Thursday, September 04, 2008

Top Model

I am so the product of my undergrad environment LOL.

Well. Ok, maybe not completely, since I rushed home last night after getting my fake nails buffed up and a sparkly, flower-bedecked pedicure on my toes to watch the two-hour season premiere of "America's Next Top Model"'s probably a little anti-all-women's-superpower-college of me, but who doesn't love Miss Jay and Tyra saying "This girl needs some ugly-pretty because she's just pretty-pretty, and pretty-pretty is ugly-ugly." Rockin.

Anyways, the whole "product of my environment" kind of hit me last night while watching ANTM and the girls' reaction to the first "transistioning" contestant, Isis, who was born physically male but "in the wrong body" an is transistioning to female. There was a real mix of horror, disbelief, chill-whatever-ness, disgust and then, total blankness. The "Oh sh*t, I don't know how to react so I will stare at my feet" which to me, is better than the whole disgust thing.

Transgender-sensitivity training was something I underwent every year at Smith. They delve into in your first year so you don't go up to a fellow student and do something embarrassing, like direct the seeming fourteen-year old boy wielding a skateboard back to the high school, only to find out that yes, that is the person who sits next to you in "The Art of Southeast Asia" and lives in the house (dorm) next door. Whoopsies. I then became a Head of New Students my sophomore year and since you are sort of a guide to the in-coming students they really lay sensitivity training on thick, covering race issues, sexual orientation issues, and a special part for transgender issues. My senior year I was house president and during that week-long training we spent a whole day on "issues" I think it was good for me though because I feel as though I came out of Smith pretty chill about the whole sexual orientation/transgender thing. I mean, true, it would not be my personal choice so I can't really "understand" what it's like to BE transitioning/questioning/gay etc, I can only understand what it is like to be me, but I can be open about the whole thing and cool with it.

Why? Cause ulitimately I don't give a sh*t how you choose to live your life if you are a good person. I think that's what it has really come down to for me since college and the years of being "out in the real world" and having to interact with all kinds of people, and having to deal with a changing America - and by changing America I mean having to vote in church as to whether or not we will "allow" gay couples to be married (I'm glad I missed to vote because I have all kinds of problems with this that I won't even go into because it would involve a separate post on the word "allow" alone, then a post on why I don't think a congregation should ever dictate what a minister can do if he feels he is doing God's work, whether we pay his salary or not) Had I been present in the congregation that day I would have voted "yes" without a second though, without worrying about the judgements that might be made of me by the rest of the congregation (the majority of whom voted "yes" by the way) or by my family (who all voted yes, though my parents struggled with the decision a bit). My mother explained later why she and my father voted "yes" - my mother, a Protestant, and my father, a Catholic, were not allowed to marry in the Catholic church unless my mother converted (yeah right, ha) and even had a difficult time finding a priest to reside over the marriage (the State Police chaplain finally came through). My mother said "I know what it's like to be told you can't get married. I looked at Chad (our gay organist - how he sat through this vote is beyond me) and thought about someone having to tell him he couldn't marry his boyfriend and I thought about how sad that was and I couldn't do it, I couldn't vote no." I think my father may have struggled less with this decision not only because of the marriage issues he and my mother faced but also because of his very much lapsed Catholicism....I think. Maybe he just doesn't find it as big a deal. I dunno for sure.

When she asked me to justify my reasoning I said "Because I don't care" She wouldn't take that as an answer. Finally I said "Look Mom, I know a lot of straight couples who are frickin' miserable and fight and have affairs and get divorced. If the legalization of gay marriage and our vote for Rev. Don to perform the ceremony allows to happy loving people to make a life together, that's all I could ask for." That seemed to satisfy her, or at least satisfy her better than the "I don't care" statement. The thing of it is, that I really DON'T care - just go, be happy, do the world some good, and don't be a jerk, those are my only requirements LOL.

So anyways, back to Isis. It's her damn business that she is transitioning to a woman. I mean if you want to ask questions to learn, that is cool, but seriously, all this "ANTM is for girls only, no man is gonna beat me" and "this is not a drag competition" (OMG) is sooo not cool. And this whole "good southern values" = transgender person gets shot is bullsh*t. How do I know? A transgender student lived in the house next to ours and shared our dining room with the rest of his housemates. He began transitioning between freshman and sophomore years, and this was a bit hard for some people as he showed up and left as "Joanna" and came back as "Jo". I met him as Jo. No biggie. Because some of our housemates knew Joanna and were confused and because we had a LGBT workshop at one of our Friday teas, Jo volunteered to give us his perspective, and one of the things that struck me was the reaction of people in his small, rural western-Virginia home. He said that he was really nervous because everyone knows everyone in this town and it's the type of place where old men sit in chairs on the porch of the general store and talk about the passersby. He said at first everyone was like 'um. what? you're a girl, why do you want to be a boy?" But he went out and he wasn't afraid to answer questions and face adversity, much like Isis on ANTM. He said that there would always be people who didn't understand, but small towns are protective of their own he found, and the people in his town stood by him and made sure no one made a fuss.

