Saturday, August 30, 2008

If You Have to Ask.....

...then I'm not sure that I can explain, but I'll try.

I'm not going to waste your time trying to convince you that comments about Palin such as:

Okay, she's a whore who defeats all espectations.


There is nothing remotely attractive about Barracuda Girl.


NOT hot. ... Plastic. Barbie doll.

are sexist, unnacceptable, and hurt the cause - both yours and mine.

This isn't a feminism 101 post. I'm not going to hold you hand and explain that yes, gendered slurs are gendered slurs and that aiming them at awful people doesn't magically make them not gendered slurs.

But I can understand why some people who only barely passed FEM 101 might be a little confused about certain things. Such as why the following response to "I am striving to be gender neutral when criticizing Palin in general." is absolute fail:

I would like to.

Except that she's trying to help the GOP screw other women out of our rights.

The main problem with this argument is that it is a complete failure of logic - if one considers being "gender neutral" refraining from using sexist slurs. And since the second commentor was also responsible for several sexist comments, including the third one listed above, this does appear to be the case. This isn't the only type of behavior being shoved under the misnomer "being gender neutral" but it is the one where logic fails.

One can certainly criticize Palin for being hypocritical when it comes to women's rights. She's not quite Phyliss Schafly, but there are definitely commonalities between SP and PS, which means there is a lot we can call Palin on.

But to use sexist slurs to do so amounts to criticizing her for simply being a woman, which means complete FAIL for obvious reasons. Obvious as in feminism 101 obvious.

So what makes this slightly beyond feminism 101? Because it's not always obvious what consitutes a gendered slur. While the 'NOT hot" part of the comment is obviously wrong, "Barbie doll." is not always a purely sexist comment. One can give such insults a context that makes it clear that the woman being insulted is being insulted for something that she did, rather than being insulted simply for being a conventionally attractive woman.

One good example of this insult working might be comic fans complaining about their favorite superheroine being turned into a Barbie doll. While slip-ups can - and very often do - still happen in this context, there is at least a foundation for making it clear that the issue is not that she is female or even feminine, but that she is a generic, uninteresting, stock female character; that she lacks the seriousness and strength of personality to be a good superhero; or even just to make snarky comments about the homegeniality and over-sexualization of superheroines in general.

This? was not one of those cases. The only "context" is that Palin is female and pretty. Which means that "Barbie doll." is still a gendered insult in this context. Even though other complaints from the same commentor make it clear that there is substance to the ire directed at Palin, the potentially sexist insults that are said are not at all related to the complaints listed - making them simply gendered slurs. (Except perhaps for "plastic", but that one seems rather out of the blue and only related to the Barbie doll insult itself rather than any of the other complaints. it's possible that I'm missing some of the connections on that one, but, well, see next paragraph...)

Keep in mind that creating clear context is very, very hard. It's really easy to accidentaly turn what should be an insult about someone's unhealthy obsession with conformity to the modern, media driven definition of femininity, into simply another way of saying that girlie stuff sucks. Or add unintended sexist overtones to what was simply an attempt to call someone plastic or fake.

Your right to free speech certainlly allows you to say whatever the hell you want (although, be forewarned: not on my blog), but ask yourself if it makes sense to do so. I'm not going to try to tell you that you catch more flies with honey, because there is just so much that is so very wrong about that "advice." What I will say, however, is that being clear about what you mean is a not a bad thing.

If what you mean is that she's a bitch, then by all means, call her a bitch.

But if what you really mean is that she's a narrow-minded, abrasive, douche just like her running mate - but you are feeling the urge to call her a bitch because it sounds more powerful - you may want to rethink calling her a bitch. Because that's what bitch may mean to you, but to those of us that have been called bitch, usually just because we aren't willing to be doormats or fuckholes, it means something else entirely. And no, we aren't going to give you the benefit of the doubt. (especially when you also discuss how fuckable she is as well) Neither, btw, are the Republicans. Both the ones that will hypocritcally call you on your sexism and the ones that will applaud you for putting the bitch in her place.

Still not sure you are ready to go back out into "the real world" and not be an accidental sexist asshat? Then let's try another example of bad logic:

i think palin's hotness is the issue

if you imagine her as a boring looking dude, you get a fundie with a lightweight resume and a brewing influence scandal

but everybody is blinded by the giant cute

it'll wear off...

