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Let’s Talk Boy Bands!

Whether it is the Beatles, New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys, or the current teenage heartthrobs One Direction, young women have been obsessing over boy bands for decades now. For me, it was Hanson. Three boys with long blonde hair MMMBopped into my life when I was 14, and they’ve never left. I’m actually attending one of their concerts later this month! [Side note: I am LOVING this new song of theirs!]

For at least a couple of years, I was obsessed. I collected pictures of them, listened to their music non-stop, read every article about them that I could get my hands on and I fantasized about situations where I would meet Isaac, the oldest of the three brothers, and we would fall in love and live happily ever after.  I am not kidding when I say that these were elaborate fantasies. Had I known what fan fiction was at that point, I would have been writing it. Had I met him in person at that time, I probably would have fainted after screaming like a banshee in his face. Of course, I am aware (now) that there was almost zero chance of those daydreams ever coming true.

The vast majority of these bands, especially the bands of the last 30 years, have been manufactured to appeal to the broadest spectrum of teenagers. There’s the heartthrob, the “bad boy”, the smart one, the older one, the pretty one, the young one; all calculated to make as many teenage girl hearts go pitter-pat as possible. Every media interaction is scripted, nothing is said that is too extreme, or would show that the band member is anything more than his role in the band.  There is crazy amounts of merchandise that is marketed towards these girls, and a lot of them will push to buy the more expensive version of something, because it has the band’s logo on it. Heck, Hanson still does that today!

Right around the same time that I was getting over this obsession, I watched, baffled, as other Hanson fans who liked Taylor (the middle brother) threw tantrums and posted threats against his wife. The wedding came as a surprise to the fans, and a lot of girls were angry that their favorite guy was no longer on the market.

The same thing has happened in previous decades – just think of the hate that still pervades with Yoko Ono – and it happens today still. The sheer volume of screeds targeting Taylor Swift when she was dating the One Direction band member Harry Styles, and against Selena Gomez (who is Justin Bieber’s on-again-off-again girlfriend), are alarming. It is as though these girls can’t stomach the thought of their favorite singer being in a relationship with anyone except themselves. Even today, in the Hanson fandom, there are girls who feel the need to create drama between the band members and their wives in their heads, and then post it on the internet.

Why? What is it about these musical celebrities that produces such obsession?

One could posit that it is the fault of the media. When I was a teenage girl, I could go to the supermarket and buy weekly issues of Teen Bop (is that even still around?) or other teen magazines, and read ridiculous articles about “What color is <insert band member’s name here>’s toothbrush and what does it say about HIM?”. I would carefully cut out pictures of my favorite band, and buy two copies if they had back-to-back pictures. (There is certainly a comparison that can be drawn between the pictures that girls post of their favorite band member in their locker, and the stereotypical nude pictures of women in a guy’s garage.) Today, there are the celebrity gossip websites that post every single paparazzi picture possible. I’m looking at you, TMZ and ONTD. It can feed into that obsession.

I think it goes deeper than that. I think that young women are encouraged – through the same media mentioned above – to objectify these young men. I know I certainly did! I had no idea what my crush was like, at all, as a person. Everything I knew about him was extrapolated from reading the aforementioned stupid articles, yet my young teenage mind was convinced that he was the perfect man, my soulmate, and that if we could only meet just once, he would know that too.

It was a way for me to have fantasies about a relationship without actually being in a relationship (and sexual fantasies too!). While I do think that an active imagination is healthy, I know that I and some of my friends took it to extremes. I know that there are girls who do that today. The cult of celebrity remains strong, and new members are added with each new boy band.

My teenage self would be mortified that when I did finally meet Isaac Hanson, he didn’t immediately fall in love with me, and that instead, we talked about social media strategies for their charity. My adult self is very satisfied with that exchange. I have the experience and the wisdom to know that there’s no way he could have lived up to the imaginary person I created in my head, and I am happy that he was a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful person. I’m also happy I didn’t scream like a banshee and faint.

