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Taking as a springboard Mary Cheney's comparison between drag and blackface, Miz Cracker posts on Slate's Outward Bound with a discussion of the two subjects. Miz Cracker notes that, at base, Cheney objected to drag because she saw it as a mockery of an oppressed group [women] created by a powerful group [men] for degrading purposes. Miz Cracker wonders if drag is inherently misogynist.

Miz Cracker basically argues that drag is not like blackface because blackface is inherently racist, while drag is not inherently misogynist. The comparison between blackface and drag breaks down because blackface and minstrelsy used to be ubiquitous idioms with great cultural influence, but drag has never achieved such a pervasive high profile. That's because blackface was performed by the oppressors in positions of power, whereas drag has been performed by oppressed people in positions of marginalization. I'm not sure how this is relevant to the presence or absence of misogyny in drag.

In fact, I think Miz Cracker's contrast between blackface and drag breaks down because it does not recognize multiple axes of oppression. When she argues that drag has been performed by oppressed people who are marginalized, she's referring to gay/queer men marginalized by their sexuality. However, though gay men may be marginalized on the axis of sexuality, they do have the privilege of being men in a misogynist society. Therefore, when men do drag, no matter what their sexual orientations, they may also be seen as performers in positions of power [as men] compared to the people that they are portraying [women]. Miz Cracker's insistence that it's just a few individually misogynist queens who mess up the whole art form entirely ignores the complex structure of drag and its location at the intersection of mutiple axes of power and oppression.

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As much as I hate to draw attention to stories that portray people with disabilities as sources of inspiration, I'm linking to this story about Paul Smith. For decades, he used a select ten characters from a typewriter to create intricate works of art. I love the bold and yet sketchy lines he makes. Very cool!

Yes, it is relevant to Smith's art that he had cerebral palsy. His inability to use a more traditional instrument such as a brush or pencil prompted him to employ the typewriter. However, there's absolutely no need to describe Smith as "suffering from" a "terrible condition" and therefore "remarkable" and "awe-inspiring" because he created art. There's no indication that Smith perceived himself as suffering, burdened or even awe-inspiring. In a video about his work, he says, "It's something to do." As far as I can tell, he was enjoying himself as he listened to classical music and meticulously created his masterpieces character by character. I'm not claiming that Smith had a purely joyous existence -- for example, he didn't attend mainstream school, which leads me to speculate that he might have felt painfully lonely in his youth -- but I'm not seeing the horrible suffering that this stinky article assumes he felt.

I desperately loathe the trope of disabled person as inspiration to non-disabled people. The OddityCentral article epitomizes the dehumanization implicit in this theme when it concludes, "He died on June 24, 2007, at the Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg, Oregon, but left behind an impressive portfolio of typewriter art, and most importantly the inspiration that you can overcome anything in life, if you put your mind to it." This sentence dismisses the entire content, texture and detail of Smith's life by depicting him solely as an oppressed person who miraculously overcame his oppression to make art. It assumes that Smith's disability can be separated from his experience and art, that it's a barrier between him and a fulfilling life -- because there's obviously no way a person with a disability could ever have a fulfilling, happy life while also having a disability. In short, this sentence dehumanizes Smith by assuming that an inextricable part of his life, his cerebral palsy, can be excised like an early stage of cancer.

But the article isn't satisfied with chopping up Smith into neat little segments [Person vs. Disability] and comparing him to some  non-disabled person's ridiculous standard of a fulfilling life. No, the conclusion dehumanizes him a second time as well when it dismisses his artistic accomplishments and legacy, claiming that Smith's status as "inspiration" is more important. Yes, who cares about Smith's life and art and disability and the relationships among these elements of his experience? Smith was not a significant person who deserved dignity and respect like all other beings. No! He was a superhuman exception to humanity whose primary purpose in this world was to educate the lowly non-disabled people about how we, too, can distance ourselves from the revolting materiality of our weak and mortal flesh and transform ourselves into pure creative mind, ascending to a plane where physical pains and distinctions are irrelevant.

I also hate the Supercrip narrative because of its creaky old Cartesian dualist underpinnings that smack strongly of racism and sexism. Relatedly, Eddie Ndopu discusses just such misogyny and racism inherent in portrayals of Reeva Steenkamp's killer, athlete and miserable human being Oscar Pistorius. [My other discussions of sexism, ableism and racism at work in Steenkamp's murder and the portrayal thereof can be found at "Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead" and "Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts."]

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I finally got to watch the first ep of season 2 this morning. Overall I feel a sense of relief that all significant characters introduced in the previous season remain in action.

Nicole Beharie as Abby and Tom Mison as Ichabod re-establish their easy, sympathetic chemistry. Their characters each have equal opportunity to rescue and be rescued by each other, a refreshing change from other male/female TV pairs in which the man does all the rescuing of the woman.

Jenny, Abby's sister, has survived so far, giving Lyndie Greenwood a chance to play an important auxiliary to Abby and Ichabod. Even more unflinching and martial than Abby, Jenny contributes a satisfying level of physical ass-kicking, as well as great affection for Abby. Grounded by her relationship with her sister, Abby escapes the Exceptional Woman trope/trap.

John Cho and John Noble return to bolster the main characters with some stellar supporting performances. Cho's sniveling, pathetic Andy, who alternates between helping and betraying Abby, decides to do the former in this episode. I hope he recurs, as I find his status as regretful servant of evil, who nevertheless performs good acts, interesting. Noble's Horseman of War, also Ichabod and Katrina's son [?!], lurks ominously, threatening people in the plummy tones of a classically trained actor, while picking scenery from between his teeth. I'm having a very, very hard time dissociating Noble from his 5 seasons as Walter in Fringe.

All that said, I do have some reservations. First of all, where was Captain Irving?!?!?!?! How dare you deprive us of Orlando Jones for an episode, especially right after he gave himself up to law enforcement? He'd better show up soon, along with his family too. Sleepy Hollow can't just not show a whole third of the characters of color like that!

I particularly want to see Irving's daughter Macey return and get some development. As a wheelchair user since getting into a car crash with her dad and then as a temporary vessel for some demon, she smacked a little too much of the Tragic Tabula Rasa Cripple last season. However, I think her brush with demonic possession could provide a chance for some character development. Maybe she could link up to the demon realm and give Abby and Ichabod some guidance therefrom? Of course, this will probably not happen.

Second of all, Katia Winter as Katrina, Ichabod's wife, just gets the raw end of things. Despite billing Katrina as a main character, the show grievously underwrites her. For example, her fascinating past as a powerful witch who joined a coven dedicated to protecting the town -- this aspect of her character dwindles over the first season as her status as pawn in the struggle between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman grows. Furthermore, where a person with more acting skills, like Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood or, heck, even Amandla Stenberg [who plays Macey], might add something to the role, Winter can't even muster that. The stereotyped nature of her character just shows up how untalented she is. 