Anyways, I suppose the moral of the story is that education is the key. I am sure that many of these girls have never met anyone who identified as transgender/transsexual/trapped in the wrong body and their initial reaction of shock or bewilderment is natural (I can't remember my reaction. probably "heh??!" but I tend to hide things well) and I give Isis mad props for dealing with their questions the was she has so far, 'cause it's got to be exhausting. What I don't like is the refusal to accept another person as they are. Some of the girls even gave Elina a hard time for dating other women. Just because it's not your personal choice doesn't make the person whose choice it is "wrong" or "weird" or "freaky" or "bad." They're just different from you. I mean that's what makes this world so freakin' interesting. There's no two of us alike and we have such an opportunity to learn from one another. I'm very grateful that I do live up here in Massachusetts which has been a bit of a pioneering state (don't believe the Californians and all their hoopla, WE were the first state to legalize gay marriage a whole four years before they did!) where a more open environment is fostered (most of the time, there will always be exceptions). I like being around different people with different values and beliefs, because even if I struggle to understand them, it still opens up an opportunity for me to learn. I just hope the mostly-vapid immature ANTM girls will grow a little bit and embrace their chance to learn a little bit more about something other than themselves.

Ok. I'm climbing off my high horse now and reverting back to my trashy-reality tv induced judginess to show you my favorites:Elina. Her stomach tattoo definitely freaked me out at first, but then I heard her talking and loved her reaction to the "You date girls?" and "Girls are so moody!!" comments and I dig her. I am worried about her whole vegan platform. Not that that's not cool BUT I hope it doesn't turn into a "thing."

Isis. Duh. Just wrote a whole post about her. She's fieeeerce.

Joslyn. I don't know how good she'll be but I like her positive attitude.
McKey (TAFKA Brittany). I like her mostly because Clark doesn't like her and makes fun of her and I think Clark is foul. I also like her pretty pretty red hair and her kickboxing bod. Right on.

Sheena. OMG she is my favorite. Initially I was like "SHUT IT HORRRRR" but that only lasted for about five minutes. Ummm loved how she is just out there and doesn't give a sh*t, and also loved how she "doesn't hate and dates all races and all flavors" which prompted Ms Jay to say "You're an equal opportunity employer." Heh. What else - she's got a rockin' bod and is not freaky skinny - I love me a girl with a booty. She's just chill. She so far hasn't made judgements or said anything nasty about anyone else (though that won't last most likely LOL, around episode 4 the true bitchery begins). She also concluded episode 1 with "You're not ready for this yellow fever" Awesome.

Well that's it for me and my ramblingness. Better get back to work.

P to the S: Is Nigel not hotter than ever this season? daaaang
P to the P to the S: I cannot tell you how much I love Ms. Jay "Girl, you so country but I looooove it" I love you Ms. Jay. Times ten.
P to the P to the P to the S: could you even BELIEVE that the girl from Harvard could not name ONE English-lit female heroine???!! I mean at first I thought she was thinking, because I would have a really hard time choosing between Cathy from Wuthering Heights, Jane from Jane Eyre, Elinore from Sense and Sensibility, and Anne from Persuasion (and those are just the 19th century female English authors!!) but no. She was silent. Nothing. And then freaking TYRA BANKS a women whose intelligence I used to think was somewhat iffy, starts with "what about Rebecca? What about The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck? What about Jane Eyre?" After I recovered from the girl from one America's top Ivies not being able to come up with an answer, I sat for a moment and let Tyra's sudden smartness wash over me. Yeah anyone can list books true, but I guarantee you if you interviewed people on the street, more than half wll probably say they never heard of them. I mean I talked to someone I think is very intelligent and very well-educated and I said "you know, Jane Austen, the author" and he said "Never heard of her" Ummm. As Amy would say "skurry" At least his major wasn't English Lit though!


Amy said...

OH! OH! It was The Good Earth that killed me. I was like, Tyra read the freaking Good Earth and this girl doesn't know who Jane Eyre is? Jesus. And people wonder why I hate on the almighty Harvard...ites or whatever they are. Those Crimsons. Lol. Don't ask me, I didn't go to Harvard.

PS: I love Isis and boxer Brittany and figure skater Analeigh. And YOU KNOW my hardcore love for Sexy!Nigel and my hardcore lurrrrrrrve for Ms. Jay and how his opinions are 99.9% of the time the same as mine. He recognizes the real talent and not the Whitney's of the world.

Al said...

I like Analeigh too!! Though it worries me that she was so dumb she almost got sold to Saudi Arabians. Um, wha?

everything and nothing said...

I remember Jo's discussion re: the small-town South and various other things! It was very memorable considering I still remember it but had completely forgotten his name.

Re ANTM: I haven't seen it in a while, mostly because TYRA got to be entirely too schticky and self-involved (in an annoying way rather than an 'I'm a Top Model, Bitch!' way). Maybe I should try to catch it again.

everything and nothing said...

Oh, PS: I think The Good Earth is required reading at some schools. (Hey, maybe Tyra could start some kind of Club where she recommends Books on her show. She could call it Tyrah's Book Club!)
I've never read it and probably never will because the copy at the school library had a cover that reminded me of The Pearl.

Al said...

LOL Tyra is still the same! I just watch it because it is so damn delightfully TRASHY!

everything and nothing said...

Oh, I'm here to clog up your blog one more time:
you know, Jane Austen, the author" and he said "Never heard of her
Was he for real? They make a Jane Austen movie, like, every other year! I find it incredible that someone is so unaware not just of books and films, but of movie previews.

Al said...

oh yeah. he was for real. and he said "never heard of her" in a tone that was quite dismissive, as if she couldn't possibly be a decent author! This person seems to be the type as well that only hears about movies if they're blockbusters, like The Dark Knight or something, but good point about the movie thing!