Why do you think that teenage girls have such obsessions with boy band members, and teenage boys don’t?  Who was your boy band crush?

Oppa Condom Style! And a Poll!

With reports from North Korea showing that the general populace has a hard time finding any sort of contraception, a group of South Korean activists have launched several balloons, hoping they will drift across the border and find their way into the hands of North Koreans.

Among other essential items like sanitary napkins, toothpaste, underwear, socks, anti Pyongyang information, and flashlights, over 5,000 condoms were airlifted to drift north.  According to this article, the groups who normally send balloons like these are North Korean defectors, Christian groups, and the South Korean right wing party.

Does anyone else find it somewhat incongruous to see that list?  I did a double take.

[I would like to give thanks to someone on the Jezebel fan page for the title of today's post.  I'm unsure if I should thank them by name, due to Google searches, but thanks anyway.  It made me giggle.  If you don't know the reference, what, have you been living under a rock this whole time?  Treat yourself to the magic that is the Gangnam Style video.  Heck, do it even if you've seen it before.]
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Today, the Director of the CIA, David Petraeus has resigned his post, citing an extramarital affair as the reason for his resignation.  While I know that within the military there are laws against adultery, and his affair could have had the potential for blackmail and a subsequent security breach, I am outright disgusted at the way the media is treating this entire situation.

I have seen no less than 10 news stories questioning who he had the affair with, and, sure enough, someone has dug it up.  Why are we, as a nation, delighting in what has to be an incredibly painful situation for General Petraeus, his family and friends, and his alleged mistress?  He has resigned his position, and is effectively bowing out of the public life, and has done so with dignity and grace.  To be quite honest, I am looking forward to my imagined utopian-esque future when non-monogamy is no longer a Big Deal for the media.  Give the man some peace.  He’s done the right thing here, and no one should be getting blasted by the media.

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San Francisco has decided to no longer prohibit gender reassignment surgeries from the list of covered medical treatment under the city’s Healthy San Francisco program, a sliding scale health care coverage system that can be used by everyone in San Francisco.  Though the city currently does not have the capacity or surgeons who are skilled in this particular type of surgery, so this is a mostly symbolic move for the city.  Transgender patients currently are able to receive hormone therapy, counseling, and regular medical care under Healthy SF.

While I am glad that the city takes these concerns seriously, gender reassignment surgeries are extremely expensive, and can go into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the specific services provided.  As someone who is cisgender, I can’t imagine the mental anguish of someone who doesn’t feel that their body matches their identity and mentality.  I am glad that there may be a solution for the transgender in my community in the next few years.

But to be honest, as someone who is currently covered under this program, I’d like to see Healthy SF start providing some other services first, specifically preventative and non-emergency dental care.  So many other medical problems can be circumvented with regular cleanings and filling of cavities that seems rather odd to me that there hasn’t been a big push for this sort of service.

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In other news, I am considering offering a weekly podcast compilation of each week’s posts.  Do me a favor, and cast a vote below to let me know if you’d like to hear my dulcet tones reading my posts each week!

This Is Why

I would like to start this post by saying that I am floored by the amount of attention my post on Monday received.  I would like to thank my followers on Twitter, the communities on Reddit (though I have mixed feelings about being so popular on the Men’s Rights subreddit), Nixie’s Revision 3 and YouTube followers, Y-Combinator, Rikki Endsley, Leslie Hawthorn, Laura Czajkowski, GeekFeminism.org, Linux Magazine and especially Felicia Day (I fangirled a little, seeing that) for sharing my post and contributing their thoughts. [Edit: Rikki Endsley has posted a fabulous follow-up blog.  You can find it here.] Read the rest of this entry

Song Review: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you have heard the song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. In case you haven’t yet heard the song, please listen to this cover version by Walk Off The Earth that I think is better than the original.

Once you’ve gotten over the wow factor of five people playing the same guitar simultaneously, take a second to think about the song. Did the lyrics disturb you a little? They certainly disturbed me. Here is my interpretation of the message of this song.

