Category Archives: Consumerism

Spirit of the Season

Thanksgiving week is a week of mixed emotions for me.  On one hand, I love it because I get to spend some extra time with my family, eat some really great food, watch football (lifelong Cowboys fan…I can’t help it) and spend some extra time focusing on all the things in my life for which I am thankful.  On the other hand I loathe it because this is the time of year that consumerism is running on all eight cylinders with a nitrous boost.  Everybody is spending money we don’t have on things they don’t need (or sometimes want) so that we can show someone just how much we love them.  Our television screens, magazines, newspapers, radio stations and websites are jam-packed with ads for the latest, hottest, fanciest and best products that money can buy.  And don’t forget the stores.  The stores make it so easy for us, don’t they?  Mega deals, door busters, all-nighters, early birds, free shipping and prices so low you have to see them to believe them.  Black freakin’ Friday.

Somehow, we lose sight of what the holiday season is all about (and I don’t mean in the religious sense).  Regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, we are all blinded by the blizzard and we forget that the season is supposed to be about family, about selflessness, about caring and about appreciation.  Instead, many of us focus on what we are going to get rather than what we already have or what we can give to those that are without.

Last year, after Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death in a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I woke up.  I realized that even though I was not at that Wal-Mart nor do I ever even shop on Black Friday, I was partly responsible for Damour’s death.  I was a cog in the retail machine that was powering that greedy mob that took his life so they could get a bargain on a waffle maker or a LCD television.  As consumers, we all have tiny specks of his blood on our hands because we continue to measure our self-worth by what we own rather than by what kind of person we are and we continue to buy without giving much consideration of the actual “cost” of our appetite for stuff.  We all, like it or not, bear some responsibility.

So last December, in a moment of clarity, I decided that I no longer would ask for or expect gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or anything else.  I decided to let my loved ones know that I do not want anything anymore.  What I quickly realized was that while I was trying to do the “right thing” I was depriving people of doing something that made them feel good.  I never looked at it that way before.  I quickly modified my stance on giving me gifts to the following:

“I do not wish to receive any gifts for __________.  If you feel strongly about giving me something please consider making a donation to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.”

I have to admit most of my family did not know how to respond.  I think most didn’t believe me and many decided to buy me things anyway.  I heard things like “yeah…but what to you REALLY want?”   However, some of them did simply make a meaningful (and greatly appreciated) donation.  That was the best feeling in the world knowing that I was able to make a difference (even if it was a small one) in someone’s life by giving up something I never had in the first place.  It was a feeling that I had not had since I was a little boy opening all those gifts that, at the time, meant so much to me.  Ironic, eh?

So, once again I am here to state that in the spirit of the season I do not wish to receive any gifts for the holidays.  However if you feel strongly about giving me something, please consider donating to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.

I would also like to challenge you to join me this year.  Put your own wants aside and see how it feels to help someone else this year.  It may feel like you are making some sort of personal sacrifice, but in the end you will be getting something much more valuable than anything on your wish list.

If you plan to participate in “Spirit of the Season” leave a comment to let me know.  Also, please post a link to this on your Facebook and Twitter pages and encourage your friends and family to participate.  I would love to see this catch fire and spread across the country.  Let’s see how big of an impact we can make this year!

Happy Holidays!

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Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

As I have stated many times before, I am a huge football fan.  College or Pro – it doesn’t matter.  I am a fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I recall begging my mom and dad to buy me a pair of Dallas Cowboys shoes out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog circa 1978.  I lugged my school books around Pulaski Elementary in a Cowboys book bag that was bigger than I was.  Football is something I have never grown out of and likely never will.

Sadly there is a lot about college and professional football I don’t like.  You may have read some of my previous posts about that.  It seems we can barely go a month without reading another headline about some player being arrested for beating his girlfriend or for raping a stripper.  Stories of homophobia, violence, drugs, and murder at the hands of current and former players seem to be rolling on a continuous loop.  They have become the dominant narrative for football and sports in general.

Yet from time to time a story emerges from the abyss that blind sides us like Demarcus Ware coming unblocked on a jailbreak blitz.  They are stories that are shocking, not because they are horrific or disturbing, but because they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe about football players.  During the week of the 2010 Superbowl,  two of those stories managed to find the light of day.