I eagerly await further episodes, however!
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The judge in the case against murderer Oscar Pistorius just found him not guilty of murder. As I predicted when I first heard about Steenkamp's death, her killer got away with it because he's a straight, cis, white, athletic superstar with the added bonus of having a disability, so, as an inspiring example of humanity overcoming wretched odds, he couldn't possibly do something as vile as killing another human being. Ugh, the stench of white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege and ableism is nauseating.
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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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...check out the E-mail that landed in my box yesterday. For context, Daz produces digital models and ancillary content; one of their most popular characters is Aiko, a model with manga-inspired proportions and appearance [who, I might add, grows less manga-like and more realistic with each iteration :( ]. The latest version, Aiko 6, debuted recently, and so has new content for her. Daz also recently released Lee 6, "an Asian-inspired character for Genesis 2 Male(s)" [their words, not mine], so content for this character has been appearing as well.

Read more... )
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I'm deeply saddened that I find this noteworthy, but I have to say that, in my albeit limited survey of Queen's music, I have found remarkably little in the way of condescension, objectification and misogyny directed toward women in their songs. I'm still waiting in dread for the inevitable sexist stereotypes to crop up and drop my opinion of them, but so far they seem on a level with Men Without Hats. That is, they care less about slagging more than half the population and more about doing what they love: making music! 

Take, for example, Queen's Killer Queen. It's a character sketch of a rich, powerful woman who has expensive tastes and an indomitable will. After an enumeration of her expensive preferences in company and cuisine, the lyrics describe her as "Dynamite with a laser beam / Guaranteed to blow your mind / Anytime"  -- i.e., she's attractive and sexually powerful, but she doesn't threaten, piss off or annoy the speaker. He calls her "dynamite," in the sense of "highly skilled at what she does," "sexy" and "explosively awesome." He wants her to blow his mind!

Even the verse in which she's compared to a cat comes across as laudatory. While woman:cat similes tend to connote peevish competitiveness [cattiness] and sexual objectification [qua pussy cat], the simile here calls the woman "playful as a pussy cat."  The verse describes how she pursues the speaker avidly, then suddenly stops, "temporarily out of gas." The speaker recognizes that she's playing a game -- "all out to get you" -- but doesn't think she's a cocktease or playing hard to get. No, he goes along, happy to play with the woman. The song ends with an acknowledgment of the woman's irresistible effect on the speaker ["Recommended at any price"], as well as listeners ["Wanna try? / You wanna try..."]. It's very obvious that the song Killer Queen is sung as a tribute by a dude who desires, respects and perhaps even loves a woman for traits that other people would probably deride.

...People like, for example, the Rolling Stones. The Stones' analogue to Killer Queen would have to be Stupid Girl, in which the singer sketches a character similar to the Killer Queen. The woman in Stupid Girl dresses expensively, values material goods ["...she digs for gold"], pursues men aggressively ["...she grabs and holds"], etc. The singer even trots out a feline simile: "She purrs like a pussy cat / Then turns round and hisses back."  Heck, the Killer Queen and the Stupid Girl are probably the same person, just described from different points of view.

While the speaker in Killer Queen thinks that the woman is the best partner he's had, the speaker in Stupid Girl absolutely loathes the woman. It's right there in the title of the song! Finally, the comparison of the woman to "a lady-in-waiting to a virgin queen" implies that she's close to power, but actually lacking it, really just a glorified servant. Furthermore, the virginity of the queen in the simile passes by association onto the woman, connoting sexual inexperience, coldness and inaccessibility. The speaker clearly can't stand the fact that he desires this woman, so he projects all his hostility onto her and vilifies her for being interested in people other than himself. [Gee, I wonder why? He's such a catch! :p ]

In my imagination, this is how the story goes: There's a young woman -- let's say her name is Regina ;) -- born into wealth and power. She's neither particularly good nor particularly bad, neither particularly selfish nor unselfish, just a person of average character. She really enjoys her material privileges, though. She knows that her wealth and attractiveness give her a certain license, so she exploits this in her active, assertive search for romantic and sexual partners. She always has the flashiest and latest and best and most expensive of everything, and she carefully, deliberately cultivates her status as trendsetter. She holds meetings with her staff, for example, where they go over long-range ramifications of, say, choosing vegetarianism. For another example, she has a panel of people who critique every outfit she wears, looking not only for high quality, coordination, fashionability, originality and daring, but also for rip-offs, appropriation, offensiveness, copyright infringement, etc. Regina has a reputation for being somewhat mysterious and reclusive, but this is mostly because she spends so much time analyzing every more in private before she makes it in public.

Regina's work pays off. People wear what she wears, eat what she eats, travel where she travels, support the causes she supports, While not an actor or singer or model or fashion designer or hereditary titled person, Regina hangs out with all the coolest of all these groups, or, more precisely, they seem to hang out with her because they want her awesomeness by association. In short, she has become one of the most powerful people in the country. As a style icon, she has enormous influence to shape the most basic aspects of people's lives, from the contents of their closets to their moral considerations. Regina shamelessly enjoys this power.

There are two people -- let's call them Freddie and Mick ;) -- who represent the divergent opinions that the public has about Regina. Freddie recognizes Regina's achievements. He understands that people in Regina's position are neither inherently sexy nor glamorous and that Regina has carefully crafted the role of style icon for herself. He realizes that the creation and maintenance of such a status requires a lot of time, money and energy, and he's impressed by her ambition, acumen, intelligence and hard work. He notes that, while she does not have a traditionally defined profession, she has turned "style icon" into her own demanding, full-time job. And, of course, like many people, Freddie feels the effects of Regina's glamour. Her quick movement through dating/bed partners just proves to him that she's admirably lusty, playful, fun-loving, probably "dynamite" :D in the sack and exhausting to anyone she moves on from. He lusts after her; he has a huge crush on her; he thinks she's amazing and really enjoys their friends with benefits hook-ups. If anything, he has a little hero worship going on that keeps him from seeing Regina as an imperfect person, like him.

On the other hand, Mick contemns Regina as an airhead heiress who does nothing and is famous for being famous. In his eyes, she wastes her fortune on trivial tokens of femininity, like clothes and cosmetics. Her assertive pursuit of sexual and romantic partners makes him think that she's a slutty whore...and also a frigid b***h because she declined to date him after having sex one night. He hates her because she's a woman who has the temerity to be happy without him in her life. It goes without saying that Mick is, of course, a miserable, wretched excuse for a human being. :p
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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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I realize that a bunch of songs by my favorite artists are about stalking. For example, Love Is Strong by the Rolling Stones. "A glimpse of you / Is all it took / A stranger's glance / It got me hooked..." Mick Jagger sings, then detailing how he follows the woman for vast distances. For another example, Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. "Burn through the ground / Break from the crowd / I'm on the hunt; I'm after you..." Duran Duran sings. In the second example, the man is literally chasing the woman, trying to run her down. She's trying to escape, probably in fear for her life, if not her safety, and it's a poppy, upbeat New Wave hit!

