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When I look at promo pictures for digital content on the Daz or Renderosity sites, I have to ask myself: What the heck is up with all the women sticking their fingers in or near their mouths? The parted lips, as if their mouths have just drifted open, the partly closed and unfocused eyes, the FINGER IN THE MOUTH AARRRRRGH... I think it's supposed to evoke blow jobs, but it all combines to create an atmosphere of awkward absentmindedness.


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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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John Tumblred [Tumbld?] this yesterday about transmisogyny in Rocky Horror, which got me thinking. The original post focuses on the terminology as a source of transmisogyny, but the whole portrayal of Frank as a literally unhinged debasement of stereotypical painted femininity also reeks of transmisogyny. For example, there's a part in Sword of Damocles where Rocky receives admiration from all the partygoers, which pisses Frank off because Rocky is eluding his control. He chases after Rocky, warbling his name, tripping up in his high heels and kind of running into the wall in melodramatic distress. Even though I didn't identify this particular instant as transmisogynistic when I first saw it, I remember saying to myself, "He wouldn't do that -- he's a flamboyant control freak, not a sniveling mess. I'm taking this character seriously -- why isn't the movie?" Well, okay, the response was less coherent than that; it was more like, "Why is he bouncing off the walls? That doesn't fit." Now, a decade and a half [!] later, I can finally call out some of the rank bigotry at work here. Blarf.

Thinking about RHPS always gets me thinking about Mad Mazzy Mickle Goes Looking for Love, which, I reason, has its own problematic elements that I just haven't thought up yet. Hmmm, let's see: racism [two characters of color only], stereotypes about bisexuals [sexually voracious, attracted to everyone], disparagement of traditional femininity [characters not into car-related activities coded butch are looked down upon].

Peter: "It's a cesspool of noxious stereotypes."

Isabel: "But I love it! It changed my life. I came out to the soundtrack!"

Peter: "Me too. But it's still a cesspool."

Well, clearly, Isabel and Peter connect over their shared interest in this movie, though Peter examines it much more critically than she does. Wonder if I could work a Mazzy reference -- and thus conversation -- into their initial meeting, which does, after all, involve a car crash, and Mazzy's all about souped-up drag racers [har!], so there's the hook.


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Journey's song "Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]" came on one of Janna's Pandora stations a few days ago. A few lines caught in my head ["If he ever hurts you / True love won't desert you"], but I didn't know the source. So I banged out the words into a search engine and came up with the full set of lyrics, which I will now summarize as follows:

I'm so obsessed with you that I've been monitoring your activities since our breakup. "You'll never walk alone" -- literally. I'll be watching through my binoculars -- you and your current partner. If he ever hurts you, I'll be right there to comfort you...also to lay the hurt on him for mistreating you. In summary, I am a dangerous, deeply deluded misogynist who is very likely to kill you and your partner once I'm done wailing about how much I love you.

I would really like to believe that, like Sting's Every Breath You Take, Separate Ways is actually supposed to be a disturbing evocation of obsessive, abusive behavior, but I can find no evidence.

Gaaaaaaaaack.


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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've been listening to Classic Queen on heavy rotation for the past few days. After grossing out about my favorite songs with stalking in them, I am pleased to note that, at least on this album, Queen avoids that trope. In fact, their lyrics even bend the gendered norms in some cases, describing romantic experiences of one gender in terms usually reserved for another.

Example 1: One Year of Love. The singer says, "It's always a rainy day without you / I'm a prisoner of love inside you / I'm falling apart all around you / And all I can do is surrender to your love." Assuming that this is a man singing to a woman [hooray for heteronormativity -_- ], this is very unusual language for the masculine narrator. The typical masculine experience of love involves pursuit, penetration and conquering. The singer, however, describes imprisonment, dissolution and submission -- traits much more commonly associated with the feminine experience of love.

