Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Geek Culture and Inclusivity

December16

I’m female, fairly geeky, and in my (early) 30s. Like a lot of geeky women my age, most of my friends are male. This isn’t because men are more awesome than women, or because I’m uncomfortable around women. It’s because for people my age, nerdy geeky interests were more heavily discouraged in women than in men, so when I found people who were, say, really into Star Wars and science fiction and role playing games, they skewed heavily toward the male. Thanks to the internet (I LOVE YOU INTERNET) I now have a lot more ladygeek friends and oh my GOSH, ladies, I love you so much. But this is because I can easily chat with people in different states and countries. If I want a face to face get together, most of my friends are still dudes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Dudes are pretty rockin! I love my friends a lot. But, unlikes a lot of older female geeks, I’m very lucky. My guy friends are pretty feminist and don’t treat me like crap.

That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m LUCKY that my friends TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Isn’t that sick and gross? But for a lot of female geeks, that’s just how life is. Geek demographics are changing and more women are joining the club. But the social hierarchy is still heavily male, and young female geeks face a hell of a lot of prejudice and discrimination and outright hate (hdu invade our boysclub with your tits and opinions! Go make a sandwich!) even while there are more of them. Will their greater numbers turn the tide? Will some measure of equality be achieved? Or will young geeky girls just get turned off by the geek macho posturing and turn their interests elsewhere? No idea.

But there is a reason that the face of geekdom is overwhelmingly male (and white and able bodied).

I’m not saying that every geeky/nerdy guy is a misogynist or a dickhole or evil. I’m just saying that we all live in a culture that privileges (white, straight, able bodied) men over everyone else and subcultures by and large reflect that.

So what’s a guy to do in a subculture that contains The Open Source Boob Project, Big Name Authors Sexually Assaulting Women, Developers not understanding (caring?) just how very real Rape Threats and Violence Against Women are, the overwhelming majority of published authors being white and male, industry editors and publishers sexually harassing (female) employees and potential authors, enough incidents of sexual harassment/casual misogyny that a wiki is needed to keep them all straight, and more? I mean, this is just stuff I found in like 5 minutes of google searching/remembered personally. And this doesn’t touch on racism, ablism, homophobia, or the million other ways predominantly straight white able bodied dudes actively and passively (whether meaning to or not) make it clear that other people aren’t welcome in their social group.

I have male friends who’ve asked just that question. A lot of them have leadership roles in their friend groups. They run games, they’re the ones who have the house everyone visits, they’re the ones who organize movie outings, etc. Most social groups have at least one person like that. So they’re poised to help guide and shape social mores or at the very least speak up when someone’s out of line.

Here’s a post on the effects of making rape jokes or dismissing rape/assault allegations. It’s a good starting point. You can apply those points to any sexist commentary or “jokes.” 1 in 6 women has been raped or assaulted, according to statistics. Almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted. When people in your social group use “rape” to mean “killed” or “cheated” or “beat me at something” or “stole” or “unfair,” the women in your group hear that you consider a relatively major crime that mostly happens to other people (women) on par with relatively minor inconveniences in your own life. Some women are cool with this but a lot of women aren’t, and unless you know that woman well you won’t know where she falls on the spectrum. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime and 25% of women (1 in 4) report being physically assaulted or raped by a domestic partner, which makes jokes about beating your girlfriend/a female NPC kind of tasteless. (And FYI, 1 in 33 men are raped per year. I know two guys who have been the recipients of domestic assault, one who was in a homosexual relationship and one who was in a heterosexual relationship. Male reporting rates of domestic violence are really, really low and a society that mocks and belittles men who are the recipients of violence/have been raped is part of that. If you care about your friends, don’t make them feel bad because someone acted violently towards them. Men, especially, are less likely to talk about having been raped or beaten, so you’re really unlikely to know if one of your male friends has experienced this.)

So purging rape and abuse jokes is a good start.

The next step is purging unwanted attention. Ladies! They are pretty awesome, right? They smell good and have nice hair and they have tits and everything. Wow! How great are ladies? Here is a clue: while many ladies enjoy flirting and being sexy on their own terms, ladies were not put on earth for you to claim as your very own. Which means don’t flirt with a woman who doesn’t seem interested, don’t “hit on” a woman who is anything less than encouraging/enthusiastic, don’t stare at a woman’s body parts or tell her/tell other people how hot she is. If you are a straight dude, think about how a gay dude might act around you. Would he corner you and talk about how great your ass is and how you should totally get together and not give up that line of thought ever? Probably not. If he did, how would you feel? Kind of gross and used? Frustrated? Bored? Threatened? A little flattered but uninterested? Part of why gay dudes don’t do this in mixed company is because it’s considered incredibly socially wrong, but it’s somehow totally ok for straight dudes to do this to (presumably) straight ladies. Why is that? Because straight dudes have power and control that gay dudes and ladies do not have. Don’t do that. It’s really gross and off putting and a lady who had to deal with that in social setting will eventually find a new social setting. Perhaps that social setting will consist of non-geeky people. Perhaps it will consist of people on IRC. Perhaps it will consist of a group of totally awesome geeks that she will never invite you to join because ew, you have terrible manners. WHO CAN SAY.

