Never fall in love with the Jersey Shore

17 Apr


I loved Jersey Shore when it first premiered. I laughed through every episode and promoted the show’s merits to my dubious friends. I even defended the show from media attacks in this article and speculated about spinoffs for different ethnicities. I was convinced the show was campy fun, sweet junk food for the brain.

The second season dissolved into a live breakdown of a destructive relationship. The third season continued the drama of Ronnie and Sam, two individuals who couldn’t be less suited for each other. Possible drug abuse and physical abuse occurred behind the scenes. I was shocked MTV continued to the center the show around the pair, without a suggestion that such behavior was not normal, and not entertaining.

The third season also brought out the extreme sexism of the show’s males. Always hovering in the background, the men clearly had double standards when it came to “hooking up” and weren’t shy about sharing their opinions.

To my chagrin, a catalyst in yet another Ron/Sam fight was a former paramour of Sam’s, an Indian American friend named Arvin. I was not pleased a member of my community was associated with the negative turn Jersey Shore had taken.

Arvin Lal and Sammi "Sweetheart"

Surprisingly, Arvin contacted the editors of Brown Girl Magazine last week and suggested an interview. Though I planned to seriously question his pride in appearing on the show, Arvin was extremely polite and respectful during our phone conversation. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Talking to Arvin convinced me the cast of Jersey Shore are all good kids at heart, but have been twisted into caricatures by their extreme popularity. The group travels to Italy next season and though I might regret it, I’ll still be watching.

Read my interview with Arvin here.

Breast cancer is not sexy

17 Apr


Yesterday, while driving downtown, I saw a display of bras outside a store window – advertising a future Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk.  I rolled my eyes, like I usually do when I see breast cancer awareness reduced to attention-grabbing titillation – most of which do nothing to actually help breast cancer patients or research.

Despite the slew of stories every October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) and all year, exposing these “awareness” techniques as unhelpful and even harmful to cancer patients, they continue.

I find these campaigns even more harmful when they involve teenagers. The latest story I’ve heard comes from Clovis Unified School District in Fresno, California which banned plastic bracelets reading “I love boobies.” Other school districts have suspended students for wearing clothing with similar slogans.  As Jezebel’s Sadie Stein writes:

 These schools aren’t, presumably, anti-cancer-awareness; they’re opposed to a deliberately cheeky, arguably problematic marketing ploy specifically designed to appeal to teens. And if such bracelets are disturbing class — or starting “conversations” with a different bent entirely — surely it’s within the school’s purview to ban them without looking like bad guys. After all, if the message is that powerful, so’s the double-entendre’s other meaning, and that’s the kind of thing that can degrade an atmosphere — fast.

I find it hard to believe teenagers are so concerned about the rapidly increasing rates of breast cancer that they believe wearing a cheap rubber bracelet is going to help anyone. Add this to the facebook campaigns asking girls to list their bra color or purse location in status updates. Teenagers (especially girls) are faced with enough conflicting societal messages about their budding sexuality without having organizations purporting to represent a serious illness adding to the confusion.

The Fear

2 Apr

Because I travel frequently for my job, I spend a lot of time alone – in taxis, hotel rooms, conference rooms late at night. I’m a modern woman, meaning I know to stay aware of my surroundings, not talk on my cell phone while walking alone at night, end conversations with anyone who seems sketchy.

But I depend on strangers. My three most fearsome situations, in no particular order:

I depend on the taxi driver to take me to the airport and not to an undisclosed secret bunker. I shared this fear with my mom, who laughed. She assured me nothing would happen and instructed me to memorize the taxi number in case something did. And I know the chances are one in a million, but the fear of something unknown happening keeps me from closing my eyes when in the backseat, even when drowsy.

I depend on the hotel employee who brings me my room service dinner late at night. I trust him (almost always a him) to remove the covers from my dishes and present me with a bill, not shove me in a closet or do god knows what else. But I still brace myself when opening my room door after a brisk knock.

I depend on the custodial service cleaning empty office buildings late at night to work around me. They usually ignore me or nod in my direction. I expect them not to lock me in and prevent me from leaving the building. I always offer a polite smile and ‘thank you’ as if it will keep me safe.

I suppose these safety concerns can be blamed on television crime dramas, or the 24-hour news cycle publicizing every middle class white girl gone missing. I once took a self defense workshop in college, but I don’t think it worked because my newly-learned moves had no effect on the 150 pound girl who was my partner.

