A League Of Their Own is part of a cadre of movies that made up the definitely-feminist, almost-lesbian boom of the early ’90s, alongside Thelma & Louise, Tank Girl, and Fried Green Tomatoes. A League Of Their Own is to a particular type of women what The Shawshank Redemption is to a particular type of man — if it’s on TV, we’re going to drop whatever in order to watch it to the end, and it’s almost always on TV.
Rather like Thelma & Louise, Tank Girl, and Fried Green Tomatoes, A League Of Their Own looks like a movie that was filmed in a separatist lesbian paradise, then four days before wide release, someone told the producers to try to make every female character plausibly straight. The compulsory heterosexuality is a sloppy afterthought — Rosie O’Donnell gets a boyfriend back home, Geena Davis pines after a distant husband, Madonna gets to dance with a few drunk soldiers, and everyone prayed that would be enough. No one bothered to do anything about Lori Petty’s character; it was too late to try.
There are certain phrases — “confirmed bachelor,” “keeps to herself,” “career woman,” “eccentric gentleman,” “as single as they come” — that connote queer plausible deniability; to a straight person they might just refer to someone a bit odd, but to the right listener it’s the same as screaming “GAY GAY GAY.”
Lori Petty’s Kit is all ears and elbows and mud-streaked determination and she’s GAY GAY GAY, and that’s marvelous. Remember how she gets announced on the field?
“Then there’s pretty Dottie Henson, who plays like Gehrig, and looks like Garbo. Uh-uh, fellas, keep your mitts to yourself; she’s married. And there’s her kid sister Kit, who’s as single as they come.”
My friend M is a virologist who works for a biotech firm where it’s their job to tend the robots. Last fall they completed FemSexNYC, “a sexuality workshop rooted in an anti-oppression framework for all gender identities.” Needless to say, we talk a lot about the boundaries between technology and humans and about sensuality and sexuality. Recently, we spoke by phone about robotics and erotics.
Can you give a baseline and just talk a little about the work you’ve been doing and, broadly, what your experience has been?
Right now I work in this production facility in the research division of a larger [biotech] company. What that means is that we’re responsible for doing the processing of samples for the entire company’s model development program. So we get tons of tail clippings, embryos, whatever–little bits of [mouse] tissue that are usually given to us with no explanation. And it’s my responsibility to extract all the DNA from them, the set of potential information from samples that correspond to particular mice, and to provide that to the researchers who do the actual analysis to figure out if the little experiments that we’ve run to fuck with their genomes have in fact fucked with them in the proper way, or fucked with them too much, or not fucked enough.
It’s my responsibility to ensure that all the extraction of the DNA is done properly, and because we do this for a scary amount of mice on a daily basis, it can’t be done by a single person, and so I work mostly with these robotic–they’re basically like robotic handlers. And so they do a lot of processes in parallel–it’s very funny, they do a lot of the work that I did for my thesis, and spent a year and a half developing, and they do that unthinkingly, repeatedly, if need be dozens of times a day for hundreds of samples.
What you’re describing to me sounds like old-fashioned factory labor.
* Electric clippers, full-size or of the “personal area” variety
* Mirrors, lots of them
* A lot of time. More than that. Like, eleven times as long as that.
* Absolute solitude
* 2-8 cups of tea, depending on how many times you repeat step 4
So you’ve seen pictures of Natalie Dormer on the set of The Hunger Games on Tumblr, and you don’t have a full set of tactical gear but you’re pretty sure you can at least rock the hair. Good, you’re with me. Let’s get started.
1. Prepare your space. Lay a towel on the floor, remove all objects from the vanity that you don’t want covered in hair shrapnel, and put on a buttondown flannel which can be whisked off directly into the laundry at the end of this process. You know which towel and shirt these are. They live on the bottom shelf and remind you of every hair experiment you’ve ever undertaken, from the time you soaked your head in laundry bleach with Darla when you were eleven until now, when shaving just one side of your head suddenly seemed like a good idea.
Lindsey Palka’s previous work for The Toast can be found here. This post was brought to you by Caitlin.
If you’ve spent any time at all perusing antique jewelry sales or online estate auctions, you’ve probably stumbled across—and been creeped out by—some Victorian hair jewelry. But come back! Don’t be creeped out. It’s not creepy at all—it’s actually an incredibly interesting type of jewelry that teaches us a lot about the way Victorian women understood love, family, and death.
Today we see hair as a slightly gross bit of personal ephemera—no one wants to find a hair in their food, and to find a lock of hair somewhere borders on horrifying. Victorians tended to view hair much more sentimentally, though. Women traditionally grew their hair their whole lives, and much religious and popular rhetoric focused on it being a woman’s “crowning glory” and her beauty. Young girls typically wore their hair loose or in braids and began to pin it up in their mid or late teens, as a signifier of reaching maturity and adulthood. Adult and married women generally wore their hair pinned up always, sometimes in quite elaborate hairdos, with few exceptions. Not to be ignored, men in the late Victorian period began to wear their hair in slicked-over styles requiring the use of oils and creams like the heavily fragrant Macassar oil to give the popular “wet look.” (Fun fact: Antimacassars, the doilies or embroidered cloths that rest on the backs of armchairs or sofas in fussy B&Bs and period homes, were originally intended to prevent men from staining the backs of upholstered furniture with their oily hairdos—hence “anti-Macassar [oil].”. The next time you see an antimacassar, you are seeing a relic of a long-antiquated men’s hairstyle.)
Oh, there is a site dedicated entirely to reviewing works (“from classic works of art to absentminded doodles”) that have entered the public domain, and I have only just found out about it this very minute.