Academia and the art of abusers

Posted on October 17, 2017 under Thoughts

This has always primarily been a beauty blog, a fun escapist corner for me to explore a low-stakes, creative hobby. But today I feel compelled to share something different. I will be talking about sexual assault in this post, so feel free to scroll past if necessary.

I’ve always been politically engaged – even as a kid, I was interested in what was happening in the world. My parents talked to my brother and I about politics when we were growing up, and as a result I developed a robust understanding of the world by the time I was a teenager. I’ve always been interested in world events. Now, though, I feel incredibly fatigued. I find myself wanting to avoid the news, because I’m afraid of what I might find out. The avalanche of allegations against Harvey Weinstein converging with Donald Trump “joking” that Mike Pence wants to hang all gay people makes for a very upsetting moment in history.

There has been an overwhelming, exhausting amount of discourse about Harvey Weinstein, sexual assault, and complicity in a culture that usually allows abusers to get away with their behaviour. I’ve been conflicted about all of it – on the one hand, it’s gratifying to see my female friends finding strength in sharing their experiences. On the other, we shouldn’t have to open ourselves up, to expose our darkness and our trauma, to make men understand how prevalent and how serious sexual violence is with little to no reciprocation in the form of men publicly unpacking their complicity in the horrendous system that leaves every single woman with the ability to participate in “#metoo”. (Because, of course, for every woman who shares her own experience with harassment and assault, there are plenty who don’t want to or who aren’t safe to but who certainly share with us these experiences.)

While we may celebrate the personal and professional consequences Harvey Weinstein is now facing, a question on a lot of our minds is “So are people going to stop working with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski now?” It seems that the tides have turned so overwhelmingly against Weinstein that it’s not only easy to speak out against him but almost an imperative of performative allyship. But when Ben Affleck posts that we must “condemn this type of behavior when we see it“, I have to wonder… where is his condemnation of his brother Casey, who has faced no professional sanctions for his sexual misconduct and who in fact recently won a fucking Academy Award? And since we’re talking about the Academy, well… they kicked Weinstein out, which is great. But they apparently decided that Mel Gibson – a prominent anti-Semite who physically abused his wife – could lie low for a decade and then receive several nominations for Hacksaw Ridge in 2016. Oh, and what about Woody Allen? His last film was nominated for four Oscars, for god’s sake.

I keep coming back to Allen and Polanski, because they are amongst the most prominent abusers whose work is still celebrated. When are people going to stop working with them? Well, when their work stops being a part of the cinematic canon, perhaps. I’m in film academia and I have witnessed this firsthand, to my utter dismay. The same professors who teach feminist theory in their classes have screened Allen and Polanski films. At the time, in my undergrad, this bothered me but did not enrage me. Looking back at it now, I’m mad.

As a relatively young form of art, film is still in the process of being canonized to the same degree as literature. Allen and Polanski, despite the public knowledge of their sexual abuse of children, are well on the way to being canonized – and academia plays a pivotal role in this. When I’ve had to watch films by these men, the professors introduce them sheepishly, knowing, knowing that we know. But they screen them anyway, because they’re art!

What a myopic view to take! Art is political, art has always been political! Art curation is political, too. Semesters are short; valuable texts are cut because there is only so much a second-year undergrad can read in thirteen weeks. Choices must be made – choices as to what students are exposed to. Apparently, in a class on Marxism a single week about Marxist feminism and Marxist postcolonial theory is sufficient – but god forbid we decide not to screen Annie Hall.

Do these films have artistic value? Sure, yeah. When I took a class on horror in early 2014, Rosemary’s Baby provided a great springboard into discussion of complex horror theory and the role of allegory in the genre. But it’s impossible to watch that film divorced from the knowledge that Polanski raped a thirteen-year-old girl. (I’d wager that the themes of the loss of bodily autonomy are all the more chilling knowing that…) The professor acknowledges this obliquely only because it is less awkward than letting it go unannounced, the ultimate elephant in the room. But I have to wonder – in the rich tradition of the horror genre, surely there are plenty of other films that could illustrate seminal horror theory just as well.

Our academic perspectives are shaped considerably by what we are exposed to in the classroom. My preferred analytical frameworks are Marxism, feminism, and postcolonial theory, and I would probably only have the toolkit for feminist analyses without the specific education I received. Professors make choices about what to omit and include in their classes, and these choices are not neutral. These decisions perpetuate a generation of film students having a worldview based on the work of known abusers, and that is political.

