Happy Pride! The latest issue of the Ethnic Aisle is all about sex, gender, bodies and big ol butts. As always, I am so proud of what we’ve put together: this issue has our first audio posts (from Mc Jazz and DJ Cozmic), some art, some fiction, some amazing stuff.
It’s a business story, ok? In Canadian Business, I tell you all about the We-Vibe, a couples vibrator developed in Ottawa that now outsells other erotic buzzers three to one.
I’ve got 50 first cousins. Yeah, you read that right. As part of the Ethnic Aisle’s Pride edition, here’s a Q&A with Clyde, the only one that’s openly gay.
Was there an actual day that you came out to your parents?
There was. I believe it was 1994, I was 21. I came home from classes on my birthday, which is October 11, which is also National Coming Out Day in the U.S. Oprah Winfrey was having a special where she talked to parents who were dealing with the issues raised by their GLBT kids. I watched the program with my mom. Afterward, I turned to her and said “And you know I’m gay, right?” She sort of sighed and said “are you sure it’s not a phase?” I said no, and she said ok. I kind of left her there with that.
Two days later, I was hanging around with my sister, Suzanne, and late brother, Andy, and mom came up to me. She gave me a hug and said “I don’t care, I love you anyway. I’m glad you came out of the cupboard.” This became a huge lost-in-translation joke.
Last weekend, a bunch of lady friends and I vegged out by the pool, lazily flipping through a stack of old Sassy magazines. One of us had cleverly hung on to her teenage pile, resulting in the perfect summer afternoon of nostalgic media debate. On the agenda: ’90s fashion, teen angst flashbacks, and how the clever, groundbreaking stylings of Sassy were ground to a halt by conservatism. We also reminisced about YM and Seventeen—the first lightweight, the second staid, both shaken up at the time by Sassy’s rabid popularity.
So, I thought I’d flip through a recent copy of Seventeen and see what teen girls are being told by magazines these days. My first thought is: I am so not a teen. I have no idea who any of these celebrities are. I’m happy to see a Latina on the cover, but I couldn’t tell you one…tv show?…that Selena Gomez has been in.
Good things: Decent diversity in both ads and editorial, with plenty of “real girl” comments and pics sprinkled throughout. While user interactivity is a 21st century no-brainer, I’m still saying Sassy’s reader integration is another reason actual teens are in Seventeen today. Another sign of my aged disconnect is an inability to tell if the clothes here are reasonably priced. Teen-wise, $30 seems decent for a jacket, and none of the jeans are over $80. Barely anything tops $100—this seems realistic to me, but I’m sure many parents would beg to differ. Old-fashioned “magazine” “articles” are scarce, but the two first-person pieces are genuinely moving—a girl whose sports coach secretly filmed her naked, and another struggling with self-harm. The tips on avoiding these problems are a little light, but the stories seem relatable. A one-page short story contest winner by a reader named Kelly Reardon is really tight and quite good.
Things I don’t like: So. Much. Product. I mean SO much. I remember 1990s Seventeen as being quieter, with longer articles. All in all, I consider this less of a general interest mag than a fashion mag, so I shudder to think what Teen Vogue is like. There are pages and pages and PAGES and PAGES of clothes and makeup in here. I’m glad there’s a reference to pepperoni being “weird and full of preservatives” in a healthy lunch chart, but it’s hypocritical when every other page encourages under-18s to regularly smear chemicals on their faces. A new makeup look for every day of the week? I know mags need to please advertisers, but this excessive coverage (no pun intended) hardly has teens’ best interests in mind. Aside from the two first-person pieces, there’s hardly anything “real” here—no politics or environmental articles at all, no A&E coverage aside from pics of celebs’ cool outfits and smooching shots.
Design: neon onslaught. Aside from copious amounts of actual advertorial, plenty of the editorial pages look exactly like ads. Having nail polish spills on the masthead is kinda cool though.
Biggest problem: no grit. Namely, no sex. This is what brought Sassy down—despite having 800,000 subscribers, the magazine lost all of its advertising due to a Moral Majority-orchestrated letter writing campaign. A decade later, publishers have learned their lesson, and the September 2009 issue of Seventeen exists in a world without teen sex. There are a few mentions of french kissing, and one dude says he’s ashamed of his “boners.” No safe sex, no GLBT anything. One mention that being drunk is lame, and then nothing on drugs, either. In an age where teens are supposedly done with dating and rely entirely on no-strings-attached “hookups,” when abstinence-only sex ed is a reality and drugs I’ve never even heard of seem to pop up daily, this is a huge hole. This negligence leaves teens to learn about these things from more nefarious sources, and that is a sad story for everyone.
Verdict: 15 years after Sassy died, everyone is still afraid to treat teenage girls like real people.
The first computer my family and I ever had was an Apple IIe. It kinda looked like this, with green pixelated text on a black screen that had a ridged covering that made a zippy sound if you ran your fingernail across it. We had this one adventure game, Race for Midnight, that my brothers and I kept trying to beat for years even though it was inevitable that you’d get stuck on the roof and not be able to do anything and have to abort the mission. Also we had a Dark Crystal game that was three disks but the third one didn’t work. But we kept playing that forever, too.
Anyway – here and now! The Internet, the Internet! These are some links you might have missed in the last week or so. Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter if you want these in Real Time (which is still different than IRL).
Asexy Beast is a blog by a 20-something year old woman who self-identifies as asexual. She’s witty and literate, which makes for good reading.
Here, again is Michael Pollan’s piece on food tv, celebrity chefs and the tragedy that no one cooks anymore. This is a BlogHer contributor calling him out for “taking pot shots at feminism,” and here are my thoughts on it all.