Example 2: Tie Your Mother Down. At the end of the song, after urging the listener to get her family members out of the way so that she and the singer can screw, the singer says, "Give me all your love tonight / Give me every inch of your love." In the vast majority of rock songs sung by dudes, if there's "love" with any dimensions associated, it just means "penis." [See Not Fade Away by Buddy Holly: "My love's penis is bigger than a Cadillac / I try to show it, but you drive me back." Just stop stalking her already!] Therefore the attribution of a quantified love to the singer's [presumed female], is unusual. The feminine action of loving is described in more masculine terms. I have no grand conclusion, especially not based on these two examples, but they sure make me like Queen even more!
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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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Irritated by the bias against "masculine" features that I detected in some DOAers' comments on Dollmore Trinity Klaire, I have looked more closely at the remarks. A sampling are shown below:

Kitty Blue: "Not certain how I feel about her...she has some striking features but her face seems rather large compared to the others, love the make up, but the LE outfit is the same as Elysia."

Teddy: "Nice, but there's something about her eyes that doesn't appeal to me - I much prefer Elysia and Lumie."

Shawnee: "Funny, I love her eyes. It's her mouth I really don't like. It just seems too big for her face. Like kitty blue said, everything combined, her face looks too...large? for her head/body."

Stella Maris: "She looks very masculine, nope, not for me. ... Beat hard with the man stick I'd say."

nancy_schroeder_ca: "I'm not sure about the new Klaire, but I don't have room for another Trinity anyway! Maybe the next version will be better. She might look better with a different wig and faceup."

Stormlight: "Oh, the new girl is gorgeous! I think she looks a lot older than the other three. Like someone in her 20s rather than her teens."

bronzephoenix: "Oh dear, she looks so masculine to me!"

thothep: "I like all of Jude except her mouth feels too small, and now I like all of Klaire except her mouth is a little large..."

polyhymnia: "I think Klaire's face is pretty cool."

Jisatsu: "I was thinking Klaire looked so much like the first run of Narin 60."

monkeycancer: "RE the new Klaire doll, my first thought was 'guy in very convincing drag,' so I'm glad other people are thinking 'masculine.'"

jemmilly: "I like Klaire, but not Dollmore's face-up."

Despite gender policing from Stella Maris, bronze phoenix and monkeycancer, remarks seem overall more positive than I initially thought. I find it interesting that, even in a hobby where the dominant aesthetic for Asian BJDs is one of androgyny in facial features, people have limits to how much androgyny they can handle. I also find it interesting that DOAers are referring to "large," "masculine" and/or "strong" features as if they're bad things. I myself actually prefer facial features with those traits, but then again I am known for my affinity for stylized, almost caricatured headsculpts.


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As I have noted before, Prudie, the Slate advice columinist, has strict standards of gender performance that the women she writes about regularly fail to meet. Some of them don't dress in a feminine enough manner or know how to apply makeup. Some of them object to being maritally raped. And some of them have the temerity not to give a shit about the six hairs on their areolas that their boyfriends find inexplicably revolting -- the horror! Her list of women who fail true femininity keeps growing and growing.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised with a recent Dear Abbie column that could have turning into gender policing, but didn't. It was about body hair on women, a subject that hits Prudie's buttons. The writer to Dear Abbie complains that his wife no longer shaves her legs after 25 years of marriage. He thinks her leg hair disgusting and wonders what to do.

In response, Abbie provides a little relatable context for the man, saying that perhaps the woman is freeing herself from a tedious routine in the same way that a man who has shaved his face for years for his job might grow a beard after retirement. Abbie also adds that the letter writer should put up and shut up.

I like that Abbie's response, first, provided a frame of reference that the letter writer might understand. Her analysis of the woman's leg hair as  rejection of an obligation turns the focus away from the offended man and onto the woman, who probably has perfectly reasonable motivations for doing it -- motivations that have nothing to do with the man [gasp]! Abbie's reframing allows her to identify the real problem: the letter writer's belief that the woman owes him hairless legs. She objects, saying that, instead, the letter writer owes the woman respect. if anyone needs to change, it's him, not her.

Wow, an advice columnist with a healthy respect for bodily autonomy! Will wonders never cease? I think I should start reading Dear Abbie as an antidote to Dear Prudence.

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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.
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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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Just watched the pilot for Fox's new Sleepy Hollow, which involves Ichabod Crane pulling a Rip Van Winkle, sleeping for 250 years, then teaming up with a WOC police lieutenant, Abby Mills, to stop the Headless Horseman, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. [Previous comments on the trailer here.]