The first was in the days prior to the game.  I read an article at Jezebel.com about New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.  In the article I learned that Fujita had recently given an interview with the New York Times where he “diplomatically but firmly” opposed the Tim Tebow ad that eventually aired during the Superbowl.  While I thought it strange that a football player would publicly state his stance on such a hot button issue, I didn’t think too much else about it.  However, from that same article in Jezebel, I learned that Fujita also lent his name to the 2009 National Equality March and has been quite outspoken on many gay rights issues. Now that got my attention!  Why was this story not dominating sports headlines in October of 2009?  Fujita’s surprises don’t stop there.  Check out the entire Jezebel article here.

The second story came moments after the Superbowl ended.  Amidst the boom mic jungle and the on-field  mass hysteria, television cameras caught something extremely rare and beautiful.  Take a look… [watch it a second time with the sound muted ;-)]

With the world intently watching their every move, it was as if Brees and his son were the only two people in the stadium.  During the most watched event in television history we witnessed an NFL champion football player turn into a world class dad.  Brees could have just as easily handed his son off to his wife or a nanny and celebrated with his teammates.  It would have been fine for is son to be in the stands or at home getting a wave or a wink from the Superbowl MVP.  Nobody would have even questioned it.  Instead, on the biggest of stages, we saw a caring father telling his son that he loves him.  We saw a father holding, hugging, and kissing his son in exactly the ways we, as men and as fathers, have been socialized to not do because it isn’t considered “manly.”  And as if that weren’t enough, we witness the moment where the enormity of it all hit Brees right in the heart.  It was the moment he realized that he was sharing this incredible moment with the most special person in the world to him.  And then, his brow buckled, his head turned and his eyes filled with tears of joy.  That was truly a beautiful moment that I feel fortunate to have seen.

What am I taking away from all of this?  Well, I realized that as an armchair media critic I often lose site of the good stuff in the media.  It is sometimes a little harder to find, but it is there.  I guess in some ways when I blog about the latest Axe Body Spray ad I am also recirculating that ad into the media landscape.  I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity to recirculate stories like these.  So, I am going to take a page out of the Scott Fujita/Drew Brees playbook and, well, throw out the playbook every now and again. I am going to  look for media examples that highlight positive masculinity, uplift and empower women and model the world I want to see rather than the one I’ve got.  In the meantime, I hope that other men will take some plays from their playbook as well.  Or…we could all get together and draw up a few of our own in the dirt.

Go deep on 2…ready…BREAK!

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Falling on Tone Deaf Ears

Well, well, well…Reebok, it seems, has themselves a new product called the EasyTone running shoe.  It is said to use “balance ball inspired technology” to get “better legs and a better butt with every step.”  So, how do you market this miracle shoe???   Take a look:

OR this one:

I wanted to discuss this from a couple of different angles.  First, and the most obvious, these ads objectify and sexualize women.  Like so many ad campaigns before this one, Reebok has bought into the idea that sex sells.  In this case it is fitness wrapped in sex.  In addition, the entire ad campaign spews the message that if you buy these shoes then men will be “speechless” (meaning they will be too busy staring at your body to bother talking to you) and other women will be jealous.  Is that what being a woman is all about?  Attracting men and making other women green with envy with by having a firm backside???  I don’t think so.  Yet Reebok would like you to think so.  Even Oprah is getting in on the act…YES OPRAH.  It is plastered on the Reebok EasyTone website.  Take a look…

While you were on their website you might have noticed another video.  In case you missed it, here it is:

…which beings me to part 2.  It bothers me that men in many ads (and other forms of media) are often portrayed as being mindless and only thinking about one thing – SEX.  Now some of you may be saying that men really do think about sex all the time or that it is in our genetic make-up and we can’t help it.  My response to that is that might be true to a degree.  After all, we are sexual beings and we survive as a species by having sex and making more of us.  However, we are not without the ability to choose when and where we are sexual.  If this were not the case then people everywhere would be having sex in places like the cereal aisle at the grocery store.  We’d have to step over naked, writhing bodies in the throws of passion to grab a box of Fruit Loops.  It would be like like seeing two dogs going at it in the park or one dog going at it with a basketball or your leg.  AND IT WOULD SEEM NORMAL!!!  But we don’t and it isn’t because we were also born with the ability to choose – free will.  We get to choose how we respond in any given situation.  Unfortunately, we are socialized to believe otherwise.  We are told what is masculine and what is feminine by society.  Society tells us that “boys will be boys”  and “nice guys finish last” and “diamonds are a girls best friend” and “girls just wan to have fun” and millions of other messages that slowly but surely define gender in very narrow terms.

If we can agree on that, then it is concerning when companies like Reebok produce ads that portray men as being mindlessly and completely sexually-minded – as if that part of us never shuts off and that we are powerless over its constant influence on us.   This is just as problematic as portraying women as sexual objects.  It is when these two things are working in concert that potential danger becomes reality.  It is in the space where men buy into the notions that they must to be hypersexual AND that women are objects that exist for men’s pleasure and enjoyment that sexual violence lives.  If men view women as sex objects and men are told that men are judged by their sexual conquests (quantity or quality), then it stands to reason that some men will go to great lengths to prove they are a “real man” – including rape.  Also, if it appears that there are no real consequences for their “hyper-masculine” behavior (i.e. staring at a women’s bodies, cat calling, groping, forceful sex, etc.) then why would these men stop?  What is stopping them from committing a rape?  ***Please note that I am NOT saying that all men behave in this way.  In reality it is a very small number of men that do these things, but it is these behaviors that have come to define all masculinity.

I decided to look into Reebok’s philosophy as a company to see what they stand for (if anything other than making money).  What I found is worth sharing.  I found that Reebok is owned by Adidas Group.  Adidas Group, who also owns Taylor Made Golf, has a very strong belief in social and environmental sustainability.  They have a “Social and Environmental Programme” (they are a European company) that is dedicated to promoting social and environmental sustainability as the name suggests.  While I feel like this is a great step in the right direction, I had some questions for them.  So, I wrote them a letter.  Here it is:

Hello,
My name is Ted Rutherford.  I am the founder of an organization in Austin, Texas called Responsible Men which is dedicated to promoting gender equality and ending men’s violence against women.  I am writing today to thank you for your dedication to the concept of sustainability through your Social and Environmental Programme.  I am glad to see that you are making a public commitment to this on your website and that large corporations like Adidas Group are leading the charge so to speak. I’d like to also ask you if you have considered looking at sustainability in terms of gender.  I recently came across your ad campaign for the Reebok EasyTone shoes and was sad to see that some of the video and images objectify and sexualize women.  Also, in one ad, there is an off screen character (presumably male) who repeatedly stares at the on-screen woman’s butt despite her redirection, which reinforces the gender stereotype that men only care about sex.  While I get that the campaign is telling women that they can have a sexy butt and legs by wearing the shoes, I think these ads reinforce the notion that women’s primary value lies in their sexuality and sex appeal.  In addition, the entire campaign reinforces gender stereotypes (men are always thinking about sex and women are out to make other women jealous) which simply aren’t true.  In my opinion, it is ads like these (when combined with other ads and other social factors) that help build versions of masculinity and femininity that are not sustainable.  In fact what we are left with are very rigid, narrow and oppressive options for expressing our gender that have much larger social ramifications.  If men are taught that all men care about is sex and if men are taught that all women are sex objects, then we have a “perfect storm” for things like sexual assault to occur.
Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that Reebok EasyTone shoes cause rape.  That is obviously ridiculous.  However, I am suggesting that this ad campaign is part of a much, much larger system that helps create a culture where sexual violence exists on a large scale.  What I am asking you to do is to really do some soul searching as a company to see if you care about the sustainability of your customers.  While you cannot change the actions of other companies and other social influencers, you are responsible for your own actions.I must tell you that I purchased a new pair of basketball shoes today.  Because of this ad campaign, I chose to leave Reebok off of my list of options.  I liked the shoes that I saw, but opted to spend my money elsewhere because I can’t support a company with sexist advertising practices.  I know that may not mean a great deal to you, but it is an example of how I may not be able to change your actions, but I can certainly be responsible for my own.Please consider marketing the EasyTone shoes and all of the Adidas Group merchandise in a way that promotes gender equality and sustainability.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

