My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Archive for the category “Social Media”

Nasty Woman, Speak Up!

Nasty woman 16 tshirt

Today, I politely but firmly took on a woman on our neighborhood Nextdoor site. She was repeating the Trump/Fox News argument that because a small number of undocumented immigrants have committed violent crimes, then we need to keep them ALL out. I called her on this irrational argument.

And the whole time I was having this public discussion, a voice in my head kept saying, “Naomi, enough already. People are going to think you’re dogmatic and angry and they’re not going to like you. Why do you always have to be so vocal?”

I am tired of this voice.

I am tired of separating my Facebook friends into Best Friends and Acquaintance lists, and then only posting the political stuff so my Best Friends can see it. I’m tired of feeling hurt when people unfriend me and unfollow me because I express my opinions. Even as I write this post, I am remembering that certain people in my life might read this, and I worry that they will think less of me.

I am tired of this standard I have in my head of the Likeable Woman. The Likeable Woman smiles and helps others, and doesn’t have political signs on her lawn or bumper. She posts pictures of her dogs and kids on Facebook, and only posts opinions on Facebook with disclaimers like, “I rarely post my political opinions on Facebook, but…”

Most of the women in the world I care about and admire most are not anything like this Likeable Woman. Yet I realize that I hold myself to that standard. I tell myself that people would like me more if I would only keep quiet.

These days, though, I have been posting political opinions on Facebook for everyone to see, not just those on my Best Friends list. I am arguing with bigots on Nextdoor. I am blogging again, and taking on controversial topics.

Because these days, there’s too much at stake to be a Likeable Woman. These days, we need more Nasty Women.

Oh, and a few days ago, I submitted this post to a certain secret Facebook page that focuses on issues relating to women and marginalized people in the era of Donald Trump. (You all probably know what awesome Facebook page I’m talking about.) The submission was posted, and so far I’ve gotten about 1,200 supportive comments and 10K likes. So there you go.

Is Pinterest the New Backlash Against Women?


Don't have a back-to-school ruler wreath? You must be one of those moms with "other priorities."

Don’t have a back-to-school ruler wreath? You must be one of those moms with “other priorities.”

Ah, Pinterest. It’s the popular social media site where you can “pin” links to whatever it is that interests you. For many people, that means crafts. And for some people out there—primarily moms —Pinterest is the place to pin your ideas for Competitive Mom Crafting.

And what is Competitive Mom Crafting? It’s sending your daughter to Girl Scouts with (organic, gluten-free) cupcakes that are perfectly stylized into ladybugs when it’s your turn for snacks—even though the other moms just send Oreos. It’s creating a back-to-school ruler wreath for your front door, or better yet, making a personalized one as a back-to-school gift for your child’s teacher—even though nobody else gives the teacher a back-to-school gift. It’s spending weeks wrapping your holiday present so that your coordinating bows and wrapping paper are all at perfect right angles—even though the people who give you presents just throw everything into 99-cent gift bags. And it’s about scrapbooking. Scrapbooking everything.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being crafty. Far from it. We all need a creative outlet, and making nifty cupcakes and scrapbooks is creative. Craft projects are a source of fun and relaxation for many people, and a way of spending time with kids. It’s the equivalent of me writing blog entries as a creative outlet.

The problem with craftiness is when it becomes competitive—and especially when this competitiveness is tied up in motherhood. Because for some moms, decking your children’s lives out with fabulous DYI stuff is the way to show that you are a Good Mom. Look how much time you put into making a beautiful life for your family! And those other moms, who don’t scrapbook and send their kids to lunch with ordinary, gluten-laden sandwiches? Well, those moms must just have other priorities, huh?

So these days, moms have a whole new category of ways to feel inadequate. These days, Pinterest and the new world of Competitive Mom Crafting is the new backlash against women, and especially mothers.

Backlash refers to cultural trends that function as a way to reduce the empowerment of women in an era when women have increased power. Things are by no means perfect for women in 2014. However, compared to half a century ago, women have far more power in the working world, in government, under the law, and under the dictates of social norms.

A backlash is a trend that functions to counterbalance women’s power and tells them to “get back!” Susan Faludi coined the term in 1991 in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women. The backlash Faludi wrote about largely was the frenzy of media reports at the time about women who were allegedly failing miserably at “having it all.” According to the media, these women were dealing with a fertility crisis, a man-shortage, and a general sense of malaise—all as a result of trying to be successful in a man’s world.

