Thursday, May 23, 2019

Today in Gaslighting

I know this guy means well, but sometimes I wonder how much gaslighting is due to the fact that many politically-engaged progressive women are thinking about politics, and specifically women's rights, three moves ahead, while so many men are putzing around on a checkerboard.

It can also be informational to visit a person's Twitter timeline and take note of whose voices they are amplifying, particularly if they are men with relatively large platforms. Is it mostly their own voices and those of other men, or a more equitable distribution?

Often, even among liberal/left/progressive men, it's the former.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Well, I Thought It Was Funny Anyway

Game of Thrones has ended, and here's my alt-ending for Brienne:

On a more serious note, personally, I'm pretty meh about who ended up on the Iron Throne. I definitely didn't want Jon to kill Dany and then take the throne himself. It also seems like Tyrion is actually going to be in charge, even though he's officially the Hand.

I would have liked to have seen more of Yara and Brienne in the last few episodes, but the finale sort of solidified that the central characters of the series were the Starks. I'm not going to rush to any sort of immediate hot take. The series was 8 seasons long and the books aren't finished yet. It's an enormous piece of pop culture and, as such, I may want to write about it again after a re-watch.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gentleman Jack Recaps

Hi everyone - are you watching Gentleman Jack on HBO?

For those not familiar:

Gentleman Jack is an eight-episode drama series from BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Happy Valley).

Set in 1832 West Yorkshire, England, Gentleman Jack is inspired by the true-story and coded journals of Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones), and follows her attempt to revitalize her inherited home, Shibden Hall. Most notably for the time period, a part of Lister's plan is to help the fate of her own family by taking a wife.
The series is on HBO and runs Monday nights at 10 PM. I will be posting weekly recaps at Shakesville starting today! My first recap, of the pilot, is posted - so check it out! (Note: Recaps will include spoilers for that episode.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Day, Another Anti-Choice Law

Yesterday, the Alabama Senate passed the nation's most restrictive abortion ban in the US, making it a felony for a doctor to provide an abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Anti-choice advocates are hoping the law will eventually be contested at the level of the US Supreme Court, since Donald Trump was able to stack the high court with two arch-conservative justices, including the one who was credibly accused of sexual assault.

This is truly dystopian misogyny that, I think, a lot of progressive feminists feared during the 2016 election.

I think now about the ever-expanding field of white male Democratic men who are now running in 2020 and can't help but think that a segment of our population, many of them well-off white men, see opportunity in this political moment- book deals, popular podcasts, political ambitions - while many women, and other marginalized populations, live in fear.

I also think about the misogynist backlash we're in and how a good portion of it comes from a complacent left that cruelly sneers at different groups of women on the regular, and puts targets on their backs on social media in these really dehumanizing ways.

Take, for instance, this piece that McSweeney's, for whatever reason, published in June 2018, "An Open Letter to White Women Concerning The Handmaid’s Tale and America’s Cultural Amnesia." It's a bad piece for many reasons. For one, it uses the same joke over and over and over again. And yes, we get it, mocking yuppy white women's names is hilarious. But like any joke, it ceases to be funny after the third time or so. It also seems to be this writer's one trick.

Secondly, it adopts the popular MRA convention of telling a relatively privileged class of women, in this case white women, that because things are worse for a different group of women, that the relatively privileged group of women should shut the fuck up with their hysterics. A difference here is that MRAs, and their more outspokenly-anti-feminist ilk, tend to use Muslim women in the Middle East as their comparison group to white women.

See, for reference, the Richard Dawkins/Rebecca Watson blowup circa 2011, in which Dawkins specifically referenced the plight of Muslim women to denigrate Watson's concerns about sexism in atheism.

I say all of this acknowledging that white women do actually have race-based privileges compared to non-white women. In addition, as a society, even within social justice movements, many folks still aren't great at knowing how to talk about groups of people who are privileged in some respects yet marginalized in others, such as white women. And, I know I'm not perfect here. I just question whether it's wise, progressive, feminist, or just to adopt MRA talking points to essentially gaslight women who actually are experiencing the loss of rights in this political moment.

Also, there are valid criticisms to be made of privileged women and then there is misogyny masquerading as social justice criticism. Part of the backlash is that we're seeing a lot of the latter these days.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Threat of Populists in 2020

Via The New York Times, in an opinion piece by Jan-Werner Muller entitled, "Populists Don't Lost Elections":
"Politicians like Mr. Erdogan are distinguished by their claim that only they truly represent the people. They suggest they can lose at the polls only when elections have been rigged by liberal elites.
....Contrary to conventional wisdom, populists are not distinctive just because they criticize elites. There’s nothing wrong with critiquing the powerful; in fact, it’s often healthy in a democracy. What is specific to populists is the claim that they are the only ones who represent those they often call 'the real people.' The implication is not only that all other contenders for power are corrupt or lack legitimacy, but also that citizens who fail to support populists do not truly belong to the people at all."
Donald Trump has been telling us since at least 2015 that he won't accept the legitimacy of an election in which he is the loser. It seems rather obvious that he would continue to erode our political system in this way by refusing to accept a loss in 2020, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has suggested.

Many smart people seem not to be taking this threat seriously, and hold a "it can't happen here" attitude. Donald Trump's multitudes of breaches of norms and laws have become slowly normalized, just as feared. And, it seems we're stuck with this guy for life, since Republicans who actually hold power are either happy that he's implementing their preferred rightwing agenda or, the ones who are "concerned," are nonetheless paralyzed with their dicks in their hands doing nothing meaningful to resist. (Whoops, #MuellerTime didn't save us!)

