Friday, April 28, 2006

Everything's Plastic and Life Sucks

To my dear readers...

both of you. :)

I must apologize for being a terrible blogger and not posting a bloody word this week. I must admit, I have been suffering from a bit of world-weariness and general pop culture depression. When I was younger I used to just eat up those 'hero's journey" fantasy books where someone would go off in the 'mythical woods' and save the world from evil forces. You know the kind of which I speak, yes? Lately I've been feeling like perhaps such an epic battle took place here long ago, except the evil forces won. We are doomed to ten thousand years of darkness and nobody even notices anymore. How else can we explain the creepy Christian right, global warming, human sex trafficking and the continued success of Paris Hilton in the media? If I hear one more story about how I can loose weight and look ten years younger or how Tom Cruise wanted to eat the baby's placenta I am going to hurl. There is so much to write about that there is nothing to write about. How could I possibly choose?

Maybe it's just all the overcast grayness of the weather this week. Maybe it's the inane tasks I spend my day performing for the papmpered businessmen in my office. Maybe I just need a vacation.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that every age of every civilization thought their world was going to hell in a handbasket. I'm sure ancient Egyptians sat around bemoaning the huge budgetary irresponsability of builing yet another pyramid. (Ok, maybe not, but I'm sure they were worried about something). The point is not to get mired down in the hugeness of it all and loose all hope. Go outside and plant a tree or volunteer at the animal shelter. Something. Anything. The hardest step is always the first one!

I really must work on following my own advice.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poetry Corner

I'm taking three classes this semester. My Monday night class is English comparative Literature. I have a very cool professor who likes to work on a little bit of poetry every class. We're using A Pocketful of Poems: Vintage Verse for this purpose and it's actually a really nice collection.

Anyway, I wanted to share one of the poems that I happened upon while browsing through the book the other day. This is for all my girlfriends toiling away at the office.

The Secretary Chant
Marge Piercy 1934 -

My hips are a desk.
From my ears hang
chains of paper clips.
Rubber bands form my hair.
My breasts are wells of mimeograph ink.
My feet bear casters.
Buzz. Clink.
My head is a badly organized file.
My head is a switchboard
where crossed lines crackle.
Press my fingers
and in my eyes appear
credit and debit.
Zing. Tinkle.
My navel is a reject button.
From my mouth issue canceled reams.
Swollen, heavy, rectangular
I am about to be delivered
of a baby
Xerox machine.
File me under W
because I wonce
a woman.

Metropolis 1927 Dir. Fritz Lang

The first time I read this poem it gave me chills. I found it kind of terrifying. As I read it I could see this woman being transformed into a machine, feel the dehumanization that occurs bit by bit every day as she performs her office duties under the cold flourescent lights of a deadening corporation.

"Michelle, help me with this fax. Michelle, I need you to overnight this to India. Michelle, make ten copies of this presentation and bind it for me in half an hour." and so on and on. I joke that I have job security because I'm the only person here who knows how to work the copier.

The problem with the secretary's (administrative assistant's etc.) job is this: Anyone who is intelligent/organized/together enough to handle this job, is also too intelligent/organized/together to want to do it for very long.


How much longer do I have in school before I can get out of here and write for the NY Times?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Just a Barbie Girl, Livin' In A Barbie World

Now that I'm actually taking note of the stunning array of crap in the mass media, it is getting harder and harder to turn on the t.v. much less get through a network newscast. Even the daily fluff of the morning news show or just walking past a magazine rack can make me shudder. It's not that I think people really believe all the lies and shallow consumerism that is shoved down our throats every day, but you have to acknowledge that it has an effect.

So, this morning I'm doing my usual getting-ready-for-work routine with Good Morning America keeping me company. I know I pick on them a lot but, hey, they're the best morning show out there. I would much rather have coffee with Diane Saywer than Katie Couric. Ewwww. At least Diane doesn't leave me with the feeling that she's been dipped in saccharine. Anyway, there were two, count 'em TWO gems on in the half hour I shared with my television friends.

First we have GMA's new series, Life-Over. These are supposedly inspirational human interest stories about people who have turned their lives around. Our story this morning was about a 28-year-old woman who was overweight in high-school and always dreamed of being a cheerleader. She got married, had a baby, got divorced, had a car accident, then went through physical therapy and gained 150 pounds. She decided when her daughter was about three that she was setting a very bad example. She didn't want her kid to grow up overweight and unhappy. I certainly don't want to paint the picture that big girls are unhappy people. Goddess knows we, as a culture, need to realize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I can see, however, that she was concerned about her health and that of her little girl. I just heard a story the other day talking about the alarming number of kids being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I can say from experience that diabetes is a drag and the health risks here are real. So, I get that. There is a difference betwenn beautiful womanly curves and being unhealthy.