Similarly, in The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women (1992), Naomi Wolf argued that the pressure on women to conform to increasingly unrealistic beauty images also serves as a backlash. While women have always felt pressure to be beautiful, the standards of beauty and thinness have increased exponentially—at the same time that women have gained other kinds of power in society.

The current pressure to be a fabulous crafter is yet another backlash against women’s power. Because now it’s not enough to have a career and a family and a home. Now you have to do it all, and have everything beautified with your fabulous craft projects. If you don’t have the time, or the money, or the talent to make a back-to-school wreath, well, just look at all those moms on Pinterest who do!

And that’s the thing about the backlash. It’s all about upping the ante on the long list of things that women are expected to do well. Years ago, women felt enormous pressure to be excellent homemakers. But the ante was relatively low. Sure, they felt pressure for everything to be so clean that you could eat off the carpet. But they didn’t feel pressure to make an array of fabulous back-to-school decorations and other time-consuming craft projects. Now that women have far less time to keep their houses clean—which we’re still expected to do—we have more pressure to spend our valuable time filling our meticulously clean homes with lovely crafts.

It’s the same with food too. Although I’m grateful that we’re more health-conscious than we were half a century ago, the downside is that the pressure on women to create beautiful, healthy meals has skyrocketed. Back in the 1950s, there was lots of pressure on women to be great cooks. But what it meant to be a “great cook” was a whole lot easier than it is today. It’s not that hard to make a pot roast, and it’s not hard to slap together tasty meals out of the processed ingredients that we scorn today. But now, we’re expected to come home and make meals made with ingredients we’ve so carefully shopped for that are “clean” and “whole” and organic and unprocessed and gluten-free and GMO-free and so on. We don’t send our kids to school with bologna and cheese on Wonder Bread anymore. We send them with elaborate Bento boxes.

We can’t possibly be fabulous at everything. Career, family, beauty, housekeeping, cooking, crafting—who can possibly be the master of all of this? As women gain power in society, this list keeps growing, and it becomes harder to meet the standards of any one of these things. As a result, some women feel insecure about themselves, and other women pit themselves against each other to be the single most fabulous superwoman on the block. Both of those trends take away from the power of women to be confident, successful allies—and therefore, it’s a backlash.

My thanks to Julie from Perfect Whole and the other awesome moms who inspired this post through their discussion on Facebook!



Ice Bucket Activism: Reflections on Why People Obey the Facebook and Dump Ice Water on their Heads

ice bucket

So if Facebook told you to dump a bucket of HOT water over your head, would you do it?

Probably not. And yet, over the month of August 2014, thousands upon thousands of people dumped buckets of ice water over their head to participate in a Facebook challenge.

This is the result of an extremely clever marketing campaign by the ALS Association, which has gone viral to an astounding degree. My Facebook feed, and everybody else’s, is filled with people dumping buckets of water over their head to raise money for ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that most people know little about.

Now, in a futile attempt to keep my Comments section devoid of hateful comments, let me assure you all that of course, I support raising money to fight horrible diseases. If you are one of the many people who dumped water over your head to raise money for ALS, you indeed did some good in the world.

Any yet, there’s something about Ice Bucket Activism that, well, brings me a chill.

It seems that people are really attached to the Ice Bucket Challenge. And we’re not just talking about people with a connection to ALS. Ice Bucket Activism is really resonating with a large portion of the population. So why is that?

Well, take a look at everything else that’s been going on in the summer of 2014. This has probably been the worst summer of news that I can remember in my lifetime, and it almost reads like a Greatest Hits of Awful Things.  A passenger jet got shot down over war-torn Ukraine. A journalist was beheaded. ISIS is committing genocide against religious minorities in Iraq. Israel and Hamas are at war again. The most serious racial crisis we’ve seen in years is underway in Ferguson, Missouri. And don’t forget about ebola. Yes, even ebola is back!

And on top of all this, the most beloved comedian in the world was so depressed that he killed himself. RIP Robin Williams. Life sucks.

It seems like no coincidence to me that this is the month when the Ice Bucket Challenge caught on. People feel helpless. I mean, how can you not?

So, to mitigate the feelings of helplessness, we engage in collective action. We dump buckets of ice water over our heads. We collectively raise millions of dollars to fight a terrible disease. We might not be able to do anything about the poor suffering Yazidis in Iraq. But at least we can raise money for ALS.

So as a culture, we’ve engaged in collective action. We’ve done this before. During the Vietnam War, millions of young people responded to the feelings of helplessness by creating a massive anti-war movement. During the 1950s and 1960s, millions responded to the systematic discrimination of African Americans with boycotts, sit-ins, marches, and organized actions that in some cases cost people their lives. And during August 2014, collective action happened again!

