Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reclaiming the tramp stamp

Tonight on LA Ink, a few of the artists were talking about getting tattoos removed. Hannah recently had her first tattoo, a spider, covered up by a new one, Kat regretted getting her ex-husband’s name tattooed to her neck and Pixie went in for a consultation to get a tattoo removed that was um, just plain ugly, I guess.

I’ve had my tattoo for six years, and I’ve never once regretted it. The only thing I regret is someone telling me about a year after I got it that it’s apparently a “tramp stamp.”

I love my tattoo. The artist traced it from a blown-up photocopy of a goddess pendant I wore every day. My sister had the same symbol tattooed inside of a sun on the side of her lower back. She bought me mine for my 19th birthday, and held my hand and made me laugh through the pain. It’s not only a symbol of female empowerment, but of my connection with my sister, who will always be one of the most important people in my life, and with the women in my family, who often sport goddess jewelry, open hearts and unbelievable strength.

But because I chose to put my goddess tattoo in the middle of my lower back, it’s a tramp stamp.

For years I’ve been defending my tattoo by saying, “It’s not really a tramp stamp because it actually means something!” Bored of my speech, when someone asked me the other day what my tattoo meant, I said, “It’s a tramp stamp. It means I’m a tramp.” I thought I was kidding, but now I’m not. Ladies, I think it’s time to reclaim the tramp stamp. I dream of the day when I use the phrase “tramp stamp” with as much joy as I use the word “bitches” to refer to my bestest of friends.

Rather than utilize this one definition Merriam-Webster OnLine gives for “tramp” — “a woman of loose morals; specifically : PROSTITUTE” (Lame.) — let’s embrace its first definition of “tramp,” which includes: “to walk, tread, or step especially heavily,” “to travel about on foot" and “to journey on forcibly and repeatedly."

So rather than a “bull's-eye” for unevolved men, tramp stamps symbolize freedom and strength. We don't tread lightly like quiet little girls. We are loud, unapologetic women, marching through glass ceilings. And we won’t let the door hit us in the tramp stamp as we leave a crappy job for a higher salary or a crappy relationship to be happier on our own.

Fellow tramp stampers, wear ‘em proud. And practice this line: “Yes, it’s a tramp stamp. And no thanks, I can buy my own drink.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Move your ass! I’m freezing my midwestern charm off!

My cube neighbors informed me when I walked in this morning that they had already discussed how f-ing cold it is outside. Well that sucks — if bitching has permanently been bumped up in the schedule to somewhere before 8:50 am, I guess I need to start waking up earlier! Or maybe my co-workers don’t actually enjoy the morning rants I launch into before I even turn on my computer... Anyway, I must bitch about Chicago winters, if not verbally then electronically.

I believe Chicago is a particularly unpleasant place to be in January and February, and it goes beyond the wind chill. It is the unfortunate combination of the god-awful cold and the midwestern mentality, which is not quite as extreme as southern charm/hospitality, but is certainly more relaxed and friendly than the streets of New York City.

It makes sense that southerners talk, walk and wait tables slowly. Where’s the rush when your life is one big bubbly hot tub party? Plus half of the sun-kissed people down there are retired or on vacation. They have the time and affability to say please and thank you. And it makes sense that New Yorkers are pushy, vulgar and live in a perpetual state of fast-forward. There’s a lot of stuff going on, the weather can be pretty crappy and there are a lot of f-ing people in your way. All the time.

But here in Chicago we’re stuck somewhere in the middle. The people that are in my way often possess a corn-fed good nature that can be extremely annoying when it’s four degrees below zero. How is it possible that walking from the train station to my office during RUSH hour this morning, my hobbit legs were gaining more ground — in heals — than the other corporate cogs, most of whom are at least a head taller than me? Are they enjoying a lovely morning stroll through the frozen concrete jungle? And did the herd I found myself stuck in seriously have to wait for a jackass cab driver to turn left in front of us when we had the right-of-way AND further authority in the form of a WALK sign? When my lip-gloss is freezing to my face, it’s no time for manners.

I grumbled internally to myself, as I do all winter long: WTF do I choose to live in this ridiculousness — even though I know the answer. Chicago winters make you appreciate how fabulous Chicago summers are even more. Plus I just love to complain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for choice

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Blog for Choice Day! Contrary to the common misconception that pro-choice activists are baby-haters, I do not, in fact, hate babies. Quite the opposite, I just took two days off and two, three-plus-hour bus trips among somewhat creepy strangers to babysit my gorgeous niece. For free. That’s how much I love this particular baby.

I vote pro-choice because I want all babies to be as wanted and well-cared for as she is. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a post-Roe world where I feel I have control over my own body, and want my niece to grow up in that same world — a better one, actually — one in which accurate sex education and safe reproductive health care are accessible to everyone, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status.

