Why Care About How Pixar Draws Faces?

This post on Tumblr from a few weeks ago shows the range of face shapes that men and boys receive in Pixar movies, and the relative lack of range that women and girls receive.
(H/T RM)

Why does this matter?

Seeing someone on screen who is not conventionally attractive–in any of the various ways one can fail to be conventionally attractive–but still receive love and be portrayed as worthy of that love is a very powerful thing.

Rarely ever seeing women in TV and films who are not conventionally attractive, let alone seeing them receive love and being portrayed as worthy of that love, can have a profound impact on us (as a culture) and what many of us think it takes to be worthy of love.

It is unlikely that it has completely defined our self-worth, but for many of us, myself included, it is a kind of voice or pressure that we need to shut down, again and again and again, every time we are reminded of our absence from the circle of people who are shown as loved and worthy of love.

This is why the shape of faces matters.


Green shapes on the left are men’s faces. Red shapes on the right are women’s.

Should You Comment on This Post? A Rough Guide, in Addition to the Blog’s General Policies:

  • This issue has a deep psychological and emotional resonance for me, as well as for many other people. If commenters want to discuss the account I’m giving, or the premises I’m invoking, etc., I’m happy to engage and discuss, even if a comment challenges aspects of this account. However, this is only if commenters can show good faith and be supportive of people’s struggles to maintain a robust sense self-worth, given the various cultural norms that exist regarding our bodies. If any comment engages in a manner I deem to be unsupportive or even just oblivious–regardless of the commenter’s intention–I am not going to publish it. If you want to comment but do not know or care how to do so without exacerbating the vulnerability and shame many people feel in relation to this issue, please keep your comment to yourself. This post is not for you.
  • If a comment raises a challenge or asks for evidence without also contributing something substantial to the discussion, I may or may not post it, and I may not not respond to it if I do post it. We have the internet at our fingertips, so unless a commenter demonstrates that they are a valuable conversation partner (or I already know that they are), I have little inclination to google things for them or spell out my entire justification behind these ideas. The claims here are not novel; people have probably written on them elsewhere.
  • Lastly, if I suspect a comment is an attempt to troll, I will not publish it. If you would like to avoid your comment going unpublished despite you having no intention to be a troll or cause troll-like harms, please take the time to ensure your comment cannot be taken that way. If you do not have the time or inclination to do that, please refrain from commenting.

Some reflections on slut-shaming, class, and power

I’ve just read this account in Al Jazeera America about a recently published study on college slut-shaming, and I’m feeling ambivalent.

On the one hand: Yes! Of course slut-shaming is about class! It’s long been the case that what passes as sexual liberation among those with cultural capital gets disparaged as sluttiness among the unlettered classes. And it’s about time that we bring class-consciousness into our discussions around slut-shaming. (Obviously, race/ethnicity, dis/ability, gender identity and sexual orientation are important parts of this story too. I don’t raise them here because the Al Jazeera article doesn’t raise them.)

However, I’m less in accord with bits like the following:

“Viewing women only as victims of men’s sexual dominance fails to hold women accountable for the roles they play in reproducing social inequalities,” Elizabeth Armstrong, a sociology and organizational studies professor at the University of Michigan, said in a release. “By engaging in ‘slut-shaming’ — the practice of maligning women for presumed sexual activity — women at the top create more space for their own sexual experimentation, at the cost of women at the bottom of social hierarchies.”

I mean, yes, to the extent that people should be held accountable for helping to reproduce unjust systems, then of course this accountability must extend to both men and women. Sure.

However, I’m just not on board with the liberal view that individuals are answerable for systemic inequities.  The thing about the interlocking systems of power that Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has helpfully termed “kyriarchy” is that we mostly reproduce such systems without ever deciding to do so. Even when we’re well-intentioned and trying really hard to treat people justly and to leave the world a little better than we found it, we daily, behind our own backs, reproduce the unjust system of which we are a part. We can hardly help it, having been socialized within the system.

Sure, some people are just assholes. And, I’ll bet that’s true of some of the Greeks in the slut-shaming study. Ultimately though, it’s really important to remind ourselves that tenacious systems of power are tenacious precisely because they operate through not just isolated assholes but through all of us – nice, well-intentioned folks included.

So, rather than deciding whether men or women are to blame, or trying to zero in on which men or women are to blame, we should focus our attention on understanding the mechanisms of systemic injustice. Taken with a grain (or a cup) of salt, this study may be helpful to that end.


[H/t CB for the original link.]



Francis: no and yes?

