Why So Many Questions About Why So Few Women?

Thank you for this article, Susanna; I appreciate your raising important and subtle points, including the fact that there are still firsts, that ‘blind and neutral’ are not the same, and so on.  There are too many points to cover, but since you mention specifics and acknowledge not having the answers, here are few thoughts:

(1) We need to take into account that men and women are socialized in ways that are suboptimal or worse for women (and for men, depending on one’s values, ethics, and goals).  The inclusion of women on boards and panels and such is necessary, but not sufficient.  Presence does not equate with equality; there are many more factors to consider.  (For what it is worth, I have been on plenty of panels that were attentive to gender.  But the imbalance continues.)

(2) You ask about role models: I am one such role model, and one for whom Judith Weir has been and continues to be an exemplary role model herself (in her role as a composer, as you say—and I have written about her work in regard to gender and other matters too).  But I am sad to say that the presence of mature, experienced women is not enough either.  I have been attentive to mentoring female composers, and male ones too, including but not limited to advisees interested in gender-related matters.  Most of my own mentors were male, and they were and continue to be exemplary citizens in terms of gender issues and everything else.  I myself am puzzled sometimes to see that there are fewer women applicants for a certain opportunity, or fewer who are likely to be considered as likely contenders.

(3) I am curious (literally) about your mention that women “lose motivation to continue studying music and musical composition, and why are they then less likely to put themselves forward”:  Is that an inference from the data?  Can one be sure of what is happening behind the numbers there?

(4) The ways in which decisions are made and opportunities awarded (caveat: I am in the US) can be quite informal and subjective, and the distinction between professional expertise and personal bias, in a field such as composition, is not always easy to manage.

(5) Apart from the numbers, men continue to enjoy unwarranted privilege and license; for example, how many male composers are reading this article?  For how many is this topic a concern?  As above, it is, for #SomeMaleComposers.  Yet it continues to be the case that men are accorded license far beyond that accorded to women, and that (again, in the US), personal hunch and identification may well affect decisions.  The fact that there are likely to be comments on your article that put forth blanket assertions without having worked in this area or having done any investigation to support what they say is telling.  (Cue the tubas . . . )  #SomeOfUs report our experience, read books about discrimination, have discussions like this, look at data, and strategize (and worry over whether clothing is too sexy or not sexy enough, whether self-presentation is too humble or too self-important, whether manner of interaction too accommodating or too “pushy”).  In response, #SomeOthers say, “Well, no, it’s really like this,” presuming to define others’ experience without having done the legwork to support their assertions.  In such instances, the opinions of those how know less too often are accorded disproportionate authority.  If one is not required to deal with gender on a daily basis, why would one?  (The fact that some do is all the more heartening.)  And if not, why consider oneself an authority on the topic?  Moreover, most articles on the underrepresentation of women focus on what needs to change on the XX side of the chromosomal balance: there should be more women, why are the numbers low, what can women do.  (Hence my question above about the data.)  But there is much less energy being directed toward men and the changes they need to make.  The frequency with which a proposal is described as “letting” women in is revealing.

(6) I am sorry to say that, as a composer with three decades’ experience now, having enjoyed opportunity, support, artistic accomplishment, and recognition, I find the persistence of gender inequity in some pockets of the composition world egregious.  Another matter that that is almost never discussed is the way that women may be confronted with more, not less, discrimination as we gain wisdom and expertise, as we become elders; that has been my experience, from some quarters, I am sorry to say.  I hope that my mentees and other younger composers do not encounter such resistance to their mastery.  For now, being experienced and established offers no guarantee that one will be respected in the way that each one of us deserves.  There is still pressure on women to deny any imbalance; we receive much positive reinforcement if we say we have not encountered challenges, that we think of ourselves “as composers first” or that we believe ourselves to have been treated fairly (great, but how could we know?).  Women who acknowledge forces that work against them meet with reprisals of various sorts.  (Notice the #ManyQualifiers in my discussion here; they are accurate, yet my commentary is still likely to be read as dualistic.)

(7) As some have written about in mainstream discussions of otter gender issues, again and again we are the ones who are required to adapt to circumstance.  While informal, ad hoc efforts may not be effective, it is also not realistic to think that systemic/bureaucratic changes are feasible. (The amount of training that would be needed . . . ) I do not see this changing unless individuals and groups really take responsibility—a familiar term—and, more fully, unless enough of us really desire gender equity and fruitful exchange—and all the yummy fruit when the harvest comes.  In order to foster a better climate for women, we need to recognize that such an endeavor is in the best interest of all, to value a community in which one individual’s success is no longer seen as another’s loss, to pay as much attention to how we do what we do as how much of it we do.  I myself have been considering leaving the profession, or changing my relationship to it—in my late 40s, knowing it is my calling and that I am at the top of my creative abilities (thus far), with many more pieces in me, and devoted as ever to the next generation—specifically because the values I see espoused in so corners of the composition world have revealed themselves as  abhorrent and destructive.  It’s not only about gender, but it plays itself out in dishonorably gendered manner, and someone in my position must ask whether such an environment will permit one’s gifts and offerings to be of use. The fact that in saying this, I place myself, not others, at professional risk, says much.  The fact that I, having been fortunate in so many ways, am still asking the question of whether it is worth persevering says more.

It is disheartening to observe how “the woman composer question” keeps flipping back to page one, without much recognition of previous chapters.  I observed this in what you correctly term “the rather unedifying recent debate about women conductors.”  It is encouraging that your article, despite its brevity, takes into account historical context.  More frequently, though, the public discussion on this topic seems to rewind again and again to pose the first question that would open the first meeting of the first seminar in the first semester of a life’s work on being a human being and a composer.  (And even, the response to that opening question may be interrupted when the kindergartners barge in and exclaim, “It’s time for recess!  Where’s my cookie?”)  It’s unfortunate that there is not more continuity and depth in such discussions, though it is understandable.  Perhaps that is something you, in your position, could cultivate.

Is it possible to dream a world of composition and music where we place mutual respect and the greater good at the top of our priorities, where we all remember what we don’t know and remain open to one another’s experience?  I would like to think so, but I have yet to see a quorum on that.

Ok, that is more than a few thoughts.  Thank you again for your thoughtful and good-willed attention to the topic.

—Barbara A. White

Life Is Long

“Life is short; play with your dog.”
—Joe’s bumper

“Life is short; play with your human; they’ll give you lots of treats.”
—Joe’s dog

“Life is long; write everything down, and get Netflix.  Don’t forget to vaccinate.  Watch out for those death panels.”
—Joe’s mother-in-law

“Life is long.  Take ‘er easy, but take ‘er.  Teach your kids lots of tunes.  They’ll be grateful, and they’ll make lots of friends.  If your hands get tired, they’ll come by to play the music you taught them, and they’ll pass it on too.  Others will travel from afar and be envious of your deep roots and rich culture.  (Some of them won’t leave.)  And remember all your funny stories, because they’ll love hearing them.  (Make sure to tell your son how much you love his biscuits and lemon pie, and he’ll make them for you every chance he gets.  More often than for he makes them for his girlfriend, but she won’t mind.)”
—Joe’s folks

“I am awake.  Life is suffering, but not to worry.”