Yet, the US also has a left flank, we have to remember, with a destructive authoritarian populist streak of its own. This flank is currently represented by Bernie Sanders who cannot seem to fathom running a campaign in which he is not attacking The Establishment, and whose most die-hard supporters think he will magically implement the socialist revolution as president, as though checks and balances and a Republican-controlled Senate simply do not exist.

But perhaps worse, for now, is that if he loses in the Democratic primary it will be interesting to note the linguistic turns of phrase he, his supporters, and allied media are likely to adopt to suggest that he, yet again, only lost because the primary was rigged. For instance, rather than acknowledging that individual voters chose another candidate, the narrative will be that "the Democrats" (or, likely, the "Democratic Establishment") hand-picked someone else, thus erasing the millions of people who cast votes in the election - as though "the Democrats" are a disembodied, scheming hivemind.

In November 2017, a Rasmussen Poll showed that only 54% of Democratic voters believed Hillary Clinton won the 2016 primary against Bernie Sanders fairly.

If Bernie doesn't win the nomination for 2020, expect a similar narrative to be pushed and to gain traction. This narrative will only help bolster Trump's erosion of our electoral system. After all, aren't Democrats and Republicans just as bad about rigging elections?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Let's Talk About Ser Brienne of Tarth

So, I didn't hate the handling of Brienne on this weekend's Game of Thrones (8x4), "Last of the Starks."

Even though I obviously would prefer Brienne to be with a woman, it is also meaningful to see a butch woman's romance with a man, if only because it is such a rarity on screen.

I think the romance itself, which was subtextual for at least the last several seasons, was somewhat of a surprise to both characters. The surprise for Brienne was perhaps not just the obvious - that Jaime would be sexually attracted to her, after a lifetime of men mocking her for her looks and demeanor - but that she would be sexually attracted to someone whose dishonor and cruelty had once so repulsed her. For Ser Brienne, honor is everything, and Jaime was - is - the Kingslayer.

The surprise for Jaime was perhaps not just that he would be attracted to someone so unlike his sister in nearly every way, but that Brienne is a peer, a fellow knight, and undoubtedly his moral and martial superior. It's hard to imagine Season One Jaime's ego being okay with that, let alone attracted to it, but a lot has changed for a lot of characters since Season One.

I didn't love the scene that left Brienne in a sobbing, post-coital mess begging Jaime to stay, but it's also not inconceivable that Jaime would go back to Cersei and that Brienne would be momentarily wrecked. It's not clear what Jaime's going back to Cersei to do, exactly - fuck her, kill her, marry her? - but we have to remember that he has had a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship with his twin sister since childhood. Those patterns do not break easily.

And, one of Brienne's most defining characteristics thus far is that she has long been the knightliest knight of all the knights, long before they technically made her one. She has mostly related to people in a stiff, formal manner, staying somewhat emotionally detached from those she has sworn to protect. Sure, it's a cliche that Jaime would pull an Angelus after they had sex, and "become evil" again, but it doesn't make Brienne weak to be upset about this. She let her guard down for once and got hurt. She's human. She'll shed her tears and move on, at least if the creators let her keep her dignity.

While we're at it, she'll preferably move on to a Stark lady, although Gwendoline Christie - the actor whose portrayal of Brienne has come to perfectly embody the character - would prefer Dany, and that would do as well.

That said, it does chap the ass that the creators of Game of Thrones seem hellbent on ensuring that every female character suffers the most degrading humiliation befitting to her unique vulnerabilities.  It's hard not to wonder what the show would look like with more women and people color making creative decisions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The White Male Establishment Will Not Save Us

The New York Times front page on March 25, 2019:

"MUELLER FINDS NO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY" is blasted in all-caps bold across the front page.

The New York Times front page on April 30, 2019:

A somewhat less conspicuous title, "Mueller Objected to Barr's Description of Russia Investigation's Findings."

Now, if Mueller objected to Barr's description, what might that say about how Mueller might feel about the accuracy of the paper of record, among many others, amplifying Barr's framing of his report?

Also, if a person obstructs a full investigation into whether a crime occurred - which it appears Trump did - and that investigation subsequently isn't able to establish that the crime occurred, is it actually an exoneration?

Factually, it is not. But, these are post-fact times and so many in our media are failing us. 

Also, this part of the latter NYT story made me chuckle and then cry (emphasis added):
"A central issue in the simmering dispute is how the public’s understanding of the Mueller report has been shaped since the special counsel ended his investigation and delivered his 448-page report on March 22 to the attorney general, his boss and longtime friend."
Goddess help anyone who thought a pair of Republican buddy-bros were going to pop in like Batman and Robin and save us from the misogynist white nationalist nightmare running our country. It's Mueller Time, indeed.

I like to think of this political moment we're in as America's Hindenberg era, particularly as those on the moderate-to-left side of the political spectrum act completely enamored with the notion that some elderly white establishment statesmen or another is going to save us. Mueller. Biden. Bernie.

What if, instead, we are the heroes we need. What if the conditions that led to Trump are varied and multi-faceted and cannot simply be solved by replacing one old white man with another?

We should be the streets right now demanding justice, as part of a mass movement. Why are we not?