Single People’s Weeks: This is Not a Love Story: Zooey Deschanel and the Refusal of Romance

As I’ve recently been documenting, I’ve felt a little assaulted by images of romance, particularly heteronormative romance and chick flicks. It might just be because it’s getting closer to Valentine’s Day, but I’m starting to feel a little down as a single white female in Manhattan.

You're lettin' me down ladies. You're lettin' me down.

When even Carrie from Sex and the City is married, I’m failing in the romance department. But I’m not going to get depressed, and I’m not going to settle, and I’m not going to join eHarmony and become one of those gawdawful commercials.

Because, despite what the multiplex wants to tell you, the point of your life does not have to be to find a partner, have two point five kids, and spend the rest of your life making them make up for the fact that you gave up the rest of your life for them. How do I know this? I watch Zooey Deschanel films. Continue reading

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Single People’s Weeks: It’s an Abbreviation Showdown: NYT vs. UNC

In my previous post I talked about a New York Times Style section article by Alex Miller where Miller bemoaned the fact that a woman heavy gender imbalance at many universities has lead to a “man’s world” of dating, i.e. more hookups rather than relationships and more attractive women dating less attractive men. The article focused on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, one of the most prestigious public universities in the country. There’s been a semi-large hullaballo about the article in campus and feminist communities, so UNC’s newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel ran an article after they began covering the buzz surrounding the article on the day it came out, collecting comments from readers and twitter. A brief selection:

“I’m embarrassed by the things in that article. It’s dis-empowering, to say the least. It
reduces dating to numbers.”- John Reitz, Senior, English and drama double major

“That’s not the image we need to be portraying. Those quotes are really demeaning to women.” – Jordan Swain, Senior, communications studies major

And from Twitter (as collected by The Tar Heel):

CInscoe: I am kinda annoyed by the NYT article about girls at UNC. Makes them look kinda desperate and makes guys look like shallow pigs. No true

leslie_gant: apparently a lot of girls at UNC are in denial about the NYT article. it’s true.. get over it. RT @dailytarheel http://bit.ly/bXllkV

emilykennard: I am not desperate for a boyfriend. I would never let my boyfriend cheat on me. LEAVE ME ALONE
Quote: Emily Kennard is quoted in the New York Times article. She is also a senior writer for The Daily Tar Heel.

This comments section is a strange mix of school pride and slut shaming with a lot of people expressing sexist and sex-negative positions on the text of the article:

For a moderately but not extremely attractive girl, the dating scene at UNC has got to be painful — all the guys they might have had a shot with at other places are suddenly much harder to snag.

and

I think it is ridiculous that some “girls feel pressured to do more than they’re comfortable with” just to have a boyfriend. If you are willing to whore yourself out then no, you probably won’t end up with a very nice guy. Girls shouldn’t be so desperate to have a boyfriend that they lose all self respect.

Just a reminder to the comments section of The Daily Tar Heel, the official newspaper of a school that is the foremost training ground for the acclaimed US Women’s Soccer Team (which still wins more games than the men): Women (and men) are not all the same, and they can (and should) have sex whenever and (with whoever) they want. Physical beauty is not all men’s biggest thing, and sometimes you have sex on the first date because you both feel a spark, have protection, and are consenting adults. Continue reading

Single People’s Weeks: All the Heteronormitivity That’s Fit to Print: Blanche, Stanley and the NYT’s Single Ladies

[Update on the fallout at UNC as a result of the article discussed in this post can be found here.]

Okay. So I know I promised no romance stuff until February 15th. And I will hold to that promise. You will get no romantic affirmations, no gooey-ness in response to seeing men with babies, or bemoan-ment of my single fate. Apparently The New York Times didn’t get the message.

Today in the Sunday Styles section, the NYT published a front section article called “The New Math on Campus.” I was expecting something about mathematics becoming sexy again in college culture, or maybe a feature on mathematician,  former chid actress, and great role model Danica McKellar‘s work to encourage women in math and science. Instead I found this, a story about how the 60-40 female to male ratio on college campuses is creating a situation where

“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she [Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia] wrote. “This results in more casual hook-up encounters that do not end up leading to more serious romantic relationships. Since college women say they generally want ‘something more’ than just a casual hook-up, women end up losing out.”

W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, which is 57 percent female, put it this way: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships,” he said. Translation: more partners, more sex. Commitment? A good first step would be his returning a woman’s Facebook message.