Stalking songs disturb me differently than domestic violence songs [e.g., the Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb or There She Goes by the Velvet Underground]. In the domestic violence songs I listen to, the abuse is framed as part of a dysfunctional relationship. Somehow this lets me critique it more effectively. In stalking songs, though, the abuse appears as an acceptable behavior in the context of a two-way, loving relationship. This is false on two counts because a) it's an unacceptable behavior in any context and b) there's no two-way, much less loving, relationship in the stalking songs. It's an entirely imaginary relationship based on misogynist objectification. The singers of stalking songs seem so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they are more impervious to critique.
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Coming in Xmas 2014! Watch the preview! Hopefully it features less racism and sexism than the 1982 version with Aidan Quinn!

I'm actually really excited about this! I have fond memories of the 1982 version as one of of the few movies of my childhood focusing on a female protagonist's experience [the other two being The Journey of Natty Gann and Labyrinth] and allowing her to fully develop as a character! Also I like the soundtrack! And my Annie doll!

Wouldn't it be neat if there was an Annie doll from this movie that actually looked like Quvenzhane Wells? I would snap that up in a moment! Quvenzhane Wells is talented and adorable! I'm going to see this movie, possibly in the theater!
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Today we're examining The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I picked this up because it looked to be in a similar vein as Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy, a silly but agreeably diverting series with occasional intelligent grace notes. In fact, Harkness endorsed Barker's debut novel as "a marvelous plot [with] clever dialogue [and] complex characters...a perfect escape from humdrum reality." I mentally translated this as "fun, shallow escapism" and settled in for some entertainment.

I have not been entertained. Instead, Barker has been providing object lessons in how not to write, here presented for your delectation in no particular order:

1) Spend a significant portion of the book having the protagonist raped and brainwashed, and then forget about it. Nora, a 30-year-old unhappy grad student in English literature, somehow accidentally pierces from this world into the realm of Ye Olde Standarde Faeries: that is, supernatural assholes who appear like beautiful humans but really look disgusting and who enjoy kidnapping humans and messing with their minds. The first 80 pages of the novel detail her transformation into a thoughtless automaton, coerced into a muzzy-headed state of permanent compliance. She is essentially drugged, threatened, gaslighted, forcibly married to Raclin, a draconic fairy prince, raped by Raclin, beaten by Raclin and, finally, terrorized by Raclin's mom Ilissa until she miscarries. By this point, the reader just wants the torture to end, but no such luck. Aruendiel, a human, male magician, rescues Nora, and we still have about four-fifths of the book left to go.

The remainder of the book, however, doesn't adequately address the aftermath of Nora's ordeal. Barker discusses Nora's physical healing from Raclin's assault, as well as the disconcerting experience of having a huge amount of fairy glamour lifted from her. We also get a little bit of ambivalence from Nora about having a miscarriage, but that's about it. We don't, for example, see Nora angry or ashamed at her seduction, regretful that she has left behind the lap of luxury for a hardscrabble life with Aruendiel, proud that she managed to get out or even frightened that the fairies might come after her. She does not appear to have been emotionally affected by her torture at all. For God's sake, she shows more impassioned feeling in her discussion with Aruendiel of his language's sexist deployment of gendered conjugations and declensions than she does about her repeated mental and physical violation at the hands of the fairies.

2) Fail to establish credible antagonists. Of course, the fairies do indeed come after Nora once Aruendiel rescues her; Raclin, in the form of a dragon, chases her on a few separate occasions, but is thwarted when Aruendiel a) pop-flies him into the stratosphere, b) leaves him with a much larger and very pissy lake monster and c) turns him into a rock. Aruendiel's casual [and silly -- seriously, pop-flying him into the stratosphere?] dispatches of Raclin make the prince seem less like a truly threatening abuser and more like an annoying bug. Because Nora and Aruendiel always repulse the fairies, the fairies fail come across as creakingly obvious devices with which to move the plot [such as there is] forward.

3) Use ableist and racist stereotypes in place of character development. In the ableism department, Aruendiel represents one of the most tedious types, the Aloof And Commanding Cripple With A Broken Body, But A Restless Mind, Whose Rudeness And Grimness May Be Excused By His Secret Tragic Past [But It Wasn't His Fault]. In Aruendiel's case, he killed his wife because [somehow] he thought this would free her from an enchantment that Ilissa had put on her. Then he was fighting in some war with Ilissa, and he fell out of the sky, broke lots of bones and died, but his friends brought him back to life. He does not, however, think that he was worth reviving. Why are the Tragic Cripples always so whiny and self-pitying?

In the racism department, one of the most interesting characters unfortunately ends up being the most exoticized. Hirizjahkinis, Aruendiel's friend, is the only female magician in a book where the main culture's characters think of female magicians as highly improbable, if not impossible. Hirizjahkinis skirts the sexist restrictions of Aruendiel's society by being a foreigner from some hot, jungle-covered, southerly place [lazy Africa equivalent] with a tradition of female witches. Physically, she is dark-skinned -- the only non-white character in the entire book [a fact noted by the white characters] -- with her black hair in cornrows. When Nora first meets her, Hirizjahkinis is so exotic and foreign that she wears both a kimono-like robe and a leopard skin over her shoulders. Yes, folks, a leopard skin: the stereotypical sign of a comic-book "jungle girl" or "savage!" Oh yeah, and she's bisexual -- the only non-hetero person in the entire book [also noted by the characters]. Even though she is warm, friendly, patient, competent, unflappable, sexy, badass and clearly the most lively and engaging character in the whole book, Hirizjahkinis suffers from intersectional objectification because, for some reason, Barker thought it acceptable to turn her into an egregious token, the embodiment of all that is different from the straight, white majority in the book.

4) Focus on a vacuous protagonist. I have no idea why Harkness thinks that this book involves "complex characters." They are the least complex I have come across in a long time. The protagonist Nora has no personality whatsoever, and the structure of the book, in which events happen to Nora through no agency of her own, certainly doesn't help matters. Nora is stalled in her dissertation by her advisor, dumped by her boyfriend, accidentally sucked into another world, abducted and raped by fairies, rescued and healed by Aruendiel, etc., etc., etc., shuttling from one event to another like a pinball being smacked by paddles of plot. It is possible to write a fascinating story about a protagonist who experiences dramatic changes in her life that are outside her control, but this is not that story. Said hypothetical fascinating story requires a protagonist with an interesting inner life whose interpretation of events offers counterpoint and/or insight into the whole structure of the plot. Nora, who apparently has no phenomenological experience whatsoever [see her lack of reaction to her rape], is not that protagonist.

Barker does Nora no favors on the development front by depriving her of a history. Sure, she's got an ex-boyfriend and a female friend, but we quickly breeze past these people so that Nora may be brainwashed and raped by the fairies. Quick summaries of Nora's relationship with her ex or an explanation of her friend's personality provide no revealing details about Nora as a person.

