08 April 2011

More Links

Gah, you guys. I will be honest here: I am starting to get burned out. Following politics? Hella depressing. Every day people are doing things I don't agree with. All the time! Which is fine, I'm used to that, but in forty years when I don't have any medicare I am going to be pretty pissed off!

Anyway. You know, I was watching Rachel Maddow the other day, and she was talking some more about the union stripping stuff that's going on in Wisconsin, -- which is depressing on its own, and I haven't even gotten to their election yet -- and the stuff she's saying is sounding like a conspiracy theory. The idea that Republicans are trying to basically cut out Democrats' major sources of funding, I mean. And I have faith in Maddow! I think she's smart! I see what she's saying! But I also realized, if I were a moderate, I would mark her as a radical and consider it a conspiracy theory. Maybe not Glenn Beck level, but still. And I just was not sure what to do with those thoughts. Except realize that I am burned out.

But stuff keeps happening anyway, so what can I do?

I guess the U.S. government finally agreeing to something like budget is a good thing. And if it's still for Senate vote, Planned Parenthood might keep their funding, which is good. But my cynicism is getting to me -- the Democrats never seem to hold their ground very long, and I wonder what concessions they made. (I might be more hopeful if I hadn't seen posts like this and this earlier in the week.) (The Onion has their own take, of course. I laughed.)

And while I'm on the topic of budget, I must take a second and point you towards Gin & Tacos's satire of the whole tying-teachers'-wages-to-student-performance proposal, that is seriously being made by people, because ... I don't even know.

This doesn't look like a big deal -- FCC what? ISP neutrality who? -- until you remember that it means that Comcast can basically stop me watching Hulu and Netflix Instant. Not to product-place here, but I am not going to lie, I love me some Netflix Instant. They have all of the classic episodes of The X-Files! Also, it is wrong and I'm pretty sure not what Adam Smith meant by a free-market economy. (The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced I'd just live a happier life if I ignored absolutely everything the House of Representatives does.)

It wouldn't solve all my problems, though. Thinking about abortion and then falling down while pregnant is totally a crime, here in my country. This is so beyond off to me that I'm sure there must be something in the story I'm missing. Biased reporting, right? It has to be. I have to be missing something. (Google is apparently missing it too; the first three pages of search results for that story are all either the same article I read, or other articles by liberal bloggers basically saying "You've got to be fucking kidding me.")

Oh, riiiiight. Stuff like this is why I knew I couldn't trust the Daily Mail.

New video blog from Feminist Frequency in the misogynist tropes series. This time they tackle Women in Refrigerators (that is, women who are tortured and/or killed gratuitously or primarily to inspire growth in the male hero).

The same sex couples fighting Prop 8 in court have filed their brief explaining why the people who put it on the ballot should not have the legal right to defend it in court. (Courts will not hear arguments until early September; it's still legal nuances at this point.)

YMMV on this, but SocImages has an interesting post up about an artist who paints the "deconstruction of indulgence," that is, women eating sweets and junk food which are supposed to be private, guilty pleasures. It ends up making quite a statement, I think, although I'm not entirely confident in my opinion on art. (NSFW)

Sady from Tiger Beatdown wrote a piece about Phyllis Schafly -- female enemy of feminism -- that I found quite insightful. I don't get her, and I doubt I ever will, but the piece at least helped contextualize why, without falling into some of the more obvious traps.

Diana Wynne Jones died this week. I am full of sadface about that; some of her books are among my favorites. Other authors also remember her fondly.

And, since stuff is depressing, check out a little baby red panda. Cute!

05 April 2011

A Swing and a Miss

Okay, I was kind of eagerly anticipating ABC's new show, Body of Proof, ever since last fall (when I thought it was going to debut). I love me some procedural cop shows, I love me some shows with lady leads, I love me some Jeri Ryan and Sonja Sohn (both in supporting roles), and I can certainly get behind Dana Delaney. So this had a bunch of elements that make me happy, -- really, all it was missing was some cute boys. Well, that was the theory.

I planned to watch the first three episodes and then toss some thought back. I made it through the first two, and then ten o'clock rolled around this evening, and I just could not do it. Maybe I'll catch up? On Hulu? If I'm bored?

Because -- look, I don't expect perfection from a pilot and the beginning of a season, but this show has some flaws that are killing it pretty dead (heh, yes, pun, whatever) for me. But they're really interesting flaws.

With as much Castle as I watch, I am really not allowed to say anything about unrealistic portrayals of cops on TV. Well, I'm allowed, but it looks kind of hypocritical. Still, when I found out Body of Proof was about a hotshot medical examiner, I sort of thought most of it would take place in the lab. You know, getting the proof? From the dead body? Like... the title? I was expecting a kind of grittier, fleshier Bones, really. Instead, Megan Hunt (ME extraordinaire) and her partner tag along on interrogations (which she messes up) and take time to snark at suspects. It's kind of disrespectful to its own premise -- were they worried that Bones is too science-y and boring? (It isn't.) Either the proof is in the body, or you have to gather evidence by being rude to suspects, but pick one, because there are a million procedural shows out there, they each have their own gimmick, and your gimmick being "we're sort of borrowing some other gimmicks but then kind of lightening them up and combining them so no one can sue us," doesn't actually work very well.

But a lady lead! That's good, right? Lots of ladies on this show. Jeri Ryan plays Megan's boss, the head of the something at the something place (don't look at me. She dresses nice and gets to tell Megan what to do). Sonja Sohn is one of the detectives with whom she works. There are assorted other ladies. Megan herself is actually that most elusive of beasts: the female maverick, whose lack of representation I lamented a few months ago on this very blog. So, this should be a win. And yet -- something is off. Megan isn't particularly funny, and she doesn't manage to have that sort of ascended audience quality. (You know -- House says the things you wish you could get away with saying, Castle says things that are kind of doofy in a familiar and genre-savvy way, you see in them someone you want to be.) Megan's just rude. She holds others in contempt for little discernible reason; she disregards the rules with little discernible benefit. They've tried to stick in bits of exposition to show her as the smartest doctor around, but she hasn't yet justified that characterization, and smugs her way through her scenes when simple politeness would get her better results. House seems to know how to behave but can't be bothered, and objects for ideological reasons; Hunt doesn't seem to notice that she's a jerk. (They've also saddled her with a load of stereotypes, including the dreaded She is a Bad Mother who Cannot Connect to Her Child -- there's a whole other analysis to be written about that.)

I don't know how much to blame the writers for this. I suspect they don't know what they're trying to do, the tone they're trying to set, the niche they're trying to fill. I also suspect that I don't cut Delaney the slack I might a male actor portraying a similar character. I'd like to think I'm not "like that," but I know better. I know I have culture whispering in my ear that it's all right for guys to be devil-may-care but a woman better have a damned good reason for not being nice. I have enough awareness to recognize the influence but not enough to see its quantity or overall effect. And I still suspect the writers are the same.

One thing, however, I can say with confidence. TV writers of the world, listen up. Yes, you UK ones too. As a former philosophy major, I am thrilled -- thrilled, I tell you -- to see the resurgence of Sherlock Holmes-ian logic on television. Love it. Standard form of: notice small detail, quickly deduce cause of small detail, make amazing pronouncement that turns out to be correct. As an entertaining tool, when well deployed, it can work beautifully. However. Please be aware that some people watching your shows have actually had a bit of training in logic (oh, Aristotle) and therefore, you need to think these things through carefully if you're going to go this route. Because your character just looks so much less brilliant if I can pick holes in their deduction, d'you see?

Happened at least once per episode in the two that I saw (minor spoiler) -- one of the victims has gun residue on her eyelids. Therefore, the killer shot her and then closed her eyes.

No. Maybe the killer shot her and then with his gun residue-y hand closed her eyes. Maybe, she pulled the trigger herself with her eyes closed. Maybe she had her eyes closed as she was killed and the gun residue got on her lids that way. Hell, maybe she was a witness (an eyes-closed witness) at an entirely different shooting earlier in the day. Maybe she was out hunting with her buddy and after firing, he touched her eyelids. Maybe there's something you don't know about her damn eyeshadow. Your deduction might be most likely, and I don't know enough about the spread pattern of gunpowder to say how plausible any of the others are. But it is not the only solution, and when your show focuses on "odd" and "baffling" cases, where things keep not adding up, you need to be a hell of a lot more careful.

