Friday, October 30, 2015

Quote of the Day - In Honor of Back to the Future Month

"Jennifer spends SO much more of this movie unconscious than conscious that it really feels quite egregiously like the writers just had no idea what to do with her, and instead of being intelligent and creative with the character, simply came up with the laziest device imaginable: knock her out and ditch her repeatedly, and just simply hope that no one notices or cares how incredibly illogical, unrealistic, or troubling this is."
-Cordelia Siporin, discussing Back to the Future Part II's horrendous treatment of Jennifer (aka - Marty's future wife). 

Really, there is no excuse to under-utilize Elisabeth Shue in a manner such that her main talent in a film is "fainting."  I am not just saying that because she was my first crush, either.

Talk about this, or other stuff.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saletan to Clinton: Stop Shouting

Perhaps you've heard about Hillary Clinton's recent remark, alluding to a previous remark made by Bernie Sanders in which he suggested that Clinton was "shouting" about gun reform. She responded:
“You know, I’ve been told to stop, and I quote, ‘shouting’ about gun violence. Well, first of all, I’m not shouting. It’s just [that] when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
To me, it's a reasonable response that speaks to many women's experiences, including my own, of offering an argument in a civil tone only to have it implied that my tone or state of mind was unreasonable, hysterical, shrill, angry, or otherwise too loud compared to my reasonable male opponent's.

I further believe that a man can say something sexist or that has sexist connotations without intending to and even if his policy positions regarding women's rights are otherwise in line with my own. Supporting women's rights does not make it impossible for a person to say or think sexist things. That should be elementary. But of course, it's not.

That's why William Saletan's reactionary piece in Slate completely misses the mark. He writes:
"Hillary Clinton has found a new wedge issue against Sen. Bernie Sanders. The topic is gun control, but the angle is gender. Clinton is framing Sanders as a sexist who accuses women of shouting when they try to speak up. It’s a lie. She’s manipulating women and abusing feminist anger for her own advantage.
It’s great that we’re more aware of bigotry than we used to be. But we should also beware false claims of bigotry: the race card, the sex card, the homophobia card."  
He then goes on to claim that Sanders' "record as a feminist" is just as good as Clinton's and that Clinton is just "smearing" him for her own advantage.


Saletan's is not a reasonable response. It's so reactionary, this reflexive, patronizing defense of Sanders, that it is the sort of thing that pushes me further into Clinton's corner, mostly because it evidences some serious male discomfort about a statement that was so .... tepid.  Clinton alluded to something Problematic that a man said without even using the dreaded words "sexist" or "misogynistic" and whoa boy Saletan reacts as though she's inflicted a human rights violation of the first order on Sanders by calling it out.

So too does Saletan deign to define reality - both with respect to Hillary Clinton's unknown state of mind ("It's a lie," he claims, because he somehow.... just.... knows... because um?) and with respect to what does and doesn't constitute authentic sexism, racism, and homophobia (which he's an expert on... because um?).

Yet, for all of Saletan's warning about "cards" that women, gays, and minorities "play" in order to, as he alleges, "smear" their opponents, the biggest move of all is when people like him throw down their Gaslight Card and proclaim, As the speaker of Objective Truth here, I define what's really racist, sexist, and homophobic, and what you just experienced isn't it. 

Because that's another important pattern too, isn't it?

Men can build careers on calling themselves courageous tellers of politically-incorrect "truths."  When they say things that are sexist, racist, or homophobic, they say they're just "telling it like it is." When women call out these things, they're seen as just playing games. Dishonoring the honorable reputations of good men. Fabricating stories for personal gain.

So, it is something big, for a prominent woman to use her authority and platform to speak a truth about Speaking While Female that many women know all too well.

I bet that Hillary Clinton, in her many years of speaking publicly while female, knows that many people react in predictable, unfortunate, and gendered ways when it is a woman speaking.  That Clinton will call this out, name it, and also deign to define reality in this way, I suspect is the real threat here, even to purportedly liberal and progressive men - certainly to conservatives and anti-feminists.

Finally, I will just note with cynicism that this particular conversation was originally about gun violence. This type of violence is predominately committed by men but that gendered aspect is rarely acknowledged in the mainstream. Men who kill are framed as lone wolves, "crazy," and so forth, and so their male-ness and their (often) misogyny and sexism is not widely acknowledged.  I wonder why that is.

The answer to that question is, perhaps, the saddest politically incorrect truth of all.

(Stop shouting).

What a world.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Abuse as the Web's Greatest Challenge

Via a great article, which piqued my longstanding interest in Internet civility, Umair Haque argues that abuse is the greatest challenge facing the web, using Twitter's (alleged) decline as an example.

