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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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This truncated set of 6 eps provided no particular closure, no interesting character development and nothing particularly interesting. The overall flaccidity of the 6 eps just highlighted the show's problematic aspects even more excruciatingly.

In no particular order, the problems were:
  • Steve. The show never did this character justice. He had great potential, especially as someone with the power of discerning whether people were telling the truth, but the show never really knew what to do with him. Without a tortured past full of secrets like the other agents [or at least not enough of the past for a multi-ep exploration], Steve had no grounding, no motivation, no hook. He also never really had anything to do except for to be Claudia's best friend, to die, to be resurrected and to keep the home fires burning while everyone else ran away on adventures. He was a thoroughly dull and objectified damsel in distress type. I feel like the writers identified him by a cluster of traits -- former ATF agent, Buddhist, gay, human lie detector -- and just had him mention those identities occasionally in lieu of developing an actual personality.
  • While we're on the subject again, let's bring up homophobia, one of the show's perennial failings. In 6.4, Savage Seduction, Claudia and Steve investigate a frat where the brothers are using an artifact to split themselves into two parts: studiers and partiers. Claudia and Steve's quest started promisingly with Claudia grumbling about "kids these days" [even though she was the age of the students] and Steve's revelation that he had been part of a nerd fraternity with "book group and holiday a cappella." Then Steve got a hold of the artifact and turned into two Steves, one of which was usual Steve and the other of which was a painfully swishy stereotype. Where did that come from? Steve had never shown any indication of harboring painfully swishy stereotypes. It could have been interesting if those were his long-buried fears about what he might have to be when he found out he was gay, but nah -- the show just played swishy Steve for laughs. Claudia also made a passing remark that she liked swishy Steve "a little bit more" than usual Steve, which was indicative of the show's whole treatment of Steve's sexuality: it was only ever developed jokingly, with reference to stereotypes, even if Steve was bringing them up to say that he differed from them. The show could not take him as a gay guy seriously and invested way too much prurient energy into his sexuality.
  • Speaking of sexuality, the show also capitulated to cultural pressures of heteronormativity. After five seasons of him being annoyed at her exactitude and her being annoyed at his immaturity, Pete and Myka realized that they loved each other. Well, that was pretty obvious. But why did they have to end up as a romantic couple? They may have loved each other and worked well together, but they were not characterologically compatible, so why did the show hook them up? Boring, boring, boring.
  • Furthermore, racism featured prominently in Warehouse 13's final season. It was like they crammed all the racism that they hadn't gotten to into a single truncated set of 6 eps. There were the gratuitous "g***y" references with the fortune tellers in the Ren Faire ep. There was the trash heap of "fiery Latino" stereotypes in the telenovela ep. Then, in the last ep, Leena, who was bumped off for no reason at the end of season 4, was given a flashback scene in which she foresaw her own death in the Warehouse and then, when Mrs. Frederic said that she would try to prevent it, said to her, "But it's okay." No, you stinkin' show -- do not try to retroactively sell me on the useless death of one of the show's two main characters of color. I won't buy it.





 
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Bared to You by Sylvia Day [Crossfire #1] shares a lot in common with the [unfortunately] more popular Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As in the 50 Shades trilogy, the Crossfire trilogy follows the first-person adventures of an administrative-assistant-level young woman, Eva in Bared to You, and her rollercoaster relationship with a young rich man, Gideon in Bared to You, who owns the company for which she works. They have sex and fight a lot, sometimes simultaneously. Their relationship involves some bdsm, submission for the protagonist, domination for the love interest. A series of assumptions, piss-offs, misunderstandings, apologies, jealousies, running-aways and reconciliations passes for plot. And don't forget the sex. At the end, the reader is exhausted, but there are still two books to go!

But that's where the similarities end. Crossfire exceeds 50 Shades in quality at every level.
Read more... )
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Way back in the early days of the millennium, I chose ModernWizard as a screen name, a practice that I have continued over the past 10+ years to create a coherent online identity.  I specifically chose it because it combines connotations of magic and fantasy with a more up-to-date sensibility. I also specifically chose it because it's not gender-marked, although, now that I think about it, most people think "wizard" to be a gender-marked word, the male equivalent to "witch." Also informing my choice was a T-shirt I had at that time with glow-in-the-dark constellations, which, I decided, would be appropriate for a modern wizard's garb, as opposed to the stylized astronomical symbols of yore. ^_^

Anyway, people who don't know me continually assume that I'm a guy. Well, let me rephrase that -- straight cis white dudes continually assume I'm one of them by using masculine pronouns on trade references or calling me sir. It is interesting that women do not do this.

