Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Double X, John Currin, and Slate.com: A Feminist Triumvirate?


I’m pretty sensitive to the process of naming.

When deciding on what to call my middle daughter, for instance, I tried out a number of samples at my local Starbucks. The barista would write my daily “name” on the cup (steamed milk, by the way, for the pregnancy police out there) and call it out loudly when my drink was ready.

When I was well into my ninth month, I’m sure that the staff thought that the very pregnant woman with at least sixty different names for herself was a little wacko, but I did get a feel for how some of our more literary baby names would be accepted (would be pronounced! or spelled!!) out in the world. (Alas, my beloved “Honor” came back to me on my cup as “Honer,” pronounced “Hoe-ner.” Sigh.)

Today I read about the launch of a new Web magazine for women, published by the Slate Group (as in Slate.com). It grew out of a blog called The XX Factor, whose contributors include women who wrote for Slate as well as other female writers.

As a name, The XX Factor (which gives a nod to women’s two X chromosomes) works well enough for me. The sound of “X” before “Factor” of course conjures up an image of Max Factor cosmetics; the “F” following the “X” invokes “The X Files,” but those two buried cultural references seem innocuous enough.

But check out the name for the new Web magazine: Double X.

Sure, it’s a snappier reference to women’s double X chromosomes, but this purportedly feminist magazine's name also invokes a fantastic bra cup size: Double D, meet your match.

Now, I’m all for reclaiming pejorative language and concepts and turning them on their heads (Hi Bitch Magazine! Hi Feministing's Mud Flap Girl!). But I’m not sure that reducing (ahem—augmenting) a magazine’s title to a woman’s impossible bra size is something to celebrate.

Double X is the nameplate equivalent of a John Currin painting: you’re looking for the irony, but all you see is a serious presentation of cartoonish curves. The name suggests that no matter how much women drink from the cup of knowledge and smarts, it’s our other cups that define us.

Slate editors: It’s time to get out your chalk and write 100 times: I shall not use sneaky sexual double entendres to promote feminist thought.

Tonight, I’m writing “Annoyed” on my Starbucks cup. It runneth over.

14 comments:

K.Line said...

That's hilarious that you sampled baby names at Starbucks. I never thought of doing that - though they may indeed have thought you were nuts by the end! :-) BTW, I had a cappuccino every day. The kind with caffeine. And I'm not apologizing.

miss cavendish said...

Oh, I ate so cautiously for the first 8 months! Enormous quantities, of course . . .

La Belette Rouge said...

I LOVE the feisty tone of this post. It doesn't seem that the people at Slate took as much time and energy at naming their magazine as you did your daughter.

I have to say that the name of "Bitch" magazine has made me think that it is not for me. Something about that makes me think it is for 16-22 year old skater girls with lots of piercings. Am I wrong about that.

p.s. Once I decided to tell the people at Starbucks a name other than my own just to see how it felt to be called the name I always longed for. It was fun. However, once was enough.

miss cavendish said...

I haven't read Bitch in a while, but I believe that its readership extends into its 30th decade--perhaps even beyond!

And I still give Starbucks a false-ish (though now consistent) name for my cup. The baristas mangled the spelling of my *real* name too many times! I'd rather misrepresent my own self than have someone else muck it up for me. (Spelling one's name properly is an important part of claiming and enjoying one's identity!)

honey said...
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anny said...
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tiffany said...
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Sal said...

I wish I could be open minded enough to embrace the edginess of Double X, but in addition to thinking of bra sizes, it calls up images of porn. XX rated and the like. Not a good fit for this feminist.

miss cavendish said...

It does indeed suggest that, Sal . . . I like your pun, by the way.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

Great post, Miss C. I completely agree.

Mary-Laure said...

"John Currin painting: you’re looking for the irony, but all you see is a serious presentation of cartoonish curves. The name suggests that no matter how much women drink from the cup of knowledge and smarts, it’s our other cups that define us": this is SO true and so eloquently phrased. I hated his painting in Vogue, BTW.

And I love it that you tried out names at Starbucks!
What did you choose in the end?

miss cavendish said...

Thanks, Thumbelina!

miss cavendish said...

Mary-Laure, I chose Susannah Brackley. (Brackley is one of my favorite childhood beaches on Prince Edward Island.)

cc* said...

john currin deserves all the slack: http://tomorrowstarted.blogspot.com/