Spotify Killed the Record Store

I hate to say it, but I think the arrival of Spotify in the U.S. signals the death knell for indie record stores. For less than 10 bucks a month, I now have access to just about any artist to whom I want to listen. On my computer. And my phone.

Okay, so Bob Dylan isn’t on Spotify, but don’t most of us Dylan fans have at least a dozen of his albums floating around anyway?

Spotify has sent me on another PJ Harvey kick. The woman whose lyrics once inspired me to move to Spain (I want to bath in milk/eat grapes/Robert DeNiro/sit on my face/I want to go to Spain/spend nights/just sipping on nectar & ice) keeps putting out stunning, avant garde albums that never feel like repeats.

Needless to say, I am psyched to have all this rad music on hand for so cheap, but pretty bummed for good old Waterloo Records.

www.marypaulinelowry.com
Spoon at Waterloo Records. photo by Manuel Nauta.

God(dess) Bless Rachel Maddow

photo by Paul Shoul

I watched part of “The Rachel Maddow Show” Wednesday night as I was running on the treadmill. (Okay, okay, the treadmill is lame, I know. But at 108 degrees outside it’s even too hot for me to run out there). And I was reminded of just how much of a bad ass she is. So I wanted to make a quick list of my

Top 5 Reasons to Love Rachel Maddow.

1. She doesn’t hesitate to call out the Republicans for advocating to strip the neediest and most marginalized Americans of current state and federal support services.

2. She doesn’t hesitate to call out the Democrats for being saggy old man balls and incite them to take some meaningful action. (I would call the Democrats pussies, but let’s face it, the vagina is an incredibly strong and muscular organ). And she presents Dems with viable ways they can take a stand, as she did during Wednesday night’s segment “GOP war on Unions presents advantage to Democrats.”

3. She speaks clearly about what’s at stake in the current political climate.

4. She’s hot to lesbians and bi girls. I mean, let’s face it, with her carefully crafted TV makeup on, she’s straight up gorgeous.

5. She’s hot to straight gals. I mean, let’s face it, in Buddy Holly Glasses and a hoodie she reminds every hetero leaning gal of our first tomboy crush…

Thanks, Rachel. Please keep showing us what it means to be a citizen!

www.marypaulinelowry.com

A Diamond Is Forever: One Woman Questions the Most Successful Ad Slogan of All Time

Diamond

The A Diamond Is Forever ad campaign (launched in 1938 by Harry Oppenheimer and the president of N.W. Ayer & Son, Gerold M. Lauck) successfully brainwashed a nation into believing that a diamond represents lasting romantic love; and even that the gift of a diamond ring at the time of engagement will help such love to endure the inevitable trials of a couple’s married life.

Women have been trained by ubiquitous advertising–on billboards, in magazines, and on television–to long for a man to give her a diamond ring, an expensive symbol that his unswerving devotion will last a lifetime.

Newly engaged women show off their sparkling diamond rings to oohing and aahing friends. The ring speaks loudly for the woman who wears it, saying: I am loved; I have been chosen; I am not alone.

As aware as I am of the history of the A Diamond Is Forever ad campaign and its impact on our perception of diamond rings, I myself–a happily never-married woman–find that my first thought upon seeing a pretty diamond on a woman’s ring finger is: Someone loves her enough to have bought her that ring.

Now I am the first to rejoice for loving partnerships and happy marriages; I also admire the wedding aesthetics of white dresses, diamond rings and elegant bouquets. Yet I feel it’s important to be aware of the way the A Diamond is Forever ad campaign–the most successful ad campaign in history–has shaped our thinking about this symbol of romantic love, which has too often also become a symbol of class, status, “worth,” and heteronormativity.

So it was with delight that as I was going through the checkout line at Whole Foods the other day, I noticed that the young woman bagging my groceries wore a gigantic faux diamond on the middle finger of her right hand. The diamond dazzled; it was ostentatiously huge, clearly fake, and super duper pretty.

“I like your ring,” I said.

“Thanks,” she said. And then she added, a little sheepishly, “I bought it for myself at the mall for seven bucks.”

“Wow,” I said. “It turns out none of us have to wait around for a man to buy us a gigantic diamond ring. We can just go get ourselves one at Claire’s.”

Both the young woman bagging groceries and the female cashier laughed as if they understood exactly what I meant, which was that we as women no longer need a man to marry us in order to feel validated, successful and worthy of approval. And yet we still, in some dark corner of our hearts, long for the sparkle and shine of the stone that speaks of everlasting love.

So if you have always secretly wanted a giant diamond, but:
1) don’t have a partner who wants to buy you one; and/or
2) don’t have a partner who can afford to buy you one; and/or
3) aren’t into funding the diamond trade,
take yourself to the mall, or hop on Amazon or Ebay and buy yourself an inexpensive and satisfyingly sparkly reminder that you are worthy, beautiful and loved.

