Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

You're not hideous at all! I swear!

I'll admit it, I shed a few tears over the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty at first. The whole thing where they take a clearly hideous woman
Ugh... look at her... with  her perfectly symmetrical face and
flawless cheek bones and... 2 zits. I feel like I need a shower. 

and Photoshopped her into a plastic blow up doll
If only Photoshop could smooth away dead-behind-the-eyes 
The scales started falling off my eyes (speaking of things that should be Photoshopped out) when Dove assured me that if I used their deodorant, I need no longer live in shame over my apparently abhorrent armpits. All the more humiliating was the fact that I didn't even know I was supposed to be ashamed of them in the first place.
That's when I noticed that the Dove ads weren't quite what they'd seemed at first. Take this ad...
These gorgeous women who were paid to pose in their underwear for pictures
that will be used in an ad campaign are definitely not models. 

Notice something these ladies have in common? All of these ladies lack a few things that even real beauties tend to have... like cellulite. Stretch marks. Scars. Muffin tops. Body hair. To name a few. What they have in common is that they look better in their underwear than pretty much every real beauty I know. Dove, you are my hero. You have widened the margins of real beauty by maybe a millimeter. And there was much rejoicing in the kingdom.
Dove didn't stop at our armpits. It kept forgiving us for more and more things we didn't know we were supposed to be ashamed of. Like this monster.
Holy god - what a heifer. I bet she has to special-order  her size ten
dresses. And those boobs? Everyone knows large breasts are
repugnant. At least her armpits are presentable.

Finally, a soap that tells me it's okay to be Irish!
(I mean, besides Irish Spring)
Wait, is this seriously a thing?

What? It's okay to age (a tiny bit) now?
Dove may be taking this "allowed to look like a human being"
thing a little too far. This woman should have to wear a bag
over her head when she leaves the house.
Obviously, it's not Dove's job to actually celebrate real beauty. It's Dove's job to sell me soap, and it is doing that job extremely well. I sincerely hope whoever came up with this campaign with one hell of a promotion - where we once thought of Dove soap as "that stuff that smells like grandmas" we now see it as "that stuff that's making the world a better place for women."
And hell, maybe it is doing more good than harm, after all. Maybe I'm alone in looking at these ads and seeing myself even more hideous than I did before. 
But maybe Dove has found a new way to perpetuate the notion cosmetic companies have been perpetuating since women were smearing bird crap* on their face. The notion that our entire worth is determined by how we look. 
Well, I've decided to do something about it. I'm starting my own campaign for real beauty... starring me. Suck it, soap.
Well... at least the one on the right's not so bad.

*Sadly, this is seriously a thing.
This post brought to you by blatant copyright infringement. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Something old, something new, something weird, and something demonic

I spent the entire weekend with the in-laws. I'm spending the entirety of next weekend with the in-laws. I am beyond delighted by this... I have clearly won the in-law lottery.
This weekend, the family got another degree more awesome when my sister-in-law got herself hitched in one seriously cool wedding. Though cool may be a poor choice of words considering the sunburn I've got going.
Earlier in the summer, I did some research on wedding traditions and found out about a chilling hidden danger to getting married. Evil spirits. Brides are like freaking crack to evil spirits - but don't worry; we've got rock solid defenses. To wit:
  • Flowers: Yeah, turns out that flowers are surprisingly effective evil spirit repellents. Actually, herbs and garlic are the real evil spirit repellents - but apparently brides got tired of smelling like the Olive Garden and swapped the herbs for flowers. Who knew those kept evil spirits away too?
    • There's a fantastic rumor floating around the Internet that brides carried flowers because nobody bathed so everyone smelled terrible. The problem with this logic is that, if nobody bathes, everybody smells, and nobody notices. Sort of like the old lady who has no idea that her apartment smells like her 25 cats have been painting the walls with their urine (I'm totally not that lady - I am well aware my apartment smells like 25 cats have been painting the walls with their urine).
  • Wedding bells: This tradition comes from Ireland, where bells are well-known for their ability to scare off demons. Here in the US, we have inferior bells; that's why we used tin cans.
  • Veils: Some say that brides wear veils over their faces so that their husbands-to-be won't see their faces and bolt. That's why Jeremy wore a veil at the wedding after all. But nope, the veil was there so that the evil spirits couldn't see the bride's face. I mean, you'd think spirits could deduce that the bride was the lady on the altar with a sheet over her face, but what do I know from evil spirits? I mean, aside from the evil spirits who live in my house and paint the walls with their urine.
  • Throwing rice: The evil spirits eat the rice and it swells up in their stomachs and then their stomach explodes. No wait, that's birds. Also, that's not true either. Churches just got tired of scraping rice off their front steps. That's why people started throwing birdseed instead... until churches realized that scraping bird crap off the steps was not an improvement. So now it's bubbles, because obviously you can't just not throw things at the couple. That would be weird.
I took this! I rock so much! 