I don't know where to start on the stupidity, so I'll just make a list of things that pissed me off, in no particular order:
  • When discussing slavery with Abby, Ichabod gets all huffy and says that he was an early abolitionist. Abby says that slavery has been abolished for 150 years, and Ichabod remarks, "Yet here I am in shackles [= handcuffs]." His defensive comment about his progressive abolitionism and his turning of the entire history of enslaved Africans into a comment on his momentarily restrained state both serve as a perfect example of privileged white people appropriating the marginalization of oppressed people for their own whiny rhetorical purposes.
  • No one seems particularly fussed about Ichabod's claim that he was alive during the Revolutionary War. The dude giving Ichabod the polygraph test [hi there, Nestor Serrano -- nice to see you!] listens to Ichabod's comments about "the American colonies," "the Revolution" and "General Washington" and, noting that none of these trigger the polygraph, therefore instantly concludes that Ichabod is from 250 years in the past. Or, you know, he could be a) drugged, b) delusional, c) lying, d) several of the above. A, B, C and D represent much more logical conclusions than a 250-year sleep, but this show clearly demonstrates that it has no use for logic.
  • Ichabod's wife, Katrina, was burnt at the stake as a witch shortly after the Revolution. This inaccurate bit of backstory, along with the egregiously stupid detail that witches were burnt in Sleepy Hollow up through the 1830s, makes me want to throw things at the TV. Nobody was killed for witchcraft around here after the Salem Witchcraft Trials in 1692, and no one was ever burned at the stake for witchcraft in this country. I can't stand it when ignorant people try to drag witchcraft trials into centuries where they don't belong.
  • Abby, like most female protagonists in police procedurals, is an Exceptional Woman with no family, no friends, no colleagues and no support system. Her mentor, Sheriff I-Forget-His-Name, is decapitated within the first third of the pilot. Apparently she grew up in Sleepy Hollow, as she mentions a supernatural experience she had in town with her sister in high school, but we never hear about any family or friends she might have in the area. Characterized as a mentally ill failure who bounces in and out of institutions, Abby's sister is dismissed by the plot as a useless, unreliable failure. The story thus sets Abby up as isolated and in a perfect position to become dependent on Ichabod, the only person who believes her. I bet they're going to pair off and fall in love VOMIT VOMIT VOMIT.
  • On a related note, Sleepy Hollow is apparently a single-sex town. The only woman besides Abby with more than two lines is Katrina, a dead damsel in distress who needs Ichabod's help to be liberated from a dreamland where the antagonists have imprisoned her.
  • As the pilot starts, Abby plans to leave her Sleepy Hollow job for the FBI in a week. She really wants to go, and she claims that she does not want to mess up this opportunity. Her actions, however, tell a different story. Throughout the pilot, she defies her captain's orders: interrogating Ichabod, bringing him to a crime scene, releasing him from the mental institution under false pretenses, snooping in the sheriff's office, etc., etc., etc. The captain responds by talking tough and then doing absolutely nothing about Abby's infractions. At first, I hoped that his de facto leniency would lead to a rare instance in which a police department actually supports a TV character's investigation of supernatural phenomena, but nah. It's just sloppy writing, in yet another pointless sacrifice of logic.
  • Could the show have picked a more boring villain? The Four Horsemen are a fine choice, but the show really hampers itself with the decision to amputate the head of one of them. The Headless Horseman literally has no expression, which means he just stomps around, either axing things or shooting things. If the showrunners wanted to show a modicum of inventiveness, they could have employed body language to communicate personality: a raised fist when victory seems imminent, a jaunty twirl of the axe after a successful kill, even an alteration of the gait depending on the circumstances. But no, the Headless Horseman just plods around, hacking things. Booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing.
  • The show commits the unforgivable crime of bringing in John Cho to play one of Abby's fellow officers and a secret agent on the side of the Horseman...and then killing him off at the end of the pilot. This is a multipart offense, consisting of a) gratuitous bumping off of a POC, b) lost opportunity for a cool storyline in which Abby and Ichabod's efforts are thwarted internally by pro-Horseman forces on the force and c) horrible waste of a talented actor.
So there you go...racism, historical inaccuracy, illogical plot holes, lazy sexist characterization, dull antagonists and more racism. Awesome!
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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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In The Ones You Love, Artie, while split into Good and Evil Artie, kills Leena, a WOC and series regular who, though having been around for 3.5 seasons, has yet to receive a last name or any other characterization beyond "B&B owner" and "tool of McPherson." 