There are so many conversations that recent events have sparked. This is just one. I don’t feel that I have the authority or strength to add my voice to a lot of the conversations happening. As a grad student in film and television, I do feel that this is a niche topic that I can speak about. This seems like a small gripe in comparison to the larger discussions happening, but if there’s one thing I know it’s that oppressive structures are made up of small, tightly-interlocking parts. This is a part that I have witnessed. I would like to see it change.

Quarter 3 Beauty Product Consumption Accountability Checkin

Posted on October 13, 2017 under Thoughts

This is going up a bit later than I wanted, but I’ve been busy with school and the constant greyness of Glasgow makes it difficult to get good photos. A lot of these pictures are shitty and out of focus, but IT IS SO CLOUDY ALL THE TIME and I have no idea when the sun will come out and allow me to retake them. So I am putting my mediocrity out there!

Here’s the drill, as always:

  • All prices are listed in CAD, or in the currency they were purchased in plus a CAD conversion that is accurate as of the time of purchase.
  • Products that have one price and a second in brackets reflect the retail value and what I actually paid with my employee discount.
  • Products that I ordered online will be listed with the date that I actually received the package.
  • I will still be calculating my totals in CAD even though I’m living in the UK right now, because it’s the easiest way to consistently track my spending.

Skincare purchases

Products purchased between July 1, 2017 and September 30, 2017

  1. 06/27: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation – Alabaster – $56. Forgot to include this in last quarter’s roundup! I liked it a lot but I ended up returning it because I realized I have no need for a full coverage foundation in my daily life.
  2. 07/04: Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer – Fair – $13.99 ($9.79). Replacement.
  3. 07/07: Ardell Individual Lashes – $4.29. For the wedding I officiated.
  4. 07/07: Quo Blending Sponge – $8 ($5.60).
  5. 07/09: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish in Poppy Patch – $10.99 ($7.69). Bought for the wedding because somehow I didn’t have anything in my collection that I liked with the dress I bought.
  6. 08/01: Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme in So Sofia – $38.
  7. 08/01: Make Up For Ever Metal Palette – $13.
  8. 08/08: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 – $6.80. Replacement.
  9. 08/08: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG – $6.70. I wanted to see if this actually did anything for my undereye circles!
  10. 08/08: The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer – $7.90. My mom recommended this primer and we usually have pretty similar tastes in makeup, so I thought I could shell out eight bucks to try it.
  11. New brushes
  12. 08/08: Princeton Select 6 Round Blender brush – $6.06. I bought some brushes from the art store! My mom has a 10% discount there so that’s why the prices are weird. I thought this one would be good to apply crease colour precisely, and it totally is.
  13. 08/08: Princeton Select 5/0 Spotter brush – $3.83. I wanted to try this with gel liner, because I don’t have any brushes this fine. Unfortunately it’s a bit too flimsy to work with easily for this purpose.
  14. 08/09: ColourPop Blush Brush – $9 USD ($11.47 CAD). I like having a variety of blush brushes so I can keep them colour-separated – i.e. one for plums, one for peaches, one for neutrals, one for bright pinks…
  15. 08/09: ColourPop Blending Brush – $6 USD ($7.65 CAD). You can’t have too many blending brushes!
  16. ColourPop Pressed Powder Shadow in Muscle Beach, Paper Tiger, and Stay Golden – $4 USD or $5.10 CAD each = $12 USD or $15.29 CAD. Fun colours for cheap! Who can resist?!
  17. 08/09: ColourPop Blotted Lips in Candyfloss, On A Stick, and Sucker – $5 USD or $6.37 CAD each = $15 USD or $19.11 CAD. I have no justification for bringing more lip products into my life. I’m sorry.
  18. 08/09: ColourPop Ultra Blotted Lips in Split – $6 USD ($7.65 CAD). Of course, I had to try the Ultra Blotted Lips formula as well, so that I could compare it to the Ultra Satin and Ultra Matte lips formula. For science.