[Male]
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

In this verse, the male is reminiscing about a former relationship. It doesn’t sound like a happy one. When you have to tell yourself that this person is right for you, despite the fact that you don’t actually enjoy being around them, it definitely ISN’T love. I’ve also never heard anyone actually say “I’m so happy I could die” in a relationship, unless they were in the honeymoon stage of an abusive cycle.

[Male]
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad it was over

Dude, you sound depressed. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “We can still be friends” is generally a line that one partner tells another to soften the blow of the breakup. You probably will never actually go have a beer after work and discuss your current relationships. That isn’t how things work when a bad relationship ends.

[Male]
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Aha! Now we know the real reason you wrote this song. You are angry and hurt that the line “We can still be friends” didn’t actually mean still being friends. It is normal and healthy to put some distance between yourself and a former lover when the relationship ends. Treating you like a stranger also screams that the relationship probably wasn’t a healthy one. Asking a friend to pick up your possessions is normal, and it sounds like she was probably avoiding seeing you. But the real indicator here is that she changed her phone number. Speaking from experience, that generally only happens when someone is scared of stalking, or is being harassed. Gotye, are you an abusive stalker?

[Female]
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
Part of me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Here it is, straight from her. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are conditioned to believe that any argument, any fight, even your partner’s bad moods are somehow your fault. It is never because your partner has mental issues, it’s because YOU did something. You are also conditioned to listen closely to the words that your partner says, because you have to be on guard for any indication of an impending abusive episode, and though you try your best to defuse it, it never works. So she left him. He probably said something along the lines of “I’m better off without you, anyway!” In reality, she’s better off without him.

Could someone please explain to me how a song that is clearly about an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend has somehow become a hit single? And WHY nearly all of my female friends are so in love with this song?

Actions Have Consequences

Dominic Dieter, the morning show host I wrote about on Monday, apologized for his thoughtless and incredibly offensive comments.  While his apology seems heartfelt, and he genuinely seems to be contrite, no apology can erase the words he broadcast to Cleveland, and were repeated around the country.

Words can have far-reaching effects.  His words may have been the justification someone needed to actually commit the crime he suggested (attempting to “rape someone straight”).  If you’ve seen the movie Boys Don’t Cry, or if you have read anything about the rape gangs in South Africa, you know that corrective rape is something that actually happens.  His flippant comment was an incredibly dangerous one.

While I commend Dieter, and the station that he works for, in their efforts to atone for the blatantly hateful sentence Dieter uttered (they are running PSAs about parental rejection, and he has had undisclosed disciplinary action), the fact remains, you can’t take it back.  There are still sick individuals who will claim he was coerced into an apology, and use his words to continue justifying hate, violence, sexism, and homophobia.  Through Rush Limbaugh’s “prostitute” rant, we have already seen how the hateful words of one person can affect others, even after an apology.  His message and apology on Monday morning are just not enough to reconcile the damage of his words.

I would like to see Dieter do a fundraiser for the LGBT Community Center in Cleveland, with an offer to match every dollar, up to $5k, out of his own pocket. How about it?  Should we campaign for Dieter to put his money where his mouth is, and actually do some good with his popularity?

Morning Show Host Incites Rape, My Head Explodes

I stopped listening to morning radio shows years ago.  When I wake up, I want to listen to upbeat happy music, mostly to keep my brain from deciding to scale a full-fledged revolt at being up before the sun.  I always became bored or angry listening to the inane or offensive patter of the morning show hosts.  Dominic Dieter, who is part of the morning show in Cleveland, has taken offensive to a whole new level.

For reasons unknown, a father wrote a letter to Rover’s Morning Glory, the morning show on Cleveland’s WMMS 100.7, asking for advice about his teenage daughter.  The father was concerned that his daughter is a lesbian, after seeing her kiss another girl.  Dieter’s advice?

“You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight.”