This next part was what made me want to write scathing letters to the program director. This woman goes on to say that not only did she loose over 120 pounds over about a year, but that she has finally realized her dream by becoming a professional cheerleader for the Seattle Seahawks. This is her idea of providing a good example for her daughter? She's a pin-up girl for one of the most violent sports in our popular culture. Her favorite thing about her new gig? She gets to pose her 120 pound, size 2 bod in the Seattle Sea Gals calendar. (Oh, yes, they made a point to tell us how much she weighs now. I guess I'm supposed to feel inferior if I'm a bigger size?) This is her fourth year as a cheerleader and she couldn't be happier. I wonder what kind of example she's going to set when she is too old to pose in a bikini and she starts to lose her value as a model and super sexualized pom-pom girl. What happens when the over stimulated 18- 28 year old men she's supposed to be hawking her wares to no longer want to buy what she's selling? I think she could have set a much better example for her daughter by, oh I don't know, going back to school and finishing her degree or furthering her education with a masters or anything involving her brain rather than her boobs. Hey, I'm not in a position to tell anyone how to live their life, but come on, do you really want your daughter's highest aspirations to be to parade, scantily clad, up and down the sidelines of a football game?

Then there was the appalling plug for a new Broadway style show based on everyone's favorite free thinker, Barbie. Yep, Barbie has a live stage show starring a suitably tall, thin, pretty, blond girl with, I must admit, one hell of a voice. They filled the studio with little girls in pink princess dresses and frilly bows, gazing up at their idol and waving excitedly. Most of them were smiling. A few of them just looked confused and one little Asian girl looked positively hostile. You could see her looking up at this epitome of western beauty and wondering why her mother had made her get up so early to come be a part of this display. I know a five-year-old doesn't understand the implications of all this stuff, but I really did get the feeling that she was uncomfortable. It was really quite chilling to watch all these little girls worshipping at the feet of their unattainable idol. I pray that they are not scarred for life.

And finally, there was the Robin Robert's segment on Self magazine's best beauty products for the upcoming summer season. Even Robin knew that was crap. She was smiling and nodding at this woman demonstrating mascara and you could tell she was wondering how much longer she was going to have to keep it up. It's tough out here for an intelligent news lady.

News programs are the gatekeepers of information. The average "real" news story on the nightly news gets about 20 seconds of coverage. Really important stuff might get a whole minute. Granted, GMA and shows like it have much more time so they can do these fluff segments. As a matter of fact, most of their content is just that. But couldn't they cut back on the blatantly demoralizing stuff? Maybe try to limit it to one per show instead of three or more?

I understand that these morning news magazine shows have a target audience that is predominantly mothers. When you get to the bottom of it, this is all about the money. They have to sell us crap to stay on the air. I get all of that. I just wish I could enjoy the intelligent conversation and actual news without the typical beauty-myth stupidity being paraded around as though it were 1. true and 2. healthy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bitch on Wheels?

I had another prize winning day at work yesterday. As I hung up the phone and prepared to make yet another change to my boss' travel plans, I felt the rage and despair of an intelligent woman at a dead end job begin to boil somewhere around my solar plexus. It was one of those moments where it takes a concerted, physical effort not to throw the telephone across the room and run screaming out the front door. I have changed the flights for the man's trip to New York this week more times that I remember now and he's still calling to try and adjust things. Every time he calls it gets harder and harder to get him on a different flight and the cost goes up and up. So does my stress level.

After dealing with Mr. Indecisive's travel needs all day, I got a call around 4:30 from a female executive on her way to our office. Apparently she was meeting one of the guys here for a meeting and had not been this way before. She wanted to know what freeway exit to take from the 5 South to get to the office. Now, I'm really not very good with directions and this kind of abstract thought after the day I'd had was not going to happen, so I asked her to hold on just a moment so I could take a look at the mapquest page I have saved for just such occasions. She was less than pleased and wanted to know what I do when people need directions to the office. I wanted to scream at the demanding little wench that I take surface streets to work and am not familiar with that stretch of the 5, but I muttered some polite apologetic platitude and continued looking for the exit on the map. She got pissed off because I could not give her an immediate answer, told me she'd figure it out and hung up. Needles to say, when she got here around five, it took a Herculean effort to keep my receptionist's smile plastered on my mug. She gave me this derisive look and made it clear that she was not going to concern herself with a pathetic little creature like me who couldn't even come up with street directions at a moment's notice and clearly has not graduated from Smith or Brown with honors.

Oooo, the cattiness of women in the work place. Yep, I was wantin' to bitch slap this person that I had talked to for about four minutes total. She became the personification of all the crap that is wrong in my life right now. I realize that I am working towards a degree in a field that I am actually interested in. I know that one day I will be working at a job that doesn't make me cry on Sunday nights. But right now, I'm feeling pretty hopeless about the whole situation and her smug derision stalking through my office door in her prim little skirt suit about put me over the edge.