He writes:
"We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop. What does that particular social phenomenon sound like to you? Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. And while there are people who love to dive into mosh pits, they’re probably not the audience you want to try to build a billion dollar publicly listed company that changes the world upon. 
The social web became a nasty, brutish place. And that’s because the companies that make it up simply do not not just take abuse seriously…they don’t really consider it at all. Can you remember the last time you heard the CEO of a major tech company talking about…abuse…not ads? Why not? Here’s the harsh truth: they see it as peripheral to their “business models”, a minor nuisance, certainly nothing worth investing in, for theirs is the great endeavor of…selling more ads." (emphasis added)
I have it said it before, but "politically incorrect" forums where Anything Goes are in a league of their own in terms of being hiveminds. While participants of such places proudly proclaim that they are promoting free expression of ideas, the ideas most freely being expressed emanate primarily from those most willing to tolerate abuse and intimidation.  The voices being lost because they don't want to subject themselves to hostile forums are not taken into account or, rather, are dismissed as coming from people who are too oversensitive to matter.

But also, comment moderation and the creation/enforcement of codes of conduct takes actual resources and have to be interpreted and enforced by imperfect humans.  The author of the above piece is exactly right in noting that we have created an abusive society in which abuse has been completely normalized.

And, when multi-billion and -million dollar companies do not effectively deal with or put adequate resources into addressing the abuse that thrives on the platforms they create, we who use the Internet all bear that cost.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Radical Conservative Activists Call For Rebellion

I really hope that post-apocalyptic Earth will contain better remnants of our society than cockroaches, Twinkies, and symbolic conservative statements in which signees are make a big show of Taking A Stand on the issue du jour.

Via NOM's weekly newsletter (don't ask), I learned that a group of "prominent" legal scholars has signed a declaration calling on citizens and public officials to "resist" the US Supreme Court's marriage ruling.

What a world when predominately-white, male, conservative college professors and "think-tank" folks can call for legal obstruction and rebellion without being widely disparaged as thugs, yeah?

Anyway, this group's chief complaint is nothing new. The ruling will supposedly lead to a host of "evils" BLAH blah BLAH, and that the scholars oh-so-nobly "stand with" Abraham Lincoln and James Madison in believing that constitutional matters should not be decided by 5 judges.

7 years ago, I reviewed Leonard Levy's excellent book Original Intent and the Framer's Constitution. In it, Levy makes a strong case that we should question conservatives' claim that they eschew judicial activism and, unlike liberals, merely discover and apply law.

Judicial review - that is, the power of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution and say what the law is - has existed since the very beginning of the Supreme Court, albeit not without controversy.  Indeed, that controversy is why declarations such as these, coming as they do only in instances which coincide with a groups' political leanings, ring so hollow.

Here, I suspect that it's not the Supreme Court's power of judicial review that these conservative folks are opposing, but rather, judicial review in the case of same-sex marriage.

This statement, like so many before it, is the cowardly whinging of privileged folks about an issue that disproportionately affects other people.  Truly taking a stand would be for this group to call for the eradication of judicial review even in cases that they believe have "come out right" for them.

I challenge them to do so, if they have any integrity at all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Elena Undone - Revisited

So, I re-watched the film Elena Undone this past weekend, which I originally watched and reviewed nearly 4 years ago.

In case anyone is wondering, I felt compelled to insert the following addendum into my review (for background: Elena and Peyton are the two lesbian/bi protagonists, and Peyton has recently realized she has a crush on Elena, who is married to a man):
At one point, Elena comes over to Peyton's house while she is swimming, necessitating a quick wardrobe change. Just as a fun fact, "outfit montages" are one of my favorite television/movie tropes even though I know or care very little about fashion and hate shopping. Mostly, I identify with the frustration of it all and the desire for people to bring me outfits so I don't have to pick them out myself.
Typically, the pattern is like, [Puts on outfit] "No, this isn't quite right. [Changes clothes]. No, this getup is just silly. [Changes clothes]. No, this too is dissatisfying. [Changes clothes] Ah, now this is exactly what I've been looking for." [Salespeople and friends nod approvingly]
In Elena's Undone, the "outfit montage" is more like, "Hmmm, what is the most stereotypically dykey outfit I can possibly put on right now?" [Changes clothes] "No, this isn't quite it."[Changes clothes] "No, this isn't it either." [Changes into jeans, tucked-in tank-top, and a flannel cut-off shirt]. "Yes, now this will impress my Straight Lady Friend."
I will just say this: Peyton pulls it off and looks, um, very attractive. Gotta love a woman who's not afraid to butch out.  Elena apparently agrees and making out eventually ensues.
Just, er, adding this addendum for a friend.

ps - Did you not know that Fannie's Room is now all things queer media? There are no more bigots about which to write.

pps- Just kidding. I'm sure the bigot brigade will annoy me enough to write about them very soon. But in the meantime, movies! Books! Games! TV!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Xena: Twenty Years Later

As a big Xena nerd, it's fun to see The Mary Sue giving the series some respect.  There, Jessica Mason highlights how Xena: Warrior Princess changed television.

Looking back, one of my favorite aspects of Xena as a character was that she was a strong woman with a, bear with me, Really Problematic Past. She wasn't perfect. She did lots of shitty things over the years like throwing the chakram at Gabrielle's head and, in general, letting Joxer stick around and flirt with her girlfriend all the time.

And those  thick, thick bangs that went 180 degree around her head, aye.

My all-time favorite episodes are:
  •  Drama: "When Fates Collide" 
  •  Comedy: "A Day in the Life" 
Alti, as played by Claire Stansfield, remains one of my favorite villains of any series, to this day.