(Drives me nuts when it shows up on Castle, too, which it does about once every few episodes. An egregious example: they were killed by the same gun, so they must have been killed by the same person! No. Guns are not attached to people's arms. Guns can be given to friends. Guns can be picked up off of victims. Guns can be stolen. Guns can be dumped, and picked up, by two unrelated people. It is likely that if they were connected and also killed by the same gun, they were killed by the same person. But it is not the only solution.)

Ahh, that particular brand of frustration that only comes from taking TV too seriously.

02 April 2011

Sexism and comedy-mmmm

Troll comments from a friend:
She's SO shit!!! What is the point??? ARRRGH female comedians just aren't funny! They're only nasal and sarcastic!!!
Tryggers, it's a sad fact that certain genders are more suited to certain professions than others. Case in point: you ever seen a female builder? Or a female firefighter? A male midwife? Nothing to do with sexism - just common sense. Stand-up comedy is much the same. men are just more suited to it. Female comedians tend to suck.
He may have said it in jest, but this is generally society's view on women in comedy, so how do we fight that? What do we say to people who we like and have a good friendship with who says this kind of thing, honestly or not? This did not get my Saturday off to a good start!

(not to mention the complete erasure of any comedians of colour, apart from (in the UK) Lenny Henry. White men are not so brilliant that no-one else can contribute. It's so fucking irritating.)

01 April 2011

Links Links Links

Seriously, I need a name for these end-of-week linky listy things. Suggestions welcome.

Much lighter than last week, for which I think we're all grateful.

So they're revamping the Wonder Woman franchise. Which might be a yay, right? Conceived in the 40s as a deliberately feminist superheroine! Amazon! Peace and justice and whatever! And ... the revamp is being done by David E. Kelley, so it's that peculiar brand of misogyny that disguises itself as feminism. (If you don't think it's feminist, maybe you're just not feminist enough, huh? No. No, that is not what's happening.) The Daily Beast has done a beautiful takedown of the pilot script.

TRIGGER WARNING. I'm not sure how reliable The Daily Mail is (I feel like it's the English version of Fox News. English posters?) but they have an article up about the virginity checks that women protesters in Egypt got when arrested. If that's true (and I can believe that it is) it is disgusting and infuriating. (Obviously.) (Without doing a lot of further research, the article presented the information fairly neutrally, and without obvious moments of victim blaming. It's bad that I consider that kind of a win.)

It's not especially feminist or current events related, or whatever, but if you spend time thinking about books (all of us here do!) you might check out Patricia C. Wrede's blog entry about themes in books and the divide between literary and genre fiction. (Full disclosure: I consider the hyper-thematic literary fiction almost universally obnoxious, and skew heavily toward genre in my own reading habits; that may be one of many reasons I love Wrede's books.) (Other reasons include the fact that her books are BOSS. Seriously. Dealing With Dragons is I think the only book I've ever read where I had to stop reading to laugh out loud for ten minutes and then resume. My own laughter was distracting me from the plot. In a good way. Anyway.)

I read Go Fug Yourself for a lot of reasons, too (some of them being that it is boss, and its writers are hilarious) but it's not exactly where I go to get my daily dose of feminism. Which is why posts like this (wherein they say: shut UP, Rolling Stone) put a huge smile on my face. It's like a surprise bit of caramel syrup in my coffee, or a reference to my hometown in the novel I'm reading. Word, ladies. Rolling Stone should shut up, and quit it with the non-edgy exploitative nudity on their covers.

 John Scalzi wrote a piece for FilmCritic about the dearth of female writers and directors in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. It was a little off-putting to me how neutrally (and almost conservatively) it comes across; he doesn't lambast anyone or offer up blame, he just sort of ... notices, without a lot of analysis. Interesting, though.

Bitch told me, and now I'm telling you: there's a new website all about birth control! Actually, I enjoyed poking around it (rimshot!). So. Don't say we here at FnBs never did nothin' for ya.

Feministing takes on some of the more insulting female TV Tropes in a new series of video blogs. The first one is an excellent analysis of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. (I'm impressed with the job they do partly because feminism and TV tropes are two great tastes that ... you know the rest, and partly because their analysis is more than throwing up their hands and saying "GOD, the MPDG is so motherflipping ANNOYING," which is what I would have done.)

GRAPHIC SEXUAL CONTENT WARNING. So I forget which blog recommended this to me (Slog, maybe?) but that blog is awesome because I never would have found this on my own. There's an article up at Pluck wherein a guy describes how his understanding of women changed after he and his girlfriend started experimenting with penetrative sex. (Him on the penetrated end, that is.) If you don't mind the descriptions (he doesn't get too graphic, but he doesn't exactly leave things ambiguous, either) it's a fascinating read.

Sociological Images and SCOTUSblog have posts up about the massive lawsuit by female WalMart employees about the company's sexist policies. (The issue before the court is whether this suit is legitimate as a class action lawsuit or not.)

Oh, and Tomato Nation is having its annual contest this month. (It's not a skill contest. It's a let's-see-how-much-money-we-can-raise-for-charity contest.) Amazing, inspiring, and totally full of prizes you can win for donating. Go forth!

29 March 2011

The Separation of Looks and Character: Lessons Learned in Modern Fairy Tale Retellings

So yeah, let's just call last week a posting failure and move on.

So I've done several RNTNs about fairy tale retellings and YA feminist fantasy. I've been trying for days to figure out how to stick my latest thoughts into that format, but it won't work; these books are all about on par in quality (I'd give any of them four to four and a half stars out of five, say). Still, they beg me to compare them, as all three deal with the same themes through different approaches. Live well in the body you have, say these books, and know that it has nothing at all to do with your character. Such is the lesson learned by the heroines in Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine, and Fire, by Kristin Cashore. (Fairest and Fire are prequels/companions to previous RNTN faves Ella Enchanted and Graceling, respectively.) Spoilers are present; I've tried to keep them fairly mild, but I do quote from the endings of the books, since that's when the heroines express their new thinking to the reader. 

25 March 2011

Quick links

Firstly, this needs to be signed straight away.


Secondly, this is awesomesauce

22 March 2011

Late Links

Yeah, these should have gone up last week. That was not a good blogging week for me. Sorry. Here they are now, and stay tuned for an essay-post in the next 24 hours or so.

And now for something completely different. You've probably already seen this, as I'm late in the game on it, but for the three of you who haven't, check out Sandia Labs' Report. Setup: You want to bury nuclear waste in the desert. Complication: Nuclear waste takes ten thousand years to decay into something reasonably safe to go near. Problem: How do you tell our many-great grandchildren (or, who knows, lizards' many-great grandchildren) to stay the hell away from this particular valley? Can YOU think of any direct, distinct, immediate communication from 10,000 years ago?

Remember that scene in Back to the Future, when Marty caught George up in a tree trying to peer into Lorraine's window? There's an app for that. (Finally we can all relax. I know I'm never happy unless dudes are busy believing that they're entitled to see me naked.)

I'm not writing about Libya because in bad, horrible, stupid American citizen form, I am quite ignorant of the details of revolutions abroad. If you're likewise ignorant and want to catch up, Rachel Maddow has all the details. If you're not thinking about it either, for whatever reasons, then the money perspective may not have occurred to you. (I have no opinions on this topic. I am too ignorant. I offer only places where you can get info from people who know more than I do.)

Shock, surprise, Yes Means Yes has another awesome post up this week (it's like they do it on purpose). Thomas looks at studies into the supposed communication barrier that leads rapists to claim they didn't understand that the victim was refusing. All bullshit, you'll be shocked to hear.

From the department of "and how would you like it if somebody did that to you?" pro-choice protesters are picketing Christian-run crisis pregnancy centers. I certainly see the appeal emotionally although I'm not convinced it's the smartest long-term tactic.

People spending a lot of time protesting (specifically internet-commenting) stuff they hate is what's bothering Cruella this week. It takes quite a bit to get me to comment on a blog other then our own here; I can't remember the last time I did. (Maybe to enter a contest?) And I rarely read comments; too many of them raise my blood pressure unacceptably.

In another move sure to shock our readership (yes, both of you) -- Hollywood has cast the lead in the upcoming Hunger Games movie; she's thin, blonde, and pretty. So, one out of three in terms of sticking true to the book? I'm not a huge fan  of the book but I have no problem calling bullshit on their casting criteria.