If you see someone harassing a woman– commenting on her, staring at her, flirting aggressively with her even though she’s tried to turn him down, cornering her, dominating the conversation, step in. On the one hand, women don’t need to be “saved” by men. On the other hand, women are often taught to be “nice” and to avoid confrontation (and you seriously never know when a woman’s tried to turn aside a dude who’s flirting with her and it escalated to violence and so she learned not to escalate or take a stand because she likes having her face bones unbroken). So step in. Go over there. Ask the woman if everything’s ok. Distract the guy. Don’t go in with the idea of saving her– or of claiming her as your own! God no!– go in with an offer of help that she may or may accept.

So that’s another pretty basic socializing thing. What’s a more sophisticated one?

Consume– and discuss– media by and featuring women. I have actually heard actual men who I thought were intelligent up until they said this thing, say that they don’t read books by or about women because they are not worth reading. Oh HO! Apparently women, the gender stereotypically known as the communicative/chatty/talkative gender can’t write books. OH NO THAT IS FOR MEN TO DO. Also: women are just not that interesting! Yes, yes. That’s right. The gender that makes up literally half the population of this earth, the gender that men are told they want to spend their sexy lives with, is not interesting and has nothing important/fun to say. OH WOW THAT IS NOT SEXIST AT ALL. When you say that you don’t read books, watch movies, listen to music, etc when they are by or feature women because they are inherently bad for featuring women, you are saying that women are inherently bad and there’s no reason to talk to them or be around them ever. Which, ok, if you really believe that, please say it loudly enough and often enough that everyone who thinks otherwise can easily pick up on that and start avoiding you. But if you think women are actual human beings whose thoughts and words are worth something, consume media by women and featuring women. Discuss that media. Talk about it with your friends. Review it online. And while you’re talking about books and movies and stuff, talk about the problematic stuff. Like female characters who do nothing but get rescued or give the (male) hero sexual relief or who are killed off quickly so the hero has something to avenge. Or how often rape is the sole defining character trait of a female character.

When someone in your social group makes jokes about rape or makes jokes about how women are stupid or unfunny or whatever, shut him down. Tell him it isn’t funny. Don’t put up with that shit. It’s really easy to sit back in silence and let one person bloviate about how women are inferior or they just can’t do math or drive or they need to make more sandwiches while giving him head. But your silence tacitly supports his sexist/misogynist comments. When you don’t say you disagree, he assumes you agree with him, and everyone else assumes that everyone in the social set holds the same views. Be prepared for backlash, for being called PC or “overly” PC, for being called “butthurt” or “a girl” or “a pussy” (NOTE: the worse thing you can call someone is a feminine designation. SEXIST? NOT AT ALL.). This is pretty much nothing compared to the backlash women get when they point out sexism, which generally starts out with allegations that the woman is “overly sensitive,” “lacking a sense of humor,” “hysterical,” or the like and often ramps up into threats. Why is asking someone not to make comments/jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or safe such a big deal? Because there is power and status in being able to unquestionably put other people in their place. Being called on that is an erosion of power and status,and some people take it as a personal attack. What fun!

If someone in your group consistently makes sexist comments and jokes and acts inappropriately despite interventions, ask them to leave. Stop inviting them to things. Tell them why. If a friend came to your house and was cruel to your dog or urinated in the sink every time he used the bathroom or constantly insulted your dad’s political views/appearance/whatever you’d step in and say something. If they kept doing it, would you keep them around? Probably not, yet people are very willing to sit back and tacitly encourage folks in hateful and harmful behavior toward women.

Remember that the goal of this is not to treat women as “special” or “put them on pedestals.” It’s to treat them with respect and consideration. It’s to leave them feeling welcomed and safe and part of the group, not like an outsider being allowed in and granted a small measure of acceptance which can be revoked at any moment if she doesn’t behave appropriately (laugh at the jokes, endure the tit-staring, tidy up after get-togethers, etc). For some reason, a lot of people think that “not verbally berating someone” means “condescendingly treating someone like a special princess on a pedestal.” If there’s someone like that in your social group, dump them. They’re toxic.

Women have been geeks and nerds all throughout history, and for big chunks of history have been denied, stifled, excluded, or not given credit. We are in the 21st century and it’s time for women to stop being excluded from society and instead welcomed. Do your part.

(a lot of this can be applied to racism, homophobia, ablism, cisexism, etc but I’m taking a lot of my responses and advice from what I know personally, so have focused mainly on sexism. Yes, my privilege is showing. Please feel free to comment on that, as well as offer other advice on this topic.)