From today’s NY Times:

This (see quote below) seemed to me very good news until I thought about, and wondered if his opposition to gay marriage would have undercut any support for civil unions. Still, it may be that he sees as separable dogma and behaviour: Leave the dogma in place but make it possible for people to act in more sensible ways.

That, it seems to me, could make a huge difference. Much like the difference between saying condoms help spread AIDS (John Paul) and allowing they can be used to prevent spreading an illness (Francis).

One question an orthodox person might have is whether fairly quickly dogma gets emptied of significance or at least current meaning, much like “I am sorry but she is not at home right now.” what do you think?

Argentina was on the verge of approving gay marriage, and the Roman Catholic Church was desperate to stop that from happening. It would lead tens of thousands of its followers in protest on the streets of Buenos Aires and publicly condemn the proposed law, a direct threat to church teaching, as the work of the devil.

But behind the scenes, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the public charge against the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples.

The concession inflamed the gathering — and offers a telling insight into the leadership style he may now bring to the papacy.

Few would suggest that Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is anything but a stalwart who fully embraces the church’s positions on core social issues. But as he faced one of the most acute tests of his tenure as head of Argentina’s church, he showed another side as well, supporters and critics say: that of a deal maker willing to compromise and court opposing sides in the debate, detractors included.

Pretty Girls Making Ugly Faces

There is a subreddit entitled “Pretty Girls Ugly Faces.”  Thankfully for me, the person at Pleated-Jeans took a bunch of the photos from reddit (which I have no clue how to navigate) and posted them to tumblr.

The tumblr

The subreddit

….I think this is pretty awesome?  Showing how beauty is a performance?  Giving women the social space to discard this specific, enforced performance and adopt another one where they can have fun, be silly, and do different things with their body? (Definitely an overabundance of white women on it, though.)


EDIT: I’m (trying to) think through my reaction in the comments.

A Snark-Filled Checklist for Sexuality Research

Does anyone else get sort of bored reading articles on scientific research into sexuality?  It seems like the scientists and journalists involved are…unimaginative (/unobservant).  It’s like they all stick to the same weird checklist.  Below, I try to recreate what I think that checklist is.  Please feel free to add, comment, or correct (since I might slip into my own unwarranted assumptions on this.)

This project came into being after reading this article:  “What We Know and Don’t Know About the Biology of Homosexuality.”  It’s actually pretty decent as far as reporting on scientific research in general goes, but again I was just struck by all the suppositions and the weirdly narrow framework that seem to go into this sort of research and reporting.

A Checklist for Doing Scientific Research on Sexuality:

–Assuming that homosexuality is a variation of a heterosexual default: check
–Assuming that homosexuality is essentially just one sex taking on the other sex’s normal behavior/traits: check
(i.e. male homosexuality is when men are biologically feminized)
–Being completely ignorant of / uninterested in transsexuality and the sexuality of people who are transgender: check
–Pathologizing homosexuality even while acknowledging the arbritrariness of the concept “normal” in this context: check
–Linking genitals to sexual orientation as if there’s clearly a strong, un-contentious connection between the two: check
–Erasing the possibility of a coherent sexuality for people who are intersexed: check
–Erasing bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality as categories: check
–Talking about the evolutionary advantages or disadvantages of different sexualities as if that is automatically relevant to what our current social attitudes towards them should be: check
–Thinking about sexuality research by asking questions like, “What factors contribute to heterosexuality in humans?” or “Is there a straight gene?” or “Does our biology even support the notion of having a sexual orientation?”: uncheck

Has everyone run across research or reporting on sexuality that doesn’t make this laundry list of assumptions?

The Logic of Who Deserves Respect

I came across an article on the Consumerist which got my attention.  The article is here and you can read the original news story here.

Potty Training Your Kids At The Restaurant Table Might Possibly Upset Nearby Diners

“I noticed that this lady was having her two — she had two twins, two little girls about 2-and-a-half years old, sitting on what I thought were booster seats,” one witness to a public potty training tells KSL-TV in Utah.

But she soon discovered that those booster seats were actually kiddie toilets. “She had to undo the jumpsuits, and take them all the way down so they were completely nude, with the jumpsuits down to their ankles just eating their chicken nuggets, sitting on little toddler potties,” the diner recalls. “I was like this is not ok, we’re eating, there was a business meeting with about five or six businessmen going on right next to me. The place was packed.” So she did what lots of people would probably do in the same situation: Take a photo with her phone and post it on Facebook.