“Life is great.  May I have more ice cream?  (Why am I asking?  Of course I can!  I’m a Prince.  Life is great.)  You!—get me more ice cream.  You know, one of these days I’d like to go for a walk outside.  How do I get there?”
—The young Buddha

“Boy, do I wish I hadn’t written that book. . . .  It won’t die.  Now they’re using it as a guide to business.  Ah, que buffone!  I guess those wannabe Princes don’t know it got me sent to prison.  And can’t they tell it’s <satirico>?”

“Life is a mystery.  Light the fire, smith the metal, and you’ll have a poem.”

“I’m not sure; there is a new life policy coming into effect.  Go check with that young man who’s all over the news these days.  You’ve seen him; the one with the long hair and sandals.  He has lots of followers.  Sheesh, this celebrity culture is really getting out of hand.”
—St. Brigit

“Life is short; play with your dog.”
—St. Francis

“Be good.”

“It is what is is, and it sounds beautiful.”
—Finn Mac Cumhaill

“Not so fast.  Wait for Nietzsche. (And what are you doing here anyway, Finn?  You do not exist.)”

“It is not what it is.  Well, maybe what I said isn’t it . . .”

“God is dead.”

“Nietzsche is dead.  Um, God, can I have a treat now?”
—God’s dog

“Life is in and out and up and down.  Make sure you give your humans lots of chances to pass the time: go over to the door every few minutes so they can drop what they are doing and open it for you.  They love that.  You can tell, because they give you treats after.  Or before, depending on your perspective.  Plus, they even make videos and show them to people all around the world on that weird flat fishbowl thingie they’re always hunching over and swearing or laughing.  (Hence my suggestion about the door.)  So try to do lots of outlandish things so they’ll get lots of likes.  I dunno how it works, but no matter; I’m up to my tail in toy mice and purple haze thanks to the royalties.  You should come over some time; we’ll party.”
—Schrödinger’s neighbor’s cat

“There, there.  I hear you.  I send my compassion.”
—Kuan Yin

“Happy 82d birthday, Grandpa!  Can you remind me who won the 1947 World Series?  I always forget.”
—Joe’s daughter

“The Yankees beat the Dodgers.  (That’s when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers.)  Seven games.  Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers.  I hope the Red Sox will win just once in my lifetime; it’s been since before I was born.  That Darned Bambino.  (Not you, Bambina.)”
—Joe’s father-in-law, Giuseppe

“Wasn’t that the first year Jackie Robinson played with the Dodgers?—Ergo, the first World Series with a desegregated statius?  In the Coliseum, they would have called that intermisceo.  That reminds of something funny . . .”
—Joe’s husband, Professor of the History of the Culture of the Economics of Roman Sporting and Comedy 

“Wow, you must have read my History™!  I said that long before we became æther-Friends™.  No, you didn’t do research?  Are you sure?  You seem to know a lot.  I guess you must have a prodigious memory.  Anyway, moving on. . . .  But wait, are you sure?  Really?  Okay, okay.”
—Dr. Jay

“You’ve been in here a long time.  You really should get outside.  You already posted and still you keep revising.  Plus, your list keeps getting longer.  Blagues are supposed to be pithy.  If you confuse ’em, you’re gonna lose ’em.”
—IAmNotMakingUp (to me)

“What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”
—Mary Oliver

“Um, are you guys done?  Can we play fetch now? [Diabolical laugh.  Wag wag wag.]”
—Joe’s dog

—Posted by Rose Marie McSweeney

“It’s a side-splitting vagina cake, you people!”

Warning: the following includes graphic descriptions of vagina cakes and ovary bobbing.  (Well, not all that graphic.  There is the word “blood,” but there is no actual blood.)  And there are five thousand eloquent and grammatically correct words.  (Plus a few hundred.  And some superfluous ™s.) Proceed at your own risk.  Or don’t.

The other day, I was intrigued to see a headline that included the words “vagina cake”.   Who could refrain from seeing where a vagina cake crumb might lead?  (I mean, a “vagina cake.”  [Hmm . . .  is there such a thing as a vaginal cake?  But I digress . . . ])

Adam Mordecai’s Upworthy feed sent me to Eddie Geller’s, which presented this headline: “Being A Good Mother Means Sometimes Buying Your Kid A Vagina Cake When They Lie.”

Geller’s introduction to the video that follows lauds the company HelloFlo™ for its (her?) innovative marketing of feminine hygiene products: “But what they’ve done that’s even more genius is make a couple brilliant ads that normalize getting a period (you know, cause it’s normal). This is ad number two, and dare I say, it’s even funnier than the first one. So, let’s all watch the video and talk about how cool we are with periods, shall we?”

What could be more inviting?  Yes, the mysterious moon cycle is normal!  That’s what I and my fellow fifty-one per centers have been saying for, well, three and a half decades.  And there’s a vagina cake!  Bought by a good mother!  Whose child (“they”) lied!  And Eddie has prepared us that the ad is brilliant and funny and normalizing.  I was more than a little excited to watch this video that promised to defang the term “first period,” even and especially as I prepare for my final one, which will arrive one of these days, months, or years, at least as unpredictably as the first one did.

Adam’s and Eddie’s links pointed to a video (2’20” in duration), portraying an adolescent girl who is impatient for the arrival of her first period.  As the video begins, we see her decorating a feminine-hygiene product (ok, I’ll say it: a pad) with red nail polish, accompanied by a voice-over in which she lists the girls who have already flown to the moon.   She mentions Jenny, and “stupid Vicky.”  After she breaks the fourth wall for a while and fills us in on her predicament, her mother enters with the pad, and . . . hi jinx ensue!  I’ll come back to cover the entry of the vagina cake in a bit, but for now, I’ll say that I did not observe all that much normalization, nor was I inspired to celebrate how cool we all are with periods.  On the contrary, I was puzzled and dispirited.

I broke the cardinal rule of Facebook™ and sinned: I looked at the comments.  (Ten Hail Marys to follow.) They were about evenly split between commenters who found the video sidesplittingly hilarious—it mentions a “vagician”!—and those who, more like me, were puzzled or even disquieted.

Danger: Discussion of online discussion follows.  Proceed at your own risk.