(edited to change some mildly problematic wording)

Jane Austen is not Romantic

September20

I’m re-reading my Big Book of Jane Austen and wondering, yet again, why some people continue portraying her work as romantic.

I mean, sure, they involve matrimony and at the end of the story there’s a marriage and not a funeral, so technically they are romances and not tragedies, but still.

Most of the established marriages are pretty awful, formed of people who barely tolerate each other at best and despise each other at worst. New relationships are entered into with negotiation, almost as business partnerships, even when actual affection is involved. And when a potential spouse who has objected to a match based on social standing relents, it’s not because passion has swept him/her away. Rather, it’s because he/she found out something further about the potential spouse like their family isn’t as unrelentingly tediously awful as first thought and there are some Members Of Quality present. For instance, Elizabeth Bennet and her atrocious family (except for sweet, naive Jane) but wait, she has the civilized lawyer uncle and aunt.

A lot of modern readers (and, let’s face it, viewers of dramatic versions of the books) forget or never knew that a good marriage was an upper class woman’s job. If she failed at it, she (or the daughters she misaligned) could face poverty or abuse with little alternative save returning home to live with her parents. If you’ve ever read Vanity Fair you’ve seen what Amelia Sedley– a woman with a very high class education and wealthy background– is reduced to in order to survive. (spoiler: she has absolutely no marketable skills and mostly goes hungry, surviving on handouts from relatives)

Austen’s heroines are women with very little options trying to make the best future for themselves they can. Maybe, like Marianne, they narrowly escape being “ruined” (spoiler: “seduced” (possibly raped), impregnated, and abandoned therefore to be hidden away because of The Shame) by A Cad only to find a decent marriage to a man literally old enough to be their fathers; maybe, like Jane Bennet, they luck out and have a few small difficulties before snagging a congenial easily-pushed-around wealthy dude with bitchy, unpleasant sisters;maybe they’re rescued out of grinding poverty (and a very close knit and loving family) to live among people who treat them like unwanted and threatening time bombs waiting to go off, only to find a love alliance with a cousin after all (but have spent over a decade being treated like crap by the rest of the family). She writes with humor and there are comedic elements and, yes, the novels have a Happy End. But there’s a grim undertone of desperation under the social skewering and witty banter.

If these women fail at catching a good husband, they are fucked.

posted under books, feminism, fiction, marriage, review | Comments Off on Jane Austen is not Romantic

A brief note on fat, health, and body normativity

September8

Someone on a feminist website recently posted a bit about the BMI and ended it with the admonition that fat people should just put down the donuts, a line that was cliche years ago and thinking that is, frankly, dangerous and hateful. I mean, seriously, if it was that easy to lose weight there wouldn’t be so many fat people and the dieting industry wouldn’t be raking in the money hand over fist the way it is. But it’s easy (lazy) thinking that fat people are just weak and immoral and more in love with shoving food into their gaping maws than being slender, and it paints thin people as morally superior since they can just step away from the food and not indulge. Why yes, there is a reason that it’s bad to be fat, it’s bad to be female, and it’s fucking awful to be fat and female. This ties into the whole puritanical don’t-have-pleasure-ever women shouldn’t lust after or enjoy ANYTHING (sex, alcohol, food in general, “decadent” food in specific, chocolate in specific, shopping in general, shoes, money, power, respect) mindset so very prevalent.

I digress a bit.

One of the arguments against fat people being healthy or active is that every single fat person it’s mentioned who is fat and vegetarian, is fat and exercises, is fat and jogs, is fat and participates in triathlons, is fat and hikes, is fat and mountain climbs, is fat and swims, is fat and rows boats, etc is that that particular fat person is a statistical outlier. Sure, THAT fat person acts in ways that are healthy and active and is still fat, but that’s the exception to the rule! Fat people in general are ticking time bombs of obese ill-health, and it is ALL. THEIR. FAULT. If only they’d just PUT DOWN THE DAMN DONUTS and BACK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. On the flip side of that, however, nobody ever says that thin people who are completely sedentary and/or eat nothing but junk food are statistical outliers. They are given an automatic pass for having an acceptable body shape, just as the fat people are automatically damned for having an unacceptable body shape. And yes, “overly” or “excessively” thin people are damned and told to eat a sandwich.

Meanwhile, the USA is a country with a great deal of poverty and many many people– many of them fat– who go to bed hungry each night. It’s a country where many children cannot count on having enough food to eat, where it can be difficult to find fruits and vegetables or anything that doesn’t come in a box or can and loaded with preservatives and additives. It’s a country where a person can be both overweight and malnourished at the same time. But with all the focus on OH MY GOD FAT PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE there’s very little attention paid to the fact that these fat people are often starving/malnourished or came from a childhood of food scarcity, and that the body’s natural reaction to starvation/malnourishment is to cling to fat– cling to iiiiiiiit!!!– and that it’s not an issue of overindulgence at all.

