Thursday, April 28, 2016

Femslash Thursday: A May-December Theme

This one's from Battlestar Galatica.

Did you know that, for some people, Starbuck and President Roslin are a subtextual femslash item? (Did you also know that Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor flirt with each other on Twitter all the time and it is everything??)

But, back to Roslin and Starbuck. It's true that Roslin and Admiral Adama are endgame, but who's to say Roslin and Starbuck didn't have an affair along the way? Keeping the fleet together and defending it was quite a tumultuous endeavor, I'm sure. Who would even judge them for using certain quarters of the Colonial One for stress relief purposes? Not me.

That is to say, I'd ship it:

So say we all.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Femslash Friday: Pam and Tara

Brace yourselves for what I'm about to say, TV people.

*whispering voice* I think True Blood was at least as good as Buffy. *end whispering voice*

I mean, we can think outside the binary here and appreciate both series, right? True Blood did the vampire thing and, set in Louisiana, somewhat made it its own. Sure, Buffy had the Whedonesque witty, fast dialogue, but True Blood had dark humor, which is always going to be my weakness. Buffy's central vampires were broody, morally gray, and had... interesting facial structures. True Blood's are darker, more sexual, more violent, and honestly I think how they zip around all over the place is both scary and cool.

In the Buffyverse, magic was a metaphor for both drug abuse and lesbianism, which I somewhat found confusing. In True Blood, vampirism was a loose metaphor for homosexuality, and honestly, I thought it worked better.

Buffy had good, complicated female characters, and True Blood had .... Pam and Tara. And also other cool female characters, but seriously.... let's focus on Pam and Tara. Although, I have to admit Sookie Stackhouse always had a little bit of Bella's (Twilight) Annoying and Very Difficult Dilemma of "All of these men who are SO HOT want to be with me. My life is SO HARD! Whatever shall I do?"  (To be honest, I think the dudes would have been down for a threeway. So way to blow that opportunity, Sookie). I mean, I'm 99% lesbian, but Eric Northman and Alcide made even me feel a little sexually confused. But I digress.

The point here is Pam and Tara. Pam is .... not a nice person. Pam Quote of the Day: "I'm so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina." (We all are, Pam. We all are).  And, I think it's okay for a female character to be mean.

Tara is, on the other hand, a mostly good person who's had a lot of bad shit happen to her. Thankfully, for a time, she avoids the dead lesbian/bisexual character trope by being turned into a vampire after having been shot (TV writers: I recommend this plot twist of turning female characters if it means avoiding dead lesbian/bisexual trope scenarios. Like, no matter the genre).

In any event, the following clip is from when Tara helps rescue Pam, after she'd been captured by the anti-gay bigots anti-vampire forces.  What can I say, sometimes the bond between vampire maker and progeny is strong. And hot.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Femslash Thursday: I Like Boys...?

Okay, who remembers the movie Teen Witch (1989)?  If you haven't seen it, get yourself to Netflix stat, because it's currently available.

During a recent re-watch, I found the following scene curious. To be honest, I found many scenes of the movie curious. But, in this scene in particular, our heroine Louise is in the girls locker room at school. Poor Louise is a a bit of a nerd at this point (spoiler alert: for now, that is!) and she's in the locker room with all of the popular cheerleaders (spoiler alert: If you ever time travel and don't know when you are, one way you know you are in the 1980s is that all cheerleaders are villains).

ANYway, the action in this scene really begins when the head cheerleader confidently struts into the locker room, announces she has a rad new cheer, and then presses play on her boom box. And BAM! Let the big hair, head-banging commence. For, the cheerleaders, who of course know all of the words and dance moves to this brand new song instantly, proceed to sing a song for which approximately 90% of the lyrics are, "I like boys."

These girls are, as the kids said back then, totally 100% boy "crazy."

During this ode to boys, the girls dance with one another in a locker room, whilst wearing leotards, bath towels, and other garments in various states of dress. All of which is 100% heterosexual.

Now, Louise is the only other person in the locker room. So, an astute observer might say it's almost as if the cheerleaders are putting on a performance for her.  A performance of their heterosexuality, that is? Hmmm.

Louise, meanwhile, kind of half-assedly removes nondescript items from her locker while watching the other young women. At one point, the cheerleaders move to a different section of the locker room, and Louise follows them, discretely watching them dance with one another from behind a locker.

