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May 09 2007

Kamp Sexbot

I live a pretty vivid inner life, but some things are so sinister, so creepy, so vulgar, that even I couldn’t make’em up. As an example of a real-life horror scenario, I give you the Sugar & Spice Spa Camp for Girls.

That’s right. No archery or horseback riding or canoeing or lanyard-making will interfere with “what girls want to learn.” No s’mores, no ghost stories around the campfire, no make-outs behind the hay barn. Girls ages 12 to 15 will “practice giving manicures, facials, pedicures and basic massage technique.” To enhance their chances of becoming centerfolds, I suppose.

The camp brochure actually alludes to the campers as “femme fatales [sic],” so there can be little doubt that the goal is to prepare them for a career in the titillation business. Check out the Theme Days. Like Diva Day, when — I know it sounds fantastic, but there it is, in black-and-white — “the girls get to sit in a director’s chair…

…and learn what colors match their skin tone.”

Mastery of these oppressive femininity rituals will be “balanced” with yoga and aromatherapy, I’m guessing so that the poor kids can relieve the stress engendered by this wholesale savaging of their sense of self.

92 comments

1 ping

  1. MedeaOnCrack

    Is this camp bankrolled by the Miss America corp?

    Twisty I know there’s no end of fodder but you’re in exceptional Blame mode the last couple days. Keep on.

  2. Catherine Martell

    From the link:

    They’ll learn how to make homemade lip gloss and fairy fragrances…

    What’s a fairy fragrance? Actually, no, don’t tell me.

    I will personally donate a golden taco to the first teenage girl to match her skin tone with full-on war paint and pull a Lord of the Flies at the Sugar & Spice. And to anyone prepared to stage a dirty protest in the manicure salon.

  3. Heather

    I think that all of us blamers should sign up.
    Think of all the fun we could have with the camp directors!

  4. W

    That terrifies me.

  5. Bird

    Oh god, my mother sent me to a thing like that on the weekends for several months when I was about 13. We learned how to walk up and down stairs in heels, how to properly apply nail polish, how to create a stylish wardrobe, how to behave on a date, and all that nonsense.

    The charm school crap was followed by a trip through the wonderful world of teenage modelling (I have the history of anorexia, bulimia and self-abuse to prove it). What a great way to take a girl’s budding sense of self and crush it into a desperate need to become the impossible.

  6. H

    How to be a better fuckbot – It’s What Girls Want!

    Funny, I seem to remember getting through my girlhood in the the seventies and eighties without once ruminating on how much I wanted someone to take me aside for a solid week and talk to me about blusher.

    Now, at the ripe old age of 37, I cannot identify a single moment in my life, a single incident, that would have been made more bearable, interesting or fulfilling by make-up, by ‘knowing my colours’ or understanding the intricacies (if one can call any activity that simply involves having the common sense to wear un-foot-fucking shoes and possessing the physical ability to cut your own fucking toenails ‘intricate’) of pedicures.

    I guess my mother failed me grievously in not teaching me to equate conformity to the beauty standard aka the fuckbot mandate with ‘well-being’ or self-esteem.

  7. LouisaMayAlcott

    MedeaOnCrack,

    Gmail tells me that your account no longer exists. It returns the email that I try to send to you. This is about Schadenfreude Pie – let’s not lose touch, eh?

    You have another addy? Catch me at LouisaMayAlcott at gmail etc.

  8. Lily Underwood

    Oh lordy. This is patriarchy at his most venal and self-gratifying. Color me very very disturbed.

    What makes me wonder is how the women who collaborate in it live with themselves.

    This takes camp counselor to a new awful level.

  9. ew_nc

    Twisy, I’ve really been enjoying watching you feast at the blaming smorgasbord the past few days. Ah, bounty of blame, thy name is patriarchy. Feast on, spinster aunt!

  10. BubbasNightmare

    from Twisty’s link:

    ‘”It’s the un-camp,” Shue [the camp's founder] said. “You don’t have to play sports; you can learn what girls want to learn.”‘

    Call me hypersensitive, but I felt a arctic waft of Stepford brush past the spinal column.

    Albeit a bit too old, my 16-year-old daughter would be the natural candidate for Catherine Martell’s proposed Golding treatment. There’d be boar’s blood warpaint and counsellors-on-a-spit in no time.

  11. lawbitch

    Sign me up with the fellow blamers be “Sugar and Spice”" girl. I can only imagine what mayhem we could create. Twisty, we’d make you proud!

  12. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Nooooooooooooooooo!

    Even Bunny’s modeling lessons(she’s supertall; Daddy is 6’5″ and NO she’s not modeling!) were not THAT bad! And at least the administrators didn’t call it CAMP!

    Bunny’s experience was all about public speaking, group dynamics, acting and speaking in front of a camera, good posture (i.e., how to stand/walk/sit so one doesn’t end up with a wacked up spine), theatrics, formal introductions, how not to embarrass oneself at the dinner table, how to get out of a cab without flashing the cooter a la Britney, how to walk downstairs without falling on one’s face, how to write a resume, job interviewing skills, and (of course, since it WAS modeling/finishing) how to wear makeup without looking like a clown. I sat in every class and watched everything like some stagemother (not ordinarily my vibe at all) and lo and behold, most of what they taught was really useful.

    Kamp Sexbot. Day-um. Does anyone else besides me envision it as a Mean Girls Hell?

