A few days ago I noticed a picture that accompanied a headlining MSN story. The picture was that of a pretty Muslim woman in a headscarf holding a credit card. The story was about credit. How odd. It’s not just that we never see a Hasidic man running errands or a Catholic nun taking public transportation in a stock picture. We never see a black person in Afro-centric garb or an Indian woman in a sari. Pictures of deadheads or a goths are not used to illustrate stories that are not specifically about deadheads or goths. Stock pictures feature neatly groomed people of all colors donning the last three seasons of Gap and J Crew.
Are MSN editors trying to say that Islam is a race, and for that reason alongside the pictures of those perfect people of various pigmentation we need a picture of an identifiably Muslim woman? But Islam is a religion, and a universalizing one at that. A universalizing religion attempts to appeal to all people regardless of culture or place of residence. By contrast, an ethnic religion, like Judaism or Shintoism, is a practice carried on by a single group of people. So no, Islam is not a race, in fact, there are Muslims of all colors out there.
What I like about generic pictures of good-looking people in the media is that they are generic. We don’t know what religion the models practice or what music they listen to. We don’t know if they live in Tupelo, Providence or Salt Lake City. The most we can deduce from the images is that the models have some sort of an urban/suburban background, but even that is not self-evident. They are anonymous Americans, and every one of us can imagine himself to be one of them. And yet, nobody is like them. Nobody dresses this way, nobody has their picture-perfect hair. People in the ads are idealized and kind of boring. They are mainstream. Subcultures define themselves against people in ads, and get attitudish when the mainstream picks up their sartorial inventions.
The ads are generically American. I find it comforting for several reasons. First, at the age when our society is so fractured, generic good-looking Americans in the media are a unifying factor. Second, if I were to recognize my private choices in pictures available to everyone, I’d feel a bit naked. A nice yuppie woman with similar color hair, on the other hand, is a good stand-in.
Is ‘nice” an opposite of “direct”? Gloria Steinem thins so:
“We were too nice,” she said. “We’re women. We were trained to be nice. We weren’t direct enough.”
That’s a comment made in reference to some unspecified failures of the 1970s feminism to achieve its goals. Somehow much of the Second Wave feminism seems neither “nice” nor “direct” to me. A better word to use would be “laud” or “obnoxious”. The relevant definition of direct is “straightforward; frank; candid.” “Direct” is not very different from “nice”. Good people are direct. Men are usually more direct then women, btw, American men in particular. Stereotypically, women achieve their goals by being indirect and manipulative.
1970s feminists voiced their demands loudly, but did it make them direct? More importantly, can frankness account for their successes? Not really, because much of their strategy was annoyance and demands of undue attention. It’s not really a case where one gets what she wants by being honest. She gets what she wants by out-screaming (and out-maneuvering) her opponents. And in any case, what were the goals of the Second Wave feminists? How did they envision the future? American public will falling in love with women’s basketball? Government taking woman’s earnings and then returning them, in biweekly pensions, once she has a child?
Steinem, who is noted for saying that a woman needs a marriage like a fish needs a bicycle, did marry a boyfriend of hers — at the tender age of sixty six. Perhaps Gloria Steinem wasn’t direct with herself.
From my latest American Express offer:
Based on your exceptional record of financial responsibility, American Express would like you to consider Cardmembership.
Financial responsibility, eh? A silver-tongued writer at the American Express New Members Department might understand something that our President does not: Fiscal responsibility is the first thing on the minds of the American people these days.
California sucks! East Bay sucks beyond belief.
It might be the largest mid-term power shift since the Great Depression, but here in California Moonbeam is elected to the second round of governorship. The rest of the country is voting for fresh faces, and we elect a consummate politician. I guess one moral of gubernatorial race is never hire a foreign-born house help. Oh, but at least you can annoy Jello Biafra who disowned the Jerry Brown version of California Uber Alles:
Boxer is re-elected Senator. Again, the rest of the country votes for fiscal solvency and restoration of Constitutional principals and freedom, we chose a true blue lefty airhead who in her 18 years in Senate sponsored a couple of Bills that made it into law. Her legislative record was so illustrious that even San Francisco Chronicle refused to endorse her. Way to go, California!
We overwhelmingly favor a Proposition that would make it easier for politicians to waste our money. We overwhelmingly reject a proposition that would at least temporarily delays further wreckage of California economy. We are hopeless. Save a few “Greater California” states, like Nevada, where Californians flee after finding their environment unlivable, and which they summarily proceed to destroy, the country is going in opposite direction. Actually, I don’t know how Reid managed to get himself reelected. But NV is largely a toss-up because of the CA expatriates who dutifully check the “D” column when they find themselves in the voting booth. It used to be that the way California goes, so does the nation. Now it’s more like the way the nation goes, so California doesn’t.
East Bay is, no doubt, the lamest place in California. The good people of the 13th Congressional District re-elected Pete Stark (D, MD/CA) with over 70% of the vote. Because we are smarter then He, in whom we do not believe, and smarter then the Founding fathers who certainly did not intend it that way, poor bumpkins. Yeah, we are smart, and we are also civicly engaged. Everyone should follow our lead, then they’d live as well as we do, minus the scenery… and the cuisine.
I keep hearing that women, many of them mothers, dominate the Tea Party movement. That women, concerned for the future of their children, rally for liberty (and fiscal responsibility, and security). It must be happening somewhere. In the galaxy far far away.
Meanwhile here on Earth I read Parenting magazine. According to their October issue poll, 78% of moms favor laws that would prohibit smoking in a house or in a car with children. Only 22% of responders oppose such laws. This poll is in no way scientific, of course, but it does show that there exists a constellation of statist mothers ready to police your personal habits. Because they are better moms then you.
We already had some Brazilian model with a German surname opining that there should be a planetary law making breastfeeding mandatory. Half-joking, I suppose. Yes, yes, Fascism is sooo funny!
Breastfeeding mom Salma Hayek
Anyhow, I looked through the reasons Parenting moms gave to justify their opinions. Nothing of interest in the “for” column: We don’t like it — ban it! Reasons against? Well, privacy, liberty, of course. Amazingly, nobody was quoted pointed out that the evidence behind the ill effects of second-hand smoke is overblown. How frustrating that this fact is so obscure! And how scary that is it obscure.