I could go off onto a whole tangent about the gendered ways in which people write only and how people interpret other people's gender from what they write [For example, I very rarely see masculine-identified people use ^_^. :), :( and :p, yes, but ^_^, no. :p ] and what happens when one reads "conflicting" cues. I don't wanna, though. The end.
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 NBC is covering the story! Bullshit ahoy!

I don't have the energy to parse this right now, but I do have to say that my favorite quote is this:

...Women may be looking for orgasms, which, in turn, Mautz suggested, may serve a pair-bonding function. In the recent book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction Bullshit Topped with Bullshit with Bullshit a la Mode for Dessert (which I co-authored crapped out of my ass), Emory University neuroscientist Larry Young argues that the big human penis evolved into a tool meant to stimulate both the vagina and cervix as a way [to] trigger the release of oxytocin in a woman’s brain, activating bonding circuits. 

BONERZ = WUV. It's science, dipsticks!
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Lewis Buchspics set up the layout below at about 3 feet off the ground so that kids could easily view it. Since most layouts were at least 4, if not 5, feet off the ground, kids flocked to this one, attracted as well by the copious flashing lights, sound effects, fake smoke and motorized set pieces.

Read more... )
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Janna and I went to the Vermont Rails Train Show at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex Junction, VT, yesterday. Woo hoo! We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I took 273 pictures in the hopes of getting at least 25% of them to develop acceptably.
Read more... )
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Just in case you thought last month's anti-fat advice column from Slate's Dear Prudence was a fluke, here she is recycling the same rant for Valentine's Day.

Letter writer: "I like this guy, but he's gained 20 pounds in the past year, and he doesn't brush his teeth before bed. I'm in the health industry, so I'm very concerned. What do I do?"

Prudie: "I see you're worried about fatty there croaking from diabetes and you raising your kids alone. So give him an ultimatum: A) No kisses till he starts brushing regularly. B) Either he gets his fat ass to the gym on a slimming program and stops stuffing cake in his piehole, or you're outta there. P.S. People without teeth are hilarious. Also ugly."

This response, like last month's, reveals Prudie's hangups and preoccupations. In both cases, she assumes that the fat people in question will, if they continue their current behavior, become shamefully disabled and eventually die, probably from complications from diabetes. Then their poor wives will be alone, so tragically alone, forced to raise the kids by themselves.

It's so multiply offensive. In no particular order, there's the clueless assumptions that fat people are axiomatically unhealthy. There's the nasty, cruel jokes at the expense of people with disabilities. And there's the heterosexist idea that a single mother and kids is not a real family, but something pathetic, unnatural and inadequate.

If Prudie really wanted to give helpful advice, she should encourage the letter writer to talk to her boyfriend and find out more about his childhood relationships to dental hygiene, sugar, diabetes and food in general. She should also ask him how he's been doing in the last year physically, mentally and emotionally. The first subject could shed some light on why he has poor dental hygiene; maybe he never had toothbrushing habits modeled, or he's scared of the dentist, or there was that one time his uncle called him Buckteeth, so he has really ambivalent feelings about his mouth in general. The second subject could provide context for his weight gain; maybe he's feeling lethargic, or he's lost his appetite, or his tastes have changed, or he's eating in part due to boredom, anxiety or depression. Heck, maybe his thyroid's off!

With this information, the letter writer and her boyfriend can, if they feel so motivated, better figure out the actual contributing factors to his poor dental hygiene and his recent weight gain, instead of attacking the symptoms. They can then consult the appropriate health care providers or social supports and work from there.

I know, Prudie; I know...that's too much work. Far easier to focus on the symptoms and use emotional bribery to combat the eeeeeeeeevil fats.

Didn't anyone tell you that ultimatums never work?

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[Thanks to Sparky at Racialicious.]

This "reverse discrimination" bullshit got funded?! WHY?