  13. Gansumina

    Oh, good god! How can these people believe that the way to feel good about yourself is to engage in self-destructive activities? What kind of warped logic is that? If they truly believed that these young girls are just fine the way they are they wouldn’t have a ‘sugar and spice camp’ they’d have an IBTP camp, with the spinster aunt as the keynote speaker.

    Ugh!

    I like Heather’s idea- it could be highly entertaining to have the IBTP goddesses descend upon this.

  14. slythwolf

    I was under the impression, from my own experience in Girl Scouts, that girls at that age wanted to learn how to ride horses, build fires, steer canoes, tell animal tracks apart, and (heh–my mom was the best troop leader ever) take the mattresses out of the camp cabins and use them as toboggans without getting caught.

    Of course, I’m wrong. The patriarchy must know better than I do. Silly me.

  15. kathy a

    the problem with descending [aside from the age limits] is that we’d have to PAY to give-em-hell.

    bird, that’s awful.

  16. stekatz

    I agree. Twisty’s on fire these days.

    And the “arctic waft of Stepford” line was a hoot!

  17. Sniper

    Kamp Sexbot. Day-um. Does anyone else besides me envision it as a Mean Girls Hell?

    I’m pretty sure the “campers” will be taught that all other women are The Enemy.

    When I was 12 I wanted to read, eat peaches and be left the hell alone for the summer. Too bad there’s no money in that.

  18. Valkyrie

    IBTP camp, with the spinster aunt as the keynote speaker.

    Where, oh where, do I sign up??

    My girls went to an all-girl camp in North Carolina with all the horses, lakes, canoes, rope swings and cookouts that they could handle. I called it their annual innoculation against the patriarchy – maybe they would let us have Blamer camp there in the off season. I could use an innoculation myself.

  19. Feminist Avatar

    When I was twelve I died my hair bright red (not the natural kind), wore significant amounts of eyeliner, owned both black and patent red doc martens and wouldn’t have been seen in a skirt. I spent my summers reading the classics (in all senses from Austen to Catcher in the Rye) and would not have been seen dead at a ‘camp’ by any definition.

    I think I turned out all right.

  20. Mamasquab

    Twisty, where in the name of my sweet Aunt Aspasia do you FIND these news items? I second the motion for IBTP camp.

  21. Burrow

    This is definitely something my mother would have sent me too since she didn’t like having a tomboy for a daughter. (She made me wear Laura Ashley and go to manners classes. *shudder*)

  22. thebewilderness

    In 1972, living in Pacific Grove, CA, I was collecting unemployment. The kind folks at the employment office signed me up at Heald College in San Jose to learn keypunch. (what is keypunch, you ask? clearly an essential skill) Mind you I was twentyfive, at the time. A required class for the women was charm. Once a week, every week, this poor woman tried to civilize a room full of crazy fucking hippies who thought the revolution was just getting under way. Once a week, every week, she fled the classroom and left us to plot our infiltration and overthrow of the businessman’s world. Damn, that class was fun.

  23. LMYC

    Believe me, if they’re practicing “basic massage technique” on one another, make-outs behind the barn are not far behind.

  24. Natalia

    What does this remind me of?

    My Fair Lady.

    What’s that based on?

    Shaw’s Pygmalion.

    Who’s Pygmalion? An asshole from Ovid’s Metamorphoses who hates women because they are all sluts, and instead falls in love with some porn that he himself created. Then it becomes animate so he can screw it. She bears a son.

    IBTP.

  25. zofia

    I am reminded of the scene from Adam’s Family Values where Wednesday, (forced to portray Pocahontas in a play at Camp Chippewa), refuses to break bread with the pilgrims and instead turns and says,

    “I have decided to scalp you
    and burn your village
    to the ground”.

    It’s my daughter’s favorite scene in any movie.

  26. Maryam

    I love Heather’s idea. I’m about the right age and I would so pay to go there and give them hell.

  27. cycles

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but maybe if someone had sat me down and shown me how to properly use the tools of my patriarchal enslavement, I wouldn’t have spent most of seventh grade wearing clown makeup because some cosmetics company was running ads for glaring-vibrant eyeshadow at the time, and I totally bought into the hype.

    Or maybe it was good that I looked foolish and am now sort of ashamed of the goofy things I wore in an attempt to look cool (as defined by you-know-who). You don’t blossom into a scowling hairy feminist because you think everything is peachy-keen with the world. If the fashions of 20 years ago look silly now, one might be prompted to make the ideological leap about fashions today, and how the whole industry is bunk, and, upon further reflection, consideration of who’s responsible for this little piece of sadism.

  28. Jessica

    My camp director would have a hernia.
    Not to mention the girls I have worked with in that age group.
    Shouldn’t they take advantage of the camp atmosphere to learn skills that you can’t learn at the mall?

  29. LMYC

    But Jessica, if you confronted things other than what you would learn at the mall, you might not be motivated to BUY STUFF!

    STUFF! WE ALL NEED MORE! STUFF! BUY MORE STUFF! STUFF STUFF STUFF!

  30. Beth

    I know I’m 32, but am I too old for IBTP Camp? Twisty would be the best camp counselor ever.

  31. kanea

    ‘When I was twelve I died my hair bright red (not the natural kind), wore significant amounts of eyeliner, owned both black and patent red doc martens and wouldn’t have been seen in a skirt. I spent my summers reading the classics (in all senses from Austen to Catcher in the Rye) and would not have been seen dead at a ‘camp’ by any definition.’

    I did the same thing…except my hair was blue.

