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Problematicity

Moved here from Captain Awkward. Somewhere down in the comments I got all confused because a little spat about problematicness arose, about single women possibly being jealous and/or bitter. It took me a while to catch up with what was actually going on. The we is all about the commentariat over there.


I think…. okay, I think that generally when we’re gonna talk about problematic things, we’ve got to talk about them in generalities and not specifics, unless the specifics we are faced with are clearly problematic. And when the specifics we are faced with are problematic, if we’re going to call them out, we need to call them out in detail, preferably with compassion although I personally would accept clever snark. (note:  it should be clever!)

I say this because problematic is a thing that is all about The Context and the Culture and all that stuff that has clever jargon I can’t remember because it’s been too long since someone summarized judith butler at me. So if we’re going to be all about how single women being jealous and bitter is problematic, we’re talking about cultures and tropes and shit like that.

At Captain Awkward, we are talking about specific people in specific situations, and so I think it is unhelpful to get into abstract concepts or jump on specific language and just stop there. It’s not about Being Right, here, it’s about Being Helpful. I think.

But if someone’s Being Problematic Right Here, then it would be okay to talk about that specific incident, including how it fits within the Greater World of Problematic Shit, but always being anchored in what’s happening here.

At least in spaces like the Captain’s blog, whose owner can obviously disagree with me.


As for the bitterness and jealousy question, I think that yes, in fact, it is a loaded concept when speaking of single women, who are socially valued according to the men in their lives, and who are expected to feel those things when they are unmarried at an advanced age. Where advanced is, depending on who’s talking, anywhere from 21 to 35 or so. Pretty much everyone seems to understand that women who are still single at 35 are suspect.*

In that CA post, the letter writer didn’t use the words bitter or jealous, so that language came from the Captain. However, upon investigation, I think it is appropriate to use those words to describe the behavior of the LW’s friend. Especially since JenniferP is saying “It is okay to feel bitter or jealous, and it happens, but it is not cool to get that emotional yuk all over your friends.” We don’t know how the friend would describe her feelings, but we do know how someone describes her actions.

White Rabbit reasonably posted that hey, you can be single and grumpy about it and not be jealous and bitter. She also pointed out that she doesn’t act like the LW’s friend, so… it’s kind of a point of info, and not any big thing.

Since everyone who’s saying anything specific about jealousy, bitterness, or singleness is saying generally reasonable things, I think that the source of the grumpy is all about the idea of “problematic” and what does it mean.

Thus, my analysis above. **

I conclude that Sarah is the one who went most astray in that commenting section. The big problem with her posts is the lack of stuff. I mean, yeah, there might be something problematic with an advice writer reaching for jealous and bitter as words to describe an unhappily single woman. That might be interesting! But she didn’t really talk about that, I’m just guessing that it’s what she meant. I’m still not sure why she thought JenniferP was trying to insult her commentariat.

*I got married for the first time at 36. I’m in generality-space in that paragraph.

** Everything since the previous asterisk is in specificity-space. See the difference?


White Rabbit wants to talk about problematicness! So I invite everyone over here to talk about it. Go nuts.

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On the Topic of Bras

Captain Awkward has a post from a young lady whose mother is awful to her about her weight. She mentions being busty, and Sweet Machine offers advice that includes advice to go get fitted and get a new bra and it will make everything better.

This is the off-topic comment I didn’t post:

Fellow Chest Of Doom here. I kind of hate it when everyone is like “Go get fitted! Go to Intimacy, they’re awesome!” Bras should fit against your chest wall in the middle, you know, and if they don’t you’ve got the wrong bra.

I went and got fitted. I went to Intimacy. They only have underwire! They didn’t have many things in my size. The things they had hurt. Even more annoying, the bra they put me in and swore up and down was the right size? It was too small for my big boob, and I overfilleth the cup. The line that seemed most likely to be most comfortable did not go up to my size.

They said, look, it takes a while to get used to an underwire. Take this bra that we swear up and down is your size, NO REALLY, and wear it for a couple of weeks. You’ll love it.

I wore it home. I tried to wear it. It hurt! It kept hurting! It didn’t sit flat against my chest wall, because my boobs just don’t work like that! Apparently, some boobs are like that and no bra will fit against the chest wall in front. So the wire pokes out in front, and digs more in the bottom. This was the bra that was the best fit? Seriously? $70 to walk around in pain and aggravation until, I dunno, I get underboob callouses?

OTOH, they did confirm that my band size was correct. And for all that they swore the number of the bra was meaningless, the cup size was useful information. (OMG I am a lot bigger than I thought) and gave me something to try from other shops.

I stopped at a bra store and tried all their big bras. All of them ugly, and none of them fit. I got on the internet that made the previous Single Bra That Fit Me (that didn’t go up to my new size) and found a new Single Bra That Fits Me. It even only mostly fits me. I overfilleth. And it’s *padded*. Like I need extra there? And do you have any idea how few size H bras don’t have underwires? I live in terror of the day they cancel or change this line of bras.

EVEN WORSE, once I had a properly fitted bra, half my shirts stopped fitting. Because now I was properly supported, you see! Not only do buttoned shirts gap, but t-shirts rose like an inch in the front. There goes all those cute fitted shirts. I feel unstable on stairs because I can’t see my feet!

Right. Rant over, because this is not all about me. Mostly I wanted to put it here so that others can know that actually, a newly fitted bra might not change your life. It’s still helpful, generally speaking, but it might not be a game-changer.

What is a game-changer, in my world, is learning to love the shape you are and learning to dress for your shape and your style. I used to wear dark crew-neck t-shirts and jeans. I went through a skirt phase, and now I wear them sometimes. Now I wear v-neck or scoop-neck shirts in bright colors, with jeans or a skirt, and with shawls. I can move comfortably, I read socially as idiosyncratically feminine, and I feel generally pretty. A few years back I gave up on feeling body-shame and spend most of my summer in tank tops with my bra showing (except at work).

Dressing oneself is incredibly hard for a lot of people, especially those who do not conform to Standards. Even the outliers have standards, because manufacturers have to make enough units to make a profit. Racks my size are uncommon, but they still have a market; racks my shape? Apparently, there’s no market for that.

I do not believe that it is impossible to construct a bra that supports my breasts, fits flush against my chest, and does not create spillage. However, at this time, it is practicably impossible for me to find it.