Skin tone again -- this time in a Dove ad. Is it scarier if they meant to do that or if they didn't?

Did you know conservatives used to be for Planned Parenthood? Keeps the welfare queens in check, yo. (Nope, not making this up.)

Sarah Palin thinks the NEA is frivolous. Of course she does.

Those brave residents of Florida stand up against political correctness and insist that they'll keep blaming the victims if they goddamn want to. And they'll make it law, too.

And of course, this week's links would be incomplete without mention of how the GOP wants to turn the IRS into the morality police. Ahh, I love the smell of fermented Calvinism in the morning. (Also if you think about this for thirty fucking seconds it makes no fucking sense. GOD SHUT UP BOEHNER.) (via caudoviral)

Depressed yet? I am. Go look at a baby aardvark, that's the best I got.

18 March 2011

Can a man identify as a feminist?


I've not much to offer, as ever-it's Friday and Comic Relief! But I read this article and had a mixed reaction. I'm glad he's owning his own privilege, but...as a white person, I can't say that I'm antiracist because, like it or not, I benefit from white privilege every day. I benefit from other people's oppressions. And this man benefits from being a man, so really? Are you a feminist when every day you benefit from a misogynistic society?

Also..'feminists don't hate men. We looove men'. Um...it's NOT ABOUT THE MEN. Sometimes I DO hate men, as it's very tiresome being seen as nothing more than a walking uterus/sperm dump. This shouldn't prevent men from listening to me because occassionally I am angry.

I don't know, in many ways I do get what he's saying, but...blah.

16 March 2011

Ye Olde Dichotomy; Also Some Facts

It's one of those weeks when I don't have anything insightful to say. The stuff that I'm actually inspired to write about is too personal for me to put on the blog right now; regular politics and feminism-related stuff seems trivial when the big news stories are related to Japan's disasters (about which I have nothing new to add. Donate, if you are so moved! Don't be a dick, even if you are so moved!); I'm not in a place where I feel like sharing a book review or TV analysis.

But one of my rules was that I am not going to hold myself to such high standards that I never get anything written. So ... yeah, I didn't really come up with a contingency plan for when I'm actually uninspired.

Being uninspired to me comes in two flavors. There is the level of "I don't really have anything to say that is interesting, or original," and that has to do with my own high standards, and my rules about writing that you shouldn't chatter on paper to no purpose because the internet has plenty of that already. Then there's the deeper level of "I just don't feel like giving anything of myself to other people right now," that sort of a protective, metaphorical fetal-position type feeling. When the first one is troubling me, that's something I need to find a way to work with, if I'm going to commit to writing on a deadline. With the second -- which is what I've got at the moment -- well, that's also something I'm going to need to get past, but it makes it harder to choose a topic when one is unassigned.

So. Here are some interesting trivial facts you may not know. They do not relate to any particular topic.

1. When Disney started marketing the princess line, they had to contend with the fact that Roy Disney (nephew of Walt) was dead against princesses from different stories interacting with one another in any way. That's why when princesses appear on the same product, they are never making eye contact with one another but always staring off into middle distance in different directions.

2. "To be or not to be: that is the question" is not a standard iambic pentameter line. Neither is "Now is the winter of our discontent" and neither is "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" They're standard variations -- the first has a feminine ending, the latter two open with inverted feet -- that are used often, but they are not good examples of the base iambic pentameter style. If you need one (why would you?) go with "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."

3. There is no direct evidence for the existence of the Oort Cloud, a three-dimensional sphere of space junk that supposedly sits about 50,000 AUs from the sun. Scientists just decided that comets had to hang out somewhere when they were on the far reaches of their orbits. It's like Aristotle's logic about the Prime Mover, transposed to modern science.

4. It is constitutionally legal in the U.S. to sterilize the so-called mentally unfit. Buck v. Bell was never overturned. It is no longer common practice (or generally legal) on the state level; the Supreme Court will never get the chance to overturn it unless someone sues after having the procedure done, so it being illegal at the state level actually indirectly protects its official constitutionality.

5. In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent designed a knitted white wool wedding dress inspired by Russian nesting dolls. It sort of looks like a phallus crossed with a wedding cake.

That's all I got. Go forth, Google, and check my facts.

11 March 2011

Links & Leeks

All right. It's 5:30 on Friday afternoon and I've had one beer so far, which is in no way enough to take the edge off the week I've had. So here are your links for the week, and if they suck do me a favor and don't tell me about it for twenty-four hours.

Feministing notes that the Obama administration has rescinded the federal regulation commonly called the "Conscience Clause". This has been mentioned before (STILL need to do a proper post about it, but don't hold your breath, I've got eight million Deep Thoughts I feel the need to share and this is only one). I will go ahead and say "Yay!" because this is practically speaking, a great step for feminism and equal rights.

Keep up with the whole Prop 8 debate over at the SCOTUSblog. (Yeah, I'm just going to keep posting those updates until stuff stops happening about it.)

Sociological Images has an article about how video game characters' breasts have gotten bigger and bigger as the games go through new versions and get more popular. (I'm tempted to joke that this is a link that women and men will find interesting. But that would be insulting and sexist. I will say merely that it includes some telling images.)

Okay, Arizona, I admit that I'm not particularly in touch with your culture. But after the shooting of several weeks ago, your new gun legislation baffles me (and this Slog writer, apparently).

This blog/FAQ post by an abortion doctor is a must-read, in my opinion. It's candid, fascinating, and both thoughtful and thought-provoking. (It's over at The Hairpin; I'm not sure what the status is on this writer and whether she has her own blog.)

Yes Means Yes has done two great posts recently about the studies done on men and women's different responses to offers of casual sex. Full disclosure: I haven't read through these fully yet (see above re: the week I have had) but I feel pretty confident recommending anything posted on that blog; I don't always agree with everything but I'm always interested.

And, because I don't have the energy to link to some of this week's more depressing stories (oh, you want your day wrecked? Okay -- TRIGGER WARNING ON THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH AND THE LINK: you know the story that recently broke about the 11 year old gang rape victim? Guess what she's being called! Gin and Tacos calls it a failure of journalism; I call it misogyny.)

That's all I've got for now. What are you reading?

07 March 2011

Back to Politics: Why Being a Republican Means Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding

I love Yes Means Yes generally – I own their book too; you should get it; it’s good – but this post especially made me smile.

After weeks of thinking about the conservative social movement, and how it relates to abortion in particular, I came to a very obvious conclusion that nevertheless felt groundbreaking for me.

Morality and consequences go hand in hand, and to try to limit behavior using one without the other is difficult, bordering on impossible.

Think for a moment about training people to do things: raising children, teaching classes, leading groups. There are a lot of different ways to do that. You can offer positive reinforcement, when someone does something you like. You can offer negative reinforcement when someone does something you don’t like. You can delay the reinforcements to the end of an arbitrary schedule, shifting them into rewards and punishments. You can refuse to associate with people who don’t do as you say. You can convince people to want to do what you say, or figure out what their motivation is behind their actions and use that to your own advantage. You can ignore behavior you don’t like (with the optional bonus of praising behavior you do like, when it appears). (Want to read more about that and how you can use it to your advantage? Don’t Shoot the Dog! by Karen Armstrong.)

All of these things (and modified forms) are what we use to get other responsive creatures (animals, friends, children) to do as we wish. Now let’s take that back out into social policy.

There is certain behavior that we want, that benefits society. Part of that is raising kids in stable and loving homes, with parents who are active and invested. That’s one of those great constants that liberals and conservatives agree on, mostly because if anyone comes out against it, everyone on the other side accuses that person of loving child abuse and being all about the whole serial killer thing.

So the disagreement comes from two places. One place is what constitutes a stable and loving home. The historical stereotype of that place is one where a mother and father are legally committed, have sex, make babies, raise babies together on account of the whole committed thing, and hopefully pay attention to said babies or get ruthlessly judged by the neighborhood carpool. Liberals often deconstruct that by saying that none of those elements individually (man and woman, legal commitment, sex, raising babies together, etc.) is actually a magic element that makes sure the kids are happy and stable. Conservatives often use that stereotype as an example of something that’s been historically successful, and therefore encourage families to be as much like that stereotype as possible, at least from the outside. They argue that those individual elements are necessary for a strong and nurturing home.