    “I am reminded of the scene from Adam’s Family Values where Wednesday, (forced to portray Pocahontas in a play at Camp Chippewa), refuses to break bread with the pilgrims’

    that is a great great sceen!

    this blammer still is mistaken for 16…..i could go undercover and give them hell….anyone wanna spare some cash so I can? (j/k)

  32. kate

    I guess they are gearing up for the advanced campers next year, the schedule for the 16-21 yr. old set:

    1. Ironing 101
    2. To be the perfect prom date
    3. To be the perfect bride
    4. Sexy motherhood
    5. College – how to find the best for a man
    6. Household management for newlyweds.
    7. Co-dependency for a perfect marriage: good girls say yes, mean no and get what they want, no matter what.

    2 – 5 will run concurrently.

  33. kate

    When I was twelve I was the perfect nerd child. During the summers at summer camp I wore striped overalls and spent the entire four weeks around the horses and anyone who had anything to do with horses. I didn’t care a damn about boys, peers or any outside worldly things. I loved basketball and soccer, was competitive and imaginative. I was the kid who read too much, was way too verbose and intellectual. I worked at undoing that.

    At thirteen I became boy-conscious at a huge level, consumed porn when I could, Seventeen magazine and other ‘women’s’ mags, started smoking lots of pot, wore bell bottom jeans, said “Yeah man.” a lot started having sex and spending huge amounts of time in front of a mirror with blow-dryer, make-up and other assorted ‘feminine’ sundries. I also partook in the characteristic obsession with my size to the point where eating was a horrible chore I avoided as often as possible. That year was the beginning of my undoing academically. I was an achiever!

    But every summer I went to the same camp for other longer periods each year, donned a beat-up straw cowboy hat, jeans and T-shirts, went hiking, rode horses, canoed long rivers and generally became one with the natural world and all like minded souls there. It was freedom.

  34. BubbasNightmare

    I’d ask if there could be a anti-patriarchal men’s camp across the lake from Camp IBTP, but it’d end up full of nice guys and the usual MRA crap.

    I’d go drag into IBTP, but I think the beard’d give me away.

  35. yankee transplant

    IBTP Camp! Twisty as director! Blamers, both experienced and novice as counselors! Our daughters as campers! Sounds like heaven.

    I get very, very afraid when I hear of stuff like this. It’s like that poisonous Club Libby Lu.

  36. Bruce/Crablaw

    Oh crap. I live immediately next to Glyndon, the hamlet in the northwest suburbs of Baltimore town where this little sad farce will take place. I could probably walk to this little patch of sadness, probably drive by it on the way to pick up the mail from my P.O. Box. The town is a perfect place for this camp, all dolled up mini-historic town that is too cute for common sense.

    Lacrosse is big here. Too bad the girls aren’t learning how to handle a lacrosse stick and throw a friendly elbow instead, the latter being of more use to their survival skill set and self-confidence in life than the reinforcement of both consumerism and beauty sickness. Just as there is a concept of “pornsick” there should be one of “cutesick” for analogous reasons.

  37. MedeaOnCrack

    Camp? First the BlameCon. Wasn’t that supposed to happen this summer?

  38. Cunning Allusionment?

    Without lifting a newton of derision from the spotless shoulders (what shampoo *do* they use there?) of this weird neo-fifties whip-backlash camp, I have to say that I’m still thankful that my mom took me to have my “colors done” when I was wee lad of six or so. I’ve still got the cool fan of color swatches they gave me in a filing cabinet somewhere. That little fan’s broad pallet was a symbol to me throughout my childhood that I could wear pink scarves with nut brown shirts and blue jeans, because I’ve got a fan that says I look good in all those colors. The fan helped me recognize that most of us live our lives wrapped in clothes occupying a relatively narrow portion of the options available to us. Maybe this became an unconscious metaphor that pushed me to spread the fan wide and explore new ideas and new combinations.

    Something I’ve wondered my whole life since then is how much did those fans cost? For some reason (perhaps it’s mammoth insignificance) I’ve never asked my mom. She also got us hot dogs afterwards at a place with a giant hot dog painted on the wall. The hot dog was floating in Lake Michigan off shore from Chicago. Fire-engine boats were using their hoses to launch mustard and ketchup onto the top of the titanic dog. A helicopter lowered a huge pickle. Very exciting, but sadly irrelevant.

  39. Anne

    Holy fuck. This culture never dies.

  40. Jezebella

    This Kamp Sexbot reminds me that my mom sent me to a sort of modeling class at the local department store one summer I was in junior high. We spent a few afternoons “learning to walk,” (learning? to walk?) learning to do manicures, and I don’t remember what else. We had to buy manicure tools and bring a shoebox and decorate it so it was Pretty. I think there might have been some etiquette stuff, too.

    I had totally forgotten about this until just now, and I don’t think it did any real damage nor was it at all useful. On the other hand, it was just a couple of afternoons, not a whole week of Immersion Courses in Femininity. I think Mom mainly wanted to get me out of the house for a while.

    The summer she sent me to sewing lessons was far more useful. I’m really glad I never had to go to one of those summer camps with swimming, canoeing, bullying, no air conditioning, and the endless creation of lanyards and ashtrays. It sounds like sheer hell to me.

    I hope my cousin, who is training her 3-year-old to be a princess diva fairy girly girl, never hears about this Femininity Boot Camp. The child’s grandmother pitched a giant fit last year because the kid got, get this: a toy IRONING BOARD and IRON for Christmas. I was the only person in sympathy with Nona. Everyone else couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

  41. mearl

    Humph. Sexbot Camp my pointed arse.

