Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Notes from the Secret Girl Culture

If you are a dude and are reading this, well, I am sorry for you.

You may make more money than I do. You may have a better job than I do. You may be bigger and stronger and faster than I am.

And all of those things are wrong. Profoundly wrong. And unfair.

But the world of the secret culture that observes you and imitates you and mocks you is unknown to you.

Now, I'll admit that sometimes I feel like a bit of an outsider to this secret girl culture myself. Shopping, for example, is not one of the things that I enjoy doing. As I often say, perhaps one of my X-chromosomes was somehow damaged early in life. But even after reading a lot of Michel de Certeau on how shopping can actually be a subversive activity, I just don't see it.

And I'm not very good at the self-beautification thing either, since the whole matter of manicures and massages and facials seems to be way more trouble than its worth.

As for make-up and other cosmetic procedures, I often think that the "before" woman looks better than the "after" one.

But at least I can partake in the culture of feminine working out. And I know that when it comes to a woman-to-woman compliment that is meaningful, a sincere comment about "nice biceps" should do the trick.

Yet somehow this culture of genuine homosociality among women, which I recognize from trips to the gym, yoga studio, and Santa Monica steps, gets translated into something else on YouTube, where it becomes about a totally different system of values, one that emphasizes certain tropes of bodily display that would otherwise be forbidden by the site's media censorship system that bars adult content, unless it can be justified for reasons of physical improvement or medical care, as this popular live breast exam video demonstrates.

For example, some bedroom-backdrop female vloggers dramatize the question of muscular self-development over time, as this video indicates. Another video shows two women comparing their "guns" and using a hand-held apparatus to zoom in and zoom out of parts of the shot. Many other videos are simply thinly veiled softcore porn, often under the guise of women challenging men in physical competitions. The YouTube videos produced by blondechic.net may be the classic example of membership tie-ins from biceps videos to more voyeuristic content.

As to abs, there may be even more videos devoted to that muscle group, but it's hard to arrange for a moment of consummation to compare to bicep-flexing. Besides, videos like the much-watched "How to fake a six pack" may show that more women lampoon the ideal represented by Robert Maxwell's widely-publicized image of Dara Torres than actually aspire to emulate it.

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