I could go on tangents about that all day. What I want to talk about is behavior, and how you influence people such that they choose that kind of relationship for their family.

What we want is stable homes for children. Historically that mandated controlling sex, on account of the whole sex makes babies thing. So in order to control the outcome, it was necessary to control behavior.

Sex is a very hard behavior to control. It’s hard to control on an individual level, and it’s hard to control on a group level. There are a lot of positive reinforcements built into the body related to having lots of sex as often as possible (either because God wants to tempt us or because evolution favors organisms that enjoy procreation). To control it, you need something stronger.

That’s where consequences and morals come in. What I realized after thinking for about it for a while is that neither of those things is individually strong enough to control sexual behavior. That may be obvious – actually, it should be obvious, because very often the two together aren’t enough to control sexual behavior – but it put some things in perspective.

Stay with me for a second here. Consequences (by which I mean pregnancy, in or out of wedlock), with no moral stigma, are not enough to control behavior. First of all, the consequences come a lot later than the decision; second of all, people deal with consequences all the time. Maybe they’re inconvenient or difficult or unfortunate, maybe they’re wonderful and sweet and charming, but people find a way of dealing with them because that is the only option. Moral stigma makes consequences a lot more difficult, and it shores up the decision-making part of the process; it takes up the slack.

Now let’s look at the other side, which happens to be the world we live in now. Birth control, abortion, reproductive health, gay sex – all of these take the immediately visible consequences away from sex outside wedlock. (There are diseases, but many of them are not immediately discernible to the general populace. Babies are, especially in smaller communities.) Suddenly, there aren’t visible consequences, and that takes away one of the two major cornerstones of attempts to control sex. If even both of them together exert only a very tenuous control over sexual conduct (and it is tenuous, even for people for whom both of those are very strong motivators), think for a moment about what happens when one of them is removed.

Yeah. So what does this mean? Of course conservatives want to limit access to abortion, birth control, and reproductive rights. If we get the consequences back, it’s hella easier to control the behavior than if we’re just relying on morals! Especially since those damned liberal jackasses are all “morals should be an individual decision,” like whatever, let’s see them run the country and drag their opponents through the mud if they’re not willing to judge like an angry God!

The funny thing is that they’re using their moral convictions as arguments about bringing consequences back in. As in, they are explicitly using that language. That’s why feminists are all throwing out words like “paternalistic,” because the double-whammy of you-shouldn’t-do-this-because-it’s-wrong and here-are-the-consequences-for-doing-that is how you raise children. That's why it sounds condescending when people are like, it's wrong that you had sex (I'm judging you; there are morals at work) and you have to keep your baby and carry it to term and take care of it (there are physical consequences at work). The unspoken addendum is, next time I hope you'll show better judgment and make a wiser decision!

The thing about raising children is, often (not always) getting angry is a negative consequence. Children get very upset when their parents are mad. Thus the moral judgment is itself a negative consequence in addition to the physical consequence of "baby." That doesn't necessarily hold true politically. Republicans getting angry at women, or gay people? Pshh, when are they not? This isn’t a parent-child relationship, and a lot of liberal people have figured out that the trick is to not care. Not care and fight back.

So what is the only way of reestablishing that control? By removing the factors that limit or remove physical consequences, because if the moral judgment doesn't help people decide, then having to change diapers for twenty-nine months will, by golly. Bye bye, Planned Parenthood funding.

06 March 2011

something to keep in mind

As you probably all know, I've been dealing with depression. Or Depression (capital D now that I'm on meds for it)

Over my birthday (happy birthday me!) I actually ended up getting a little depressed, and it was weird because it wasn't my usual brain-chemical depression, it was my good old friend Low Self-Esteem. I haven't seen this particular friend so cleary for such a long time that it took me two whole days to realize who it was that had me feeling so fragile the whole time.

With that being the background, here's what I came to say:

Everything takes practice.
When you have overcome a challenge, it is a victory. When you fail the same challenge later, your previous victory is not erased.
when you continue to flail and fail and spin out of control, it does not take away the fact that you have been here before, and you got out ok.
you will get out ok again.

this all takes practice.

Even after mastering the challenge and beating it time and time again, if you fail one time - it's ok. Everything takes practice.

Even if you are a pro, sometimes you still fuck up and that's ok.

This is true for probably mostly all things: Playing musical instruments, cooking, coping with mental illness, irrationalities, insecurities, inanities and insanities.

It's ok to be a beginner, an intermediate, a pro.

It's super-great if you get to pro right away. good on ya.
it's totally fine to start as a noob.

It's totally fine to take your time getting better.

It's totally fine to be really good, not practice, and then realize you suck a bit more then last time you tried it.


In short - it's been awhile since I've seen my insecurities so clearly - I'm not going to beat myself up for being back where I started. I'm going to give myself credit for the work I know I've done. I'll bookmark the fact that I still have more work to do.

And now, fuck this shit, I'm-a go watch Rupaul's Drag Race.

I Think I Might Leave the Country Again

Face, I'm not sure you've met palm. Let me introduce you. (Thanks -- I guess -- Slog.)

UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me that the video is only available in the US and thus our international readers are KSOL. Allow me to explain. (If you haven't seen Jon Stewart before, he's a leftist political commentator/comedian.) The U.S. is in a budget crisis and all sorts of ideas are being flung about to try to fix that. What's on the docket now is cutting pay and benefits for teachers, because, you know, they don't do anything important. Teachers usually make roughly $50,000 a year, often less. The same political commentators that suggest cutting these people's salary and benefits on the grounds that they are paid by taxes, and so the government has every right to give them a pay cut. They are at the same time saying that Congress should not make any ruling about any kind of restrictions on CEO pay and bonuses for the guys on Wall Street, who, you know, got us in to the financial crisis in the first place and were bailed out by government money. Justifications included the ideas that CEOs work harder than teachers, because teachers get summers off; in order to attract "real talent" it's important to pay CEOs "what they're worth;" and $250,000 a year -- a CEO's salary -- isn't really that much when you have kids to send to college. Stewart, in what has become his trademark, doesn't so much take the time to logically refute this nonsense as he does just sort of put on the air with a "Really? I'm really hearing this?" look on his face.

04 March 2011

Wow. It's been a while, guys. I can only apologise for the intrusion of real life, and depression edging its wicked way back and everything else etc etc.
This won't be a long post, alas. I'm pretty tired and I don't have much to give to you guys in ways of thought processes. I just want to give you these images; you may have seen them, I don't know. I just appreciate the signs.


On another note, I just want to appreciate all of you contributers. Some I know personally, some I don't, but all of you have shown love, appreciation, support and intelligence over the last 8 or so months I've been a contributer to this blog. So thank you. <3 Women like you make me very very happy indeed. :)

03 March 2011

Links & Larks

Yep, good news. I'm not going to break my new rule the same week I make it. Go me! (Links list might be slightly longer than usual -- I've been saving them up for a while.)

Caudoviral gave us a great shout-out last week, because he is awesome. Go read his blog about biology and sciences, which is full of cool and interestingly explained articles and things you didn't know about medicine. (Full disclosure: yeah, we're friends; no, I wouldn't say his blog is awesome if it weren't.) (Caudoviral)

In less-awesome news, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood. I’m sorry; did I miss the memo? Do we want everyone to drop out of college all full of babies because the pill costs $70/month at Wal-Mart and no one can get it for $20/month at PP anymore? Is that how we’re going to fix the economy? Really, John Boehner? This page has a link to a petition where you can tell the Senate to cut this crap out immediately, plus a bunch of fun ideas for protest signs. (Bitch Magazine)

Keeping up with the Prop 8 debate? A review has been set. On the one hand I am absolutely opposed to Prop 8 in every respect and I wish they would get this matter of basic human rights settled already; on the other hand I’m kind of finding the legal ins and outs really interesting. (Yeah, I read Supreme Court decisions for fun when I was in high school.) (There’s a more recent update – about the Court’s unwillingness to speed up the schedule – here.) (SCOTUSblog)

Speaking of marriage, feminists caused your divorce! Did you know? Bitch has something to say about that. (Bitch Magazine)

