Friday, December 21, 2018

On A New Wealth

There are two kinds of people who threaten to destroy organized human life on the planet earth. You probably worry about both of them across some spectrum of anxiety. The one wakes up in the morning and takes a security briefing (probably) on the state of Nuclear or Biological weapons program process and contemplates questions of when and where and how to act, playing a dangerous and consequential game of chicken with the future.
The other is at far less of a remove, waking up and making a cup of coffee, some breakfast poured out of cartons, bottles or unwrapped from some kind of packaging. Turn on the news and inattentively absorb a bunch of stories they have no attention to act on, and probably prior to all this have checked their phones or tablets for activity concerning them that may have taken place while they were sleeping. This person may or may not have done some exercise routine but they proceed to shower and get dressed and embark upon some kind of commute across town to engage in an activity necessary to put their shelter over their heads and food in their pantry. Individually their work is of little consequence, it may in fact be of absolutely no consequence, apart from the fact that they get paid. At work, when concentration wanders or owing to a lack of useful work and restrictions upon their break times they open their browsers and if able probably check out social media or partake in the modern western form of window shopping where they merely check out goods they might fancy or fantasize buying. From something as impractical as a second house, a bigger house, a beach house etc. to a costume for themselves or their child for a party on the weekend. They might peruse Yelp reviews looking for a place to eat that coming weekend, or golf clubs, yoga pants in a bright new print, new shoes anything. They eat lunch out of tupperware in the kitchen or take a short walk to a sandwich shop or whatever tantalizing options are available. They may get up and leave their desk when the trays of leftovers from an over-catered meeting are brought out and dumped in the kitchenette. In an office of some 200 people it is frequently someone's birthday providing cake for communal consumption. There's a vending machine with snacks they might hit up when the blood sugar levels dip in the long stretch of the afternoon. They may have got it in their head that the path to career success is the appearance of hard work, made by staying later than their manager who gave them the idea because they indeed hold the belief that staying late is the same thing as productive work. The commute back home creates a kind of equilibrium where congestion drives incentive to hang back an hour or two, but the commute is still long. Music or talk radio is consumed, and increasingly dinner is purchased, not even picked up but delivered by someone in the gig-economy, most likely a student whom with time and application hopes to one day live a lifestyle like the person they are delivering food too. Bills are paid, disposable income is disposed of. Occassionally clutter is thrown out or left in hard rubbish for scavengers to pick through before the council picks it up. They do laundry, they have afterwork drinks on a friday night and pick over the myriad inefficiencies in their office. There is one word to describe the lifestyle of this person who threatens to destroy organized human life, and that word is 'momentum' terrifying momentum where each day resembles the last, each week, each year and yet the momentum itself is driven by existential angst.
Even when life deviates, through a bi-annual travel trip, where consumption is increased, and great expense is undertaken to make life cheaper than holidaying nearer to home. It is still part of an ongoing momentum, the fulfillment of a deal that has been struck, trading time for stuff and experiences.

It's incredibly hard to describe the latter person, as factually and as one-size-fits-all as I can without judgement creeping in, a need to wash my hands and distance myself from the latter. On the one hand I do a bunch of this shit, I have hobbies I have over-invested in, my wardrobe no doubt has a bunch of garments I will never wear again, and at the very least are underutilized. I own some fast-fashion items, and I've crossed the Pacific Ocean in an Aeroplane 4 times this Calendar year, and I'll have to do so once again meaning if I avoid that for another 10 years and continue to never operate a petrol burning vehicle in 5 more years I'll have gotten my carbon footprint back to that of most people this year.

And conversely there's a bunch of shit where empathizing with the hypothetical 'average' person is not easy for me. Freud has a nice eloquent saying I endorse which is "He does not believe who does not live according to his beliefs." and in all the ways my lifestyle does not resemble the cross-section of say, my highschool classmates 27 years on, that is because for sure, some aspect of differing fortunes plays a role - if you want to have children for example, you need to be fortunate enough to meet someone who wants to have children with you etc. - but also because whatever belief was attendant in the head of someone who made different decisions, is not present in mine.

So forgive me, but here is my completely unqualified, armchair-developmental-psychologist theory of what happens to a lot of people betwixt the ages of 16-25.

Assuming I have my statistics right, and that for post baby-boomer generations the majority of people not only complete high-school but go onto some form of tertiary education. Around the age of 16 the ground perceptibly seems to tilt, and life starts accelerating towards a psychological cliff-edge. A child realizes that their life isn't going to be structured forever. School ends and momentum is going to carry them through to that end. The routine is going to be destroyed of getting up, getting ready for school, eating breakfast, packing lunch, getting a lift, riding a bus, walking, riding a bike etc to school. Following your time table from class to class, shooting the shit or playing with friends during recess and lunch, more classes, maybe some afterschool sports, going home, watching TV and (I'm told) doing homework, eating dinner, watching TV or playing videogames or whatever and then going to bed. On weekends you get time to yourself, go down the street, finger your partner and sniff your fingers and other awkward forms of budding romance etc.

That will end, your social network will convert into a diaspora and drift apart and you will be responsible for your life. Terrifying freedom from the pretty okay for the most part, and for the bullied and picked on kids of low social standing, at least familiar routine of life in the clutches of the education system.

To some sense, tertiary education works as a form of transition where children begin to gradually take on the responsibilities of an adult. However there is a crucial decision made somewhere betwixt the collapse of a routine that is most often simply thrust upon an individual, and emerging onto a frontier where one's life is truly in their own hands.

We ask children what they will do with their lives.

Compatriots of my age may remember watching this after school:

And I don't feel most people do sufficient prospecting, they don't think like Daria decades into the future what will really be awful, like realizing they wasted their one precious life.

However, existential crisis' are hard. I don't know how to tweak the structure by which our society currently asks the question of of 17-18 year olds 'what will you do next year?' (a very practical question) whilst conflating it with 'what will you do with your life?' (a very philosophical question).

And sure, some kids have a calling, a sense of vocation, an ambition to get the fuck out of a comfortable routine and very proactively pursue a career. But I remember enough of the classes where we filled out surveys and went through phonebook size directories of career paths to know those kids are the exception not the rule. Furthermore, I am prejudiced toward a skepticism of those kids with well defined post-highschool ambitions, as to whether these ambitions are actually a manifestation of parental ambitions or expectations (and thus a symptom of the problem faced by the kids with no clear path forward, simply removed a generation) and/or being a product of some nested anxiety as often this ambition drives dilligent hard work, removing youth from enjoying the present as they hit the books in an attempt to remove all risk they don't achieve that goal.

But as always I'm getting diverted. I feel we ask this question badly, and for the most part, the result is that between the ages of 17-25 what happens psychologically for most people is they spend these years heading for any port in a storm. The societal equivalent of throwing kids in a pool for them to swim furiously back to the edge and cling to the concrete - a brief flirtation with sink-or-swim.

If I lost you with the metaphor, what I suspect happens is we briefly threaten to take away a routine that defines a life, a routine that requires no expenditure of energy in answering the question 'what am I going to do today?' and what I feel most people in our society must do is scramble quickly for a replacement routine which can loosely be called 'a career'.

But a routine is not a narrative. It's the difference between playing a story and character driven video game that lasts some 40 hours of gameplay, and Candy Crush.

We know most people work for someone, relatively few people start their own businesses and wind up employing people. We know very few people ever make it out of middle management. Very, very few people become household names. A tiny minority of people are ever talked about, despite 15 minute of fame projections.

We know when things are humming along, most people have a job, live in a house, generally have a partner, and depending on where they are life-cycle wise (and permitting sexual orientation and access to fertility technology), they have children who go to a school.

These are ordinary people, of which I am one, and our ability to destroy human civilization is only slightly more discussed than our significant role in building it.

It is an application of the important idea of 'Ordinary Causes' one of the best ideas to keep salient if you want to succeed in life. It's similar I guess to Pareto distribution, the old '80/20' rule, though it's a 90/10 rule. Some examples to explain ordinary causes.

1. You are running a factory with some heavy machinary, the operation incurs some losses. 10% of those losses comes from 'special causes' like a computer virus shutting down your machinary, or a fire causes the plant to shut down for an afternoon. Special causes have alarms and emergency procedures usually set up around them, flashing lights that make us notice them. They don't occur every day, and so we notice them. 90% of your losses comes from the ordinary operation of the machinery, the material that gets stuck to the edges of the tank, the fuel that evaporates off due to heat, the slow turnover that comes from the gradual wear and tear of equipment, the ways your employees have found to shirk duties that escape detection, or are an endemic status quo. No alarms, just business as usual. These are ordinary causes and they are far more significant than the special causes in consequence.

2. You have a number of hospital visits over a lifetime, 10% are generated by snake bites, broken limbs and car crashes. 90% are generated by you skipping exercise, eating processed foods, failing to wash your hands or brush your teeth, drinking coffee or softdrinks, smoking cigarettes. All bar cigarettes don't have alarms attached to them. They are part of the routine.

3. Henry the 8th abandons the Holy Roman Empire and establishes the Church of England. However most of the era is defined by what the uneducated serfs do in the fields, growing crops of wheat and barley, raising heads of cattle, flocks of sheep, brewing beer, and digging for coal and copper. These activities dictate 90% of the architecture, the fashions and culture of the times.

And so there's just a handful of people in this world that could trigger a nuclear winter, and there is an elaborate and numerous apparatus set up to monitor this. On the other hand there are billions of people whom just through going about their ordinary days have us approaching, and possibly passing the brink of catastrophic environmental destruction. And the only apparatus really in place to stop these billions of people from destroying us all, are our annoying environmental friends.

Who are heroes and I appreciate what they do. It's taken me a long time, but I have conceded, consumer activism does something.

However, it's not the way I personally would bet. I'm a bit too fixated on ordinary causes. I do not consider a solution that requires people to act against the incentives of the game we are playing, any solution at all.

