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Seems I'm not quite done with art yet - Tactical Ninja

Feb. 21st, 2013

09:34 am - Seems I'm not quite done with art yet

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So I woke up this morning and in my inbox there was an unsolicited email from Amazon. Normally I'd delete this without compunction, but the subject line caught my eye:

"BIC Cristal For Her Ball Pen, 1.0mm.."

For Her? They made a ballpoint pen just for me? I had to know what this meant! So I went and looked at the site. Apparently, a pen 'for her' has easy-gliding ink for BEAUTIFULLY SMOOTH WRITING, a sleek silhouette and jewlled accents for STYLE, a soft grip for COMFORT, and FASHION INK! Another section for a different 'for her' pen told me it had a smaller barrel for my delicate lady hands!

Now, I've often complained about the frustration of trying to use tools that were designed for man-hands. It's especially a problem with things that require a firm grip or things with a scissor action, that need the ability to span a wide gap with your hands - things like footrot shears and hand rammers, for example. One of my favourite tools from Ye Olden Tymes, and one of the things my ex-husband actually got right, was my undersized shoeing hammer he gave me for Christmas one year. But I have never had a problem holding a pen. I've never had a problem with standard blue ink, or with a lack of glitter, and my LadyBiceps have never had trouble pushing a pen across a page. I have never thought, "Gee I wish this ink would glide better so my writing could be more beautiful!" Pens are simply not a thing that suffer from the male-as-default thing.

So I was all ready to take the piss out of this somewhat silly idea of making GLITTER FASHION pens and trying to market them as 'for her'. But it seems that I've been beaten to it. I can't top the reviews that are already there. I LOLed for real.


This morning's bit o' reading about Big Ideas covered the concept of beauty and the Intentional Fallacy. So the Intentional Fallacy is the idea that the design, intention or biographical context of the author is relevant to the criticism of a work of art, and this idea was considered fallacious by the New Critics of the mid-20th Century. They felt that works of art should be judged based entirely on their 'internal evidence' - only the actual details present in a given work.

This is the bit where Art History majors go to sleep, right? So what, yadda yadda.. I know it's more complex than that but bear with me OK?

So the example given was Wagner, who was apparently a mostrous egotist and a raving anti-Semite. Despite this, he managed to create music that was critically acclaimed. The question is then, is his music any less good because of his personality flaws or beliefs? The logical answer is no. I made this argument about Julian Assange when the stuff about his activities in Sweden first came to light. The dude is somewhat hero-worshipped because of his work with Wikileaks, and some people seemed to think that made it wrong for him to be accused of rape - and it led to some pretty horrible acts on the part of those people in defence of Assange's 'innocence'. My argument is that Assange as a person exists separately from his work with Wikileaks, and it's possible for him to be an important man doing good work and a dodgy motherfucker who treats women like shit at the same time. Sure, it's not art, but I think it's a similar argument - his personal activities have no bearing on the quality of his work, and his work should not be judged based on the possibility that he's a rapist. Likewise, his innocence or guilt of the rape charges should not be judged based on his work with Wikileaks. So I sort of agree with this idea of the Intentional Fallacy.

But..

It brought to mind the stuff from the other day about Alistair Crowley's portrayal of paganism and women, which seems to have been very much a product of who he was (upper class English with the usual set of repressions related to this), and the time he was in (women still pretty much without agency, paganism still in the realms of blasphemy but fascinating to those with the means to avoid their 'deviance' having real negative impact on their lives). The product, as Happy pointed out the other day, was "an attempt to justify his own deviance through complicating it into religion .. that never raised itself above schoolyard naughtiness."

However, that is viewed in the context of today's New Zealand, where the class structure is much less evident, women have much more agency, and paganism is more or less accepted as another form of religion. And this is, in part, because Alistair Crowley brought this stuff into light in a time when it was considered deviant. So I then ask the question, can we accurately judge the quality of Crowley's work without taking into account the context it arose from?

Maybe back when it was first produced, we could. But with 100 years of history under the bridge, it seems to me that the man, his work and his place in history have become one thing. And then I wonder if this is because the work we're judging is the work that made him famous. I mean, have a look at this painting:



Any good? I dunno, I'm no art critic. Seems a bit boring to me, muted colours, not photorealist enough, seems unfinished, but it wouldn't piss me off because the proportion and perspective are pretty much right. So, you know, a nondescript painting that I'd give 6 or 7 out of 10. Does knowing it was painted by Hitler make it any different? Not to me, but I think that's because Hitler's painting was not related to his infamy - he wasn't known for art, therefore the context of its production is less relevant to its quality, you know?

Did I just Godwin myself?


*cough* Anyway, so what am I trying to say here? I don't really know. What I do know is that when I read a book, before I start the story I always look at the publisher's page. I want to know when it was written, and where it was first published. For me, the context of time and place helps me to understand the story, and this avoids confusion and/or annoyance with various cultural markers in the text. I guess that means that I'm not convinced the Intentional Fallacy is all that fallacious. Hmm..

