Lackluster Libido Language


If there’s anything my fourth grade teacher taught me — aside from the importance of memorizing my multiplication tables — it’s the relevance of vocabulary. In school, words were my favorite. I adored spelling tests, reveled in playing dictionary roulette and now have a soft spot for the click-for-definition feature on the However, there are a few words that irk me to no end. Like vagina.

Have you noticed how many words are gendered? Or, how many words regarding women are terribly sexist?

I mean, one of the most important parts of the female body is a pretty sexist term if you think about it. It’s the ultimate downer and it’s for our genitals — vagina — it sounds like an incurable infection. Eve Ensler had it right. No matter how many times you say it, “vagina” sounds so clinical and unappealing. Men get the simplicity and succinctness of “penis,” along with strong, powerful slang like “dick,” “cock” and “johnson.” The thing practically sounds like a law firm, or at least a Harvard educated lawyer.

And that’s precisely the point –everything about women and their bodies is referred to in diminutive, weak terms. “Pussy,” “snatch,” twat,” and “coochie” all sound like pet names — or worse, a waspy Connecticut wife who can’t even say the word “cunt” because she’s been taught to hate it so much.  But maybe that’s precisely the problem, if we were given nicer names for out “naughty” bits, we wouldn’t feel the need to punish them with these stupid nicknames. Don’t even get me started on cat and cougar references.

Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about “vagina,” but the slang words are ridiculous! And, what’s worse, even pharmaceutical companies are contributing to the sexism of gendered language.

Even sexual enhancement drugs are getting the shaft (and not in a good way!). The FDA is currently reviewing what some are calling “Viagra for women.” Well, truth be told, it’s REAL name is Flibanserin. Flibanserin? Really? So, let me get this straight, not only am I a pussy with a bad case of vagina, Flibanserin is my only treatment option? Meanwhile, men get a Harvard legacy in their pants and Viagra, to boot.

VIAGRA: by definition, the most potent and virile drug name ever. Men get a drug that sounds like a superhero or spaceship to rocket them to pleasure island, but we’re supposed to swoon over a pill to make us feel like superheroes with an STD.

(Woman enters bedroom.) “Honey, I got Flibanserin.”

(Lover looks up, worried.) “Is it contagious?”

Who needs a bad name to confuse sexy time? I’m sorry, it may be a sign of equality that researcher even developed a sexual enhancement drug for women, but if it’s called Flibanserin, will anyone buy it? Hopefully, if the drug proves to be safe and (O-so) effective, marketing people can have their way with Flibanserin and conceive something better.

More Than A Wolf Six Pack

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) & Jacob Black (Ta...

Image by Nayara - Oliveira via Flickr

After writing my previous post on men’s fitness, I started thinking about how their bodies are exposed the media in comparison to women’s. You’d have to live in a cave (or coffin) to avoid all the Eclipse hoopla this month. And, you’d have to be in denial to be unaware of all the drooling over Taylor Lautner who plays Jacob Black, a werewolf and love interest for Bella Swan in the Twilight series.

Yet, I have to say, even though I think he’s attractive and the movie creators knew what they were doing to cast him without a shirt for most of the film, I’m a little creeped out by all the sexual exploitation this guy is facing.

I mean, yeah, women go through this stuff all the time, but it’s very interesting how much sex, his body and his character (and therefore him, in real life) are connected (which is funny because his character doesn’t have sex).

In fact, so far, no one is having sex in the Twilight films — and maybe, it’s this presence of desire without fulfillment that make people think it’s ok to objectify him? Hmm… I’m not so sure it’s works that way.

Anyway, what got me thinking was the Twilight special on Jimmy Kimmel. Every question from the predominantly female audience was about the male characters’ sex life or bodies. One girl even asked Taylor Lautner to lift up his shirt so she could see his sixpack. Kimmel said it was probably sexual harassment, but I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it must be for Lautner to be a male sex object at such a young age and with such a fierce following.

Lautner can’t even get away from it on set. According to some quotes by co-star Robert Pattinson, he even gets teased while wearing spandex. I’m sure it’s all in good fun, but how far will it go among his fans and in the film industry? Will he forever be typecast as Jacob Six Pack? At least people aren’t throwing blood on him like Pattinson experienced last year, but that doesn’t discount the crazed attention he receives. Is this the new sexism? Or are we tipping the scales toward balance?

Even Jezebel found reasons why they think it’s alright to objectify men in a piece about World Cup players. Yet, I’m still not convinced this is a step toward equality.

Not sure how men can be treated as objects? For a look at some pretty intense instances of sexual objectification of men’s bodies, look at this slide show by Trend Hunter.

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Do Men Feel Pressure to be Fit?

Corbis Images

Last weekend I spent some much needed friend time with two women who are about my age, height and weight. We all wear around the same size clothing and have similar interests in fitness to slightly varying degrees. Yet, when it comes to diet and body image, I was stunned that we all had complaints.