It’s preaching to the choir, I know, but this post is an insightful and eloquent report of the way the conscience clause can be horribly misued and in fact lead to the deaths of women with no benefit to the fetus. I have a lot I want to say about that when I can find the time to put it into words (I am actually much more conflicted about it than I thought I was); meantime read Thomas’s clear and straightforward view. (Yes Means Yes)

On a similar topic, two reporters (or a reporter and an intern, rather) at Slog did some interesting investigative journalism, going to crisis pregnancy centers in the area. Their findings were interesting -- much of the information given about abortion was (surprise!) inaccurate. (Slog)

Elsewhere on Slog: whether you saw the Oscars or not, I think you should read Lindy West’s recap of the ceremony. (Actually I think you should read everything Lindy West writes, because she is awesome. And besides being funny and feminist and interesting, she gets a million bonus points for this.) (Slog)

Speaking of movie stars giving each other awards, someone made a word map analyzing word frequency in the Oscar acceptance speeches. Did it seem to anyone else as if the ladies were all “Oh, I can’t believe you’re giving this to ME” and the dudes were all “Yep, I’m awesome and I own it”? Maybe it’s my feminism, ruining everything and wrecking your marriage. (OverthinkingIt)

While we’re Overthinking things, I kinda wish I’d written this awesome post comparing Clueless and Mean Girls to each other... and to  political revolutions and their effects. (OverthinkingIt)

This article on the sexiness of ladies who read is about 80% charming, but I think it says a lot about me that my reaction to the first half was “Don’t buy her a coffee and hit on her, she’s trying to read. She’s busy!” (The Monica Bird, and thanks, caudoviral!)

And just for fun, go read this Married to the Sea comic. I should analyze why I like it, I suppose, lest I like it for the wrong reasons, but that would kill the frog.

28 February 2011

Old Rule Out. New Rule.

For two weeks I haven't been posting, and I have an entire browser window with a dozen tabs to links I think are interesting and feminist and relevant.

I haven't been posting because I've fallen prey to that evil beast that stalks bloggers: real life. Seriously, folks, I am never effing home anymore basically ever. I sleep here, and sometimes grab a bite, but as often as not I'm gone for ten or twelve or fourteen hour stretches, and it's getting worse. And what I should do is bring my laptop and blog on the public transportation system that seems to be my second home (I spend so much time on it because it takes FLIPPING FOREVER to get anywhere) but my laptop is heavy and I have enough crap to carry around. And part of taking flipping forever to get anywhere on this particular public transportation system is that you spend most of that time switching over (train to train, bus to train, train to bus, etc.) and typing while doing that is a bitch.

So, this is my never-mind-post, right? No. This is where the stubbornness that saw me through my junior year of college comes out and makes itself felt. I promised myself I'd write on this blog when I started it, and damn it, I am going to pursue that goal even as its inherent stupidity is made plain to me by my own insane schedule. I am inspired by this post at OverthinkingIt. I am going to write MORE OFTEN.

What that actually means for me is that I'll be writing less. What I've been trying to do is write one big Essay-Full-of-Thought every Monday. To do that I really have to find time to write something Sunday, and right now Sunday is the only day of the week that I even ever occasionally get off. Sometimes I only get it half-off. (It's okay; I get Friday kind of half-off too, or I can at least sometimes work from home on Friday.) (My schedule sounds like some sort of high powered lawyer's. In actuality I work a bunch of days, but still spend most of my time getting from job to job, and thus manage to work a ton and yet be a woman of very little money.) (Moving on, because no one cares about my financial problems.)

The point being, even when I have Sunday off, I don't have time to put all the crap I'm thinking about into words. I am thinking about a ton of crap -- stuff I'm reading (Son of the Shadows sucked me much more in this time than when I tried to read it in college and I may actually make it through the whole series this go-round, but I have a new detective series too, and switching back and forth is giving me whiplash); stuff I'm watching (The Good Wife is rocking my world -- how much do I love feminist TV? Rizzoli and Isles rocked my world too -- but this week's Castle did not live up to last week's potential); stuff I'm doing in real life (my hang-up right now is the academic achievement gap; it's getting my focus professionally and creatively and in my non-fiction reading); stuff I'm finding online (Rachel Maddow is doing some absolutely amazing coverage of what's going on in Wisconsin, and if you haven't seen it yet I cannot recommend it highly enough). In short, it's the old Patricia C. Wrede quote -- "Getting the ideas is easy. The hard part is writing them down."

Now, for me, what I really see coming into play is my perfectionism tendencies. I must write a BRILLIANT POST THAT CHANGES THE FACE OF BLOGGING FOREVER. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I do not have time to hold myself to that standard. I am sorry. I am next scheduled to have some free time in early June, and I will go back to changing the Internetz forever then.

Until then, what I have time for is this. At some point near the beginning of the week, I will put up a short post -- not one of my epic tangents where I ramble on for fucking years about all the implications of everything, but just -- I thought this, and it was cool. I am going to stop waiting and letting things percolate until I have LOTS to say about them; I am going to stop feeling that some things are Beneath Me and Not Worth Blogging About (get ready for a slew of Castle posts, everyone; I've only been holding off because I have mixed feelings about how much I adore that show); I am going to stop feeling like an English teacher may come and grade me at any moment (I practically am  a goddamn English teacher; it is time to get over my fear of them). Then, at some point near the end of the week, I will put up a list of links that I think are cool and say interesting stuff, written by people who have more time and/or intelligence and/or commitment and/or eight million other positive adjectives than I do right now.

After three months, I will evaluate this method of posting. If it works, it stays. If not, I'll go back to being epic or come up with a third option.

22 February 2011

role-ing around

So, quick background to what brings me to this post:

after a year of struggling with depression, I finally decided to take anti-depressants, and so far the results are AWESOME.

The first two days I took my new bitty pills, I was having a REALLY hard time. I thought it was a reaction to the meds. An hour after I took the first one I was spacey, panicky, and generally not a happy camper. The second day it was the same. By the third day I realized it was not the pills, it was my mental reaction to taking them. In that week I came to terms with the fact that for a long time I had ignored: I had Depression. It wasn't simply an illness like having a flu, it was like having diabetes. Or, really, it my case, it was like having Asthma.

See, I have Asthma. I've had it since before I can remember. I have had to tote around an inhaler for always. And I probably always will (even though I don't use it much anymore)

My mom reminded me that I used to be very mad about this as a child. I hated having to carry my inhaler, I hated having to stop playing tag when I couldn't breathe, I hated not being like everyone else. It was something I eventually got over - I mean, after you finally accept you can never have the puppy you've dreamed of, there's not much else to DO but get over it and avoid playing tag. (exercise induced as well as allergic to fur, superawesomefuntastic)

I now have to accept my depression as something that I will always have. Like my asthma and non-often-used inhaler, I won't necessarily always be on meds, and I assume I'll eventually get over it, but accepting myself not as "Me, who happens to be depressed" but as "me, who has Depression" was really REALLY hard for me.

There's something very scary about having a behavior be not just a behavior but a facet of yourself. It's scary because I feel like the terms are less mine. My "just feeling depressed" was something I defined, in a sense. "This is me depressed" is something I could observe and control. "The girl with Depression" (always a capital D on that one) was something that a large group of people had and now I was one of them - and I no longer controlled it and it was no longer mine. It was ME, not MINE, and suddenly doctors are involved and I'm altering brain chemicals and it's never just going to go away. I'm stuck with it. It's me.

I think when one has a new role or facet of one's self, there's always this period of submerging one's self into it. I wanted to talk about my depression. I wanted to talk to other people with it. I wanted to find my place among this club I was suddenly a member of. It was both scary (like being invited to a party where you didn't know a damn person) but also comforting (hey, I was invited to a party!)

There are other parts of myself that I'm discovering that are becoming facets of myself rather than behaviors: my sexuality and love life is, at the moment, quite fluid. (also, a LOT more fun then my Depression, just sayin') and having that fluidity be more then just behavior is helpful to me as a whole.

I want to tie things together, but I think I kind of suck at that, so I want to throw some thoughts and questions about this out there:

what are behaviors in your life, and what are roles for you? are you a picky eater or a Picky Eater? For me, I do not cook. And I always defined myself as Someone who Can't Cook. And I took that as a role. But I realize now I CAN cook. I'm fucking capable of cooking, I simply don't do it much, so I don't have practice. Having that be a behavior and not a facet of myself is relieving. That behavior as a role was confining - now it's a thing that can be changed. I have control of it.

