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.