update at the bottom of the post, edits made at 1:53 p.m.

Somehow, through some wrinkle in the space-time continuum, many of my friends have tween or teenagers. Most of them being at least middle class, they play musical instruments.

Some have formed or joined bands.

In addition to learning all the stuff that goes along with being a band, some of them are learning the sad, sexist, body-shaming gender politics of rock and roll.

A friend shared some screenshots of her young teenaged daughter’s facebook wall (with daughter’s permission).

I was saddened by what I saw, but I was also amazed and impressed by what I read. I asked if any of them wanted to write a guest post, but I didn’t get any takers. I did get permission to blog about what happened, as long as I hid all identities and didn’t quote anyone directly.

“Lucy” is lanky – she’s pretty tall and her mom says she averages a size 2. She’s kindof sortof maybe dating this boy. They know each other from school and extracurricular music activities. In the Fall he joined a rock band with some friends.

One of the mean kids posted this image on Lucy’s facebook wall, along with a note that she’d better do a New Year’s cleanse if she didn’t want him to dump her for a thin(ner) girl.


It’s an image makes the rounds a lot and I know very few female musicians (or women, in general) who think it’s cute, although when male musicians are called out on it they invariably fall back on the the “I know one chick who thinks it’s GREAT, so you all should” cliche.

That’s a post for another day…

I had no idea it was showing up on on twitter or fb as a tool of teenage repression. Lucy’s mom indicated that this wasn’t the first time Lucy had seen the image, it was merely the first time she’d been it’s target.

I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be hurt by this kind of public ridicule and body-shaming. What impressed me was the way Lucy’s friends stepped up and critiqued the hell out of the image and the message, instead of engaging in a flame war with the mean girls, who are apparently experts at wielding “thinspirational” images as weapons.

The primary issues that they called out the image for were:

Depicting males as musicians and girls as groupies.

They discussed at length how the boys in their music classes at school are encouraged to be in bands, but if they express interest they’re discouraged, even by some women they meet in bands who encourage them to be musicians but express ambivalent opinions about band participation.

Depicting male musicians as automatically have a higher status that doesn’t rely on physical appearance, while female musicians are held to different standards.

Lucy decided not to join a band because she hates the way famous female performers (and her female musician friends) are held to such ridiculous physical standards while males are given much more leeway about their appearance. Lucy’s best friend talked about how she sings and plays a number of instruments, but has been told more than once by boys that she should take up the the drums because that would hide her “fat ass.” She’s an extremely slim young woman who is active in several sports.


Fat-shaming the girl on the left.

They called this out, but it didn’t really need any explanation.

Slut-shaming the girl on the right.

They felt sorry for the girl on the right, who they read as seeking an identity based on associations not actual social connections. They also felt sorry for the boy in the picture, because they thought he was dumb to dump the girl who liked him for who he was just to go out with a girl who it’s implied only likes him for the status he confers on her.

I’m impressed that teenagers could offer such sophisticated readings of this image and it’s message(s) in the face of such ugly bullying, but I’m depressed that they need to do so.

I struggled for weeks over whether to include any size information about the girls being bullied. Ultimately, I left “Lucy’s” size to indicate that this kind of body-shaming happens no matter what size the girl is and whether or not she’s happy with her size. I changed the information about her friend to be more vague because her exact height and size were irrelevant to the story. If it matters to you, you’re missing the point altogether.

Original image source: unknown. I’m not linking it to the page it came from in the incident I describe in this post because I want to keep the identifying details to a minimum. I left the original file name, “no fat chicks” because I think it tells it’s own piece of the story.

When I was a kid, our next door neighbors had a Hammond organ. They used to let me play it but their sheet music selection was pretty limited.

Very limited.

Let’s put it this way: if you ever form a Jim Croce cover band and need some funky organ breaks for “Time in a Bottle,” I’m your girl.

I have no idea how this post was supposed to end because I went down a rabbit hole for a while. I was linking to Jim Croce’s website and the front page link for “dinner reservations” was deeply confusing until I discovered it led to the Croce’s Restaurant site. Croce’s Restaurant is closing in December. It’s in San Diego, I bet Batty has been there.

I should really get back to lecture writing. Or watching shitty movies. Ooh, my lecture is on urban legends, so I could watch the movie Urban Legends and multitask!

