Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gap Attempts to Capitalize on Subculture

Despite the fact that Gap is monopolizing on the recent popularization of Andy Warhol factory subculture (seriously, have you SEEN the ridiculous posters hanging in the windows of the store on Broadway and Astor?), its sales remain disappointing. I, personally, haven't shopped at Gap since 2004, the whole dark wash bootcut jean and tailored oxford look having been thrown out with my stained North Face jacket.

The Gap is having an identity crisis. Despite continuing to present traditionally clean cut Americana clothing in predictable patterns and fabrics, they're also making an attempt to attract the funkier of us through Warhol advertising. Note: Edie Sedgwick would not have been caught dead in a hideous floral halter dress with dart seams.

The stores that go full throttle one direction or another are the ones that achieve the most success. It's the in-between that's dangerous. Urban Outfitters put a monopoly on expensive thrift store clothes; American Apparel has built an empire on comfy basics in classic colors like heather grey. Gap may have been popular a few years back, but its attempt to try to compete with edgier stores who imitate haute couture like H&M or cheap-but-incredible Forever 21 means they're essentially burying themselves alive.

My advice for Gap: take a page out of the book of Ann Taylor and stick to what you know. If you do this, and I ever need a cardigan, I promise to come to you, as long as you don't continue to piss me off with your wannabe advertising.


This week on The Hills: Audrina continues to ruin everything for girls

Audrina continued to commit crimes against womanity with her reacceptance of archetypal assholes everywhere, Justin-Bobby. Clearly a cokehead and a disheveled, motorcycle riding wunderkind, Justin-Bobby swooped Audrina back off her feet with a few flashes of his oddly white smile. Audrina, of course, fell right back into his arms, signaling that self respect and restraint mean nothing to the Hills girls. Lauren had Jason (and, arguably, Steven Coletti, who makes an appearance on the show next week), Heidi has Spencer and Audrina has Justin-Bobby: each male character is a protypical asshole who the girls KEEP GOING BACK TO. So now the teen girls in the midwest dreaming of living in LA will know that true love is an emotionless grunge king with a drug problem who preys on women with insecurities.

I myself am guilty of this sometimes, but I've recently been trying to curb my desire to return to asshole after asshole becase I know that they are no good for me. I wish "The Hills" girls would take a page out of the book of feminism and do the same.


Philadelphia: Behind the mainstream news

Being from Pennsylvania has never been something I’m particularly proud of. I always saw it as a waste land of sorts: two cities with filthy streets and filthier politics bridged by corn fields and hunting rifle racism. But recently I’ve become the opposite of a fair weather fan; my city is in trouble, and I kind of feel obligated to say something about it.

My friend Samantha sent me an article a few days ago chronicling the various issues Philly is currently grappling with, and how they affect blue collar neighborhoods, particularly situated in pockets of North Philly.The realities are stark, shocking, pained: gun deaths have sky rocketed, drugs continue to serve as a lucrative market, and murder rates are higher than they’ve been in years. And as Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton attempt to court Pennsylvania’s voting block, they seem to be ignoring the cries from citizens concerned about the declining quality of life in Philadelphia.

Obama and Clinton spent so much time attempting to galvanize central Pennsylvania that Philadelphia’s problems fell on deaf ears; it is a glaring example of the amount of effort candidates will put in when they understand that they will reap the benefits. Addressing Philadelphia’s issues wouldn’t help them score the harder to reach central PA vote. They assumed they had Philly, a notoriously democratic city, in their back pocket, and so any issues the city may have had went ignored.

My father lives in the suburbs in a community sheltered from the aggressive violence that has recently pervaded Philadelphia. Since the age of 12 I grew up there, unaware of the rage that was bubbling beneath the surface of the city I lived so close to.

When my parents divorced when I was 14, my mother moved to Germantown, a relatively nice part of Philadelphia; but it was still Philadelphia, and on the way between houses I’d still spy hunched over African American women in head-wraps pushing carts full of recycling cans, and gaunt men leering suspiciously at children in the park.

This primary has really put in context for me what it means to be from Pennsylvania. It is a state that is so frequently ignored in the national debate, and considering I live in New York now, that reality has become desperately obvious. I’m annoyed at my fellow Pennsylvanians that they chose Hillz over Obamz, but I do hope that whoever ends up winning the nomination will focus at least some of their concerted efforts on the growing Philadelphia Problem.


The Paper: Finally a good role model for girls!

MTV’s new reality show “The Paper” chronicles the lives of school newspaper editors at a high school in Florida. Truth be told, I wasn’t going to watch it, but it follows “The Hills” at 10:30pm on Monday nights, and I was too lazy to change the channel. But I’m glad I didn’t.

The best and worst thing about “The Paper” is that it is rife with the harrowing anxieties of life in high school: the bitch fights, the beer pong, and the social climbing. Two years out of high school, it’s entertaining to relive the horror, but it also allows an unwelcome nostalgia to creep up the back of your neck.

“The Paper” perfectly captures the stereotypical kids you went to high school with and thanked god you never saw thereafter: the annoying popular couple obsessed with PDA, the ex-dork who had a crush on you before he got cool and now that he’s cool doesn’t like you anymore, and the gay guy who shouts everything.

Then there is the star of the show and Editor-in-Chief of The Circuit, Amanda. In the second episode she turns up fresh from summer vacation with a nose job and tons of team building activities that result in an awkward ice cream social where people talk mercilessly about her behind her back. But she is strong, an independent woman, and intent on making the paper “the best it can be.” It’s inspiring for young girls to see someone who is so driven, ambitious and (despite the nose job) comfortable with herself, especially after having watched 30 minutes of fake tans on “The Hills.”

