Everyday Semiotics

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Preadolescent maternity

Bebe Gloton
Bebe Gloton on "Fox & Friends"

(With thanks to Erin, who did most of the brainwork.)

As long as they've been marketed to little girls, baby dolls have come with formula bottles. Now there's a doll to simulate breastfeeding. Fox News is incredulous; but I'd argue this isn't such a wacky idea after all.

Why should Fox be shocked? Probably because to give a young girl a doll that simulates breastfeeding would be to suggest the young girl has breasts.

Breasts are first of all sexualized. In a culture where many parents do prefer formula over breastmilk, the utility of breasts is not frequently seen or reinforced. (In some states, public nursing is illegal; and even where it's not prohibited by law, nursing mothers are often asked to stop or cover up.)

So: we don't have a problem with the idea of a child nourishing a baby. We do have a problem with the idea of a child nourishing a baby with her body, which is sexualized by default.

It's non-controversial to give a girl a standard baby doll because holding such an object does not necessarily imply motherhood. Anyone can hold a baby. But if the girl instead of imaginary formula offers the infant an imaginary mammary gland, all bets are off. Not only is she playing-pretend with a sexualized body part; the implication that she has been sexually active stalks at the edges of the game.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Inherent Vice

Just finished the new Thomas Pynchon joint, "Inherent Vice."

Fascinated as always by Pynchon's ear for dialogue. In this book most of the characters have fallen into the habit of redundantly using the word "is," as in "The thing about that is, is you're wrong." (Not "It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is.)

Also prevalent is the use of a question mark at the end of a statement -- connoting either the speaker's hesitance to commit to that statement or the speaker's request for acknowledgment from the listener.

These two verbal phenomena collide on page 339, when Sauncho Smilax opines, "See, my theory is, is it's like one of those educational channels?"

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