Saturday, July 25, 2015

on being weird and fabulous selfies

This is me. I wrote about what being different might mean a couple entries back, and how it's almost never perceived positively. And since then I had some time to reflect on whether I'm a "different" guy, and if so, what makes me different.

It's entirely normal to be different in some aspect. You can have a certain degree of otherness, in some element, and still be considered very ordinary. It's when you're consistently going against the norms, that's when things get different. In my introspective journeys, I found one significant otherness in my nature.

If we take things back a bit, I was a very shy boy around girls when I was younger. Until I was 15, I really didn't talk to women. I hung out just with dudes. All the time. That might be surprising to hear for those who have gotten to know me only after I moved to Vasa. I'd wager it would be just as big a surprise for my older acquaintances to hear that nowadays, 9/10 times I'm with someone, you'd find me with a group of women.

If we quickly look at some numbers;
1. I went to an arts programme in school where my class was made up of 2 boys and ~15 girls.
2. I work at a cafe that is a part of a collective of several cafes. I'm the only male employee among those 3 cafes.
3. Statistically (Approximately..), fewer than one in five people who enter my apartment is a man.
4. I write a blog. I mean, do you even know any other guy who runs a blog? Blogging is definitely considered a female thing.

Now, I don't pretend to be some kind of new-generation Hefner bringing only women over all the time, that's not at all what I'm saying (My game is pathetic). But my habits and the environment I most often find myself in (and indeed choose to be in) are feminine.

I haven't really ever given it that much thought or worry, I don't mind it, and I don't think it compromises my masculinity or manliness in any way. It turns out femininity and masculinity aren't completely mutually exclusive.

Other people seem to notice it, though, and often I can't help but notice when they do. People definitely think it's weird, not just different. People at the counter buying coffee at the cafe have no restraint in commenting on how they've never seen a man work at a cafe before. Men are a cautious when they hear I'm a blogger. It's even happened a couple times that people have tried to use my talent as an artist as a way to feminize me and reduce my value in some typically manly discussion. It's true, it might be a bit different, but none of those things actually make any sense at all.

People get confused real quick. Really confused. Seeing where this entry has taken us, I can't avoid commenting on how often people seem to think I'm gay. Which is pretty funny. It makes me wonder, what steps do other men take in order not to appear feminine (Male femininity is apparently a stereotypically gay attribute)? I obviously skipped some chapter while reading the guide to manliness.

Many of those who know me have heard this story, but most recently, I was sitting at a table having some beers with two of my oldest friends in Vasa, who are women. There was also a group of (slightly intoxicated) men sitting across the terrace. We were joined by a third woman, and we sat there talking for quite a while. Then, I feel a tap on my shoulder as one of the men had walked over, and he asked me "No offence, but are you gay?".

That's a bombshell to end this entry on, isn't it? What an silly assumption. Apparently, the Finnish male norm can't handle nor understand the notion of a man who has female friends. So I guess I am different in that respect. But as I said before, it's completely normal to be a bit weird. I'm not the least bit sore about people thinking I'm feminine. I'm awesome.

Our societal norms are pretty sad and judgemental, though. I'm constantly reminded that I live in a bubble, and that the rest of Finland isn't quite as liberal and forthgoing as my circle of friends and the people I regularly hang out with. Today, you don't have to go farther than the newspaper to see what backwards attitudes and opinions are accepted here in our country, even though Finland might be considered progressive in a larger perspective.

In my following entry, I plan to write about how I used a bit of subtle digital editing to make that earlier selfie so *FABULOUS*.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No-good marketing and feminist bias

So I was going to write something yesterday, since it's been a while now since last, but I just wasn't producing. I'm a bit ill, sore throat and whatnot, and I had a day off work yesterday (Not because I was ill, just a free day), and I hadn't really done anything. Played video-games, most of the day. Which is a really bad habit. 