I am so angry that I might explode in a fit of apoplectic fury.  First of all, rape is never something to joke about.  Secondly, corrective rape is a real thing.  It happens all the time in South Africa, and I also happens frequently in the US. This guy needs to be fired.  I am writing to the station (feedback@wmms.com), and to Clear Channel (publicrelations@clearchannel.com), the company that owns WMMS.  I’m even lodging a complaint with the FCC.  Won’t you join me?  Here, I’ve even drafted it for you already:

Dear Gary Mincer and Bob Pittman,

Your employee, Dominic Dieter, a morning show host on Cleveland’s WMMS 100.7, is an abominable human being.  On Friday, April 27th, in response to a letter written to the morning show, Dieter clearly incited and advocated the use of rape on a teenage girl who may be a lesbian.  Broadcasting these words, “You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight” is not only incredibly offensive, but is illegal, immoral, and horrifying.  Advocating the use of rape to attempt to “correct” homosexuality is unconscionable and reflects poorly on your company.  GLAAD has already called for his suspension and a piece regarding the real harm that can come from parental rejection of LGBTQ youth, but I am going further.  I am requesting his immediate termination.

Sincerely,

Nice Girl

If I have any readers in Cleveland, I would love to know what companies advertise on this morning show, because I would like to bombard with requests for termination as well.  Let’s hit this company where it hurts: on their bottom line.

Vigilante Internet Justice, or Counter-Harassment?

I read this article on the NYT recently, and I have seriously conflicted feelings about it.  Ariane Friedrich is German woman who works part time for the police, and is an Olympic athlete.  She recently received an unsolicited and completely inappropriate nude picture of a man she doesn’t know, along with a sexually explicit email.  She posted his full name and the town he lives in on Facebook to publicly shame him for .

I imagine this was her face on opening the email in question.

On one hand, I completely sympathize with her.  I can understand how she must have felt when she received this message, and given her semi-celebrity status as an Olympian, she very likely receives them on a regular basis.  Being forced to participate in this man’s sexual fetish, whether she liked it or not, is essentially mental rape.  I am sure that she was outraged, angry, and felt violated.  She lashed out.

On the other hand, this man clearly has no concept of what is and is not appropriate.  Sending an unsolicited explict email and picture of yourself to a stranger is antisocial behavior, and he needs help.  Unfortunately, the police generally are not concerned with violations of this nature, as there is no physical violence.  There’s also the fact that this man shares a name with another person in his town.  This other man did nothing wrong, and now his name is associated with a public shaming.

On my… foot, I guess, as I only have two hands, I know a man who has been falsely accused of inappropriate behavior.  While his accuser has a history of publicly outing other people who she felt acted inappropriately, she did not name my friend.  She did, however, spread her story around a conference they both attend each year, and my friend received some veiled threats from other men (along the lines of “I know what you did last year, and you’ll leave this conference if you know what is good for you”) until the conference organizers put a stop to it.  While it wasn’t a public internet outing (as her others have been), the girl could have done this, again, and ruined a man’s life, again.  I am thankful that this wasn’t the case.

What do you all think?  Should Ariane have publicly shamed this man, or should she have let the government do their job?

Book Review: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

The movie Think Like a Man has de-throned The Hunger Games as #1 in the box office this past weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Think Like a Man is based off of a self-help and dating advice book by comedian Steve Harvey entitled  Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment. I read this book a few years back, and had mixed feelings. Some of the advice given to women is sound, and other pieces are misguided. Read the rest of this entry

Glee and LGBTQ Youth

Last night’s Glee episode demonstrated once again why I love that show. Although the plot lines can be incredibly predictable, and the auto-tune often bothers me to the point of grinding my teeth, this show has been a great force for LGBTQ youth. Warning: Spoilers after the jump. Read the rest of this entry

Girl-On-Girl Hate

Slut. Whore. Prostitute. Strumpet. Harlot. Floozy. Hooker. Hussy. Tart. Tramp.

All of these are terms for a woman who sells sex. All of these are terms that have become pejoratives for a woman who is dressed sexy, who wears makeup, who dates more than one person, or who you hate for no particular reason. I have been called all of these at one time or another, for all of these reasons. And every time, it was another woman who said it. Read the rest of this entry

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