Because it’s easier to shame people than it is to address a serious social injustice. And it’s easier to point fingers at people who are lesser than it is to examine critical fallacies in the medical system. And it’s really easy to forget that the BMI was rewritten so that literally overnight a bunch of people were suddenly classified as overweight who before hadn’t been, and that likewise the critical numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar have been rewritten so that more people now have medical conditions they wouldn’t have been labeled with a few years ago. Explosive epidemic? Not really. Just a re-writing of criteria.

But that doesn’t write headlines, sell diet products and plans, and make people into disgusting non-humans so, you know, it’s not talked about that much.

posted under body issues, fat, feminism, health, social responsibility | Comments Off on A brief note on fat, health, and body normativity

“The Witches of Eastwick” is pretty sexist.

September7

The Witches of Eastwick, by John Updike, is a pretty sexist book. Let me sum it up for you:

      *There are women! And they are witches! Also: they are whores! They have a lot of sex. WITH OTHER WOMENS’ MEN. Whores.
      *Also: they menstruate
      *Also: They get pregnant and lactate OH MY GOD IT’S SUCH A MIRACLE LET’S FETISHIZE IT and then also let’s talk about pee and how women apparently all have shy bladder syndrome all the time.
      *Women: They totally murder men. Just because. It’s what they do. They get bored of a dude and they kill him. Or suck the life out of him. You know. Whichever. Vampiric harpy witch women! GOD! They just prey on men! All the time! CONSTANTLY! When they aren’t having orgies, that is.
      *Women: Get them tipsy and in a hot tub and they totally lezz out at the drop of a hat.
      *Women: They can’t live without men and after they get dumped by a grotesque dude who is secretly gay (gay men! They’re the pits!) they will create men out of nothing and magic so they can be mated and happy again. Because a woman without a man is nothing!

The plot of the book goes like this:

There’s these women in New England who are petty, vindictive bitches. They are in a coven together. They are all widowed or divorced and man! Do they love to fuck! So they fuck the husbands of other women, taking on a maternal role in their lives, while hating those same wives. They hate them so! They are full of hate. And they are not above murdering these women, or driving the men to murder them. Just, you know, for larffs.

Anyway, one is a sculptor of crappy little vacation trinkets, one is a mediocre cellist, and one writes a gossip column for the local small town paper. They aren’t even good at what they do professionally. Also: they are really shitty, negligent mothers. This is mentioned. A lot. Shortly after hexing an elderly woman and causing her to fall over, which could have resulted in broken bones or death (she was boring! she deserved it! how dare she discuss gardening with a member of the gardening club who is also a petty, vindictive witch who is a bad mom and a whore??!!?), this really grotesque dude rolls into town. He’s hairy and drools and wears awful clothing and is incredibly rude.

The witches pretty much immediately start rubbing themselves all over him because… I guess… women just love cock that much? I don’t know. He kind of pits them against each other and he knows they’re witches and it just… none of it really makes sense. They wind up working together to kill this chick he ends up marrying (for her money, he’s a con artist) and he skips out in the night with her brother (because he’s gay. EW! gay. That’s so gross.) leaving the witches behind. Which is when they magic up men for themselves.

I haven’t seen the movie in a while, but I remember liking it. The women, you know, are powerful and don’t use that power JUST to put other women down. In the movie, if I’m remembering correctly, the dude is the devil and he tempts them to evil and then they’re all “dude! This is the devil! he’s evil!” and they take their power back for themselves. Also they all have babies, I don’t even know. WHATEVER HOLLYWOOD. But even saddling them all with devil babies is still a step up from this book which is just sexist and craptacular.

I had better hopes for this book. I could tell it was shitty from, like, the very first page. I kept reading it anyway, internets. For you. For yooooouuuuuuuu.

The fantasy of being someone else

September6

Kate Harding’s piece on The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really important piece that more people should read. It’s a fantasy I’ve succumbed to myself, both in relation to weight and other things. My life will just be perfect when I finally…loose weight, clear up my skin, find the perfect way of organizing my closet, find the perfect lipstick, find the perfect book shelf, start baking my own bread, get a better job, learn to drive, get a different hair cut, buy better clothing, live in a different building.

If I could just change everything about my life, everything about me, if I could just become unrecognizable and completely different, then I can finally do all the things I want to but am afraid of. Then I can finally be happy.

I used to spend a lot of money on products I never used, mostly make up and skin care and hair stuff. It was like… shouldn’t owning these things count for SOMETHING, even if I don’t actually use them, or only use them sporadically, or use them and then take a shower to wash them out again because I don’t know HOW to use them so just look like crap? I’m making the token effort, here! I’m being an appropriate consumer! Doesn’t that count?