The Advocate did a pretty slick, provocative cover about the Obama administration’s flip-flopping on gay and lesbian rights. The piece is less disparaging than you might think—author Michael Joseph Gross calls on American gays of all ethnicities, locations and classes to be the backbone of a strong movement that would force action by politicians and citizens.
Wedad Lootah is a female marital counsellor in Dubai who’s taking on the issue of Islamic sex ed. Though she wears a niqab and her advice is all Qu’ran-sanctioned (anal sex and homosexuality are verboten), plenty of people still hate her. Denying women sexual enjoyment couldn’t be a patriarchal tool, could it?
It took Donald Marshall Jr.’s death for me to know how important the wrongfully imprisoned Mikmaq activist’s life was.
Tim Horton’s pulled out of sponsoring an anti-gay marriage event on Rhode Island thanks to grassroots protest. That’s the kind of pulling out I like.
The anti-urban-sprawl plan for the Golden Horseshoe is not going well, mostly thanks to renegade 905 factions. In related news, Hazel McCallion is running for mayor of Mississauga again—the 88-year-old has been city chief since 1978. It seems a lot of people like ugly, low-density buildings, a complete lack of corporate social responsibility, no real social services and flimsy housing build on environmentally valuable land. Sigh.
I’m researching Oprah for a short bit I’m writing for Report on Business, which is quite an experience. I mean, Oprah: the most successful black woman in the world, a political powerhorse and a really annoying advocate of Hallmark-y affirmations. It’s both thought-provoking and unbearably saccharine to immerse myself in her world.
So I read last May’s interview with Elizabeth Edwards, and it’s been lodged in my craw every since. The setup is that Oprah visits the Edwards and their children in their home, to get the real story on how Mrs. Edwards is coping with terminal cancer and the news of her husband’s infidelity. Now, I thought it was pretty tacky of John Edwards to run for president while his wife was dying, and when news of the affair broke, I really felt awful for her.
But now, I’m thinking she’s complicit in this whole slimy mess. Because there were a few things that Mrs. Edwards said that just made me want to puke. She refers to her husband’s possible illegitimate child as “it,” and says that even if the DNA test is positive, her family won’t change. (I assume this means that John isn’t allowed to interact with his illegitimate offspring—the baby deserves a fatherless life for being a bastard in the first place.) She makes a few disparaging comments about John, but really focuses the blame on the Other Woman. She coyly refuses to say Rielle Hunter’s name, stating that Hunter’s motivation was always public attention. The bit that bothered me the most was this: Liz recounting the phrase with which Hunter reeled in her poor husband. “She was standing in front of the hotel and said ‘you are so hot’—I can’t deliver it, I don’t know how to deliver a line such as that,” she says to the Mighty Opes.
“I don’t know how to deliver a line such as that”—this bloody phrase has been stuck in my head for almost a week. First of all, spare me the virgin/whore dichotomy. Second of all, and this is so obvious I don’t even want to say it, but maybe if you told your man he was hot once in a while…well, you know. But more than that, quit it with the lies. You lied to the public by pretending to be happy candidate’s wife when you knew about the affair, and you lied to yourself by pretending to believe it was a one night stand. Now it’s time to stop telling yourself that the affair was all about sex, and that Rielle Hunter was a starfucking skank that tripped up your innocent spouse. This level of denial is shocking: Elizabeth Edwards would rather erase her own sexuality than accept that her husband had a long-term relationship with someone else. She can’t bear to speak Rielle Hunter’s name, but she sure can spin a fairytale about her nymphomania.
I’m sorry for your troubles, Elizabeth, but I can’t stand a woman who vilifies other women and lets men off the hook. And a woman who invites TV cameras into her home when her school-aged children are dealing with both their mother’s illness and their parents’ public marital troubles? Golly, I might call her a famewhore, even if she can’t tell her man that he’s hot.
New Sideshow post on Objectum Sexuality: people that fall in love (and lust) with inanimate objects, from Japanese men with anime pillow girlfriends, to this woman, Erika La Tour Eiffel, who has a thing for lean, mean metal.
It occurred to me that not everyone is necessarily on Twitter, as per not everyone wants to give themselves ADD. If you’re not on, you haven’t been following me, and are missing all my amazing links. Here are some from the past week or so.
Like Manji, the Star’s Haroon Siddiqi thinks Indonesia is the future of progressive Islam, and scolds the West for not paying attention to the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Penguins can be gay, and then switch to straight. I guess that means bi.
This piece is long, heart-rending and brilliant. It’s about gray whales, a species that has rallied from the brink of extinction due to long memories and staggering intelligence. It’s about human destruction of the oceans, and the people working to reverse that. And it’s about the truth that we are animals, and other animals still might want to interact with us.
Transcontinental Publishing is asking its writers to sign a contract that guarantees the multi-million dollar publishing company lifetime rights in return for one-time pathetic rates. Happily, freelancers are telling them to shove it.
An amazing, brutal story about North Korean prison camps, with an interactive map, from the Washington Post.
Complete idiocy: 20-year-old girl meets 24-year-old boy with her exact name on Facebook. Now they’re married. As the first commenter says here, “Tell me when they get divorced.”
Another long one, about evolutionary psychology (you know, men sleep around to spread their seed, women don’t to guarantee paternity and security), violence and sexism. As women become more financially independent, we’re becoming chauvinists, using young men for their bods and discarding them like Kleenex, apparently.
And, to round out today on a sentimental note, a very, very touching personal memoir of a white man and a black man getting married, in today’s south Africa.
New Sideshow post on the social construction of monogamy, cheating and grown-up communication.
New Sideshow post on El-Farouk Khaki, co-founder of Salaam Queer Muslim Community and this year’s Pride parade grand marshall.