And what about Nora's family?  Heck, it's not until two-thirds of the way through the book, when she visits her 10-year-old sister through a two-way scrying spell, that we see that her sister has a shrine to their dead brother and that it now includes a photo of presumed-dead Nora as well. Why didn't we hear about her little sister and dead brother earlier? Why does Barker pass up a chance to forge significant relationships and thus a bit of individuality for her main character? Why does she withhold such important information about Nora's dead brother until practically the end of the book, when the reader is so stultified by the pointless plotlessness that they have no energy left to give a shit? The poignant conversation between Nora and her sister, who thinks she might be a ghost, contains more emotional heft than all the pages before it, but apparently leaves no lasting effect. In conclusion, Nora, a character apparently impervious to the effects of life, bores the poop out of me.

4) Tell the wrong story. Barker spends most of her time on a) Nora's torture in fairyland, b) Nora's physical recovery from her assault, during which she does a large amount of chores with Aruendiel's housekeeper, c) Nora's failed attempts to learn magic and d) her increasing, inexplicable infatuation with Aruendiel. To this, Barker tosses in interminable discussions of human/fairy politics that never seem to impinge upon the plot, scads of silly made-up names ["Hirgus Ext" being a typical example] with no logic behind them [she seems to think that telling the name of everything constitutes convincing worldcraft] and Nora's continual frustration over the sexism in Aruendiel's society. If there's a plot or anything of consequence going on in there, I missed it in the wash of extraneous details.

Meanwhile, there's a much more interesting thread running through the story: that of the conjunction between magic and death, fairyland and the afterlife. Nora enters fairyland through an abandoned cemetery, and it's mentioned that she has always liked old graveyards [a fact that's never enlarged upon]. When she determines how much time has passed in the magic world, she figures that her family must think that she is dead. In her adventures with Aruendiel, she encourages him to bring back to life a young girl. Her interest in life and death takes on new significance when she converses with her little sister and sees herself in the same category as her dead brother: enshrined in absence. Nora has a cautious, curious, mournful relationship with death, which is probably the only interesting thing about her.

Aruendiel does his own dance with death. As a magician, he has used magic enough so that his life has been extended to a few centuries, time enough to see generations of friends and family grow old and die. He has killed a bunch of people, including his own wife, which seems to affect him less than his own death and revivification. Part of him kind of wishes his friends had just let him stay dead, but part of him clearly wishes to keep on living. 

I'd like to hear that story -- the tale of how two people so personally invested in death navigate the trials of life -- but no. Instead we get the housekeeper teaching Nora how to chop up apples. I stayed up way too late last night, reading this book, waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.
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...by writing all two regular WOC out of Warehouse 13 in season 4. In 4.10, Artie murders Leena, proprietor of the B&B where Warehouse agents stay. In 4.20, the season finale, Claudia severs the connection between the Warehouse and Mrs. Frederic, the erstwhile caretaker of the Warehouse. Now a normal human being without superpowers, Mrs. Frederic has no plot function, which means that she will not appear in the truncated and final fifth season. Goodbye, token attempts at diversity. Been nice knowin' ya.

I notice that both black women in Warehouse 13 a) were defined largely by their roles as glorified housekeepers [Mammy alert! Mammy alert!] and b) deprived of their power by white people. I can't believe that no one involved with the show said, "Hey, why are we deleting all the WOC? What's wrong with us? Let's examine our show for some fucking racism!"
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I kind of pity the copywriters for Design Toscano. They have to make all that tacky shit sound alluring and justifiably high-priced. Look DT -- you either want things like a suit of armor t.p. holder or you don't. You're preaching to the choir. Don't waste your limited stock of two-bit adjectives on us.

Take, for example, a sentence from their copy for Ravishing Rachel [who's in the Sexy Temptresses category, along with the ass-flaunting Temptress Witch Christmas Ornament]:

"Cast in quality designer resin, this large-scale, display-quality indoor sculpture transforms any home bar, entertainment area or recreation room into something truly magnificent!"

"Quality designer resin": as opposed, I guess, to all that shitty, no-name resin that floods the market these days?

"Large-scale": Isn't that redundant, given that the title indicates that it's "Life Size"?

"Display-quality": Seriously...why would you buy a Technicolor rendition of a very stiff, cartoony woman flashing her tits if not to display it?

"Transforms any home bar, entertainment area or recreation room": So you're admitting that your target consumers for these are sleazy misogynist straight white cis dudes who throw around obscene sums of money in an attempt to compensate for their utter lack of redeeming traits? Superb! I'll take 10!!!

"Truly magnficent": I don't think that is the word you're looking for. May I humbly suggest "alarming"?
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...Poorly Dressed is racist. Also classist and sexist. It's a site on the Cheezburger network that mocks "seriously questionable style moments." They derive a lot of their mockery from the fantastic things that women of color do with their hair.

In a textbook example, a WOC who sculpted an Easter basket out of her hair + weave got trashed. She [or her hairdresser] demonstrated amazing creativity and ingenuity to create an eye-catching work of art that then got shit on by the Intertubez, where commenters characterized her as a cheap, tacky, "ghetto" person with no sense of style. Basically she was vilified for being a WOC whose hairstyle [e.g., using a weave] is associated with poor and working class women.
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Fox just coughed up an extended trailer for one of its new fall shows, Sleepy Hollow, in which Ichabod Crane is a brooding hunk who sleeps into the present day and teams up with a police detective, who is a Sassy Woman of Color [TM]. Together the two of them track the murderous Headless Horseman, who is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Wait a minute...they canceled Alcatraz, starring a tough-shit woman and a fat guy of color who kick ass and solve mysteries without having sexual tension, for some genre-confused mess that's already manifesting racist and sexist stereotypes in its goddamned trailer?

Well, Sleepy Hollow certainly looks stupid. I can't tell, though, whether it's in the "so bad it's bad" or "so bad it's good" category yet.

P.S. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow actually concerns a slight, silly love triangle story, written by Washington Irving, in which local dipstick Brom freaks out schoolteacher Ichabod so badly that the latter leaves town, removing himself from the competition for the affections of rich Katrina Van Tassel, who naturally has no personality, agency or function besides that of walking plot point.
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 Previously excoriated sight unseen here. I got it for throwing against the wall scientific purposes, I swear!
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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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I conclude that Slate keeps around certain commentators [Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, William Saletan] precisely because their uninformed, reactionary blatherings piss people off. That's the only reason I can think of. I mean, surely no one takes these clueless blowhards seriously?

This week's bloviation comes from William "Pointless and Sententious" Saletan's column on The Trouble with Bondage. That's bdsm, by the way, and the article discusses the reasons why bdsm will never go mainstream.