Instead of attaching my 18-page senior history seminar paper on the misogyny of the 19th century anti-abortion movement, which was of course riveting, I'll defer to Erica Jong's fabulous Huffington Post blog.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On the bus

I had my first groupie experience Friday night, and it was pretty interesting. I’m not a big country fan, but a band that’s apparently popular was playing a free show, so I went with a couple of country-loving friends. We met the band after, and I made friends with one of the guitar players (I don’t really know anything about music, and I don’t remember any of their names). I was fascinated by this man’s hair. It was so country-gone-pop. I’m guessing he’s a natural blond, but someone thought it would be a good idea to give him low lights and subject him to a flat iron. They invited us back to their bus, and I was too curious to say no. My observations:

  • It smelled like feet. After I said this out loud, one of the guys quickly assured me it was just the stack of pizza boxes I was smelling—and offered me a slice—and for some reason I ate it.
  • My new friend’s hair had indeed been flat-ironed. After I asked him about it, I lied and told him I liked it. He seemed a little self conscious and is probably a very nice person.
  • Although these guys were not particularly good looking, they lassoed in quite a lot of ladies. The most attractive of the bunch walked a girl out of a back room shortly after we got on, escorted her off, and proceeded to proposition my friend (unsuccessfully) for a round two—or for all I know, round three or four, or more! Note to self: Never date a musician. Well, I could make an exception for G. Love…

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary's "moment"

When I first read about Hillary Clinton's emotional "moment," I thought it could only have negative consequences. After all, isn't that why women can't be presidentbecause a premenstrual meltdown would most certainly cause the collapse of the free world? Apparently that's what her campaign thought too, according to this New York Times article.

So I was shocked after she came back from Iowa to win the New Hampshire primary, supposedly thanks to that stereotypically female moment, at least in part. People apparently like her softer side! So maybe women won't have to join the boy's club to get into the Oval Office. And maybe we're approaching the day when caring and emotional aren't "female" characteristics, and aggressive and competitive aren't "male" characteristicsthey're just human attributes we can all, unapologetically, possess.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Branding your next boyfriend

As I considered using up the last of a Starbucks gift card this morning, something occurred to me: The guy who gave it to me had already disappeared from my life. His gift card had actually outlived our relationship (for lack of a weaker word). Sure, the fact that he gave me a Starbucks card for my birthday was definitely a red flag, but this got me thinking—no wonder our society is so brand-obsessed—our relationships with corporations are perhaps more functional than our relationships with humans.

While romantic relationships get more and more disappointing and/or boring, brands keep delivering the warm and fuzzies, and even surprise us with new and exciting products. Monogamy appears to be difficult for us to practice with each other, but we’re loyal to corporations, despite having the freedom to stray.

So maybe we’re going about the whole dating and marriage thing wrong. Rather than studying The Rules and playing hard to get, perhaps a branding campaign would be more effective. It’s the anti-game—it’s all about consistent messaging.

It would really just be a matter of bringing mating up to speed with branding. Both have similarly primitive origins. (The term “brand” comes from hot-iron branding livestock to mark ownership; mating for our ancestors consisted of man clubbing woman over head and dragging her back to cave.) But branding appears to have evolved a bit faster. Mating today seems more akin to 19th century branding, when patent medicine companies were hawking grain alcohol mixers as snake-oil based cure-alls. Dating tools have evolved from club to Match.com, but the strategy behind them lacks the coinciding sophistication.

We’ve already seen how successful professional branding can be for people (Oprah, Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan, etc.). Maybe romantic branding could be just as effective, although the co-branding aspect would make it a bit more complicated. But think of the magical result—not just a marriage or lifelong partnership—we’re talking synergy! Plus, even if you don’t find The One, you could at least replace tired break-up lines like “It’s not you, it’s me” and “We should just be friends” with “I’m sorry, you’re just not brand compliant.”

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Have we come a long way, baby?

As many of us are nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers and making resolutions, I think it’s a good time to put my two cents in regarding an issue that seems to be a popular concern: those young hussies and their excessive drinking. Now, as a female who enjoys tossing back one or two, or eight, vodka tonics on any given Friday or Saturday, or Wednesday, night, my first instinct is to vehemently defend this behavior that’s so popular on college campuses across the country. Girls just wanna have fun! Stop being so uptight about it.

An article I read on CNN.com last month made me stop and think, however. “Young women drink, party, post” focuses not just on binge drinking among young women, but on the fact that these women seem to be proud of their behavior, posting what the older and wiser might deem rather embarrassing for all the world to see – whether that be mom, dad, grandma or a potential employer.

Partying a little too hard? Not a big deal for most, I thought. Binge drinking and posting pictures of yourself engaging in illegal activity (if you’re underage), which could prevent you from getting your dream job? This did concern me a bit. Then I read a quote from a moderator of the Facebook group “Thirty Reasons Girls Should Call it a Night,” and I became very concerned.

She told CNN she knows some look down on girls who post to the site, but she doesn't care – she knows some consider their partying “unladylike,” but when boys act the same way, they’re just being boys. Okay, maybe I’m reaching here, but this sounds like somewhat of a feminist statement. Are these girls posting with pride because they want to prove they can party like the boys? Is this another case (remembering the Spice Girls) of Girl Power gone bad?

It reminded me of a famous 1920s PR campaign I read about in college, through which father of spin Edward Bernays successfully linked women’s rights to cigarettes. While working for the American Tobacco Company, Bernays told the media that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom,” and then on his signal, had them light Lucky Strikes in front of waiting photographers. I’ve read differing accounts as to whether or not these women were genuine activists or hired models, but regardless, Bernays helped break the taboo of women smoking (which had been the territory of men, and perhaps “loose” women) and increase the popularity of smoking among women … and all of the related addiction and health problems that followed. Virginia Slims kept the trend going with its “You’ve come a long way, baby” slogan.

Now, I’m all for breaking taboos and ushering women into worlds traditionally inhabited by men only – but the worlds I’m thinking of include the Oval Office, the C-suite and the Norton Anthology – not emergency rooms and frat houses.

I think a good New Year’s resolution is to have another cocktail because you feel like it, because it really is fun, not because you want to get into a club that – in the harsh light of morning, or post-graduation – you probably don’t want a membership to anyway.

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