I’ve been fidgety and anxious about my hair lately. About six months after I gave birth, it started dropping out in fist fulls and clumps; a fairly normal post-birth experience that is nonetheless freaky as all hell. I went and got my hair cut from mid-back to jawline. The hairdresser called me “brave.” Then she asked about the bald spots. The shorter hairstyle helped a lot. There was less hair clogging the drain, less hair forming tumbleweeds that drifted forlornly across the floor, less hair for Niko to grab and yank. And it dried faster, out of the shower. It’s down to my bra straps now, and I’m torn between continuing to grow it out and getting it cut short. Very short.

The problem with me and short hair is that my hair, like my nails, grows very very fast. This means that unless I oil my nails regularly, they are very dry and brittle; and this means that it’s very expensive for me to keep a short hair cut maintained. I’d need to go in every two weeks or so or I’d start looking weedy and shaggy. And unlike curly hair which can be very forgiving of home cuts, my hair is very straight (except for the hair that fell out and grew back in) and shows mistakes very, very clearly.

I’m getting to the point. Bear with me.

Someone on my friendslist posted about a haircut recently, very short, with slightly longer bangs. See, you keep the bangs a bit longer, and can play with them and style them. It’s a style that I like. It’s a style I’ve thought of getting before. It’s a style I was lusting after during our recent heat waves where my hair went a week once without ever being dry (it was either damp from the shower or damp from sweat almost the entire week; it was AWFUL). It’s also a style that, to look its best, to look “on purpose,” needs styling and product.

And how likely am I to purchase and use product? To spend time on my hair other than dragging a comb through it and then pulling it back with an elastic?

Do I really want this hair cut, or do I want to be the kind of person who can get a short, edgy hair cut and look good in it, and who has the time and know-how and interest (and money) to maintain the hair cut? Is this where I am, or is this where I want to be because I’m unhappy with something much bigger about where I am?

I’m not sure. I think it’s the latter.

But I need to start living in the now and the reality and stop chasing after the fantasy. What I am, what I have, isn’t bad. I need to take better notice of that.

posted under body issues, feminism, hair, life, stuff, women | Comments Off on The fantasy of being someone else

Children’s Fashion

June17

Nesko and I watched “The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen!!!” recently, although since I’d never seen “The Exorcist” before any version would be one I’d never seen. I was afraid it wouldn’t stand up, that it would be hokey or awkward or corny. It wasn’t! It was a good movie, very interesting, and I’m keeping me eyes out for a copy of the book it was based on.

One of the most interesting things in the movie (to me) was the way Regan dressed. In the first part of the movie, because she’s dressed in nightgowns and kept to her room/bed, she wears jeans and plaid shirts. She’s a girl, 12 years old, and she’s wearing clothing that’s really gender neutral. Other than possibly having buttons/zippers on the “wrong” side, or minor fashion detailing/stitching, her clothing is something a boy or a girl could wear and look good and feel good. I didn’t pick up on her being presented as a “tomboy” either. She was just wearing clothes.

I was walking around outside the other day and a big group of kids and their caregivers was walking in the other direction. There were 15-20 girls in the group, and every single one of them was wearing pink. Most of them were also wearing ruffles on their shirts and jeans. They weren’t dressed up, but they were ruffled and pink and heavily gendered. Some of the boys had non-gendered clothing, plain jeans and t-shirts, but most of them had macho things like “king of the playground” or “here comes trouble!” or something (as opposed to, you know, “‘princess” or “diva” or “flirt” or “cute”).

Children’s fashion is so excessively gendered at this point that seeing a girl in plain jeans and a plaid shirt jumped out at me as something to be noticed. There are people who claim that there’s no point in being a Feminist any more, no point in pushing a Feminist agenda, because wow! Feminists won! The world is a Feminist playground and women are in control and men are on the decline and becoming weaker and less powerful and less effective every single day. But there is an incredible divide between what’s acceptable clothing for “boys” and “girls,” and while it’s considered appropriate to dress a girl in “boy” clothing it’s not acceptable to dress a boy in “girl” clothing because that will turn him gay or something. Because “male” is still the default, and female the exception to the rule.

posted under clothes, feminism, life, women | Comments Off on Children’s Fashion

Movies I wish I’d seen

June11

I don’t really like watching movies very much because more and more it’s becoming incredibly obvious that movies aren’t aimed at me or people like me, where “people like me” are “female.” You know. Roughly 50% of the population. Also, these people think and have thoughts and notice plot holes large enough to drive a semi through.

I’m not even going to touch on the ingrained, established sexism of the motion picture industry, despite the fact that women outnumber men when it comes to movie consumption. What I am going to touch on is 2 things:

    The Trailer for “Killers”

      The movie “Dog Soldiers”

      In “Killers,” Katherine Heigl plays a woman who goes from the over-protective, domineering, patriarchal custody of her father to the marriage bed of her husband, who is a former assassin for the CIA and Ashton Kutcher. He, of course, has not told her of his past because relationships based on lies and omissions are the best kind of relationships. Predictably, his past catches up to him and he winds up having to kill a lot of people while he protects and bosses around (dominates) his wife. Apparently he kills/has his wife kill a lot of female people? In brutal ways? God knows there isn’t enough of THAT in the world! What a novel concept: a man causing the deaths of lots of conventionally attractive in blood spattery violent ways!

