Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday ShieldSlash

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Who is watching this?

Now, it is true that troubled, angsty female characters (Skye) and nerdy female characters (Jemma) are like lesbian catnip (n = me).

But, to me, Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is the true hero of Shield.  May (and it's always May, never her first name, Melinda) is the type of woman who certain people, like non-feminists, would call "a bitch." Her main "sin" being that she doesn't smile readily and certainly not on any man's (or hell, anyone's) command. And now, don't get me wrong, May is not perfect. She has a fair amount of angst. It's just more reserved (I'd say, "mature") than, say, Skye's external, obvious troubles.

Anyway, May is a pilot, she's mostly in control of things, and she's the best fighter on the team. In a just world, she would be the leader of SHIELD, and Coulson would be her second-in-command (ahem, if that).

On my best days, I like to think that I'm a "May."

In reality, I'm usually more likely a Skye-Jemma hybrid of nerdangst.  So, on that note, I'll revel in this fan vid. (Pairing: May/Bobbi; Although, that May v. May battle was epic)


Thursday, September 22, 2016

MTV Thursday

Just out of curiosity, how do the kids these days watch/find out about music videos?

I listen to new music mostly through different streaming services, but rarely do I seek out music videos. I grew up in the era of Music Television (MTV) where the station literally mostly played music videos in the early 1980s. (Hey, remember video jockey Kennedy? She's now a conservative Republitarian - that's my made-up word for Republican/Libertarian, or maybe other people say it too, whatever).

ANYway, my point today is that although I have heard the song numerous times, I did not realize that Rihanna's music video for "Te Amo" is.... kind of amazing. And by kind of, I mean a lot. And it's like 6 years old!

The important thing is that I am definitely here for it now. Oh yes. And by that I mean I've only watched it about eleventymillion times in the past week. Is it possible to become more gay when you're already really gay? Yes. I believe so.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Damn: Trish Bendix Writes AfterEllen Eulogy

AfterEllen, the popular lesbian and bisexual pop culture site, is shutting down. Or, at least, is going to be significantly changing. [NOTE: See update]

Editor in Chief Trish Bendix wrote a eulogy yesterday on tumblr, noting that the company that owns AfterEllen wouldn't let her post her piece at AfterEllen:
 "Here are the facts: Evolve Media purchased AfterEllen from Viacom two years ago. They gave us two fiscal years to become their LGBT property and profit in that space, and they found we are not as profitable as moms and fashion. And, yes, “they” are mainly white heterosexual men, which is important to note because not only is this the story for us, but for a lot of other properties—large-scale media outlets, lesbian bars out-priced by neighborhoods they helped establish, housing in queer meccas like Portland that is being turned into condos and AirBNBs. 
 At the very same time, queer women and culture is being celebrated on the Emmys, in the legalization of both mothers being included on their newborn’s birth certificate, and our namesake, Ellen DeGeneres, being one of the most well-known, well-liked and undeniably profitable television and lifestyle personalities of our generation.

Somewhere, there’s a disconnect. AfterEllen is just one of the homes lesbian, bisexual and queer women will have lost in the last decade. It was a refuge, a community, a virtual church for so many. I’m not sure that some people outside of us can really ever understand that.

Evolve has decided to keep the site and its archives alive for now, with a promise of periodically publishing freelance pieces in the future. I am not sure what that will look like, as Friday is also my last day, after 10 years of contributing writing and eventually coming on to work full time as a blog editor, then managing editor, and, for the last two years, as Editor in Chief."
With all of the usual disclaimers that I haven't agreed with all of the site's content or moderation practices, this space has been important for so many women during its 14 years in existence, including to me. Participating in The L Word forums circa 2004 were some of my first experiences interacting with an online community of queer women.  I even had a completely awkward (on my part) meetup with founder Sarah Warn when she was visiting the city in which I live, and which she probably 100% doesn't remember, LOL. But, I drank too much and we talked about my shitty ex, Desert Hearts, and how/why she created the site.