The solution is opaque and has not yet been found, but I believe it is changing the rules of the game. In the defining of a new wealth.

I remember visiting Beijing in the early 2000s and feeling a tragic disconnect. A failure of empathy. My Chinese friends were really excited about cars and shopping malls and restaurants where waiters wore earpieces. The number of lanes dedicated to bicycles on Beijings great ringroads was transitioning to zero.

It seemed highly unfortunate that China's economy was just waking up to the 80's as the Western cities were starting to put this concept to bed. In the same year, I travelled through Europe where everything is more or less dedicated to moving away from cars. City centers were pedestrianized, dedicated bicycle roads were being built along the countryside and you could catch a Train just about anywhere.

Having said that, I also witnessed the destruction of Prague and many other great places in Europe thanks to the advent of Ryanair. 

I am currently in Mexico.

This is relevant not because Mexico has much to teach us about the true meaning of wealth per se. But because part of why I am here is because I decided to actually start listening to my teachers.

I am specifically referring to philosophers. And no, not those incredibly painful living people you meet at parties with almost nothing of interest to say on any subject, and if they do have that air about them that makes you intuitively distrust the notion of wanting to live in any world they would design.

But I mean the long dead philosophers, that etymologically were studying 'the good life' and approached the question of what a good life consists of with a large degree of empiricism.

And from the Epicureans, to the Cynics to the Stoics in the West, and in the Eastern philosophies of Buddhism and it's offspring Zen, the Poets of the Middle-East and the martial philosophies of Japan and China, recurring themes emerge that ordinary folk like me are real fucking good at completely ignoring.

People who have looked at the question of a 'Good life' very seldom come up with hedonism as an answer.

Our concept of wealth is 'saturation' in most cases. The pursuit of houses as featured in Grand Design, vast open plan spaces with high tech finished surfaces and devices and gadgetry put into every nook and cranny. To automate the home as much as possible. To pursue good food, the richest tasting food balancing sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami or whatever. The reason caramel is no longer good enough it must be salted caramel. Vanilla icecream better have fucking specks of vanilla bean in it, because damn it, ice cream wasn't good enough already. Adding dimensions to our movie watching experience in the form of glasses to wear over our glasses at the movies, or ever wider ever higher resolution screens at home and VR headsets.

This is what I mean by saturation, the natural intuition that if what we are doing is not gratifying enough you need to grab the dial and crank the signal up.

This is the intuition, the popular intuition and what wealth really means in practice as of now.

The philosophers, the people who for thousands of years actually sat down and tested the predictions of our intuitions against results found that saturation fails the test.

The good life is reaching for that dial and turning it as far down as you can fucking tolerate. Deprivation is the path to happiness.

And my early results from just a few years of pursuing deprevation concur, it makes me much happier. And it's fairly easy to implement, in every aspect of life you are just seeking the minimum you need to get by.

Much of my life is congruent with much of what environmentalists advocate in terms of living more sustainably. Simply because in the reduce, reuse, recycle maxim, 'reduce' is the most significant by far. But the problem with environmentalists from my perspective is that they take a world view where people should look after the environment because it is the right thing to do.

What I'm advocating is something that I feel is already underway, and simply needs it's signal amplified somehow, those who do the right thing because it confers upon them status.

So for all the above examples of the saturation solutions, there is the silver lining of hope. Grand Designs often features houses that are super eco-efficient. The ecology of the home is what confers a lot of status upon the designers, the builders. Food that is prestigious because of it's 'authenticity' or the 'naturalness' of it's ingredients helps steer prestige back toward home cooking, a domestic chore that is half a century too late, also breaking down as a gender role. The Danish cullinary school of foraging and what not offers the promise of eating seasonally and greatly reducing food miles, of redistributing the balance of plant to meat ratios in our diets. There is a certain prestige to cinemagoers that would not be caught dead watching a Michael Bay movie in an Imax but instead want to be conspicuously caught at the local independent theatre watching some shite boring independent film about somebody doing nothing.

A lot of environmentalists suffer. And that's a problem. They possess a psychology where acting relieves them from a greater anxiety, and yet the actions they take do make their lives harder, more joyless and put them on a treadmill very similar to that of people pursuing saturation in consumption as a path to happiness. They could always be doing more, which is to say, less.

Sadly, for the planet, the people with the conviction to suffer like this are rare and inadequate. But the people who aspire to imitate them, while having their cake and eating it too, are numerous and they need to be elevated as the prestigious elite that people want to be like.

I was on my recent visit to Melbourne, subjected to standing in a shop while my companion for the afternoon was instructed as to how to properly use zero-waste cakes of conditioner. My zero waste strategy for conditioner, is more inline with the Cynics, in that, I don't fucking wash my hair or condition it. But I was witnessing something far more important in the interaction playing out before me: status.

Cakes of conditioner have the potential to become the fancy pink salt of tomorrow. If they haven't already. This is the new wealth. This is the greener grass we need ordinary folk to be fixated on as they glance over their neighbors fences.

The psychology of ordinary people is important. How we compete for status with those 30~60 people who see our news feeds, or that we share an office with, or playgroup etc. is really important. And creating a 'new wealth' is not unprecedented. I'm told by I believe, Qi, that Potatoes were introduced as a crop in Germany after several unsuccessful attempts to get the peasentfolk to take it up, by decreeing it an exclusive crop for Royalty and planting guards around a field. Sure enough it was then that the peasant-folk adopted it.

This is my favorite marketing term 'Prole drift' that due to the aspirational nature of humanity, that constant sense it is a worthless imposter on the verge of being exposed, that make us fight hard to justify our place. It means any luxury good, or luxury brand will eventually be 'infiltrated' by the lower classes. And sure enough, we live in the proof of it. Gen-Y/Millenials all hold almost worthless university degrees, once the providence solely of the elite and far less common as to guarantee middle class income for life. International skii holidays are had by bogans holding casual jobs. Airplanes are the new buses. I'd guess 80% of Australians have tasted truffles by the time they are 40.

Psychology is on the side, provided you brand wealth right. Unfortunately it is more problematic than that, there's the big game we are all involved in that is called the economy.

I had the providence to spend my formative years embedding a sense of nostalgia for Grunge. Event hough Kurt Cobain had already blown his skull open before I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit, this was the early 90's. Pre-dial up. Fashion travelled slower then. Grunge was a movement where the prestige was in not spending money. You were cool for buying clothes at Op-shops or Army disposals.

It had to die, because it is very hard to make money off a trend where the idea is to not spend money. The British Invasion had to happen, Spice Girls had to happen. Mechanical Animals had to bring most of us in the alternative/indie scene back to manufactured consumption of the 80s.

If people cook at home and ride bicycles everywhere, a lot of jobs disappear. If people wear and repair their own clothes, a lot of jobs disappear. Our economy is graded on GDP, and investment is predicated on the expectation that companies will grow in the future. We are centered not around quality of life, but around growth. It is the economy that either manifests, or drives that intuition that saturation is the path to wellbeing. To wealth.

I don't have an answer for this catestrophic and painful transition to deprivation as status, but some future where people who drive a car to their work are pitied and condescended to for not having 'worked hard enough' to 'earn' a prestigious job within walking distance of the home or accessible by public transport is a start. Where the cranes hoisting building materials into the skyline of Beijing is an indicator of 'third world' status is a start. Where eating meat daily occupies the same mental space as having KFC or McDonald's daily occupies now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Inktober Part 3: Roles and Representation Conclusion

So I made it through another Inktober and now it's over except that I was writing it up here on the blog and that dropped off. But I got a bunch out of the exercise, which for a brief rehash was to draw women every day for a month in different roles without objectifying them or resorting to sex appeal or whatever. 

But given that for me at least, there are bigger fish to fry and certainly more important and interesting issues than the representation of women in the media and my mind, here in as brief as someone as unskilled with language as I can manage are my conclusions:

The Caveat Conclusion

Is actually more of a hueristic I live by, it's 'nothing means nothing' that I actually developed for myself to describe the problem of ghosting when I first started experiencing it. but engagement was low particularly on facebook with my inktober. I received very little feedback and more importantly very little push back, and I'm in Mexico alienated from the majority of my friends, so my sister is really the only person who holds me to task. And my sister is no fool, plus knows me well so I would like to believe I live in a world where her holding me to task is sufficient. But in many ways we think alike so it probably isn't enough. At any rate with no feedback, pushback or stimuli as to what people possibly make of what I do, I have to allow for everything. Which is a pain in the ass.

The Good Conclusions

By which I mean, I would expect these to be easy to stomach, particularly for women.

1. Role modelling is important for both young and adults. I went in thinking that really exposure to females in diverse roles is most important for children, and even then, I saw it as important but not necessary. (because clearly if you follow the precedents for women in any role back through history, you will find at some point someone did something unprecedented, which is also true of roles that didn't have male precedents or any precedents) I still feel that position has legs, but I came to concede that active memory and attention are important and therefore having living active role models for adults to be exposed too is beneficial and therefore desirable.

2. Recourse is important. This ties into conclusions that I don't think people will like, but basically reproduction cannot be the be-all-and-end-all of a life well lived for women or anyone. Thus if one is unfortunate in terms of what needs to align to secure a loving attached relationship into which one can bring children and thus secure some child rearing role for some indeterminate but significant time, women as well as men need to have salient the fact that meaningful rewarding lives can be lived anyway through career or military service or contemplation or whatever.

3. Women can be anything. The challenge wasn't hard. It wasn't hard for me, a man and perhaps more crucially, a pervert, to conceive of 31 roles outside the virgin-whore dichotomy. It wasn't hard in the vast majority of cases to simply use my internal powers of recall to conjure up examples of women being represented historically or contemporary in these roles in the real world and popular culture. And where it wasn't, google search could enlighten me in seconds, for example I was by and large ignorant of the history of female philosophers, but a simple google search demonstrated that they were present in Greek Antiquity and some of their works preserved. 