Welcome to my navel, it's linty in here. Also, I started taking Vitamin D about a week ago, because this app I'm using to track my food also measures nutrition, and Vitamins D and E, and iron, are things that I consistently struggle to get enough of through diet alone so those are what I supplement. I have noticed my brain going into overdrive in the last few days. Not sure what's up with that but it's a bit..O.o um. Either I'll learn lots of stuff really fast or my head will explode. I'll keep you posted.

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
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That video is all kinds of awesome.

If you were judging the quality of Crowley's work at the time he wrote it, do you think you'd have the same perception of his assumptions about women? It's a hard question to answer, and that's kind of my point. It seems to me that it's impossible to not have that critical lens of context when viewing works like that - you can't wipe the history or your own enculturation from your brain. As you say, that doesn't invalidate the quality of a work, but it does influence the perception of it. I'm pretty sure that when Crowley first wrote, it would have been the 'satanic' aspects that made people go *gnng*, not his attitude to women.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure you're aware of the difference between the ideal of content being all that matters in scientific work and the reality that the content is influenced by a number of other factors that have nothing to do with objective rationality. In fact, I know you are, because I've seen you try to explain it to other people.

Also, I think the idea that human ability is finite, is bollocks, and that it's entirely possible to be both a brilliant researcher and an excellent presenter at the same time. But I would say that because of my context. Lalalala.

And even your example of how that strictness doesn't apply across all human communication depends on context and framing - for a start, a different person may have seen the joke differently, and secondly, I don't understand why you see that as playing with male privilege - I don't understand your context and frame for that statement.

Thus, it seems that extracting oneself from the morass of enculturation is virtually impossible. A popular response to rape jokes is to ask the teller why they're funny - and that is likely to work for a number of jokes that rely on a common acceptance of stereotyping, right? So it seems we're saying more or less the same thing. I think.

Anyway, that lenin person uses a lot of big words and complex structures to explain why he (?) thinks that male privilege is valid if problematic as a concept. At least, that's what I think he's saying.
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From:rivet
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
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I think it depends on the nature of the work. Art doesn't really stand on its own--its meaning is created in the interaction between the work and the audience. Satire would be meaningless without the knowledge the audience is presumed by the author to have (which is why you have to explain to high school students that it's appropriate to laugh at Chaucer (even though fart jokes aren't all that funny) and that Jane Austen is actually hilarious).

I find the argument that you can't possibly understand a work without extensive biography of the creator a bit tedious, but the idea that it must stand entirely on its own is very limiting. All work is stamped by its context, and an awareness of that enriches your experience of that.

Also, you're funny ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
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I aspire to your ability to express yourself.
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From:rivet
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
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You are kind. I aspire to be able to express myself more incisively, with less hand-waving and prefatory shuffle. But if I did, how would you know it was me?
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From:tatjna
Date:February 21st, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
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Because of your icon.

Ha HA!
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:12 pm (UTC)
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I struggled to contain myself when someone in my Drugs and Crime tutorial asked me very seriously if I had gone out for a few wines with the girls on my birthday last year. Because, you know, context.

Also, "co-evolutionary social-ecological-technological processes" sounds awfully like "Stuff that happens".

And you look like a dodgy fucker in those dark glasses.



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From:rivet
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
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::groans::

That was shocking. Also hilarious. I miss you guys.

I'd stay around and banter, but I'm off to meet a PhD student seeking supervision on, of all things, sociology and productivity. Might be fascinating, might be a trainwreck. But I think this makes me a grownup in someone's eyes.
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From:rivet
Date:February 21st, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
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My prospective student was frazzled, neurotic, and possibly stoned. About par for the course, I suppose.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 21st, 2013 01:29 am (UTC)
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Where does that description fit on the fascinating <-----> trainwreck continuum?

Also, if you're going to be a grownup you need to learn how to look over your glasses disapprovingly. Extra points if you can do this even when not wearing glasses.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 21st, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
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In which case we have another continuum, stoned <--> not stoned, running orthogonally to both the previous axes, which means we'll have to learn CAD to represent it visually, and that the Ministry of Education should possibly be drug tested.
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From:rivet
Date:February 21st, 2013 05:29 am (UTC)
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Bags not learning CAD!
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From:rivet
Date:February 21st, 2013 05:28 am (UTC)
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All of these things are true. In this particular instance, the guy is a NZer interested in national level productivity measurement and how that intersects with various social institutions. Which is right up my alley, and it might be that I'm the single person at this university with the most tecnical knowledge of that intersection.

BUT, before I can even consider taking him on, I need to figure out: whether he can write, whether he can manage his time, and whether he's likely to complete his degree.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 21st, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
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Hang on, you just said that whether or not the value of work is context-dependent is dependent on the context, didn't you?

Sorry, a bit slow today.
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From:pundigrion
Date:February 22nd, 2013 04:38 am (UTC)
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Well, this would explain the computer engineering department of many universities.... /joke
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From:pombagira
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
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i found a thing.. a webpage about the women of crowley..

ohhh... i will have to read that more when i get home...