Which, yes, also 100% straight.  Lots of very obvious boy-liking going on in the locker room that day.

See for yourself:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Verge Piece on Comment Moderation

Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly have written a long, fascinating piece at The Verge on the history of comment moderation on the internet.

I have two items I'd like to point out (although the entire piece is highly recommended if you have time), both centering on the reality that comment moderation is, and likely must continue to be, human labor.

1) Comments and Social Media Can Cause Actual Harm

I was most struck by descriptions of the somewhat "invisible" humans who actually provide comment and content moderation behind the scenes on different platforms - filtering sometimes horrendous content from sites so that others do not see it:
"In an October 2014 Wired story, Adrian Chen documented the work of front line moderators operating in modern-day sweatshops. In Manila, Chen witnessed a secret 'army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us' Media coverage and researchers have compared their work to garbage collection, but the work they perform is critical to preserving any sense of decency and safety online, and literally saves lives — often those of children. For front-line moderators, these jobs can be crippling. Beth Medina, who runs a program called SHIFT (Supporting Heroes in Mental Health Foundational Training), which has provided resilience training to Internet Crimes Against Children teams since 2009, details the severe health costs of sustained exposure to toxic images: isolation, relational difficulties, burnout, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. 'There are inherent difficulties doing this kind of work,' Chen said, 'because the material is so traumatic.'"
I found the scenario of people being exposed to traumatic and horrible content as their job to be really sad. And, I thought of all of the more prominent feminist bloggers I know who are inundated with horrific comments, threats, images, and harassment. That content has to take a toll on people. That is, in fact, the goal of Internet Terrorists (for isn't that what they are? If we think of harassers as inflicting actual harm, or the threat of it, for political reasons?).

I think, sometimes, when we are harsh on each other as feminists, as we sometimes are - that we could do a better job of remembering the psychological toll it takes to be a feminist blogger in any sustained way. It's an easy thing to do, to drop in and give someone a virtual high five or kudos - and, because bloggers are actual humans, I think many actually appreciate it. This observation is in response to a recent commenter here who said they see "no point" in ever offering agreement to bloggers they regularly read. Which, I also think is sad and somewhat dehumanizing to the people who put human labor into writing feminist content.

Relatedly, internal critique is necessary and healthy for any movement. It's also somewhat human nature for people to be more receptive to criticism from those we have somewhat established relationships with - otherwise, it can feel like just another rando dropping in solely to disagree or cause a problem. Personally, I've begun saving my biggest helpings of contempt and critique for people I have huge, fundamental disagreements with, such as anti-feminists.

I don't see this as complacency, but compassion. I just don't like the thought of piling on and being another feminist's problem when the entire rest of the world often seems like it's explicitly anti-feminist.

2) Content that Doesn't Explicitly Violate Written Policies Can Still Cause Harm

What I have found is that even having a written moderation policy invites users to pedantically question and debate how the policy is applied. More well-intentioned people simply want to know what is and isn't allowed, of course. But, policies also invite "problem commenters" to exploit loopholes in it or otherwise take advantage of what is not said in the policy. From the article;
"Meanwhile content that may not explicitly violate rules is sometimes posted by users to perpetrate abuse or vendettas, terrorize political opponents, or out sex workers or trans people. Trolls and criminals exploit anonymity to dox, swat, extort, exploit rape, and, on some occasions, broadcast murder. Abusive men threaten spouses. Parents blackmail children. In Pakistan, the group Bytes for All — an organization that previously sued the Pakistani government for censoring YouTube videos — released three case studies showing that social media and mobile tech cause real harm to women in the country by enabling rapists to blackmail victims (who may face imprisonment after being raped), and stoke sectarian violence."
It's not that comment/content policies are worthless. But that it's probably fair to understand policies more as fluid guidelines that, by necessity, have to be adaptable in order to effectively address all situations.  I understand platform usage and commenting to be a privilege, rather than an absolute right, so I don't have as much of a problem with this idea as those who maybe feel entitled to "free speech anywhere I want it on my terms!" sorts of people.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ellen on Republican Debate

I  missed this last summer, but this clip made me laugh, especially at moment 1:08:

Looking back, Jeb Bush seems almost... benign compared to what's left of the Republican contenders, and, on the Democrat side, it had yet to be implied that the most viable female presidential candidate in US history is a "corporate Democratic whore."