Lately, I have been observing the different shapes Internet “discussions” take: on an independent (non-Facebook™) site regarding Celtic traditional music, for example, exchanges about the proper time signature of a reel may become heated, but this is tempered by the fact that, ultimately, the participants have a shared interest, and most want to learn something, not just berate those with whom they disagree.  In the face of a comparison between music and cuisine, one might even end up with the delightfully Dada question, “What is the proper time signature for a curry?”  (The fact that we have wildly different backgrounds and know little about one another makes it even more lively.)  On the other end of the spectrum, usually on Facebook™ posts that are less specialized, I see hostile and uncurious jousting over who can say “idiot” and “asshole” the most times.  (Online, these words are not usually used to refer to oneself.)  I’m probably not saying anything you don’t already know, and you may well reply, with good reason, “Just don’t look at the comments!  [Idiot!]”  But since I was a late bloomer, Internet-wise; since I am something of a hermit; and since my vocational practice concerns the intricate and varying relationships between everyday experience and art, I grant myself special dispensation to graze through the comments from time to time and to join in the frolicking on occasion.  And I am not defensive about it, really; I just imagine you’ll be interested in my process and status.  (Full confession: I also experience depression and grief at the pointed and persistent marginalization of women.  We are, paradoxically, marginalized everywhere, almost.  And a “where’s the woman?” state of mind can inspire me to seek out discussions of gender issues, which take on interesting forms online and can inspire an intensification or lightening of my despair, depending.  It’s a cycle.)

Now, to sample the vagina cake stirred up by the parental revenge fantasy.

Danger:  Facebook™ comments follow.  Proceed at your own risk.

One reader asked something like this:

“Am I the only one who is creeped out by this?”

No, she was not:

1) Public humiliation. Retaliation. Passive aggression. Trickery. Deceit (as punishment for lying, hmmm . . . ). Otherwise known as #ChildAbuse. Which is #NotFunny. Certainly not as a supposed way to, um, decrease shame about puberty? AND—(2) Upworthy, it is an advertisement for a company that sells products.

To my considerable surprise and dismay, an argument of sorts ensued—on the Internet!   About a gendered topic!  And including language.  I did not start it—really.  Those who critiqued (or even discussed) the video were advised repeatedly that it “was not real.”   Some implied that a reservation about the quality of the video could be held only by a viewer who lacked the capacity to distinguish between representation and endorsement, or between fiction and reality.  Some proposed that the cramping of enthusiasm in the face of such a portrayal of vindictiveness could only arise from a misguided inference that the advertisement had been designed to initiate parents into the practice and protocols of offscreen child abuse rather than to sell tampons.  To be clear, I’ve no use for an “us” or a “them,” or even a “you,”—not to be confused with you—but there was a noticeably consistent pattern: amused spectators asserted that anyone who remained undiverted necessarily lacked understanding of the brilliant comic authorial voice—not in those exact words—and even lacked a sense of humor altogether.  Where have we heard this before? 

I was glad to see Mordecai dive in:

Just FYI folks, I am not seriously advocating publicly shaming your children at every turn. It’s merely a funny ad to get people to understand that talking about menstruation shouldn’t be a thing to hide in shame about.  This ad is a humorous attempt at calling that to attention.

This statement makes perfect sense to me.  I would love to see a cultural product (and a commercial product to boot) that exemplifies Adam’s statement.  This HelloFlo™ advertisement, however, is not that cultural product.  Indeed, Mordecai’s original, earlier “share” was prefaced by this:

This goes along with my theory of parenting strategy [sic] that when my teen children inevitably try to throw a party at my house without telling me, the punishment will be me showing up at their school in a too tight [sic] superman [sic] costume to bring them lunch and call them by horrible pet names.  It will be glorious until they figure out how to one up [sic] me.

Yes, individuals in intimate and long-standing relationships engage in role-playing and mischief.  We also lose our cool from time to time and offend or even hurt one another.  All of this can be delightful, enlightening, frightening, enraging, and dangerous.  Sometimes play and harm get mixed up.  And mixed up.  The question is not whether fantasy is playful, but what sort of play is it?

You will be shocked—just shocked!—to hear that the conversation then went round and round in circles. 

Danger: unfashionably long and slightly retouched Facebook™ comment follows.
Proceed at your own risk.

Ok, let me get this straight. Menstruation is something we as a culture, and as individuals (particularly those experiencing it) remain embarrassed about discussing openly.  HelloFlo™ wants to ease that. The narrative of their commercial accomplishes such opening up in this way:

  1. A girl feels bad that she has yet to have her first period;
  2. she creates counterfeit “evidence,” using a cosmetic product, and leaves it for her mother to see (not exclaiming, “yay!”—and not telling her mother—why?).
  3. Her mother reveals knowledge of the fakery to the spectator, but not to her onscreen daughter  (why?),
  4. then proceeds to execute an extravagant, outlandish revenge plot, which involves
  5. publicly humiliating the daughter with a “celebration” of her rite of passage (which has yet to happen) with older men as well as girls and other people present.  These include her grandfather and the mother’s male coworkers  (one of whom presents the still-premenstrual girl with  kitchen supplies, culminating in the girl’s father jumping out of the long-awaited “vagina cake”);
  6. all of which serve, in the video, to mock the notion of a straightforward and earnest celebration of such a rite of passage;
  7. until the mother at last bestows upon her daughter a gift of the product for which this is all an advertisement.
  8. She reveals to the girl that she has already punished her for her deceit, rather than by conventional means, with this “first moon party.”
  9. To conclude, a man tells another girl about the same age, “Sometimes you just gotta wait.”  Cut to—as they say, “wait for it!”—
  10. the HelloFlo™ logo and pitch.

One does not have to mistake this for documentary footage (sometimes confused with “real life”) or overlook the efforts at humor (some parts work, some don’t, and the video will read differently for different viewers) in order to critique the end product.  Discussion and inquiry need not issue from a lack of understanding or an underdeveloped sense of humor. HelloFlo™’s advertisement, while ostensibly pro-woman, pro-girl, and body-celebratory, trades on tired tropes of conniving girls and underhanded women; emphasizes the importance of masculine gaze and response (comic coffee?); and mires its ostensible shame-cleansing agenda by portraying more shame.  At the very least, it is confusing to use the master’s mockery to build the mistress’s moon.  If this is such a new and pro-girl agenda, why muddle it?

