Hello Kitty … for the guys

Hello Kitty is a trademark of the Sanrio company in Tokyo. Created in 1974, she’s become internationally popular. She is also deeply associated with a girlish culture of a very traditional sort.

Hello Kitty is pretty cute; she shows up on laptops

And on bags

And watches

Sanrio Character Wrist Watch Vol. 2 - Hello Kitty

Her face is a part of some pretty expensive jewelry:

Today the head of Sanrio, who developed the line, has announced that it is seeking larger markets.

“Young men these days grew up with character goods. That generation feels no embarrassment about wearing Hello Kitty.”
Sanrio Co spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu, announcing that Hello Kitty products for men, such as T-shirts and watches, will go on sale in Japan, other Asian countries and the U.S. next year.

In addition to the fascinating idea of marketing a product, one deeply embedded in a traditionally understood ultra-feminine context, to young men, there is the discussion of it in Japan Today. One thread in the discussion concerns questions about Western views of Asia, and who speaks for whom, but another addresses the question of whether joung Japanese men are becoming more feminine.

Though it is so easy to miss the cultural subtleties in a discussion like this, it looks as though the association with young men becoming more feminine is their being childish. Another factor that complicates understanding the discussion is that it looks as at least some Japanese are very sensitive about a Western stereotype of the Japanese as childish.

Since it is hard to tell from a  short newspaper article what is really going  on culturally in another country, let me just suggest readers have a look for themselves.  It may be a case where market forces actually work to make girls’ things more acceptable to boys.   Or  not.

Abortion rights and sex selection

Sex selective abortions have been touched on a few times here already.  But we’ve never really focused on the philosophical issues they raise.  John Turri sent us an excellent article, and the suggestion that we take up these issues.  (That was a while ago, and I’m only now getting around to it– sorry!)  Here’s the thing… most feminists support abortion on demand.  But if we take that really seriously we also need to support abortion for reasons of sex selection, where that is genuinely what a woman wants.  Now, we can raise lots of worries about whether this is really an uncoerced choice (thanks for the link, Jender-Parents); and we can strongly criticise the social forces that bring about this preference if it’s a genuine one.  But when we get done with that, what do we say about the cases where it really is uncoerced?  (I would suspect that there really are such cases, by the way.  And in some circumstances I can even imagine it being a morally motivated decision.  If girls and women are treated badly enough in one’s society, mightn’t it seem deeply immoral to bring another girl into existence to be brutally mistreated?) I’m sure there must have been good things written on this topic by feminist philosophers. Does anyone know of some?  This is clearly one of those cases that shows the weakness of framing abortion just in terms of ‘choice’, but I’d like to know more about ways to approach it.  (It may also show the weaknesses of thinking just in terms of coerced/uncoerced.)

Exercise and Mental Function

Feminist philosophers who feel their careers were slowed down – or at least not accelerated – in comparison to similarly talented men, might want to take steps  to prolonged their productive years.  The evidence is mounting that exercise can play a big role in preserving mental function.

 So if you are tempted to do a New Year’s reassessment of the ways you allocate time to your health, think about including more exercise. 

 There are several things  we now understand about starting and sustaining a successful exercise program.  One big one is that including friends and family can be a huge help.

However, do make sure you all have some prior understanding of direction and goals:

And most of all: Enjoy!

French Health Care: A Different Case

The diary right below this one has raised a question for at least one reader about who does health care better. I don’t want to suggest there are simple answers, but it is worth having another case on hand from a different medical system. The one below is part of a post at DailyKos. Jerome a Paris is recounting his son’s treatment in Paris when it was discovered that he had a tumor in his brain.I’ve put in bold some of the passages that seem to give us a stark contrast with the experience recounted in the earlier diary.