As I get older I realize more and more how I don't want to be a videogame-person. Videogames are not inherently bad, they can be a lot of fun, but playing videogames is a stagnant activity. My mind was slack and dull after all that easy-fun gaming, and I couldn't come up with a single good or even interesting topic to write about. 

So today at work I thought about what I should write today. I work at a cafe in a mall, and the mall has it's own radio-music thing, which can only really be heard before and after shopping hours. They play nicely quaint and retroish music, which makes me feel totally at home, but every once in a while they play advertisements. And there is this one ad that really rubs me the wrong way. 

It goes a bit like this "Are you bothered by tensity or stiffness in your hands? Try *product x*. Come visit us at *y*!"

This is evil. That is an evil way to advertise what is probably a completely useless product. Concentrate on your hands. How do they feel? 

Well, probably a bit stiff after you heard about that magical magnesium-aminohappo-oil which seems to be the cure-all end-all. In reality, stiff fingers is way too vague to conclude anything. It might be a symptom of tense shoulders. It might be because you've drank all coffee and no water in the past three days. It might be because you use your hands all day all the time to do everything. It might be a symptom of nothing at all. What's likely is it has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of magnesium-whatever-deficiency, and that you wouldn't have ever though about it if you hadn't heard that ad. 

But this advertisement does a good job of convincing impressionable people that they need to buy expensive health-products in order to combat vague and non-alarming symptoms by making these people think that they are sick, or that there is something wrong with their bodies.

Just like the beauty industry. Never feeling stiff in your hands is as impossible a goal as attaining that carefully photoshopped hourglass body. Just like a couple humps and bumps and the occasional belly flob while sitting are a part of a healthy and fine body, a bit of ache and vague pain is simply a part of everyday life. But marketing is a large, evil business. And it does evil things to how we feel about our bodies, and our health.

Sometimes, you have to take a closer look and face your biases in order to see problems right under our noses. Also, it's been pretty calm on the artsy side of things lately.

Today, criticism against different sorts of marketing suffers a pretty extreme case of tunnel vision. Because criticizing the beauty-industry handily coincides with a lot of popular feminism, that's the only kind of critique that actually makes a splash in the media. Which is odd, since making people feel bad about their health should be just as bad or even worse than making people feel bad about how they look (in the interest to sell products.). Sadly, I've never heard anyone complaining about this before, even though it's an even more direct approach to making people feel bad than tactics employed by the beauty industry.

Monday, July 6, 2015

conscription in retrospect

Ah. Tomorrow. For many young men, it's a terrible day. For some young men, it's a much awaited one. For all those young men, it's a start of something new. Tomorrow, a new batch of recruits enter Finnish conscription, military service. They'll walk, run, crawl. They'll sweat, freeze, thirst and hunger. For 6, 9 or 12 months, they'll do more than ever before, but achieve nothing. Last year it was our turn, now it's the slightly younger men's turn to toil.

I didn't DO anything in the army. The only win I had during those six months was getting out of there in only six months, and going through a minimal amount of shit during those months. By most and my own account, I was lucky.

While not actually achieving anything, I gained some perspective. I met kinds of people I wouldn't meet otherwise. I realized I've lived in a social bubble all my life, a bubble where everyone thinks like me (Naturally, that's the best way there is to think. If I didn't think so, then I'd be thinking otherwise, wouldn't I? Yeah.).

I don't hang out with anyone who's openly racist. I don't hang out with any homophobes. I don't even know people like that. But in the microcosm representation of Finland that is the army, I met those people, the conservative and anti-liberal. The kinds of people who vote for the wrong kind of political parties. And I lost a lot of faith in, well, Finland, and it's people. Suddenly I understand why the Finnish political machine seemingly isn't making any progress. Why it is backpedaling, even, considering the recent elections. Because the majority of Finns don't think like me.

This is not a political blog. But the military made me see that the backward political state Finland is in right now is a democratic representation of a backward people. The fact that our government is democratically chosen is naturally an obvious statement, but it is also an extremely distressing and sad realization.