Clearly this advertisement for a product trades on internalized misogyny.  It is stained by unintentional unfunniness.  The video targets the customer, the mother, with a revenge fantasy that falls flat.  I certainly don’t see it puncturing embarrassment and shame about growing up.  With respect, Adam, your original comment did have to do with parental revenge—yes, it’s clear you did not mean that seriously either—but that is the impulse this advertisement for a product is manipulating.  This is efficient for the advertiser (and one could say cheap and exploitative too).  Isn’t it worth noting that this groundbreaking new advertisement for a product hooks the viewer through displays of revenge rather than affection and caring?  Does humor have to be cruel?  (For some, yes.)  If that entertains and interests you, great, but I would rather not confuse that with a genuine, new, open, and healthy vision of girls’ experience.  In re “lightening up” [mentioned by other commenters], one cannot have it both ways—saying this advertisement for a product is doing the cultural work of positively affecting our attitudes without considering the possibility of a negative effect.  Hello, Flo: How about going right from the girl’s impatience, to her mother’s compassionate witnessing (mostly absent from the clip, except as related to her consumer status), perhaps by way of a sorbet of generational strain (one of the better ingredients in the video as it is), to the starter kit, to the ketchup guy?  (I’ll let you keep it a guy if you agree to the rest of my revisions.)  Nah, there’d be no “story.”  So why this story? Or how ’bout an advertisement for a product that just had women and girls celebrating their bodies? That would be dotty, right? Why?

(One commenter instructed five or ten of the others to “get therapy”; she also informed the poster above that she hoped she would find her sense of humor someday.  I was grateful for her concern and well wishes, and my friends and I found this riotously funny, since, well, I often have to restrain myself from disrupting any conversation with my unbearably witty banter.  [I fancy myself a modern-day Dorothy Parker without the obscenities.  Or the hats.  Or the civil rights activism.  And carrying a little less heartache, but only a little less.])

Danger:  unbearably funny and not-quite-supercilious Facebook™ comment follows.
Proceed at your own risk.

I was entranced by the way that the ethos of the advertisement refracted through the discussion about it:

This is such a lively and illuminating discussion; I’m learning so much. For example, I notice that, for the most part (especially until the recent comments about therapy), those who question the perfection of the video comment on the video, and those who disagree comment on the people who have commented on the video; in other words, the words “you,” or “you people” (even more idealistic, given the anonymity of the Internet) are circulating with abandon. Some favorite phrases of those advocating this “humor” are the following:

“Calm the hell down. . . .”
“People really do need to lighten up.”  (Several votes for this one.)
“These must be the same people who . . .”
“See a shrink. . . . ”
“Get a sense of humor, people.”
“For those of you who find this offensive – get over it or un-follow the page.”
“You need a therapist and a big drink if you think this is child abuse.”

(What a high degree of sobriety is required to promote levity!  I have been unable to find out whether that last recommendation was for a simultaneous therapist and big drink or perhaps a big drink with the therapist, which might be illegal, as well as funny.  Nor was I able to ascertain what size the therapist should be.  But I digress . . .  back to our show.)

And there is even real recognition of one poster’s “socialist, lesbian loving attitude!!”  (An insult from stranger to stranger?  How humorous!)  Indeed, such syntactical formulations show the advanced jocular status of those who project such utterances—what funny language!  What a thought-provoking trend: those who either find the video hysterically funny (hysterical: get it?! LOL!)—or who simply want to argue—tend to use the second-person imperative, presuming to correct the opinions and attitudes of others, whereas “you people” themselves—again, generally speaking—use the third person to consider the video rather than promulgating ad-hominem [sic] vitriol—and at least, not retaliating with “you ‘you people’ people.”  (“YYPP”?)  This is very funny!  I can’t imagine why there would be such a correlation. For example, those who have endeavored to express unease haven’t thought to say (or have, but have refrained from saying), “Well, ‘you people’ need to insert a little bit of analytical perspicacity into that so-called humor of yours!—and the reason I find it unfunny is because I do have a sense of humor, a sophisticated one, which you cannot but aspire to.  This humor of yours is of poor quality, so there!”  Well, that is something I for one would not say, except in this form of reflexive narrative transgression—and, above all, a humorous one.  Of that I am . . . sanguine. (LOL!)

(With the important caveat that such could happen under duress, I would not dream of calling someone stupid, telling them to see a therapist, or insulting them personally; the sort of double-faux retort above is my limit; and it’s all play.)  I find abusive language, with or without frosting, utterly and invariably demoralizing.  Yes, I know there are sitcoms that portray characters plotting and scheming and insulting one another, and I know well that such a display can serve as a sort of outlet.  But I do not find such discourse funny (save for affording a certain small license to Big Bang Theory, about which I remain ambivalent).  Laughter does not confer comedic immunity.  In more intellectual and academic circles, I often argue against the notion that an artwork delvers a univocal message and for less literal hermeneutic maneuvers.  But that does not mean that all cultural products are equally sophisticated and equally open to complex and multivalent readings.  It’s cheap and lazy to use humor to conceal, rather than to reveal, hostility—and it is unsurprising that a commercial, even one touted as progressive, takes the low road.  I’d rather not shame the shamers.  (LOL shamers?)  Claims of “shaming!” comprise another Internet tendency that has become more than a little wearying.  But it is interesting to observe this correlation: viewers who found the video funny and/or defended its portrayal of humiliation routinely used abusive language and personal attack.  Celebration of the video was insufficient; denigration of those with differing points of view was crucial and central.

To put it bluntly, individuals comfortable with the humor of humiliation also embraced disrespectful discourse.  And they weren’t even funny!

Ready-made verbal formulae designed to defend abusive behavior are widely available, and they all showed up, one after another, in the accolades for this video.  This gives occasion to consider what might be tucked inside of, or excused by, comedified dysfunction.

It’s not funny to see a fictional girl fictionally tricked over a real-life rite of passage that engenders real-life vulnerability, especially under the guise of breaking down a tired taboo.  This is not subversion of the status quo; it is submission to it. The story about the story is disingenuous.

The topic of first menstruation raises many significant issues: emotional responses such as shame and embarrassment are important, and I am glad HelloFlo™ and others are trying, if indeed they are, to release that.  Some girls grow up in households where discussion is frank, and others (as did I) have to figure it out on their own or with the help of schoolteachers and friends.

This is not a trivial matter.  Freer-flowing discussion could foster better personal, and medical, experiences for women.  I contracted toxic shock syndrome during my freshman year in college.  (This was before it was well known that TSS was not by definition fatal.)  As a result, I learned some things about my reproductive system which would have been good to have known earlier on.  Around the same time, a male friend wrote a paper for a class investigating what he termed the late and insufficient response of the medical community and the feminine-hygiene product industry to the advent of toxic shock.  (In response, an older female relative said, “He’s weird.”)

I shuddered ten or more years ago when I read that there had been more research on the effects of bleaching dinner napkins (the paper kind) than on the whitening of tampons.  During my years of cyclicity, there have been interesting developments in products, including unbleached tampons.  Now there’s the DivaCup™ and Softcup™.

Such products reveal some of the innumerable ways in which women’s experience, even as it is acknowledged and supported, is simultaneously commodified, packed and sold back to us.  This observation is no news flash (though some participants in the Upworthy discussion said they found the HelloFlo™ products expensive).  And it’s interesting to think of a girl being sent a monthly package tailored to her flow, in “discreet” (the same word as in 1978) packaging.  I’m not sure what to make of that; nor am I sure why a Beads For Life Sanyu Bangle Bracelet  or other mentionables are included; but there must be a reason.