  19. 08/09: ColourPop Lippie Stix in Trixie – $5 USD ($6.37 CAD). I really have no excuse for buying this. I wish I hadn’t. I completely forgot I had ordered it and bought Marc Jacobs So Sofia in the meantime, which rendered this pretty much useless for me. This plus the fact that I got charged $18 of customs on this order means that I have gone off ColourPop… until they release something else that sucks me in.
  20. 08/10: La Roche-Posay Respectissime Eye Makeup Remover – $19.50 ($13.65). Replacement. Used Optimum points.
  21. 08/10: Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Solution (100mL) – $6.95 ($4.87). I wanted a travel-sized micellar solution and I know I like the Bioderma Sensibio. Used Optimum points.
  22. New hair products
  23. 08/10: Nuxe Rêve de Miel Lip balm – $17 ($11.90). I wanted to stock up on a few things with Optimum points before I leave the country. I’ll probably run out of my current jar in January, when I’m in Scotland.
  24. 08/10: Essence Lash and Brow Gel Mascara – $2.99 ($2.09). Replacement. Used Optimum points. I like the L’Oreal brow gel better but it’s $15, which seems a bit absurd.
  25. 08/10: Lancôme Le Lip Liner in 378 Rose Lancôme – $30 ($21). I was looking for a good warm-toned fuchsia lip liner that wasn’t too dark, and this was the closest I found. It’s obviously a stupidly priced liner, but I used points so whatever.
  26. 08/10: NARS Audacious Lipstick in Angela – $40 ($28). Murale has expanded the range of Audacious lipstick shades that they stock – I’ve been interested in Angela for a long time, but I didn’t think Murale carried this shade. When I saw that they did, I knew I had to get it. By the way, I used Optimum points for this (of course).
  27. 08/10: NARS Audacious Lipstick in Annabella – $40 ($28). When I went up to Murale I planned to get Annabella because, believe it or not, I don’t have any warm red lipsticks and I wanted to fill that gap. I used Optimum points.
  28. 08/10: Lise Watier Eye Contour Brush – $23 ($16.10). I have one of these brushes already and I love it for detailed crease work, so I picked up another one. I used my points.
  29. 08/10: Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask – $34 ($23.80). Replacement. I won’t need this until my skin starts getting super dry around November, but I thought I might as well get it while I still had an employee discount (and while in Canada, since cosmetics are usually much pricier in the UK).
  30. 08/31: Urban Decay Liquid Moondust in Solstice – $29. Used Optimum points.
  31. New face products
  32. 08/31: A-Derma Exomega Balm – $33. Replacement. Used a gift card.
  33. 09/02: Wet N Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio – Spoiled Brat – $2.97. I didn’t have a silver eyeshadow and this trio was the best bang for my buck. I depotted it into my MUFE palette and kept the hot pink shade as well, but I tossed the sparkly black because I know I won’t use it.
  34. 09/04: Annabelle Skinny Brow Liner in Universal Taupe – $10.49. I wanted a brow pencil for travel, since my usual pomade is a bit unwieldy and requires bringing a separate brush. I used a gift card for this.
  35. 09/06: John Frieda Sheer Blonde Tone Correcting Shampoo – £5.99 ($9.93 CAD): This is one of the first things I bought when I landed. I can’t get my usual blonde shampoo (Light Blue Shade) here, so I went back to an old friend. Bonus: this is quite a bit cheaper than in Canada, where the usual price is $13.99.
  36. 09/06: Toni & Guy Damage Repair Mask – £5 ($8.29 CAD): I needed a deep conditioner; bleached hair is no joke.
  37. 09/06: Toni & Guy Instant Refresh Dry Shampoo – £5 ($8.29 CAD): My hair loves the soft water here, but it does tend to get oilier faster, so dry shampoo is essential. The Superdrug I was in didn’t have Batiste (or maybe I was just super jetlagged and couldn’t find it), so I picked up Toni & Guy instead. Not my favourite, but it’ll do.

Total value (CAD): $548.02
Total spent (CAD): $235.48

Year-to-date value (CAD): $1357.75
Year-to-date spent (CAD): $745.45

New eye products

New eyeshadows: ColourPop Paper Tiger, Muscle Beach, Stay Golden; shadows from the Wet N Wild Spoiled Brat trio

Products received at no cost between July 1, 2017 and September 30, 2017

  1. 06/27: Bite Beauty Amouse Bouche Lipstick in Beetroot – $30 full size – $10 sample value: Sephora point perk. Forgot to include it in the last roundup.
  2. 08/01: It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream – Fair – $49: PR promoting the recent Canadian launch of IT Cosmetics.