Re plot summary: SNORE. Also...saddest song, smallest violin.

P.S. I've started swearing in my LJ again. There's too much bullshit in the world that needs calling out as such.

EDIT: Wow, it gets worse. First off, the author says that she wrote this bullshit because anti-gay bigots need to "to feel, through the love story of Chris and Carmen, the wrenching horror of being denied the person you love." Yeah, somehow, reading about a persecuted straight couple will make anti-gay bigots more sympathetic to queers. Given that many anti-gay bigots believe that they are personally being persecuted right here and now by the "homosexual agenda," I doubt that a book making queers the majority will promote empathy in said anti-gay bigots. They'd read it as a cautionary tale of what will happen to this civilization if we let those evil queers have their so-called "rights." No, Preble, your book does not challenge anti-gay bigotry. It supports anti-gay bigotry.

Second of all, she thinks she's some sort of fearless crusader with a message from "the Universe" to "[l]ive your truth." Hey, Preble...your truth is that you're full of heteronormative privilege. Also self-aggrandizing bullshit.

Third, she's laboring under the misconception that her book is "LGBT fiction." News flash for the clueless -- in order to be classified as "LGBT fiction," your book has to feature some lesbian and/or gay and/or bisexual and/or trans characters as sympathetically portrayed individuals whose experiences are worth sharing. You can't just write a story  with some lesbian and/or gay and/or bi and/or trans characters who function not as characters, but as poorly wielded anvils to hammer home the Important Theme [tm] that Anti-Gay Bigotry Is Wrong. "LGBT" fiction requires valuing, promoting and centering various varieties of "LGBT" experiences, which Preble obviously can't do.

Fourth and most disgustingly, Preble feeds us some argle-bargle about writing this book in support of her gay son. Jesus Christ, if she really wished to support her son, why didn't she help to organize her local city's Pride celebration, join PFLAG, staff the fundraising phones at a marriage equality organization [since that's one of her pet causes]? At least do something directly related to queers. As mind-blowing as it may be to hear this, Preble, writing about straight people does not further the cause of queer civil rights. In fact, it just reinforces the broad societal assumption that the only stories worth telling are heteronormative ones. Get it? You're not helping. Shut up; bug off, and stop colonizing my subgenre. We don't want you here.

I can't expect Preble to get it, though. Her brain is so stuffed with straight privilege that there's no room for any critical thought. I mean, look -- she apparently doesn't think queers exist. She addresses her blog audience [and putative readership] as follows: "If the way you are, ie, attracted to people of the opposite sex, was criminalized, how would you feel?"

Three things, Preble: 1) You appear to be operating under the strange and old-fashioned notion that sexes have "opposites," a concept that is both factually incorrect and incoherent. What do you even mean here?

2) I AIN'T STRAIGHT. I am not attracted to people of the "opposite" sex. Amazing, huh? Not everyone in the world is just like you.

3) It ain't a conditional for me. The way I am is criminalized in some places, maybe not where I live, but elsewhere. Though I might have certain freedoms that people in more restricted places do not, we all suffer from the same societal biases. Don't tell me and others like me that our lives are speculative fiction. You don't get to dictate my reality.

Oh wait...I have a fourth thing. 4) I read your sample chapter of this book, and you can't write for shit.

WTF, U2?

Sep. 17th, 2012 09:58 am
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You're nice to listen to on occasion, despite your sick views of heterosexual love, but sometimes I really don't get you. For example, in So Cruel, you sing:

Oh love, like a screaming flower
Love, dying every hour


Seriously? What does that even mean? I assume you're talking about Bob the Angry Flower, but that really doesn't make much sense.

...Oh. I get it. You just wanted something to rhyme with "hour," didn't you?

>_>

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As part of my job, I communicate with authors about the status of their manuscripts, including format correction letters, revision letters, resubmission letters, "Where is your overdue review?" letters, etc. The ways in which the authors address me are alternately frustrating and amusing.

I've had authors address me as "Dr. Allen," which is hilarious. They must assume that anyone involved in a medical journal is automatically a doctor. Well, the editor is a doctor, as are the associate editors and editorial board members, but not the editorial staff.

I've had authors address me as "Miss Allen," which is somewhat irritating, but kind of understandable. A lot of the authors are international, and their primary language may not have an equivalent of "Ms.," so they go with "Miss." Fine.