“I should be eating this…”

“My new work out includes…”

“I’m on this diet…”

Image By, Bola Browne

“I just want to tone my…”

Each one of us, though we are all healthy, felt like we had something to improve about our bodies. I couldn’t help but wonder why so many women who are aware of body image issues and the pressure to be pretty and thin in American culture, are unhappy with the way we look — when most of the men I know, do NOT.

You rarely hear men in their twenties and thirties discussing their need to eat right and work out, or feeling dissatisfied with their looks. And, as this article on magazine marketing points out, you don’t see diet articles geared to men nearly as much as women on the news stand.

So, I ask, what gives? Do men feel pressure to be fit and eat right? Do they obsess over their appearance? Are there things men would like to change about their bodies, but they don’t say it?

Or, is men’s fitness out of style unless you’re an athlete or gay? I know that skinny, hipster chic is popular among some men, but they aren’t talking about trying to be thin, or changing there diet. Are they?

In my opinion, it seems like there’s no pressure for men to be fit because it doesn’t affect their sex appeal. A man can be funny and smart and he’s a catch, even if he’s not conventionally good-looking, but if a woman has the same qualities, she “needs a makeover” so people will be attracted to her “personality.”

I think it’s the “Homer Simpson Effect,” he’s this lazy guy who never works out or eats veggies, but is endearing, so Marge loves him anyway. Meanwhile, Marge is always fit and fussing over her appearance. (I mean, think how long it would take to make your hair look like that!)

Homer is not the only guy who doesn’t care about his looks. In fact, most male characters on TV and in films, don’t talk about their appearance. Except in Eclipse, of course. We all remember Jacob Black‘s famous line to Edward, “I’m hotter than you.”

Image By Men's Health

Image By Men's Health

So,  now we have two men who look completely different– thin, pale and tall, versus muscular, tan and rugged — but both are “fit.” Which one do men want to emulate? Will they follow Taylor Lautner’s work out regimen, or will they look to more athletic types to model like Omar Epps?

And, since there’s been so much publicity over women careening over Team Edward and Team Jacob’s appearance, with Taylor Lautner running around without a shirt, or Robert Pattinson sparkling like diamonds on screen, do men feel the need to hit the treadmill and lay off the burgers?

What do YOU think? Are men pressured by society to be fit too? Or does the Homer Simpson effect just part of America’s obesity problem?

Clothes Make the Woman?

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American Apparel

Image via Wikipedia

There’s an expression, “clothes make the man,” but based on recent events, apparently, they make the woman. As you probably know, I love clothes and fashion. Creating outfits and getting that satisfaction of a well-balanced look are things I enjoy, despite the challenges of a limited budget. However, sometimes I wonder, who am I dressing for and why?

I’d like to think that the exercise is purely for my own entertainment, self expression and self-confidence, but given the pressures women face to be pretty, I’m concerned that it’s more than wanting to express myself and there’s a dress code for women. Whether she’s a young woman applying for a job at American Apparel, or an employee at Citibank, what you wear will determine your “success.”

According to New York Magazine and Gawker, American Apparel has a strict dress code that requires women (and men, though to a lesser degree) to adhere to its very specific guidelines, “some employees have accused AA of telling them to lose weight, and posting photos of their dress-code infractions on the company’s intranet for purposes of mocking.”

NY Mag researched the dress guidelines for 10 clothing retail franchises to see if American Apparel’s desire for employees with little make up, long hair and full eyebrows is out of the norm. They discovered that most companies, particularly in fashion retail have dress codes particular to their style and aesthetic, so American Apparel’s desire wasn’t too weird.

But what about the creepy voyeuristic ads and gossip about mocking women’s weight? (Maybe you should look into working at one of those other retailers if you want to work in clothing sales, just to avoid the chance of sexism in the work place.)

Meanwhile, Debrahlee Lorenzana is in the process of suing Citibank for firing her because her attractive appearance was too distracting for men in her office. “Her bosses told her that ‘as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly ‘too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear,’ she says,” in a report by the Business Insider.

When Lorenzana dressed more conservatively and went to work without makeup, that didn’t work for her boss either, “when she responded by not wearing makeup, they told her she looked ‘sickly’ and when she left her hair curly instead of straightening it, they told her she should go ahead and straighten it every day.

Image via Business Insider

‘I could have worn a paper bag, and it would not have mattered,’ she told the Village Voice. ‘If it wasn’t my shirt, it was my pants. If it wasn’t my pants, it was my shoes. They picked on me every single day.’”

This blatant sexism on the part of Citibank, that fired her for being too attractive, is a symptom of our culture’s pressure to be beautiful and men’s inability to control their sexual desire when women fulfill their role as sex objects. Women can’t win. If you aren’t pretty and do not fill the typical stereotype of what a woman (or girl, in the the case of American Apparel) looks like, then you aren’t employable or professional (evidenced by this list).

