but which I had not opened. When I did, I quickly realized that this very thinly veiled snark that had been sent to the entire company was aimed at me and that three other people had piled on to help the originator of the first in the thread. The most surprising aspect of this being that I do not know and have never even met the person who originated the email, yet he somehow seems to think that he knows me – or at the very least has somehow, via what I am sure is most reliable fourth party information – got the measure of me.

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I’m a 4

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-10-22-am

I’m finally a number 4. Not a pencil – is that even a thing? No, I’ve finally reached number 4 on the scale of evolution according to my former, formidable and frightening 4’5″, septo/octo(?)genarian Russian professor, Evgenia Khukharenko.

Dr. Khukharenko came as a visiting oral Russian instructor my senior year of college, and I had class with her 5 days a week, as you did if you were a Russian language major in your final year. During that same time, I had also mysteriously contracted the hiccups, but not just occasional, almost unnoticeable hiccups; no, I had them every day, convulsively and painfully. I saw any number of doctors and specialists and was finally at the end of my tether when the last doctor I visited told me to start keeping a diary of when they began and ended each day – something that should have been common sense from the outset and which inevitably solved the riddle: I developed the hiccups each day before I went into her class out of stress, they  intensified during class, and then stuck with me until well after dinner each evening. So it’s hardly any wonder that when she was one of two professors chosen to review and grade my senior thesis, I quickly descended into fits of what could almost be described as rhythmic hiccups.

I actually received my final, graded thesis back from my senior seminar professor, who was also my advisor and the other one to judge it, and who proudly awarded me an A-. The subject was my theory that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and our subsequent funding of rebels to fight against them in perhaps the last of our actual proxy wars would end up creating and arming a new generation of jihadis who would eventually turn against us. This was in 1994. Anyway, usually known for his verbose and direct criticism, in this case he made only two comments: 1) please use your intelligence for purposes of good, not evil and 2) go see Dr. Khukharenko as she has something she wishes to share with you.

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