    Since my parents took no interest in my development, I signed myself up for sea cadets, which was free and in addition to that, paid me to go away to camp in the summertime. Although cadets is funded by and based upon the military, it was a place where everyone had to wear the same uniform; women were officers, kickass gunners and chiefs of everything right up there with the guys; and we spent our time playing music and sports, learning how to sail and navigate, camping and hiking in the BC mountains, serenading old people at old folks’ homes, and learning drill. It was there that, as a young mearl, I learned self-confidence and forged some very strong friendships with both girls and guys from all over Canada. I became a camp staff, where I taught music and drill, travelled around to various places to do parades, and helped younger girls with things like their teenaged suicidal friends and their self-confidence and levels of achievement. I know I sound like a cheesey ad, but I am sentimental as hell about my whole cadets experience. I found it to be fairly genderless as compared with the relations between guys and girls back at my junior high and high school, and it was a place where I saw women in positions of power receiving respect from everybody. You weren’t ALLOWED makeup, earrings, heels, or big poofy hair. Everyone wore boots, everyone had to crawl under the barbed wire in the dirt and the rain, everyone had to work as a team, and everyone had to jump off the 50-foot jetty into the ocean at least twice. It was cool shit. It was also great for low-income people or kids with problem homes (like mine) because we got PAID to escape our family lives, have fun, meet people, learn stuff, and travel for the whole summer. There were a lot of Winnipeg gang members in cadets.

    As for Kamp Sexbot, we should alert Oprah. She could build a few of ‘em in Africa.

  42. EE

    Did anyone notice this gem from the article?

    “featuring instruction on applying makeup, manicures, pedicures and self-defense, and more.”

    One of these things is not like the other, as Sesame Street would say.

  43. MedeaOnCrack

    “She also got us hot dogs afterwards at a place with a giant hot dog painted on the wall. The hot dog was floating in Lake Michigan off shore from Chicago. Fire-engine boats were using their hoses to launch mustard and ketchup onto the top of the titanic dog. A helicopter lowered a huge pickle. Very exciting, but sadly irrelevant.”

    Wonderful. Not at all irrelevant. Is there more? Please.

  44. Patti

    Maybe they’ll learn how to look like Barbie, via MAC.

    http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j170/sarah20906/barbie.jpg

    http://img509.imageshack.us/img509/9215/macbarbie2uo9.jpg

  45. Bansku

    Bruce/Crablaw: I´m thinking PROPAGANDA PAMPHLETS???

  46. dryxi

    I can’t imagine doing this shit in camp. As a kid, I attended “summer camp” at the local day care – while it wasn’t the most exciting camp, I did enjoy my tomboy self playing Mortal Kombat, Sonic, and various other video games, and when we went outside, instead of sitting next to the counselors gossiping or painting my nails, I played wall ball or tag with the guys. Man, I used to so get off on beating guys at their own games!! I absolutely LOVED the 10 years I play soccer, and I still really miss it now. I did competitive swimming, which I didn’t like as much (I knew I should have chosen to quit it and take up track in 7th grade, but well…), but I always got a laugh at the girls who showed up to games or meets with their hair done up and make-up on. It seems as though my friends grew less interested in laughing at those girls, and more interested in emulating them as I grew up. IBTP, and I’m glad I missed the “opportunity” to go to Kamp Sexbot.

  47. dryxi

    My original response is awaiting moderation – does anyone know why all of my comments get stuck there? Perhaps the spamulator doesn’t like my browser? Help would be appreciated.

  48. Trout

    Kanea and Zofia, I thought of “Addams Family Values” too! (Of course, my daughter is twelve, and very much like Wednesday Addams, which makes the idea even more hilarious.)

    God, what a hideous place!!

    What a great post. I’ll show my daughter tomorrow, and I know she’ll get a kick out of it.

  49. Edith

    I managed to be a Girl Scout for 13 years and not go to camp once, although I was jealous of those who’s parents didn’t mind spending money of them for such things. I made myself content by reading books about camp, and you know what, to this day I’m really glad I never had my bra run up on a flagpole or my diary stolen and read on a bullhorn or whatever else kind of crap girls in books about camp do. Christ.

    This camp will be rife with that shit, I bet. Maybe the counselors will egg the girls on. “Shame her, Betsy, shame her into shaving her legs!”

  50. Edith

    “Whose” not “who’s.” God whatever, I just wrote a 15-page paper for an English class, I don’t have to use correct grammar for at least a day. IBTP.

  51. Frigga's Own

    My mother gave me a few of those unhelpful books on posture, makeup, grooming and whatever the frick else when I was in my early teens. While I was looking in the mirror the other day I thought to myself “If all those books indicated that women should pluck their brows to acchieve a natural arch, doesn’t that mean that the desired arch cannot truly be called natural?” Unfortunately this thought had come moments after I’d waxed my own brows.

    I got to ride a horse just once at camp. Mostly camp involved walking in the woods, archery, lanyard, canoing, swimming, fishing and firebuilding. Perhaps I never got to use the archery skills in any practical manner, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun than learning to apply eyeliner. Of course, it wasn’t all constructive, I remember that I was on the “color guard” for one summer, with all the nationalistic garbage that comes with handling a piece of cloth as if it were a holy relic.

  52. Antares

    Camp Cuervo is _ON._ Count me in.

  53. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Hey, I was a Fat Kid. I’d rather’ve stuck needles in my eyes than attend summer camp. I mostly spent my summers swimming, gardening and reading. My mom didn’t believe in wasting the whole summer lolling around in front of the tv.

