Tag Archives: Rants

“Be Italian” (or any other ethnic group that is cool)…

Whenever I see a post about the kids on “The Jersey Shore” it’s always followed by comments about how they aren’t really Italian. There’s always someone pointing out that if they went to Italy they would be made fun of and not accepted because they don’t speak Italian and don’t look/act like they are from there either.

Now, the issue about “being Italian” has also been brought up in interviews with the cast, and they are always quick to respond that they aren’t representing Italian Americans; for them it’s about the Guido lifestyle. I can respect that. I’m curious though, about the gap that viewers see in “being Italian” and “being Italian American.” From my understanding, “the Jersey Shore” cast sees it as there  still being cultural ties/practices that relate back to the “old country.” So in living their way of life, and through ethnic background they consider themselves to be Italian…so why can’t the rest of us?

How much does cultural background influence us? If we have the ethnicity in our genes can we really say we identify with it  if we pass for “white” and are not raised in a place/by a person that encourages a connection with our heritage? What about those who are white, but were brought up in a place where the majority of people were from a different racial/ethnic background and that influence was strong?

In a way I can relate to the cast’s plight because as a Latina (who doesn’t know Spanish) I’ve been told many times over (usually by people of the Caucasian persuasion) that I’m not Hispanic. If this has ever happened to you, you can understand how incredibly frustrating it is to have some say this, especially when you do have many ties to your culture. There are subtleties that outsiders would miss. Hell, there are people who I’m related to who don’t really understand specific traditions because they were not brought up with those concepts in mind.

I’ll admit it, I’m annoyed by those people who don’t really identify with being Hispanic unless it makes them look cool among their “white” friends or helps them get a scholarship/job when they tick the box on an application form. It’s unfair for the rest of us who’ve had to put up with racial slurs and being treated with prejudice.  In fact I know one person who passes for white, who sort of laughed it off when their fiance boyfriend called them “a wet back,” simply shrugging and said he doesn’t know better.” All the people I know(white or Latino) would find that unacceptable, but maybe that’s because they’ve been immersed in the Hispanic culture. Or maybe they  just know that exploiting and insulting people of different ethnic backgrounds is never in vogue.

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“Chick Like Me”

Once on Boy Meets World, both Shawn and Corey went undercover as teen girls to find out what it was really like to be female. They had to deal with boys not understanding boundaries, only paying attention to them because they were attractive (Ok, this was mostly Shawn) and at the end of the day (like in any good 90’s sitcom) they learned a valuable lesson.

I only wish the poet Vagabond Andy, had undergone a similar experience before he penned his “masterpiece” for the Times, “The Trouble With Women: Forget the Fairytales.” This poem came to my attention via a former coworker who posted both this piece and a follow-up article on Jezebel.Com.

Like most women I’ve shared the poem with, she was outraged. Here’s a piece of work that thinks it’s being witty by taking a diverse group of people and boiling it down to one simple image. He assumes that we all want to be rescued by a prince, but only after a day of shopping and getting our hair done. It’s out the realm of possibility that we’re capable of taking care of ourselves, or that some of us aren’t interested in marriage, or being a size 0. According to Andy, what we want at the end of the day is to look hot for a guy who kinda sounds like a tool.

From what I gather the poem wants to be taken in similar vein to that of P!NK’s “Stupid Girls.” The difference is P!NK knows that while the current pop-culture is favoring plastic, dumb-downed girl—there’s also those who don’t fit the mold. She acts as the voice for those who don’t “want to be a stupid girl.” She understands that it’s the patriarchy and media who set these standards that some women buy into. I’m also going to go out on a limb here, and say P!NK is basing “Stupid Girls” off of her actual experiences as a woman, while Andy is just the casual observer.

The problem with Andy sitting on the side lines is he doesn’t seem to get those crucial points. He assumes that women are creating their own problems–they’re the one’s who came up with the idea of being a size 0 with double D’s; it has nothing to do with the male fantasy that’s being pimped out by a patriarchal society. This is why he has no problem reducing all females down to the image of  a Paris-Kardashian-WAG-celebutante. He is also silly enough to believe that’s what all women want to be. He misses the subtleties that each woman carries, most likely because he’s bought into the male fantasy. It’s entirely possible that the only girls he pays attention to are caught up in his image of what being a woman means. Maybe they ignore him, hence his frustration. Either way it seems his interactions with a variety of women is limited.

My friend Sara made an excellent point stating, “his somewhat sickening message is cloaked in rhyme, making it appear pleasing and acceptable when in fact his subject is heartbreaking and sexist. In this way, it mirrors the media and the society that are culprits in manufacturing the condition the protagonist finds herself in. Media/society puts forth these slick images of a happier, thinner, sexier, more buxom youthful “you” in such a way that we are lured by its gloss when, underneath it all lurks a darker, more sinister meaning.” This is why the poem is so dangerous, those who don’t read closely are likely to be hypnotized by his end rhyme and pop-culture references.

I’m curious to know how many buy into Andy’s way of thinking. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good amount of men were nodding in agreement as they read this. But how many women jumped on the band-wagon? How many find this to be an excellent piece of poetry, representing the way things are today? How many of them don’t know to be offended?

The Trouble With Women: Forget the Fairytales

The trouble with women, hmm, let’s see,
Perhaps with some help from poetry?

“It’s a girl!” shouts the midwife, as she joins our world,
Long before her hair is dyed or curled,
Barbie and Ken, her first celebrity friends.
Can’t wait to see how this transcends:

From the day that she is born,
What wedding dress will she adorn?
Supposedly, the happiest day of her life,
Will be the day she becomes a wife.