We rose up and dumped water over our heads.

Part of what’s fascinating to me about Ice Bucket Activism is how angry people get at people like me who challenge it.  Just look at this Slate article imploring people to “stop dumping ice on your head and just give money.” Some of the anger directed at the author in the Comments section is outright vitriolic. It’s the kind of anger that seems more appropriate for someone who advocates, I don’t know, dumping buckets of ice water over kittens?

So why are people so angry at Ice Bucket Activism Dissenters? I think this goes back to the Greatest Hits of Awful Things we’ve been treated to in the summer of 2014. So many of these Awful Things are extremely polarizing. Israel-Hamas conflict? Polarizing! The shooting of Michael Brown? Even more polarizing! Try having a conversation in mixed company of one of these two issues and someone is bound to get very angry very quickly.

And that’s part of what’s so appealing about Ice Bucket Activism. There’s no Two Sides of the Issue when it comes to ALS. Horrible diseases are universally hated by all, regardless of their race or religion or political leanings. If you post your opinion about Michael Brown on your Facebook page, you will inevitably piss some people off. But go right ahead and post a video of yourself dumping water over your head. The “likes” will mount up immediately!

Like I said, Ice Bucket Activism isn’t wrong. It’s raised millions of dollars to fight a terrible disease. It’s also a reasonable response to feeling hopeless in light of recent world and national events. People want to do something, and Ice Bucket Activism is something.

But the thing about Ice Bucket Activism is that it’s easy. It diverts people away from the kind of activism that has the capacity to make a real difference. And the powers that be are more than happy to have people channel their energy into Ice Bucket Activism than demanding other kinds of change. If there was a viral campaign to end the vast socioeconomic and racial disparities that exist in the United States, then the powerful people would get nervous.

But Ice Bucket Activism? The powers that be are happy to see our need for change placated.


Musings on My 25th Year High School Reunion, or, Miss Lynch is the Real Badass

Me, as Miss Lynch in Grease, at Pennsauken High School in 1986.

Me, as Miss Lynch in Grease, at Pennsauken High School in 1986.

My 25th year high school reunion is coming up soon. I am not going to the reunion. Mostly this is because the reunion is in New Jersey, and I no longer have family there. It’s not worth the trouble and expense. But I’ve been reading about the reunion on Facebook, and all kinds of memories are surfacing.

Let me start out by saying I intend this to be as non-whiny a blog post as humanly possible. I want this to be an empowering post. I’m tired of thinking of myself as a kid who was lonely and unpopular in high school. I’m tired of feeling sad that I skipped out on our senior trip to Disney World because I was afraid no one would hang out with me. I want to start thinking about myself as someone who rocked the shit out of high school.

PHS. The middle school, Pennsauken Middle School, is most unfortunately PMS.

PHS. The middle school, Pennsauken Middle School, is unfortunately PMS.

Here’s the part of the blog post where I risk being whiny and I summarize my middle school and high school years. I was the stereotypically bright child who severely lacked social skills and coordination. You know, the kid with the straight A’s who was always the last one picked in elementary school kickball? That was me.  After my parents’ divorce, I started middle school in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Being the new kid in seventh grade would pretty much suck for anyone, but if you’re painfully shy, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. To top it off, the largely working-class, conservative town of Pennsauken was just not a good fit for me.  I was a liberal professor’s kid, and one of only a few Jewish kids in the school. From the beginning, there was a pretty good chance that This Would Not Go Well.

Whining done. I have a mental library of painful stories I could tell you about my socially awkward attempts to fit in that ended badly. You don’t need to hear these stories, but more importantly, I don’t need to keep telling them to myself.

My sophomore year at PHS, I auditioned for Grease. I really wanted to play the part of Rizzo, the sexy bad girl. But then I read for the part of Miss Lynch, the curmudgeonly old lady teacher.  I was hysterically funny and got the part.

For years, I told this story and emphasized how emblematic it was of my high school years that I had to play an old lady school teacher instead of a sexy bad girl. But these days, I’ve come to realize that Miss Lynch is the real badass. Because, you know, there are a lot of high school girls in the world who could play Rizzo. But I may be the only high school girl in history who could make the old lady school teacher the most memorable character in that whole play.

And when you think about, there’s no better musical to play the outsider than GreaseGrease is horrible play for high schoolers. The message is terrible. If you’ve never seen Grease, it’s all about Sandy, the sweet new girl who doesn’t fit into the bad girl culture at her new school. She had a summer romance with Danny, the king of the high school bad boys, but he won’t have anything to do with Sandy at school because she doesn’t fit in.