* Side Note: If you know me in person, you know that I don't own the most feminine of wardrobes, to say the least. This weekend was a good illustration of why - before the guests even began to arrive, I'd ruined my fingernails, my toenails, and broken my shoe. It's also possible that the big old rash I have on my face came from makeup I apparently purchased sometime during the Carter administration. I'm the reason I can't have nice things.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No justice, no peace

I don't know what to say about the shooting of Michael Brown, mostly because I'm just not sure that I know what happened. The cops' account differs from a whole lot of eyewitness accounts, but the two autopsies don't confirm or deny either account. 
There is, however, no debate as to whether Darren Wilson chose to fire six shots in an area full of innocent bystanders. We do know that Wilson should have had several non-lethal implements to aid in his self defense but chose not to use them. We do know that as a police officer, Wilson would have gone through hundreds of hours of training on defending himself without killing anyone.
What we don't know is whether Wilson would have stopped Brown and his friend if they were white. What we don't know is whether Brown would still be alive if he were white.
The thing is, Ferguson's track record with dealing with African Americans is pretty abysmal. See, the city of Ferguson is about 2/3 black. Yet the Missouri Attorney General's office reports that out of 5,384 total traffic stops in 2013, 86% of those stopped were African American. 92% of arrests made were of African Americans, even though white folks were significantly more likely than black folks to have contraband when searched. 
Ferguson's not alone in unequal treatment. 90% of the individuals stopped under the NYPD's "stop and frisk" laws are black or Hispanic. In 2011, police stopped and frisked more young African American men than there are young African American men living in New York city. Even in neighborhoods where the population was 90% white, more than half of individuals stopped and frisked were black or Hispanic. For the record, only 1 in 10 of people frisked was committing any crime.  Possibly because they're searching the wrong people - white folk were significantly more likely to be carrying weapons illegally.
Maybe Michael Brown was a danger and maybe he wasn't, but that doesn't change the fact that way too many cops are choosing to use extreme force as a first resort.
In 2012, 5 dozen police cruisers chased African American Timothy Russel's car through a residential Cleveland neighborhood, at speeds near 100 mph, before shooting his car 137 times, killing Russell and his passenger. The reason: one cop thought he heard a gun fire. No gun was found. Russell did refuse to stop when the cops told him to, meaning he was breaking a law (though the 137 bullets indicate his reticence to stop was not entirely uncalled for), but what about the residents who could have been shot or run over by any one of 5 dozen speeding cop cars? The neighborhood where all this took place? 93% African American.
In the past month, four unarmed black men have been shot by cops. One was a developmentally disabled man allegedly shot in the back while lying on the ground. Another was choked out for selling loose cigarettes. Another guy, John Crawford, was shot in a Walmart full of customers.
And actually, when I say four black men have been shot, I should say that at least four men have been shot. Police forces are supposed to report all police homicides, but they very often don't - according to this story, many police administrators say that exercising transparency when it comes to shooting people would be bad for PR.  
African Americans get 10-20% longer prison sentences, and are dramatically more likely to be sentenced to death, than white men for the same crimes. Whether driving or on foot, African Americans are statistically far more likely to have police search them for drugs, despite mountains of data showing drug use among African Americans is not higher than drug use among white Americans
Folks justify the shooting of Michael Crawford by stating he should have put the pellet gun down when the police told him to - that his failure to immediately put down the fake gun he picked up off of a store shelf somehow made him deserve to die. Many of those folks will argue that it was a gross miscarriage of justice when, earlier this summer, two white open carry proponents were asked not to bring their very large, very real weapons into a Chipotle.