    Ms. Bewilderness, I studied the art of Keypunch in high school. My amazing facility with a keypad earned me a job encoding checks at a bank for $3.98 an hour. But they also paid my way through college (work full time, 12 credits per quarter, maintain a high GPA) because my dad would only spring for a wedding, in which I had no interest whatsofuckingever.

  54. CannibalFemme

    Last year I volunteered at a NASCO camp, and had a high old time. I plan to do it again next year. Best camp ever:

    http://tinyurl.com/2gokq4

    It was really nice, for a change, to feel a sense of pride in being a member of the human race, which is where I was at by the end.

    I don’t imagine the participants at Sugar & Spice will have that opportunity. Nor should they, given the hornet’s nest they’ll be sticking their collective heads into.

  55. Valerie

    “What girls want to learn?” When I was a teenager what I wanted to learn was how to use hammers, drills, saws etc so that I had some basic tool skills. Girls weren’t allowed in shop classes then.

    I also wanted to learn horseback riding and play volleyball and softball.

    I had no interest in my colors or nail polish, or how to apply makeup. Still don’t (and my skin thanks me for that).

    How frightening to see yet another woman who has not only sold herself out, but is now helping other sell-outs sell out their daughters.

  56. Wendy

    In a few years, you and Rotel can break into that camp, spreading around words of wisdom and IBTP pamphlets. Or something like that.

  57. NickM

    NASCO looks like a really great organization. Thanks for posting the link.

  58. zofia

    “What girls want to learn?” When I was a teenager what I wanted to learn was how to use hammers, drills, saws etc so that I had some basic tool skills. Girls weren’t allowed in shop classes then.

    I petitioned and was granted admission to shop class. I was the only girl and the crusty shop teacher was livid. After about a month of taking bullshit off the dudes (with no help from the teacher) one of them created a plexiglass (acrylic) paddle into which holes were drilled. One day, as I was sanding my frickin cutting board, two guys came up from behind and grabbed me and held my arms while the other paddled me as “punishment” for fucking up their class. The teacher, retreated into his office and closed the door. When they let me go, I grabbed the damn cutting board and started swinging it like Billie Jean King. I was suspended for two days and kicked out of shop class.

  59. Stroll

    It’s hard to believe that even those who are not as aware of the patriarchy as the reader of IBTP can’t see how this will do anything but “foster a positive attitude and self-image” in girls.

    Zofia, I love that scene too.

  60. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Patty, that about makes me want to heave. In our house there was a Barbie fatwah because my mother deemed her inappropriate. When I was a wee one I thought this horribly unfair, but now I bless my mother’s memory for it. She was ahead of her time in so many ways.

  61. Hawise

    Frigga’s Own, please do not lump posture in with make-up et al. My mother made us learn proper posture to prevent bone strain, muscle stress and to ensure proper breathing. Good posture makes it possible to do more things longer. My mother was of the belief that if they only taught posture and ‘what a center of balance does’ in gym that we would be well-prepared and I have thanked her as I walked many a muddy trail thereafter.
    The Sugar and Spice camp had a different name when I was a girl- it was called a sleepover and it was free.

  62. CannibalFemme

    Ohhh, Zofia. See, this is why I’m utterly stunned that there are people around me who can ask me, with a straight face, “why are you so angry?”

    I had a very similar experience when I joined the wrestling team in my short stint at high school. Ugh. IBTP.

  63. vera

    We had compulsory “home economics” in my junior high school, too. I went to two of the science teachers and begged them to let me take an extra science class instead, but they refused. They told me that the only kids who could take an extra science class were the ones who were failing regular science, and since I was doing well in science, I had to take home ec. Talk about your patriarchal subtext!

  64. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    My behavior in “home economics” class caused my teacher to lay her head on the desk and weep more than once, she said with pride.

    I also got suspended for bopping a boy in the head with my art bag. (The watercolor tin left a very fetching dent in his forehead, I must say.) He had the temerity to squeeze one of my just-sprouted boobs.

    My career in blaming really took off in junior high.

  65. Random Lurker

    One of the reasons I love this blog is that it provides explanations for behaviour I consider incomprehensible. For instance, at every ren faire I’ve been to its always men and a tiny handful of women doing the swordplay, archery, grappling, horseback riding and other fun athletic stuff. Most of the women are sitting around in pretty pretty dresses looking pretty. I always wondered why someone would put on 50 lbs of skirts, corsetry, and makeup just to sit around in sweltering, mosquito infested weather. Now I know and IBTP.

  66. Bird

    It’s times like this that I’m glad I went to a school for bright kids that had no such things as shop or home economics in the curriculum. We got computers, phys. ed., art and drama for our “non-core” subjects, no choices. Then I went to a fine and performing arts school for high school, and the closest thing to shop class was the theatre tech program.

    That high school was the delight of my teen years. After being the weird artsy chick all through junior high, discovering an entire educational facility full of people like me was a considerable relief.

  67. Joanna

    Zofia, how horrible! I also petitioned to get out of Home Ec (compulsory femininity training) in Jr. High, but my petition was DEEnied. (My public school in San Francisco did not yet allow girls to wear pants, and we were not allowed to mingle with the boys on the playground). Instead, I instructed in the housewifely arts: how to set a table, coordinate colors, make pigs in a blanket (and serve them to the male gym teachers!). I got a D- on sewing my apron. I regret to say that I took the sullen passive approach, rather than driving my teacher to tears.

