You'll be devastated to know that, despite my heroic efforts to bring the gender-studies world to its knees by writing an essay about it that upwards of several people read, it turns out -- you may want to sit down with your head between your knees for this part -- gender still endures.* This despite the fact that some of those who read the essay were not even members of my personal family.
Anyway, the ugly truth visited itself on me on a recent visit to the bookstore, where, in the interest of broadening my intellectual horizons in teh time it would take to finish my Honkaccino, I picked up a book that transported me back to my early childhood,** when one day my mother, who was home-schooling me at the time, was given a book entitled: MATH FOR GIRLS. Sadly, I no longer own this book due to the fact that we misplaced it, shortly after attacking it with a machete. But I do remember its main features:
2. For girls.
3. An answer guide providing many -- not to put too fine a point on it -- wrong answers.
4. A pink cover with stickers*** on it.
5. Problems such as:
You earned $15 from baby-sitting! And $25 from the bake sale you and the other little be-uterused creatures held after cheerleading practice! Then you and people with names like "Kaylee" went to the mall! If you spent $6.99 on a charm bracelet and $2.27 on a nonfat taco, plus a $1.25 exclamation mark surcharge, and 6.5% sales tax, then don't worry about it, you can't solve this problem anyway. Have a great day!!
So I was thinking, there in the bookstore, that we have really come a long way since those unenlightened days (case in point: we no longer wear "scrunchies"), thanks largely to entities such as the American Girl company, publisher of the book I was holding in my hand, the American Girl Girl's Guide To Money. I remember this company fondly, because when I was little I had a couple of the dolls, like the WWII doll, the colonial doll, the plague-infected doll, etc., plus I once invented, as a prospective addition to their lineup, a cavegirl doll with a name like "Unnhh" who went around doing plucky cavegirl things and starring in uplifting cavegirl adventures with titles like "Unnhh Saves The Day."****
So I had nothing but the utmost respect for A.G., until the moment, there in the bookstore, that my heart was ripped out of my chest, stomped on, chopped up into fun-size pieces and charged a $1.95 Citibank Surcharge by their book. I refer to the following passage, which I quote verbatim:
It’s Saturday. You’ve got friends at your side, a purse with some cash, and the mall at your feet. You’re happy – even a little excited – walking along under the bright lights, listening to music and the babble of voices. The air smells of pretzels and cookies and pizza. You love being here, talking to friends about what you like and don’t like. You don’t have to buy anything to have a good time. And yet – funny – you often do. How’s that work?
In fact, when you’re in a mall, you’re in a landscape very different from the rest of the world. There are no windows to the outdoors. Blue sky, fresh air, dirt, pavement – that all sort of disappears. What you have instead are signs, lighting, colors, advertisements, and stylish displays.
It’s a landscape designed by people who have one thing in mind: encouraging you to buy things. Everything is arranged to that purpose.
NOOOOOOOOOOOO I WON'T BELIEVE IT NOT THE MAAAALLLLLLLLLL THE MALL LOOOOOVES MEEEE TAKE IT BACK TAKE IT BACK WHY I OUGHTA POKE YOU IN THE EYE WITH A NONFAT TACO.
And ... and another thing ... (sniff) ... frankly, this passage is DISCRIMINATORY. Yeah. Discriminatory against ... against people who don't shop at malls. Take the urban vagrant. Yeah! Do I see the American urban vagrant represented an-y-where in that passage, "American Girl," if that IS your name?
Well, lucky for you I and the editors of American Urban Vagrant***** came along. With their assistance, I have retooled the foregoing passage thusly:
It's Saturday -- not that that means anything to you! You've got your imaginary friends at your side, another person's purse with some cash, and bodily substances at your feet. You're happy -- even a little excited in bodily ways -- walking along under the smog, listening ot the babble of the voices in your head telling you KILL THE MAYOR KILL THE MAYOR.****** The air smells of pretzels and cookies and secretions. You love being here, talking to your imaginary bunny, Harvey, about what you don't like and ... don't like. You don't have to buy anything to have a good time. And, accordingly, you often don't. How's that work?
It works like this, silly: you're an AMERICAN URBAN VAGRANT! All you need to feel good is the toe-tapping entertainment inside your own fried, fried head. In fact, when you're inside your head, you're in a landscape very different from the rest of the world. There are no windows to the outdoors.
It's a landscape designed by people who have one thing in mind: they want to EAT YOUR BRAIN EAT YOUR BRAIN EAT YOUR BRAIN. Everything is arranged to that purpose.
So there. Having struck a much-needed blow for whatever it was I was striking a blow for, I'm off to the mall to do math. Then I'm going to buy things, because the stylish displays are telling me I have to. Or else Harvey will eat my brain.
* In fact, while sitting in this position, you may notice it between your knees.
** There were "crop tops" there. You may want to put your head between your knees again.
*** They sparkled!!
**** This will yet make me rich; you just wait.
***** Insert your own joke about a line of dolls here. It's just too easy.
****** DISCLAIMER: This is the voice in your head, avoiding legal involvements. Do NOT kill the mayor. Thank you.
©2009, Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending