Posts Tagged ‘gender stereotypes’

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besot.

August 14, 2009

Apparently (according to my computer & my father, though the online dictionary says different) there is no such thing as the verb “to besot”.  You can have the adjective “besotted”, which means to be hopelessly and absolutely in love, and it originates from the old English noun “sot”, which means “drunkard” (intoxicated by alcohol, as opposed to love), and before that the French word “sot(te)” which means “foolish”.   Ultimately, it comes from the Latin “sottus”, but enough of that – you don’t come here to read a dictionary, and I didn’t create this blog to write one.  My point is, Nick & I were discussing fragrances and their names, and we came onto the subject of Katie Price’s ‘collection’.  Her perfumes are called “Stunning” and “Besotted”, and I began to ponder why perfume names seem to prefer adjectives (and of course, nouns).  “Curious”, “Spellbound”, “Pure”, “Notorious”, “Luscious Pink”, “Signature”, “Strictly Private”, “Vintage” as well as all of the colours in the rainbow are just the first ones which come to mind.  But how many perfumes go with imperatives?  I can think of “Believe” by Britney Spears, “Inspire” by Christina Aguilera, perhaps the new “Challenge” by Lacoste, and not much else. (Feel free to add others in the comments)  I like the idea of a perfume with a direct purpose manifest in its name: instead of “Stunning”, “Stun”; instead of “Besotted”, “Besot” (who cares if it exists).  It sounds more urgent, more fervent, more powerful.  I like that.

So Nick and I were making up fantasy names for fragrances (“Fascinate” was a joke idea of mine), and we also think that Britney Spears should release a male fragrance called “Womanizer” (certainly a wittier and sexier name than her forthcoming “Circus Fantasy”.  How much longer before “Fantastic Fantasy”, or even “Fantasy Fantasy” appears?).  What about “Seduce”?  “Captivate”?  I even like the sound of “Unravel”.  I think these sort of commands harness the power of the words and make them more immediate, more direct.  I suppose I am not a perfumer, nor a marketing exec, so I’m talking out of my depth.  But it sounds good to me.

As most people (I presume), I wear different perfumes depending on my mood and what essence I want to exude at a particular moment.  I don’t wear a fragrance just because it’s popular or because it’s a big seller, and I am no longer fooled (after working in fragrance for a year and a half) by which perfumes are male, female or unisex.  Gearing a perfume towards a specific demographic is a marketing tool to gain a target audience, and pretending that a perfume is gender specific is part of this marketing.  Scent is scent, it’s intangible, and if it suits you and you like it, wear it!  You’re wearing a fragrance and making it a part of who you are, whether it’s Chanel Pour Monsieur or Chanel No. 5.  You wear the fragrance, the fragrance and the name doesn’t (or shouldn’t) wear you.  I just want to briefly delve into my collection of 20-something bottles (it sounds bad to non-perfumistas; to avid fragrance addicts, it is a restrained collection) and list a couple of things I wear when I…

…am going to work.
If I’m off to work or going somewhere business-like, I don’t want something too intrusive or seductive, but something pleasant and slightly different from the norm.  After all, in a professional environment (especially when I was working in fragrance!), you don’t want to blend in and smell like everyone else, and you certainly don’t want to come off smelling cheap.  You have to make your mark and your uniqueness felt, all while not being so obvious about it that your fragrance screams for attention.  So I tend to plump for “Deseo for men” by Jennifer Lopez (because it’s a slight yet heady mix of mint, tonka bean and soft spices – and it’s also not available in the UK, so I have no fear of running into anyone else wearing it), “Guerlain Homme” because its refreshing mojito-esqueness refreshes me through the day and perks me up with daydreams of evening cocktails, and Escada’s “Sunset Heat” is perfect for after the gym, with its juicy watermelon supplying all the tart freshness I need to revitalise me after a hard workout.

…am going on a date.
I have always had luck pulling wearing “Gucci pour Homme II” for some reason, though it was a hard sell during my time working at the Perfume Shop.  It’s a sweet, sexy spicy concoction, with a prominent tea note that is hard for a lot of people to put their finger on.  It’s intriguing and unlike a lot of other fragrances out there, especially for the male market – it’s not aquatic, it’s not leathery, it’s not ultra-green pines and grasses.  Sadly, I hear that Gucci are discontinuing it, so I will have to stock up.  Otherwise, I find that I feel seductive wearing Emporio Armani’s “Diamonds For Men”, which is another sweet fragrance made up of bergamot, cocoa and cedarwood that has an artificial yet addictive spike to it (I’m aware that I use strange words to describe perfume such as “angular” and “dark”, because that is the most accurate way I can convey how a perfume makes me feel). Tom Ford’s “Black Orchid” smells expensive and intoxicating, with a dizzying mix of oriental florals, vanilla and patchouli, with a mysterious undercurrent of something both grimy and bizarrely exquisite (heady mystery = very good). And Lancome’s “Hypnôse” for men is a powdery amber than lingers closely to the skin and invites the object of my affections to come close and try to put their finger on the intangible scent I’m exuding.  They won’t be able to, but maybe they’ll end up touching me instead, and therein lies the art of seduction!

…am meeting friends for coffee / casual get-together.
If I’m just going about my day-to-day business in my free time, socialising and having fun, I want something light and carefree.  Again, I’m attracted by the sweet (though I have the kind of skin which turns everything to sweet anyway, even if it didn’t start out that way!) and although I wear what I want when I want and (despite these paragraph headings) have no hard and fast rules, I like: the strawberry citrus delight of Black XS, which attracted me with its sexy ad featuring model Will Chalker, and epitomises summer with every inhale; the giant sweet Barbie tuberose of Juicy Couture, which is supposed to be a girly perfume but I love it nonetheless because it accentuates when I am feeling carefree and fun-spirited; the orange-icing sugar delight of Ultrared Man (again by Paco Rabanne) that is just too good to be simply a summer “limited” edition (though it is widely available and therefore not really limited – another marketing ploy!); the lemon-almond light soufflé that is Dior’s “Escale à Portofino”, which sparkles on the skin and is another elegant summery delight.  I also enjoy the floral clean-ness of Prada “Infusion d’Homme” which I loved at first and found utterly intoxicating, but now has quietened down to be a resonant soapy wonder than makes me feel so fresh and so clean.

…am going to a club.
If you have ever been to a club, or in fact ever been in a confined space with other people for any length of time, you will know that a) you will sweat, and b) other people will sweat.  Therefore you need a fragrance that will really go the distance and last hours and hours, while smelling intoxicating and can pull attention towards you in the crowd.  This is the one situation where I really go all out for the “wow” factor (unless I’m in a perky/mischievous mood in the morning/daytime) and select my ultimate favourite fragrance of all, “Dior Homme”.  This fragrance is a sophisticated blend of iris, violet, patchouli and chocolate (as well as some heady alcoholic thing I can never quite put my finger on) and confidently resides in its own sophistication and element of class.  I love it, and I wear the original and the Intense, which of course amps up the scents and goes all night. 😉 It certainly does the trick!  A close runner-up is A*Men by Thierry Mugler, with its chocolate-coffee-sundae and hints of burnt rubber and blackened caramel roughing up the edges.  Spraying too much on is lethal to passers-by, but the right amount can last and last on the skin, and belies a gourmand sensuousness that has the power to satisfy hunger pangs with a single sniff.

…at home by myself in the evening.
It’s safe to say by this point that without wearing a scent, I feel naked.  All of the above fragrances are ones that I enjoy, and I’ve left plenty others out, but I’m quite a nocturnal person and on nights when I’m enjoying my own company, I want to wear something sensual and subtle.  Something that isn’t overpowering, that lingers close to my skin and that compels me to repeatedly sniff my wrists.  What comes to mind is “Deseo” by Jennifer Lopez, which is a sexy, subtle scent that has tinges of lush tropical greenery, hidden behind a layer of midnight rain.  It’s subtle, it is sexy and I feel very in touch with my emotions and my inner sensuality when I wear it.  Other sexy/sensual/ethereal fragrances that perform this same trick are Gucci “Rush” (floral musky fruit boom) and Mariah Carey’s “M” (tiare marshmallow vanilla whip).  This “trick” is exactly what I mean when I talk about making perfume a part of who you are; it is an emblem of your essence, and an olfactory summary of all that you are at that moment.

(ps. this site has been my perfumista bible and point of reference for a fair few months now: for all perfume news, reviews and articles, go to Now Smell This)

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i cry real tears.

August 4, 2009

On my way home on the bus after a lovely day spent with Hannah and Nick, I suddenly felt tired and wanted nothing more than to be instantly wrapped up on the sofa.  With the rain flooding down the windows as I gazed out at the grey, overcast cityscape passing me by, I couldn’t help but feel that the weather echoed my inner sentiments.  As if, for all the nice chats and coffees and perfume I enjoyed today, I couldn’t escape my own sorrow, loneliness, fear and ennui – I could only subdue it and try to ignore it.  But with the rain coming down all around me, I could have started crying – not bursting into tears, but silently letting them fall from my eyes.

Why? I have a pretty good life, and I had had a nice day.  But I guess that being on my own, in the middle of a crowded bus (the windows steamed up by our collective body heat) with nobody to talk to and my ipod drowning out everything, surrounded by anonymous faces and anonymous rain, the solitude just got to me.  I’ve fallen for somebody real bad, and it’s crazy because right now, I can’t think of anything better than escaping my life and running away to another country, learning another language and living a completely different life.  Obviously I’m not going to do this, but I can’t help but imagine what it would be like, and how happy I could be if we really did fall in love with one another.  I’m wrapped up in a fantasy and it’s so sweet, it makes reality all the more bitter in comparison.  And I’m wrapped in his cologne (Opium Pour Homme) so that I always feel it on me, and it’s torture because it smells so good and yet he’s not there.  I’ve met the guy once (though we talk most days) and I’ve gone utterly crazy.  Rationale literally out of the window.

I have a ridiculous amount of music on my iPod, and at times like this I can’t help but pick songs that echo my mood, or lyrics that echo my situation.  My current choices range between optimistic and heartrending: Blu Cantrell – “I Can’t Believe“, Mariah Carey – “The Beautiful Ones“, Shontelle – “T-Shirt“, Toni Braxton – “Spanish Guitar” & “I Don’t Want To“, The-Dream, “H.A.T.E. U” are the examples which come to mind.  Of course, tugging at my heartstrings doesn’t make me feel any better or enable me to forget my situation, but instead keeps me moping, though at least I am moping to a good soundtrack!

Anyway, I didn’t cry.  I am not the kind of person who would break down in public (I don’t like looking imperfect, even sweating in public, so tears are out of the question – I do my utmost to keep my façade weakness-free), and I’m not the kind of person who breaks down even in private.  Ever since I was a kid, I was taught to keep my emotions inside so that nobody can see your weaknesses (particularly when my dad would try to upset me with the goal of making me cry, my mother taught me not to give him the satisfaction).  So even during trying times, I try to suppress any extremity of emotion in public, and take deep breaths and clench my fists and just get on with things.  After all, the quicker it’s over, the quicker it’s done.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to cry.  I believe in the cathartic power of tears, and once you’ve cried your eyes and your heart out, there’s nowhere left to go but to start healing yourself and picking yourself back up.  Although they make your eyes puffy and swollen, and seem to bring out dark red freckles around my cheekbones (lucky me), tears do serve a purpose – they let you acknowledge your sadness and express it and move on.  Sometimes, my restraint from expressing my sadness even privately means that it festers, whereas if I could just let myself go and cry, maybe I’d move on a little quicker.  Who knows – that’s just the kind of person I have come to be, it’s probably to late to do anything about it now.

Yet I disagree with the widely-held belief that “boys don’t cry”.  They just don’t let anyone know that they cry.  There are a lot of secrets kept between the sexes that I think stop us from understanding one another and feeling close to one another.  Of course people are going to think that men and women are from different planets; that’s the way we live our lives.  The machismo the boys don’t cry does stem from the fact that crying supposedly signals weakness, and men must never appear weak.  But why is it ok for women to be weak, in that case?  Everybody gets weak sometimes (even though nobody talks about it, we all know it’s true) and in that weakness, the best thing we can do is to seek strength from others.  But (and I am particularly guilty of this), seeking strength and asking for help once again points out our weaknesses to other people and we are too proud / afraid to bare ourselves in this way.  So we cover it up.  But I think that to make it a gender thing (Fergie made things no better with her song “Big Girls Don’t Cry” – boys cry, men cry, big girls cry, petite girls cry, grown women cry, transexuals cry.  Everybody cries.) is just stupid – tears are universal.

Babies cry for attention.  Adults rebel against this because when we cry, we don’t want anyone to know – bringing attention to ourselves is the last thing on our minds.  Crying is a secret rebellion against maintaining that all-important appearance of teflon perfection.  I don’t cry (films never get to me – the right music is usually the closest thing to bring me to the brink) very often at all, but sometimes – like today – there is an evocative feeling in my heart, and I don’t know what to do with it.  And though, despite everything, I am not comfortable with letting my tears fall in public, it’s as pure an expression of hurt and longing as you’re gonna get.  And wrapped in this cologne, my longing aches just that little bit sweeter.

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the characterisation of cake.

August 1, 2009

While I was writing my previous blog entry, I was talking to one of my best friends Nana about cake.  We are both trying to get fit and not fat, and cake gets in the way.  Lately, my mother has been bringing home iced madeira cake, with little layers of cream and raspberry jam in the middle, and it’s absolutely delicious and irresistible, and plays havoc with my spreadsheet where I plot the nights that I do snack after dinner against the nights that I don’t (I have improved a lot in the last 5 months! I currently stand at not snacking 68% of nights, and my aim for August is to get to 75%).  This is the conversation (Nana is “Back in London”, I am “chase – lycanthropy” – but then, you didn’t need me to tell you that if you’ve been reading 😉 ) :

11:59:32 Back in London :-): ohhh yes

11:59:48 Back in London :-): ahh cake 😀

11:59:52 chase – lycanthropy: hah

11:59:58 chase – lycanthropy: cake is my friend and my enemy

12:00:15 Back in London :-): yes

12:00:23 Back in London :-): i have a love hate relationship with cake too

12:00:45 Back in London :-): he has me wrapped around his finger…

12:00:50 Back in London :-): makes me want him more when i know i shouldn’t

12:01:31 chase – lycanthropy: haha you think of cake as a man

12:01:34 chase – lycanthropy: i think of cake as a woman

12:01:39 chase – lycanthropy: but yes i know what you mean

12:01:47 chase – lycanthropy: iced madeira cake is especially tempting

12:01:52 chase – lycanthropy: also toffee cheesecake

12:01:58 chase – lycanthropy: (which is what my nan serves)

12:02:33 Back in London :-): omg

12:02:37 Back in London :-): maybe i should just come to bristol today

12:02:38 Back in London :-): lol

12:06:55 chase – lycanthropy: :p

12:07:05 chase – lycanthropy: i am going to write a blog about this conversation we have had about cake, you know

12:07:06 chase – lycanthropy: i can see it now

12:08:02 Back in London :-): hahaha

12:08:11 Back in London :-): i look forward to it 😉

12:08:13 chase – lycanthropy: 😀

The thing I find most interesting is that Nana thought of cake as a “male” thing, whereas I envisioned cake as more of a female temptress, weaving her web around me and drawing me in closer.  It’s funny how people’s minds work and differ.  I am used to the idea, after years and years of language study, of the idea of nouns being masculine or feminine; interestingly, “gâteau” is masculine in the French, and “pastel” in the Spanish is also masculine.  But “tarte” (French) and “tarta” (Spanish) are both feminine.  So unless we’re being really specific about what kind of cake we’re eating (whether it is a big cheesecake, or a slab of marble sponge), either gender could go.  I guess another reason why I think of cake as feminine is because until you’ve eaten 3 slices and it’s sitting in your stomach (something I genuinely don’t do very often, I promise), cake is a dainty, light creature, with pretty pastel colours of icing and soft, sweet flavours.  In other words, to me, cake isn’t exactly grr butch.  But obviously now I’m gender stereotyping, and I like people to think that I am sweet and seductive (at least some of the time, when my façade isn’t being icy cold).
I watched Transamerica and it’s funny how that film links in. I’m not going to do an in-depth review of it or anything, you can get those elsewhere.  But Felicity Huffman and Kevin Zegers both expertly played flawed yet beautiful characters who shone in the midst of an occasionally hokey script.  And we all have a quest to work out who we are, because society demands to put us in a box of its own conventions – he, she, gay, straight, etc.  We can’t just be because then nobody knows where they stand and how to “understand” us (the joke being that they’d rather not spend the time trying).  And I think, in a practical, day-to-day way, I can understand that.  If we spent time trying to suss out every single person who came our way and honestly made the effort to see who they really are, we’d never get anything done.  Labels never tell the whole story, but I can appreciate that they exist for a reason.  But when the label is wrong, then the misunderstood person has a lot of ground to catch up, all the while feeling like an outsider just waiting for someone to see the beauty of who they are, beyond what they are, regardless of sexuality or gender.  At least cake doesn’t have that problem – whether we think of it as a he or she, at least we are in no doubt as to how marvellous it both looks and tastes!
(ps. Nana, I hope you don’t mind me posting the snippet of our conversation up here – nothing private was said so I hope it is fine! Let me know 🙂 )
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my favourite song part 1.

July 11, 2009

— Okay, I was thinking that although I enjoy writing about a variety of things on my blog, and whatever takes my fancy gets an examination and exploration, I wanted to have a couple of little regular features on here also.  This is gonna be the first one of those, where I look at some songs which are particular favourites of mine, talk about why I like them so much and why I think they are important.  I hope you like it, and as you get the measure of my musical taste, feel free to request any artists and I’ll see if there is a song by them that I’m particularly into 😉 —

Beyoncé – If I Were A Boy

Even though this song is a diss aimed at my entire gender, the lyrics are so well written and, on the whole, true for quite a few guys that I can’t deny it.  Beyoncé’s vocal delivery is heartfelt, restrained for the most part but she lets loose in the bridge where she sings “If you thought I would wait for you, you thought wrong”.  She masterfully interprets the song which is an acoustic guitar-driven departure from her usual beat-driven R&B fare, and it’s a total success and the best track from her stellar I Am… Sasha Fierce album.  But it’s the lyrical content that really makes this song what it is; it’s sung from the point of view of someone who is in love but is just too tired of being neglected to make the love worth it.  It’s about being taken for granted, being treated like you’re second best, being heartbroken while you’re still in love.  It’s a warning to those men who are leaving their girlfriends or wives or partners at home while they go and party without a second thought; it’s an explanation to other men of why their past relationships may not have worked out, and what they did wrong.

Again, I’m a guy but I can relate to the lyrics so much.  Though the gender slant is probably correct, it does also happen the other way round, and there are plenty of guys who experience being shut out of their partner’s lives.  The song says “don’t underappreciate me, because the day I’m gone, you realise what you did and you’ll be the one who loses”.  I find myself singing this song when I’m at home and really getting into it, because whether you’re a girl or a guy, we all know how it feels to have our feelings hurt by someone else, whether we show it on the outside or not.  The video is a fantastic exploration of gender stereotypes, and looks at the pain that Beyoncé’s partner feels when she ignores him in the first scenario; it’s an unusual situation that is made sense of in the mirror image / “reality” of the second scenario, when Beyoncé becomes the office administrator and her partner the cop (jobs which are considered more typically feminine and masculine, rather than vice versa).  How the guy pleads with Beyoncé in the spoken interlude isn’t typically macho, and Beyoncé’s bravado at flirting with someone else in front of his face, goading him with “Why are you so jealous?” is a contrast to what we usually expect due to gender stereotyping. But it fantastically rams home the point that, even though Beyoncé is singing “You’re just a boy, you don’t understand”, the pain is universal and applies to both genders.  We all feel hurt, and we all should aim to be a better man.

—-

If I were a boy even just for a day
I’d roll out of bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted and go

Drink beer with the guys and chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it
‘Cause they’d stick up for me

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man

I’d listen to her
‘Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

If I were a boy
I would turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleeping alone

I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
‘Cause I know that she’d be faithful
Waiting for me to come home, to come home

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man

I’d listen to her
‘Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say it’s just a mistake
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong

But you’re just a boy
You don’t understand
And you don’t understand, oh
How it feels to love a girl
Someday you’ll wish you were a better man

You don’t listen to her
You don’t care how it hurts
Until you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause you’ve taken her for granted
And everything you had got destroyed
But you’re just a boy