“The Paper” manages to capitalize on those awkward high school years in a way “Laguna Beach” chose to gloss over; we are right there observing the triumphs, the disappointments, the shame and the insecurities. These kids are articulate and talented, and it’s nice to see a group of teenagers on TV not afraid to be portrayed as smart and successful. They do not dumb themselves down for the camera. Sure, there is an inherent self-consciousness that rears its ugly head when it comes to social interaction, but overall “The Paper” accomplishes what “Laguna Beach” refused to: portraying a group of high school students who are simultaneously smart, relatable and entertaining.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Offensively sexist one-liners from Men’s lifestyle magazine Best Life

Lady mags aren’t the only ones setting gender relations back with every issue.

All quotes from the May 2008 issue.

Women don’t seem to recognize the transcendent significance of a .367 lifetime batting average (42).

“Is your marriage suffering from a personality disorder? Try speaking to her in a tongue she understands… speak slowly and give her all the facts” (38).

Oh look! An article on page 68 entitled “Can I Buy My Wife a New Va-jay-jay?” It goes on… “When your wife gave birth to your children, she martyred her vagina… [now] neither your wife nor you can get much pleasure when you have sexual intercourse. What if we could fix that in a simple outpatient procedure and give your wife the va-jay-jay of an 18-year-old? Wouldn’t that be the greatest Mother’s Day gift ever?” (69).


New York's Finest?

I get hit on a lot. I'm not saying this from a place of arrogance; in fact, I'd prefer it didn't happen. Because it's not cute boys with glasses that are hitting on me, it's the delivery men, the truck drivers and the vagabonds of this world who find me attractive. My friends call me a creep magnet. It's flattering, I know. But today this reached a new level.
I'm used to the hoots and hollers from cabbies and movers and construction workers; they don't faze me anymore. But today while walking down Mercer on my way to work, I spotted a cop car parked outside of the Marc Jacobs store. Inside there was a policeman smoking a cigarette and eyeing the people walking up and down the street. I was immediately gripped with anxiety: even when I'm not doing anything illegal, the police manage to scare the shit out of me. I'm always terrified they can sense that I had smoked a J the night before, or that I'm a champion underage drinker.

But this policeman did not question me or give me an evil glance; in fact, he used his eyes to fuck me.

I got eyefucked by a member of New York's finest, and he wasn't even subtle about it. He even said, "Hey honey!" to me as I walked by.

Aren't police officers supposed to be protecting me from sexual harassment, as opposed to, you know, sexually harassing me? What would have happened if my dress had been a little bit shorter, my hair a little bit straighter, my heels a little bit higher? Would that have made me the subject of even more ridicule? And is there somewhere you can report sexual harassment by police officers?

I mean, it's not that big of a deal in context. He eye fucked me, he tried to flirt with me, I moved on, he kept smoking his cigarette and daydreaming about donuts. But I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what would have happened if I had been doing something illegal and they had reason to handcuff me? Part of me totally wants to play out that fantasy, and part of me is thankful I was an upright citizen at that moment in time, especially after last week's Law and Order: SVU episode.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feminists and their egotistical boyfriends

Jezebel posted an article today comparing Carrie Bradshaw with noted feminists Sylvia Plath and Simone De Beauvoir. If you're a fan of SATC at all, you remember Carrie's egotistical, power hungry and emotionally unavailable (yet completely perfect in my eyes) boyfriend Mr. Big. He was rich and selfish and even cheated on his wife with Carrie at one point. Jezebel argues that there are cases of many feminist type characters falling for the anti-feminist. (I would definitely disagree, though, that Bradshaw is a feminist)

I'm going to use myself as an example.

I posted this a few months ago about the kind of guy I like. To sum it up for you, they're usually selfish, arrogant, angry egomaniacs who call themselves writers but rarely write anything. I like them because they don't get jealous and they let me flirt with other people in front of them and they really enjoy that I'm down to have sex whenever(/wherever). Perhaps that's the kind of feminist I am: all sex and power. And maybe that's the reason I'm attracted to guys who are so into themselves. Egomaniacs are too wrapped up in their own self interest to even notice that I'm macking on another guy right before their eyes.

Emotional unavailability is probably the most attractive quality to me. I am so in touch with my emotions that it's sometimes scary. I can tell what you are feeling before you even blink at me. Maybe I need someone who is stoic to balance that out. I also enjoy fishing for emotions beneath a hard facade. If you're open and outright about how you feel, I'll probably lose interest rather quickly.

Then there are the cheaters. Plath allegedly killed herself because Ted Hughes started dating another woman. I've luckily never been with a man who cheated on me, but I can only imagine how easily it looms in my future.

So why am I, and tons of other girls, always attracted to those who treat us as lesser individuals? Who laugh when we express our feminist ideals or think it's "cute" when we get angry? Who can't take us seriously, and then when we demand they do, they get angry that we're always so serious all the time?

The men who are cold, hard, minimal with their affections: these are the ones that reel me in the quickest. And unfortunately, as Plath's oven showed us, those are also the ones that drive us to emotionally violent extremes. I mean, I would never hurt/kill myself over a guy (talk about the anti-feminist), but it's not like I derive happiness out of being treated like shit. Or perhaps like many feminists before me... I do.