*is very curious*
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
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I reckon you should post it so we can all judge it critically from our enlightened 21st Century egalitarian perspective. Yup.
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From:pombagira
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
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oops...

http://foreverandaday.biz/Pages_info/AleisterWomen.html


most interesting.. but must do work now... *pouts*
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Likewise, but when I get a chance I will check it out.

(full disclosure: i've never read crowley)
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From:pombagira
Date:February 20th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)
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i havn't read much by him.. and only a little bit about him.. but still.. i am quite fasinated about the women he err hung out with ...teheh
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From:hullabalo_o
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
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I don't get the piss taking out of those pens? :\ because I have some and my co worker loves them!
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure they are fine pens to use, and great if you're into glitter and 'fashion ink'.

People are taking the piss out of the idea that pens are gendered (ie that there are pens for men and pens for women), and also the idea that what makes a pen 'for women' is to have a skinny barrel and be pink/purple and covered in glitter.
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From:hullabalo_o
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
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mine are not glittery just girly colours and I think thats fine I don't think it matters if pens are gendered? or maybe it's late and I need some sleep
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it matters either in terms of how effective a pen is as a writing implement. I don't care what colour it is or any of that stuff. And I think that's why people are taking the piss - the idea that it does matter and that pink and purple are 'for her' is just a silly idea that's inherently funny to some people.

Where it gets serious and it does matter is where the idea that pink and purple are 'for women' feeds into enforced gender stereotypes. Witness the likely reaction to a man using a pink glittery pen. Chances are some of the insults he will suffer are related to it being effeminate to do so, with the underlying idea that feminine is somehow lesser. How these harmful gender stereotypes are reinforced through things like 'pink is for girls' is pretty well researched. So there's a serious side to it, but I think the people taking the piss are mostly just having a laugh.
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From:hullabalo_o
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
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ok now I get it but colours is that it? maybe (ok inventing) they should make bic uncoloured and dull but a wee bit smaller for the girls they could be onto something it's more that it's an unbulky pen
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From:helianthas
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
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For the one thing, they dot every "i" with a little heart...
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From:helianthas
Date:February 20th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Google "amazon banana slicer" if this link doesn't work. More priceless reviews, including responses to previous reviewers:</p>

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/cr/B0047E0EII/ref=mw_dp_cr

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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:05 pm (UTC)
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That is awesome and now I want one.
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From:pundigrion
Date:February 22nd, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
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Yes, yes, and yes! I absolutely loved that one! I came across those completely on accident too xD
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:12 pm (UTC)
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I have child-sized hands (really) so a smaller pen appeals to me. However, anything labeled "for her" is bound to get my dander up.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:13 pm (UTC)
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Pretty much. Although I have contemplated painting my shearing handpiece pink and putting some flowers on it, just for a laugh.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
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Honestly, there's nothing wrong with pink pens or fashion inks or any of that stuff. It's when they sick the girls only label on it that I get irritated. Shoot, I've fancied up enough of my own stuff with sparkles and stickers. It shrivels my soul though that masculine things are considered, more or less, unisex, while feminine things are girly.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 20th, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
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Totally with you on that. Especially when said feminine things are seen as demeaning when used by anyone not female.
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From:pundigrion
Date:February 22nd, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
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Yes! And then with the pink tools of course every single catalog likes to say, "Look, finally a hammer HE won't steal!"

Sod off.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:February 21st, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
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so pleased that the first comment had ellen degeneres' lovely parody and now i don't have to find it for you. gendering in general drives me nuts, but gendering of a ballpoint pen is ridiculous. when baby daughter was tiny, i had a difficult time getting non-gendertyped clothing for girls because nearly everything for girls is pink (or plus sparkly ruffles/bows etc.) when they're wee. it's really disgusting/disheartening. i do buy whatever colors i want and think will look good on her, of course... however, there are many items that i think would be lovely to have, and then they come only in pastel blue, pink, white or that boring light green. i want intense beautiful color, and that's hard to find. i dress her in all kinds of colors, and she goes dressed as a boy (definition: not pink or purple) or in as a girl (any presentation of fluffy, sparkly, or pink/purple; anything that looks like a dress). what interests me is that i see there are different responses to each presentation. i get more stranger interaction if she's girly vs. boy-y. hmm. i should probably post about this on my own journal too, eh?

Edited at 2013-02-21 12:20 am (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:February 21st, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
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I reckon you should.

And also, the pastel-for-babies thing is nuts, considering how they are supposed to be into bright primary colours.
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From:meathiel
Date:February 21st, 2013 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh pretty, shiny, sparkly ... but definitely not for me.
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From:pundigrion
Date:February 22nd, 2013 04:46 am (UTC)
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I have to admit, I have too strong a preference for non-fiction to do much contextualizing. I suppose I have to do a bit if I am reading historical documents or the scientific version of the classics or other such "vintage" works, but I don't tend to think of it much.

Arts like paintings and music with no words I don't really think much about the artist themself at all. It is as if they exist in a little vacuum of their own worthiness. I also have pretty low uncultured standards, so I think Hitler's painting looks quite nice. I prefer a more realistic style but that is not nearly too abstract for me to appreciate.
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