What roles in your life are fluid and what roles are permanent?
Are you a Student? or are you simply going to school? Are you Broke? or do you just not have money right now? Do you have Depression? or are you depressed?

What roles hurt you and what roles help you?
Does being Gay bring you comfort or would you rather just not talk about what gender you'd like to bone? Does embracing your illness empower you or does it make you The Victim?

If a certain role hurts you, can you change it to behavior so you can take control of it?

For me, embracing Depression as something I am is simply a truth. I am getting comfortable with it, and it helps tremendously that I am feeling better. But, like asthma, I will have to deal with this for a long time. and It will require care and sacrifice.

15 February 2011

Link Round-Up

Too many links sitting on my computer in the sort of vague idea that I should share them. Well, here they are.

The bad (Trigger warnings on all):

Oh, House Republicans. You keep finding new ways to make me hate you. Listening to people is SO for sissy Democrats, right? Keep on keepin' on with your badass ignoring of your constituency.

I have a whole post I want to write about the conscience clause, and its nasty paternalistic nature. Meanwhile, check out Yes Means Yes.

In other news, South Dakota. I am, as always, impressed by what total assholes run your government.

The good:

Sociological Images has an extremely interesting post up about nudity and what it means for men and women.

Lindy West already rocked my world. Now she rocks it more.

14 February 2011

My Valentine

A lot of people don't like Valentine's Day. I can kind of take it or leave it, myself; you know, there are objections and crass consumerism, and I'm really against taking it too seriously, but there are certain things I really like. My family always takes the time to be affectionate on Valentine's Day, and on a personal level I like being reminded to appreciate the good people in my life. And it's a reminder to me to be good to myself, and take care of myself.

One thing that annoys me is the stigma attached to "taking care of myself" on Valentine's Day. You know, I've taken myself out to dinner and to the movies (hell, I've taken myself to a weekend in Paris), so maybe myself and I just have a bizarre relationship. But one of the tricky things to me about having an adult outlook is the apparent dichotomy between taking responsibility for a variety of things -- i.e., not being a slacker -- and saying no to overcommitment and putting one's health, including mental health, first. I struggle with this, and I know others do too.

So I like that there's a day when I'm reminded to not be hard on myself, and to appreciate the work that I put in to making myself happy. And yes, I agree with those who argue that you should remember to do that every day, instead of a greeting-card-mandated holiday. And I try. But there's nothing wrong with a special occasion, and there are only a few days a year when I make the extra effort to have that attitude.

Some of the ways I take care of myself are High Minded and Intellectual. Some aren't. I wish there weren't so much stigma surrounding the second kind.

I don't have a significant other right now, and I haven't for quite awhile. One of the ways I respond to Valentine's Day is by wearing one of my favorite T-shirts, the one that says "Explain to me again why I need a boyfriend." But that doesn't mean I don't like and appreciate romantic love, and if there isn't any in my life (and there's no rule that there should be) I can appreciate it in fiction. (Well, I appreciate it on behalf of my friends who have it, but there's a creepy line there.) So I like certain kinds of romantic entertainment; there's a lot I don't like but I enjoy the occasional romance novel or rom-com, and you know I'm all up in Castle and Beckett's personal lives.

Which brings me to the stigma thing. I'm allergic to cats, but otherwise I fit a lot of the "pathetic single lady" stereotypes. That T-shirt, that I love -- a character in a movie wearing that t-shirt can be assumed to be a man-hater (or maybe a lesbian, which is awesome, but which I'm not), or someone deep in denial about needing a romantic partner, or both. The Jennifer Crusie novel on my bedside table would signify being shy, awkward, and in need of a makeover. The amount of enjoyment I take from certain TV shows or movies -- well, that's a geek who will never interact normally in the world. And don't get me started on the fact that I knit.

I don't think those stereotypes apply to me. But the fact that they spring to mind immediately with a lot of the activities that give me pleasure -- and in hyper relief on this particular day, as opposed to any other day -- means I have spend some time defending my own fun even to myself. And that is un-fun.

I've been reading a lot about gender (and racial) stereotyping recently -- go nab yourself a copy of Fine's Delusions of Gender; it knocked my socks off -- and one thing that I find interesting is that the more mental energy you spend suppressing your worries that you may fit a certain negative stereotype, the more likely you are to fit it inadvertently, because you're uncomfortable and prone to mistakes. (In studies, men and women were given the same math test in two groups. One group was merely given the test. The second group was told that women often do worse on math tests than men, but that this test was specifically designed to compensate and women scored just as well as men. The tests were the same, but the scores of women in the second group were significantly higher. Interesting, no? While you're up, grab yourself a copy of Steele's Whistling Vivaldi.)

So I love that I'm reminded to take time for myself on this day, and I love that I am reminded to tell the people close to me that I love them and that they're special. And I love that I have really supportive people in my life, who do the same for me. And I don't like that as I take care of myself, the things I do to make myself happy stereotype me in nasty ways, and on this day of all days, I have to fight doubly hard to not let those stereotypes bog me down.

I fight it by taking care of myself anyway, and it teaches me a lot about owning the things that make me happy. And I can be happy about that, too.

(Of course, fighting it by ignoring the day all together is another solid strategy.)

01 February 2011

In Other Book News

I haven't posted this week on account of being pretty horribly ill and not having a lot of coherent thought to share. But as kind of an addendum to Wordwrestler's post about the NY Times Book Review, I thought I'd toss this out there, for our international readers and anyone who hasn't caught this yet.

So, the Bitch Magazine debacle.  Sequence went something like this. Bitch makes list of 100 Awesome Feminist YA Books. Cool! I read it, and I think it has the same issues most "best x number of books in given genre" lists have; it leaves off some of my favorites, includes a few that are like, the hell?, and a few that were like, you've got the author right but for heaven's sake don't start with that one. And there are a million I haven't read, so I should maybe get on that, but probably won't any time soon. Whatever, I have those kind of issues with every book list I read -- doesn't everybody? We don't agree, that's why it's fun to make lists. So anyway. People start commenting. And two or three of the books get called out for being triggering to rape survivors.

Now, you're Bitch. What do you do? As a reader, you know that everyone's opinions about books are different, you can't possibly please everyone, and taking books off a YA list for being "too disturbing" smacks of condescension and nasty censorship. As a feminist, you want to honor rape survivors and not say that triggering people is awesome. As an editor, that's a hundred book list, and I'm betting each individual editor has not read all 100, and there may be some in there that are based on reader suggestions, which no one has read. Dilemma.

What Bitch does is remove three books from the list. And the shit, she flies. Scott Westerfeld and Maureen Johnson, two well-known YA writers on the list send in respectful, grammatical, fuck you letters. Westerfeld asks that his book be removed, as he doesn't wish to be associated with the list anymore. (Personally I wasn't terribly enamored with his book, but that's neither here nor there.) Bitch gets called out by writers. And readers. I looked on some of my favorite feminist websites and couldn't find much supporting either side; mostly they're busy protesting HR3 (which I wrote to my Congresswoman about, and if you're a US citizen, you should too, because it's basically codified misogyny, thank you SO much, GOP). But anyway.

So there's another wrinkle up for debate. Who do you listen to in a case like this?

Open for discussion: a shenpa moment

So I'm minding my business, reading the New York Times, and there's a review of Allison Pearson's new novel. This led first to a moment of feeling really old, because I thought, "Pearson. I know that name. She had a big-deal bestseller a year or two ago..." only to find out from the review that, um, yeah, that was in 2002. So after a brief shocked head-shaking about how quickly time does go by, followed by a restorative glass of sherry, I kept on reading. And I soon found, as we feminists are wont to do, something to get angry about.

Clunky as this plot machinery might be, Ms. Pearson does a winning job of making Petra and Bill...as funny and incisive as characters created by, say, Nick Hornby or Stephen Fry, though with considerably more tenderness and felt emotion.

Now it seems to me that this is a fairly classic and insidious example of condescension--"Good little chick-lit novelist! Why, your characters are just as good as the big boys' are, plus your lady-ness gives you bonus! emotional! insight!" ::headpat::

Ahem. The question is what to do with this perception besides wrapping my next fish purchase in the NYT. I went with, "Write a blog post, mentioning that this thing happened and pushed your buttons a bit." Which is where all y'all come in. I'm interested in your thoughts, on other ways to read the sentence quoted above, or just on your own reactions to it. The full review is here.