The Bad Conclusions

1. I don't care, and this is the real crux of the problem, which I didn't expect going in. I dubiously would dub this a Stonecutter problem. This is where my bad habit of looking at a statement 'Woman can do anything men can do' and inferring the inverse 'men can do anything women can do' and that's the basis of my not caring. On an intellectual level, allow me to be clear I am absolutely pro-equal opportunity, the John Rawls' veil of ignorance form of equal opportunity. What I mean by not caring is that it isn't exciting or even news to me that a woman can do anything. Furthermore I can subdivide the population of women on this Earth into sexual entities and sexual non-entities. Because of my orientation, all men are for arguments sake - sexual non-entities to me. It's a bit more complicated than that but not functionally. Female sexual entities have something of particular interest to me that I cannot provide for myself. Women who are sexual non-entities to me are more or less just more dudes to my world view. So I no more care that a woman can work at a steel mill, or be president, prime minister etc than some flabby, burned out white dude.  

2. Beautiful and hot women can do anything homely and plain women can do. There might be some qualification for say... professional gymnastics where a curvaceous figure becomes a clear disadvantage. But this (again by symmetry) is the dark side of acknowledging the irrelevance of appearances. It goes both ways, apart from where a woman might be deemed undesirable because she is built like a brick shithouse and this gives her an advantage over a bodacious babe in jobs that require strenuous manual labor. Which is to say, the world isn't just, it isn't necessarily the case that anyone is compensated for some shortcoming with a corresponding counterbalancing advantage. Beautiful people have their own unique problems, but being beautiful doesn't exclude one from being intelligent, from being courageous or risk taking etc. furthermore if a woman is valued because of the useful work she does, if that woman has the additional desirable trait of being beautiful (healthy, fertile and strong) then the presence of two valued qualities increases her desirability not linearly (1 + 1 = 2) but exponentially (10 * 10 = 100). Furthermore beautiful people are generally given more resources in terms of time, attention and material resources, I'm sure to some extent this can become a pain in the ass, but I suspect on balance it's more upside than downside.

3. Bad Faith is a concerning component of this issue. By bad faith I mean Jean-Paul Sartre's assertion that by and large people are terrified of the idea of being in control of their lives, and thus adopt a 'bad' form of faith that their lives could not be any different. And I stress, this is but a problematic component of this issue and bad faith knows no gender, sex, race or creed. It simply I suspect applies here and typically manifests in an easily invalidated assertion that little girls are conditioned by a sinister patriarchy that they cannot amount to anything more than a working reproductive system delivered by a body that functions as a lure for catching men.
I feel confident I could unpack this into a whole post on it's own, which would serve to overemphasize it's significance. I have an advantage over women in testing the patriarchy hypothesis, which is my lived experience. However, if you want a good path I walked to reach this conclusion, it is to compare the hypothesis of patriarchal conditioning/teaching of young, to how religious beliefs are propagated through generations by the inculcation of young. Both could be happening, however one phenomena is concretely observable, the other largely unconscious and informally.
However, to say that the primary reason women in a lot of roles in society are regarded as exceptional rather than normal is owed to concerted and systemic oppression is I feel, an article of bad faith.

The Ugly Conclusions

Reproduction is important. As is comparative advantage. Prepositions like that there are no differences between the sexes (that aren't social constructs) I simply cannot accept because of an article of faith that there is an external reality beyond my nervous system, my perception of which makes that premise simply untenable.
But for arguments sake, I am happy to adopt a position or premise that is thus: women are the equal if not superior of men in every way, cognitive abilities, physical abilities, spiritual capacity etc. 

Now lets say that on occasion within the population of men, you can randomly select one and they will turn out to be able to run faster than a random woman, or more rarely you can randomly select one who is smarter (in some measure) than the average woman. Which is to say, while women are generally equal to or superior to men, this is on average and it isn't reliably the case when it comes to individuals. Men occasionally outperform a woman they are matched up against. With one acception, women always outperform men in childbearing abilities, just by the sheer fact that they can lactate and have their immune system protect an infant through it's first 6 months of life. And lets say, that's it. No need to make any wild assertions about nurturing or agreeableness personality traits, temperament etc. Milk can be excreted from mammary glands.

In this scenario, where the average man scores a 1 for intelligence, 1 for physical abilities, 1 for spiritual insight and 0 for physical childbearing and the average woman scores 1 for intelligence, 2 for physical abilities, 1 for spiritual insight and 2 for childbearing. What game theory predicts I believe, is that women who choose to specialize in childbearing and enter a partnership with a man will on average outperform any other two men and women who do not specialize in this way. And over time game theory would predict that this strategy would drive the other strategies to extinction.

We may live in the ongoing iterations of this game. Human society is more complicated now though, we have the abstract concept of money for example, and the market rewards risk taking rather than hard work which it actually often punishes through real wage decline. However, I'm pretty confident that for the majority of human history, this division of labor into child rearing and risk taking, paid out best, and this is probably the main conditioning factor that drives a relentless obsession, in both sexes, to habitually reduce women to their reproductive value.

I don't think that's just, by the way, I just have concluded that it isn't likely to be arbitrary.

I have neither the time nor energy to write up the remaining 17 pieces I completed for Inktober individually. But I did want to address these four again, as briefly as I can manage:


Attitudes towards risk, if they are a difference between the sexes, are one that needs to be democratized. Thus I feel this is one of the more important roles I explored, because I'm sure until the day I die I will hear the vacuous complaint 'women have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good as a man' crop up from time to time. This complaint is not vacuous because it is untrue, it is vacuous because the maths is correct. To be thought twice as good as anyone, you have to work half as hard, and vice versa. So there's two important concepts, sprezzatura a buzzword now used by business douchebags and not used by the italians, but that doesn't mean it's not an important concept. The other is understanding risk taking, and observing that ultimately the market doesn't reward hard work it rewards taking risks. In fact in recent years I have come to equivocate hard work with risk aversion, because that's generally how it works. There are for example, like practicing drawing, times when it is entirely appropriate to be risk averse, like when you want what you envision to not vary greatly from what you put on the page.
Also just after inktober, a professional female poker player gave a great Ted talk.


This is a domain, particularly reaching back beyond the 1960's in which women are grossly underrepresented and under invested. Literally the study of the good life, if you cannot take an interest in something whose author you cannot identify with because of their sex, you are at a huge disadvantage. Now intellectually, I cannot see any reason why any woman on earth cannot do exactly as I do, and pick up a copy Machiavelli's 'The Prince' or read the collected correspondence of Abraham Lincoln, or Musashi Miyamoto's 'Book of Five Rings' or Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations' and thus access histories best examples of the best practices of patriarchal power that are open secrets available to all, and make them their own. But I also don't know why athiests can't participate in community events as reliably as religious groups, or why non-smokers can't communicate horizontally and vertically through an organization the way smokers do. Philosophy is male dominated, in terms of authorship, but those authors historically were handling the big ideas of life as they affect everyone. This is a big and consequential role for women to be locked out of, and if they do enter philosophy, to minoritize themselves into writing 'philosophy for women' leaving all the low hanging fruit of common humanity to the boys. Of course, as Bertrand Russell observed, across the board most people would sooner die than think, and that many do.


This one was unpopular. Could be the artwork driving that though. To me there's a few good questions surrounding the concept of Matriarchy. Namely why were absolute monarchies better or at least more reliable at producing female leaders than democracies have been? Why don't we notice in the commonwealth that for most, if not all our lives (except the elder babyboomers and greatest gen) every scrap of money and coin has had the face of a woman embossed or printed on it?
And another point of interest to me, is the way the collective ambition manifests. Sure Hillary Clinton was preferable to fuckface for president, but is Hillary an Elizabeth I? A Boudica? A Nefertiti? A Victoria?
In the long history of leadership, women have a much better track record of being exceptionally good leaders, I believe this is one of the good arguments Ta Nehesi Coates made (perhaps unintentionally) about double standards, you should vote for a black candidate or a female candidate because they are held to exceptionally high standards white males are not, and often couldn't pass.
Curiously, good leaders for western men tend only to be permitted when the system is breaking down. For most of history if times are good, we seem to aim for the least harmful parasite to occupy top spots as the ideal.


The last one was me, but if there was something I wish a lot of outraged women could sympathise with me for, it would be the privileged perspective that the top of the mountain is a desolate and inhospitable place. It's so empty and meaningless and generally, one needs a better reason than 'because it is there' to want to climb to the top. If everyone believes you can go to the top though, you are deprived of the reason of proving something to the peanut gallery. 
I believe there is a higher ideal than being a patriarch or matriarch. It is to be free. To experience your one precious life fully and authentically. 
There are real obstacles to that that women face that I don't. Like threats to personal safety, I think long and hard about that often and as yet, have no answers.
But in Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaids Tale' I felt the best insight she captured, was that the 'ruling' powers of that dystopian future, the men, didn't believe in their own ideology and in some ways suffered under the oppression of their own state. Hence they had a clandestine underground sex club to get away from the horrible ceremonies to try and fertilize handmaidens.
I have a luxury in being able to basically bow out, and just pursue whatever path seems most promising and interesting. I would have that democratized and skip the depressing bleakness of being a sovereign. I trust Marcus when he said a rulers lot was 'Do Good & Be Damned.' I'd rather see more women free, than higher profile slaves.

You can find the rest of my run on my instagram account.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

On Holding a Torch

She is a vibrant, vivacious, smart, funny, spontaneous, unique gem of a human being. One of my favorite people in the world, and she knows it because she flagrantly stuffs her hand into the backpack I'm wearing on my front that contains my passport, electronics, basically everything I can't afford to lose, without permission in order to deposit two fried rice snacks she pilfered from the conference she skipped out on to pick me up from the station.

Anybody less than as familiar as she is to me, would have transgressed a most unwelcome violation of my personal space. There are few ways to create a nigh-irredeemable impression on me - but one is presumed familiarity - with her, there is no presumption. There's no stopping her really, she's a force of nature completely outside any superstitious pretense of control I could muster.