      WHAT I WOULD LIKE THIS MOVIE TO BE: Heigl is the former assassin! Or current assassin. Either way, she is capable of taking care of herself and doesn’t need a man to protect her. In fact! Her past catches up to her and she winds up– shocking idea– protecting Kutcher. I think it would be really awesome to start the movie with the conceit that she’s just an innocent young woman, sheltered from the world, oh heavens what on earth will she do with this massive phallus gun??!? and then shit gets real and she shows her sharp shooting ability and saves the day instead of being saved. And possibly also she is not a white woman. Is that at all within the realm of probability?

      “Dog Soldiers” is not a werewolf movie about soldiers, it is a movie about soldiers and the bonds of brotherhood and also there are werewolves in it. That’s how it’s been described, anyway. What it actually is about is about trying to kidnap and experiment on local non-human people, and then breaking into their house and busting shit up and eating all their food and being surprised when they want to kill you. I mean, duh. Also, except for the female character and the main male character, everyone else was pretty interchangeable and flat… including the bad guy soldier character. I mean, they had characteristics like “likes football” and “is married” and… uh. That’s about it, I think. One guy’s really fast, maybe? I don’t even remember. The female character acts sympathetic towards them and then suddenly towards the end of the movie it’s like someone else started writing her or perhaps somebody realized they’d written themselves into a corner and OUT OF NOWHERE she starts talking about how the main character is a dudely dude who hates women and she’s just a bitch and it’s that time of the month and then she reveals that she unlocked a door and let the werewolves in. And also she is a werewolf. WHAT A TWIST!!! (this is after a really nice bit where someone was talking about pack dynamics and alpha male and female and I thought to myself “huh, cool, nice bit of parallel there, maybe this movie isn’t as bad as I thought” and then no, it really was.) I mean, it’s not a BAD movie, but you know. It’s not a good one. Also, the bad/evil guy is needlessly bad/evil. Relentlessly. For no reason. He’s just a massive evil dick, like he wakes up every morning and takes his “pure evil maliciousness” pills which make him do irrational but evil things like command a soldier to shoot an extremely expensive tracking dog which would have traumatized the dogs handler, and when the soldier doesn’t, he does it himself. Because he’s just so hard core evil that murdering dogs is second nature, even when that would require a lot of paperwork and explaining and also the cost and inconvenience of having to purchase and train a new dog.

      WHAT I WOULD LIKE THIS MOVIE TO BE: Actual defined characters would have been nice. In a movie where almost everyone dies, if you have a small group of people, it’s kind of boring unless you actually care about and are invested in the people being torn apart. Realistic evil and moral grey areas would have been totally cool too. Also, the fact that the soldiers commandeered someones’ house and ate their dinner and busted shit up really goes unremarked. Honestly, I would have loved it if all the myths and legends of monstrous beasties eating people were just that– myths and legends. And the werewolves were hunting prey animals like deer or something, and they only attacked the humans because the humans were 1) trying to capture and experiment on them, Ultimate Weapon style and 2) broke into their house and fucked shit up. I mean, if I were a werewolf and somebody came into my home and ate my dinner and locked me out etc etc etc I would probably go apeshit on them. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’d do that even without being a werewolf. But that gives you a nice moment of “who is the real monster here.” Is it the humans who invade a sentient beings’ home and place of security, or is it the furry fanged creatures who simply want to be safe? Also a female character who is an actual fleshed out character and also isn’t an evil bitch monster would be totally rad.

      Obviously, I want to see movies that don’t actually exist, except in my own head. I know there’s a few movies that veer close to the preferred vision of “killers” that I have, and I’ve yet to see “Ginger Snaps” which is apparently the most awesomest werewolf movie in all of existence. But I’m getting tired of movies that are “close,” especially as one of the big, glaring failures tends to be “women don’t really exist as characters, except as props/accessories for men or else bitchmonsters.”

      (Oddly, and a second viewing may not hold up, I found “Quantum of Solace” to be exactly what I wanted in a movie, especially with regards to the female characters… one of whom is in a position of authority over Bond and the other of whom has her own agenda and motives, uses Bond to further them, doesn’t sleep with him, doesn’t get killed, and needs the same kind of saving that a male character would have needed… and also is physically scarred but still considers herself attractive and is considered by others to be attractive, as opposed to being considered ugly, flawed, damaged, pretty-except-for, etc.)

posted under feminism, feminism friday, movies, review, women | Comments Off on Movies I wish I’d seen

Men and Women in Public Spaces

May24

There’s a lot of guys who do this thing, in public, that is really aggressive and potentially threatening and invasive and all around douchey, and I’m pretty sure they’re not aware that’s how their actions are perceived, because if they were aware of that they’d stop doing it. Maybe. There’s a lot of aggressive, entitled, douchey guys out there, though.