29 January 2011

Sexism 101 or 'I do not think it means what you think it means, boys'

First things first, you guys are awesome! Thank you for the lovely, kind responses to my last post. You guys rock! I'm so glad I'm sharing this blog with y'all. And I shall certainly take those recs XD
Secondly, this has been a week full of raaage with regards to British/all men and their take on sexism. I don't know if you guys have heard about the Andy Gray scandal, but if you haven't a quick rundown:
(Warning: trigger warning for general sexual harrassment; have only mentioned it on the off but just in case)

Off camera (which is why everyone's getting all up in arms), Mr Gray and a colleague were discussing the merits of a female ref. Of course, it was as faily as you'd imagine. Cue 'offside rules' joke etc. That doesn't really bother me. What DOES bother me is his reaction to Karen Brady's comments about facing sexism in her workplace: 'Do me a favour, love.' I'm sorry? Are you, A WHITE STRAIGHT MAN who has NO EXPERIENCE of anything other than being top of the social chain, 'correcting' a woman on her experiences? SERIOUSLY? Fuck. You.
Later, after another incident of his sexually harassing a woman on camera, he is (thank the lord) sacked. Now, of course, all these men are wailing 'IT'S JUST A JOKE. Lighten up!' Or 'reverse sexism. How come all ladies can make jokes about guys being stupid?' Um...not the same thing guys; your privilege is showing. I am facepalming so hard, because these attitudes? They affect us, as women, because we are continuously undervalued for our achievements and told to 'lol, stay in the kitchen'.

Fail No. 2. (and this may potentially be triggering for rape survivors, I'm warning you now)

The False Rape Society. A blog on the internets. There to help all men harmed by rape allegations. It just boggles my brain, quite frankly, but these bloggers are consistently enabling the rape culture that pervades society. So a hearty FUCK YOU to them. Because EUGH. Just what the world does not need.

I hope y'all have a great weekend (apologies for lateness of post; I didn't get home yesterday until after midnight)

25 January 2011

Fictional Turnoffs

So here’s some news that’s going to be a shocker to everyone who has ever met me. You may want to be sitting down. Ready? Not everything I like to read and watch and listen to and play is strictly intellectual. Not all of it is strictly feminist. Not all of it is strictly clever, or strictly original, or strictly groundbreaking. Not all of it is even very good.

Most of the things I enjoy are at least one of those things. In fact, I would argue that there is some sort of minimum sum I require, that a lack of cleverness is made up for by the existence of a feminist message, and intellect can make up for a lack of originality. I think that’s more or less true for everybody, with their own criteria, of course. If after the first few minutes or pages or whatever, the sum is too low, I stop it and go entertain myself with something else. I was thinking about doing a whole post about that and saving this one for next week, but for whatever reason (read: I'm tired, and that seemed hard) this is the one that wants to be written today.

All that is well and good, but there are some things that multiply the whole equation by zero, that make it impossible for me to like something, or impossible for me to recommend it, or at the very least impossible for it to move into my high-tier favorites list where it might otherwise deserve a place. And because bitching is hella fun, I am going to write out a list.

Warning: This list contains strong language. I know, I know, you're shocked again.

  1. Whininess. See my white guy entertainment post. Okay. Problems suck. I am there. I think my own problems are pretty goddamn sucky, and there are billions and billions and billions of people with whom I would not trade. But there are two problems with whining. One is that it demands center stage. It forces everything else to be put on hold: others’ problems, understanding the reasoning behind one’s own problems, and – and this is the kicker – finding solutions to one’s problems. So, really effective there, especially in a fictional context, when the plot has to either stop moving, or interrupt you rudely. (Not as clever as you think, authors.) Also, at a certain point, repetition gets boring. And whininess, after awhile, is repetition. I see this (and the next two or three on the list, actually) as the main reason(s) I don’t like contemporary literary fiction. (Let me quickly make it clear that I whine all the time in real life, and I try to support my friends when they need to whine in my direction. Fiction is different. I read fiction to escape real life. Whining I can do anytime.)

  1. Look at Me; I’m So Fucking Deep. It goes hand in hand with the first one, but there is a certain tone in some kinds of books that drives me mad. I can best describe it as a desire to be congratulated for identifying sources of unhappiness in one’s life. The internet has made me feel so fucking disconnected, maaaaaaaan. Our modern world, duuuuuude. People just don’t get what’s real, know what I meeeeaaaan? It’s not about getting credit for solving a problem. It’s about getting credit for identifying a problem, and then claiming that the problem one has identified is part of the universal human condition and is therefore deep. Two things. 1) It’s not necessarily universal. My problems may or may not have anything to do with whatever the hell you’re talking about, and you really have no idea how the problem affects my life even if I do find it applicable. Especially if it relates to The Challenges of Living in the Modern World. And before you say anything, let me remind you that your idea that you understand my problems better than I do is condescending and inappropriate. 2) Something actually being a universal-human-condition problem does not necessarily make it deep or interesting to read about. Unless you’re approaching it originally, I don’t really care what you have to say, because I identified that problem a long fucking time ago. You get no credit with me for figuring this out; some stoned college freshman beat you to the punch ages ago. (To veer off on a tangent for a moment, the reason this is tied so closely to #1 in my mind is that it always seems to carry with it a lack of perspective. I'm going to save you some suspense. The problems that we face as a society now, including the kinds of hypocrisy we enjoy, are different in some ways, but no better or worse or more interesting or more important than those faced by any society at any time. New technology and change has always freaked people out and made their ways of interacting with the world undergo a change. Go read a history of the Industrial Revolution and get the fuck over yourself.)

  1.  Misogyny/Lack of Social Awareness. Yeah, that’s kind of self-explanatory. It’s why the novel of The Princess Bride will never compare with the film; ignorable borderline misogyny is a hell of a lot more tolerable than overt misogyny tinged with self-awareness. Grow up, folks. Ladies is people now, and we have been since the mid-seventies. (In other news, black folks is people, trans folks is people, queer folks is people, folks what don’t agree with you is people, and all of us people are sick of your whiny "depth.")

  1. Poor Pacing. I don’t like acknowledging it, but I am very much of the millennial generation, and as such have an unfortunately short attention span. Your scenes should have a point. (Remington Steele, I wanted to like you so much! I will give you another chance someday.) Conversely, if your scenes have a point, and move in a particular direction, each step you take in that direction should make a noticeable difference. BONES. If you're just treading water, you lose your stakes, about which more later. But you can't simultaneously keep your characters in a holding pattern and falsely portray movement. It's irresponsible and shows a lack of respect for your audience.

  1. Narrative Shortcuts That Backfire. Look, people. First person narrators should not drop hints, in some sort of smug I know something you don't know kind of way, unless your point is that your narrator is a fucking asshole. (Third person narrators may drop occasional hints. One every 100 pages or so.) Let’s think about why for a minute. One reason is that it’s obnoxious. I will fucking read the story because the story is good, not because you have lured me with your secret weapon of “it was a decision I would come to regret.” Secondly, people don’t talk like that. I’m a teacher at heart, and I overexplain everything (welcome to my whole family) but in real life, a person is far more likely to run off on a tangent so that you get the FULL CONTEXT OF THEIR POINT than to drop a hint about who and what they are and then go back to what they were doing. Even Holden Caulfield, who explicitly refuses to give the reader background, goes off on tangents rather than dropping hints. The only people who drop hints are storytellers, who don’t have faith in the interest their story generates on its own and feel the need to manufacture some. This is why it’s so egregious in a story told in the first person. James Patterson, are your ears burning?

  1. Expecting Charm to Work/General Laziness. I consider #2 to be a particular subset of this. In the Turkey City Lexicon – which I adored growing up, back when I thought I wanted to be a writer – there’s an item about knowing the difference between a conceit and an idea. It’s called the Jar of Tang, go look it up. Anyway, the fact that you have a good idea, or a unique viewpoint (you probably don’t) or a new perspective (see above re: you don't) is not enough to make your work quality without mastery of other storytelling devices. Your possibly good idea does not elevate excrement into art. If you write shit dialogue, it lowers the tone of your idea, and makes you look like an idiot. In other news, give your audience some credit. It is annoying to guess a twist fifty or sixty pages in advance. It is even more annoying -- by a factor of hundreds -- to guess a "twist" seventy or eighty pages in advance and spend those seventy or eighty pages watching the author drop gleeful hints as they imagine that they have you completely fooled. Kate Mosse, I am talking specifically to you.