Women, Get Your Period™ Here!

My ultimate response to the HelloFlo™ video is colored by its pairing of commodification and womanhood.  (What a quaint word.  I use it advisedly.)  First, the swag: there are ready-made kits, even including paradoxically advertised “surprises.”  (Here, buy this surprise!  Only $29.99!)  I remember my own starter kit; I waited eagerly for it to arrive in its “discreet” packaging.  I’m not sure I understand why a monthly delivery of semi-customized supplies appeals, but perhaps it’s handy to be relieved of the burdens of making selections and carrying light packages of absorbent fluff around.  And the “complimentary” (one might consider respelling that) items: this sounds festive, but not a little impersonal: “Will Flo send the organic hard candy in the pink container or—the other pink thing?”  Indeed, the tagline on Period Starter Kit, “every girl should have one,” says a lot.  One—size fits all.  And this comes at a time when, entering adolescence, young people are engaged in individuation.  WOuldn’t it be neat to create one’s own totem, ornament, or treat?

(Is it possible that these “gifts” are akin the the “complementary copy” I remember Gloria Steinem writing about in Ms. many years ago?  It was a protocol whereby, in order to garner a contract with an advertiser, the magazine would be required to run copy that related to the given product and supported the advertising even outside the advertisement proper.  Of course nowadays, the possibility of a boundary between content and come-on is seldom even acknowledged.)

As de Beauvoir said: second, womanhood.  Let’s glance at cultural (and, thus, political) constructions of and battles over gender.  In “our” culture at large, which includes movies, television, video games, comic books, enlivening and enervating Facebook™ discussions, and things I have yet to hear have been invented, there is a character one almost never encounters: the crone.  The womanly Trinity begins with maid, progresses to mother, and then—some grandmotherly presences notwithstanding—where does she go?

In too many settings, women are devalued and diminished even as we grow in wisdom and maturity.  However, I am fortunate to have a number of allies in my life whom I call “wisewomen.”  You know who you are; in fact, you taught me that expression.  I am grateful that these maternal figures (whether or not they are literally parents) are willing to initiate me into their wisdom so that I can be a wise elder, I hope, if and when the time comes.  (And, crucially, there are also some male role models who can spin with the cycle.  You too know who you are.)  But experienced, mature women remain woefully under-appreciated in both mainstream culture and more specialized realms.  I recently heard a sixty-something man introduce an extraordinarily distinguished and renowned sixty-something woman at a public, academic/professional event, and he coyly, or passive-aggressively, suggested that she might (should?) be ashamed of her age.  (Obviously, she would not be the distinguished artist she is, invited to that very stage to be honored in such a way, were she twenty-something.)  Perhaps not coincidentally, she was exponentially more accomplished than he.  I notice, in my own profession—which one would expect to have little in common with that of Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, and Angelina Jolie—that wisdom is not always an asset.  Students seek seasoned teachers, but, among our peers, women practitioners “of a certain age” are often unwelcome.  Still.  In 2014.  Despite all we offer to others, we are left aside and even rebuffed.  Now a parody of that could be funny. . . .  There are many reasons one might avoid revealing this, not least among them that, as I am doing right this moment, one risks exacerbation of difficulties by acknowledging that they exist, and more.  Our marginalization, silencing, and invisibility are, as menstruation used to be, a topic we discuss amongst ourselves, if at all, when we fly off to mull over our matriarchal mysteries.

What of the mature feminine presence in the HelloFlo™ commercial? Some find the mother’s vengeful acrobatics funny; others gasp or yawn at the prospect of a grown woman duping and humiliating her daughter.  The posts by the two Upworthies—both men, which is nice—suggest that the advertisement eases shame and embarrassment, but it relies on shame and embarrassment.  Perhaps it eases their shame and embarrassment?  That’s nice too, but perhaps a secondary priority.  Sorry, guys: matriarchy rules.  And because this is a commercial, there is a customer in mind: the mother.  Clearly, the way to hook the fish is with a (supposedly funny, certainly fictional, possibly intertextual) revenge tale.  The mother’s  life experience becomes subservient to her use-value to the company as a consumer; her character submits to a vulgar narrative wherein grown men do imbecilic things and inspire raised eyebrows, while the girl, the supposed protagonist, does something adolescent—after all, she is an adolescent—and gets punished.  Her up-growing is exposed in front of the men brandishing coffee filters, red vagina-imitating bodysuits, and slow-moving ketchup.  (“Idiots!”) There is even a boy band up on a balcony that has been festooned with girls’ underwear.  Now that is decidedly creepy.  (The grandfather in his undershirt “bobbing for ovaries like a champ” could have benefited from some video surgery as well.)  While in the past, a girl might have shuddered at the advent of menstruation, here the girl cringes at others’ appropriation of it, before she has even experiences it for herself.  It is a possession, but not hers, and she does not like what is happening.  No one else is cringing.  (“Assholes!”)  How funny.

I am fascinated by the ways in which periodical (that’s a clever peer’s coinage, so clever that she cannily critiques the word “clever” [#IAmNotMakingThisUp]) advertisements have changed over time.  I remember gazing at some utterly weird booklets that my older sisters must have received at school in the seventies; the text and images completely mystified the entire topic.  “Modess . . . because.”

(Okay, because why?  [Like, I always want to ask, “‘Have a good one?’ A good what?  And only one?”]  And why is the ellipsis placed before the word because, when the statement is left unfinished?  Okay, okay, I’ll do my best to go with the flow.)

Mid- to late-twentieth century advertisements show women in flowing gowns.  And “Modess”: is that like, a female mod?  Like “seamstress” or “poetess?”  Almost passé enough to have a comeback.  Perhaps today the advertisement would read, “Modster™ . . . whatever.”  Anyway, by the time I reached adolescence, advertisements presented images of  sporty young women in tight white clothing playing sports.  (I wondered if I was supposed to wear white one week per month.)  And now we have HelloFlo™, who proffers“special delivery for your hoo-ha”  and urges, “whatever you call it, we can help you take care of it.”  Indeed, engaging and refreshing.  Amusing and arch.  I say this in earnest.  That’s great to see, and much more appealing than “. . . because.”

But this attitude does not stick.  The climax of the humiliating vagina-cake advertisement comes when, unable to endure her mother’s torment a moment longer, the girl exclaims, in frustration, “I faked it!”  This moment is poignant and sad in the way many funny things turn out to be, and it has more resonance than I would like.  (I would love never to remember the image of Meg Ryan in the diner in When Harry Met Sally again.) 

Such an utterance from such a young girl reminds me of the innumerable ways women choose to, or are pressured to, hide ourselves in order to play to the crowd.  It reminds me how we learn to please, to appease, and from whom, and what happens when we stop faking it.  