The idea of gender sustainability is one that I have been pondering for some time now.  In fact, when I think about it, gender isn’t actually a  real, tangible thing.  It is a social construct, to which most of us subscribe, that is one way to organize and make sense of the world.  It is the way males and females are supposed to look and behave according to society’s definition of “normal” in gender terms.  In other words, we are not born with our gender predetermined.  It is largely imposed on us by society.  When babies are born we wrap them in a pink or blue blanket (according to their sex) and assign them a name that usually indicates whether they are male or female.  We encourage them as they grow older to look and behave in a way that is consistent with the way society defies “normal” in gender terms.  We throw around phrases like “boys don’t cry” and “that is not how a lady acts” in order to teach the next generation to ignore their true selves and assimilate into the gender binary world.    Companies, like Reebok, market products to us in a way  that leverages our socialization to maximize their profits.  This Reebok ad campaign is a great example of that.  Reebok is banking on lots of females buying these shoes because they want to be successful at playing the role of  “woman” – meaning that they want to have a great butt to attract men with and to make other women jealous.  After all, many of us are just acting the part of “man” and “woman” so that we are not ostracized from our gender culture.   Throughout our lives we are pushed into very narrow gender roles that ultimately are not sustainable.  We are pressured to be something that we frequently are not.  That is a very fragile and precarious state that will collapse sooner or later.

The take away from all of this is hopefully that it is the job of conscious citizens to embrace gender diversity and stop perpetuating the gender binary that society has created.  While it is becoming cliche, it is true that if we want to change the world we must first change ourselves.  It is our job to demonstrate to corporate America that we embrace our diversity as human beings and we expect them to honor and accommodate us by acknowledging our differences rather than denying them.  If we choose to live outside the gender boxes they have built for us, then they will have no choice but to shift their approach in order to reach us.  Never forget that it is our money that is lining their pockets and informing their decisions.  Perpetuating narrow gender roles is just a strategy that corporations use to manipulate and control us in order to maximize their profits. If they can convince the majority of males to buy into one version of masculinity, then they only have to create (and pay for) marketing strategies for that one type of man.  That means less money spent on advertising and more money in the bank.  In the end, it is our money and we can choose to spend it in a conscious way that will send a clear message to corporations that we are tired of the same old song they are singing and they had better change their tune.

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I’ve a Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore…

Finally it’s Autumn.  I love this time of year.  In Austin, the weather cools down to a balmy 92° and thoughts turn to things like turning leaves, football, chili, and Halloween.  Ah, Halloween – the one day out of the year where us grown kids can act like our children and nobody will give it a second thought.

Now if you’ve known me for a long time, you know that I have not always been a fan of Halloween.  In fact, I can remember several times in college when I, along with my roommates Pat and Springer, would sit and drink beer with all the lights off in the house so the trick-or-treaters would think we weren’t home.  I hated Halloween.  For me, that tradition more or less carried on until I had a child of my own.  Once my son was born, something changed.  The more he understood Halloween, the more he got into it and the more I got into it.

My son is 5 now.  Last year was the first time he actually cared about his costume.  We shopped at places like Spirit Halloween and Party City to find a Wall-E costume because, in his mind, nothing else would do.  Sadly, none of the costumes we found met his exacting standards.  So, being that I have a degree in art, I decided to make a costume for him.  Check it out…

DSC03299

Pretty cool, huh?  At first I was sad that I wasn’t able to find a costume all ready to go, but it was fun making this with him.  I was also saddened by what I did find in those stores.  So this year I decided to write about it.  In order to research this article, I visited www.spirithalloween.com to see if anything had changed.  They have costumes for babies all the way to adults.  They are also separated by gender and style for convenience.  I started by looking at costumes for men and then for women.  Quickly I was overwhelmed by the stark differences between the male and female costumes.  In fact, it was so bad that I had to find a way to simplify it so that I could even put it into words.

For this article, I wanted to be able to compare apples to apples.  I wanted you to see just how entrenched male and female gender roles really are in our society.  I decided to focus on a set of costumes to which most, if not all of us can relate…the characters from Wizard of Oz.

First, here are the “standard” costumes for Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy:

all_four

I’d say this pretty much what I expected to find.  They seem true to the original movie wardrobes.  HOWEVER…I also found a series of costumes called the “Wicked of Oz”.  Here are the same 4 characters from that line:

all_fourWhat I noticed right off that bat is that the male characters, in this version, appear more powerful because they are more menacing.  Meanwhile, the female character (Dorothy) became more powerful by seeming sexually dominant – down to the black latex corset and knee boots.  She looks like a dominatrix.

