Thursday, January 03, 2008

A couple of stories prompting a quick post at lunch...

Via Echidne and Mighty Ponygirl, two stories.

At first glance, this Matthew Yglesias story, and this Japundit blog post probably don't really seem to have all that much in common. The former is a very brief story about hockey, and how Yglesias would prefer if there were "ice girls"- the hockey version of cheerleaders. The later is about how a taxi service in Japan that tried to provide special service to people who have mobility problems has been forced to close doors because too many without disabilities were trying to take advantage of the service.

And yet, there's some overlap there.

It's not completely there in the stories themselves- although that's rather clearly the point of the Yglesias post. The story about the taxi service is actually a lot sadder than this Canned Dogs post makes it sound. I agree with MP's take, pretty much completely. Here's a taxi service that is trying to make it easier for people who have a hard time moving to actually get out into the world by making sure that there's an extra person to help. As an idea, having a taxi service that supplies caregivers for people with mobility problems is a really good idea. That there's a focus on maintaining a sense of equality between the rider and the caregiver, instead of the former feeling dependent on the later, is even better. As Keiji Endo- president of the company that ran the service- described the purpose behind the service:

We wanted to be able to give the disabled a taxi service that they could use in a light-hearted manner, in much the same way as they’d ride around in a go-kart at an amusement park. With carers and those being cared for, there’s always a tendency for a relationship of dependency to build up. We wanted the disabled to be able to use the car without any fuss, so that’s why we got the maids in to do the job.

And yet, there's a flaw in the plan.

It's that always looming "sexing up" of a thing. That assumption that X is always better if you add a little T&A. The assumption that anything is better if you just add a little XX to it.

It's the designing of things with stereotypical "straight guy" in mind.

In the case of the Yglesias post, it's the idea that hockey would benefit from scantily clad women. With the taxi service, it's the idea that riders would be more comfortable with a woman dressed as a maid. And, of course, the reactions that people have to those ideas, too.

It's not a call for cheerleaders, which could include men, too. It's a call for women's bodies. It's not a service that provides a companion who has been instructed to be casual and entertaining instead of formal. It's a service that provides women dressed as maids.

The really unfortunate part is that theh taxi service is an otherwise great idea- It is a good service to provide reliable transportation to people who have trouble getting around, and I'm sure that there's a market for a wheelchair accessible van with a driver and a caregiver who is friendly and conversational. It's fact that their model of a person with disabilities is pretty obviously straight and male that creates problems.

The other overlap is exactly what Echidna is talking about- our words (and actions) say more about us and our attitudes than we necessarily mean. Yglesias's post was, as Echidna put it "some trivial entertainment", and the press release from Keiji Endo was describing the goal of the service. But, both of them said a lot more about their intended audiences than they may have realized.

Not just "hockey fans" or "the disabled" as I suspect they'd have said if you asked.


Pai said...

Seeing as how the 'maid outfit' is basically a fetish costume in Japan, it's just as tacky if a service for disabled people here had helpers dressed as 'naughty schoolgirls' on staff. Its just tasteless.

Sea and Sky said...

Absolutely! Often the subtext remains hidden, even though it might be the "guiding force".

As a feminist man, I've been searching for other feminist men's blogs, and haven't found many. I am very glad to have found yours. You have a great blog going!