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kottke.org posts about culture

Some thoughts on dressing for battle

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

gas-station-jumpsuit-high-maintenance.png

Eva Hagberg Fisher’s piece on the nuances of dressing for the public scrutiny of fighting sexual harassment has really stuck with me.

Over the last year and a half, I have needed a lot of outfits. I have also needed to be consistent. I have needed to be ready, at every moment, to be seen as both a poverty-stricken graduate student and a reliable adult. As an accuser, I need to be a news-team-ready correspondent and someone who certainly wasn’t doing this for the limelight. I didn’t know any of this when I started. I learned this all on the full-time job that is being an objector to sexual harassment in America.

She’d made an 11-page report about the sexual harassment she’d endured from her graduate school advisor.

But at the time, I just wanted to be credible. Strong. I didn’t want to look like what I imagined a victim looks like. I didn’t want to look so downtrodden that I would look obsessed with being a victim, as it was suggested. I didn’t want to look so feminine and girlish that I wouldn’t be taken seriously; I’d seen the way young-looking women are treated. And yet, I didn’t want to look too aggressive, too much like a “rabble-rouser” with an “agenda.” Of course I had been cautioned about that.

Her writing is clear and wise here. (If you want to read more, she released a memoir on a completely different topic this winter.)

Brooklyn Based noted recently that, in spring fashion trends, we’ve gone back to our Rosie the Riveter roots. Instead of replacing men in the workplace during wartime, the war we’re fighting is now for fair treatment, opportunities for advancement, and equal pay.

The jumpsuit that’s now so on trend should not be confused with the romper or those silky one-pieces that look fragile, dressy and flattering. These are mechanic coveralls, reminiscent of “Rosie the Riveter” and all the World War II ladies who worked in factories. Yet the origins of jumpsuits for women are strictly fashion. “Elsa Schiaparelli was the first Paris couturier to design jumpsuits; she was known for hanging with the Surrealists and designing with their inspiration,” says Lisa Santandrea, adjunct professor of Fashion History at Parsons. “The Met has a one-piece sleeveless Schiaparelli jumpsuit from 1930—but later in the 1930s, she designed a more work-a-day design with long sleeves and, importantly, pockets. Pockets mean no purses, and that’s more freedom.”

But really, it’s all about how closely aligned you are to power. If you’re part of it rather than fighting against it, you have more options. When you’ve proven yourself, you don’t have to try as hard. And age is a factor. Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco (who happens to have a new book of essays out now)
touched on this in a recent interview with ITG.

When I was an intern in ‘96, if you were a woman who wanted to be on the House floor, you had to wear a skirt and pantyhose. I really felt I had to act a very specific way. Entering the White House with Obama, he was like, ‘I don’t care what you’re wearing, you’re getting the job done.’ When we were dealing with crazy things, if I came in in corduroy pants and a puffy vest, POTUS never said a word. The more that I could actually be myself, the more successful I was, because I wasn’t putting up a façade. I think that we have come a long way, but women are still judged for what they wear. But it’s a double-edged sword—my style’s my style, and I don’t want to not have style so people don’t talk about me.

While working last year in a leadership position in an office where I was ten to fifteen years older than most of the team, I rotated between a Rachel Comey denim jumpsuit and a vintage white Gitano romper. When I joined the company, there were jokes about me as a mom figure (which mostly came from the male boss, of course). Who has time to put together an outfit when you’re busy getting stuff done and trying to assert authority? A jumpsuit is essentially a less feminine dress, just as comfortable, but with pockets. The millennial women in the office often complimented my outfits; one man remarked that I looked like a mechanic. But it’s not about the male gaze, is it?

Nellie Bowles on how we live in the future

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 09, 2019

I’m such a fan of Nellie Bowles. She covers tech for the NY Times, but has essentially created a beat that is the perfect encapsulation of late-stage capitalism. She captures both internet culture and the new tech economy in a way that could read as satire but it’s all too real. Here’s a look at some of her recent pieces that stuck out in my mind.

She’s starting a series of explainers. First up: Why Is Silicon Valley So Obsessed With The Virtue of Suffering?

Stoicism has been the preferred viral philosophy “for a moment” for years now — or two decades, by one count. The topic of Stoicism usually comes up in the Valley in terms of the maintenance of the personal life. Start-ups big and small believe their mission is to make the transactions of life frictionless and pleasing. But the executives building those things are convinced that a pleasing, on-demand life will make them soft. So they attempt to bring the pain.

Ok. But then she gets right down to it:

Instead, Stoics believed that everything in the universe is already perfect and that things that seem bad or unjust are secretly good underneath. The philosophy is handy if you already believe that the rich are meant to be rich and the poor meant to be poor.

Is post-tech the new high-tech? Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen.

As much as I want to hate this, I don’t (and El Pescadero is lovely): A New Luxury Retreat Caters to Elderly Workers in Tech (Ages 30 and Up)

Their anxieties are well founded. In Silicon Valley, the hiring rate seems to slow for workers once they hit 34, according to a 2017 study by Visier, a human-resources analytics provider. The median age of a worker at Facebook, LinkedIn and SpaceX is 29, according to a recent analysis by the workplace transparency site PayScale.

At Modern Elder, several people introduced themselves by rounding up their ages — one woman said she was “soon to be 39,” another was “almost 42,” and a third was “pretty soon looking at 50.” Some said they chose to come south because they thought vacationing would be more serene without 20-somethings in the mix.

I hope we see a book from Nellie Bowles soon. Who else is helping make sense of this bizarre future we live in?

Time travel through words with Merriam-Webster

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 25, 2018

This is much more satisfying than browsing Google Trends, and just as illuminating about cultural shifts. Merriam-Webster’s new Time Traveler surfaces words based on the year they were first introduced in print*.

Apparently I was born the same year as the high five, ecofeminism, air guitar, voice mail, gridlock, heavy lifting, and gazillionaire.

My alma mater was founded in the same year as the words capitalism, Chianti, sassy, pants, pseudoclassic, tragic irony, mauve, and, my personal favorite, somnambulate.

*An important note on First Known Use dates:

The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.

The placebo effect is real apparently even

posted by Deron Bauman   Mar 05, 2008

The placebo effect is real apparently even when you know it’s a placebo, and, alternately, the possibility exists that cultural expectations of whether a drug works may have an effect on how well the drug works:

There are various possible interpretations of this finding: it’s possible, of course, that it was a function of changing research protocols. But one possibility is that the older drug became less effective after new ones were brought in, because of deteriorating medical belief in it.