Monday Miscellany: Cold, Cold, COLD

Due to horrifying cold and some reasonable concerns by drivers about the safety of piloting a double-decker bus on incredibly icy roads, I’m spending a few more days in Columbus, Ohio, complete with cuddling and this hot chocolate. Stay warm and safe, lovely readers! Here’s some links to read by the fire.

1. To be honest, I expected this study, When Sex Doesn’t Sell: Using Sexualized Images of Women Reduces Support for Ethical Campaigns, to be poorly conducted. I was pleasantly surprised to see attention to confounding variables and replications!

In Study 1, a sample of Australian male undergraduates (N = 82) viewed PETA advertisements containing either sexualized or non-sexualized images of women. Intentions to support the ethical organization were reduced for those exposed to the sexualized advertising, and this was explained by their dehumanization of the sexualized women, and not by increased arousal. Study 2 used a mixed-gender community sample from the United States (N = 280), replicating this finding and extending it by showing that behaviors helpful to the ethical cause diminished after viewing the sexualized advertisements, which was again mediated by the dehumanization of the women depicted. Alternative explanations relating to the reduced credibility of the sexualized women and their objectification were not supported.

2. Voldemort! Horcruxes! Harry Potter name-calling! This is international diplomacy. No, really, it is.

3. You should definitely not listen if you find discussion of childhood sexual abuse triggering or especially unpleasant, but This American Life did a segment on recovered memories. The movement, which is an embarrassing chapter of psychotherapy, involved therapists assisting and encouraging their clients in falsifying memories, usually about sexual abuse (though you’ve likely heard of the satanic ritual abuse cases). TAL interviews one victim of the therapy, and Linda Ross, a therapist who practiced this therapy, implanting false memories for years, before recanting.

4. This. This so much. Even my favorite books–those by Tamora Pierce, with feminist, strong, spidren-slaying heroines–play into this trope. I’m quite sure that Cosmo and fashion models aren’t realistic models, but find me an admired protagonist woman who isn’t slim or lanky or statuesque. (Source article wasn’t my favorite, but is here)

One of the most insightful things I’ve ever read about eating disorders and body esteem in general was a comment on my blog a while ago that I regret being unable to find now. The writer was saying that most people think girls want to be skinny because of Hollywood and Vogue. This girl wanted to be skinny because she wanted to be a protagonist.

She didn’t expose herself to mainstream fashion magazines or TV; she was interested in art films and books and indie music. But no matter how alternative the movie, the protagonist was almost always skinny. And wanting to be a protagonist means wanting to be someone, as most people do. Apparently, your story is only worth hearing, you’re only someone, if you’re skinny—it’s like, theblueprint of a human. Once that’s down, you’re allowed to be as interesting and protagonist-y as you want! Apparently.

No matter how much people our age have been raised on girl power and believe in yourself and you are beautiful, ignoring the beauty standards of the culture we live in is close to impossible. And as this lady pointed out, these standards and expectations exist outside mainstream culture like reality TV and tabloids; they exist in punk and indie cultures, in “artsy” Tumblr cultures that are all about looking like a fairy, but only if you’re a skinny white girl.

5.  I’m not planning to have children, but this post by Julia was wonderful. What would you add. (Twitter friend suggested identifying enemies and responding appropriately to hate, Facebook friend suggested rhetoric and argument, particularly assessing the claims of others.)


  1. says

    To add to 5, I would add
    1) a solid understanding of consent and boundaries. I read a good post on teaching this to kids in a blog post somewhere… the writer’s mother had intervened in play fighting that was getting too rough and explained the difference between a jokey, smiling “no” and a real no, taught the kids how to give a strong “no”, and made them practice.
    2) closely related to #1, an EXPLICIT discussion of healthy versus unhealthy relationships, at an age appropriate level, starting at a young age casually but more serious once romantic relationships start happening. Yes, if you got the consent and boundaries stuff right and modeled reasonably healthy relationships at home, there shouldn’t be TOO much to say here, but “here are some warning signs that it’s ok to feel weird about/act on” isn’t that hard, so why not just do it? This conversation wouldn’t necessarily totally prevent all abusive relationships–and it should explicitly state that even smart, healthy people can find themselves in bad relationships and isn’t something they should be ashamed of if it happens–but it lays some groundwork of sanity that I think would make it easier to disengage from an abusive situation than if you hadn’t had that.