New lip products

Total value: $59
Year-to-date value: $1748.39

Miscellaneous purchases, photographed terribly

I did have fun with my Optimum points, but a lot of my purchases this quarter were staple replacements, and none of my UK spending this quarter was frivolous. I was surprised to see that I spent more this quarter than last quarter ($178.10), but it is less than the first quarter ($334.84). Percentage-wise I spent less than half of the total value of the products (43%), which is exactly on par with last quarter’s 43% and way lower than quarter one’s total spend, which was over 80% of the retail value of the products. Most notably, the decrease comes in the form of gratis, which is to be expected. Quarter two I received $1200 worth of product as gratis because spring is training season in cosmetics retail; this quarter there were no brand schools and I left my job in cosmetics at the end of August. I predict that my gratis category will be a lovely $0 next quarter unless a brand sends something over.

Books read, July-September 2017

Posted on October 01, 2017 under Books

I read 14 books this quarter for a total of 45 this year, which means I have three whole months to read five to bring me to my yearly goal of 50! I tried to read a lot this quarter since I knew October, November, and December would be filled with academic reading. As Lenny Kravitz so wisely tells us, it ain’t over til it’s over, but I’m going to be cautiously optimistic and say that I’ll be able to hit my target. So here’s what I read over the summer!

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This ambitious novel starts with two Ghanaian girls, born in the 1700s of the same mother but raised separately. One marries a wealthy colonizer; one becomes a slave in the United States. We follow the two bloodlines eight generations, to early-2000s America. It’s a risky premise, and one that I think was executed well but not flawlessly. It helps to think of the book more as a series of vignettes than a novel; unsurprisingly, some chapters are more compelling than others. There were some characters whose stories I could really sink my teeth into and some who were more forgettable. Nonetheless, Gyasi vividly describes place beautifully, and her descriptions of 1700s Ghana and 1920s America are equally convincing. Worth a read, I think!

How Should A Person Be?: A Novel From Life by Sheila Heti

I’m going to copy my Goodreads review here because I don’t think I can summarize my thoughts on this “novel” any better:

I should have known as soon as I saw the blurb on the cover from Lena Dunham calling this book “amazing” that it would be self-absorbed and privileged. Heti’s preoccupation with herself is poorly disguised as a deeper, broader search for the meaning of life. She is incapable of thinking outside of herself until she deeply hurts her (also self-indulgent) best friend, and, in general, overthinks everything and creates trouble where there is none. She is the embodiment of bourgeoisie anxieties that, to put it bluntly, the working class doesn’t have the luxury to give a shit about. She takes a job at a hair salon not for the money but because she’s feeling unfulfilled procrastinating writing a play and doing coke with her other privileged artist friends. She decides to move to New York – one of the most expensive cities in the world – on a whim. And she frames everything she does as some sort of deep quest to finding human meaning, when really it’s just navelgazing at its finest. And yet I think she writes enjoyable, fluid prose. Somehow I couldn’t find it in myself to hate this book, although it’s irritating as hell – and, yes, exactly the kind of thing Lena Dunham would like.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

I enjoyed Hilderbrand’s Here’s To Us (mentioned in this post) more than I expected, so I picked up her newest novel for a spot of light reading for a weekend trip. The novel concerns Harper and Tabitha Frost, estranged twin sisters who switch lives for a summer. Free-spirited Harper goes to raise uptight Tabitha’s rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter Ainsley and run her failing boutique on Nantucket; Tabitha escapes to Martha’s Vineyard to renovate the twins’ late father’s house. It’s an enjoyable read, but far from cerebral, obviously. The ending is predictably predictable, and the well-drawn characters and heart I discovered in Here’s To Us were absent from The Identicals. The polar opposite twins were too stereotypical for me to take seriously, and the family tragedy that drew them apart ends up being pretty anticlimactic. Fine for what it is, but nothing special.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

After reading Solomon Gursky Was Here in a lit class that I was tricked into taking, my interest in iconic Montreal author Mordecai Richer was piqued. Duddy Kravitz is one of his better-known works; it’s about the titular character, a hustler if there ever was one, and his singular, lifelong goal of owning land. Duddy is an extremely well-drawn character: shady and amoral yet somehow still likeable. I love Richler’s descriptions of Montreal, as well. As someone who lived there for four years, the city feels familiar yet different, as it’s removed by several decades. That said, the plot didn’t quite do it for me – Duddy’s exploits were fun, but not as extravagantly enjoyable as the Gurskys’. Richler writes great dry prose and excels at creating antiheroes.