Two episodes later, in The Living and the Dead, despite the existence of multiple artifacts that can bring people back to life, Leena is still dead. However, no one gives a shit, except insofar as her death causes angst to a white man [Artie]. In fact, she appears in Artie's subconscious as an essentially vacuous prop to demonstrate the painful reality from which he's shielding himself. Claudia and Steve exercise themselves mightily over drawing Artie out from his subconscious, paying no attention to Leena except as a tragic figment of his imagination. Who cares about the black woman?

In the next episode, Parks and Rehabilitation, Artie stands on tribunal in front of the Regents, who decide to reinstate him as head of Warehouse 13 because Saul Rubinek has an ongoing contract with the SyFy network the plot must go on. The head Regent explains that Artie was kind of possessed by an evil version of himself, so he's morally blameless. He also says that "Leena was a valued member of the team" and that "she knew the risks." 

I buy neither statement. First, Evil Artie was in fact Artie, just a concentrated version of those thoughts and feelings that he censors in his attempt to be a good, kind person. As a part of Artie, Evil Artie is indeed under Artie's jurisdiction and part of his responsibility. No matter what the show wants me to believe, Artie willingly, knowingly and with malice aforethought murdered Leena.

Second, if Leena was such a "valued member of the team," why the hell do we never see her doing anything but being victimized and keeping house in the background? And why the hell couldn't the Regents refer to her by her full name?

Oh right, it's because she's a cardboard Mammy. :[
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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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Reading a paper on operations that trans persons may choose to undergo as part of their bodily transitions...

Authors go on and on about "sex reassignment surgery." No, dipshits, it's not "sex reassignment surgery." Frankly, I'm not entirely sure what the most accurate term is at this point, but it's not that. I think the general term I've heard is "gender transition surgery," which encompasses a variety of procedures.

"Transexualism is a gender identification disorder..." A) Authors can't even spell "transsexualism." B) Cissexism is a disorder in which people think that there are only two categories of people, "men" and "women," and that all people in each group must have bodies that look exactly the same.

Authors are obsessed with penetration, defining a neopenis as one that can successfully achieve penetration and a neovulva as one that can successfully be penetrated. They apparently think that the only type of sexual activity available is penis-into-vulva penetration.

ARRRGH!
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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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 Previously excoriated sight unseen here. I got it for throwing against the wall scientific purposes, I swear!
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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.

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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.
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BJD Text Confessions anonymous bigot sez:

I hate MD Jinas like Kyoyaxl has. Fucking learn the difference between a girl and a boy.

For those of you who do not speak BJD code, the submitter is saying that they dislike the Jina headsculpt by Migidoll when styled by doll owners like DOA member Kyoyaxl.

Migidoll bills Jina as a "girl," but that doesn't mean much in the BJD world. Just because a company bills a head as "male" or "female" doesn't mean that doll fiends will abide by those distinctions. The majority of BJD heads demonstrate a distinctly androgynous aesthetic that doesn't swing in a stereotypically masculine or feminine direction. Ergo, there's a lot of putting "female" heads on "male" bodies [and significantly less putting "male" heads on "female" bodies, the way that I did with my Frank BJD].

There's also a lot of dressing "male" dolls in "women's" clothes [and significantly less dressing "female" dolls in "men's" clothes].

Incidentally, there are also a notable minority of breast removals ["girl to boy mods"] on "female dolls," as well as penis additions ["hermaphrodite mods"] on "female dolls" too.

All of this is to say that sex and gender presentation can be very fluid in the BJD world. And some BJD fiends, like our anonymous gender-policing bigot, are going to resist that fluidity kicking and screaming. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to continue genderfucking while innocently asking, "And which differences, pray tell, are you speaking of?" :p


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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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After I posted about beautiful, but expensive, 54mm minifigs, Elizabeth Jr. clued me into the fact that the original Polly Pockets were less than an inch high and therefore approximately in range for 1:6 scale for 1:6ers. I poked around for them ["vintage polly pocket"] on Ebay, but the prices were too high for my liking, at a few dollars per figure. I decided to seek other sources.