Yet, if you are too pretty and “sexy” (which is completely subjective and wholly inappropriate to define) you get fired. What does that say about men’s perception of women and women’s view of their appearances?

In my own experience working in a corporate office, I find if I wear less makeup or dress down for whatever reason, men ask me if I’m tired or if there’s something wrong with me, “Are you ok? You seem really tired?” While I think this is also another issue, I talked about in a post called “The Lookie Loos,” their comments also coincide with my appearance. Meanwhile, women rarely say anything about their looks in my office unless it’s to compliment each other.

In fact, Psychology Today conducted a study about appearance and whether men approach women who wear makeup more than women who don’t. In this same study, they found that: “Attire status had an effect on women’s attractiveness ratings but not on men’s.”

This pressure to look a certain way is exhausting, which is why, I prefer to dress how I want, versus what others expect. Except, how do I know if I’m dressing for me or simply following the gender dress code? And, what if what you think is fashionable or good-looking, doesn’t match up with what others think?

In a recent post by Jezebel, one of my favorite websites, the editors examined fashion trends men find unattractive, titled, “What to Wear When You Want to Repel Men.” MSN surveyed top trends this year like harem pants, gladiator sandals and others. The writer discovered, that men think “Harem pants look like diapers and,” to quote directly, “‘scream fashion victim, rather than sex kitten.’”

I’m sorry, but when do I ever want to look like a sex kitten in public? Eew.  I’m so sick of this pressure for women to be sexy all the time. Look where it leads! It’s a vicious cycle and in some cases, like Debrahlee Lorenzana, you could lose your job! I’m not saying don’t dress nice, or to avoid wearing clothes that men find attractive, but seriously, women do not need to be “hot” or appealing, especially at work.

Dress for YOU and wear what makes YOU feel good. There’s so much value placed on how others see us, but in the end, we all have our own opinion about what looks good, so if you live your life trying to dress to impress others, you will always fail. You can’t please everyone.

And, the degree of sexiness of your clothing and hairstyle, whether it’s in fashion or not, does not define your worth, employment value and femininity. It also does not promote equality in the work place or our society. Do you see men stressing over what they should wear to accentuate their butts and figures?

I’m going to guess the answer is no.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

Image By Mattel

If you thought Bratz were scary, there’s a new crew of makeup clad monsters creeping in the toy market that will haunt you. Mattel is set to launch a new franchise called Monster High this fall. The company plans to release the first book in the series this September. The toys are already on sale online and the TV series, website, apparel line and feature length movie are all in the works. Each of these products are dedicated to a group of teen monsters going through high school… dressed like hookers.

That’s right. Instead of creating positive and age-appropriate characters for a multi-million dollar new campaign for young girls, these “ghouls” are covered in a frightening amount of makeup, trashy clothes and sky-high platform heels. There’s nothing like a cast of mini-skirts monsters to make a buck and alter the collected perception of sexuality among tweens. Really Mattel?

And you thought toys were becoming more gender neutral. Sorry, but Mattel not only wants young girls to buy lots of dolls, clothes and watch their shows, they want tweens to dress in creepy, sexy Halloween costumes year round! As if the trend toward sexy apparel for teens isn’t bad enough, tweens are now the target with this new cast of saucy socialites.

Check it out — each doll is complete with her own “scary” pet and “fashionable” (read slutty) outfit. Kids can collect Draculaura, Clawdeen Wolf, Frankie Stein and Lagoona Blue. Each teen is the offspring of legendary monsters like vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein and sea monsters. What sucks, is that the idea is cute given all the passion for mythical creatures among youth culture, but the way the girls are dressed is a crime — no, I’m serious, if you dressed like this you’d be mistaken for a prostitute and hauled downtown.

Since I’m the product of the 80′s cartoon and toy marketing, I know this is nothing new, creating toys around entertainment and vice versa, but at least the toys we had growing up back then were empowering to girls and not weirdly sexual. I’m talking about My Little Pony, Rainbow Bright and Care Bears. Each taught lessons about confidence, community, intelligence and being independent — not popularity, shopping and premature sexiness. Where’s the lesson in looking hot?

As a culture, we deem it necessary for young girls to be pretty, hot and always made up. These pressures affect the self-esteem young women, leading to sexting, cyberbullying, hook up culture, sexual harassment and anti-feminist behaviors that are then perpetuated by adults. We need to break children free from the marketed sexism of toys like these. Barbie may have gotten a pass because she was also a doctor, among many diverse roles — and at least Courtney and Stacy dolls had outfits that fit their age — but these little monsters are young and wearing cell phones strapped to their legs like strippers. Too far!

So, how did I find out about these nightmarish toys? A friend of mine sent me an article by Peggy Ornstein in the New York Times. It’s a must read. If you want to read a press release from Matell, visit DreadCentral.

“The Hot Boy”

“The Jaundice Brothers”

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