I thought the reason was that the majority of people weren't interested in it. But no, silly me. Saletan's article, as near as I can figure out, goes something like this:

blah blah blah lifestyle blah blah blah voluntary pursuit of pain wtf?! ewwwwwwwww blah blah breath play is dangerous blah blah anti-feminist sickos who like rape scenes blah some people take it to extremes blah blah I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'm just going to call bdsm "consensual domestic violence" and cash my paycheck blah blah blah lifestyle choice.

As a human being with a functioning sense of decency, I find it repulsive that Saletan trivializes intimate partner abuse by using it as a metaphor for something it has nothing to do with. Way to go, you picayune, misogynist fuckhead. I'm glad to know that you're more interested in making false equivalencies than dealing with actual deleterious symptoms of kyriarchy.

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I was going to write a long, learned essay about how much the short story Hatchling in Laini Taylor's collection, Lips Touch Three Times, pissed me off, but fuck it. Let me get to the meat of the matter: Laini Taylor, your voluptuous prose cannot distract me from your moral vacuity.

Read more... )
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Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, authors of The Rules, a 1995 book of relationship advice for hetero women gender-policing blockbuster of retrograde shit, have repackaged their stale turds in Not Your Mother's Rules: The New Secrets for Dating. Of course, the "new" "secrets" for dating are, in fact, your mother's Rules, assuming, of course, that you had a mother and that she loathed herself enough to take the original turds seriously.

I'd like to check out this "update," if only to see what Fein and Schneider are saying about queer couples. As I recall, there were some vague statements about folks like us in the original Rules books. However, without the "war of the sexes/genders" framework in which to slot each of the players and their "opposite sexes" paradigm with which they make sense of romantic relationships, their comments amounted to, "The Rules are a good guideline for all relationships, even queer ones. Because of reasons. Yeah, and, um...stuff." There was a lot of tokenistic, slightly panicked hand-waving in that dismissive paragraph or two, as I remember. It was actually pretty hilarious.

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Here's a perfect example of that bigotry in this BJD-related confession.

See Julie Serrano's Whipping Girl for an analysis of the bullshit going on here.
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Grimm is back for a second season, and it's still incredibly stupid. The latest episode, Bad Moon Rising, follows our protagonist, police detective Nick, as he chases a gang of coyote Wesen [= therianthropes]. The gang leader kidnaps his teenaged niece, Carlie, who, along with her parents, left the pack when she was very young. The gang leader plans to rape Carlie, as is apparently customary for coyote Wesen to increase the numbers of their pack.

Read more... )
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Just finished the third book in the Sonja Blue trilogy, Paint It Black by Nancy Collins. Kinda funny how she took the title from a Rolling Stones song that was more original, memorable and deeply felt in a few verses than the entire Sonja Blue trilogy was in 3 books. Anyway, I think there was something in there about Sonja's consummation of her quest for vengeance against her vampire maker, but it was lost in an incredibly tedious string of rape, murder, murder by rape and rape by murder that was trying hard to pass for plot.

I was mostly reading the book because I was curious to see how Sonja's adopted vampire/human hybrid daughter Lethe would turn out. When Lethe went into a cocoon, popped out as a teenager after a few weeks and raped her adoptive father [Sonja's partner], then flew around the world [without a plane], raping 24 other guys, with the goal of producing some sort of master race with super psychic powers, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the complete vacuity of the whole enterprise and its venomously misanthropic, morally bankrupt imagination. It was bad because it was stupid and stupid because it was bad.

I swore an oath to myself that I wouldn't swear any more in my LJ, but I have to break that oath now because the Sonja Blue trilogy was the shittiest shit that ever shat. It's an offense to good writing, good plotting and good character development. It's an offense to all people of any sex and gender presentation, but especially women. It's an offense against anyone who believes in kindness, respect, humanity and fairness. It's an offense to originality and creativity.

I've concluded that it's not actually a trilogy. Instead, it's an actively destructive vortex of hostility. It's a testament to the sad depths of banal depravity of the human imagination. It's a diseased mutation of novels, a literary cancer born from kyriarchical nastiness. It's deeply revolting on every level -- line by line, cliche by cliche, regurgitated theme by regurgitated theme -- and potentially damaging. I live in the kyriarchy; I already experience multiple axes of oppression daily; I don't need the inhumane dicta of the kyriarchy concentrated and injected directly into my amygdala in the form of this trilogy.

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to read a series that hates you and enjoys doing so, I heartily recommend the Sonja Blue trilogy. You can have my copies. Take them, please. I would burn them in cleansing fire, only I don't think there's any place around here where I can do so without violating some sort of city ordinance. Barring that, I'll settle for tossing them in the Dumpster or recycling them in the vain hope that the pages might contribute usefully to society in their next life.

I don't just hate this trilogy. I reject it. I repudiate it. It represents all the vile oppressions against which I struggle every day. This trilogy is just one of my many enemies and oppressors.

I will not let it win.
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A while back, when I still lived in Massachusetts, I was housesitting overnight at someone's house. I found some cheap paperbacks by Nancy Collins there -- Sunglasses After Dark and In the Blood -- and read them quickly, staying up late. They followed the adventures of Sonja Blue, a reluctant vampire trying to suppress her monstrous nature, which she termed "the Other," while also taking vengeance on her maker and ridding the world of supernatural menaces along the way. Back before urban fantasy devolved into a set of cliches, this trilogy [capped by Paint It Black] entertained me and made an impression on me in the way that Sonja's vampirism was portrayed as an alien entity in her head against which she struggled.

Harboring happy memories of this trilogy, I recently got all 3 books off Amazon.com and settled in for a bit of fun. I quickly realized that the Sonja Blue series is a) full of cliches [not urban fantasy cliches, but cliches in general] and b) horribly misogynist.

Speaking of a), I don't even know where to start. All the characters are stock types, and they all speak exactly as expected. For example, the British pimp spews a debased version of Cockney slang ["ducks?" "guv'nor?!"] dreamt up by someone whose experience with the British idiom extends to a single viewing of Disney's Mary Poppins. The oleaginous evil dude makes a suave proposal to our male protagonist of In The Blood that's all ominous inneundo and silly euphemisms. I could go on, but I'd exhaust myself in listing the ways in which the characterization is lazy.

Speaking of b), the series doesn't come right out and hate women blatantly, but it does so in more insidious, structural ways. Sonja moves in a world where most of the people she meets are men, while the women are usually reduced to sexualized window dressing. The one exception, her main antagonist in Sunglasses After Dark, Caroline Wheele, is defined as the widow of a charismatic evangelist [she killed him] for whom, with her psychic talents, she was the power behind the throne. When Caroline dies, the spirits of her victims pull her to pieces, reducing her to an insensate object in the very way that the author reduces all female characters.

The trilogy apparently really hates sex too. Any sex scene is one of transactional exploitation, without any appreciation or emotional connection. Sexual and psychic violation forge both Sonja's and Caroline's personalities, and they go on to perpetrate the same abuses on others. Actually, now that I think about it, there's almost no sex acts in the trilogy. It's all rape, all the time. Anyone whose perspective automatically makes sex an abuse of power has a serious problem. Of course, the trilogy's hatred for sex ends up being a hatred for women, since all the women are reduced to sex objects.