I've had success in the past with Homies, who have the added bonus of being hilariously sculpted. Unfortunately, the price of individual Homies seems to have gone up since I last purchased them to by Ellery's dolls, but I have found some alternatives. Vendstock on Ebay sells the following sets that could be useful as a source for female dolls [Isabel, my latest doll nerd, isn't really into male dolls]: American Girl [no, not that American Girl], So Fly Divas and Tomy/Barbie.

Incidentally, Vendstock also sells the latest Domo series. [That's the fuzzy brown rectangle with big teeth that serves as the Japanese TV station NHK's mascot.] I have actually seen this series in local vending machines, where I was amused by the Domo wearing bling. This set also features mustachioed Domo, luchador Domo, Domo with big blocky glasses, Domo with an inner tube, Domo in diapers, devil Domo and Godzilla Domo, who is, of course, bigger than the other Domos. I think I might have to get the set, since Domo has always amused me. ^_^

EDIT: In my search for fat Homies for Isabel's collection of fat dolls, I discovered that there is a Trailer Park series of Homies [Trailer Parkies? :p ]. A majority of the Trailer Parkies are fat, thus playing into the stereotype that people who live in trailer parks are poor, stupid and disgusting. I'm also disturbed that there's only one woman among the Trailer Parkies. Her name is Moo Moo Ma. [Yes, she's fat.] How's that for sexist, anti-fat objectification?!!

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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.

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The company just contracted with a vendor of online business skills training courses. Subjects offered are as diverse as PivotTables in Excel and anger management.

I have no problem with the hard skills courses, but I feel ambivalent about the soft skills courses. On one hand, I am grateful that such courses exist because their existence implicitly acknowledges that nobody automatically knows how to manage anger effectively, for example. On the other hand, I have deep philosophical discomfort with the way that emotional labor -- i.e., soft skills -- is demanded by corporate culture, but coded as feminine, demeaned and undervalued in this society. 

There's also the philosophical discomfort created by knowing that the corporations are trying to control what employees feel and how they feel it.

I have no easily summarizable thoughts on these subjects.
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I'm active on 2 message boards for 1:6 scale figs. On one of them earlier this week, a heterosexual, married woman posted some pictures of her vampire dolls with an inexpensive Barbie subbing for one of the expensive vampire characters that she had not purchased, but wished to. She wrote, "Hubby says no more. At least until Christmas..." In other words, her husband told her that she can't buy any more figs till Xmas.

So her husband issued her an ultimatum about what she can and can't do in pursuit of her interests, and she just accepted it. That's not an interaction between equals; that's an interaction between a superior [husband] and a subordinate [wife]. Where does her husband get off, thinking he can control his wife's interests? Why does she accept his control without complaint?

I know why. Her husband probably earns and controls most of the money in their marriage. I bet she's financially dependent on him. Both of them think of the money as all his because it mostly flows from his job, his inheritance, blah blah blah. Both of them also think that, because it's his money, he gets to dictate its distribution. Therefore, he graciously permits his wife to have interests that involve spending money...well, until the interests become too expensive, in his estimation, at which point he forbids the continuation of his wife's interests because she is taking something away from him. She should be sacrificing for his preferences and wellbeing instead! I mean, God forbid the two approach their relationship from a standpoint of equality, mutual respect and support, rather than a standpoint of sexist, transactional manipulation.

I see the same type of interactions play out on DOA, a forum for people who like Asian ball-jointed dolls. I've heard the following story several times: a young, heterosexual woman writes that her boyfriend feels a deep, shuddering repugnance towards BJDs, not infrequently to the point of forbidding his girlfriend to get any more of them. The poster, of course, feels deep distress and wonders what to do.

Answer: Cultivate relationships with people who respect you and your interests. If a family member, friend or partner tries to control your interests, they're trying to control you because they don't like you the way that you are. They're trying to control you, especially if you're a woman and your interlocutor is a man, because they've internalized the sexist societal dread of autonomous, equal women. They're scared of you. They probably even hate you. Do the world a favor, and surround yourself with people who believe in and practice love instead of fear.

