Thursday, November 20, 2008

Warning, contains nudity and possibly feminism.

Check out this "about" statement from clothing company "Two in the Shirt" [emphasis mine]:

Two In The Shirt is a fresh new company with a focus on bringing tastefully provocative clothing to the forefront of fashion. The name 'Two In the Shirt' is derived from the acronym T.I.T.S., which is quite fitting considering the nature of the clothing itself.
T.I.T.S. merchandise consists of men's and women's apparel printed with original designs. Each design showcases classy prints of nude or nearly nude women. "Like a training bra, support T.I.T.S."

I'm intrigued by the contrast between the rhetoric of this statement ("tastefully," "classy") and the visual rhetoric of the website (I'm not linking it here, but you can find it if you want to. Some images on the blog are VERY explicit). In the "lifestyle" slideshow, all the clothes (most with provocative images of women on them) are modeled by men in dominant, powerful postures. Images of women in the blog are hyper-sexualized and, often, faceless. If you head over there, I recommend checking out the "Wifey" and "American Flavors" collections.

There is a long tradition of depicting the human body, especially the female body, in fine arts, and that's part of what T.I.T.S. is trying to evoke with their language here. Compare one of their products with a more recognized "artistic" nude, Manet's "Dejeuner sur L'herbe," which caused great controversy when it was first exhibited:

I'm going to hold back a bit and see what you all think about these. What similarities/differences do you see in these two approaches to the female body and the power relationship between women and [actual or implied] men? Is there something artistic about what this company does?

Friday, November 14, 2008

This blog was really meant to be more academic/personal than political, but somehow the political keeps edging in, so let's run with it, shall we?

I've met an awful lot of people since I started grad school who see our field as apolitical, and I have a real problem with that. What we study and teach wasn't created in a vacuum. The writing of it, and our reception of it, is colored by innumerable histories, prejudices, and assumptions. Even the choice to look at something as a purely aesthetic object makes a statement about the relationship between Literature/literature and society. That's a context, and context (constituted of relationships and hierarchies) is political. And it's something we *have* to be aware of, if we want our work to have integrity.

Of course, the political in research is a different animal to the political in the classroom. Matthew M. DeForrest expressed it much better than I could a couple years ago on InsideHigherEd:

How often do we assign plays like Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People or essays like Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and then discuss the issues of war and civil rights that swirled around them yet limit the realm or discussion to the purely academic?

They often hear us speak. They do not often hear about what we do.

So long as we do not model behavior, students will not see anyone participating in the civic realm. The politicians they see on television aren’t real to them. They do not regularly see a person that they know and can personally identify with actively engaging in the civic discourse or hear about the struggle to choose the best course of action to make our towns better from an array of bad options.

What I am advocating here is not something tied to one party or political philosophy. Whether you are a left-leaning anthropology professor or a member of the right of center business school set, we should all be active participants in the civic realm and, importantly, our students should know that those activities are a part of our lives.

This blog, of course, is not a classroom, and so I feel perfectly free to impose my political position on you with impunity. So make a note: tomorrow afternoon, millions of people in the US and around the world will be gathering to celebrate love and take a stand for equal rights. I'm one of them, and I hope you will be as well. Check the links to find details about rallies near you.

This song is "an anthem for the equal rights movement born from the passage of gay-marriage bans in the United States during the 2008 election. Footage in the video is from the candle vigil rally and protest march in San Francisco days after the election.

The song will be up on iTunes and other electronic stores for purchase in about four to six weeks (by mid/late December), and I [Sean Chapin, the awesome fellow who wrote the song] will be donating most of the proceeds to charity."


When you're in doubt take my hand
I'll stand by your side tonight cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

When in despair take my arm
As I hold you close to me and
We will go farther when we are together cause
We are united in love

When you're feeling good
I'll capture the time
When you're feeling sad
I'll help you remember
When you're feeling fine
We'll stay on our path
When you're feeling bad
I will be there for you and

Our love will sing loud and strong
Our love will keep going on

When you're in fear take my heart
I'll give you a hug tonight cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

When you're in angst take my lead
I'll show you the way today cause
We will go farther when we are together cause
We are united in love

When we're feeling rich
I'll never let go
When we're feeling poor
I'll help you recover
When we laugh away
I'll give you a smile
When we shed a tear
I'll comfort you gently and

Our love will sing loud and strong
Our love will keep going on

When you don't know take my word
I am here to stay with you, cause
We will be better when we are together and
We are united in love

We are united in love
United we love

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I am sure that my fellow blogistas are just as disappointed about the passing of Proposition 8 in California as I am. In fact, I definitely cried about it. More than once. It was only compounded by the fact that the ballot measures banning gay marriage also passed in Arizona and Florida. Oh, and gay couples can't adopt children in Arkansas, because we all know that gay folks will corrupt the poor innocent little children in their care.

You all know that I'm an optimist and an idealist, but this was a major blow. It's hard to keep your head up when you face this kind of discrimination.

While browsing Feministing today, I came across this post about the Prop 8 aftermath. At least in California, people are not giving into this easily. You can read about all the protests in the post. At the end of the entry, there's a quote by a blogger named Pam:

"If victories make us complacent, it is our defeats that rally us to a new level of community and activism. We stood up after mortal blows from Anita Bryant pushing her anti-gay vitriol in Florida. We rallied to the bedside of Matthew Shephard in his family's time of tribulation. More recently, we re-committed our vows to protect our youngest members in the wake of the murder of Lawrence King by a fellow classmate. In the wake of the passage of Prop 8, we see now and will see another historic re-awakening of our community."

My response to that: Hell yeah!