Goddess help us.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Fun: Hello, Hillary

I'm fairly certain I'm outside of Broad City's target demographic (I think? Not that that's stopped me from binge-watching).

But, I'm also quite certain that this clip is, as the kids say, amaze-balls:

Two things

(a) I find it completely endearing how dorky all of these women seem in this video; and

(b) I started to say "Yaaaaaaas" aloud, but abruptly stopped when I got this reaction from my spouse:


So. Have a good weekend. New York Democratic Primary on Tuesday? Bring it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Guardian Series on Internet Harassment

This week, The Guardian has been running a series of articles on Internet harassment, bullying, and abuse.

In researching comments at its own site, The Guardian found that (in news that will surprise no one) women were disproportionately likely to receive abusive comments following their articles.  Because that finding is so unsurprising, I instead want to highlight two issues:

(1) Moderating Requires Human Judgment - At the end of the above-linked article, readers are invited to "play moderator" and use their own judgment to decide which sample comments they would choose to block. After making a selection, the site then shows its moderators' judgment and reasoning for whether or not the comment was blocked.

To me, the exercise is good as it shows that, in practice, comment moderation is more of an art than a science. Even when a site has a comment policy, choosing which comments to allow and block is not a simple matter of plugging the comment into an algebraic formula. For instance, sample comment 4 pertained to antisemitic conspiracy theories. The comment itself was (content note: antisemitism):
"I don’t think that pointing out the disproportional political influence Jews have in most western societies can be called a conspiracy. But branding people that point it out and labelling them anti-Semitic seems to me part of a conspiracy.
Here, the post did not explicitly engage in name-calling and the tone could be perceived as civil.  Yet, to moderate it appropriately requires the application of human judgment and context. The Guardian moderators blocked it because "suggesting Jewish people have disproportional influence in politics is an antisemitic trope with a long history" and it "suggests antisemitism doesn't really exist except as a way to silence people."

Thus, knowledge of that historical context is important. Moderators without that knowledge would allow that comment (thus tacitly implying that engaging an antisemitic trope is not a breach of civility?). And, likewise, commenters without that knowledge would not understand why the comment was uncivil. Such commenters often end up feeling "censored" and as though the forum is biased against what they view as their "legitimate but equally-valid, dissenting" view.

I cannot stress this enough: This happens all. the. time. 

And, my response is the same as it was almost four years ago - if effective dialogue is the goal of an Internet forum, all sides must approach the conversation sincerely trying to understand other points of view and relevant  historical contexts. That is an incredibly hard thing to monitor in large Guardian-like forums. So, I think it is a fair practice to block comments that play into bigoted tropes, even if the commenter is not intending to be uncivil.

2)  Addressing the Problem - We are beyond the point where it is acceptable for companies to merely point out that the problem of Internet harassment exists.

As I've been saying for years now, it's time for the creators of platforms to be accountable for seriously addressing this issue, and for law enforcement to become up to date in addressing technology-based harassment.  If someone is Tweeting death threats to a woman, it is unacceptable for her to file a police report with an officer who doesn't know what Twitter is.

I found Mary Hamilton's Guardian piece on the issue to be thoughtful. A snippet:
"The issue of comments on news sites is often conflated with conversations about free speech - about the ability of individuals to speak their minds without fear of government censorship. But, as we do with the stories we publish, the Guardian can and should make decisions about the tone of the conversations we want to see flourish here. Allowing freedom for some means effectively silencing others - and deciding to let everyone speak regardless of what they say is, in effect, a statement that abuse is acceptable. Moderation is not censorship, any more than editing is - it’s a careful process that aims to curate the best of the web and allow expert voices and thoughtful discussion to emerge."
She adds that The Guardian will be implementing policies and procedures to protect staff from abuse. Good. The Internet has operated as the (somewhat) Wild West for so long that I think many people have a sense of entitlement to being able to wantonly share their opinions on any site they want, without regard for whether their voice fits within the culture or community the site owners are trying to create.

Yet, whether intentionally or not, if you're creating content on the Internet, you're at least in part creating community. Even if you comment at a blog, you are not a passive consumer, but a user. It's up to all of us users as to what kind of communities we want to create and be a part of (with a larger burden on site owners).

To bring this concept back home, since it's come up again recently in comments here, I would like to re-iterate that I primarily write for a feminist audience.  I don't care if anti-feminists don't agree with me, and I don't care if they feel I've ever unfairly stifled their precious viewpoints here.  Because many anti-feminist comments play into sexist tropes against women and feminists, even if that's not the intent of anti-feminist commenters, their comments are often not civil even if they're not calling me a cunt or threatening rape (although they've done both here).