  1. Awkward Writing. Yeah, occasionally you have to go listen to how people actually talk. I have this theory that this means you’re doing a kind of writing you’re either 1) not practiced in, or 2) not meant to be doing. It was a great relief when I realized I am better at writing essays than writing fiction and quit trying to write fiction. Patricia Cornwell, maybe you should try grocery lists for a while?

  1. Stakes Shortcuts. Sometime, when you are trying to put your finger on something within a piece of entertainment, ask yourself what the stakes are. I learned about the idea of stakes from a director mentor of mine, and it’s drastically changed the way I look at entertainment. To break it down a little – there are high stakes and low stakes. You want entertainment to be about high stakes, because if it doesn’t matter what happens, nobody will read to the end. So the entertainers do their best to make the stakes high. Now, there are easy high stakes, and hard high stakes. Easy high stakes come cheap. The world is going to END and EVERYONE WILL DIE unless this particular plot thing happens! I call stakes like that cheap because they don’t require you to particularly care about any of the people on screen (or in text). Everything is going to go wrong if the plot goes wrong, therefore, if the audience doesn’t invest in the plot, they must hate humanity. Great. Sold. Hard high stakes mean that if this particular plot thing happens, a person’s identity or relationship or place in the world will be destroyed. That’s harder to pull off effectively, because the audience has to actually care about the character(s). If they don't, they get bored, and it’s a huge waste of space. Now, that’s not to say that one form of stakes is better, exactly. But if you want to engage the minds and the emotions of your reader/viewer, pure easy stakes aren’t going to be enough (unless you luck onto some symbol that means a lot to them emotionally, which – hey, look where I’m going with this). There’s a multitude of ways to take shortcuts and artificially raise your stakes, no matter where you start with them. Want people to care about the world ending? Blow up a well-known landmark with some emotional connection to your audience. Or show characters that they can identify with flee from destruction. (Sounding familiar?) Want to make people care about characters’ relationships? Give the characters quirky and endearingly eccentric traits, because everyone considers zhirself kind of quirky and endearing on some level, and thus can identify. But those are shortcuts. Good entertainment means you care about the characters for their sakes, not just yours. You care if their world ends, or if their relationships end, because they resonate as people, in addition to just reminding you of yourself. It requires both commitment and trust from the creators.

  1. Solving One Problem Means Solving All Problems. Dear Rom-Coms of the World: Finding a mate does not instantly repair other relationships, work problems, financial hardship, or low self-esteem. Please take note. Love, Real People.

  1. That Goddamn Plot Where Someone Who Realistically Would Die So Fucking Fast Without Their Resources Manages to Survive and Connect With Nature. I have hated this fucking thing for twenty years, and I reaffirm my commitment to hate it for twenty years more. Twelve-year-olds of nearly any era are not equipped to live off the land for any length of time. That is ridiculous. Also, reading about root-digging and animal-watching is boring. If I wanted to connect with nature vicariously I would go to the goddamn zoo.

Those are mine. What are yours?

21 January 2011


So, weirdly, I'm going to come out to my fellow blog writers before anyone else: I think I might be bisexual. Which, you might argue, is no big deal. True, it's not. The problem is, bisexuality is often seen as being 'greedy' and not 'being able to make up your mind'. Equally, there is a certain invisibility within the GLBT movement. (It could be worse; trans people have barely any representation or level of recognition ever). So blah. This wasn't meant to be one of those personal posts; just long, hard days with no pay has left me feeling a bit tired, and my friend LJ is being a pain in the backside so I can't handily nab any articles from that there corner. So instead, my dears, this is going to become another rec post. If there are any suggestions that you may have with regards to books/films/music/tv shows that deal specifically with the issue of bisexuality, please 'holla at me' in the comments. It'd be interesting to watch/read/learn more from a perspective that is never considered in mainstream media (which is mostly heteronormative, but occasionally we get some good guy on guy action. Except, um...where's the lesbian love?)
I hope that you guys have a relaxing, fabulous weekend XD

17 January 2011

Single Gender Entertainment: Why I Think It Sucks

I’m never going to read Kim. I’ve probably already read most of the Sherlock Holmes stuff I’m going to read in my lifetime, and I’ve read about one novel and maybe two short stories. I can’t really see myself ever getting turned on to Michael Chabon’s works. What do these have in common? They’re books where all or almost all the main characters are men. Often, the men are white, and cis, and straight, and clever, and occasionally they’re well-off. As such they just don’t interest me very much, as I’ve already discussed.

Before I go further, two things for the record. First, I’m never going to read The Language of Bees, either. Nor The Help. I don’t like books about only women, either. They are also boring. Second, I know this is a weakness of mine. Kim is probably an awesome book. (It is according to my mom, anyway, who has read basically everything ever and should know.) I’m defending my viewpoint here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know that I’m missing out. I’m totally missing out. Someday, when the missing out becomes more important than the stuff I’m about to go into here, I may correct this weakness. Meantime, I’ll tell you what is keeping me here.

I talked before about how I don’t like entertainment with not enough wrinkles in it. Specifically I was talking about when the protagonist is given artificial conflict in the plot, because all the natural sources of conflict have been removed. I think that perhaps the most valuable source of conflict and potential growth is male-female interaction. Not because there isn’t any conflict in groups of one gender. (I’ll let everyone ever stop laughing at the idea that single-gender groups are good for avoiding conflict. It’s okay folks. Have some water.)

What’s actually the issue is that men and women have different ways of dealing with conflict within their own gender groups. For example: my father and I had a conversation not long ago where I brought up backhanded compliments, as in: “People who are good at it can make an insult sound like a compliment.” My dad expressed total befuddlement.

I’ve no doubt that if presented with some examples, my dad would catch on quickly, and remember some incidents where he’d seen this, or recognize it in future, or whatever. But the very fact that it was on some level news to him – even if he’d just never heard it expressed in those terms – shows something to me. Now a lot of guys (especially of my generation) wouldn’t have needed an explanation. But I think it’s fair to say that only a tiny percentage of girls and women wouldn’t understand that.

Flipping the idea – I understand intellectually being so angry at someone that you deal with it by taking a swing at them. Whatever, I playfully whack my friends with pillows when they say mean things about fictional characters (as ONE OF THEM CAN ATTEST, ahem). But that’s different. I will stop a conversation, I will lose trust or faith in an individual, I will imagine saying cutting things when I’m angry, but physical violence with the intent to do harm scares me.

Those are two very broad, very stereotypical, very cis examples of men and women handling problems differently. I was going for quick and dirty to help me illustrate a point. Now, thinking in terms of fiction. When all your heroes and your villains are of one gender, they all have in many ways the same approach towards conflict. At least, they have some of the same groundwork and assumptions. They usually have the same definition of “winning.” They assert dominance in similar ways.

Even when that sort of thing isn’t explicitly stated, or acknowledged by the author, I often feel it in the back of these kinds books. Having both male and female (and in rarer cases, trans and queer and asexual and hermaphroditic) characters means that you tend to have people operating under different assumptions, ‘way off in the back. You tend to be able to tackle more. It tends to be closer to how I deal with life.

So there’s the logical side, which I just pretty much pulled out of my ass. You know what really gets on my nerves? In Guy Books, Our Heroes look at each other and just Get It, How Hard It Is to Be a Man. (Only men can really understand that, you know.) If it’s an older book (and often with newer ones too) it doesn’t seem to occur to the characters or the author that women have understandable wants and needs.

In Lady Books, Our Heroines spend a crapton of time bitching about being girls, or else nodding about how Only Women Understand some particular thing. This time, men are there to move the women around, and the women are there to react to it.

Fuck all that shit. People is people, we affect each other, and dismissing a gender as sort of unwitting cosmic marble players is bullshit, and a cop-out. Adults who live in the world and fight crime or are international spies or interact with other human beings ever should really have gotten over that element by now.

And when we can start getting more genderqueer folks in, that’s when things will really pick up.

I will now happily debate any and all examples put forth in the comments; I have managed to refrain from bringing up several billion examples only because I’m not entirely convinced by my own logic.