She has been married five years and is 7 months pregnant. I love her. She is possibly the most repulsive thing about me.

I take a lot of shit about holding a torch for her. Climbing out of this shit though, is no easy task, because I have two problematic commitments.

The first is born of the fact that 10 years ago when she and I were dating, our summer of love was punctuated with an endless stream of bad news she had to deliver to me. Back then, I got annoyed that she thought I'd be angry with her, despite there being no evidence I ever reacted with anger, ever, to draw upon. A decade of sporadic reflection, and favorable comparisons later, I now appreciate that when somebody gives you the bad news, while frightened that you are going to get mad and shoot the messenger, and they give you that bad news anyway, that's incredibly rare and as a result, I would never betray her.

Not that I'm in a habit of betrayal in general, I just emphatically would not betray her. And in fact, I wanted to revisit her gauntlet of bad news, and ask her why she in particular always told me what was up, even while afraid. 

And I was terrified of her answer, because I dreaded it would be 'because I love you.' That would be a terrible threshold that among other things, implies that nobody has loved me since. Fortunately, I could breath a sigh of relief when her answer was 'because it's easier.' Which seems basic, and it is, and yet something about the culture or environment I live in has made this empirical observation not the common sense.

Which brings me to the second obstacle. For some years now, longer than I've been quit of KFC and so on, I quit lying. (Though I did have a job that required me to constantly habitually fluff my pitch to render it palatable, not egregiously so though.)

And it would be a lie, and a betrayal to say I didn't love someone that I do. 

Thus there is a poor me, that turns my accusers pointed fingers back on them and says, no I'm the rational and mature one, and the people who give me shit for carrying a torch, for holding an ex in high regard, high esteem, are the romantically paranoid.

Because as near as I can imagine, there's a persistent narrative: something like you are supposed to seek 'the one' in life, often by running a gauntlet of mismatched suitors, learning as you go until you meet someone so wonderful, you become permanently happy and all the troublesome partners from your past are revealed as asshats by comparison.

If that narrative ever rings true, it is by accident.

For one thing, a lot of people don't learn as they go. They unconsciously select for partners behaviorally identical to the last and keep repeating a cycle that they either eventually settle for due to biological clock factors, or waste their lives not learning.

As one relationship counselor quite eloquently put it 'We all have this story, often inherited from childhood, from our parents, that didn't end well. And we go into adult relationships trying to change the end of that story, but you shouldn't try to change the ending, change the beginning.'

Anyway, that's a digression into attachment theory, but the plight of romantics is very real and quite serious. 

The second thing is, that you can be lucky and obtain a reciprocal unconditional love. One that rivals a healthy mother-child relationship. Where you meet someone and you know that you will always have their back just as they have yours. 

And yet...

See if someone was to find me on what ostensibly resembles a holiday and chastise me for sitting at my desk for hours drawing each day by saying 'tohm, there's more to life than work you know, there's also love!' For one thing, I would know, and probably not treat their question as rhetorical. For another I would notice that by symmetry that the speaker is in fact also making the point that there is more to life than love, there is, for example, work. There's a whole bunch of stuff to life that one can make their life out of and about.

Hence all this other shit, can unfortunately come between two people who love each other unconditionally. And just because that love is unconditional, for example, it doesn't require her to only love me, only marry me, and only have a child with me for the love to exist in my person - doesn't follow that love itself is free from conditions.

It might be okay for a Pope to deny any affiliation with Jesus when pressed, but I don't think you can love someone and deny it, I mean you can call 'love' whatever the fuck you want. It just isn't worth much to me if when push comes to shove, that feeling is shoved down to put someone insecure at ease.

Allow me to simplify and say there's two broad strategies for dealing with a breakup or rejection - one popular approach is 'sour grapes' convincing yourself that the person who has theoretically disagreed with your own evaluation of worth, isn't a credible judge because contrary to your superficial analysis they are in fact a horrible person you don't wish to associate with.

My first real girlfriend, my first kiss 'cheated' on me. I use scare quotes because this dates back to when I was a naive romantic idiot of 16 years who had too much faith that my reason could overpower my emotions, so I had boasted often in our 6 week relationship that I didn't care if she cheated on me, provided she returned. Anyway, turns out I was a naive romantic idiot rationalist, and it broke my heart when she did inevitably hook up with another guy.

I copped some shit from my next partner for spending around two years brooding on this infidelity, but I'm glad I didn't 'move on' and denounce her, dismiss her etc. because after two years I finally figured out that I didn't hate her, I got hurt because I loved her. And nothing, nothing on Earth feels better than realizing you love something you thought you hated.

In other words, it's the acrimonious reaction. Perhaps most often enacted as a farce that has to play out for some time until the ego is sufficiently and independently restored to a point where they can actually accept the fact of their rejection, and let's hope their acrimony hasn't yielded too many burned bridges in the meantime - say through revenge porn or something.

The other, I would guesstimate, less popular strategy is to 'count one's blessings'. Where instead of fixating on the losses, focus on the benefits gained or accrued from the period of dating or crushing on this person. To thoroughly interrogate just how little one has lost in the loss of this person's affections or ability to speculate there-on. In the face of loss, to basically take stock and exercise one's independence to achieve the same goals.

I feel if it isn't painfully transparent, that the latter strategy is not just the desirable one, but the mature one. Not to begrudge anyone their immaturity, people get hurt in childhood, can't process emotions and thus their development gets arrested. 

What concerns me is that disadvantages compound. Getting emotionally stunted in childhood stunts one's development in adulthood. And the prevalence of emotionally stunted norms concerns me about the toxicity of the culture.

I liked the phraseology of Dan Savage when he said 'we have to stop looking at relationships where both parties get out alive as a failure.' or something like that, where in his context he was talking about the cultural hangover of 'until death do us part' but relationships can fail through no failure of the individual participants, as my first psychotherapist informed me.

Thus the insistence that I put down a torch, that is actually illuminating, in order to pander to the insecurities of a prospective individual is to me, an all around betrayal. In fact, I will go as far as to say from my point of view, to pander is to oppress someone. 

It is pathological to me, to suggest that if one has an experience that yield's useful information that at the cessation of that experience (of which do relationships really ever cease? so much as transform...) that information should be thrown away, or worse, willfully denied rather than used to inform.

For my part, I don't carry a single torch, but actually many. It's so much worse than the people bothered by torches assume. There are none of my former partners that I have ever become indifferent to, and none that I would be antagonistic to. Which isn't to say their aren't coffee tables in our history that we can bang our shins on, just that I have no emotional investment in turning those coffee tables into shrines to offer sour grapes up on.

In Mexico I've found myself listening to old recordings of my ex-singing. She has one of those voices that is not going to readily be imitated by the population at large, and it moves me. It's confusing, somewhat melancholy, but to some extent I need to wade through that confusion to orient myself to just how I love her. None of this though, impairs me from actually using my reason to move forwards, ever forwards.

These torches allow me to for example, recognize treatment that is below my esteem and dignity, because I have precedent that says 'others will not treat me this way.' and on the flip side, the number of torches I bear communicate something to those women who may want to sniff me out, provided they are in position see beyond their own fears and insecurities.

I struggle to relate to the mind that can't look at the torches I carry and not conclude 'this person doesn't throw people away.' further establishing as a bona fide that I am capable of falling in love for one, for processing a break up or rejection, and that the risk of exploring or being curious with me can be confidently estimated as lower than that of an unproven prospect.

It's not evidence that relationships with me (or for that matter, my former partners) will be easy, but one needn't expect it to be the kind of thing that breeds a new adversary, and shrinks the world through having someone emotionally dangerous to avoid.

I keep thinking of this line in 'The Terror' an excellent study in leadership and character, where survivors are debating leaving the sick and injured behind. The leader points out that whether the survivors realise it or not, it sends the message that if he can abandon these people, he can abandon them too. Caring for the sick and injured isn't just a kindness to the sick and injured, it's a kindness to those who care for them.

So, I guess, I'm left in the position where through my fervent commitment to be honest, and not acrimonious, I'm split between the desire to say 'fuck you' to the next person that diagnoses me as 'holding a torch' for somebody that I simply and objectively love, and wouldn't betray for the approval of strangers, and hoping that by example I can maybe inspire them to think upon the conventional wisdom of posturing, or even deceiving oneself as to the sourness of the grapes in our past.

I will concede this, as I use my conscious reasoning brain to move me into the endeavor of trying to change the beginning of my own, repetitive story (something harder than I ever thought it would be, thanks to the power of unconscious familiarity) I am actually afraid, largely because I've now accumulated a lot of women that I care about, care for and now they are starting to reproduce and create children that by extension I love and care about.

I picked up a self-help book in the Collins St Dymocks retailer around 13 years ago because it had illustrations of animals I liked, and while perusing it I saw a page that said the human heart has infinite capacity to love, and that has largely informed my attitude towards the risk of heartbreak. In my teens my mother told me that 'I was a catch' and to always use a condom because some girl might try and lock me down through pregnancy. At the time I'm sure I retorted with my contingency plan for such a betrayal of trust, but this exchange, while my mum probably can't remember it and would reflexively deny it, has largely informed my attitude towards the risks of attachment, namely opportunity cost.

Now is a presently confusing time I've trying to work out the logic matrix of just who's person I'd take a bullet for over the next person I would take a bullet for. It's like the parody of the Untouchables scene from Naked Gun 33 1/3:

But the point of carrying a torch, is that for me at least, it doesn't hold me back but informs my progress forward. And I do have a brain that in the presence of fear can just commit me to moving forward, which is what I'll do, and I'll see what happens, because I have a million fucking torches to see by.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inktober 2018 Part 2. Roles and Representation

So my enthusiasm waxed and waned over the second week, but am pleased I made it through. What occurred to me in the general sense as I worked this week and further speculated (I don't get much feedback or engagement) on the concept of representation of roles for women, was I guess further building on the Amelia Earhart effect. Maybe also the Frida Kahlo effect.