  2. katybe says

    Ah, now, with your point 4, I can find you two just in Tamora Pierce’s books. Kel –, who winds up being my favourite of the Tortall characters, is described fairly frequently as heavily built and muscular – several characters point out how she’s larger than the other females they know, and at first she’s hurt by this, and by being told that she ought to exercise more than the other pages because she’s overweight, but she comes to realise that she’s trained her body to wear armour and carry weapons, and being larger means she might not look as delicate as her mother and sisters but it means she can achieve her dreams. And in the Circle of Magic books, which I know less well but read last year, Tris – is also described as overweight, but the character with the strongest magic and probably the one who goes through the most interesting character development.

    Admittedly, these two have stood out for me because they’re so rare in fiction generally, but the general paucity of examples means I’m pleased that the two I do know of are so great as protagonists and role models.

    • Kate Donovan says

      See, my memory of Kel’s story (I’ve not got the books with me) is not that she’s overweight, but that at a few points (particularly w/r/t Cleon) she’s concerned that she’s not like other girls in appearance. And when they talk about her being larger (the other characters that is) they talk about height, not bulkiness.

      With Tris, yes, she’s described as pudgy or fat. But she’s also the only character never described as attractive, who is generally bad tempered (I like Tris lots, but she’s not nice.) and furthermore, she’s the only member of the circle that Pierce never gives any sort of romantic interest to. Granted, the others tend not to fall deeply in love (Daja excepted), but they’re treated as the kind that someone could love.

      • katybe says

        There’s definitely a couple of mentions of Kel’s weight – that’s why they call her the lump. And there’s a section in the first book where her sisters (-in-law?) get in trouble for saying that she may as well train as a knight because she’s too large to be attractive, when she’s only 10, and not at full height. The bit I can almost paraphrase is just after she starts training and is told that she ought to run up the hill to the baths because she needs to lose weight, but the training master doesn’t require the boys to do it, so won’t insist she does. And of course she gets stubborn enough to do it anyway, despite being exhausted from the first training session. There’s also regular mentions of her straining the seams of the clothes and her maid having to keep letting things out, although that has a lot more to do with muscle development. I’m sure with the books in front of me I could add a few more examples, but they’re the sections I can remember off hand.

        As for Tris, it sounds like she’s going to be the focus for the next book, so I wouldn’t write off her romantic prospects yet.

        • Kate Donovan says

          oooh, you’re right, I was wrong. I’d entirely forgotten about Kel being called the lump. (and delighted to find another Tamora Pierce fan)

          • katybe says

            You’re welcome. The chance to recommend her books brought me out of lurking over on Ashley’s blog, and I’ve been making tentative inroads into the other blogs ever since!

  3. lochaber says

    I’m a bit late here, but as to #4, I really liked the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz. it’s basically about a dysfunctional family of private investigators, and centers around a 30ish dropout ex-pothead who prefers to enter/exit through windows and sleep on public transportation. I don’t think there were many references to her physical appearance, and I think the character described herself as ‘Okay’, or just seemed to be disinterested most of the time. In the last book at least, there were a couple cracks about her having a flabby ass and just in general not looking like she has ever had any exercise.

    Granted, this is from a cis-het-male perspective, so there could quite easily be all kinds of stuff I missed. And the main character doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting dates/boyfriends, so it’s probably implied that she’s at least average if not attractive. But I don’t think there is much of a focus on her appearance, from what I can remember.

    Anyways, I highly recommend the series, Lutz is funny as fuck, and the book has breaks every couple pages or so, which makes it great to read on public transportation, or while you are running errands and waiting in line, etc.

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