[…]

But it’s not as if the imbalance leads to ceaseless bed-hopping, said Austin Ivey, who graduated from North Carolina last year but was hanging out in a bar near campus last week. “Guys tend to overshoot themselves and find a really beautiful girlfriend they couldn’t date otherwise, but can, thanks to the ratio,” he said.

Mr. Ivey himself said that his own college relationship lasted three years. “She didn’t think she would meet another guy, I didn’t think I would meet another girl as attractive as her,” he said.

What follows is a portrait of college life that basically offends everyone. Men are either cads who revel in “not having to work that hard” for a date or pining for dates with the school’s “enchanting, beautiful women” (whatever happened to smart, funny, kind, or talented?) that they still can only barely get (and stay with out of habit) with the math skewed in their favor. Women are either sluts who “grab men by the wrist, spin them around […] and start grinding” or shy and lonely shut-ins that are  “left alone on Valentine’s Day, staring down a George Clooney movie over a half-empty pizza box.” They also seem to only be straight. Continue reading

Single People’s Weeks: After the Apocalypse No One Will Give a Duck About Your Girlfriend Back Home

My friend James and I used to spend our time making zombie apocalypse contingency plans. James would always say apologetically, “I’d have to shoot you in the head if you were slowing us down.”

Why do I bring this up so close to Valentine’s Day? Well, because romantic relationships are what screw you over in a crisis situation, at least according to the movies. It seems like every zombie movie has the moment where the husband has to shoot the wife who’s turning. (Resulting in the infamous, “He’s not the man you married” line.) In every war movie, talking about your girl back home is a recipe for death by mortar shell. In I Am Legend, its Will Smith’s unhealthy attachment to Fred the mannequin the is the beginning of the end.

Continue reading

Single People’s Weeks: The Hurt Locker Undergoes the Chick Flick Test

In yesterday’s post for Single People’s Weeks, I asked (sarcastically) how Kathryn Bigelow manages to make such “masculine” films in the industry’s eyes. This critic went so far as to suggest that

Cameron has made a ideologically tinted, eco-minded anti-war epic that champions Mother Nature’s feminine spirit.  Bigelow has made a gritty, no-nonsense, ultra-masculine Iraq thriller that’s remarkably free of any anti-war sentiment.  The traditional polarity of male-female sensibilities is reversed. So that’s shaping up to be quite a battle.

It seems a lot easier to define a “feminine film”, a chick flick, a film that focuses on emotions and relationships, usually heteronormative ones (though a gay male best friend may appear) with women as the target audience. They tend to be sort of liberal, and lovey-dovey and…environmental? (Mother Nature didn’t look too feminine when she sent space rhinos to stomp all over those soldiers in Avatar, but whatever.)

Want to find a chick flick? It’s as easy as going to Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers, or checking to see if the cast list is mostly women. If a woman gets top billing and her head’s on the same level or higher as the man’s, it might be a chick flick.

This!

not this.

If it has a woman by herself on the poster and she’s not in silhouette, it’s probably a chick flick.

Not this.

This.

In fact, most films directed by women tend to get shoved into this category whether they like it or not. Keeping that in mind, let’s run the poster test on The Hurt Locker. Continue reading

Single People’s Weeks: Hedging, Kathryn Bigelow, and “Women’s Language”

As promised, as part of Single People’s Week(s), today’s post is not about relationships, but it is about gender. And language. Maybe. I mean, it seems that way. Maybe you can tell me at the end?

Is language gendered? Was Robin Tolmach Lakoff right when she wrote in her book Language and a Woman’s Place that women use more approval seeking constructions (“that’ll be okay, right?”), more intensifiers (very, extra) and qualifiers (a bit, not exactly, maybe), and more uncertain rising intonations (ending a sentence on an upswing, suggesting the interrogative, kind of a verbal question mark) in order to not offend men? Does a female director/writer/producer, or, to be more general, a female leader, have to speak differently in order to be accepted by the mainstream? Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Countdown: Figuring Out Slash Fans

It’s two weeks before Valentine’s Day folks. The day of built up expectations and chronic depression, of obligatory romance and likely disappointment. Valentine’s Day is can be pretty depressing for those who aren’t in a relationship when February 14th comes around. Which is why I’d like to do some posts about women, men, and sexuality that don’t have to do with relationships. (Take that Cosmo!)

For the next two weeks I’m going to explore Slash fans, working women, female masturbation, women directors, Zooey Deschanel films, and constructions of masculinity and femininity in Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones. Let’s open with this video. Because everything should open with this video.

More videos and analysis after the jump!