What is lost in the exercise is that even though it's not hard in this day and age to find women represented everywhere in just about every role conceivable, and furthermore also historically - it's a question of proportionality, there are less female military figures, less female nobel science prize winners, less female truck drivers etc. There are less female pilots like Amelia Earhart and less female surrealists (although that's not how she identified) like Frida Kahlo.

Nevertheless, in terms of mindshare, Frida Kahlo has eclipsed her husband Diego Riviera in legacy, though Diego it appears eclipsed her during their lifetimes, perhaps in a similar fashion to the academic school eclipsing the impressionists in regard when they started. Same with Earhart and Lindbergh, even with the Lindbergh kidnapping, I feel Earhart is now more famous. Obviously that's highly contentious.

The point of my speculation being, is that through what marketers call 'category leadership' while the problem might be that these female role models are exceptional rather than normal, it makes them far more noticeable than male counterparts that may outnumber them. Men in certain roles are far more likely to just be a member of a group than a celebrated individual.

In absolute terms, women being underrepresented in certain career paths provides a problem for those wishing to succeed in that field, a lack of female colleagues leading to isolation, or a culture proving hostile to women minorities adding extra friction to a career path. But having a few exceptional women succeed at the very least provides readily available precedent for any young girl wanting to try. And with anything, you really just need one precedent.

The fact of those precedents furthermore, indicates that for those precedents, you don't even need a precedent to succeed.

Anyway, the question is interesting, at least to me, because at least half this issue has to be about perception in order to enact change. This aspect of exceptional women, or category leaders - female pilot, female astronaut, female head of state etc. potentially cuts both ways.

 8. Crone

Through previous inktobers and exhibiting, it seems people love a celebration of the elderly. I suspect, more than they are fans of the elderly themselves. I wrote up on instagram that I was thinking about the Lilly Allen song '22' and find it depressing. Hence my interest in the role in society for women beyond their fertile years. Apparently humans are the only primates, and mammals that have the phenomena of menopause, I haven't read Germaine Greer's 'The Change' so I don't really know much about the experience of menopause, nor do I care, but I have heard one evolutionary biologist speculate that menopause is their in order to 'activate' grandma mode, necessary for successfully raising human children.
I can't recall enough to do that narrative justice, but it does seem to be a massive social deficit that the most promoted and celebrated role for women in society - baby makers, more commonly described as 'sex objects' has such a short career. And then there's the after, the post baby making career to worry about, and it is much less discussed. Hence when Lily Allen sings:

'It's sad but it's true how society says her life is already over
There's nothing to do and there's nothing to say
'Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age'

it is a depressing thought, that a women has to find the best possible partner and then commit to child rearing within an 8 year reproductive career. Of course, that has is not a hard has. But the fact is, I don't have that kind of pressure applied to me as a man. I'm not into population arguments, because I actually understand economics, so it's more the lack of psychic attention given the fact that when a woman hits age 30 her life isn't already over. She is likely in the wealthy west to live for another 50 or so years. It's more that nobody cares at that point... or do they?

I went to a highschool where, as myself and my chauvinistic friends put it, had a particularly 'high batting average'. Translated for those outside a cricket or baseball analogy culture, it meant there were a lot of attractive women among the student population. I don't know how they'd rate the population of guys. Private school boys are possibly private school boys only fans. However this lead me to believe that in the career path of modelling, whether high fashion, to bikini modelling, or pornographic modelling, my intuition is that the the number of potential models has to be under-capitalised.

What I mean by that is that I feel a lot of women who could be models, aren't. Never even try or apply, because there are better career paths out there that have greater longevity, are non-scalable (not a winner-takes-all industry like art) and probably involve working with less creeps. A lot of could-be-models I suspect, go to medical school, business school etc. In much the same way as I've seen a (not quite plausible) theory that there's no White-Michael-Jordan to have emerged because there are much safer career paths available to white men in America such that the white answer to Michael Jordan is probably practicing dentistry somewhere. Personally I just think white guys are intrinsically inferior at basketball, and can only succeed through less spectacular styles of play like MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash. I don't want a league full of players like Nowitzki and Nash, I want more Jordans.

And this started out being about 'crones' well that's just the question of what use is an old woman? given that a lot of people on Earth are going to become one. It seems the consensus is 'nothing' and it has lead to a widespread desperate industry based upon old women trying to pass as imitations of women in their fertile prime, botox, chemical peels, cosmetic surgery, hair dye... all of that.

9. Musician

For all I know, the music industry may be female dominated. Though I doubt in terms of the corporate sense. So this one was more of a question as to whether could be represented in music not for their sex appeal, but for their ability to compose and execute music. Can a homely, matronly, bull dog of a woman sell their music unsweetened by sex? Historically the answer is yes. And again it's not hard to think of examples of successful non-sex symbol women in music. Susan Boyle, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin (although I would have gone there) etc.
Furthermore within bands their are no 'traditionally' male or female roles that hold up. Women aren't just singers or backing vocals. There are women represented in percussion, lead guitar, bass, synth. Women perform music of every style, women even play the didgeridoo.
This was a pushover, although I hate drawing guitars and I've fucked up many a decent guitar depiction when it comes to adding strings. Hence I didn't. So this lady could just be insane.
This is one of the pieces that is nudging me towards a broader conclusion that I suspect nobody will like, so I'll save that for a sting in the tail when I complete this inktober.

10. Bully

I'm going to assert something that, like most assertions, comes with little empirical research to back it. But I'm guessing at some point in just about every adolescent boys years, they have glanced over to the girls camp and witnessed a going on, that has had them utter a silent prayer of gratitude that boys just beat each other up.
This is probably my personal favorite piece I've done. Which is interesting to me because it has multiple figures. Again more so than the music industry, I have a sneaking suspicion that bullying may be a role dominated by women, even though if you say 'bully' to me I'm prompted to think of some meathead boy with his sleeves rolled up in the schoolyard.
And I probably should back down a bit from that speculation, because if you prefix 'bully' with 'corporate' it becomes an all-male affair to my mind.
Back in Melbourne on one of my regular running trails, I used to pass a piece of graffiti that read 'Matriarchy Now' and while it doesn't really fill me with dread, (I haven't witnessed any credible threats to 'the patriarchy' whatever that may prove to be, in my lifetime) it did get me speculating as to what in all the critiques of the patriarchy and its oppression, the alternate model may be. As it's very rare for a positive alternative model to be proffered for comparison by the critics.
To some degree, I imagine I may not need to speculate, I can just log onto face book. Life under a matriarchy may resemble social media as currently practiced, a domain of thought crimes, the ever present threats of public shaming and ostracism and where survival is about public profession or self-censorship (liking the right status updates and ignoring the wrong ones).
Much as I would never begrudge someone for refusing to participate in 'the patriarchy' I hope I can similarly be excused from participating in a 'matriarchy' given that I have one precious life and I can't imagine a worse way to spend it than trying to succeed in a feminine social hierarchy. (Well, I can imagine worse, but that's still dipping below the threshold of a life actually worth living).
Anyway, I personally cringe every time I see the 'bullying epidemic' addressed in the media or by policy. I almost feel like nobody wants to understand bullying, and it's possibly a domain of human behavior in which all but the Japanese are entirely hypocritical.
Japan being the exception because teachers have often been known to participate in bullying, or 'ijime' as they call it over there.
It seems in all but the domain of school children, when it comes to how we act, bullying is in fact celebrated. The education system appears to always have a bully on staff, to the point where a vice-principle bully character is almost a trope.
I... don't much give a fuck about bullying in high-school, albeit, I went to high-school long before smart phones and social media were a thing. So I can imagine it might be completely out of hand now, given how much I see going on online in my circle of educated adults.
My general objection to how people attempt to address bullying is the usual - campaigns always are an exercise in hand-washing and empathising/identifying with the victims, not the bullies.
I am partial to Gordon Neufeld's approach though I'm not the biggest fan of him as a speaker. But he lays out the challenges well for anyone attempting to address bullying. The one that particularly resonates with me is his obsevation that any theory of bullying has to also explain bullying in animals, as it's observed in Elephants among others.
The solution with Elephants was simple given identifying the problem in Elephants - a lack of role models was remedied by introducing older bulls as role models, and a previously all juvenile population of elephants transformed over night, once they had someone to look up to.
Every effort to address bullying has appeared to precipitate an escalation in the crisis. Not surprising given the campaigns basically always consist of 'just don't do it!' aka no solution at all.
I added the feminist fist pin to my bully, just to give a tip of the hat to the biggest bullies I know - progressives. I'm not an apologist for right wing fascists, or conservative bullies, or theocratic bullies. I just don't know any of these people.
What I do know is a lot of people who criticize the world's most famous bully - Donald Trump, and yet while avoiding being as stupid, resemble him in critical ways.
Bullies in my experience, feel themselves to be victims, the world conspiring against them and on some intuitive level pick on soft targets they know they can beat. This describes the majority of my progressive friends, and the most vocal feminists in my feed.
And standing up to bullies is unpleasant and particularly thankless. I'm in a good position to do so, but perhaps an unethical one, given how asymmetric the equation is. But still if I engage one, it fills my system with adrenaline and can set me ruminating all day. So I'm not sure if I do have an obligation to stand up to them, although given that most progressive 'policy' promotes the denigration of mental health and spreads anxiety and depression, I feel like if I can do something I perhaps should do something. At any rate, I'm in no rush.
The task is made thankless because it's so easy to conflate a criticism of someone's tactics with a criticism of their position. One thing that makes 'feminists' rife with bullies is that there is absolutely no quality control to calling oneself a feminist. People just go 'feminism = good, therefore all feminists = good.' or 'racism = bad, therefore racists deserve everything they get.' No. Sadly, no.