Mary Harron’s brilliant, disturbing, satirical movie, American Psycho, contains a now-iconic scene where Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) holds forth on Huey Lewis and the News before killing an associate with an axe. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but there’s really no other way to warn you that this clip contains gratuitous and potentially upsetting scenes of someone dancing to Huey Lewis and the News:

[embedded clip: American Psycho: Huey Lewis]

I mention this because this funny or die clip is probably a bit confounding if you haven’t seen the source:

Yes, I know that in sharing this I’m essentially advertising a Huey Lewis album since this video was created to “celebrate” the 30th anniversary of said Huey Lewis album, but I’m easily amused and can’t help it.

[embedded video: coughs & sneezes]

I can’t recall ever being sneezed on. Not by another human being, anyway. Horses, dogs and cats? Yes. Another person? No.

Not until Friday night. I was minding my own business, sitting in the front row of a packed concert hall, listening to Neil Gaiman speak at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival, when the gentleman seated behind me suddenly blasted the back of my head with a great honking snootful of mucous.

These things happen. Sure. Yes. Absolutely. No malicious intent. Just a sneeze.

His wife made a half-hearted attempt to discretely wipe some of the snot from my hair. Or maybe she was just trying to rub it in, thinking I wouldn’t notice. I’m not entirely certain, as I was trying to ignore them and pay attention to the person speaking at the podium a few feet in front of me.

Here is a dramatic re-enactment of the aftermath of this event, as I now remember it.

[embedded video: ghostbusters]

Then it happened again on Sunday night while Michael Chabon was talking.

Then it happened again while I was listening to David Byrne and Dave Lowery speak at a Smithsonian event Monday night.

Oddly, this doesn’t outrages because of the yuck factor or the amount of time I’ve spent washing my hair this weekend. Accidents happen. This annoys me because I’m once again on a very high dose of a very unpleasant drug designed to cut my immune system off at the knees and at each of the 3 public events I chose as calculated risks there was a single solitary sneezing guy – and each time, that guy was seated right behind me? How is that possible? What are the odds?

I guess it would be weirder if it had been the same guy each time.

I’ve upended my life to minimize the amount of interaction I have with germyness for the next few weeks. I’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer. I’ve rearranged my life to avoid Metro and small children and teeming crowds as much as humanly possible. And yet? Old dudes with weaponized nasal passages seem to be homing in on me like Jack Ryan after the Red October.

To be fair, avoiding Metro and small children and teeming crowds is pretty much my avocation, but I’m too tired to work up a funny line of persecution and inconvenience and indignation, so let’s just pretend that in the day-to-day, my favorite activity is taking small children to big events via Metro, where we lick the handrails and seatbacks to pass the time along the way.

I’m lacking a punchline today. Here, have a sneezy baby panda, instead:

[embedded video: sneezing panda]

update: comments are being harshly moderated to eliminate any links to sneeze fetish sites because, although my moderation criteria is pretty liberal, some of the stuff that’s been left in the comments crosses some serious lines. Also: yuck.

The nice folks from the Future of Music Coalition are spreading the word about a paid focus group this week:

Are you a musician, visual artist, dancer, actor, filmmaker or other artist living in the DC area?

Are you interested in making $50?

If you answered YES to both questions, we invite you to participate in an artist-centric focus group on Thursday, Feb 16. The meeting will be 90 minutes long and held at a Metro-accessible location in the DC metro area.

Email artistfocusgroup@reingold.com or call 202-333-0400 and ask for Jillian to find out how you can get involved!

Please repost and share widely with your artist friends. We want to hear from a diverse range of DC-metro artists.

I don’t know anything else about this program, use the contact info in the post to get more details or go to the facebook page to find out more.

In the summer of 1981 my brother and I spent a lot of time at our cousins house. They had a TV. And cable. And they were cool. And on August 1st, they got MTV. And they got to stay up as late as they wanted, so we all watched it’s debut.

[embedded video]

I could spout some media and cultural theory bullshit about the dawn of MTV. Instead I’m just going to do what everyone else is doing and embed the moon landing station ID and the Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star,” because frankly, as a 5th grader, watching the debut of MTV didn’t fill me with any grand-eloquent sense of the future of music. I just thought it was cool.