Anyone who says, "No more dolls till Xmas!" instead of "Let's work on our financial goals together" and "You do what you want with your hobby money, as long as you're happy and not hurting anyone" will be kicked to the curb. Anyone who says, "The dolls or me!" as an ultimatum will promptly be dumped in favor of the dolls. That's because I respect myself, while the other person obviously does not.
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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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A letter writer in her late 20s writes in Prudie's latest Slate column that she and her husband have negotiated the following boundaries: One time, they were drunk, and he was horny, but she did not want to have sex, so she shoved him away. They now agree, that, if they are drunk and/or sleepy, they should secure each other's consent before having sex. Good? Good!

Then they both got drunk. Her husband did not ask her consent, but she "went along," in her words. She concludes, "I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement. Should I just drop it or am I right about feeling abused?"

In response, Prudie comments derisively on college codes of conduct that advise consent in sexual situations each time the participants start a new activity. She then contrasts such requirements to interactions in a married couple, where, she says, "implicit consent" can be assumed.

Prudie winds up by insulting the letter writer as "prim, punctiliious, punitive," while suggesting that the letter writer is abusing her husband: "Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse."

Bloody hell, can we all see what's wrong with this response? The letter writer's husband forced himself upon her without obtaining her consent, as previously agreed. Why yes, in fact, that is rape. That's a problem!

Even if one has a hard time wrapping one's head around the fact that this interaction is rape [this is apparently Prudie's problem], one can at least admit that the letter writer's husband overrode a clearly stated boundary and thus disrespected the letter writer's autonomy and agency. This is also [at least] the second time that he has behaved in a similar manner. This is a red flag for, at worst, an abusive asshole and, at best, an individual so inculcated with cultural misogyny that he really needs to grow up and learn how to treat women like people before attempting further relationships. That's also a problem!

Prudie does not recognize these problems, however, because she is too busy making fun of the letter writer and talking out her ass about her ideal concept of marriage. Apparently, her vision of marriage includes unlimited license for one partner to rape the other. If the victim doesn't put out or even dares to feel disturbed about his or her agency being disregarded, the victim is being a poor partner. The victim's oversensitivity is stifling the rapist's "perfectly normal sexual desire." Don't you know that expecting a relationship based on mutual respect and enthusiastic consent "is itself a form of abuse?" The problem is all in the head of the victim, who should be lying back and thinking of Dan Savage. :p

That's rape culture right there: victim blaming, victim shaming and valorization of the rapist's feelings and experience over the victim's. And that's a problem!
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Both organizations piss and moan obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities while refusing to recognize the reality: namely, that queer and/or trans people exist within their ranks and that "ACK COOTIES GET IT AWAY!!!" is not a compassionate, acceptable, morally defensible to address these people.

I'm going to talk about the Boy Scouts because I have more experience with them than with Catholics. Sometimes I think that what happens in BSA hierarchy and what happens in local BSA troops are completely different. For example, all my family members involved in BSA describe an enjoyable experience of making friends, playing with their peers, going on adventures and learning fascinating things. I will not claim that everyone's BSA experience is like this, but I will note that, in my admittedly unscientific sample, nobody mentions "pissing and moaning obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities" as a primary pursuit.

What is wrong with the BSA leadership? Why are they so pathologically focused on what a very small number of people do with their bodies? Don't they have better things to do, like run the damn organization?
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I previously pronounced Pixar's upcoming Brave as bilge. I stand by that statement, despite the awesomeness of the protagonist's hair.

Remind me against why I'm supposed to be excited about a headstrong princess defying restrictive standards of femininity and charting her own destiny, thus proving that she's just as good as a man? That trope just reinforces the idea that a female character with self-knowledge has to be an egregiously ass-kicking iconoclast in order to determine her own life. It's a form of exceptionalism that dismisses the much more interesting [and common] stories of the ways that women create their own stories in more ambivalent, less flagrant fashion.