11. Loser

Fittingly, this was one of the least popular of the whole series thus far. And while it would be attempting to attribute that to my success in capturing the essence of loserdom for which nobody wishes to be affiliated, I'm sure it's more that people are averse to sharing in my judgmental nature...
Anyway broadly I guess there's a shallow but significant comment with these undesirable roles, about risk which is, in broadening the scope of roles from the virgin/whore sexual dichotomy (that I'm still skeptical about beyond the days where the Church commissioned all the art, hence the Virgin Mary was the most popular female subject) there can be this blindside of roles that are worse perhaps than being someone's desired virgin or whore, which is to say, someone desirable to just about nobody.
Which I don't think is a real danger, people with nothing going for them are exceptionally rare, and even then, there's nothing there to cast judgement that they are somehow bad people. A loser in the above case is someone who simply isn't in demand.
I don't think anyone would find it controversial if I condemned say... cosmetic advertising for some product like fuller, longer lashes, as unethical - creating a perceived gap between the actual self and the ideal self that can be bridged with products to be sold.
And while it isn't hard to find examples of 'loser' women in film, virtually every film and tv show targeted at teenagers contains a loser archetype, nerds, geeks, awkward girls, weird girls... Carrie, She's All That, The Princess Diaries, Clueless, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Cobra Kai, The Big Bang Theory, Hairspray, Mean Girls, Spiderman Homecoming, The Breakfast Club... it's a very well represented role except, perhaps with the exception of Carrie and Cobra Kai they are all redemption narratives. Carrie and Cobra Kai (thus far) being vindictive revenge narratives.
Typically onscreen losers are simply 'sneaky-hot' awaiting a makeover that can consist of something as simple as removing glasses and a ponytail.
This narrative, popular and comforting as it is, is to me unethical, perhaps even dangerous. I'm generally disapproving of notions like 'hard work pays off' and a much bigger fan of 'time and chance happen to us all.'
For starters, losers are often portrayed as simply misunderstood people with hearts of gold. Often a desirable boy has to realize his babe girlfriend is in fact vacuous and cruel and that if he can see beyond looks a truly beautiful person resides within some loser.
The cruelty of psychological phenomena though, is that often there is no compensation for the disadvantaged. The cosmetically challenged are not shored up by inner beauty, not always. Attractive children get more attention and encouragement from adults than the ugly, ungainly and uncoordinated children do. This is called the 'halo effect' which is to say, we all tend to find beautiful people not only more beautiful than the average, but rate them higher in other qualities too - more intelligent, kinder, funnier etc. even when this is illusory.
Then the Matthew Effect kicks in and the illusory advantages of the halo-effect translate into real advantages over time. It's true that a makeover might allow a loser to tap into the halo and Matthew Effect, but I feel it is cruel to suggest that people's popularity is to a larger rather than lesser extent within their control.
The existence of psychological phenomena like the halo and matthew effect, suggest that the just world hypothesis is invalid, and this is bad news for ugly, hefty, homely, gangly and awkward teenage girls. Thus I find the narrative cruel to inculcate false hope for young girls everywhere and spare them the bad news, that in your class might be a girl who is not only prettier than you, but smarter, stronger, faster, more musically talented, more creative, imaginative and better at video games than you.
The narrative I would put in place is the unglamorous economic theory of comparative advantage. Which is to say, instead of wishful, alchemical thinking where the answer lies in changes of hairstyle and wardrobe, it is pragmatic strategic thinking. The revelation that one can still succeed even when outclassed in every dimension by the competition. Life does not appear to be zero sum.
Comparative advantage was taught to me as two nations, two commodities model. Wool and Wheat. Relative advantage is where for every 1 input by country A, they can produce 1 wool and 2 wheat. Country B: 2 wool and 1 wheat. Therefore, with trade if country A specializes in producing wheat and country B specializes in producing wool then by trading both countries wind up being better off than if they were to produce both commodities themselves with their limited input.
Comparative advantage is where Country A now for each input produces 3 wool and 6 wheat and country B produces 2 wool and 1 wheat. It might seem intuitively that Country B has nothing to offer Country A, however if both contries focus on what they are best at, they are still both better off. Country B still has something to offer if it plays it's resources right.
Same same between Doris and Jennifer. (Which I assume you have already stereotyped into losers and winners) furthermore, if Doris plays her weak hand right, and Jennifer doesn't because she follows her naive intuitions that she can do shit better herself rather than strategically cooperating with Doris, in the long game a loser like Doris can drive Jennifer to extinction.
Time and chance happen to us all, and as I said on my instagram post, we are all losers sometimes. But false bravado is suicidal, as is false hope. I lost someone dear to me earlier this year and for much of his life people would have said they had everything going for them and scratch their heads as to the mystery of how they could lose it all.
In many ways it's not fair to try and picture a loser, because anyone could be a loser. Often it is increasingly my experience the biggest and most consequential disadvantage in life is to have never had the secure attachment of a loving mother, followed closely by a dysfunctional relationship with either parent.
The Stoics almost all point out the ability to be dissatisfied in any circumstances provided you have no sense of self.

12. Samurai

I was on the backfoot with this one and I fear I made her too fair of face. Like many people would 'go there'. Onna Bugeisha are a historical fact, however that history is not as awesome and kick-ass as I fear many would hope. I've depicted a woman with a Katana blade but women generally carried the Japanese halberd or naginata. Even as recognized members of the warrior caste, duties were still specialized into gender roles with female samurai responsible for defending the household and honor. They get mentioned in Bushido though this text was written post-fuedal Japan. Women for example, defended their honor post rape by committing suicide. So there's a lot of culture one has to wade through.
Furthermore with the advent of the Edo-Period which unified Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, given the eradication of the risk one's stronghold was going to be stormed by a rival Samurai clan or fiefdom, women were summarily stripped of their warrior duties and increasingly just baby factories for their lords and masters.
Anyway this can all be read on wikipedia. The reality differs greatly from how samurai women are romanticized in Movies, Cartoons and Videogames, however this is true between the sexes. It is rarely covered reality that knights just pissed and shat themselves in their armor.

13. Bouncer

I feel I found a role that women are virtually never depicted in. However this could be a failure of my recall rather than a true reflection of the reality. My google-fu also failed to unearth any lady bouncers on the big screen. However, they do exist in practice out there in the real world. Google does provide that.
There are also very few films where bouncers play more than a cursory role. The most noteable is Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.
I don't think too many people like bouncers, and yet they clearly have to play a critical role in facilitating night-life. Which by and large must be safer for their presence than their absence even though there's so many stories of bouncers doing bad shit. Worst of which may be the British bouncer that transmitted HIV to some hundred young girls. But I know of a woman in Melbourne who was blinded in one eye by a bouncer, and the news periodically features stories of bouncers overstepping themselves and seriously injuring or killing someone. However the bouncers in all these anecdotes are male, and I have to concede that bouncers job is to deal with drunk and irrational people who are also already violent. They are generally hired precisely for their ability to overpower the average person and they are typically blind-stinking-sober while having to deal with people at their worst.
One thing I also have never heard, and presume I will never hear is 'why aren't there more female bouncers?' and I don't think that's because the realities of sexual dimorphism have been rationally accepted by the masses, but because it's an undesirable low-skilled and oft-undignified profession. I imagine if there is a campaign to encourage the proliferation of female bouncers, it'll be to rename door bitch' to one equal in respect and dignity to that of bouncer.

14. Scientist

I introduced this as an ironic no-brainer. After 'athlete' there's probably no role women play in society that has more prolific and diverse representation both in media and history. That isn't to say it's proportional, but the list of notable female scientists is as far as hashtag's are concerned, inexhaustible.
This isn't to say that there is therefore no disparity between genders in terms of esteem, recognition and compensation. But women in the sciences go back to some alchemist known as 'Mary the Jewess' and long before there was any public or popular campaign to push women into STEM professions, from Mary Curie, to She-Who-Sells-Sea-Shells-On-The-Sea-Shore, Ada Lovelace, Barbara McClintock, Jane Goodall, Caroline Herschel... it is exhausting, but while women were certainly excluded from professional scientific bodies throughout history, some went unrecognized for their contributions in their own lifetimes etc. there is not much evidence to suggest women with an interest in the sciences could be stopped from practicing science. And owing to the nature of science as opposed to say... religion, women's contributions to science are undeniable.
The other interesting thing in this domain, that I haven't dug into, is that as a culture moves towards actual gender parity, the less women proportionally pursue careers in STEM. China and India have a greater percentage of women in Sciences, Technology and Engineering than the Scandinavian states.
That mystery has to be looked at by those advocating. To me it suggests that the issue isn't that women are being forcefully kept out of the sciences - though I've heard anecdotally that some disciplines of science, like theoretical physics have a noxious hyper masculine culture - but that it's the way we compensate and value different roles in society based along gender roles divisions.
I suspect the ready at hand answer is that the patriarchy oppresses young girls out of an interest in the sciences. I find this explanation though to be empty of any nutrition, and defied by the lack of the easy remedy to that conditioning in adolescence and adulthood, and contradicted by the success of women in the sciences historically.
Strangely all the people I know who actually wear lab coats to work and do science shit for a career, are women.

Check my last post for days 1-7, and a link to my instagram where I'm posting these as the days tick over.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Inktober 2018 Part 1. Roles and Representation

This year for Inktober, I'm working off the theme of 'roles' which refers specifically to 'roles for women'.

It's nothing groundbreaking, but Inktober is about challenging oneself, and there's a bunch of points of genesis for this theme. The basic challenge for me is to imagine female characters in roles beyond reducing them to sexual objects, or indeed, sexualizing them at all and moving beyond the 'virgin-whore' dichotomy, which is apparently a thing, albeit it's a Freudian psychoanalytic theory that I imagine is contentiously contemporary when diagnosing male impotency issues.

