The Meme Monster

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Yes, the Meme Monster. I wrote about discovering the spread of this image last Hanukkah, and as the sun sets and the eight-day holiday begins this calendar year I decided to do a quick search on Twitter for this image. I was already in a rotten mood, so what did I have to lose? Well, someone with 15k followers tweeted a cropped version of the image:

which is definitely the same one given the shitty photoshopping job erasing the gun Han Solo holds in the parent image. Not only did this media personality tweet that, wherever she got it from, but the attitude of swiping things without considering origins prevails:

 

As written in last year’s post, I acknowledge that this isn’t my original idea – it’s parody, taking something widely recognized and modifying it for a humourous twist. I never want to make money off of this because a) I did a shitty job in photoshopping, b) it’s a parody and not my original concept, and c) I’m probably not the first person to make this joke. It would be nice, though, to be told I once had a good idea and people are glad I made something.

It would also be nice to have thousands of followers on Twitter, but I think I have to start stealing things first.

Strawgoat

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Here’s one way to demonstrate that things like employment equity/affirmative action/any reparative initiatives meant to equalize the systemic imbalance of wealth, power, and dignity are necessary: the people who complain about them would’ve complained about the results they bring anyway.

It doesn’t take policy for people to notice that perhaps they work with non-white individuals, or down the hall from someone with a cane, or report to a woman manager. The policy reminds the people hiring employees (or accepting students or whatever else has a similar program) that there are untapped human resources that the status quo working population generally doesn’t notice – until they do get hired.

Making that observation without an alliteratively named policy would lead to the same decisions, and these same people would make the same complaints – questioning where these people came from, why they were hired, and why they’re robbing the futures of our promising white children. But shake your world view and realize what monster this continued ignorance creates for our society: Rob Ford.

Back-Breaking Work

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I learned in an absolutely THRILLING ergonomics presentation at a work seminar recently that office chairs are designed for six foot tall men. This was particularly hilarious for the ergonomist giving the presentation – he himself was 5’11” and so not that far off, but through his work he was well aware that the typical person using an office chair is a 5’4″ woman. Dimensions and proportions are very different throughout the human population, and perhaps most different among roughly 5’4″ women (or, say, women in the 5’2″ to 5’8″ range).

I get to be assessed by this ergonomist to determine the ideal seating arrangement at my new desk. While I’m slightly above average in height, on the five-foot-seven side of five-foot-six, I have stubby legs and a long body with a high waist. This makes no chair fit me whatsoever.

People get amazed when they have to sit in my chair to clean up some sort of problem I created at how low it is. A lot of people don’t follow the wisdom that yes, the height of your chair should be set so your feet touch the ground. I’m also misleadingly average in height because I have a very long body, meaning the backing to the chair needs to be raised as high as it can be. Even still, since most chairs aren’t designed with a woman in mind, the groove built into desk chair backings doesn’t meet the small of my back as I’m also high-waisted. I would love to sit with the feet at the end of my short legs touching the ground, and a two-finger width of space between the edge of the seat and inside of my knee. I like my elbows bent at almost a right angle when typing on my keyboard, with arm rests spaced at their narrowest, most close to the seat. These are all things I’m doing right according to the ergonomist’s presentation. When I’m getting assessed perhaps I should hide my tendency to change positions in monkey-like ways. (Perhaps I’ll get credit for always moving around, which helps alleviate my doomed future as a hunchback.)

Another interesting part of this presentation was the ergonomist describing the right way to pick things up – the way a newly walking toddler does. The toddler’s head is too heavy and back too weak to bend over in the sexualized fashion, and so the toddler intuitively squats with the knees to pick up toys. The ergonomist described this as the way our bodies were “designed” to work, neglecting to acknowledge that nobody “designed” human bodies and rather we evolved with our large heads and a certain kind of spine to support our bipedal posture that together just happen to work best with bending knees. Nobody chose to give us these features, but I digress. Having been taught through 1980s PSA commercials to lift things up with my legs, I’ve gotten in the habit of doing this already and find it far more comfortable – AND FUN!

So to all the commentary spat out about my generation turning back into unerect apes because of the hours we spend in front of a computer – fuck you. There’s been enough advancement in understanding human posture for me to have been taught these things while habits could still freshly form. Typewriters, telephones, and television predate what I was raised on and were just as major contributors to sedentary lifestyles a couple generations before mine. Computers have at least enabled an acceleration in research and awareness pertaining to ergonomics – and older generations are just as bad at sitting in a chair for eight hours as us young’ns. Look in the mirror and call yourself an ape too.

Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That

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That last post was originally written up before I knew today was International Men’s Day. Which is an actual thing. Beyond the obvious reaction of “Isn’t every day International Men’s Day?” what with virtually all existing human societies inflating the value of men over women through entrenched traditions and institutions that are invisible to the naked eye and routinely denied whenever a woman accomplishes something. (“There is no patriarchy in the West now. Look at Angela Merkel!”) This last point is highlighted very well in the video game sector by Anita Sarkeesian’s latest installment in her “Tropes vs. Women” YouTube series called Ms. Male Character when she aligns it with the Smurfette principle that the default is a diverse range of numerous men, plus one generic woman. (If there were a character for every day of the year, 364 of them would be male and one would be female, specifically International Women’s Day of March 8th, with its lousy Smarch weather.)

It’s a good day, then to read about how women are still treated in male-dominated realms – like sexual harassment in comics. The comics I read are pretty restricted to web comics, which are largely independent and so can be different than/critical of patriarchal norms. There are doubtless more women in the web comics realm than in mainstream comics publishing, and I suppose I selectively follow those women and men who support feminism both as people and in their work. This selective following brings me treasures like this:

On a much more legitimate note, it’s also World Toilet Day, which I surprisingly didn’t know about until late this afternoon via Ezra Klein of The Washington Post:

I’m interested in the global issue of sanitation from a number of angles – overpopulation, global inequality, environmental sustainability, and social stigmas to name a few. So I added thoughts on that following my RT of Ezra:

My tweets were hours after the link to the WaPo blog, as I was just that much behind the times. Gradually catching up with the rest of the afternoon, I came across pure brilliance from someone who (tying in with the previous issue) happens to be a woman involved in the comic arts:

And so things kind of come full circle. It’s not really “full circle” because nothing’s tied up at the end. These are merely related issues that will continue to require attention indefinitely or until all inequality is erased in the world, whichever comes first. C’est la vie, et la vie est merde – plus encore pour les femmes.

The Goldilocks Look

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There’s sexism, objectification, and misogyny that’s ubiquitous but laced ever so subtly to go unnoticed by the majority of people. Even the things that are obvious are accepted as just a part of “human nature” – one of my least favourite phrases for its meaningless, lazy resort as an answer for anything that people (typically white heterosexual men) want to justify.

Women face certain types of discrimination on a spectrum. One of those types of discrimination is different treatment on the basis of looks. This is why restaurant servers are disproportionately young and attractive – while the youthful element can be partly explained by the physical demands of the job, the attractiveness is the money maker. Restaurants will be more likely to hire young attractive women as servers because they bring in more repeat customers, and attractive women are more inclined to work in restaurants because they get higher tips – or so goes the logic in a sociological thought experiment, and I would imagine there has been scholarly inquiry that provides quantitative analysis in this area.

But because their repeat customers come for the ogling, they’re likely to face customers who range from benignly flirtatious to outright pigs. Very attractive women in other professions can be deemed, consciously or subconsciously, as either a distraction to heterosexual men or an envied threat to other women in the workplace. While they reap so many benefits of higher earning potential in some fields, and more options in selecting a mate (god, I sound like the kind of person who uses “human nature” as the panacea), there are barriers attractive women can face because of their appearance. (The same does not apply in the same magnitude, if at all, to attractive men.)

Women who range from “plain” looking to an outright unfortunate mix of features won’t get the same tips in the hospitality sector as the pretty ones. They may not be taken seriously enough for the more educated or prestigious professions, and likely have grown up with unfortunately stunted confidence that impeded their ambitions anyway. (I know this to an extent from personal experience, although as I will explain shortly I’m lucky to have escaped these circumstances.) The women you will see in occupations of lower prestige, if you take the time to look as they are largely invisible because of these factors, may be less attractive in a variety of ways – size, facial features, some skin differences like scars or birthmarks that are unfortunately placed, or any other conceivable trait that removes the objectifying appeal of that person. As a woman, without any attractiveness, standard patriarchal objectifications do not apply and these women are often ignored.