Anyway, this is the thing:

When you are a dude in public, especially if you are with other dudes in a group, and you happen upon a lady who is minding her own business reading a book or eating an ice cream cone or working or whatever, and you want to know her name, give her yours first. Don’t just demand her name. Especially don’t follow up with questions about where she lives.

Because that? Is threatening. That’s now two pieces of private information you’ve tried to get out of her, and could easily lead to stalking.

And there is a LOT of pressure on women to play nice and answer the question. Because, you know, he’s just being friendly. They’re just questions. What possible harm could it do?

But it’s one of those things that makes women feel unsafe, especially because if she doesn’t answer these (very personal, private, could endanger her life and security) questions, she doesn’t know if the guy asking them will start screaming at her and calling her an uppity bitch.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself “huh, how could simply knowing a woman’s name and neighborhood make her unsafe?” Here is the thing. It’s really easy to watch women, especially in a big city. It’s easy to narrow down where a person lives, what public transit routes they take, including what block they live on, what apartment they live in. It’s easy to get access to women. It’s especially easy when you know that woman’s name. “Oh, hey, I’m here to see [woman’s name] and I think her buzzer is broken? could you let me up?”

I mean, think of how normalized-as-romantic this incredibly scary behavior is, how often it’s portrayed in romantic comedies.

So, you know, your harmless questions can actually be very alarming. Especially when the flow of information is only going one way.

So be mindful of that. If you MUST intrude upon a woman’s personal space (like, maybe she’s the most attractive woman in the known universe, or she has a tattoo with an obscure quote on it you recognize, or she’s reading your absolute favorite book series about soul-bonded dragons, and you know in your heart of hearts that you are soul mates), open with your own name first. Get the flow of information going both ways. Make it a conversation and not just an interrogation. And be mindful also of the fact that women don’t owe you anything. They don’t owe you a smile, or a conversation, or answers to your questions. If they don’t want to engage with you, that doesn’t make them bitches or whores or nasty people out to get you. It makes them human beings who don’t have the time, interest, energy, or whatever to expend upon you. And that’s their right, to not interact with some stranger who is making unreasonable demands on them.

Sometimes when a woman is being interrogated by a stranger (who, when male, usually is taller, stronger, louder, and heavier than her, all of which put her at a physical disadvantage), she might try to turn attention away from herself and ask questions of the stranger.

This does not mean the woman is trying to bone you, is giving you permission to “have sex with” (rape) her, is flirting “aggressively” with you, or is, in fact, interested in you/your dick. It also doesn’t mean you can then suavely segue into demanding to know what female celebrities she wants to have sex with, nor does it mean you can loudly call her a prude when she doesn’t answer you right away. I mean, you know, maybe she’s flirting with you and wants to get all up in your business. Sometimes people connect in the most unlikely ways! But it is not probable. More than likely she is trying to get you to talk about yourself (most peoples’ favorite topic of conversation) so she no longer feels like you are stalking her. She’s trying to redirect the conversation in such a way that she no longer has to actively take part in it. She’s reduced to this strategy because most women are not permitted by strange men they meet in public to opt out of conversations the men initiate.

Think about that for a minute.

If you are male, are you routinely dragged into personal conversations by other people? Do they ask you personal questions over and over again, getting louder and more persistent? Do they insult you if you refuse to talk to them or avoid answering the question? If you are reading a book or listening to music via headphones, do people assume that you owe them attention, that they can monopolize your time, that if you don’t fawn over them you are somehow at fault?

Because that’s pretty standard for women who go out in public.

If you feel the need to apologize several times for you/your group and your “obnoxious” behavior then consider changing your behavior. I mean, if you are acting obnoxiously and then apologize for it and then keep acting that way it pretty much cements that fact that you’re an epic jackass with no regard for the feelings of others, and no care at all for how you’re impinging on their social/physical space.

Science Fiction

March24

If you asked me about ten years ago what my favorite genre was, I’d have told you right off the bat, no hesitation, “fantasy.” The truth is, though, I’ve always been hugely into science fiction. Ahh, sci-fi! You had me honestly believing that I’d see actual colonies on other planets, hoping that I’d have the option of being a Bold New Settler– and if not me, then my children. That I’d be able to see my children launching themselves into the unknown, Boldly Going. Books involving The Future (whether bright and shining or dingy and dystopic), aliens, robots, Space, exploration, etc were my bread and butter. I’ve read approximately fifty thousand post-apocolyptic dystopia books (current favorite apocalypse: zombie outbreaks, replacing the nuclear holocaust survivors with awesome mutations genre from the 70s and early 80s).