It's a bit unfathomable to me that the site will be changing or will no longer exist in its current incarnation.

Through its interviews with lesbian, bisexual, and trans (LBT) actors and those portraying them on TV/film and through its recaps, reviews, and different contests (like the AfterEllen Hot 100), I think the site has had an extremely important (and perhaps overlooked) impact in terms of letting the TV/film industry know both (a) that LBT women exist as a fanbase, and (b) we care A LOT about how we are represented in TV/film.

Without being privy to financial circumstances that Bendix refers to with the respect to the company that owns AfterEllen, my subjective opinion as a user is that the site declined significantly in terms of user experience, something I noticed mostly in the past couple of years. I'm not at all referring to the content of articles, but rather, to what seemed to be a greatly-increased commercial presence. When visiting, I always got the sense that first and foremost a company was behind the site wanting to make money off of users, and that sense was almost completely overwhelming when visiting.

I understand the importance of ads being necessary to generate revenue when one is running a commercial site. Yet, a visit to the site to read an article often entailed: seeing a banner ad, seeing ads on the sidebar, having ads on the sidebar with embedded videos that would automatically play, having a pop up ad with video show up once you clicked on an article, and having a pop-up ad play audio/video. Like I said, overwhelming. The ad content was overly-intrusive, made the site slow, and it distracted from the substantive content, so I know my visits to the site definitely decreased over the years.

But, I also think sites ought to pay writers, particularly if they are commercial sites. And, the revenue to do that has to come from somewhere.

With the shuttering of The Toast earlier this year (which I also find heartbreaking, and which also seems like it was done at least in part for financial reasons), the LBT and feminist blogospheres will have to continue to explore models of sustainability - models that pay people and in which the user/reader experience is not eroded. Readers seem to not like paid subscription models. Although, I know other sites (like Shakesville) use a donation model.

Personally, I would love to blog/write about LGBT pop culture and feminism on a full-time paying basis, but it's difficult to conceive of doing that in a way that would pay the bills. Hence, Fannie's Room, something I do in my free time. (YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, SUCKERS!)  And, there's almost a Catch-22 component to it: if you work full time at a non-blogging job, you have less energy to write during your free time. If you work full-time at a blogging job, you probably have more trouble paying the bills.

I guess my point is that I don't have a simple answer. I'm sad to hear this news about AfterEllen. It seems like the end of an era, in some ways, and I hope we can find a way to collectively fill the void. What is after AfterEllen?

[UPDATE: An Emrah Kovacoglu, General Manager of TotallyHer Media, posted at AE today that the site isn't shutting down, but that Bendix has been fired as Editor, that people would still be able to access content, and that they hope to work with freelancers to generate new content. This claim aligns with what Bendix said in her tumblr.

In the comment threads, multiple current writers for the site have said that this information had not previously been shared with them, and that the editorial change was abrupt. The way TotallyHer has handled this situation has led to distrust within the community that AE would be now (mis)managed by straight men and eventually shut down when not profitable enough. I will certainly be monitoring developments.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sarah Paulson Did Something Incredible

At the Emmys. Aside from winning one, I mean, which she did for her portrayal of Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson.

She stood up in front of the world on a very large platform and apologized for a wrong that the media, and an unquestioning audience (herself included), had committed via its cheap portrayal of a woman once very prominently in the public eye.  She said:
"The responsibility of playing a real person is an enormous one. You want to get it right, not for you, but for them. The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark, not the two-dimensional cut-out I saw in the news, but the complicated, whip-smart, mother of two who woke up every day, put both feet on the floor and dedicated herself to writing an unconscionable wrong, the loss of two innocents, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown, I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment. And I am glad to be able to stand here today in front of everyone and tell you I'm sorry."
I hope that this moment was validating for Marcia Clark (she attended the Emmys as Paulson's "plus one").