What really grates my cheese, though, is when authors address me as "Mrs. Allen." Apparently they assume that, just because I come across as a woman belonging to a certain cohort, I must be in a [hetero] marriage. They also assume that, even if I were married, I should be called "Mrs." Nope, it's "Ms." all the way, bucko.

I'm just waiting for when we get married, and someone calls up or sends mail to "Mrs. [My Spouse's Name]," like I'm completely subsumed into her identity. "That person does not exist. Goodbye."

While I'm on the subject, it's my name, mine mine mine, and I'm keeping it. Just as I don't change identity when I marry, so I don't change my name [or my honorific]. What a silly, misogynist, insulting assumption that I would.

Since I'm here, I should also tell you to call me either by the name I introduce myself as or the name prominently featured in my E-mail signature. Anyone who automatically calls me by some nickname available to those people who have my name will be glared at, corrected and dealt a swift kick in the butt [well, the last mentally at least].

I'm feeling a lot of outrage these days.
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After my horrible experience with Clarke Demas and Baker's disgustingly heteronormative policies, I searched for an explicitly GLBT-friendly estate planner in Vermont, vowing to ask if this one had up-to-date forms. One of the few firms whose site clearly mentioned experience with same-sex couples was Unsworth Law.

Preliminarily, I can say that my experience with Unsworth has been much better than my experience with Clarke Demas and Baker. For one thing, the firm is clearly in touch with reality. For another, the legal assistant sympathized with my outrage at Clarke Demas and Baker. She could actually say the words "same-sex marriage," which shouldn't be that much to ask, but which made me feel very pleased. I'm going to a general seminar by Unsworth about estate planning next week. Further bulletins as events warrant.
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My financial advisor has been bugging me to make a will, power of attorney, health care agent, all that sort of thing, so I finally got around to scheduling an initial consultation. At my sister's recommendation, I chose Clarke Demas and Baker, a Vermont-based law firm, and scheduled an appointment.

I received a PDF intake form for a single person, but wanted a Word document so I could make notes on it. When I received the Word intake form, I noticed that it was for married people, but I decided to use it anyway.

Then I looked closely at the married intake form. It was divided into 2 columns, one labeled "Husband" and the other labeled "Wife."

Outrage overcame me. [It does that a lot these days.] We've had marriage equality here in the state since 2009, but Clarke Demas and Baker apparently refuses to accept reality by simply changing their forms to read "Spouse 1" and "Spouse 2." They may have experience doing estate planning for same-sex couples, but their forms betray what they really think of us: we don't exist.

I refuse to patronize a law firm that thinks I don't exist. My business is going elsewhere, and I'm telling them why.

EDIT: I just explained to the legal assistant my cancellation and my reasons. I said that they should update their forms. She said, "I apologize; we do have a form for that."

Now I'm really glad I'm not using their services. My God, if the legal assistant can't even say the phrase "same-sex marriage" and if, for some reason, there's a separate form [separate but no doubt "equal!"] for same-sex spouses, the firm clearly devalues me and my ilk.
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Following up on my entry earlier this year about sexism on a customer service line, I present the following conversation, which happened between me and the dental hygienist this morning. I was actually finding the poking, scraping and drilling much less annoying than usual, thanks to the hygienist's sense of humor and skills. Then we started talking about mouthwash.

I asked for recommendations of alcohol-free mouthwash. I mentioned that "my fiancee" used mouthwash with alcohol, which I did not like because of its strong odor.

Hygienist: "What kind does he use?"

Me: "I don't know what SHE uses."

Conversation continued with recommendations.

So she automatically assumed that I was engaged to a guy because a) I look like a woman and b) the majority of marriages are between a man and a woman. However, given that spouses are not always 1 man + 1 woman, people should know better than to make that assumption, especially in Vermont, which is on the vanguard of marriage equality in the US. The definition of marriage has changed yet again, people. Get with the program!

P.S. My FIANCE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? What fiance?

P.P.S. Holy crap, the hygienist was not the only one behind the times. Just out of curiosity, I typed "define marriage" into Google.