He was first diagnosed by our pediatrician, a private sector doctor, who sent us to the (public) specialised pediatric hospital in Paris for additional exams. We did a scan and a MRI the same day, and that brought the diagnosis we know. He was hospitalised the same day, with surgery immediately scheduled for two days later. At that point, we only had to provide our social security number.Surgery – an act that the doctor that performed it (one of the world’s top specialists in his field) told us he would not have done it five years before – actually took place the next week, because emergency cases came up in the meantime. After a few days at the hospital, we went home. At that point, we had spent no money, and done little more than filling up a simple form with name and social security number.Meetings with the doctor in charge of his long term treatment, and with a specialised re-education hospital, were immediately set up, and chemiotherapy and physical therapy were scheduled for the next full year.Physical therapy included a few hours each day in a specialised hospital, with a varied team of specialists (kinesitherapy, ergotherapy, phychologist, orthophonist) and, had we needed it, schooling. As we lived not too far away, we tried to keep our son at his pre-school for half the day, and at the hospital the other half. Again, apart from filling up a few forms, we had nothing to do.My wife pretty much stopped working to take my son to the hospital every day (either for reeducation or treatment) – and was allocated a stipend by the government as caregiver, for a full year (equal to just under the minimum wage). Had we needed it, transport by ambulance would have been taken care of, free of charge for us (as it were, car commutes to the hospital could also be reimbursed).During the chemiotherapy, if he had any side effects (his immune system being weakened, any normal children’s disease basically required him to be hospitalised to be given full anti-biotic treatment), we’d call up the hospital and just come around. Either of us could spend the night with him as needed. We never spent a dime.After a year at the specialised hospital, ongoing re-education was moved to another institution specialised in home and school interventions. In practice, a full team of 5 doctors or specialists come to see him over the week, either at home or at school, to continue his treatment (such follow up, possibly less intense than at the beginning, will be needed until he reaches his adult size). Of course, they manufacture braces and other specialised equipment for him and provide it free of charge to us.Check up exams take place every 3 months, with all the appropriate exams (usually including a MRI), and we’ve never had to wait for the appointments. Again, no cost for us, no funds to be fronted.When he relapsed, our doctors considered all available options. In the end, the most promising technology was in another Paris hospital. Such technology, linked to nuclear research, exists only in 3 places in the world, one in Boston and one in Switzerland, so the French system itself was able to provide a cutting edge option. But had we needed to go to Germany, the UK or even the USA for treatment because that’s where the best hope was, the costs of that would have been covered too by French social security.So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of your job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care.

A specific case illustrates the US’s failure in health care

(I assume that Michael Moore’s indictment of US healthcare, Sicko, couldn’t cover many of the ways people are deprived of adquate care, and I think the case below illustrates one of  them.  But even if he did include it, the specific case again usefully makes the point.)

I received the following emessage today.  “UTMB” is the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX.  It is well-know for treating indigent people; their emergency room does not ask for proof of ability to pay before one receives treatment.  But there are horrendous gaps nonetheless.

Galveston is about 45 miles from Houston, which contains what is, by some measurements, the largest medical center in the world.  Methodist Hospital, with its teak furniture, piano and fountains in the  foyer, provides treatment for some of the world’s richest people.  And yet, in its shadows…well, you’ve read Dickens…

All of you know Dave Diggins and most also know his wife, Susan. I am sorry to let you know that Susan has been diagnosed with breast cancer – she has two areas in her right breast. At this time, the physicians are talking about chemotherapy treatment in order to shrink them before they consider surgery. The radiology department at UTMB has referred Susan to oncology.

Unfortunately, Dave and Susan do not have health insurance and they would have to qualify for indigent care before they would be allowed to see oncology. Since they do not qualify, they have, at this time, been turned away. It is really hard for the mid-income people who are self-employed to make enough to afford health care and Dave just happens to fit into that group.

They have been put in contact with Sr. Joan James, who works with the Susan Cronin Breast Cancer Foundation that administers grants to people that find themselves in Dave and Susan’s position. However, as you know, obtaining grants can sometimes take longer than anticipated.  [All names of persons changed.]

Perhaps, like me, you weren’t aware that indigence is means-tested in the case of life saving health care.