AND ALSO, I hope we may all be so lucky as to have someone in our lives who celebrates our successes the way Holland Taylor celebrates Sarah Paulson's:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who Ya Gonna Call

...TrollBusters?

[content note: online harassment]

Here's an interesting concept:
"Are you a female journalist who has been subject to online harassment and abuse? If so, this one’s for you. An organization dedicated to combating online harassment is seeking 100 women writers and journalists to participate in a social media monitoring program called the Pilot 100. The initiative follows on from a year-long study by the organization TrollBusters, which was founded by Michelle Ferrier, an associate professor at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

TrollBusters—whose tagline is 'Online pest control for women writers'—has spent the past year studying instances of harassment reported by journalists through its website. The group also is developing tools to monitor harassment in real-time and providing assistance to targets of online abuse."
The TrollBusters site provides an incident response form, where users can report harassment received on Twitter (for either themselves or other users).  The response involves sending positive messages to the person under attack. 

In the midst of an online attack, it can be validating to receive positive, supporting messages.  It, of course, doesn't punish the attackers or take away their ability to continue to harass. But, I think such a response can be a helpful part of what, in order to be effective, will necessarily have to be a multi-faceted response to online harassment.

Other critical components would include (a) platforms developing better tools, human resources, and policies to manage harassment and (b) the criminal justice system adequately responding to harassment when threats and defamation are involved. In the absence of such components, we - users of the Internet - will have to continue managing this problem ourselves in more grassroots, creative ways.

For the past week, for instance, one user has taken an obsession to my blog. He first used a neo-nazi-esque handle and then later left an anti-gay slur directed toward another user. Like many a harasser, once banned, he claimed I just couldn't handle his impressive intellect and that I have nothing of substance to say. (But XENA posts tho!)

He began flitting from IP address to IP address, also changing his username in order to sockpuppet. After I required manual approval of comments, he continued to post comments (seen only to me) admitting to and taking pride in being part of the "alt-right." His admitted goal was to "frustrate" my readers and cause me to change my blogging/comment moderation behavior. (Side note; Has the rise of Trump emboldened this type of harasser? Many anti-LGBT and racist commenters I've interacted with pre-2016 often expressed a more.... subtle bigotry).

In final temper tantrum he called me a "loser" (hmm, sounds familiar) who can't "handle" "real world interactions." Now here, we must also understand that the online harasser is usually a miserable person. Imagine spending your free time deliberately trying to irritate people, rather than spending time with loved ones and doing things that are.... actually cool? Many online harassers have the aim of irritating others and then berating people for taking actions that stop the irritation.

That approach is a key tool in the online abuser's toolbox. They poke and poke, seeing what they can get away with, and then when they find a boundary you don't let them transgress, they see the act of setting a boundary as weakness. With the exception, I guess, of establishing giant walls to keep out scary scary immigrants, the harasser sees the establishment of boundaries itself as proof that the boundary-maker is a loser.

Which brings me to the observation that the harasser's real issue is not that boundaries are established, but that he doesn't get to establish which boundaries for which people are allowed to exist.

That is the entitled mentality that solutions to online harassment will have to address through policy, technology, and human effort.

Every person who runs a forum will have to decide for themselves what conversations and content to allow. For me, when I run into what I call the "Aggrieved Abuser" (think: "You fag! Wait, how dare you ban me you weakling!") type of online harasser, I will often allow a comment or two to demonstrate that these are the deplorables* that many Internet users actually have to deal with. And then, if the person continues commenting, I will institute a ban to secondarily show that such viewpoints are not welcome here.

In this instance, I can take action to disallow certain content. However, the responses to online harassment will have to be tailored to account for the nuances and features of each platform.

It has been widely acknowledged, even in mainstream media sources, that online harassment is a problem. While a helpful first step, we also need more people thinking about how to tangibly address the issue. Kudos to TrollBusters for taking that next step.


*Deplorable as a noun is happening. Hillary has made it so.