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Recently, I read an article on Huffington Post about how women “have to” pay more for female versions of common products.  Several women left comments pointing out that they circumvent this sexist pricing system by sensibly buying the male versions of the product093c0505b4debbb1224b4a693898ce04.

But none of the comments asked the obvious question of why do we need separate versions of such mundane products for men and women in the first place?

Why do we need gender-bombed products that “match” and call attention to our sex?  Do manufacturers of these mundane products think that people need constant little reminders of what sex they are?  Using the pictured example, did the razor manufacturer think that women might try to shave their faces rather than their legs if they use a blue razor (that they paid less for)?

In a larger sense, why does everything we do, think, say, feel, use, or express have to correlate to or “match” our sex?  Why does society think we need these constant reminders of what sex we are?

For the majority of activities people do in their everyday lives, their sex is no more relevant to those activities than their race or nationality is, so why the need for all the specifically gendered versions of what are neutral items?

One could argue that offering pink-ified versions of many products is simply another choice  that appeals to different tastes and personalities.  To some extent, this is true, but these products are not simply another choice among many others; they are specifically marketed to women only.  Isn’t it funny how ALL women are supposed to just looooooooove pink things?  And that men aren’t?

For adults, who should have the maturity to see stereotyping for what it is and are able to choose whatever products they want, however colored or labeled, without questioning their womanhood or manhood, such marketing is mostly relatively harmless, if redundant.  That is, save for the discriminatory pricing, which women can easily avoid by refusing to buy the “ladies’ auxiliary” versions.

And it would seem that many people do, indeed, get it, if the snarky reviews left on Amazon for the product below are any indication.   As one reviewer said

r-BIC-PEN-FOR-HER-WOMEN-REVIEWS-large570“Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

But it becomes less funny or harmless when toys, particularly those previously marketed as sex-neutral, are now offered in special, pink and purple versions just to girls.  Suddenly, the standard, original sex-neutral version has become a “boys’ toy”.

Children, whose cognitive functions are not yet fully developed, cannot see stereotyping for what it is as easily as adults can185c9df6700b9a5d80305cf58430b03e.  They are given the message that boys are regular, standard people and that girls are “other”, “different”, and “auxiliary”.

The picture to the left compares  Lego as marketed in 1981 and in 2014, using the same person in both pictures.  In 1981, the year I become a mother, non-sexist child raising was a current philosophy with progressive parents and some advertisers responded by including girls, as well as boys, in promoting standard, sex-neutral toys.

Indeed, even when I was a little kid in the 60s, before there was even a word for non-sexist child raising, Lego was not specifically marketed to boys and I enjoyed playing with them, giving nary a thought whether this toy “matched” my sex.

But, at some point, instead of simply just adding pink and purple bricks to the standard Legos, Lego introduced a separate girls’ version, ending their previous marketing of the standard version for all kids.  Instead of fostering the creativity which lies within each child, regardless of sex, the current marketing strategy sends a regressive message to children about fitting in to stereotyped gender roles.

As Rachel Giordano, the model for the 1981 ad, said in 2014:

“In 1981, LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

She went on to say when asked what is wrong with a separate girls’ version of Lego:

“Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”

As Lori Day concluded in her article:

Let’s give all children a world of play that includes all colors and all possibilities, and let’s market it that way. What do we have to lose, besides stereotypes?

Indeed.  Along with reviving non-sexist child raising, if children are given all sorts of toys, not specifically marketed to one sex or the other, they will be better equipped as adults to see stereotypes for what they are when confronted with them in advertising and in society in general and to make choices according to their own personalities.

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A common euphemism I see all the time in the media occurs in references about who is having sex with who, as in “Celebrity A is sleeping with Celebrity B” or “I need to be in love with someone first before I can sleep with them.”

No! I’m sorry, but people don’t get into bed together in order to SNORE together. They go to bed to HAVE SEX.

It’s 2015 and there’s no need for this wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed euphemism.   Be direct and say what you really mean: “Celebrity A is having sex with Celebrity B” or “I need to be in love with someone first before I can have sex with them.”

It’s clear and to the point and it’s not vulgar or excessively descriptive.  One doesn’t need to use the F bomb in order to be direct.

Let’s consign “sleeping with” to the dustbin of history.

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Today, on Facebook, I saw a viral post several times on my Newsfeed about President Obama with a coffee cup in his hand while saluting a Marine standing by his helicopter.   The comments were predictably knee-jerk from both conservatives and liberals.  Most conservatives claimed he was being deliberately disrespectful to the Marine, some even going so far as to say he was never taught how to act properly in public as a child. (It boggles my mind the thought processes some people have, so quick to jump to conclusions and make up stuff they have absolutely no knowledge about.)LatteSalute-298x300

Just as predictably, some liberals responded with this similar image of former President George Bush during his presidency.

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But most people, both liberal and conservative, missed the point.  Though neither Obama, nor Bush gave a proper salute, I give them both the benefit of the doubt that neither man meant to be intentionally disrespectful.  It’s a perfectly fair and reasonable assumption that doesn’t require one to like either man nor agree with their politics.

More to the point,  it’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. We can’t allow the media to manipulate us into getting all worked up over minor matters that distract us from paying attention to the major matters that should concern us. The media gets off on stirring up crap and fanning the flames of the “Us vs Them” mentality.  And, all too predictably, too many people fell for this tactic, hook, line, and sinker.   We need to stop falling for this kind of distracting and divisive nonsense and stop making mountains out of molehills.  Imagine what could be done if people got this indignant about things that really matter.