Pink Vigilantes

Sampat Pal DeviA group of poor women in India have mobilised to fight, violently where necessary, for better treatment of women and the poor, while wearing pink saris.  The article is interesting, though problematically written:

The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists – they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses because “women need men to live with”.

Aside from the fact that It’s hard to be impressed by anything that uses the phrase ‘male-bashing feminists’, there isn’t enough explanation in the article to tell one what is meant by “need”– is this meant to be a fact about women’s nature, or about the way that their society is set up? These sorts of distinctions are important, and the article really isn’t very helpful for those seeking real understanding. Still, it’s interesting to know even a little bit about this. (Thanks, Jender-parents!)

Boxing Day Carnival

Note: this has been updated in response to comments. 

Looking for a suitable Boxing Day activity?  (For those unfamiliar with the tradition: Boxing Day is the day after Xmas, traditionally devoted to semi-vegetative recovery from the day before.  Often devoted to watching trashy horror movies on TV.)  I’ve belatedly noted that there’s an excellent new Carnival of Feminists up at The Jaded Hippy (and we’ve even got something in it!).  You might want to spend some time surfing through it.

On Dec. 25, a completely silly video of cats singing

about sleigh bells in the snow would have been great, but I gave up on finding a really good one.  In part because I discovered a video that has left me very puzzled, a state that philosophers can love.  What I’m puzzled about is:  What happened?  The background scenes seen in the video below seem to have vanished.  And of course that war is basically over, but the current crisis in the States is sadly too similar.  

British Fashion Council makes more suggestions

Nothing is guaranteed to make one feel more like a heaving mound of flab and blocked pores than the images of ‘perfect’ feminine beauty bandied around by the fashion industry. Not only are models taller than average, thinner than average, and richer than average – which makes the £850 worth of ‘required’ monthly beauty treatments rather easier to afford – their already non-standard images are routinely photoshopped by magazines to make them taller, thinner, glossier-of-hair, flatter-of-stomach, and bigger-of-boob. Hope of some kind is on the horizon, however, as the British Fashion Council has just noticed that models’ photos are being regularly airbrushed, and asked everyone nicely to stop. (Quite how it has missed this practice for so long is more of a mystery.) Let’s hope someone takes some notice. Don’t hold your breath though – the BFC’s recent recommendations on not using ultra-skinny models, only employing those over the age of sixteen, and ensuring that their working environment was smoke and drug-free have not been greeted with much enthusiasm by the fashion industry.

Kara Walker’s art

Kara Walker - The Renaissance Society

Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage
Through the South and
Reconfigured for the Benefit of
Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May
Be Found,
By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker,
January 12 – February 23, 1997

Picture and Text from The Renaissance Society, the University of Chicago.

Walker has an exhibit at the Whitney, in NYC, through Feb. 3. The art is often beautiful despite its exceptional portrayal of very ugly racist and sexist stereotypes. The picture above was intentionally chosen (at least in this context) to leave to readers the decision of whether to view some profoundly challenging work.  Thus:

Walker’s work is often said to appropriate and subvert stereotypes, but that might be a little misleading.  She herself at least at times takes her art to present stereotypes as they infect us all.  She is quoted by Newsday as saying, “I want people to respond and to be aware that if a goody-two-shoes like me can have all of this going on her head, then nobody’s safe.”

She has been very controversial; though she has been awarded a McCarthur “genius” award, she was sharply criticized by some African Americans as promulgating negative stereotypes, perhaps even to get money from bigots.  Her comments on presenting positive images of black people are again quoted by Newsday:

Walker, for her part, questioned the very notion of a positive black image: “Every image produced of ‘us’ is mediated – filtered through the grounds of years of misrepresentation, bitterness and suspicion,” she scrawled on one of the beautifully illustrated diary pages on display at the Whitney. She doesn’t think it’s possible to mold new, untainted forms. We can only deconstruct those that already exist and uncover their ongoing corruption.

She’s a feminist you might want to know more about.