These gendered expressions of power are found throughout pop culture.  Nowhere is it more evident than in the world of superheroes.  Male superheros are powerful because they are physically dominant machines that leave collapsed heaps of criminals in their wake.  The lines between hero and villain are often blurred because of the violent nature of many heroes today.  For female superheroes, their power is expressed in their sexuality.  Take a look at these examples of  Batman in the film The Dark Knight and Silk Spectre from the film The Watchmen and you will see what  I mean:

Batman-Dark-Knight-Solo-FP2062SilkSpectre

Batman is the embodiment of raw power and anger who is always teetering on the brink between good and evil.  Silk Spectre, on the other hand, radiates sexuality.  In fact, her story line in the movie is that she is involved in 2 sexual relationships with 2 other superheroes (Night Owl and Dr. Manhattan).  Oh, and she is the daughter of a superhero who was beaten and raped by another superhero (The Comedian).  Both characters are powerful, but they arrive at their power by very different means.

But I digress.  Where was I??? Ah, yes…KANSAS.  I was stunned (but not surprised) at the divergence of the character paths in the “wicked” costumes.  So, I decided to see if there were any other interpretations of these characters costumes.  I did a search on the site by each of the character names (Scarecrow, etc.).  What I found was nearly unbelievable.  Check it out:

SexyOz

This is wrong on so many levels I will have to focus on just one in this particular post.  These outfits scream SEX regardless of the character contexts.  These costumes make the models look like a strange amalgamation of naughty school girl meets farmer’s daughter meets St. Paulie’s Girl meets “Diamond” from the local strip club.  All of them play on male (generally speaking) sexual fantasies.  They also reinforce the cultural belief that women’s bodies are the most valuable currency women have in order to “purchase” power from men.  In a patriarchal society, men are the keepers of power and women are forced to use their sexuality in order to share in that power – even if temporarily.

I think these costumes send the message to girls and women that females should always exude sexuality or should always give off a sexual vibe.  For boys and men, the message is that females are always looking for sex or to be sexy.  If you combine that with other messages that tell males that “real men” are tough, strong, in control, devoid of emotion (other than anger) and hypersexual, then it is easy to see why some men don’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to sex and/or why some men don’t accept responsibility for getting consent (they put the onus on women to say no rather than actively seeking an enthusiastic “yes”).  It is also easy to see why some women give in when being pressured to have sex even if they don’t really want to and why some women don’t classify or report an unwanted sexual encounter as a sexual assault.  The lines around intent, sexuality, consent, appropriate vs. inappropriate, wanted vs. unwanted are blurred.  Everyone is confused and some men (and women) are taking advantage of that confusion.

Thankfully, most men treat women with dignity and respect (I really don’t like the word respect, but I don’t have a better one in this case).  Most men do not abuse, assault or rape women.  However, I think on some level we all have a hand in paving the way for the men who do.  We are all part of a culture that accepts the sexualization and exploitation of women.  By accepting those parts of our culture, we are creating space and therefore opportunity for the small number of men who see women as sex objects and pressure, coerce and force women into having sex.  When we say things like “I don’t abuse or rape women, so it’s not my problem” we are actually saying that we have no influence on the world around us.  If that were true, then boys who grow up in abusive households wouldn’t frequently grow up to be abusive themselves (for example).

The reality is that men must challenge our own socialization.  We must think critically about the world around us and how we are influenced by it.  If we are ever going to live in a world that values men and women equally, men must join women in challenging anything to the contrary.  We must also be willing to pass on to the next generation a set of attitudes and beliefs that reflect and promote gender equality.  We can do this through schools, community centers, churches, sports leagues, etc. but for these values to really take root and flourish, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MY FOLLOW UP POST CALLED “PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN”

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Beer Me!

pintofbeer1

*taken from The Inactivist Blog

I love beer!  Not in the “if I drink enough of it I will forget my troubles” sense.  I love it because it is a refreshing, relaxing, interesting, complex, thirst-quenching roller of good times.  We can come together over a beer and talk about the world’s problems or the stupid things we did in high school (or still do).  Not to mention it is the perfect way to wash down a pile of Buffalo Wings from any place other than Hooter’s (I really need to blog about them – stay tuned).  Ah, beer.