What is going on with the reasoning in this paragraph?:  “It is inappropriate to have your children exposed and naked in public.  THEREFORE, I am going to take a picture of your naked children and display it in public.”  It’s not a good enough answer to simply say, “Stupid people are stupid” because we see the same weirdly-contradictory logic in other situations:

–When people talk about women, self-respect, and sex.   The narrative I’ve seen played out numerous times goes something like this:  Dude is upset that woman is not protecting herself properly against inappropriate sexual advances; so, he starts making inappropriate sexual advances towards her.  The idea is something like, in not ‘respecting’ herself enough, she is no longer worthy of respect from him.

–When someone is harassing a person on the street and they yell out,  “You’re beautiful!” but if ignored they will tack on, “F*** you, you Ugly B****!”

–When we talk about how innocent and asexual kids are but if one of them gets raped (but not also murdered) or has sex all of a sudden it’s completely plausible that they are mature, worldly, experienced, and sexual beings.

–When, “Black women are only seen in a barely positive light FOR sex. It’s an awkward turn to this stereotype – everyone wants to f[***] me, but I’m the ugliest thing walking, huh?” (From here.)

This incident with the potty training kids highlights the weird part of this madonna/whore logic where the meaning of “inappropriate” shifts.  It starts out as, “These children are being inappropriately exposed and need to have their bodies protected” but then changes into, “the other diners are being inappropriately exposed to these bodies and thus (the diners) have a right to ridicule and display them (the bodies).”  It begins as an impulse to protect but ends as a desire to punish.


What are other instances of this sudden flip from respect to disrespect or from protection to exploitation?  And what are the unspoken premises here?


Bonus Rant:

The whole, “Please stop, I’m unable to partake of food in the presence of grossness and/or social inappropriateness,”  screams of #firstworldproblems.
If something is upsetting your sensibilities, please just be quiet and eat your damn dinner instead of proceeding to tell other people how gross and inappropriate their bodies are.  (And I’ll admit, I still catch myself wanting to do this sort of thing because it’s a cheap and easy joke to deride someone for being gross and unseemly.  But really it’s just spiteful judgement and petty hierarchy-climbing.)

Can Humor Make Us Better Thinkers?



This picture (cropped from here) doesn’t prove anything, but it exemplifies a thesis I’ve had rattling around in my skull for a while.   There are certain ideas out there, such as, “There is this thing called systematic racism exists and if you don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis, that’s a privilege you have no real right to brag about.”  Now, a lot of people can be really obtuse about these this kind of idea if it’s presented as an argument.  However, I’ve seen a bunch of situations where someone comes up with the right joke and suddenly a switch flips–people get it.  (i.e. They understand what you’re trying to say…and they seem to agree with most of your premises.)

tl;dr When I look at the kind of humor people are able to pick up on, I suspect that more people understand basic issues of kyriarchy than I realize.


(Go here if you want to browse more of these jokes on twitter.)


More rambling after the jump.

Read More »

Let’s Say It Together: Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too (Airplane Edition)

The Consumerist has a story from a man (who–for extra irony–happens to be a nurse who already goes through background checks to make sure he can work around children) who was asked to switch seats on a plane because it’s the airline’s policy not to have men sit next to unaccompanied minors. …For the minor’s safety. (And it’s not just this airline with such a policy.)


This reminds me of Gloria Steinem’s quote,

“We know that we can do what men can do, but we still don’t know that men can do what women can do. That’s absolutely crucial. We can’t go on doing two jobs.”


Sometimes when I’m out walking and pass by a playground, I like to pause and watch the kids play because it brings back a lot of memories of the playgrounds I loved as a kid (especially this one big wooden one that almost looked like a castle).  It’s so sad though, to think about how for so many men, if they were to pause as I do and look wistfully out at kids scampering around, they would be viewed with suspicion and possibly even disgust.  I know I’m complacent in this, too: we get suspicious if a man takes any / too much of an interest in children.  (What is “just enough” interest in children?)
That is so messed up.

Security, Protection, Self-Care: international Feminism’s agenda

Apparently a good amount of international peace and justice activists’ discourse is focused these days on issues about security, protection and self-care. At the same time, it can be difficult for policy makers to have much sense of the immense range of responsibilities women’s lives can involve; plans for a nation can too often neglect or work against women’s interests. In responding to this problem, women working for the security and protection of women in developing countries have, over the last several decades, developed a very nuanced and detailed agenda. It is still evolving, of course, but the recent meeting in Istanbul of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development seems to me to suggest an exciting and maturing convergence of agendas.

There is so much going on; so many questions being raised, so many action plans being developed. Follow through on some of the links from the conference, and see what you think.

I’m told there was not much Western presence. I think that is a situation we should think about critically. Many of the problems being discussed are not regional.