Merriam Webster's online dictionary says:

"(1) the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage"

FAILURE. Just say "the state of being united to a person as a husband or wife...blah blah blah."

reference.com/dictionary.com says something similar:

"1. a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc. Antonyms: separation.
b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender: gay marriage. Antonyms: separation."

FAILURE. It's all the same institution.


Google's first dictionary result has the same problem:

"1. The formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife
2. A similar long-term relationship between partners of the same sex"

THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT. It's not "a similar long-term relationship." It's the same thing!

Not until Wiktionary do we get a more accurate definition, talking about an exclusive union between two or more people. Subdefinitions clarify that, in some jurisdictions, marriage is defined as being between 1 man + 1 woman, while other jurisdictions allow 2 partners of any sex to marry. But the main thing is the exclusive union.

I actually like the Wikipedia entry the best, as it seems to capture the concept and purposes of marriage that have remained stable over time: "Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that creates kinship." Marriage is a grouping of people to create social units. Everything else varies. If you don't like that, you're on the losing side of history.
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As much as I'm interested in the concept of the novel [a cure for aging and its effects on the world], I DO NOT CARE AT ALL about the adventures of the protagonist, a straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied, US man with a societally acceptable body shape and a slag heap of unexamined privilege.

Seemingly THE ENTIRE WORLD revolves around the adventures of straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied men with societally acceptable body shapes and slag heaps of unexamined privilege. They're tedious, boring, self-indulgent and overdone. Find a new narrative, people.

P.S. And if you're a straight etc. man whose protagonist happens to be a straight etc. man, you're suffering A FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. The world don't look like you no more. Get over yourself.
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After mulling for a few days, I've determined some of the most problematic assumptions underlying 50 Shades of Grey. As I've discussed, it is about a young woman, Ana, who embarks on a submissive, bdsm relationship with the dominant and slightly older Christian.
I mention child abuse and rape below the cut. )
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And now, for something more amusing, let's turn to John Scalzi's blog entry, "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," which begins:

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

The entry itself goes on to analogize "straight white male" privilege as the easiest level setting in a video game. I sense some implicit Oppression Olympics going on in his analogy, so I can't recommend it unreservedly, but that opening comparison sure is hilarious.
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I was in the very awkward position today of trying to find out the sex of a coauthor of an article for which I was sending a revision letter. I wanted to include in the letter that the doctor needed to update their financial disclosure and wanted to give instructions on how to do so.

I couldn't use third-person plural pronouns or "his/her" because the company objects to those uses. In order to avoid really awkward phrasing, I wanted to find out this person's sex so I could use the correct pronouns, and the person's name was not giving me any clues.

I eventually found information about the person's sex and completed the instructions with the correct pronouns. This situation highlighted for me the English language's need for a broadly accepted gender-neutral pronoun. Third-person plural pronouns are fine to me, if only conservative institutions would stop having grammatical fits about them.

Interestingly enough, I mostly avoid the subject of people's sex in my job because pretty much everyone we deal with is a doctor, so we just address them by that title.
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The New York Times has an article about women going on crash diets in preparation for their weddings. This, of course, represents nothing new or even unusual. It's still sad, frightening and self-hating, though. The women interviewed internalize a cultural hostility toward women and toward a diversity of body sizes, shapes and masses by literally cutting themselves down to a societally acceptable size. Like the horrible "giving away of the bride," which transfers ownership of the woman from her father to her husband, these wedding crash diets and other modern traditions for heterosexual marriages literally diminish participants and bodily reformat them into transactional currency to be objectified. "The greatest day of one's life," indeed.

P.S. Diets don't work anyway. At least 95% of people who diet gain the lost weight back.

P.P.S. Don't even get me started on how this article [along with so many other articles in the NYT that concern women, queers and trans folks] appears in the Style section. We're not good enough for the main paper?!
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The New York Times says that, among other reasons, Republicans do not want to support this anti-domestic violence legislation because "...it also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say."

What is the implication here...that there are no same-sex couples with women in them? That queer couples don't experience domestic violence? Both of these are patently false assumptions. I don't understand why more domestic violence prevention would be a BAD thing.