My 1980s And Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum

I read a review that compared Koestenbaum to Barthes, which seems fairly apt to me: both are self-indulgent, obsessive, and a little bit lyrical. (Koestenbaum suffers slightly less from an obvious Oedipus complex, however.) I can see this book as his version of Mythologies, though not focused around one thesis. (Oh, and he didn’t include any essays on items as banal as a glass of milk.) I found his writing insightful, fluid, and enjoyable to read. As with any collection of essays, some are better than others, but overall most captured my attention. Collections of cultural criticism can suffer from one inherent flaw: unless you are familiar with everything the essayist is writing about, you’re likely reading about a lot of cultural artefacts you haven’t experienced for yourself. That said, Koestenbaum describes vividly and kept me reading even when I hadn’t seen a specific painting he was writing about. I consider his descriptive writing top-notch and I’ll definitely reference it for inspiration when writing endless scene analyses in grad school.

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut’s first novel is noticeably different from his later novels both stylistically and tonally, though it has many thematic similarities. It explores a fictionalized America where almost every job has been replaced by computers, a concept that is all the more relevant 65 years later in today’s increasingly mechanized form of capitalism. This is by far the most character-driven of the Vonnegut novels I’ve read, which was interesting, but I have to say I prefer the acerbic style of his later work.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This is Zadie Smith’s first novel and the first of hers I’ve read, and it definitely convinced me. This is a hilarious, poignant, and beautifully-written account of two immigrant families in 1970s and 1980s London and how their lives intersect. It hit every note for me: it was believable, expansive, and absolutely compelling. I can’t wait to dive into Smith’s other novels!

Perfect by D.M. Quintano

Ahh, just a spot of old school YA. I’ve read this book a million times and it’s certainly not as enjoyable as it was when I was 11. In fact, it’s highly flawed and boasts a fairly pathetic 2.5 star rating on Goodreads. I actually don’t think it’s as bad as all that – it’s actually quite darkly funny and well-paced. Is the plot great? No. Are the characters anything more than 2D cardboard cutouts? Of course not! But I still think it has its merits.

A Summer Bird-cage by Margaret Drabble

My mom recommended Margaret Drabble to me as I was telling her that I really enjoy narratives about the minutiae of women’s lives. Her first novel focuses on the relationship between two distant sisters, one of whom has recently married a famous novelist. I love women’s writing from the 1960s because so much of it concerns the absolute tedium of domestic life and women’s lack of autonomy, which I find fascinating. This is a really great look at the toll marriage can take on a woman, but also at the bond of sisterhood as the women grow closer while the marriage sours. It’s not exactly the most exciting novel, but obviously the genre “the minutiae of women’s lives” wouldn’t be.

The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble

This Drabble novel once again primarily concerns marriage: that of well-known actor David Evans and his wife Emma. David takes a theatre job for an entire season in a remote town, and Emma has to decline a news anchor job so she can uproot her family for the sake of David’s career. Similar themes to A Summer Bird-cage, but I think this novel is more compellingly-written. Emma is a very interesting character; I felt sympathy for her situation but not entirely for her as a person, because she’s quite cold. This is quite a short novel and I was really impressed at how much Drabble managed to say in so few pages.

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

This is not one of my favourite Atwood novels, but it’s very disturbing and will stick with me for a long time. It’s narrated by an unnamed woman who has left her husband and baby for her lover, Joe. Her father disappears in the remote Quebec wilderness, and she brings Joe and two friends – who she doesn’t know particularly well – to try to find him. As the four characters get to know each other, the novel becomes more and more sinister – though it’s usually just an undertone, never anything overt. The narrator becomes increasingly isolated in the company of her friends. It’s very disconcerting, a psychological thriller with almost no action. Even when I don’t love an Atwood novel, I’m left in awe of her writing – this is no exception.

Lost In A Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

These are the second, third, and fourth books in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. (I read the first in April.) Broadly speaking, this series is about an alternative 1980s UK, where time travel and cloning are abundant. The titular Thursday Next is a literary detective in Swindon who acquires the ability to enter books and live inside of them. The series follows her exploits in the real world and inside of books, as she polices both realms against political corruption and pure evil. These books are great fun and very clever, and I plan on finishing the series.

By the way, I got a Kindle in August, so the last three books aren’t pictured in the header image since I don’t have physical copies. Because I’m living abroad at the moment I really want to cut down on my physical possessions, so the Kindle makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, in another three months we will find out if I made my goal!