Finally, Sonja herself is constructed as a misogynist character. She doesn't hate -- or at least tolerates -- male characters, with whom she occasionally forms mutually beneficial relationships. But she really doesn't like other women. At best, she feels comtempt for them, at worst, as with Caroline, hatred. Furthermore, Sonja is that most tedious of types, the Exceptional Woman [see my criticism of Brave for details], whose value only lies in her repudiation of her status as a woman and her embrace of pursuits and skills coded as masculine. Blah blah blah yuck.

I'm finishing this trilogy, and then I'm getting rid of it.
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I read advice columns for the same reason I watch mediocre TV shows. I gain entertainment not only from the stories told, but also from the advice supplied by the columnist and, frequently, the commenters. Plus there's always the opportunity to castigate the TV show or the advice column for how good it could have been.

Before I go into critiquing the NYT's most recent Social Qs, let me just say that the only advice column I can currently take seriously is Captain Awkward. She's a person with no official credentials to tell other people how to live their lives, but she, along with the trenchant commentariat, manages to provide practical, straightforward, explicit, helpful advice to the questioners. Be warned, though; she does use sexist slurs ["bitch" and "dick"], as well as ableist adjectives ["crazy"]. Despite her failings, I approve of her generally open-minded approach.

Now back to my original subject. In the most recent Social Qs, a letter writer says that her daughter's future mother-in-law loves Fifty Shades of Grey, a BDSM romance novel. "As a feminist," the writer dislikes the books and wonders how to respond when the future MIL asks the writer what she thinks of the books.

Philip Galanes, author of Social Qs, advises the following:

Engage your future in-law, mother to mother. Steer clear of judgmental terms like “offensive,” but try to get to the bottom of her excitement. Say: “I’d hate for a man to treat me or my daughter that way. What do you think the big appeal is?” She couldn’t object, and it might start an interesting conversation.

Good advice. When someone asks you your opinion of something controversial with which you disagree, you can neutrally state that you have a different view and, if you're interested, attempt to start a more general discussion and go from there. Of course, you can react in other ways [for example, "I don't really feel comfortable talking about that" is also perfectly acceptable], but this is a polite option.

I agree with the advice, but I resent the snide tone in which it's delivered. Galanes spends one paragraph of four answering the writer's question and the other three making sneery judgments about BDSM. In effect, he undermines his advice to be respectful and tolerant about things you don't know anything about by being derisive and dismissive about a subject with which he is [clearly] unfamiliar. Wow, he's really shoring up his credibility.

Besides an anti-BDSM stance, I also detect some misogyny in Galanes' response. Romance novels are predominantly read by women and, for that reason, are frequently not taken seriously, especially by male critics. Galanes' incredulity that female readers could find romance novel tropes interesting seems to subserve his distaste with Fifty Shades of Grey.

P.S. We're not even getting into the letter writer's assumption that feminism is incompatible with BDSM.
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...are this man's twee, self-congratulatory, crabby, misogynist, ageist, sizeist, arrogant ramblings relevant? He seems incredibly put out by the fact that he's NOT a fashion-designing brain in a tank. We get it. You loathe people [except for yourself] and think that human physicality is revoltingly icky. Now do us a favor and keep your venomous bile to yourself.
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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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Via Shakesville, this "editorial" is not only sexist, misogynist and essentialist, but it's also completely incoherent. This is my favorite sentence, primarily because it makes no sense:

Anyone serious about thinking through the role of women in today’s civilization is doing worthless work unless they take the controversies on the right hand in hand with the unsuccessfully suppressed tensions on the opposite side of the spectrum, where disagreements far more volatile in their profundity roil respectable liberalism.

How does bilge like this even get published?? This is some of the worst writing I've ever come across in my life, and I've seen some doozies.
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Summary: Jerkwad protagonists Lee and Angel actually go on sales calls. Angel gets results by stereotypically flirting and playing up "feminine" mannerisms. Lee gets jealous and accusatory, then tries the flirty style to great failure. Meanwhile Angel gets a date with one of the doctors he was selling to.

Analysis: Oh God, I can feel my will to watch draining away as I watch this show. I feel my mouth hardening into a permanent cringe. I thought that the collective scorn and criticism of the Internet and the known world would force this show back into the dank hole of "isms" whence it came, but apparently not.

The transphobia...because Lee can't describe how Angel looks as a woman without mocking him for stereotypically masculine traits such as big biceps and a broad chin!

The sexism and misogyny...because this episode just assumes without question that women using their sexuality in the workplace to get what they want is acceptable and appropriate!

The slut shaming...because Lee can't express his jealousy of Angel's success without intimating that Angel is a whore!

The trivialization of date rape...because Angel was going to drug his doctor date if the date put any moves on him!

The homophobia...because God forbid that two men touch in an affectionate or intimate manner!

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive list of prejudices evinced in Work It. The stupidity is multi-dimensional, much the same way as Dan Savage's bigotry, and no one entry can comprehend it all...maybe a series.

My favorite response to Work It was someone's tweet saying, "I think ABC left out a letter when they described this as 'the new hit show!'" LOL!

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Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I've collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order...here they are...
Read more... )
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Earlier I wrote about ABC's new sitcom Work It, in which two men impersonate women to get jobs at a sales company. I just caught the first episode of this dung heap on Hulu. I am here to report that I stand by my earlier comments about all the show's prejudices and to report that it was, besides being offensive on many levels, poorly written with unfunny jokes, unoriginal characters and lazy execution.

A few especially stupid and offensive moments stood out for me after my cursory viewing:

1. In an early conversation in a bar, the laid-off protagonist commiserates with his two laid-off friends, a mechanic and a shuttle driver. The shuttle driver describes the recession as a "mancession," insists that women are "taking over" and predicts that soon men will only be kept around as "sex slaves" if women continue asserting their dominance. This character is factually incorrect; there is no mancession; women are not taking over, and the joke about "sex slaves" makes light of sexual abuse and rape. While the shuttle driver clearly serves as the "stupid comic relief friend" archetype, no one corrects him or calls him out on his behavior, thus reinforcing the idea that his false interpretation of events is acceptable.

2. While I have detailed earlier how the entire show is transphobic, one especially transphobic moment caught my eye. In a flashback scene where the protagonist, now impersonating a woman, tells the mechanic "how he does it," a saleswoman is shown at a counter. She sees someone off-camera and screams and recoils. The camera then shows the protagonist with makeup all over his face [including lipstick on his teeth, blech], imploring the saleswoman, "Help me, please...help me!" The laugh track resounds.