Was Michael Brown surrendering, or was he charging? Was John Crawford carrying a pellet gun with the intention of purchasing it, or was he menacing people with it? I don't know. What I do know is that a justice system that enforces laws differently based on skin color is anything but just. What I do know is we have to stop pretending racism is dead. What I do know is that we have to stop deluding ourselves into thinking that a little melanin magically makes you more likely to be a criminal.

Here's a video of Lavar Burton talking about what he does to keep from getting shot. Do you suppose Mr. Rogers or Captain Kangaroo ever had this conversation with their kids?

Also, cops aren't the only ones.
Y'all, when the hell are we going to figure out that it's not us and them, it's us and us? That the only thing separating "us" from "them" is a little melanin? When are we going to face the prejudices we'd so like to believe we don't have?

 Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. ~ Martin Luther King

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thanks for all the ghoti

So you know the vertebrates that live in the water, with fins and gills and scales and stuff? I always have trouble remembering how to spell that word. 

If you go back to your basic phonics, though, it's easy: ghoti.
"Gh" makes the f sound, as in enough
"O" makes the i sound, as in women.
"Ti" makes the sh sound, as in nation.

You could probably also spell it phech though. Or fish.
By the way, the Klingon word for fish? Ghoti.

Uh phllauer

Ugh zkowerl


Man, English is phuccong hard to spell.

(Note: I didn't invent ghoti, though no one seems sure who did).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

In my last post, I used the neologism fauxpology, a term which is maybe the best thing to come out of the Internet since cat videos. 

Something else that's kind of the best? Jonah Hill. Specifically, Jonah Hill's anti-fauxpology.
See, Hill called a paparazzo a hateful gay slur. And while the photographer had apparently been following him all day long, calling him names and insulting his friends and loved ones, Jonah Hill emphatically points out that the behavior did not, in any way, justify his use of such a hateful word.

I would not have thought it possible to think more of a celebrity after he used such a hateful word and yet, this apology is maybe the sincerest thing I've ever heard a celebrity say. It doesn't hurt that he has been consistently outspoken in his support of GLBT folks all over the world. 
And actually, I can kind of understand why he used that word in particular. To me, the word Hill used is right up with the "N" word. But the worst slur in the world to me is "retard." That's such a bad word to me that when I'm absolutely livid and searching my brain for the most horrible, mean, cruel thing I can call a person... "retard" is the word that wants to come out of my mouth. It's not because I hate people with disabilities, it's because I hate the word. If you followed me around for an entire day insulting me and everything I care about, I might snap and call you a "retard."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hornets and Choices

Sorry to do another depression one but it turns out there was more swirling in my head than I thought and I think it's kind of important. 
And I also hate to be a vulture at a dead celebrity's funeral, but I feel like I've got some standing to say a thing or two, so I'm gonna. Again.
From Village Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl 
Shockingly, professional wankers have said wanker-ish things about it, with Shepard Smith calling him cowardly and selfish before issuing the most heartfelt fauxpology I've heard since Alec Baldwin apologized for not using "different parenting language" after being caught calling his 11-year-old a "rude, thoughtless little pig."
There's a temptation for people born with a tragic lack of empathy to decide that suicide is selfish cowardice. And there's a temptation for people born with human decency to see suicide as a tragic inevitability. The viewpoint of the humanly decent is the far more dangerous temptation.
See, Williams' suicide was either a choice or it wasn't. I don't know which is logically true. However, we must believe that suicide is a choice (even a selfish one), if the rest of us are to survive. See, if suicide is a tragic inevitability for some, then the rest of us with mental illness may just be killing time until our tragic inevitability comes along. Thinking that suicide is ever the answer to depression might well get a person killed.
The empathetically challenged seem to think that people with depression sit around whining and feeling sorry for themselves, sit around choosing to see nothing but the bad, and give up when things are hard.
That is the exact opposite of the truth.
When you're suicidally depressed, you wake up with a swarm of hornets in your head, and each one's mission in life is to end yours. All day long they lobby you with proof you don't deserve to exist. Ever more compelling arguments about how much better your loved ones would be without you. Helpful hints like "Hey, we're going really fast! We should drive into oncoming traffic!" or "If you die now, your wife actually has a shot at a happy marriage." 
Like a fish that must keep swimming to survive, you have to brave that onslaught all day long.  You go to bed with brain swollen and bleeding; should you have the great fortune of being able to sleep, the hornets come along to poison your dreams. It's unspeakably exhausting.
Robin Williams stopped swimming. Understandable, certainly. But was it inevitable, or even acceptable? Not if you want to live, it's not.