Palin's "hotness" - and gender - is very much an this context. It is not, however, an issue in and of itself. In other words, the issue is McCain's reasons for choosing her, not the fact that she is female and "hot." Statements like this are right on the money (aside from the fact that i hate "hot" as a stand in for sexy)....except when they are used to defend "debates" about whether the debaters would like to fuck her. (which this exactly what this comment was meant to be) It may be useful to debate if her looks are the right kind of looks to get McCain votes (assuming that's even possible). It is not useful, however to simply discuss whether or not you think she is pretty - especially as if this were the most important thing about her that one could possibly discuss.

Now that we've done the warm-ups, we are ready for the trickiest bit: the generic sex jokes. Which, by definition, ought to be non-gendered. Except that nothing is non-gendered about sex in our society. So on the odd chance that you weren't able to make the previous disctinctions yourself prior to coming here (and yet are still willing to listen to advice from me for some odd reason) I will leave you with this one last bit of wisdom:

Stay far, far, away from "generic" sex jokes. At least until this whole post seems like elementary logic to you.

If you do not, you may be the unwitting perpetrator of such idiotic and unfunny slurs as:

Does the governor do anything?

She once had a three-way with Michele Bachmann and a moose.

Seriously people, the only thing funny about that "joke" is the moose part*. And no, I wouldn't have an issue if it were Cheney, Bush, and McCain. (i still wouldn't find it funny, either, but wev) And yes, it makes a difference that these are women we are talking about. Not becuase it will always make a difference, but because you and the media are the ones making the two jokes mean two different things when you all obsess about how fuckable Palin/Hillary is, but whether you'd like to have a drink/dinner with Bush/Obama.

Now, go forth and bring McCain/Palin down! Only now working with the wondrous power of feminism, not against it.

(all quotes are from the thread for this post:

*actually, the crack about the moose having the best rack was the funniest part of the whole thread. but that's just cuz i'm a sucker for bad puns

Friday, August 29, 2008


I'm re-watching the first dvd I ever owned - Pleasantville - which I haven't seen in years.

and it's freakin' cracking me up.

not because it's so funny, but bc

1) the logo swish at the beginning of the dvd is for "New Line Home Video"

2) there is no sound on this dvd until the movie starts

3) I'd totally forgetten about Reese Witherspoon and Don Knotts

4) didn't that syrup just spill onto the table?

5) omg! Paul Walker!

6) and Marc Blucas!!!!!

7) how did I miss that lack of toilets in the restroom all those other times I've watched this movie?

8) why does Pleasantville even have a lover's lane? (I guess even Pleasantville needs something to caution their kids about)

9) kids screwing causes a king sized bed to appear at the department store?

10) the portfolio

11) ha! the townspeople that make up the crowd are arranged in neat rows when "Bud" gets his medal

12) dude! Jonathon!

(I always hated how he explained Huckleberry Finn)

13) Pleasantville Public Library - the sign is color!

14) Big Bob is pinning George :)

15) ok, so, the make-up explains the skin, but how did the hair go back to b&w?

(I love that when she asks if it looks ok, he doesn't answer yes, he says that it looks like it did. i also love that Bill is more interested in the impressionists and abstract paintings than the naked people)

16) and David explains the movie to the stupid people in the audience

17) so....the kids don't know what rain is - but the adults do?

18) so.......the national anthem isn't allowed (if it's recorded)?

"Across the Universe" is such the perfect song to end on .....and it makes me want to re-watch Across the Universe

overall, I love the unsubtleness of it all. anvil-sized metaphors and themes to be sure, but back in the dark ages before the internets - before finding people who I could discuss tv and movies with - (and in the absence of any decent media literacy in school) I must admit that I kinda needed the anvil-sized metaphors to help me see that movies could be more intellectual than Sneakers. that's part of why i love Buffy, too. that show taught me more about film as literature than just about anything else out there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Forgive Me If This is a Stupid Question

But what exactly is so bad about erring on the side of being overcautious about possibly fostering harassment - even if it means kicking out a few clueless but otherwise nice con-goers?

(Especially over the course of a single convention, in an attempt to set a new tone for the following years.)

We are talking about getting kicked out of a con, not being fired from a job. The con people can make up all kinds of rules about who they get to kick out (so long as no one's civil rights are violated) and have every legal right to enforce it. There's no reason why cons have to rely on legal definitions. If they feel the need to toss out people who are not acting illegaly but are still making the con a less pleasant place for others, they can certainly do so.

A part of the problem is that this stuff feeds off of itself. Anytime you go someplace new you test the waters and see whats considered normal for that group/place. Habitual harassers take that one step further and seek out places that have lax rules or enforcement. (Yes, sometimes even if it costs lots of money. Creeps have hobbies and options on where they can spend their money just like everyone else.) By pretty much ignoring known instances of harassment, (some) cons help make the situation worse than it would be otherwise. Their lack of action is seen as permission by people who are testing the waters and as an opportunity by outright creeps.