    I’m thrilled to say that my 12 year old daughter told me yesterday that her sex-ed teacher (named Chica!) is teaching the kids about the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive communication (I saw her homework) and about assertive ways to respond to sexism. “Mom, Chica’s a feminist like you” she told me.

  68. MedeaOnCrack

    The world needs more Chica. I don’t think anyone needs “home ec” but we all eat, and I’m sick of being told how to do it by bombastic male assholes called CHEFS. I can make anything from so into scratch it’s still mooing when I start; and that saves a lot of money, which as you know, women don’t have too much of on accounta we earn about 50 cents on the male dollar. So you know, put down home ec but don’t put down learning to cook well. I regret not having learned more about mechanics (cars), pku’s (my rig), wiring, plumbing and carpentry. In many ways I’m a woman of my generation but I’m making up for it now. There’s no rocking chair here.

  69. Random Lurker

    Home ec is one of those things that sounds like a good idea. Every kid would be better off entering adulthood knowing how to cook, mend clothes, fix wobbly tables, unstop toilets, shop for a good plumber and electrician, know their basic rights as a renter, know how a mortgage works, how to winterize to save on heating bills, and tricks for minimizing water bills. You know, all the economics and money-saving tricks of having a home. Why are kids being taught housewifery instead of practical skills?

  70. Catherine Martell

    Not only a great title for a book on home economics, but a fun read, too, if you can track down a copy:
    http://www.abebooks.co.uk/search/sortby/3/an/Attar /tn/ Wasting

    The term “home economics” and its forerunner, “domestic science”, are attempts to persuade bright-seeming li’l ladies that cooking and cleaning and needlework are subjects worthy of their attention.

    I’m not opposed to teaching useful skills, but I am opposed to dressing them up like academic subjects so that the patriarchy may sneak in among vulnerable young girls like a bunch of Greeks in a horse. If you had a proper class called something like “Chef Training”, dedicated to useful things like the basics of sous cheffery, butchery, patisserie etc, it might be very worthwhile – and would probably be dominated by boys.

  71. MedeaOnCrack

    Cooking and sewing, how to grow wire and build something; basic skills men and women can benefit from knowing something about. I don’t mean making a career out of them unless that’s what one wants but just knowing the basics. Women pay so much for these things that men do, who have half our educcation but make two or three times what we do. Being self-sufficient isn’t limited to womeen. I have a relative who bought an old rusted out sloop, rebuilt it and re-rigged the masts, put in radar and electronics, sewed the sails and did the upholstery. He can cook too, which he does when he charter sails the tourists. That’s the life I wanted. Blame.

  72. LMYC

    RL, I feel the same way about the damned renfaire. I thought they were cool when they symbolized “making stuff,” but the faires themselves are for fuckwads who long for the goode olde dayes when men were men and women were property and shut up and knew their place. I was interested while I was maknig clothes (because making stuff out of either yarn, lumber, or legos has always been the short path to my brain) and lost interest the second I had to mingle with disgusting males.

    Oh, but I was hanging with the Wrong Guys in the renfaire because they are All Such Gentlemen! *barf* When multiple men come up to you apropos of nothing out of nowhere and threaten to playfully and cutely rape you, it’s clear that it’s not my filters that are to blame for this.

    I still go to the things — in street clothing — because there’s pretty stuff there to get for my mom. There’s a glassblower who makes really pretty stuff, and I love spoiling my mom nowdays. But I ain’t pinching my stick-figure ass in half with a corset again, not in the middle of a rec area full of rapists in training, and most especially not where I can chow down on artichoke hearts, gyros, and frozen cheesecake on a stick. Fuck having a 22″ waist; I can’t eat a piece of frozen chocolate-dipped cheesecake in a corset.

  73. MedeaOnCrack

    So many typos so little patience with the delay edit.

  74. MedeaOnCrack

    Ok here it is. ABE didn’t want me to know:

    http://tinyurl.com/27mj73

    Wasting Time
    Sarah Harris

    Book Description
    ’A brave attempt to come clean about the way that many young women feel now about the career/motherhood/domesticity dilemma. Light, funny and very readable. The conclusions to be drawn about the complex expectations and desires of modern life are potent. An impressive and entertaining debut, Wasting Time will strike a frightening chord with anyone who has found herself in the office at 9 o’clock on a Friday night yearning for the life her mother had.’ Times {????} 1998’s answer to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Wasting Time is a pre-requisite for every thirty-something. It’s a hilarious and perceptive account of three very different women obsessed with relationships, careers and working wardrobes. A well-crafted debut from a writer with a razor-sharp wit and a power of observation that’s spot-on.’ ‘Book of the Month’, Sunday Post

    About the Author

    Sarah Harris was born in 1967 and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1988. She has worked as an assistant producer on BBC Television’s ‘Newsnight’ and as a press officer for the Liberal Democrats. She is the writer of two novels, Wasting Time and Closure. Her third novel, ‘The Third Time He Left Me’, is published by HarperCollins in the autumn. She now writes full-time and lives in London.

  75. Valkyrie

    Ah, high school memories. My friend and I also petitioned and were the first girls allowed in auto shop class. Hoping to learn something useful like how to change a tire we were instead put to work cleaning pistons all semester while the boys dismantled and rebuilt engines.

    Oh, and on career day the boys went to the gym and had 25 booths to choose from. The girls had three classrooms. Nurse. Stewardess. Teacher.

    This was in my lifetime. IBTP!

  76. Niki

    Ah yes, the 12-15 year old femme fatales. Because girls are so damned sensuous and sure of themselves at that age, rawr! Ok maybe not.

    I went to summer camp every year from 9 – 15 which typically involved getting filthy, swimming a lot, stomping around in the woods and making out with other campers, in no particular order. There was no gender bias, as far as I remember – everyone got archery, everyone got dirtball, etc. It was like heaven for me & my brother, with the highest authority form being somewhere in their mid-20′s. My parents would go to Tahoe or Reno or whathaveyou and send us vague postcards. We would call them at the end of the second week and beg for the whole month and they would oblidge. Everyone was happy.

  77. Trout

    A few years after I left, my Jr High School decided that both boys and girls would take both shop classes and home economics. It just seems obvious, doesn’t it? (And given that at 43 I can only cook about five dishes, I wish they’d made the change earlier.)

  78. Pontiste

    Sniper said: When I was 12 I wanted to read, eat peaches and be left the hell alone for the summer.

    Yes! Me, too. However, my mom had other plans, and somehow managed to come up, for far too many years, with a comprehensive listing of all the Vacation Bible Schools within walking distance (which were scheduled suspiciously consecutively—interdenominational collusion?). I would have been far happier had it been just me, the back yard, and the public library.

  79. Bird

    I lucked into spending a few summers in my teenage years at “Summer Youth University” at the University of Alberta. You got to go to classes on the university campus taught mostly by grad students. So I got to do things like play with bones in the anthropology labs, take part in moot courts as part of my law class, and all sorts of other interesting things—and nobody expected you to think inside any of the standard boxes like you did in high school classes.

    Between that and choir/orchestra camps and summer theatre programs, summer was the best part of my high school education.

  80. S-kat

    Where I grew up (Portland, OR) all sixth grades attend a camp-thingy they call “Outdoor school” for one week of the school year. I had the pleasure of being a junior counselor there in my high school days during the early 90′s.

    The rules are: No make up, No perfume, No hairspray and nobody gets a shower for the five days they are there. This was what prompted me to stop shaving. Once I realized what a chore it was, I was glad to drop it from my schedule. Those sixth-grade girls, however, had quite a few things to say about it. The hairspray, especially, was a big deal. They just could NOT live without it. Boo-hoo!

    I like to think at least some of them realized how nice it was to be able to ditch that crap for the week, but probably most of them were thrilled to return home to blusher and 90210.

    Oddly, I don’t remember that being an issue for me when I attended as a sixth grader myself.

  81. Catherine Martell

    Apologies, MedeaOnCrack. I meant:

    Dena Attar
    Wasting Girls’ Time: the history and politics of home economics
    (London: Virago, 1990)

    But the Sarah Harris book sounds great too.

    And I need to get the hang of tinyurl.

  82. MedeaOnCrack

    Nothing like that came on up the ABE link. I was winging it. So, my apologies to you.

  83. legallyblondeez

    I went to, then worked at, a great liberal co-ed Lutheran camp that changed my life (I loved the lack of actual adult authority too–I was the 22-y.o. assistant director!). No gender role crap; lots of amazing, strong female role models; and all the sports, arts & crafts, and philosophy I could handle.

    Kamp Sexbot sounds like the time my Girl Scout leader brought in the Mary Kay rep to teach us how to “take care of,” a.k.a. exfoliate and then plaster over, our skin. When my parents found out about that they staged a coup of the troop! Dad taught first aid and Mom helped us make our own stationery so we could write home from the camping trip they were planning for us. The skincare regimen on the camping trip was limited to sunscreen, bug spray, and bar soap. My mother soundly and publicly chastised the leader for teaching self-hatred and mindless consumerism to her daughters when Scouts was supposed to be an organization that teaches self-reliance and community service.

  84. Spit The Dummy

    Random Lurker said: Home ec is one of those things that sounds like a good idea. Every kid would be better off entering adulthood knowing how to cook

    I’m happy to report that at my 12 year old son’s school they’re teaching him the basics of cooking a healthy meal, and to prove it he cooked dinner last night for us – beef stir fry with vegetables and noodles. I don’t know which emotion reigned supreme: pride that he actually offered to do it and did such a good job, or relief that I got a night off! He enjoys it so much he tells me he wants to take it as an elective later this year. For mother’s day this weekend he tells me his gift is going to be to do all the cooking for me all day – I’m looking forward to it!

  85. Errihu

    I think I must have been lucky, or simply from a different generation, but in my junior high both Home Ec and Shop class were mandatory for both genders. Home Ec actually HAD an economic component in which we were taugh about household budgeting and provisioning, both boys and girls. And we all learned to sew, cook, plane a board, do ceramics, draft, etc. Although my junior high experience was on the whole a horrible disaster, Home Ec and Shop were great.

    I got the traditional summer camp with archery, obstacle courses, canoeing, hokey arts and crafts involving acrylic paint and popsicle sticks, sing alongs, etc.. If someone had tried to send me to something like a sugar and spice camp, I would have died. I was much more comfortable making my own lean-to in the freezing rain out of plastic sheeting.

  86. Errihu

    Oh, but my mom did send me to a 2 day workshop held by a local esthetician who taught a handful of us junior high girls how to apply makeup and do our hair. Most of the girls were thrilled to be there. I was more or less indifferent. I hate makeup, it makes my face itch and I don’t feel I need to put on a mask to go out in public. But I guess I know how to apply it, more or less. It’s a skill I could probably safely live without.