Friday, August 15, 2014


I call people douches a lot. Because I have a tragically small vocabulary and can therefore only use one word to insult people. Or because my mom told me not to use dirty words, and douche is the cleanest of words. What with it being the French word for shower. 
See what I did there, with the totally not lame play on... hey look! Boobs!

 Speaking of French words that don't mean what we think they mean, isn't bra the French word for arm? Are we like... using them wrong? 

Also turns out panties is French for especially long hair
The french word brassiere actually derives from a French word meaning upper arm, which makes an even less effective bust supporter. Wikipedia tells me that the French garment that bore that name was more like a camisole. Which really isn't that much more appropriate, but hey, it's the French.
They didn't know whether
to wear it or surrender to it
No, the word that the French use for the old boob basket, soutien-gorge makes way more sense. It means throat support.
Now I know we're using it wrong.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"It's a cry for help," and other things people with depression are sick of hearing

I love it when people dismiss the behavior of people with depression as a cry for help, in that the phrase reveals its own absurdity. People generally tend to cry for help because they need help. If I were drowning, would you dismiss my splashing and flailing as a cry for help? Or would you, oh, I don't know, help me? (As a disclaimer, I am not crying for help. I'm practically sane right now. This as just been brewing in my head a while).
Now I'm no shrink, just a lady who has had depression long enough to have heard every piece of awful, well-meaning advice at least twice. 
You know, I read that exercise is good for depression
This seems like a funny thing not to want to hear, considering it is extremely true. In fact, exercise is great for depression. It's maybe the best thing a person with depression can spend their time doing. So how come we don't want to hear it? Thing is, depression makes you see everything in the worst possible light. So somewhere around the 50,000th time (per day) someone hurls this chestnut at us, all we hear is "all your problems are your fault because you're fat and lazy." It's not rational. But neither is spending every waking moment plotting your own demise. I promise you, if we've had had depression for more than 15 minutes, we've heard this one. Hearing it again (and again, and again, and again) doesn't help. 
If you've got a depressed friend, offer to take a walk with them. 
It's just depression. It's just in your head. Just think happy thoughts. Just get over it.
There is no such thing as "just depression," any more than there's "just diabetes" or "just a congenital heart defect." People with depression often already believe that our problems are trivial, that we're pathetic for feeling this way. It's what first leads a lot of us to self-injure - so that there's external validation of how we feel inside. You're not gonna help us by telling us we have no business feeling what we feel. It's like telling someone with cancer that they have no business having tumors.

Look on the bright side
If only I had thought of that!

Look at all you should be grateful for 
This is another variation on the theme of "why can't you just get better?" This is just another reminder that we've really got nothing to be sad about. And these words only make us feel like bigger heels than we already do - now we feel guilty for having a disease that thrives on emotions like guilt.

So what should you say? Start with "I love you." Follow up with "I'm grateful you're in my life." Add "I'm here for you no matter what."
Don't dispense advice - unless you're a shrink, you're not qualified to try and cure the disease.  Visit. Listen. Support. Try to be a break in the clouds. 
Oh, and doughnuts. Everyone knows depression is no match for doughnuts. 

Or I could just link to this Hyperbole and a Half post, which puts it way better than I just did and with illustrations.