I'm not asking for the con to throw out every guy who oogles a metal-bikini-clad Leia. (Or every manga-fan who rudely glomps a fellow cos-player without gaining permission.) What I'm asking is for them to take note when shit happens (such as someone who is spending his day insulting female - and only female - artists), issue clear warnings, and follow through with the warnings as much as possible.

I'm not asking that every male con-goer be scared to speak to any female con-goer for fear they will say the wrong thing, I'm asking for a system that makes it clear to certain people that what they consider reasonable (glomping w/out permission) is not in line with what everyone else considers reasonable, so they may want to be a bit more cautious in the future - or face the consequences.

And yes, as part of the management team of a new library that gets literally thousands of (very noisy) patrons daily, many of whom had never been to a public library until we opened, I do realize what a huge task I'm asking the cons to do. Just the hundreds we have at once are overwhelming at times. I also know from experience, however, how quickly it can go from bad to out of control if you don't do something - or even when you limit the "doing" to giving warning upon meaningless warning. And that a part of why this happens is because your lack of even bothering to lift a finger drives away the best-behaved people, so bad behavior becomes even more normalized.

Kicking people out of the freakin' library pisses people off. Kicking people out of a con is going to cause most people to go nuclear. But it also shows that you mean what you say. And it makes the experience more pleasant for everyone. Often even for the person you kicked out last year.

The fact that there are cons where this shit is an issue but they don't even have a stated policy - much less give warnings and follow through on them - just completely blows my mind when I stop and really think about it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

For Example:

The first comment on my previous post was this lovely bit of troll droppings:

It isn't obvious to you but to me, after getting involved with and then getting kicked out of girl-wonder I can tell you that feminists and those who pander to them are fucked-up! Wish it were different but it's not. I'd rather put up with all the stupidity and rudeness that "normal" people throw at me than deal with that sort of convoluted thinking. Just try asking a simple question or making an innocuous statement on girl-wonder. Those clints treat it as if it were a bomb about to go off.

Let's see, we've got # 4 broken before the first sentence is even halfway done. Dan, I'm aware of the kinds of people that get "kicked out of girl-wonder" (I believe you mean get booted off the Girl-Wonder forums, btw) and if this comment is any indication of your normal cordial personality, I'm sure your exile is well justified.

Then we finish with a double dose of of both #2 and #3. Did you even read the damn post?

Of course not. Which is made doubly obvious by the fact that nothing in the comment addresses anything I wrote at all (I believe that's #1), unless you count deliberately ignoring the advice/rules.

Another bit of information that was overlooked? The part in the banner above that says that I write about feminism. Combined with the tone of the post the comment was left on, one would think that I may, possibly, be one of those fucked-up feminists Dan is complaining about. Crazy, I know, but certainly possible.

Even more shocking, however, is that I generally don't publish comments from people who call me names. It's pretty much a knee-jerk reaction to hit "reject." I couldn't pass up the opportunity, however, to mock such a self-absorbed asshole. FYI, Danny-boy, the post in question had nothing whatsoever to do with Girl-Wonder in particular. That particular post was inspired by an accidental troll over at Shakesville. Deliberate trolls such as yourself don't get snarky advice, they just get snark.

Two more things before I go:

The word you were trying to call me is spelled cunt. And that's FUCKING CUNT to assholes like you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear Privileged Asshats,

(Those of you that do not intend to be trolls, anyway...)

A few guidelines for posting on feminist blogs:

1) If you ever think you may find yourself writing anything along these lines later in the conversation:

All right. We disagree, and that's fine. I probably picked the wrong...thread in which to make my wider point, as this one is about something we all agree was unacceptable, for which I apologize. I just happened to be reading this one when I decided to set out my thoughts.

DO NOT POST whatever it is you are about to post.

Why? First of all, that's rude no matter what. It's called derailement. It's called get your own blog.

Secondly, and more importantly, when the thread was about sexism (ie, the kinds of post that make the blog in question a feminist blog), derailing the thread amounts to arguing that such things are not worth discussing.

In other words, just don't. You will either find your ass handed to you or you will end up kicking your own ass when you find yourself illogically wasting your time arguing that we are wasting our time on something that isn't worth arguing about.

Quite likely both.

2) When the "wider point" one is making is that it's really not that big of a deal (for whatever reason), that's not a "wider point," that's calling into question the validity of the post itself and, by extension, discourages people from calling others out on their sexist bullshit.