Pixar/Disney clearly thinks it's so great for doing Brave, like they're supposed to get feminist cookies for pushing tired stereotypes. This movie irritates me so much, and it's not even out yet!
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We watched The Muppets last night. It was a pretty cute movie, with most of the humor at no one's expense, but I was continually bothered by the rampant sexism on display in the plot between the 2 human leads, Gary [Jason Segel] and Mary [Amy Adams].

Gary and Mary have been dating for 10 years, but they don't even live together. They're not engaged either. Mary wishes that Gary would propose to her, but he does not. In fact, their 10th anniversary trip to Los Angeles ends up including Gary's Muppet "brother," Walter, in spite of Mary's obvious displeasure. Gary constantly privileges adventures with Walter over adventures with Mary, who acquiesces by trying to put on a brave face. When Gary forgets his 10th anniversary dinner with Mary, Mary goes back home, leaving a note that addresses the source of her upset only obliquely: "Are you a man or a Muppet?" Gary follows Mary back home and proposes to her. She says yes, blah blah blah, whoop de doo.

This entire plot could have been avoided if Gary and Mary had just had one single solitary stinkin' conversation about their expectations and desires. On a deeper level, it also would have been a much shorter movie if Mary hadn't been trapped by expectations about feminine passivity. If she loved Gary so much and wanted to marry him, why didn't she propose to him years ago? Why does she suffer Gary's callous, clueless behavior in silence, without speaking up for herself? Why is Mary such a spineless, retrograde drip? Why is Gary such an inattentive, uncommunicative clod? Does anyone really think this relationship is going to work out?

My favorite character was '80's Robot.
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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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I started 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, first in the 50 Shades trilogy, last night. The trilogy constitutes a very drawn-out romance novel with bdsm themes, starring Ana as an inexperienced college graduate and Christian as a 27-year-old CEO and millionaire. 

Let me tell you, folks -- it's a treat! And by "treat" I mean "a book in dire need of a ruthless and judicious editor." I found myself rolling my eyes up to thrice a page at some infelicity of style or bizarre authorial choice. I fear I'm going to sprain my ocular muscles by the time this book is through.

In no particular order, here are some of my observations after about the first 60-80 pages [I forget where I stopped]:

Ana has an unusual relationship with her inner monolgue, which she, in her first-person narration, inaccurately terms her "subconscious." Her "subconscious" repeatedly appears personified, tapping its foot and rolling its eyes at one of her stupid remarks, for example. This gives the unintentionally hilarious picture of a homunculus inside Ana's brain, providing MST3K-like commentary on everything she does. It's an interesting characterological device if you want to explore it, but, of course, James doesn't, so Ana's internal divide ends up revealing nothing interesting about her.

Furthermore, Ana's inner monologue sounds off indiscriminately, no matter what the needs of the story. It's almost always repetitive. For example, when Ana admires Christian's office building, she describes it as "impressive." Okay, she's impressed. We do not need to know that her internal monologue is saying, "Wow." Ana's inner voices have a reaction to every single event in the novel, mostly along the lines of, "I feel horrible for doing [insert embarrassing thing] in front of Christian." Since Ana's body language and speech, also detailed in the text, clearly demonstrate her chagrin, her thoughts add nothing to either the story or her personality. In fact, she ends up coming across as literal-minded, unanalytical and kind of stupid.

On another subject, Ana keeps tripping over her own feet and falling into Christian's arms. She should consult her primary care doctor about this. I think she might have problems with proprioception.

Speaking of Christian, he too is a very odd duck. He has the most labile emotions of any character I've met recently. His feelings change from paragraph to paragraph, as he vacillates between leering at Ana, freezing her out, then getting angry that she's not acting the way he wishes her to [which, of course, he hasn't communicated to her at all]. His actions are extremely unusual, in that most people don't cycle through emotions so rapidly. His transparent, fluctuating facial expressions suggest that he was inadequately trained in the socially acceptable methods of monitoring and expressing his emotions.

We know that Christian has some painful secret past, so it's possible that James intended his emotional instability to manifest his internal damage. However, given the way that James completely fails to recognize opportunities to psychologize her own characters, even as she's writing these opportunities into the story, I doubt that I'm supposed to be considering what historical effects led to Christian's emotional problems. More than likely, James wishes us to read Christian's instability as the seductive moodiness of a typical romance-novel alpha male.