There’s a range in the middle, whether one is blonde or not, with a Goldilocks advantage. Women who look feminine enough to be accepted as women, yet not so attractive to throw out all rational evaluation of character, are going to be treated with more dignity in career and other sectors of life in this state of society. The strides towards equality benefit women who maintain a polished appearance but can maintain eye contact instead of being ignored or subjected to the wandering gaze away from the face that represents their personhood. While I have let myself be taken down by the dehumanization of less attractive features in the past, I have overcome that with the overall “normalness” of my appearance and I now fall in this category. It saved me from getting suffocated by the wooing of men, or from a lasting impression being made at a formative age that my looks define me. It’s allowed me to confidently pursue things because I can look people in the eye without fear of the consequences for being looked back at.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is ugliness, so subjective judgements keep me mildly vulnerable to the consequences faced by either side. More importantly, it doesn’t matter which of these problems I’m safe from – which of these problems “aren’t mine”. They’re “ours”, the burden of all of women and men who believe other women should be taken seriously and acknowledge our collective best interests of realizing the potential of every person. Men who experience similar discrimination – which will be less often and less severe, but real nonetheless – are suffering from the same problem of patriarchy that treats integrated gender interactions as sexualized battles for glory and prize.

Most women fall somewhere in between, but rather than dodging these disadvantages entirely there is a risk of encountering either at any time. Any interaction with a new person creates a new subjective interpretation of appearance, and reaction thereto. There is, despite the Goldilocks nature of this middle ground, no “juuuuust right”. There never is when the imbalance of power remains so great.

Brighter Ground than Sky

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It snowed and it looks like it’s more or less permanent for the season. There’s a coat of bright white everywhere that traffic hasn’t tainted into puddles of brown slush. Having lived through thirty previous winters I am prepared for the months of sub-zero temperatures to come and welcome them – for the snow accompanied literally brings more light to my life.

We’re already stuck with the longer nights. Weather won’t sway that seasonal change as it may with other winterness like aerial migration. Settled snow on the ground makes the nights feel more alive even with the wind compounding the cold for still inhospitable outdoors. The nocturnal lighting provided by street lamps in an urban setting or simply the moon or stars away from civilization bounces off the bright white snow.

In the day time it’s blinding. I wear sunglasses more in the winter than the summer as even cloudy days are too bright for my sensitive green eyes. In the day time I will be on the move to and from work or errands (although significantly less of a burden than most others at this time, opting out of the traditional gifts-for-each Christmas exchange) and sheltered from the excess. But now that there’s snow on the ground, hopefully my nights will feel more alive. Hopefully I won’t feel like it’s time to wrap up consciousness at 6:30 in the evening. Hopefully when I run (and as running is fairly new for me, I’ll hopefully adapt the traction required to not break some part of my body) I will feel a safer sense of surroundings and a greater motivation to keep running to maintain personal heat.

In such a festive city at such a festive time of year, there’s special snowflake and mistletoe lighting attached to lamp posts down the major streets surrounding me. As cheesy as the decorations are, beyond consumer holidays they come in tandem with natural lighting and make good partners in a beautiful cityscape. As much as our winters are mocked, there’s something magical the climates too warm are missing.

Getting to the Working Overtime Part

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I think today is the first legitimate paid overtime I’ve ever worked.

I say “paid” because nobody likes the person who mentions that she actually did have to stay back another 15 minutes that day, particularly young women who are lucky to have a job! Being paid overtime isn’t a real measure of how much or how hard someone works. What if they’re just efficient? What if they make fewer mistakes? What if they don’t sit there and talk about how much work they have to do for valuable amounts of time that could’ve been spent doing that work? Can I claim overtime for all of other people’s complaining of workloads I have to endure?

This was a different kind of overtime. It was prearranged work on a weekend that my department needed several volunteers for – mature, dedicated hard workers who could be counted on. It was physical work, beyond our actual jobs but a necessary step in adapting to a changing world. I had to sacrifice my precious Saturday morning of lying in bed, which I generally bemoan to waiver. But living close and not having a family or any other obligations besides my spoiled self-indulgence tipped the balance to doing the right, selfless thing. (Well, not quite selfless. I banked double the hours to take off work later.)

It was a bonding experience. It was exercise. It will make this coming week at work easier. It compensates for overeating alone on the couch for the rest of the day. And night, as I’m doing right now.

It was, all in all, the right thing to do.