It's bad enough when you blindly imply that sexism isn't worth discussing, so it should be a no brainer that you really don't want to excplicitly argue the same stupidity. And that we will be much less forgiving in the latter situation than the former.

Chances are, in fact, that you just violated the comment policy (see #6) and your kernel of wisdom will never see the light of anyone else computer screen. At least, not with it's vowels intact, anyway,

3) If you ever find yourself wanting to say anything that even hints of accusing feminists overreacting, just DON'T.

Step away from the keyboard.

Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down.

And then, maybe, maybe, write something explaining how you see/feel about things. If you do, remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar....and condescension is full of vinegar. Also, see read through the rest of the rules/advice before posting.

4) Remember that just because you are the minority on this blog/board, that doesn't mean that your thoughts/arguments will be new to anyone there.

You are probably not the minority anywhere else, and we don't live 24/7 on our cyber-feminist-utopias, so it's highly unlikely that your disagreement will really be all that novel or illumnating to us.

In fact, there is a very good chance that arguments like the one you are about to make are exactly what we are responding to in the first place. Just because we don't spell it out in every thread for visitors doesn't make it any less understood amongst ourselves that just about every feminist argument is a counter-argument to the rest of the world.

5) More words/phrases to avoid:

"I don't get..." when paired with anything that amounts to "I think the differently."

Well, obviously. Those two are a little redundant together, yes?

More importantly, don't you think you ought to try to "get" whatever it is before coming to a conclusion? Because otherwise you are pretty much saying that you are the smartest of the smart and no one else could have a legitimate perspective. Considering the corrollaries to #4: "you've probably never heard our arguments unfiltered before" and "every thread (on a non-femism 101 post) starts halfway through the conversation" that's an especially stupid assumption to make.

(Special minus points if this is paired with breaking #4.)

6) Follow every good authors advice on how to be a better writer: Read. Read. Read.

Read (the FAQ). Read (the comment policy). Read (previous posts/threads). Before posting anything.

I know you think we just can't live without your little gem of wisdom (see #3 please) but if you really want to argue effectively, it's a good idea to study the native customs before getting involved. While that's pretty good advice for any new community you've stumbled across, that goes double triple quadruple for the privileged participating in non-privileged communities. On-line or elsewhere.

That is all for now.

Its a Bird! Its a Butterfly! It's....

Do you know what part tends to trip me up in debates? When people ask the kinds of questions for which the answer is so obvious you've never really thought about why it is, you just want to bang your head against the wall repeatedly that someone felt they had to ask it.

But never fear!

Here to save the day is Girl-Wonder!

No, seriously.

Yes, we all know that TPTB thought that Girl-Wonder was going to crawl back to her little pinkified mini-batcave once her namesake had been resurrected. You'd think they'd have learned by now that if anyone deserves to be shanshued* around here it's the ever-persistent and always optimistic heroines that run Girl-Wonder.

Not content with forcing the big boys to pretend that making feminist comic book fans happy was what they had intended all along, Girl-Wonder has recently turned their attention to the abysmal way in which female fans are often treated at comic book (and other) conventions. Not only have they put together a whole website about it, they have put together one of the most awesomeist FAQs ever:

6. Why do cons need to spell it out that sexual harassment is unacceptable? They don’t tell anyone not to murder someone else on the con floor.

And there aren’t widespread reports of people murdering others, so clearly that’s already understood. But some people seemingly feel that harassment is con-appropriate behavior, and it’s important that cons clearly tell them it’s not.....

7. Why is this even a problem? People should be flattered when someone lets them know they’re sexy.

Harassment isn’t about polite and respectful admiration. Polite and respectful admiration doesn’t tell the admired person how they “should” feel about it.

Tell me again why people say feminists aren't funny? I'd guess that maybe they all just think that one can't be funny and dead serious at the same time; except that then they would have to be completely ignoring the existence and popularity of The Daily Show.

(bonnet tip to hoyden about town)

* not that they need to be, not being vampires and all

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Busy Busy Busy

Apologies for the light posting. I've been moving all my crap and trying to get all set for school. Both are taking far too long.

In related news, it turns out that I own a lot of books. Who would have guessed that?

While I've been organizing my books (hmmmm....should my favorite kids books go between the winnie the pooh bookends, or my autographed kids books?) and otherwise unpacking, I've been catching up on some of last years shows that I missed. I am 2/3 of the way through The Sarah Connor Chronicles and OMG! do I love this show.

You know what else I love? This:

Normally I find any advertising for anti-wrinkle cream annoying, but the knowledge that my fellow 30+ female viewers are (part of) the target audience for the the Terminator TV show (and it's website!) is most definitely a thing of beauty.