Sadly, the beer industry does some pretty hefty social and environmental damage as it cranks out gallon after gallon of the golden nectar.  The industry has made a habit out of sexualizing and objectifying women to make a profit.  Companies like Budweiser, Miller and Coors are notorious for using images of scantily clad women in their advertisments.  Who could forget the Coors Light TWIIINNS???

Of course this is just one example out of literally thousands and thousands of print ads, tv commercials, billboards, and internet ads that bombard the advertising landscape from September to February.  Why you ask???  The answer is simple – football season.  This is a time of year that companies desperately clamor for the business of men by appealing to their inner man.  Sexy women doing sexy things in sexy clothing is one of the main sales mechanisms employed by these large beer companies.  In a hypermasculine culture, sexism sells.

This type of advertising is damaging in several ways.  Obviously, it objectifies and sexualizes women.  This teaches men and boys to value women for their looks and sexuality first (if not only).  It also teaches women and girls that in order to gain the interest of a male, you must behave in a sexual way – even if you aren’t interest in actually having sex.  It also socializes men to believe that men must act like the men in the commercials in order to be a “real man” or perhaps more accurately all men should behave like the men in the commercial because that is what is normal.  Naturally, if men are taught that women are sex objects that are available to them at any time and women are taught to behave sexually even if they aren’t interested in having sex, then you are bound to have scenarios in real life where men force themselves on women sexually.

Environmentally speaking, the beer industry makes a significant ecological footprint.  On the whole, the industry uses nearly 500 million tons of grains every year.  Since beer isn’t chunky, you have to wonder where all of the grain goes after it has been boiled and the sugars extracted?  In the pre-Budweiser days, smaller breweries would give their “spent” to local farmers who would used it for cattle feed.  This was a tremendous help to farmers and breweries.  It even kept costs lower on beer and dairy products because a production expense has been eliminated (there must be someting to this symbiosis thing after all).  Also, think about the amount of waste that is created during this time of year from the number of bottles and cans of beer consumed is staggering.  What about the massive amounts of petroleum products it takes to deliver the beer across the country to every grocery, liquor store, quick mart and bar in America?  The industry’s environmental load is taxing to say the least.

So, what should an Inactivist do?  Consider drinking craft beers or microbrews made in your state (or locally if possible).  Here is why:

1.  Smaller, independent breweries typically spend their advertising budget (if they have one) on showing you how good the beer is rather than using half naked women to divert your attention from the actual taste of the beer – AND TWIIINNS!!!  Taking your money out of the large corporate pockets just might get those companies to evaluate their advertising practices.

2.  If you buy your beer from a producer that is in your town or in your state, then you are helping to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting down on the automobile emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, and helping local farmers keep their feed costs low.

3.  Buying locally made beer supports the people who live in or near your community.  Keeping your money local will help put food on the table for people who are trying to do things the right way and it send a loud and clear message to the large beer companies.

I did a quick Google search for “TEXAS BEER” since I live in Austin.  The first listing that popped up was http://texasbeer.blogspot.com.  Here I found a great list of existing craft beer breweries all in the state of Texas.  I have had most of these beers myself and they are quite good.  I especially like “Fireman’s 4” made by Real Ale Brewing  Company in Blanco, Texas (70 miles from my door) and “Blonde Bombshell” by Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, Texas (200 miles from my door).  Honorable mention has to go to “Live Oak Pilz” from Live Oak Brewing Company right here in Austin.

I encourage you to do a quick google search of your own to see what beers can be found in your neck of the woods.  You just might stumble on something you really like.  Craft beers might cost a few dollars more, but you can’t put a price justice.

Here’s to making the world a better place 12 ounces at a time this football season and beyond.

BeerMeWordle

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“Ad” Nauseum

OK – I have been thinking about the ads I saw during the Superbowl.  I have to admit that, for the most part, they avoided objectifying and sexualizing women.  Of course there was the dynamic duo from GoDaddy that feature Indy car driver Danica Patrick that portray her, and all women in the commercials as sex objects.  Those were horrific!!!  Outside of that…the rest were not too bad.  Nothing really jumped off the screen at me at screamed “WRITE A BLOG”.  That is the good news.