So, is Grease like High School Musical, where everyone learns that the most important thing is to be yourself?  NO!!  Sandy decides to change her looks and her personality, becomes a bad girl, and gets the boy.  At the end of the play, the kids all sing “We Go Together,” and Sandy’s a part of the “together” now, just like I wanted to be. But she’s only part of “together” because she’s squeezed herself into black Spandex pants. Three cheers for conformity!

Miss Lynch, however, doesn’t give a crap what these self-righteous, conformist little greasers think of her.

A girl whose name I can’t remember came up to me after the play was done and said, “You know, I used to think you were weird. But now I think you’re cool!” So there you have it. Fuck Rizzo. Miss Lynch was the real badass.

On Facebook, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about some of the people from my high school.  It’s been stunning for me to learn how many other students felt more like Miss Lynch than they felt like Rizzo. If I lived closer, I would love to sit down and have a beer with these people at my reunion and hear about what they really thought about PHS.  I used to think I would never want to go to a reunion, but now I think I might try to go to the next one. And why not? I was Miss Lynch. I rocked the shit out of high school.

“Why is My Poop Green?”: Wondering with the Humans on Google Autofill

google why is

The humans fascinate me.  I walk by a stranger and I wonder, “Who are you?  What’s your story?  What are you thinking?  Well, now thanks to Google Autofill, we can all get a better sense of what the humans are wondering about.  Or at least the humans in your geographical region.

Google Autofill works like this.  You go to the Google search box and you start typing in whatever it is you want to ask Google.  Autofill guesses what it is you’re trying to type, and it presents you with suggestions to choose from.  How does Google know what to suggest?  It just looks at what other users have looked for in your geographical region, and the most popular search choices pop up.

The unintentional and fascinating part of Autofill is that it can give you insight into what the humans are wondering about. Or at least what they’re asking Google about.

This can be really cool if you look at the most basic questions.  As you can see by the screenshot above, I typed in the phrase “why is,” and Google suggested to me the top four inquiries beginning with “why is.” As you can see, the majority of humans making this inquiry were asking the age-old question of why the sky is blue.  Others wanted to know another age-old question: why is the ocean salty?

Others, however, where wondering, “Why is my poop green?”  Apparently a lot of people wonder that. At least in my geographical region.

Green poop isn’t the only medical concern of the humans.  Spend some time typing in Autofill questions, and you’ll find that the humans ask Dr. Google a lot of questions they ought to be asking a fellow human doctor.  Apparently many of these questions have to do with excretion. For example, when I typed in “why do I have to,” here’s what the humans were wondering about:

google why do i have tio

Apparently the humans have similar questions for Dr. Google the Veterinarian:

google whi is my cat

Play with Autofill and you’ll find that the humans wonder endlessly about both the Big Questions and the more mundane. For example, when I typed in “is there,” I learned that the humans are asking the age-old question about the existence of a higher power. The second biggest “is there” question”?  Gluten.

google is there a

Playing the Autofill game can also reveal some sad ponderings.  By typing in “why am I,” I discovered that the humans are excessively tired, cold, and ugly.  The last one is a matter of opinion, of course, but terribly sad.

google why am i

Some of the ponderings are just surprising.  Typing in “what do” reveals that people are wondering about the meaning of slang terms, which isn’t a surprise.  But who knew that people were so concerned about turtle food?

google what do

“Why does” reveals that humans are wondering about ice.  And gray hair.  And also, well, something that goes back the Dr. Google issue. Seriously, people, go talk to a human doctor.

google why does

My favorite Autofills, though, are the most basic and human ones.  Because ultimately, humans are still wondering the same questions they’ve been always been wondering.  It’s just that they used to ask books, or wise elders, or Mommy and Daddy. Now they ask Google.  But the questions are the same.

google why

So, if you’ve ever wondered what the humans were wondering, just ask Google.  You could always walk up to strangers and ask what they wonder about, I suppose, but they might start wondering about your social skills or sanity.  Humans aren’t clickable.  Google is.  Now please go about your day with an ever-so-human sense of wonderment.  And if your poop is an unexpected color, please talk to a real doctor. Are We Moving Towards “Rank a Human Being” Websites?

Sadistic entrepreneurial idea of the day:

Here’s how it would work. would be just like anonymous teacher evaluation websites like Rate My, or anonymous doctor evaluation websites like  These websites allow students and patients to post feedback about professors and doctors, presumably to help others make a better informed decision about what political science class or orthopedic surgeon to avoid.

Read more…

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