In conversation with my sister, some years ago, she also revealed to me that I have just about no female role models or females I admire in my active memory. What I mean by that is that if you just name 10 of your primary school friends, doesn't matter which year, just the first ten that come to mind, you'll probably in most circumstances find that it's a cognitive strain. Like for me, to name female influences on me philosophically requires strain even though there's female public intellectuals and comedians I like, like Toni Morrison, Ariel Levy, Esther Perel, Brene Brown, Susan Jacoby, Chimomon Ngozi Adichie... all of whom I've watched deliver keynote speaking engagements and enjoyed and gotten something out of it. But honestly, they don't come near to occupying the territory in my mind that Abraham Lincoln, Musashi Miyamoto, Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, Nietzsche and the Yagyu's do.

Nor do I need them to. If I was just to pick one of those dead men from the list and try my derndest to immitate them and live up their example, I'd consider it a life well lived - except perhaps for Nietzsche, I'm not sure if on a personal level, his life was worth living, though I'm grateful for the works he produced.

I digress. The sad fact is, if you asked me to name influential female Monarchs, that's an easy task. If you asked me to name female historical figures I admire... I come up short. So there's a challenge for me, but I'm not averse to the notion of discovering a woman who really shapes my philosophy and outlook on life, particularly one that could supplant any of my dead idols. I suspect though, it's a tall order because women were largely excluded from history, except in the case of Monarchies.

But is even that true?

As I learned in marketing, most people might recognise, or even recall the piece of Trivia of who was the first pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo - Charles Lindbergh. You probably can't recall the second person to do so, because nobody cares. But you may surprise yourself that you know the third person to complete a solo transatlantic flight. Which seems strange, because if nobody cares about the second flight, why would people care about the third? Because it's Amelia Earhart.

So I actually don't know if this theme wise will be challenging or not. What I notice or at least, suspect, is that it's an exercise in noticing what we do and do not notice. An exercise in selective attention.

I figure arguments about 'representation' are akin to, if not just the mirror image of arguments about 'censorship'. Namely, these are important issues when it regards children, and I can jump right on board. Children should only be exposed to material as their physical, mental and emotional development become ready to handle it. Likewise, seeing diversity represented in popular culture I figure is quite important for people under the age of 12. Above that I'm not so sure.

So in the case of censorship, people who take to social media and advocate people stop listening to Jenny McCarthy about vaccines, or Jordan Peterson about sexual politics, are generally arguing on behalf of someone else - somebody who doesn't possess the critical faculties to dismiss the ideas championed themselves but instead will adopt the arguments wholesale and start spreading them like a virus. It's seldom if ever, 'please stop giving these people a platform because I can't find a way to disagree with them.'

Same same for representation. People advocating for depictions, if not representation by women as say... a head of state, are generally not arguing because they literally can't imagine it being possible and are daring the public to disprove them. I feel women by and large, can imagine being heads of state. The argument for representation then becomes wanting to spare some (hopefully child) the mental effort of having to imagine a female head of state, a female super hero, etc. because they at some point in the past went through their own process of recognizing there was no law of nature that said they couldn't.

That's what I assume is going on though. I certainly hope it's the case that pre-Julia Gillard, my female friends from high-school and university weren't thinking that a female Prime Minister was conceptually impossible.

And from the other side, I can testify to my personal experience, that not only was a female head of state not conceptually possible to me. It was so conceivable that I was shocked anybody made a big deal of it when Gillard deposed Rudd, at the time it seemed far more pressing for all that it was at the expense to the Australian public of the mining super profits tax. History has proved me wrong. Nobody cares that they were disenfranchised of billions of dollars, they care that Rudd was a dick. And good as Gillard was as a Prime Minister, and shocking as the latent misogyny that was brought out of the shadows was, I'm not sure if all her achievements combined outweigh the net present value of the capitulation to the mining sector, which was a party-wide effort.

And so to on the subject of personal experience, when I was watching Hannah Gadsby's Netflix Special and she mentioned the 'Virgin-Whore' dichotomy, and also I believe she said more than once women were reduced to 'flesh vases for their dick flowers' it bumped up against my lived experience.

Namely, the concept 'art history' and 'whore' don't connect. I couldn't recall any pieces with whore's as subjects. Narratives sure, but not depictions of whores. (Which Ironically, I saw Gadsby deliver a talk at the NGV on Picasso, where she was much kinder to him than in the special, but most of the talk was about a piece that featured prostitutes as the subject, however to me I don't have a strong association between Picasso and the history of Art. He's just an artist to me.)

But I figure there must at the very least be a bunch of pictures painted of Mary Magdalene. I just can't recall having seen any.

A quick google produces this:

I've never to my recollection, seen any of these pieces before. From what's visible in this screen grab, I'd assume two could be considered less devotional to flirting with licentiousness and masturbatory aide. The rest do look devotional to me, and I would have assumed the subject was the Madonna.

So I guess, this is it: I would have to defer to someone like Hannah Gadsby with an art history degree that these are indeed all just flesh vases for dick flowers. I don't notice it. I don't notice the difference between these and pictures of the virgin Mary, lady of Guadalupe.

Thus I arrive at a suspicion, that what really is the intractable issue, is the usual suspects - attention, focus, confirmation bias and management by exception.

For example I don't particularly notice this:

But conversely, I do notice this:

In the former, I don't notice anything wrong with scantly clad hot women, it's just wallpaper to me. As the Vandals observed in their song 'Girls turn 18 everyday' and in turn, there is so much of this content being produced, there must be a model debuting in her first photo shoot somewhere in the world, at every second of every day. It plasters instagram, pinterest, tumblr, tinder, snapchat, magazine covers, newsagents and supermarket aisles. It's ubiquitous and everywhere, and I don't have to stop and pleasure myself every time my eye is drawn to the image of a woman exhibiting fertility cues.

In the later case, I do notice it, and it seems 'trendy' to me, the whole Gender Non Conforming crowd, even though in absolute terms, it's a very niche scene, not really a crowd at all. I just happen to be on the periphery of it, and get some exposure. But it gets my attention because it's out-of-the-ordinary. It's an Amelia Earhart in a world saturated by Wilmer Stultz (whom you've never heard of because he wasn't the first man to fly across the Atlantic). People within this scene feel oppressed and underrepresented, people outside of it that don't notice how much T&A imagery they are drowning in feel it over-represented and like the whole world is going to that twilighty place from that zone show. least, that's what I suspect may be happening. I don't know, I'm sufficiently interested to do some digging in the backyard of my mind. For starters it was not hard to come up with a list of 31 roles women could play that aren't 'virgin' or 'whore'. Here's the first 7:

1. Athlete. A no-brainer, for centuries and across cultures women have played sports and competed in competition. Yes, they were banned from the original Olympics and other sporting religious festivals from Greek Antiquity. Other cultures I simply don't know. The history of sport is too broad and deep.
But with pretty much the sole exception of Tennis, female athletes do not enjoy the same status as men in sports. And certainly not pay parity, hence you have the Australian national netball team, or even the Opals (basketball) all having to hold down separate jobs while being expected to compete at a world class level. Men comparatively do have a much easier time of simply working out, training, practicing and exercising full time if necessary to be competitive, and enjoying leisure time if it isn't.

What to do about pay parity in sports is a head scratcher, I don't have the cognitive energy or inclination to do anything about it, but it does raise interesting questions: is the female 100m sprint final actually less interesting than the men's 100m sprint final? I don't know. I feel it's a matter of fact that it is definitely slower, but what does that matter to an audience? I guess it is qualitatively more exciting to be witness to a world record being smashed, than to watch a heat where no record has been broken. Is Flo-Jo less exciting than Usain Bolt?

In Tennis, broken down to a 'per game' basis, women are paid more than men, given they play best of 3 matches where men play best of 5. However, the earning opportunities are the same, so 'per game' doesn't really hold much water. There though is the truly egalitarian thing to dispense with segregation of the sexes in competition altogether? My intuition is that nobody would welcome that, in Tennis or most other sports. There Serena goes from being one of the most dominant players of all time to a competitive athlete who is notable for being a woman in a male dominated sport. I don't know enough about Tennis to speculate any further, and probably am overstretched as is. Best to stick to AFL and Basketball.

Sports is a good place to start though, because there's heaps of representation by females, yet it is on the financial and social status side, heavily unbalanced in men's favor. Curiously, when I went through my own gender studies journey eight or so years ago now (informal though it was), I did pick up a book in a store one day for a perusal that pointed out that sports, by the necessity of segregating the sexes has been at the forefront of trying to actually determine what defines the sexes as different. It's tricky, it turns out.

2. Knight

There's heaps of historical precedent for women going to war, fighting in the front lines etc. It's actually a role that up until very recent history probably decreased as war scaled up and prosperity increased. At any rate, historically speaking one doesn't have to look very hard or far these days to come up with a long list of warrior women.

Which is to say, yeah, you can easily establish precedent for women going to war, but it's still exceptional. It is exceptional, but not exactly rare in narratives either. Whether contemporary or going back. Ironically many of the warrior women of history I heard about through Simon Bisley, whose collection of pinups NSFW can be seen here. But there's Artemis, the Amazons, Mulan, Joan of Arc etc. and in fantasy Brienne of Tarth, Daeny, Eowyn, Arwyn... if I were to branch out into all the fantasy series I've read, it would get fucking boring.

The challenge of course becomes not to sexualize them, which of the four mentioned above only Brienne of Tarth is described and depicted as non-beautiful, homely. Fantasy doesn't quite fit the virgin-whore dichotomy trope, it's more a princess-warrior trope, with most modern characters nominally bridging the divide like Eowyn and Arwyn, mythical antiquity creating a compartmentalized divide between Artemis, Athena and Venus, and yeah I guess you can have the farmers daughter down-to-earth type like Ygritte, or Asha contrasting with a more fragile character like Sansa, and this is a well worn trope but I'm not sure it fits the whore-virgin dichotomy in the narratives sweaty faced teenage boys with no social skills are reading. None of my experiences reading fantasy or looking at art ever inculcated this dichotomy.

Malcolm Gladwell did this interesting talk on using algorithms to predict and perhaps ultimately write movie scripts which in part, the algorithm appeared to suggest that audiences react to damsel in distress scenarios. So there is that, and there is also the fact that there are no classical martial treatises written by women.