  87. RadFemHedonist

    Kamp Sexbot sounds like the time my Girl Scout leader brought in the Mary Kay rep to teach us how to “take care of,” a.k.a. exfoliate and then plaster over, our skin. When my parents found out about that they staged a coup of the troop! Dad taught first aid and Mom helped us make our own stationery so we could write home from the camping trip they were planning for us. The skincare regimen on the camping trip was limited to sunscreen, bug spray, and bar soap. My mother soundly and publicly chastised the leader for teaching self-hatred and mindless consumerism to her daughters when Scouts was supposed to be an organization that teaches self-reliance and community service.

    This is appalling, but I would like to say that actually knowing how to care for your skin, not for looks but basically because spots are uncomfortable, painful even on occasion is worthwhile. Of course that has nothing to do with the crap they are teaching at these camps. As a related note about beauty n all that crap I had my hair cut yesterday because I wanted it to take less time to brush, it was getting to waist level, it is now shoulder length, as for why I didn’t go bald, that’s because it would be cold in the winter, and less protection from sunburn in the summer. It was a really good decision, I’m finding it much easier to take care of. I’ve barely looked in the mirror as of yet, cause it doesn’t matter what I see.

  88. Pontiste

    S-kat, I loved Outdoor School! Every school should have Outdoor School. We got to pan for magnetite, make plaster casts of animal tracks, meet an albino skunk, and cook hamburgers on hobo stoves (the patties had a certain je ne sais quoi from the coating of pine needles that accumulated during their frequent tumbles off the coffee can-cum-grill), and, and, uh, lots of other neat stuff (right up there with Navy Pier hotdog freighter mural fun). It was so fun. I hope they still do it (the Outdoor School program, that is). I’m not in Portland anymore, but I check in on it, physically and mostly virtually, every once in a while, just to see how it’s doing. More communities should encourage this kind of thing. (The only thing I didn’t really care for about Outdoor School was the whole sort of weird table manners training boot camp in the dining hall. Far, far better than makeup application lessons/sales pitches/sexbot training, though. Ugh.)

  89. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    HM. I grew up in Minnesota, where the rules are (or were?) different. The place where “the women are strong, and the men are good-looking” breeds women who can skin their own deer.

    Outdoor school was what we usually did for our field trips. We went on loooonnnng canoe trips. Basically they dropped us off at the Falls and we had to row ourselves home. It took three days.

    We planted trees and corn, or picked apples. We learned orienteering (compass), animal tracking, bird identification, what to eat if you get stranded in the woods someday, which mushrooms were poisonous, etc.

    I was in the sixth grade they sent us to conservation camp IN THE WINTER. Remember: We’re talking MINNESOTA winter. They gave us ice picks and sent us on walks to not-exactly-safe places. Come to think of it, they probably don’t do this any due to insurance/liability considerations, but I think my parents just had to sign a waiver back then.

    We tracked wolves at midnight. We learned how to survive a night in the woods without freezing to death. During our last afternoon there they separated us into groups of five and sent us deep into the woods caring a tin pail, a bunch of dried lipton soup, and ONE MATCH. It was to be our lunch. If we couldn’t build a fire with ONE MATCH we didn’t get lunch!

    My friend and I were the first two girls to take shop class in the history of our school. I learned woodworking, plastics, metalworking and electronics. The only thing I remember from our (mandatory) home ec class was the chocolate chip cookies.

    It’s pretty ironic that I graduated from the College of Home Economics, then, isn’t it? No, seriously. Home Ec! It’s not like it used to be. Women AND men coming out of food science or marketing to to work for Cargill, GE, Pillsbury, etc., and are making six figures in no time flat. The interior designers go on to study architecture and design homes for the differently-abled, the textiles folks invent things like bullet-proof vests. Family studies folks (like me) get thrown into graduate level systems theory classes, compete for research grants, can RA/TA as undergrads, and sometimes are published as undergrads. If they move on to grad school, Family Social Scientists (BS degree, not BA) end up as psychiatrists, counselors, etc.

    I entered the high school not knowing how to cook/sew, and I LEFT college STILL not knowing how. And guys still say “HPS graduated with a degree in Fried Rice.”

  90. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Wow, that was long. Sorry!

  91. hipparchia

    makes me glad i grew up in texas, where even girls are expected to learn to ride, shoot, set stuff on fire and tell scary stories. then again, it almost makes me wish i’d been sent to makeup camp: i had a chemistry set too as a kid and there are some really cool chemicals in them thar cosmetics.

  92. the opoponax

    Old post, but I thought I’d share –

    I usually went to academic summer camps, but one year I picked theatre camp, where everyone, regardless of genetalia, was required to take a makeup class (in addition to many other things, obviously).

    Which entailed learning to create scars, black eyes, bruising, wrinkles & other “old age” stuff, etc. I went back to junior high freaking everyone out because with a couple different shades of eyeliner pencil and some fake blood from the halloween shop I could create the appearance of a slit wrist. The hilarious thing is that it’s like riding a bike, really. I STILL occasionally have to do makeup on short & student film projects (usually because i’m the only female crewmember, blech), and it looks surprisingly realistic. I’d love to take a course in the more technical liquid latex sci fi stuff…

  1. Why I keep a blog at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] Come for the blaming, stay for the trippy childhood idylls. She also got us hot dogs afterwards at a place with a giant hot dog painted on the wall. The hot dog was floating in Lake Michigan off shore from Chicago. Fire-engine boats were using their hoses to launch mustard and ketchup onto the top of the titanic dog. A helicopter lowered a huge pickle. Very exciting, but sadly irrelevant. — Cunning Allusionment? [...]

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