Clearly the Republicans just don't like people who aren't straight, cis, white, able-bodied, rich men. More than that, they actively want to kill them. It's a frightening world we live in.
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Not only is it racist and heteronormative, but it's also static and deeply boring. I dismissed Bones from my repertoire, and I don't miss it. Surely I can do the same with Once Upon a Time.
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So today I called Dental Dental of Illinois' customer service hotline to try to find out which type of Delta Dental I had. One of the first questions that the rep asked me, even before my name or ID number, was, "Who's the holder of the policy, your husband?"

Let's break that down...

The rep knew nothing about me, not even my name or my ID number, no personal information, except for that I sounded stereotypically feminine. He therefore automatically assumed that:

a) I was a woman.

b) I was heterosexual.

c) I was married.

d) I did not have insurance under my own name.

I can understand assumption a), but were any of the others warranted? NO! What stupidity!

P.S. MY HUSBAND?!?!?!?!?!? What husband?
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Yesterday, I watched another Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas, in which a woman is happily engaged to an Italian man. He's preparing a surprise wedding for her in Aspen and, when one of her photography shoots is canceled, she decides to fly out early to surprise him. When her flight is canceled, she hitches a ride with a widower and his teenaged daughter. The woman [naturally :p ] falls in love with the widower, conveniently discovers her fiance's infidelity and dumps the fiance for the widower.

For a Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas was surprisingly tolerable. This is probably because the movie itself was a road-trip romance that happened to occur arround Xmas, rather than a film in which Xmas plays a starring role as the holiday of cliched and enforced happiness for all.

Because I could watch Road to Xmas without gagging on holiday cheer, its problematic elements stood out all the more strongly: 1) homophobia and 2) domestic violence.

You see...the photographer's fiance wasn't just having an affair with some random woman...he was sexing it up with the male wedding planner. After unbelievable excuses, the fiance protests that he really wanted the wedding between him and the photographer to work out, which makes him seem like not only a cheater, but a cheater deluded enough to think that a straight marriage would somehow keep both parties happy when one party is secretly gay. After an entirely heteronormative movie, two gay characters appear only to provide a devastating [yet convenient] end to the photographer and fiance's relationship, thus reinforcing the idea that gay people are selfish homewreckers.

I also objected to the domestic violence at the end of the film. When she discovered that her fiance was gay, the photographer swung her fists at him, slapping him and pounding him in the chest. He said something like, "Please don't hit me!" or "Why are you hitting me?" Her response was something like, "It's the only thing I can think to do, and it feels good." The photographer's blows against her fiance were shown to be ineffectual and comic, but just make the assailant a man and the victim a woman to see how chilling this exchange truly is. Can you imagine a male character justifying violence against a female character by saying, "It feels good"? Most people would recognize such a situation as the abusive behavior it is. When the assailant is female, however, and the victim male, the situation is minimized, diminished and played for comic relief so that the violence seems more palatable, even acceptable and dismissable! Vomitorious.
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They all contain female protagonists who are over the hill at my age >:( [Eve's Xmas] and who learn the true, fulfilling value of heterosexual marriage through the intervention of unrealistic "meet cutes" [His and Hers Xmas] or Magical Wise Negro fairy godfathers. Vomit vomit vomit. They're sort of fascinating in a stomach-churning sort of way.
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Bones is back [well, I finally got to watch the first ep of Season 7], and there's yet another Pregnancy Plot on the table. After suffering an entire season of Angela and Hodgins' heteronormative nesting behaviors in Season 6, we have to go through the same thing again with the 2 main characters, Bones and Booth. I say "the same thing again" because there's apparently only one way for mainstream pop culture, especially TV and movies in the US, to treat pregnancy.
  • No matter what the situation of the woman getting pregnant and the way that she gets pregnant, she always wants to go through with the pregnancy and have a child and raise it herself. Where are the miscarriages? Where are the adoptions? [Once Upon a Time, featuring Henry, Emma's son that was given for adoption shortly after birth, remains an exception to the rule.] Where are the abortions? Mainstream pop entertainment does not reflect the realities of so many pregnancies.
  • The attitudes of the prospective parents suddenly become suffused with gooey lovey-doveyness, confidence, starry-eyed idealism and happiness. I mean, God forbid that anyone feel hostile or ambivalent about the fetus! That's just not possible! That would destroy the unrealistic emphasis that TV has on pregnancy and childbirth being some sort of panacea for life's problems.
  • Pregnancy brings out the inner femininity of the pregnant woman and fulfills her. No matter how many successes and enjoyments the character has had in her life before becoming pregnant, the glorifying way in which pregnancy is haloed on TV makes all the other accomplishments and sources of joy insignificant in comparison. For some women, pregnancy may be the best thing they've ever done with their lives, but, if TV insists that every pregnant female character feel this way, then these shows are just reproducing boring, essentialist, reductionist stereotypes about what women can do and be.