Her diet starts the moment she wakes.
Of Prince Charming fairy tales and Diet Coke breaks,
Her head full of fantasies, of meeting “The One”,
A life of perfection and buckets of sun.

High expectations, from an early age,
Tall, dark and handsome, plus a good wage.
Funny too, and amazing in bed,
Completely faithful and ready to wed.

From Disney to Hollywood, selling the dreams,
Everybody lives “happily ever after”, it seems.
Hugh Grant movies, and a million love songs,
Johnny Depp in this season’s long johns,

James Bond adventure, Travolta grooves,
Brad Pitt body, Clooney’s moves,
Brosnan charm, Russell Brand wit,
She should have it all, “because she’s worth it”.

Grazia, Now and her other mags,
Breast implants, Louis Vuitton bags,
Diamonds galore, a girl’s best friend,
What kind of message does this send?

She embarks on her quest to find her hero,
But first she needs to visit size zero,
Slim-fast plans and self-help books,
A mortgage of cosmetics to help her looks.

“I’m not as slim … I’m not as pretty”,
Comparing herself makes her feel shitty,
But she doesn’t stop, likes her fantasy,
Yep, she loves to live vicariously,

She’s naked in bed, tears in her eyes,
Her naked man beside her, sighs.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. “That was insane!”
“I know, but compared to THAT my life is plain.”

“The trouble with women?” Well since you inquire
You may be relieved to hear it’s not dire,
My answer is she does too much gazing,
If she ditched her fantasy, her reality would be amazing.

-Andy, 2010

I’m holding out for a shero.

During the holiday season I re-watched the first and second seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Back in the day I was a huge Buffy fan. Actually I was a fan of any woman who could kick ass and save the world. Recently I was discussing Buffy with an acquaintance, when she complained about the lack of heroines on television today.  I pointed out that Ziva David from NCIS was a powerful woman.  She argued that Ziva often acts “like one of the guys,” and therefore wasn’t a good example of a modern-day shero.

Unfortunately the conversation ended soon after, so I couldn’t really explore her statement. I started wondering if our heroines need to be “girly” in order to be role models. Is being “one of the guys” some how admitting that femininity is weak? Can a heroine be extremely feminine,  have mostly masculine qualities, or is she easier to relate to if she has a mixture of the two?

I look back at Buffy, who throughout the show epitomized the idea of a girly girl. Joss Whendon admits that he based the character of Buffy on the idea of the hyper-feminine girl in the horror film who ends up being killed by the monster/serial killer. He decided he wanted to turn that idea around, have the girl fight back, and even defeat the big bad.

When we meet Buffy, she’s not exactly the girl we would pick as our crime fighter(if only the title hadn’t given her away). She’s not a dominant force like Xena traipsing through Greece in a leather ensemble with a metal breast-plate, and a multitude of weapons.  Nor is she Wonder Woman, transforming from unassuming girl with a day job into costumed female capable of heroic feats.  No, Buffy enjoys cheer-leading, she’s stylish, she cares about breaking a nail and she’s boy crazy. To bring the point home, in the first season finale she killed the Master in her prom dress (and heels).

At the time of Buffy‘s début, it was refreshing to see someone with her characteristics fighting the forces of evil.  However, there were multiple times when Buffy represented negative qualities  associated with being female. Take her romantic relationships, whenever she started seeing someone new, she was willing to sacrifice her friends (to a dangerous extent) in order to have a boyfriend. In the second season after her vampire boyfriend loses his soul and goes on killing spree, she wants to restore his soul primarily so she can get her boyfriend back. This pattern is later repeated in her relationships with Riley and Spike. She’s occasionally called on it, but never really hones in on the actual problem. Buffy takes the criticism as  her friends being jealous they can’t spend time with her, instead of what it really is; she makes bad choices so she can keep her “steady.”  In fact it’s rare (after the 1st season)to see Buffy happy when she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I understand this  makes Buffy a flawed character(and therefore accessible) but she never really learns, or grows as a person in that respect. So while it’s great that she can defend herself from a gang of vamps, her sense of self leaves a lot to be desired.

Ziva has also made bad decisions when her love life became entangled with her work. Take the fiasco with Michael, she repeatedly ignored Tony’s concern that Michael wasn’t who he appeared to be (which apparently was a rogue Mossad Officer). However, Ziva had to come to terms with her big mistake.

I suppose in some respect I can understand how my acquaintance found Ziva to be less feminine than other heroines; she is rarely openly emotional (but I don’t know many women who would want to be in the workplace), and isn’t easily shocked by DiNozzo’s pervy comments/behavior (which usually ends with her making fun of him).  Granted I don’t think this makes her any less of a woman, instead it acts as a reflection how woman have evolved socially throughout the decade.  Just because she and Tony bond over Maxim, doesn’t mean she can’t have “girl talk” with Abby. When it comes to her fighting ability and being able to handle dangerous situations, these characteristics do not come into play. So does it make her less of heroine because she prefers trousers over dresses? I seriously doubt it.

At the end of the day, there are still plenty of independent women being represented on television. There’s one gem I suggest you look up, Castle‘s Kate Beckett. She’s pretty much everything you could want in a shero; she’s smart, funny, observant, compassionate, capable of taking care of herself (and others), she makes mistakes, and learns from them.  As for the superficial side of things…she’s one hot–stylish mofo.