After all, you can rest assured that even if that cheap piece of crap ring falls apart in two weeks, your relationship with yourself will certainly endure until you take your very last breath.
www.marypaulinelowry.com

From Gender Violence to Gender Democracy: What Will It Take?

[caption id="attachment_9047" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Helen Zia, activist, author, former editor of Ms. Magazine (San Francisco Sentinel)"][/caption]

My eight years working full-time in the movement to end violence against women have left me a little jaded. I realized this a few days ago when, at a team meeting, some of my colleagues were discussing The Family Violence Prevention Fund’s new name: Futures Without Violence.

“Ugh,” I said. “Who do they thing they’re kidding?”

My colleagues laughed.

“Better turn on your light box today, Mary,” one of my colleagues quipped.

So it was with mixed feelings that I prepared to travel to San Francisco to attend the Asian Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence’s (APIIDV) 2011 National Summit entitled: From Gender Violence to Gender Democracy. What Will It Take? A snarky voice in my head said: “From Gender Violence to Gender Democracy? Good luck with that one, ladies.”

My tenure as an advocate in a domestic violence shelter followed by years working on the National Domestic Violence Hotline, followed by my current work as a Public Policy Analyst at the Texas Council on Family Violence have left me with a keen awareness of the overwhelming problem of violence against women, a problem that I believe to be rooted in patriarchy and gender oppression and inequity.

While working on the National Domestic Violence Hotline, I answered over 25,000 calls from domestic violence victims and their friends and families, and in doing so I developed what I consider to be an extensive anecdotal understanding of the triumvirate of race, class and gender oppression in America. Take for instance, a call I received from a Mexican immigrant woman whose physically and sexually abusive husband had left her alone with her two children and no income. She’d been pounding the pavement for weeks looking for work, but because she had no work permit she had not been able to secure employment. And because she was a monolingual spanish speaker without state identification, she had been unable to find and access a local food bank.

“My teenager understands why we don’t have food,” she told me. “But I’ve had nothing for my two year-old to eat for three days except sugar water, and she doesn’t understand why she is hungry.”

Because of the secondary trauma and sadness that the heightened awareness of gender violence has brought about in me, I had a hard time believing that attending APIIDV’s 2 ½ day summit would truly energize me to continue my work to cut through the barriers to services for all victims of gender violence, or allow me to believe that this cause for which I have worked for so long is not painfully, terribly hopeless.

But Helen Zia, the summit’s first speaker, changed all that for me. Zia, a long-time activist, author and former editor of Ms. Magazine, took the stage and immediately addressed this issue with which I had been grappling.

Zia spoke on the title of the summit, saying that when she thinks about moving towards the goal of gender democracy she is reminded of how she, as a lesbian, used to feel about the Gay Rights Movement’s fight for legal marriage for gays and lesbians.

Zia said, “I had to ask myself, is this worth fighting for? Because:
a) It will never happen anyway, so what’s the point; and
b) What’s so great about marriage anyway?”

The audience laughed; and I realized that I had found an iconoclastic activist with a sense of humor dark enough even for me. Zia went on to say that in the 1950s, African-Americans had to sit at the back of the bus; they had to drink water from separate fountains. And when they were finally allowed to sit at the front of the bus, they found the front of the bus was cleaner. And when they were finally allowed to drink from the forbidden fountains, they found that the water was sweeter.

Zia said that when she and her wife Lia legally married in California, they found that the water they had finally been allowed to drink was indeed sweeter. Her marriage brought about unexpected and beautiful things; because Zia and her wife had finally wed, the members of their two families began to consider themselves to be truly related, and made overtures to spend more time together and develop relationships with each other. As a result of their marriage, the two women’s families changed and grew closer. This was a wonderful benefit of marriage that Zia had not been able to anticipate or imagine. Zia used this personal experience to illuminate the title of the summit. “If we assume that gender violence will always be there,” she said, “then we will not bother to envision a world without violence. Thinking that way will ensure that a world without violence won’t happen, exactly because it will keep us from working towards it.”

Like Helen Zia, who did not know what it would be like to be married because she had never experienced it, none of us know what it will be like to experience a gender democracy because “we haven’t been there. But we are going to create it.”

Zia went on to say, “We can’t imagine what a gender democracy will be like. But we can know gender democracy will be better for women and girls who will be able to go to school or to the corner store without being snatched and trafficked,” will be able to walk across university campuses without being sexually assaulted, will be able to live safely in their own homes without fear of being abused by their intimate partners. “In a gender democracy, abusers will not be protected, no matter how rich and powerful they are.”

Zia’s powerful speech stripped away my feelings of hopelessness created by my hyper-awareness that gender oppression has both a long history and deep roots in our current society. Zia reminded me that it is possible to keep the snarky, dark humor that gets me through while maintaining an optimism and commitment to my work to bring an end to violence against women.

Helen Zia’s book “Asian American Dreams: the Emergence of An American People” is available for sale on Amazon. To read about or purchase the book click here.

www.marypaulinelowry.com