Pregnancy Plots just instantly flatten out character depth and plot dynamism. Furthermore, their relentless heteronormativity makes me want to throw up. 

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I had never watched Die Hard (1988), with Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman [yay!], before, so I watched it streaming last night. ‘Tis a silly film – are we really supposed to believe that Willis’ character, John McClane, routs the baddies while not wearing any shoes? Come on now!

I also noticed that Die Hard seems to share with Fatal Attraction a reactive misogynist hatred of the independent woman. The specter of independence raised by Holly, John’s estranged wife, who dares to use her maiden name and separate from her husband for her career, is ultimately subsumed into the patriarchal family mode. In fact, the whole movie sets up a situation wherein the wealth and success of the Nakitomi Company, where Holly works, brings the terrorist attack upon itself. Therefore, we can see Hans Gruber [Alan Rickman, yay!] and co. as narrative punishment for Holly’s proto-feminist attitude. She’s so uppity, being a successful career woman and having a Rolex, that she deserves to be smote with the degradation of victimhood at the hands of the terrorists. But she learns her lesson; by the end, she’s using her married name again, happily signifying that she belongs to the manly-man action hero of John McClane. What a load of sexist crap.

Also this weekend I watched a weird three-part miniseries, Tin Man, the SyFy Channel’s story inspired by The Wizard of Oz. I really liked looking at the world, a combination of majestic Vancouver forests and glitzy, vaguely 1930s cities where everyone wears weird hats. Grey machinery mixed with verdant landscape in a cross between steampunky dystopia and wildlands utopia. However, I felt that the pace was rather draggy, especially in the middle episode [middle episodes of trilogies almost always suffer from sluggishness]. I liked the fact that a sisterly bond between the Dorothy equivalent and the Wicked Witch equivalent redeemed the Witch equivalent’s character, but I disliked the fact that monkey bats came out of the Witch equivalent’s heaving cleavage. That was just SILLY.

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The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.

Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.

Read more... )

 

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In the most recent Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan writes about "What Girls Want." Basically, she says that all girls want steadfast male devotion, like she did, which is why the Twilight series is so popular among teen female readers. She makes the horrible logical fallacy of assuming that her particular experience is universal; in doing so, she erases all possible variations of sexual maturation -- due to race, class, gender, socioeconomic status, size, disability, etc. -- that young girls experience. She especially erases variations in young girls' sexual preferences, assuming that they're all heteronormative. We ain't no monolith, you dipstick, and we don't all want slavishly adoring masculine suitors.
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From Duke University's Ad*Access, a digital collection of many ads from the 20th century, comes a 1950 ad for Zonite vaginal douche. Playing directly on fears of ostracism, the ad warns that dire consequences will befall those women who do not douche: "homes broken up, few social invitations, the feeling of being shunned without knowing WHY!" Beware, ladies -- heterosexual HELL will be yours unless you harass your vaginal canals with a liquid that removes the self-cleaning mucous secretions of the canal walls themselves and leaves you susceptible to infections. Your husband won't want to have sex with you; no one will even want to talk to you; society will collapse, and it will all be YOUR FAULT.

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Part I is here. Part II is here.

All right, I've fired my first salvo: to wit, Breaking Dawn breaks rules of good fiction by being inconsistent with the logic established in earlier books. Now my second reason for despising Breaking Dawn shall be detailed here. As I mentioned earlier, I find Breaking Dawn "philosophically objectionable." 

Oh look...more spoilers, not to mention a well-reasoned argument impervious to twits! )

 

 
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So I finished Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, which was grotesquely overrated, unfunny and generally stupid. It's about a pretentious loser of a wannabe writer, Tommy, and his vampire girlfriend Jody. 

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I've discovered something interesting about the distribution and availability of heterosexual couples poses and homosexual couples poses for Daz.

Read more... )

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