On a related note, I see nothing but trouble for Christian in any sort of bdsm scenario. An ideal scene requires explicit, trusting communication between the participants about their roles, interests and dislikes. Christian would much rather impose his will on his partners, instead of initiating productive dialogue. He's the sort of creepy dom who would touch people sexually without their permission and probably ignore their safe words.

A particular incident between Ana and Christian set off warning bells for me about Christian's abusive traits. In one scene, Ana gets drunk for the first time and impulsively calls Christian. She has a short chat with him, at which point Christian flies off the handle and states that he is coming to pick her up. He tracks her location by using data from her cell phone call. Conveniently, Christian arrives just in time to save Ana from being raped by a "friend." Ana pukes on herself and Christian [that's what I think of him too], then faints, waking up in Christian's bed in her underwear.

Look, Mr. Grey -- I don't care how "justified" you are [according to the story] with the assault and the puke and the sexual tension. You are stalking Ana by finding her through cell phone data. You are assaulting her by nonconsensually removing her clothes. Furthermore, you are a classic abusive personality in the first place for using her phone call as an excuse to control and confine her behavior. You really are a repulsive individual. And if you "quirk" your eyebrows or grin a "sardonic" grin one more time, I'm taking away your poetic license.

The same goes for you, Ana. If you don't stop biting your lower lip and saying "crap" and "double crap," there will be consequences.
modernwizard: (Default)
Of course Fox canceled it.

Crap.

It had absolutely no character development, but it sure was entertaining.

Meanwhile, in other news, Grimm has been renewed for a second season [on NBC]. Here's hoping that the show learns how to weave its meta-plot and mythology more evenly in with the stand-alone monster-of-the-week eps. I'd also like some well-developed female regulars, but I think that's asking too much.

Also renewed for another season was Once Upon a Time [on ABC]. How long will the show be able to string out its format of developments in Storybrooke, supported by flashbacks into fairyland? How will it perpetuate forward momentum without having Emma eventually break the curse and wake all Storybrooke residents up to their original fairyland lives? How will it develop sympathetic, fully three-dimensional female characters when all it's been relying on so far are stock types? The answers to all three are "it won't," "it won't" and "it won't." Man, that show annoyed me.
modernwizard: (Default)
...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.

Brave

Mar. 7th, 2012 12:26 pm
modernwizard: (Default)
Merida is a nice name, but I think Pixar's latest outing, coming in June, will be shite. Pixar's overcompensating. If they really wanted to earn my respect, they would have had important female characters in their movies from the beginning.
modernwizard: (Default)
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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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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Hulu is playing ads for the Samsung Focus Flash smart phone these days, and both ads that I've seen so far piss me off because they both contain mockery of men who dare to deviate from culturally presecribed masculinity.

In one ad, a man tries on a pink shirt and black tights, then asks his friends via phone, "Do I look like an ice skater?" Despite his female significant other's assurance that he looks fine, his social network [whom he calls "the guys"] respond with jibes such as "Man down." These comments imply that Pink Shirt is losing his manhood by a) wearing such an outfit and b) allowing his female significant other to select clothing for him. Pink Shirt's peer group polices masculinity by teasing and shaming those who deviate from the machismo of current U.S. masculinity.

In the other ad I've seen, two men are threatening each other with things to post to Youtube. Friend A shows a video of Friend B crying at a movie, calling it a video of "a sad, sad man," with sad meaning both "unhappy" and also "pathetic" here. When Friend B teases Friend A about a comment from Friend A's girlfriend, Friend A threatens to post a video of Friend B in a shower cab in bathtub, washing his legs. Friend A impugns Friend B's masculinity by showing Friend B doing "effeminate" things such as crying at a movie or wearing a shower cab in the tub. The social network, like Friend A, who calls Friend B "a sad, sad man," responds instantly with derision.

I can't believe this campaign. The whole point of this phone is to easily update one's social networks, and the best way the execs can think to do this is by having the characters insult one another's gender expression? It's a sad, sad ["unhappy" + "pathetic"] view of social networks as promoters of rigid joyless conformity. It's also a sad, sad view of friendship as superficial togetherness masking secret wells of nasty criticism.

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