Why, oh, why do we do this to each other? She seemed to feel that she was not only superior to me but that I was clearly offensive. I'm sure she has had her own battles in the workplace as a woman. Perhaps she sees 'the receptionist' as a stereotype that she has had to overcome. Has she been expected to bring coffee into a meeting or to make the travel arrangements for a business trip simply because she is a woman? Does she get paid the same wage as her male co-workers? Recent statistics show that most women earn about 76 cents to the dollar that their male counterparts do. Maybe she's a mom as well and she gets shit about taking afternoons off for doctor's appointments and school plays. Perhaps her company isn't very forgiving with their flex time. Maybe she had had just as difficult a day as I and simply wanted someone to help her get out of the late afternoon traffic with a minimum of bloodshed and drama. Or perhaps she was just a stuck-up type A personality ice queen with an MBA and something to prove. (sigh) Bad, bad, bad me.

I don't particularly like working as a receptionist/office manager myself. I cringe every time someone asks me to order lunch for a meeting or fix the copier. I am an intelligent person and this job isn't exactly stimulating. As a matter of fact it's downright demeaning most of the time.

However, it does pay the bills. It does provide health insurance. It provides enough money so that I can attend school and get the hell out of here when the time comes. Someday I will be taking a meeting at a corporate office and I hope I will show the 'girl' at the front desk a little more consideration. I hope I will remember that it's a thankless job and even though it's far from the worst one I've ever had it's not one that people dream about as children. I don't think anyone of us girls sat around the lunch table fantasizing about what they would do when they finally landed that gig as a secretary.

I hope that lady had a better evening. Maybe next time I can try to remember that we're all out here doing the best we can. As women we need to stop scratching each other's eyes out and try a little more sisterly understanding. Whether you're an administrative assistant or a VP of Marketing, it can be pretty brutal out here in corporate America. Wouldn't it be nice if we could try to offer a little more understanding to the lady across the hall and a little less venom? We might actually be able to get something done about that pesky little wage gap.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

19 Million Young Women Can't ALL Be Wrong, Can They?

I'm taking a Political Science class this semester. I thought it was going to be boring, complicated and generally frustrating. I am pleased to announce that while it is a bit complicated, it is also really interesting and empowering. Knowing how government works makes you more likely to take part in the process. As long as government is just this big machine operating somewhere out there in the ether there is not much motivation to get involved with it. Yep, knowledge really is power.

I admit that when I was younger, I didn't give a damn about the whole thing. As far as I was concerned, government was run by a bunch of old, rich, white guys who weren't connected to my problems and would not have given a damn anyway. I figured, since I do not own a large oil company or run a bank, I didn't have much power. Maybe that's still true. However, I know that I feel less like a victim when I get out and vote, or write a letter to my senators or sign a petition. Hey, I may not be able to hire a bunch of lobbyists, but I can at least get my voice out there in the world. And I'm finding out that there are a lot of people that share my views on say, abortion rights, environmental issues and education. Hmmmmm.....when lots of people get together they can often overpower the big oil company or snotty bank in making policies for the nation. Damn, this is actually pretty cool.

I just read in a new book entitled "The F-Word, Feminism in Jeopardy - Women, Politics and the Future" that about 19 million young women between the ages of 18 to 25 DID NOT vote in the last election! Holy crap, ladies! WTF?

The weird thing is, these young women are not ignorant. They are generally educated (or in college) and are active in their communities. They volunteer at the old folks home, they work with kids or at the local animal shelter. So, what gives? Apparently they feel left out of the political process. They feel like their vote doesn't really matter and that they are not represented. They also say that they don't relate to either political party and they do not want to be labeled. They don't want to be boxed in.

Ok, I get that, I really do. I even feel the same way myself often. Let's face it, Pres. Bush and most of congress is not exactly concerned with the things that make my blood boil. But, they would be if more of us told them to be. This is a democracy, but it's only a democracy of the people who get involved. There is a vicious cycle created by cynicism in our country. People who feel powerless and left out of the process don't vote, if they don't vote then government doesn't know that they are concerned. Why should a congressperson cater to the needs of people that don't vote? Since their needs are not being addressed, these people feel more powerless and cynical and continue not to vote. And on and on it goes.

I would just like to remind all you ladies that have not been to the polls lately that it was not so long ago that you were not allowed to vote. Our great-grandmothers fought tooth and nail to get us this right. They were the ones who got us useful things like Planned Parenthood (back in the 1890s!) and subsidized childcare. How would you feel if that basic right was denied to you simply because you have a uterus? If nothing else we owe it to the ladies who came before us to get our butts down to the polling location and check a box. Imagine what 19 million young female voters could have done to the last presidential election. Imagine what would happen if 19 million young women voted in the congressional mid-term election this fall.

Yeah, it's not a perfect system. It's got a lot of problems and politicians are pretty scummy sometimes (ok, often). But it's the only system we have and if you want to see it change you gotta tell them you want change.

If you aren't registered to vote and you wanna be, than go check out this link. It gives you the registration form and lots of useful info.