So why list fantasy as my favorite, instead of sci-fi? I mean, you know, sure… I love magic and fairies and vampires/werewolves/etc as much as the next person who came of age in the 90s and fell in love with White Wolf’s World of Darkness games. Or, possibly, more. So why the falsehood?

Frankly, because science fiction is the realm of boys. It’s a male realm, the books populated with male scientists and male inventors and male adventurers, written primarily by men for male readers, and marketed toward males. Until very very recently, it was assumed that only men enjoy and like sci-fi, and the only female touches are heaving bosoms and slightly parted lips sighing after the hero… or some vampy female who betrays the man but not until they’ve had hot sex. I mean, for crying out loud, the sci-fi channel changed its name to SyFy to attract female viewers. Instead of addressing the content of their shows, their advertising, their staff, they… femmed up the name.

A friend of mine sent me some really good books for my birthday and another one sent me a gift card for amazon.com. So I’ve been reading and enjoying a lot of new stuff lately, but also looking at it a little critically and thinking about my reading habits as a younger person, and how I identify as a reader now, and just how much sexist training and indoctrination I had as a kid about what is and isn’t appropriate for someone who was born with a vagina. It’s kind of depressing.

Literature and women

March3

When I was of an age/interest to read Young Adult Literature, most of it was written by dudes, featuring dudes as the characters, and was directed and marketed at dudes. If female characters were present, they didn’t say anything, or were a designated love interest, or taught the Young Hero a Valuable Lesson. There were books directed at female readers but they pretty much sucked, featuring as they did date rape and cancer and orphanings and promising piano careers cut short, and did I mention the date rape and also the stalking? They were horrible, terrible, awful books.

There were a few bright spots, in my reading. Lloyd Alexander who roped me in with his Prydain books, for instance. His stuff was pretty male centric but he DID have the Vesper Holly books, books with a female protagonist who goes on adventures of the sort a male protagonist usually went on. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna/Lioness Rampant books were pretty trail blazing and inspiring, and shaped my world view in ways I’m still discovering. Meredith Anne Pierce’s “Dark Angel” trilogy (which apparently went out of print, with the final book being IMPOSSIBLE for me to find for YEARS) which flavored my dreams and my notion of what strength and love were. Robyn McKinley and Jane Yolen. Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” series and sweet, strong Jane. Mary Stewart’s “Romantic Thrillers” with women who often didn’t know how to drive (my maternal grandmother, of an age with Lady Stewart, never learned to drive) but who still kicked butt and seized their own happiness.

There’s probably more, but in 30 years worth of reading, I’ve come up with what, seven names? Seven authors? And even then, most of Alexander’s work was male-centric, as was Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” books.

This is, now, changing.

Graceling is a book about a young woman “graced” with the ability to fight and kill. She hates it. She hates being under the control of her uncle the King, who sends her out as his bully and muscle. She hates hurting people. She hates herself. And over the course of the book she comes to better understand herself, and slip out from under the control of other people. She also Has Adventures and acts. She isn’t acted upon. She is a driving force. And she doesn’t end up married and with children. In fact she is opposed to marriage and doesn’t want children. How refreshing is that?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a coming of age story focused on a young woman whose father is vanished and presumed dead, and whose mother essentially commits suicide in the first few pages. The protagonist comes to realize that the utopia she lives in is actually a dystopia built on lies and half truths, and must escape her fate and her world by launching into the unknown, leaving everything she knows behind. As she journeys, she faces her staggering ignorance and realizes the world is much larger, huger, than anything she could imagine. It’s hard to really describe this book and how much I like it without running into spoiler territory. As with “Graceling,” the protagonist acts more than she’s acted upon. She makes decisions and takes charge and runs her own life.

Lips Touch: Three Times is a collection of 3 short stories about first kisses. I am not and have never been a fan of romance, which makes me kind of a freak, I think. In the “Alanna” books, for example, when I first read them as a teen, I actively resented the romantic bits in the story. So when I say this is a collection of 3 short stories that have a common theme of “first kisses,” please understand that it’s also about a lot more than that. Each story follows a young woman at a turning point in her life. Each must take control of her destiny, her fate, her life, and make a decision about something and then live with the consequences. And each one does.

Some friends of mine are having a baby girl and, nerdishly, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is her discovering reading. I’m incredibly glad that there are books that are written for her; not just books that she can enjoy, but books that are written with her in mind, heroines that she can easily see herself as. I spent most of my childhood running around pretending I was Robin Hood and Taran Wanderer and King Arthur. In order to star in my own youthful fantasies, I had to be male, take on a male persona. I’m excited that literature is opening up and giving young women a taste of what it means to be strong, adventurous, heroic, and female.

If you’re looking for feminist/female-centric books, you might want to check out the Amelia Bloomer Project for lists and descriptions of books.

posted under books, feminism, fiction | Comments Off on Literature and women
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