Now is the saleswoman [and the laugh track] laughing at a generally bad application of makeup or a man in drag? It doesn't really matter because the show is mocking the protagonist, who dares to "look bad" in makeup. The show thus looks down on the protagonist's gender presentation in that scene, allowing the interpretation that the saleswoman shrieks because of the "incongruity" in a stereotypically masculine-presenting person wearing makeup, a stereotypically feminine accessory. The rigid implicit heteronormative bias of the saleswoman's shocked scream militates against anyone who dares to deviate from traditional stereotypical masc/fem gender presentations.

I really hate this show. It's bad, and it's offensive.
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So I learned, thanks to Shakesville, that ABC has a new show coming out in fall 2012 called Work It. In this show, two cis straight guys pretend to be cis straight women in order to get jobs. How bilgey is that?

Oh, the horrible sexism. Shows like this, which pretend to be reflective about gender and sex but really aren't, usually end up cementing the vast, irreconciliable differences that supposedly exist between men and women. Shows like this also tend to suggest that, somehow, the male protagonists are better at being women [you know, fooling all those stupid cis straight wimmenz] than women are, thus denigrating the sex and gender of women.

Oh, the horrible transphobia too. Shows like this assert that it's funny when biologically male people try to radically change their gender presentation. Shows like this say that biologically male people who radically change their gender presentation will never successfully pass; they'll always eventually be seen as their "true," biologically male selves. Shows like this portray gender transition as fatuous and ultimately futile, preferring to see it as a comedic device, rather than a way that some people use to manifest their true identities.

Oh, finally, the horrible stupidity. It doesn't really make sense, given the barriers to employment that women face [such as pay disparities with men and risks of sexual harassment], that being a woman would somehow make things easier for our two cis straight guys. In fact, new challenges would crop up, not of the easily resolved comic variety, but of the deeply situated, kyrarchical kind. What a stupid show!
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Shakesville brings to my attention a sexist post on Pharyngula where candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-ebarbative) is compared to a snake that can dislocate its jaw to accommodate a [phallic] corn dog.

I don't understand why people feel the need to make dehumanizing, objectifying comments about Bachmann -- in this case, comparing her to a snake -- when there are real, substantive criticisms to be made of her bigoted views and policies. For example, see a post on Talking Points Memo where Bachmann tries some stonewalling bullshittery in the face of the interviewer asking her about previous homophobic statements. Sexist remarks such as those on Pharyngula distract from the issues at hand and hurt all women.

To anyone who thinks that Pharyngula is just having a little fun, that it's okay to go after Bachmann because you don't agree with her, let me point out this: Saying "It's okay to make fun of this woman because of her sex, but not that one!" does not provide an adequate excuse. Sexism against one woman, any woman, harms all women. You personally may only make fun of Bachmann, but what's to prevent someone else from saying, "Oh, I'm only going to make fun of ModernWizard [or any other woman, for that matter], but not others"? Your exceptions may be someone else's target. Your willingness to participate in sexist rhetoric just perpetuates an atmosphere of acceptance in which further sexism flourishes. Sexism is never okay, no matter who the target!

Didn't we just go through this four years ago with Sarah Palin [post on SocIm started by yours truly] and Hillary Clinton as targets of sexist smears?

P.S. Mockery of Bachmann's husband for supposedly being a closeted gay man trades on the idea that being gay is somehow shameful and worthy of ridicule. If you think that way, you are homophobic.
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Brian McGreevy on Vulture [for New York magazine] vomits forth a puerile lump of garbage with his opinion on popular portrayals of vampires in True Blood and the Twilight saga:

"Much has been made of the damage inflicted by the 'male gaze' in film, but what of the female gaze? It's taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial. We are now left with the Castrati vampire: This is pornography for tweens, as well as a worrying reflection of our time."
 
Reading this screed, one can't help but think that McGreevy is just pissed that a vampire series written by a woman has become so popular. He seems to think that the Twilight saga is wretched just because it represents a young female character's point of view. I mean, God forbid that someone address a pillowy fantasy novel to the vast hordes of ravenous teenaged girls and young women who form the Twilight saga's primary audience! No no, books should be written by manly men only about manly male subjects, such as Romantic vampires with really big schlongs.

I never thought I'd be defending the virtues of the Twilight saga, a series that I find insidiously sexist and intensely problematic, but there it is. No, Mr. McGreevy, the sex of an author is not a legitimate subject for one of your irrelevant tangents about how biliously poxed with prejudice your brain happens to be. How the sex of an author informs his or her writing is indeed pertinent, but criticizing an author for being a certain sex just proves the source of the criticism [that's you, sir] to be a bloviating bigot.
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How much evidence must I draw together to prove my conclusion? Every single female character of note has been killed off by the cruelly misogynist calculus of the show, leaving a single-sex colony of gruff, bitten men to save the world, which, in the Supernatural universe, has no women in it.

The cavalier contempt with which the show dispatches its female characters really revolts me. Its most egregious murder of women occurred when the show offed its most sympathetic and universally loved female character, Ellen Harvelle, and her daughter Jo in the episode this season where Sam and Dean tried [and failed] to kill the Devil with the magic gun that never kills anything. After multiple seasons of development, during which the audience grew to like and appreciate Ellen and Jo, the two were killed gratuitously in a failed mission. They died for no greater cause or purpose besides the show's inability to countenance a live woman. Misogyny kills, even in narrative form.

Why do I keep watching this show?

EDIT: So I hear that Supernatural has been renewed for a sixth season, which makes me wonder what sort of plot arc can come after the Biblical apocalypse. Anything after that will seem small-scale and jejune. I won't be tuning in. Bye, Supernatural.
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If you see anyone wearing this costume, flee immediately in the opposite direction, or you may be inflicted with misogynist douchebaggery. The porno-worthy pun is bad enough, but the inflatable female as accessory just puts this costume into new realms of badness.
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All righty, so I've been watching Brimstone. It's a canceled show with John Glover [the awesome! also gay!] as the Devil goading on some guy with a fascinating nose. The guy is Ezekiel Stone, who went to hell for killing his wife's rapist. Now back from hell, he has a second chance at life on earth if he can round up 113 escaped souls and shoot out their eyes, sending them back to hell. Read more... )
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Use this information collected here at Shakesville to let the organizers of the inaugural ball know that you too disapprove of misogynist homophobe Rev. Rick Warren's selection to do the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Pass along to your friends!

Here's what I sent to Emmett Beliveau, emmett@pic2009.org, the CEO of the inaugural committee:
--
Dear Mr. Beliveau:

I am writing to express my strong displeasure with the choice of Rev. Rick Warren as the one to perform the invocation at President-Elect Obama's inauguration.

As a woman, I find Warren's anti-choice views misogynist. Warren's inclusion in a prominent position at the inauguration represents hypocrisy on the part of the Obama-Biden team, who ran on a platform advocating women's reproductive freedom.

As a queer person, I also find Warren's homophobic behavior despicable as well. His anti-marriage "slippery slope" argument equates gay marriage with incest and rape. How can Obama, who has said on record that he supports gay civil unions, condone Warren's bigotry by letting him give the inaugural invocation?