The two-minute and twenty-second advertisement does not, on its own, effect this; it “merely” reinforces it.  (Even the specific choice of words, “I faked it,” brings too-heavy baggage to the first moon party.)

The folks on Facebook™ would surely “advice” [sic] “you people” [sic] to undertake some “lightning” (OK, that I did make up, but only sort of) and would likely proceed to remind the killjoys that “this is not real!!!!”  They’re right: advertisements are not “real,” but then again, nether—Bless you, Autocorrect™!—are our daily lives, filled as they are with things like . . . advertisements.  And Facebook™ posts.  And arguments based more on assertion than thought.  And women who undertake plastic surgery to look like Barbie™.  And viral videos of real-life rapes.  And sober questions about the relationships between and among religion, commerce, law, and women’s (as well as others’!) health.  I would not propose that HelloFlo™ and Co. intended to create a piece of propaganda through reactionary faux-normalizing-but-compliant cultural work designed to serve the misogynist hegemony.  As another wise-woman apprentice my age says, “It is not a conspiracy.  It doesn’t have to be.”  In other words, business as usual—uncontested, contested inadequately, or dressed up as new wine—lubricates the gears so that the gender-performance machine may continue to revolve under the moon.  As my father used to say, “Garbage in; garbage out.”  We can convince ourselves we have improved things, as long as we have something to chuckle at.  As long as our belly laughs as we are distracted us from any irregularities or muscle spasms.

Living in this culture and knowing something about women’s and girls’ experiences, I am not amused to think that “Being A Good Mother Means Sometimes Humiliating Your Child When They Lie.”  Now, inserting “Buying Your Kid A Vagina Cake” in the place of “humiliating your child” sweetens it up, but if this is funny, consider how bitter our humor must be.

There are other thought-provoking nuances, likely reflexes, in the language of the posts and the video.  Notice that construction above: “when they lie.”  “They” has long been accepted in place of a gender-specific pronoun, both in mainstream culture and by academics, but that is not my point.  Why use “they” here?  Worthy and urgent contestations of the gender binary aside, in this context, “Being A Good Mother Means Sometimes Buying Your Daughter A Vagina Cake When She Lies.”   That has a less “embarrassment-alleviating” sound, doesn’t it?  (I’d like to put “something” before “means,” but no matter.)

Toward the end of the video, after the girl has been subjected to the over-the-top-of-the-first-moon “party”  (whose party?), she is rewarded with the gift of a HelloFlo™ kit from her mother.  Mother and daughter sit together, and the girl asks whether she’ll be grounded for lying.  Her mother reveals that the party was her punishment and adds, commenting on her long-held knowledge of the purloined period, “Periods don’t have glitter on them.”  This too is interesting language.  The girl did not create a false period, but rather evidence of one.  That evidence is known as blood.  Menstrual blood does not contain glitter.  A period is not an object—except when it becomes a product to sell and buy.  I can imagine that marketing experts might discourage the use of the term “menstrual blood” to sell a product.  But the slippage of terminology is curious.  Similarly, the word “vagina,” which hardly dances on the tongue, seems to have become a substitute for the female genitals.  (Rick Perry even asked, “Which one?”)  We teach ourselves to obfuscate even as we profess a desire to communicate.

(How could you place anything on a period anyway?)

And why is it that, after this exchange, the last scene of the video shows a middle-aged man advising a young woman, as he suffers the clichéd or archetypal “anticipation™” of flow from the sluggish ketchup bottle, “Sometimes you just gotta wait”?

(I know it would be too much to ask HelloFlo™ to go Godot.  But a Girl™ can dream.)

(Perhaps we can all meet up at Maleficent instead.)


Warning: Wise Women Ahead (With Some More Wise Folks Right Beside)

It is sad that it is so hard to imagine a narrative in which a mature woman, perhaps a parent, has wisdom to impart and does so in a caring and dignified manner.  This could be heartwarming.  It could also be funny!  Trust me: wise woman are a scream!

Why the need to mock a first moon party, with “grandpa bobbing for ovaries,” in order to promote a starter kit for camp, with its helpful Good for You Girls™ lip balm?  Why not a first moon party?  Maybe restricted to women; maybe not.  (One of the commenters online described something that sounded like that; I bet my wise women might know about such rituals too.  Do you?  Do you laugh at the very idea?  If so, why?)

Is it coincidental that the process of female maturation, at both ends of the child-bearing years, veers wildly between the poles of invisibility and farce?

The “vagician” is by no means a new invention (nor does she have to be to be in order to be worthy).  There is Carolee Schneemann’s breakthrough performance Interior Scroll,  from 1975, and impish Laurie Anderson’s “Beautiful Red Dress” from fifteen years later.  There are women here and there who use menstrual blood in art-making, when it is available.  In a different vein, I just read an enchanting scene in Mary Robinette Kowal’s latest Regency/fantasy novel, Valour and Vanity, wherein the protagonist, in short hair and trousers, discusses her cycle with her husband.  It’s touching and light-handed, and it is a matter of urgent importance within the narrative.  (You can’t miss it: It’s right before Lord Byron wins a swimming contest and rips his clothes off in the canal.  That embarrasses Jane more than her period.)

And let’s not forget the truly revolutionary Annie Sprinkle, who has genuinely opened things up.  (Including her cervix.  She deserves her own paragraph.)

More generally, apart from artistic products inspired by the menstrual cycle,—”inspired by the menstrual cycle”; that too sounds oddly unfamiliar—there are myriad opportunities to observe a rite of passage in a meaningful ritual.  Such an enterprise need not be packaged in a commodified stunt.   (Dear Facebook™ acquaintances:  the stunt, in this case, is the advertisement, not the actions narrative.  Then again, I am an idiot.)  It’s easy to poke fun at earnestness.  Too easy.  Doing so can be a handy cover for one’s own cowardice, and one’s own shame.  If one cannot risk sincerity when the next generation’s maturing bodies are at center stage, when can one?  Returning to the proposition above that the eager consumption of narratives portraying humiliation may correlate to the utterance of speech acts that do the same: might it be possible to invert this?

Perhaps paying attention to the details of such a cultural product—ignoring pressures to lighten up or move on or get a (different?) sense of humor—may have something in common with, may reflect or foster, the simple but profound act of paying attention to others’s experience.  Now there’s a cycle I would like to see enacted.

There are too few opportunities for girls, as for women, to be honored as themselves, without being prematurely sexualized, cruelly silenced, chastised for being “bossy,” constricted or even terrorized by gendered aggression, or instructed how to adapt to untenable circumstances rather than being offered better ones.  But there are some examples, and their poignancy underscores their scarcity.  They are offered by men as well as women.

Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15
or if Maria Callas debuted as Tosca at 17?
We think you’re special just being you —
playing with your food and staring into space.
Billy Collins, “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl”

Now this is humorous!  And vengeless.  Indeed, it drily touches on mundane ways in which girls (and boys too) are put upon, pointing to the tiny and immense pressures they experience as they come of age.   It creates some distance from the intergenerational drama, and its lightness, reminiscent of Calvino’s Boccacio’s Cavalcanti’s leap, is much needed in this next millennium.  I want my favorite (read: all) pre-adolescent aunts to have as much access to this sort of jump as to images of clumsy red-suited fathers emerging from “vagina cakes.”

(That a red flag went up the first time I saw Collins’s title is sobering.  Fortunately, it descended.)

A woman-identified, intergenerational flavor is not entirely absent from HelloFlo™, the company; in fact, Flo’s most important contribution may lie in her blog and the “Ask Dr. Flo” column.  I hope that these offerings are as useful to customers and participants as they appear.  (This may be an example of the marvelous aspect of the Internet, where a girl can find information—if she knows where to go.  And to learn that, she still may need a wise elder in her corner.  And so we cycle back again.)

These more promising aspects of the HelloFlo™ “brand” only serve to set in relief this confused and confusing advertisement.  Sure, whack the  piñata utera if you like.  I’ll pass, not because I disapprove, not because I mistake the play for reality, and not because I am immune to periodical humor, but just because the pink pillow on the ceiling is too flimsy to be of interest.  It comes apart too easily.

Can’t we care for young girls without ridiculing their experience, without telling them stories wherein their counterparts are mortified?  They are still young, and growing up is important and worthy of attention and celebration.  I bloody well hope so.  If we are going to say we are saying “vaginas don’t suck,” can’t we at least find a way to show something other than an awkward adolescent slurping on a marshmallow that’s been dipped in a red-chocolate fountain?  And for what it’s worth, such an image makes me, and old pro at bleeding, squeamish in several ways.  This is supposed to normalize the cycle?

(I do want to try the “vagina cake”—but only after the guy in the red bodysuit who jumped out of it has left the building.  By the way, what is he doing in his daughter’s vagina cake?  And after all of mom’s labor, why does it look nothing like a vagina?  Gee, that’s funny.  Dot.  Dot.  Dot.  Or, as the French would say, “point.”)

—Posted by Rose Marie  McSweeney



Looking for a date? Try some syncopation.

As a result, women may be expected to show heightened sexual preferences during peak conception times for men [sic] that [sic] are able to create more complex music. (Charlton, B. D. 2014, “Menstrual cycle phase alters women’s sexual preferences for composers of more complex music,” Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20140403, p. 1).

Let’s begin with a question: Which of these gents:

Screenshot 2014-07-06 13.18.12

—has the best genes?

Or, moving closer to our own historical period, which of these guys:

Faculty Men Distort 2

would make the best long-term partner?

Fortunately, now we have a way of finding out.  A scientific one.  Benjamin Charlton has completed a penetrating and fruitful study—the first, to his knowledge—that offers “empirical support for the sexual selection hypothesis of music evolution by showing that women have sexual preferences during peak conception times for men that are able to create more complex music” (Charlton, “Menstrual cycle phase,” p.1).  It’s been written up in The Atlantic, where Cody C. Delistraty builds on Charlton’s research to posit that Liszt “was arguably the first to figure out how attractive musicianship can be.”

The musical examples in Dr. Charlton’s study were created in GarageBand™ and were provided to 1465 female test subjects in MIDI format. (That is, the musical examples were in MIDI format; the subjects were in their usual analog state and were instructed to dress as they would for a night out seeking male companionship.) The first, simplest, one begins with a couple of chords in 4/4—specifically, two quarter notes of G in second inversion, doubled in right and left hands of the GarageBand™ Grand Piano—which move up, for beats 3 and 4, to F in first inversion.  (Also quarter notes, also doubled, all as before.)  This measure of the composition is repeated 3 more times; then, the quarter notes are augmented to half notes, and we have, therefore, a bar of G 6/4 (two half notes) followed by a bar of F6 (ditto), with an attack every two beats.  Then—you might want to sit down for this—those two bars repeat.  Do you follow?  Are you feeling turned on yet?  (By the composer, I mean—not by me!)  Well,  just you wait!  Next, the left hand plays the G chord again, but the right hand doesn’t!  It enters (hmm) a half beat later and introduces a syncopated scalar motive, ascending through an entire measure.  Herewith my reduction:

Screenshot 2014-07-06 12.40.08

Remember, we hear that alternation from G6/4 to F6 eight times, and each iteration of each chord is inverted.  There is no root position chord to reassure us of our independence and stability.  Moreover, as above, the rhythm changes from quarter notes to half notes.  There is another very erotic rhythm at the end—NSFS, I fear.  But you can see above the suggestive spacing of the final chord.

The other three, increasingly complex, levels are variations on this same material. To my ear, it is all complicated, because the compositional material remains deceptively simple even as it grows more and more complex.  The material doesn’t really engage with musical syntax but is more a string of stimuli, and it becomes overwhelming in the most sexual way: it’s just like being in a club and breathing in pheromones without understanding what is being awakened in your most primitive self.  How to choose?  I mean, really, look at the cornucopia of breads below: which one do you think would give you the most enjoyment for an evening?  And sustenance for long-term health?


(I did not notice any identification of a composer in the study, though I may have overlooked  his [?] name.  I could also imagine he would want to protect himself from unwanted attention now that his work has been exposed to the public.)

Anyway, it’s not until the third most complex example that we hear a root position harmony—and there are two in a row, going right from A major to F major, still doubled in both hands, so we have six fingers (three pitch classes) moving downward in the same direction—each one traversing a third!  It’s pretty sly, to give us the root position, but only with “parallel everything,” as we sometimes point out to beginning students.  (This is the sort of prank that got Debussy thrown out of the Conservatoire—but he showed them!)  This progression creates a mix of comfortable familiarity and transgressive tension that makes one want to meet this composer and get it on.  Only a stump could fail to be titillated by such a caress.

Menstrual Music 2 Root Position

Now, continuing on, a spoiler alert: the fourth and most complex example has harmonies that rub up against one another, as a sixteenth-note A chord sounds in the right hand before the left hand catches up . . . it lingers behind, fetchingly, on G.  This coy dance of darting ahead, falling behind, and occasionally coming together reminds one of those R-rated scenes in Mutual of Omaha™’s Wild Kingdom.

Menstrual Music 3 Dissonance

(A composer/performer would of course be the fittest to display this prowess, for he would know best how to pedal to show off the mischievous foreplay here.)