Sadly, as a I browsed the comments at The Mary Sue, I saw some of the same debates that raged much more frequently in the '90s regarding the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, with some definitely-not-homophobic commenters whinging about how the "lesbian community" has "hijacked" the series.

And well, all I have to say is that the fanverse belongs to all of us to interpret in ways that work for each of us.  Resenting non-hetero women for being super excited about a show finally having subtle (okay, and sometimes not so subtle) depictions of same-sex love is as shitty as straight boy gamers who resent companies like Bioware for creating games with female and queer characters.

Is anyone forcing these people to read lesbian fanfic or to embark on a gay relationship in Dragon Age?  Of course not. These types are just so staggeringly entitled and used to being catered to that they resent when creators make these options available for other people at all. As though, not only should shows not feature same-sex relationships, but other viewers themselves should not even insinuate from subtext that, say, Xena and Gabrielle might have been lovers.

ANYway, this is an awesome fan video.

Discuss any of this, or your own Xena-related thoughts! Ayiyiyiyiyiyiyi!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Public Discourse Continues to Disappoint

Like their peers at the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM), writers at The Public Discourse* blog (oh, I'm sorry "online journal") continue to wail about the evils of same-sex marriage.

There, Melissa Moschella writes:
"A crucial aspect of liberty is respect for subsidiarity—in particular, recognition that the family, based on marriage, is a pre-political community with natural and original authority over its internal affairs, especially the education and upbringing of children. Redefining marriage in law to include same-sex couples undermines the principled basis for the primacy of parental childrearing authority by obliterating the link between marriage and procreation as well as the norm of conjoined biological parenthood that conjugal marriage laws help to foster."
First things first, I'll address that argument regarding "the link between marriage and procreation" being severed by same-sex marriage.  Sorry-not-sorry but, allowing infertile couples to marry "obliterated" that connection long before same-sex marriage was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

Secondly, this is your semi-regular reminder that, in many conservative circles, anti-feminism and anti-LGBT advocacy go hand in hand.

Did that phrasing, that particular longing for the days of ye 'olde when families (i.e., fathers) had dominion over the "internal affairs" (i.e., women and children), send a shiver down anyone else's spine?

Yep, me too.

The thrust of her argument is that "conjoined biological parents" (adjectives in all my years of writing about this stuff I've never seen combined before and which are now inducing interesting mental pictures) should have dominion over their children and that the state should not be able to interfere with that. The state, let me repeat, should not be able to interfere with the internal affairs of child-rearing.

Incidentally, I'm guessing she would be, however, in favor of allowing the state to force someone to give birth.

Moschella goes on to reference a litany of, well, nothing that hasn't already been said by her allies about a gazillion times already, including comparing the public education system in the US to Nazi Germany and claiming that pro-LGBT folks are practically kidnapping children of Real Families, soooooooo I'm going to slowly. back. away. from. the computer and see if I can get the latest American Horror Story on Netflix instead.

*The Public Discourse is run by the conservative Witherspoon Institute. For background see, here.

Related: Same-Sex Marriage, Feminism, and Women

Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Talk

As some of you may know, I'm currently reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.  I started this series many years ago, made it through the third book, and then lost interest/found other things to read in the publishing lag between the next installments.

I have now just finished the second one. As much as I'm enjoying it, for as much as one such as myself can enjoy a series that has thus far failed The Bechdel Test, I'm in need of a short reprieve from the series.

What should I read next?

I'm looking for good fantasy or speculative/science fiction that has a lead female character.  The character doesn't have to be strong or perfect, but if she was lesbian, bi, or queer that would be preferable.

And, of course, feel free to share what you all reading these days.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fun with "Devil's Advocates"

Okay friendly readers, I have a debating experiment for you today:

Step 1: Witness a debate about gender and feminism.

Step 2: Witness a man jumping in with a statement like, “Look, I’m all for equality, but [insert anti-equality/anti-feminist statement]” or “I consider myself a feminist, but let me just play Devil’s Advocate here, [insert anti-equality/anti-feminist statement].”

Step 3: Respond by asking him what, specifically, tenets of feminism and equality for women he supports and what injustices primarily exist today for women. Like, ask him to actually delineate them for all to see.

Because, well, what I often find is that those men who feel compelled to both assert that they support equality/feminism while simultaneously articulating an anti-equality/anti-feminist statement often don’t actually have, when pressed, all that many pro-equality/pro-feminist opinions.  They’re like the “definitely not racist or anything, but” white people who will admit that slavery and saying the n-word are wrong, but when pressed those are pretty much the only two things that count as genuinely racist by their authority.

In fact, oftentimes, the majority of Devil’s-Advocate-Male contributions to conversations about gender and feminism are against equality and feminism.  The blubbering “I’m all for equality” intros are a diversion, whether intentional or not, meant to instill in feminist participants a glimmer of hope that he might, this time, be able to make reasonable contributions to the discourse that go beyond being there to “teach” and dismiss the female perspectives.

Recognize it for what it is. Put him on the spot to delineate his actual points of agreement and disagreement. From there, you can better ascertain the worth of engaging.