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cheating_rect-460x307One of my language pet peeves is the use of the word “cheating” to refer to marital/relationship infidelity, and the expression “cheating on” someone, to refer to somoene being unfaithful to their romantic partner.

It reminds me of math tests and country songs, such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.  It also has a decidedly juvenile, high-schoolish tone to it, as well as sounding more than a little redneck-y.

Though, of course, your mileage may vary, I prefer to use the words infidelity, unfaithful, and the like, rather than the mawkish “cheating”.

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Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit about raising the minimum wage on Facebook.

Some naysayers have opposed this idea, insisting that minimum wage workers should not make as much as college graduates and those in skilled trades; saying that such jobs should only be a stepping stone, not permanent jobs.

But it’s not that simple.  Complex problems never are and they deserve more than simple answers.

First of all, no one is suggesting that minimum wage workers should now be making a hundred thousand dollars a year.

All that is being asked for is a minimum wage that keeps pace with inflation and does not lose buying power.  I remember once reading that in 1973, a minimum wage worker  who worked a 40 hour week made enough to keep three people above the Federal poverty line.  Now, that same worker cannot keep one person above it.  During the 12 years of the Reagan and Bush I presidencies, the minimum wage was not raised once, though prices most assuredly did during that same time.  Hence, the minimum wage’s buying power has steadily dwindled over the years.

If the minimum wage had been increased in small increments every year during those 12 years and in the years since, it most likely would have kept better pace with inflation and retained the same buying power it had in 1973.

To address another objection, that it should be only a stepping stone to a better job, well, that’s the ideal, but not how it always works out in real life.  And we must deal with this issue and those involved by how it really is, not by some ideal of how it should be.

First, there are thousands, if not millions, of college graduates and those in skilled trades already out there competing for a finite number of jobs, where there aren’t enough jobs for all those wanting them.  Adding every current minimum wage worker to that pool of applicants isn’t going to help matters any.

Second, with the student loan system currently the way it is, it is truly a gamble to take out such loans for further education, when one doesn’t have reasonable certainty that they will find jobs in their field upon graduation.  Many times, the person ends up in a worse situation than what they were in before — unable to find work in their field and now with the millstone of staggering student loan debt around their necks.

Third, there are many people who don’t have the aptitude for a better job, yet they want to work and not be on welfare.  They give up as much or more of their time and work just as diligently.  Their jobs are often much more physically demanding, with disagreeable working conditions, and are accorded little to no respect.

Yet, unglamorous as such jobs are, they are necessary jobs.  There is honor in all honest work, and no one should b look down on those in minimum wage jobs.

Surely, minimum wage workers deserve the dignity of making enough money working one 40 hour job to at least afford the basic survival needs of life: adequate shelter, food, utilities, and the like.  No one should have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads.

To those middle class and near-middle class workers who were able to go to school and get jobs in their field, their ire is misdirected.   The poor aren’t their enemy.

Their grievances would be better directed at the fat cat CEOs, whose salaries are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of times that of their rank and file workers.  (See this article, CEO Vs Worker Pay, for more information).

As an example, the CEO of McDonald’s makes 1, 196 times more an hour than that of the average McDonald’s worker.  That’s $9, 247 an hour compared to the average worker salary of $7.73 per hour.  For the CEO, that comes out to nearly $380, 000 a week and nearly 20 million dollars a year, while the backbone workers of McDonalds don’t make enough to rent an apartment or buy food without food stamps. Does any CEO really need to make that much money?

The one-percenters chortle with glee whenever middle class workers, who have legitimate grievances as well, misdirect the ire properly aimed at them at the poor instead.

Don’t be a tool.  Be angry, but focus your anger at the true culprits.

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Today, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I call “internet laughter”. That is, acronyms like LOL, LMAO, ROTFL, and others of this ilk. I find that more and more lately that this sort of thing really grates on my nerves.

The most common one, LOL, is the most irritating to me, in its ubiquitous inanity. It means “Laughing Out Loud”. Of course laughing is “out loud” 99.9% of the time; there’s no need to specify the “out loud” part. It’s silent laughter that would need specifying, I’m thinking. “Lolling” is even worse when it is written as “LOLOLOLOLOL” — laughing out loud, out loud, out loud, out loud, out loud. OK, we get it, no need for an echo!

LOL is written so often and many times where no laughter is intended, as to be essentially meaningless.   As in: “I went to the grocery store today. LOL.”  “I got a traffic ticket. LOL.”  “I did a load of laundry. LOL”  You get the idea.  It seems to have become the nervous twitch of the internet.

Back in 1995 or so, it was considered edgy and cool to use these new laughter acronyms. Now, it’s just dated and trite and has become old and tired, similar to those who type in ALL CAPS, all the time.

Me, I’m old school. I write “Haha”, “Hehe”, and the like, which are, at least, the actual sounds we make when we laugh, unlike the banal “LOL”.

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It’s that time of year again.

Peace on Earth and good will toward all?

Unfortunately, no, not for everyone.  For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.

In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment:  “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!”   Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas.  They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season.  They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”.  Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays.  One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. ”

Seriously?  Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season?  Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient?  Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?

“Love thy neighbor”, indeed.  Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.

Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet  and existed well before I was born.

These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all.   When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards.  In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any.   Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.

For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of  “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before.  Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.

No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians.  People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.

To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer.  Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and  re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity.  Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then,  was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.

Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill.  I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season.   This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.

There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters.  A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.

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I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”:  Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.

 

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