There is also the flirty  root movement of a tritone, in regard to which I can only invoke George Bernard Shaw’s commentary on the closing to Act I of Die Walküre: the music “is brought to a point at which the conventions of out society demand the precipitate fall of the curtain.”  And so, I shall keep mum for propriety’s sake.  (Regrettably, there is also insufficient time and space here to investigate the unexpected and provocative appearance, after so many inverted triads, of a quartal harmony.  One suspects a revisionist history of Hindemith’s private life is forthcoming.)

Continuing on then, to examine the complexity of this fourth example, most seductive of all is this harmony:

Menstrual Music 4 A#

Following upon the by-now familiar, but (in this most tantalizing fourth example) mischievously syncopated G6/4, D6/4, G, and A, we suddenly hear this dizzyingly complex triad. It’s gripping.  I misread it at first, thinking it was another D chord (with the A# an F#), moving entrancingly from second to first (!), but no—its a, well, you know—it’s that one.  (Sorry, I just always feel a little funny saying it out loud.)  Honestly, if I had been one of Dr. Charlton’s test subjects, I would have found it difficult to choose among all these eligible sonic stimuli.  It’s a little bit like trying to decide which line in the optometrist’s chart would make the most appealing companion:


But if I am to admit to my most primal, procreative urges—which I’d better do soon, because the clock has no plan to stop ticking—I must agree that the most complex one, Bachelor No. 4, would win in the end.  It’s just that—that je ne sais quoi of the A-sharp, which itself has a bit of a sophisticated Parisian tinge to it.  It gives me the feeling that I’ll never understand the composer who conceived of it, and this, of course, makes him all the more alluring.

(Is it getting a little hot in here?  Or is that just the clock ticking?)

It’s hard not to feel for the wallflowers toiling away at their simple music, seeing the most Lisztian composer go home each night with a new ovulating lady.  But there is a silver lining for the modest: the ladies who listen, it turns out, hit on the composers of complex music for quick encounters only, aiming to breed, but not to forge long-term relationships.  Thus the real usefulness in this study is for the gents—those who desire ladies and are looking for one (or more).  The lesson seems to be the following:

  • If you seek a fun fling, you will need to work very hard in order to develop the sort of composition chops that will attract the ladies to your DNA.  But don’t expect to see her, or any resulting progeny, again; she’s just looking for a quickie and a deposit to satisfy her maternal needs.  Since these will all be brief meetings, though, you will be able to re-use your portfolio and program on each lady you desire.
  • If you prefer to take long walks on the beach, file joint taxes, cook lasagna for five, and snuggle, well, no need to worry so much about the working hard part.  You’re already poised to attract a long-term listener/partner with your half notes.  In fact, if you compose too well, you might find yourself approached by the wrong sort; and I’d hate to see you get hurt.

The two available objectives certainly sync up with the priority-setting and time-management required to foster them—which just shows that science, once again, has given music meaning and purpose.

If you would like more dating tips, you can purchase 30-day access to this study for only $29.25.  (I am not making this up.)  That’s thirty days, a couple of days longer than most women’s cycles, so it will give you plenty of time to bone up on your rhythm.

And if you would like a playlist to give you an idea of the typical childbearing-age lady’s—because this is all determined by our fluctuating hormones, you can count on a lot of shared interests—iPod cycle and help you warm up for your own masterpiece, see the list below.

I await further research on the use-value of my own (complex?) music.  Meantime, having read the study—full disclosure: I was not at my most rational when I finished reading, as I am sure you will understand—I have begun to wonder whether experimental and analytical acumen, like compositional skill, occupy a special place in terms of sexual selection.  Dr. Charlton, have you had a lot of response to your publication?




Copyright-free photos of historical composers from http://www.8notes.com.
Photo of blurry suited men courtesy of Princeton University Music Department.
Other images royalty-free from shutterstock.com.

For another response to the study and The Atlantic’s coverage, see Jonathan Bellman, “Romantic Power of Music, The.” 

—Posted by Barbara A. White

Hold Me Close, and I’ll Hold You Deeply

Transcribed by Holly Hobbie from dictation received directly from God. And God.
And God, and God, and God.

Holly Hobbie

These are Gods’ rulings on various corporations-qua-people’s religious beliefs’ approved effects and emendations to ACA doctrine. If you don’t like what you read, do not blame the messenger, please; I am just a doll in calico, provided for entertainment purposes only.
—Holly Hobbie™

The Church of the Bodhi Tree
No medical coverage of any kind. We embrace impermanence, for ourselves, for you, and for however many children you may have.

The Trembling Quiverers Sect
Procreation prohibited, thus coverage for birth control, but not for pre-natal or natal care.

The Order of the Ostrich
Silently to self: “Let’s not think about why someone might seek out Plan B.”

The Shortage of Scarcity Sect
Denied. If someone else gets birth control, there must be something I am not getting.

The Order of Orthotics
Prescription insoles covered up to $1000, every other year.
Just wear these: they’ll have the same effect as any other method.

The Gaggle of St. Francis
ACL surgery for deer is covered. People: nah.

The Right Reverend Akin’s Church of Magical Thinking
The body has its own way of shutting the whole thing down. If it’s legitimate.

The Deflecting Detour Denomination
If she wants an IUD, she can just get another job.

The Church of Sisters Thelma and Louise
What’s the point? Let’s get outta here.

The Convent of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All to You
No birth control. Women’s trip to ER for injuries resulting from spousal abuse are covered, with a discount on co-pay. If you are in a same-sex relationship and experience spousal abuse—what???

Church of Revlon™
This lipstick will make everyone want you.
After that, you’re on your own.

The Paleo Church.
We do it all ourselves, old-school.

Church of Mary Mag
Individual Incentive Plan.  “Pal, things are a little tight right now. Could you leave $100 in the jar by the door so I don’t have to ask you for child support later on? And if you talk me up to some others, I may be able to give a discount next time.”

Church of Personal Responsibility
Drunken fall down stairs, broken ankle: covered.
Texting while driving, broken leg: covered.
Extreme yoga competition, pulled groin muscle: covered.
IUD to avoid unplanned pregnancy: that’s your personal responsibility.

The Church of the Weight Police
BMI Too High? No health care, period.

The Liberation Theology Theorem
This is an improvement in health care options.  The ACA was designed by the government to oppress us citizens, so removal of any benefit is an act of emancipation.

Church of the Running Number
Just count.  (There’s an app.)

Church of Joe Smith
All plural wives—that is, wiveses—get fertility treatment, whether or not they want it.

The Oneida Community’s Silver Rule
The “Wait Until You’re Older” Method: have as much sex as you want, once you have completed menopause.

The Church of Sappho
Why would we need birth control? Ha!

The Church of Academia
Who has the time?

The MRA Bro Bunch
We don’t cover IUDs or Plan B for men. So covering them for women is anti-male.

The Church of the Amazon
We’ll take care of it ourselves, thanks.

The Coven of Lysistrata
Sorry, guys. We’re closed for the season.

—Posted by IAmNotMakingUp