And if I carried a weapon, I would probably either injure myself or accidentally injure an innocent bystander who was just asking me for the time or something.

Anyone know of non-violent ways to feel safer that don’t require a lot of work? I’m looking for the self-defense equivalent of the Shake Weight.

"I’m kind of over feminism…."

2 Apr

The title of this post was said to me by Rebecca Walker, daughter of Alice and accomplished writer/speaker in her own right.  I read her memoir Black, White, and Jewish in a creative non-fiction workshop class freshman year.

I can’t forget what Rebecca Walker said that day, when she visited my college, in response to my query when I said I felt “third-wave” feminists are most publicized for their views on sexual empowerment, to the exclusion of other issues facing modern women.  As a public figure who urged women to take charge of their own fertility in their 20s and spoke of the transforming experience of giving birth, Walker has been ostracized from many liberal feminist circles.

Her 2007 book, Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, details her pregnancy with son Tenzin. A successful woman in her thirties who was always taught motherhood must not define her, she is bowled over by the love and protection she feels for her unborn baby. She advises young women to have babies, and not wait too long to do so.

I feel similarly about motherhood. Unlike my friends who speak openly about wanting their tubes tied, I knew having a baby was always in my plans. I want to follow in the path of my strong female relatives, who were feminists even if they never knew the word.

I’m sorry third-wave feminism has split mothers and non-mothers, and that even the suggestion to consider your biological clock is enough to ruin a reputation.

Party Hair

2 Apr

The correct way for an Indian woman to wear her hair. Image of Jhumpa Lahiri from

In Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story, “Hell-Heaven,” an Indian daughter describes how her mother insisted she have “party hair” when attending a social event. Party hair consisted of pulling a piece of hair from each side to the back of the head and fastening each with a clip. Her mother disapproved of American women who wore their hair loose.

I have never seen my mother wear her hair without pulling it back. Not even in childhood pictures. Though she wore her hair long, in a braid or bun, in pictures from her early married years, she’s worn her hair the same way as far back as I can remember.

She pulls back the top layer and uses a barrette to fasten her thick, shoulder-length hair in the center of her head.  She has a large collection of barrettes in a white plastic basket on her bathroom counter. Fancy clips with fake gems she wears with saris to parties, plain colored ones for everyday. She picks up new ones every trip to India.

I didn’t make the connection that she personally dislikes hair worn loose until a few days ago when I pointed it out to her. She was telling a story about a co-worker’s hair and wrinkled her nose in disgust when describing its “sloppy” appearance. After thoughtfully listening to my explanation, she agreed she’s always preferred clipped back hair.

My mom says pulling your hair back is a part of presenting yourself as well-groomed. Leaving your hair loose is like leaving the house without makeup, something else my mom never does.

I’ve always worn my hair short. I haven’t worn my hair up in a bun since eighth grade when a boy asked me why my hair looked so weird. I only wear a ponytail when I work out. Though I always wear a skin matching shade of foundation, I have to be prodded to wear anything more than Chapstick.

One more difference to separate us. I can’t imagine styling my daughter’s hair (if I ever have a daughter) the way my mom styled mine. Party hair is another “tradition” that will end with me.

Purses with Cupholders

2 Apr

I also have an irrational hate for Vera Bradley bags

I hate carrying a purse. I think it’s unfair I have to lug around a bag while men can stuff their necessities into clothing pockets. Most women’s dress pants have “fake” pockets that are sewed shut. And putting my wallet and keys into my jeans pockets would create oddly shaped lumps.

I dislike transferring my necessities (wallet with credit cards/cash/ID, keys, cell phone) into different purses for work, daily life, and going out.  I always end up forgetting something or losing a favorite lip gloss until I discover it months later.

And I’m expected to be fashionable while doing it! Other women are checking if my purse matches my shoes/outfit/occasion. Some suggest a clutch or wristlet but it’s really one more item to carry – another thing I must rest on dirty counters or my lap.

If I have to do all this, would it really be too much to ask for a purse with a cup holder to carry my coffee? It would make my mornings much easier.

Back Up Your Birth Control Day

30 Mar

From EC E-cards

Today is Back Up Your Birth Control Day, sponsored by the National Institute for Reproductive Health.  Visit the official site here to learn how to support the cause, including signing the petition calling on the FDA to end restrictions on EC, signing the petition to say that contraception is prevention (so it should not be subject to co-pays or other out-of-pocket costs), and joining their social media campaign.

Here’s a great article from Persephone Magazine about the day of action.