I have and will engage with them here from time to time (as my own time permits), but to be honest, I think there is little that anti-feminists have to teach me about sexism, as they rarely show sufficient understanding of the topic themselves. That may legit sound condescending, but to be honest, I've rarely not been condescended to myself, when interacting with anti-feminists who think they have lots to teach me and other women about how the world works.

Besides, there are a lot of femslash fan videos on YouTube that aren't going to watch themselves, so. There's that. Life priorities are important.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Word of the Day


"I’m calling it: some men are way too comfortable reading about revolutions that don’t involve gender equality or don’t even look at gender as an important hierarchy in our society. If your response is that gender equality will come naturally through some kind of abstract bro-revolution, I am here to tell you to pick up some Judith Butler and stop bullshiting brocialism to women who are way too intelligent to believe what you’re saying."
Via Nicole at Book Riot. Check out the link for her intersectional list of women revolutionary writers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Femslash Tuesday: A Bonus Day

Just because last week was apparently Troll Week in Fannie's Room, consider this post a bonus for all of you kind readers who don't annoy the shit out of me.

Also, just so we're all on the same page, my days of engaging in kangaroo character court trials run by aggrieved, rando internet men who fancy themselves my intellectual overlords are looooooooooong over.

Speaking of scary stuff, remember Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)?  As a kid, I probably started watching scary movies and reading Stephen King books way earlier than was "age-appropriate." *Shrug*  It in junior high? Sure, why not! Poltergeist at age 5? Yeah!

I watched all of the Nightmare movies and The Dream Master was always my favorite.

Why?  Alice.

Alice is the hero of Dream Master. For, as villain Freddy kills her friends one by one, she comes to embody each of their unique abilities. (FACT: In a similar vein, feminist bloggers gain the powers of our sisters who have been harassed off the Internet by abusers, stalkers, and trolls. Just FYI!)

In this clip, below, Alice realizes she has acquired some sweet nunchuk skills. Game over, Freddy!

Boom. A pre-cursor to Buffy? I like to think so.

Pairing: Alice/Faith LeHane.  Because we could all use more badass female pairings in our lives.

Monday, April 11, 2016

All I Want to Say About Bernie and the Pope

Is that a trip to the Vatican sounds pretty "establishment" to me.

Between calling Hillary Clinton "unqualified" and taking time out of his campaign to associate with one of the most historic purveyors of institutional sexism and homophobia, it's almost like Bernie Sanders' campaign is running a "How to lose feminist voters" tutorial.

That's not to say some feminists aren't voting for him, of course. Politics is complicated. No candidate's going to align 100% with our policies and ideals.  My experience thus far on social media with respect to Sanders is, however, that their "revolution" (it doesn't even, to me, feel like "our" revolution, if it ever did) will be led by angry white guys seeing a "corporate conspiracy" at every turn, forwarding paranoid chain emails without checking them on Snopes first, and gaslighting women on whether or not sexism even exists anymore.

I've been doing progressive politics long enough to be wary of any purported revolution that appears to privilege addressing economic issues over women's and LGBT rights.  It's like, oh - suddenly Team Progressive Revolution likes the Vatican because the Pope seems cool on economic injustice even though he's still horrible on abortion, gender equality, and LGBT rights?

Some of Sanders' supporters are, of course, using his visit to once again imply he's a holy, pure entity, something they like to do via meme. Perhaps at some point they'll be lucky enough to get some cool pics of Bernie and the Pope feeding birds together!

That would just be divine.

Meanwhile, I shrug at the possible (and increasingly unlikely) change in management.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friendship Friday

For today's Friday special, I'd like to take a cue from a recent Mary Sue post and focus on TV/film portrayals of female friendships.

With many TV shows and movies centering men, and portraying women primarily in relation to men, it seems rare to see not just two female characters who talk about something other than a man, but also rare to see two who genuinely seem to be friends.