Warren's narrow-minded intolerance should have no place at an event supposedly heralding positive change. Choose another speaker for the invocation, one who truly represents the liberalism, hope and open-mindedness to which the Obama/Biden team has so frequently appealed.

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This beautiful collection of ads, centering on U.S. ads from the 1930s through the 1950s, portrays the tobacco industry's cover-up of their drug's deadly effects on users. Note how the manufacturers target especially vulnerable populations such as teenagers, college students, women and people of color. Bastards.
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This Web site contains overviews of stereotypes working against black men and women. It will help me whenever I write that illustrated essay about Aunt Jemima ads, which the site puts into context with the essay about the Mammy stereotype. For modern pertinence, I particularly recommend the essay about the Sapphire stereotype [rude, bossy, critical black woman] and current attempts to squish Michelle Obama into said little box.
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Herobuilders, home of right-wing wing-nut crappy action figures of political figures, offers a Sarah Palin doll in various outfits, such as a pantsuit, a sexy schoolgirl outfit and a leather superspy. It's so offensively bad on all levels, from the virulent sexism and misogyny to the shoddy craftsmanship, cheap opportunism and associated ranting narrow-minded conservative bilge. I'm deeply offended as a woman, a liberal AND a doll dude.
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Oh joy, there's more misogynistic goodness added to my SocIm post about anti-Palin sexism, including more heinous examples contributed by commenters. There's enough material to criticize her on, including her anti-choice, pro-guns, anti-sex-end, pro-abstinence, politically corrupt, nepotistic wheeling and dealing. One's sex is not a point of criticism, mockery or contention. Grow up, you stupid bigots! Man, I get so exhausted at societal stupidity sometimes. 
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A post at Sociological Images about the gendering of sperm and egg in popular media got me thinking. I just saw the “brave little sperm” trope on an episode of Family Guy this Monday. Stewie, the hyper-intelligent, destructive, child genius, was celebrating his first birthday. He reminisced about his life in the womb and before, when he was apparently a tiny pilot in a sperm-shaped aircraft [see YouTube clip].

Stewie’s flashback showed him piloting his sperm ship toward the egg and firing at it in a scene reminiscent of the scene in Star Wars where Luke tries to explode the Death Star. He think thinks about being sucked in and “trapped” inside the egg. The relationship between sperm and egg is shown as adversarial, the egg evil, hungry and encompassing, not unlike a vagina dentata.

Of course, this flashback occurs in the context of a cartoon in which everything is supposed to be exaggerated and humorous. However, the fact remains that the humorous exaggeration is presented with gratuitous violence and misogyny. You might argue that violence and misogyny are part of Stewie’s character, which they are, but the flashback does not develop Stewie’s violence and misogyny in a way peculiar to his personality. Instead it just recycles wholesale a tired, sexist cliche about human reproduction.

And this is just one of many reasons that I hate Family Guy.

 
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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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According to the NY TImes, "The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and certain types of birth control." This same proposal also wishes to define the use of common contraceptives as abortifacients because they terminate "human life" "before...implantation." 

Thanks to tikva's highlight of the especially galling sections of the report and to hammercock's link to NARAL, I E-mailed my Congresspersons.
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Feministing links to a recent PETA  "demonstration" outside City Hall in Memphis during Vegetarian Week. With a mostly naked man and woman splattered in red paint and wrapped in plastic wrap on an 80 degree F + day, PETA is apparently demonstrating that inhumane, degrading treatment of non-human animals may not be okay, but inhumane, degrading treatment of people is perfectly fine. Mike Brown, photog for the Commercial Appeal, who photoed the event, agrees with me on the astounding levels of hypocrisy and sadism demonstrated in PETA's stupid, sexist tactics. Aforementioned photo is below the cut. Take the link about Mike Brown for complete context. I previously discussed objectification of women as meat here. 
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I finished American Gothic with equal satisfaction and disappointment. My satisfaction came from Lucas' masterfully done fake death and the neverending tension of the denouement between Lucas, Caleb and Merlyn. 

My disappointment lay in After American Gothic, I have several options.

I've always wanted to see Nip/Tuck, and season 5 is on Hulu. I want to see if Julian McMahon can do a better job than he did in Charmed.

Roswell's angle of powerful half-aliens living among us has intrigued me for a long time, since I've engaged in an epic on the same subject, so there's season 1 of that on Hulu.

Select eps of Outer Limits, an hour-long attempt at a modern Twilight Zone, are also on Hulu.

Though I've already blasted New Amsterdam as boring, it's still so bad that I can't look away. Season 1 continues on Hulu.

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...Here are some observations from Feministing about the objectification of women to promote meatless eating.

As Feministing points out, using objectified women to sell meat is nothing new. [Here's one of my favorite examples, a Carl's Jr. commercial starring Paris Hilton, a hose, a car, a bucket of suds and a hamburger.] But apparently animal-rights activists, vegetarian organizations and vegan organizations exploit the same tropes as well. For example, here's a commercial from the super-nutball, super-sexist PETA in which Alicia Silverstone comes out of a pool, naked, in slow motion. Somehow, this sells vegetarianism. In a press release about Eva Mendes posing naked for their "Fur? I'd rather go naked!" campaign, PETA, unsurprisingly enough, calls Mendes "one of Hollywood's sexiest leading ladies," "a regular red-carpet knock-out" and, just for some useless "hot-blooded Hispanic" stereotyping, a "sexy Latina." The print text makes it clear that Mendes does not appear as someone you should pay attention to because she decided to abjure fur out of compassion or humanism or rational decision-making. You should pay attention to her because she's glamorous and attractive, and she doesn't wear fur, and do you YOU want to be just as glamorous and attractive as she is? PETA, while supplying my two examples, ain't the only offender of such sexist, objectifying bullshit. See the Feministing entry for details about a vegan strip club [???!!] and the group Vegan Vixens [????!!!!].

Ann Friedman, post author, sums up the screwiness: "[U]sing the "ideal" female body type -- something men want and women want to be -- as an incentive to go vegan...is deeply fucked up, especially because there are dozens of real, compelling reasons to switch to a vegan lifestyle -- none of them based on sexist bullshit." 

P.S.: Here's a super special bonus article from Salon, analyzing the misogynist, objectifying tactics of the popular Skinny Bitch "secret vegan ambush" cookbook.
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"It's nice to have a girl around the house. Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn't have to fire a shot to floor her. Wait...the metaphors get even better...I mean, stupider! )
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...Then kinky sex results??!?!?!?!? I swear that this picture looks like what happens after the very end of Secretary, when Maggie Gyllenhaal's character puts a bug in James Spader's character's book [?] specifically for the purpose of provoking a BDSM scenario of "punishment" later. I say this because the scenario looks so obviously staged [notice how neatly the woman's hair is styled], and she appears to be faking a look of distress while actually smiling. I found this ad on the community vintage_ads, which contains boundless beautiful examples of the art used to sell things.

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