Personally what I find most interesting to speculate on is whether women think about chivalry? Specifically a code of conduct for the powerful, a form of self-regulation. Chivalry is almost certainly romanticized, I would be inclined to put my money on Germaine Greer's description of a 12 year old child being married off to a 30 year old professional psychopath, as a more apt description of the reality of knights and maidens. But I would suspect that chivalry was also not nothing. Not mere propaganda or lip service. It certainly wasn't in the Japanese feudal context.

I cannot alas, do much speculation. There's no material I can recall that suggests women have an analogous self-imposed code of conduct, that goes beyond practices that are morally reprehensible in and of themselves like reputation destruction and what not.

3. Ogress

One domain women are certainly not excluded from, is the monster category. Whether it be Ogress, Sphinx, Vampire, Banshee, Harpy, Siren, a bunch of Eastern ones I can't be bothered to look up and of course most notably and almost universally: Witches.
I chose Ogress because it's real easy to avoid sexualizing an ogress. But there's two things to notice about representation here also.
Ogresses don't really feature in any popular fairy tales, though the back of my brain is tickled by some vague memory that Baba Yaga beyond being a witch is also an Ogress, and she does eat people. But Puss in Boots has arguably the most famous Ogre, as antagonist, who is tricked into turning into a mouse and eaten.
Despite male monsters serving as antagonists stretching back to antiquity, with Chronos devouring his children, the Cyclops, the Minotaur etc. all the trolls under bridges, heartless giants, giants up beanstalks etc. Bowser kidnapping Princess Toadstool/Peach... little boys seldom identify with, nor grow up aspiring to be Ogres, Giants or Bowser. I mean maybe it'll turn out that Harvey Weinstein or Trump always wanted to be an Ogre, but by and large, representation in this domain I suspect does nothing along gender lines.
The protagonist seems to be what matters, the Marios, the Saint Georges, the Persueses and Oddyseuses.
Secondly, nobody seems to care much about representation of antagonists at all - unless it goes wrong. If an antagonist unsympathetically and inconsiderately reinforces a stereotype. I do see women wanting to become Witches, and some small number of Men wanting to identify as Wickans (or whatever) and I will never understand them (the men).
I would guess that being a witch is to many women, more interesting and more empowering than being a damsel in distress. But no Ogresses, no Harpies, Banshees, Sirens... some Gorgons, but that seems to be a latter reclamation done with some cerebral effort.
I wonder if anyone would find it a refreshing narrative if a gallant young knight had to slay a dragon to rescue a maiden or princess, by design of the princess.
Of course, you can simplify this into the Red Sonja narrative, where you have a metal bikini warrior babe who will only accept a suitor that can best her in combat.
That of course still sexualizes women in the narrative, and the ogress and most other female mythical monsters remain undesirable.
I suspect they speak to men's inherent fear of women which attests to their survivability. With myths like the Gorgon, Siren and other changelings or metamorphoses it speaks to me at least a deep fear of conflicting desire and danger. That what you are drawn to might devour you.
That's the male perspective. Since nobody advocates for more representation of horrific women that are entirely unsympathetic and one dimensional evil though, to me it's more the interesting question of whether in arguments of representation, it's ever an argument accepting a greater variance, rather than an argument desiring a greater upper threshold.
The damsel, maiden is a passive entity in most narratives, she is no knight in shining armor. But nor is she an ogress, banshee, harpy, gorgon or witch.

4. Post Apocalyptic/Cyberpunk Brigand

My ex pointed out this reminds her of herself, and now I can't help but see it. I feel in my illustration I skirted a line with this one on the sexuality too. Is she too attractive? I weighed up depicting the character as emaciated, but felt it then makes strapping a radiator as improvised body armor unrealistic if they can't forrage or steal their basic caloric needs.

When I drew this, it wasn't hard. There is no shortage of precedent or examples of this character archetype. So much so, I could probably just keep drawing them for all of Inktober. They are a sci-fi fantasy trope.

What I thought about most was an article reviewing the prequal comic Imperator Furiosa which, I don't disagree with the article. I'm sure the comic is terrible. But I can't really sign on the dotted line with the complaint either. I never really got the hype around Furiosa, and I went into Fury Road hyped, specifically hyped up by my feminist friends online. I wrote about it at the time in a long and proven unpopular post and given that it seems to be eyeball kryptonite, won't rehash the effect Furiosa had on me again here.

Rather, in terms of the review, and all the complaints about how unpleasant the backstory was, gratuitously so, and rightly questioning the judgement of the creators as to who wants to dig into that stuff... I began to question in the thought experiment of what Furiosa's backstory could possibly be, that she is fleeing Imotep Joe with a bunch of supermodel contraband in her tanker truck. And furthermore, how women in general speculate they would fare in a post apocalyptic scenario with the breakdown in society?

I imagine the breakdown of organised human societies, rule of law and economies would be particularly rough on women. Returning to near pre-historic, pre-literate fuedal states and hunter gatherer lifestyles to me, implies not just a lack or absence of democracy, but a reversal of the democratization of everything women have won for themselves in the modern era.

This trope is a domain of representation that to me, foreboads a terrible underpinning, not a triumph of egalitarianism. All female motorcycle gangs in a toxic wasteland isn't I would guess a big 'fuckyou' to the predominantly male captains of industry that fucked up the planet, but a response to very very bad social conditions 'enjoyed' relatively speaking, by very few of the future female population. It's a form of representation that borders on the irresponsible, given that I suspect if I consulted an anthropologist, I suspect becoming an apocalypse amazon might turn out to be a terrible strategy for surviving and thriving.

5. Skater

Self explanatory, though growing up as a kid, a magazine informed of the difference betwixt a surfer and a surfie, with the later being the pretender that wanted to affect the lifestyle of a surfer, without actually being required to surf.

I don't know if there's a similar distinction in the skating world in terms of terminology. But I did notice passing through Japan, America en route to Mexico, that 'Thrasher' shirts are the current mass produced must-have item in young women's fashion. I doubt there has been as many decks sold to enthusiastic young women as there have been shirts.

Plug 'skater' or 'female skater' into a pinterest search engine and you mostly get pictures of young women with skater affectations, not skating. Just backward caps, baggy jumpers and often posing with a skateboard looking cute or hot or whatever. But no real subscription to the lifestyle.

I'm not a skater myself, but skating is important to me. Some people read the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian etc. I read, almost exclusively Jenkam magazine. Which is both a bastion of offensive and vulgar journalism focusing on juvenile subjects, and an interesting lens through which to watch the times a changing.

They cover among other paper's Becky Beal's study of the masculinity in skating culture and how it parallels jock culture in many ways. And they do more journalism where they examine themselves under a microscope. And the tension is real.

For any woman drawn to skating, I don't think there are any real obstacles to getting on a board and having fun. But skating is environment dependent, so where it gets territorial, I can see the gender-based tension possibly arising, depending on the culture.

So the interesting questions are to me - what is that culture? and who has to move where to truly include women? I have trepidations about solutions that center around sanitizing a culture and insisting it play fair. I would like to see, not just in this domain, a more equal footing among men and women.

6. Trucker

The most popular piece of the week (I think) and I'll be honest, surprisingly so. I gained a bunch of truck enthusiastic followers onto my instagram account that I expect I will lose when they realize this is the one and only piece of trucker tribute art I have ever done, or am likely to ever do.

My interest here is in dignified menial labor, and a pursuit of equality in non-high status occupations. Plug 'trucker' into Pinterest for some reference art, and I barely got any actual visuals at all. What I got was a torrent of protest memes that suggest truckers are the most oppressed people on the planet.

I've always assumed that Trucking is a fairly low skill, capital intensive, well compensated, undesirable occupation. Put those together and I don't know what I'm looking at. I don't know what road one figuratively goes down to literally become a truck driver.

So I guess for me, it is but one avenue that represents the lack of breadth in most discussions about female representation. But having said that, I did not come up blank trying to recall times I've seen women operating a truck on film. One coming from my earliest movie memories in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, a character I looked up to confirm the fidelity of my memory was called 'Large Marge'.

Thus far, not only have I found it not challenging to find roles that break away from the virgin-whore dichotomy, but I haven't found it hard to recall examples of such. In fact and practice in all my explorations of the long history and tradition of pin up art, Venus idols and the history of the female form and representation, it is not hard to find diversity and representation. The efforts are constant and persistent, just not popular.

I know the argument for why this is, it's the result of conditioning of females from childhood by the patriarchy to perform their gender in a certain way. This is possible, if I don't regard it as plausible, in the face of counter-evidence and counter arguments. I'm not satisfied by such a shallow answer at any rate and it deserves more exploration. Which I'll do for the rest of Inktober.

7. Blacksmith

So I wrote the crux of this piece up on instagram, and it's that apparently in anthropology studies of cultures across the world, the division of labor produces almost no universally traditional gender roles. In some cultures sewing, textiles and needlework is for the women, in others women are forbidden from doing so. and so on. There's no reliable division allegedly between the hunters and the gatherers except for two exceptions - one being metal working (smelting, smithing etc) and the other being the hunting of large marine mammals.

But even in this case, I was able to recall women being represented as blacksmiths and metal workers in contemporary culture. Again these are exceptions, but exceptions that garner attention. And my shallow (I guess) understanding of the importance of representation is in setting precedents, role models. Having said that, with the example of a blacksmith in the Monty Python affiliated movie 'Erik the Viking' based on the children's book of the same name by Terry Jones, both of which made an impression in my childhood. Having a male blacksmith represented really didn't compete with all the male vikings. Nor has any depiction of a smith ever given me an itch to cast and hammer out my own blade or horse shoe or whatever. I guess again it's dignified menial labor. Good honest work that leaves one built and ripped.

Life is long, I may take to a forge yet. So too can the ladies.

You can see the artwork come out as I go through Inktober on my instagram account here. I hate instagram.