Sometimes, a woman can be a main character but, like poor Smurfette, she must be surrounded by male characters (see also, Scully, The X-Files). Sometimes, she can smart, but her closest female friend must be shallow, distant, and narcissistic (Liz Lemon, 30 Rock).  Or, if she is a legit leader, she treats those closest to her like shit, thus ensuring she doesn't actually have real friends, female or otherwise (Selina, Veep).  Other times, she is a main character, but she primarily relates to men on the show - with other women serving as villains, as not fully-developed, or as rivals to a male love interest (Olivia, Fringe - see also the show's crappy treatment of Astrid).

While I may still (or maybe have) shipped some of the following pairings, I would agree with Courtney Holmes at The Mary Sue that platonic relationships can be just as important as romantic ones - and that such portrayals are also important.  They show that (a) women exist as more than sexual beings (or not sexual beings at all), and (b) they also exist as subjects in their own and each other's lives rather than as mere objects and supporting characters in men's.

Some of my favorite friendship portrayals include:
  • Buffy/Willow (also mentioned at The Mary Sue);
  • Jackie/Zoey (Nurse Jackie);
  • Rowan/Bel (The Steerswoman book series);
  • Doris Murphy/Mae Mordabito (A League of Their Own);
  • Indra/Octavia (The 100);
  • Meredith/Christina (Grey's Anatomy);
  • Bo/Kenzi (Lost Girl);
  • Thelma/Louise (obvs);
  • Alicia/Kalinda (The Good Wife; also a potential upcoming Femslash Friday, to be honest);
  • Lorelai/Sookie (Gilmore Girls);
And, in honor of today's post, I give you an ode to business lady lunch specials with your bestie, via BFFs Romy and Michelle:

Who else?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Losing to Girls

Here are some fun narratives I'm picking up regarding the 2016 Democratic Primary:
"Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and senator who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992 and who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton in the current race, said Mr. Sanders might be winning now if he had relentlessly pressured Mrs. Clinton since last fall over her closed-door speeches to Wall Street banks, her role in the finances of Clinton Foundation programs, and other vulnerabilities. Mr. Sanders did not raise the paid-speech issue, after long resistance, until late January."
  • Bernie is only losing because he wasn't even trying that hard anyway (especially in the states that he's lost):
Tad Devine, Sanders' strategist:: “Essentially, 97% of her delegate lead today comes from those eight states where [Sanders] did not compete.”
  • Bernie is only losing because "the establishment" has rigged the system against him:
I see this claim mostly at far left and far right websites (sometimes two peas in a tinfoil-hat-wearing pod), which I do not want to link to - although they can easily found by searching "Rigged Election 2016 Hillary." Although voter suppression is likely attributable to Republican-led legislatures, many hard core Bernie supporters believe that Hillary, who to them represents "the establishment," has a top secret "in" with voting officials in the state where she's won, thus resulting in unfair election wins for her.
  • Bernie isn't even losing, and even if hypothetically he were to lose the popular election, he'll still win at the convention:
Despite the fact that Clinton is leading the popular vote (and will likely win the popular vote nationwide), yesterday Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver said he hopes and believes Sanders will come out of the Democratic Convention the nominee anyway.
When Barack Obama ran, people questioned whether he was an authentic US citizen (and they still do), which played off the narrative that only white people with certain kinds of names are authentic citizens.

With Hillary Clinton, the narrative seems to be that she is incapable of legitimately beating a man, and that even if she does beat him, the man is still entitled to come out the victor.  After all, a man wants something, and if he's "only" competing against a woman, it's unthinkable that he shouldn't just have it.

Sorry not sorry for bringing up the faintest hint of sexism in Election 2016.  I know it's an unspeakable offense. #REVOLUTION

Friday, April 1, 2016

Femslash Friday: Helena Peabody/Sergeant Duffy

You might not think "shipping" would be necessary in a TV show specifically about queer women.

After all, fans often, though certainly  not always, ship relationships that are not actually canon or that have been written out of a show. When a show features a plethora of canon same-sex relationships, arguably less tension exists to compel fans to ship same-sex relationships that are more subtextual.

Welp, from The L Word archives, however (and in honor of Lucy Lawless' birthday week!), I bring you Helena Peabody's Lost Interrogation tape. In these tapes, released by Showtime after the series finale, some of the main characters are interviewed by a certain Sergeant Duffy.

With Helena Peabody being one of my favorite L Word characters, Lucy Lawless(!!) portraying Sgt. Duffy, and Duffy hitting on Helena.... I mean, does anything further even have to be said?

Yes.  Someone please write this alternate universe Xena/L Word crossover fanfic or make this spinoff show immediately.