The bad news is that I did find a few that were damaging in a much more subtle way.  I am talking about the ones that reinforce notions about masculinity.  The one that really got me was for Diet Pepsi Max called “I’m Good.”  Check it out…

Funny, right?  I mean who doesn’t love watching dim-witted men hurt themselves and each other?  Honestly, I find it entertaining.  However, I also realize that commercials like this one have a sinister side to them.  Commercials like this one reinforce and further normalize the notion that men are not allowed to show weakness.  To show pain or reveal the severity of an injury is to compromise your masculinity. 

Of course, we do feel pain.  We all have nerve endings and pain receptors that tell us when something is painful (like having a bowling ball dropped on our head).  It is society that says men must hide their pain (both physical and emotional) in order to retain their masculinity.  Showing emotion or pain, is considered to be feminine in our culture and therefore a threat to our patriarchal society and male privilege.  To combat this, men in powerful and influential positions (CEOs, politicians, clergy, etc.) have developed a very sofisticated an interconnected mechanism to perpetuate male power, strength, toughness, and control. 

One vital part of this mechanism is what some refer to as the “fake it until you make it” approach.  Men in power postitions look for ways to portray men as tough, strong, unfeeling and powerful beings.  The easiest place to find examples of this are in the media.  In my opinion it is not a coincidence that mega corporations like Pepsi work with media giants like NBC – Universal to create commercials that portray men who never show one ounce of pain or weakness.  We see these messages by the thousands on a daily basis.  Can you name the last time you saw a male character in the media that did show pain or weakness?  I can’t – at least not one that wasn’t making fun of that character for showing pain or weakness.  When you do see a male character that shows emotions (other than anger) or that is sensitive or talks about his problems, he is either ridiculed or feminized (ex. a character that is a stereotypical or “flaming” gay man).

Seeing these messages over and over keeps men from wandering outside the social definition of normal masculinity.  The men that are in power positions in society continually introduce these images of masculinity into the media as a means of maintaining the patriarchy their forefathers built.  These images are intended to teach men and women that men are strong

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The Story of Stuff

Have you seen the video entitled “The Story of Stuff”? I have. If you haven’t, watch it now and then come back to this blog entry and finish reading it. I’ll wait.

Great! Now you will have a better idea where I am coming from. So…stuff…I have too much of it. I bet you have too much of it. AND we are approaching the time of year where we accumulate even more of it. Often times it it stuff we never even wanted in the first place – like the gifts you were stuck with from the the 7 White Elephant (aka Dirty Santa or my least favorite Chinese Christmas) gift exchanges in which you were forced to participate last holiday season. That is just one example. There are plenty more I can assure you.

So…this year I am going to do my part to put an end to it. I am asking everyone in my life that is planning to get me a gift this year to resist the temptation to buy me more stuff. Seriously. I don’t want any more stuff this holiday season or any other for that matter.

I also understand that it feels good to give and we call this the season of giving. I don’t want to be a Scrooge McGrinch…I love this time of year. I just feel like we have lost sight of what it is all about. So, here are a couple of options that I believe are much more in line with what the season is all about:

1. Make a donation to Responsible Men at http://www.responsiblemen.net. I am trying to raise money to attend the Men Can Stop Rape training this July in Washington DC. The total cost will be about $2,000 including the travel, room and board, and the cost of the workshop. I want to go so that I can make Responsible Men a better organization.

2. Make a donation in my name to their favorite charity or cause. Chances are, I like that charity as well. That makes both of us feel good.

The beauty of this is there is no stuff. There is also no plastic packaging, gift box, wrapping paper, plastic bows, tape, ribbon, cards, or any other stuff that just gets trashed anyway.

Imagine if everyone in your family decided to do this. Then imagine if everyone in your family got all of their friends to do the same with their families and so on. Imagine the tremendous amount of good that would come of that. Imagine the power in a movement like that. Imagine what could be accomplished because of that.

Now stop imagining that and start doing it. Make a commitment this holiday season to ask your loved ones to make a donation to something you care about in your name. Offer to do the same for them. Make it a tradition. You never know…you just might change the world in ways you can’t imagine.

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