Monday, June 26, 2006

Why "The Last Man"?

(c'mon - someone had to to make that pun)

Yeah, so, I guess I ought to knock off a few of those things on my to do list.

Let's start with the one that will get me lots comments. (yeah, right.)

Y: The Last Man roxxx!!!!!! Ok, well, not so much. But it's amusing. least, issues 1-5 and 37-42 are anyway. The rest may be as well, but I haven't read them yet. (so...I may be revising my opinion later on)

The premise is, of course, idiotic. It is assumed to be every (hetero) man's fantasy (all the women in the world to myself mwahahaha...) and what every idiot assumes is every feminist's fantasy (no more men - almost, anyway - let's throw a party!). For some reason this comic is supposed to appeal to women, and despite the fact that I actually do like it, I have no idea why people assume that I would.

Very little possibility of beefcake? check

Leading female characters that are only leading because there are no men to take their rightful place as leaders? check

A storyline that manages to be all about men (especially one in particular) even though all but two of the characters are female? check

"Nice guy" character being chased by feminazi's, protected by la femme Nikita in dreadlocks, and occasionally sparing time from his busy schedule of tracking down his girlfriend (oh, sorry, fiance) and saving the world by his mere existence to put the womenfolk in their place? check

Remind me again why women are supposed to like this?

Remind me again why I ever broke down and picked this up?

Oh, yeah, because it's written by Brian K. Vaughan.

If you haven't ever read anything else by Vaughan - and I'll admit Runaways and a few issues of Ex Machina is pretty much all I've read - then I should probably tell you that he and Joss Whedon are mutual fans of each other's work. Which has you either suddenly intrigued or rolling your eyes. I most definitely fall into the former group.

When I saw how Vaughan handled the practically all-female Runaways, I started to wonder if maybe Y wasn't so bad after all. Every time Gertrude opened her mouth, it became that much harder to imagine Y as the completely sucky comic I had presumed it to be.

So, I picked up the first trade paperback, and found it both surprisingly good and predictably bad.

Y: the Last Man is not an interesting look at what the world would be like without (almost any) men; it can be rather annoying when it comes to that. (The Washington Monument? Seriously, Brian. I, personally, would end up parking myself in front of the statue of Lincoln and bawling my eyes out; I would not be lighting candles in front of a big phallus.) It is, however, an entertaining (and at times infuriating) look into the mind of a feminist leaning man in a misogynist world. Y: the Last Man is not really about women at all. At most it is about Yorick's/Vaughan's perception of women and his struggle to be fair and respectful of women in a world that pushes him not to be.

Franny at So So Silver Age wrote:

Ultimately, Vaughan is using the unmanned scenario to explore manhood and masculinity through a character who is decidedly not the American ideal superdude, who is a composite of anxious shortcomings thrust from being a guy to not just being a man but the man. And ultimately, it serves feminist purposes to reevaluate and reflect on the meaning of masculinity.
I think she has it exactly right and that this is the underlying and unspoken reason why people think women would be more interested in this comic than men: men aren't supposed to question these things (but all those feminists secretly wish they were men, right?)

When we are first introduced to Yorick he is practicing his escape artist skills. It's obvious - anvil sized obvious - that this is meant to foreshadow future events: in the near future he will be constantly hunted and must constantly escape capture. Throughout the story, pretty much everyone wants to tell him what to do. Those that don't usually simply don't bother telling, they just do.

I suspect it is also meant to by symbolic of Yorick's attempts to escape the constraints of gender - his struggle throughout the story is not just to escape physical capture but to resist being defined solely by his biology. His most valuable asset to society is his ability to help create the next generation (not that way - get your mind out of the gutter). He understands this and generally agrees that this needs to be his number one priority. He is often frustrated however, with the fact that he no longer matters as an individual - to everyone fighting over him he is an object, really. He spends much of his time trying to contact his girlfriend and is a constant advocate for the idea of romantic love, the importance of personal relationships, and the validity of emotions.

Of, course, Yorick being an escape artist is also a nice plot device; it makes it hard for people to keep him locked up - which would have made the story either really boring or forced Vaughan to focus on other characters. If it was possible to keep Yorick locked up, Vaughan might have actually had to write about a world run by women. Instead, he gets to write about about a man trapped in a world run by women.

Y: the Last Man does not turn the world on it's head by creating a world in which women fill men's shoes, it turns the world on it's head by putting a man in a traditionally feminine role. Sometimes the story shifts and it becomes the usual, annoying "nice, average guy searching for the perfect woman" but most of the time Yorick's story fits very nicely into the "fiesty heroine who is being forced to marry for the sake of the family reputation/younger siblings/war torn kingdom, but believes in true love anyway" cliche that pops up again and again in Romance novels. He's even got the taciturn bodyguard, the emotionally cut-off elder sibling who starts out as a hinderance but later becomes an ally, and the whole "physically weak but usefully clever" thing going for him.

Which explains why I like it: I read Romance novels. I'm not completely sure why everyone else is so into it, though.

I also find it odd but interesting that so much of the buzz about the book centers on not only it's gimmicky premise but on the Amazons - and the idea that they are stand-ins for radical feminists. With so many other examples of strong - feminist even - women in the series, it seems quite obvious to me that, in this world without men, they are meant to represent the unapologetic violence that men are supposed to embrace, not Andrea Dworkin and every woman who fails who disown everything she says. They are more than Rush Limbaugh's fictional feminanzi's brought to life, even if Vaughan has trouble shaking such stereotypes. Despite being women, they are "real men" who do what needs to be done and respond to heartache with destruction and anger, not tears. They understand that violence is needed and that the rest of the world "can't handle the truth." In some sense this is meant to be commentary on the human condition and the not so big differences between men and women. Mostly though, they are there to provide a foil for Yorick and create scenarios where he has to choose or reject violence.

It seems quite normal to me that a group like the Amazons would exist; anger is one of the stages of grief, after all. However, it also seems really abnormal that there wouldn't be other radical groups: ones that claim that the end is here and women were found unworthy, ones that blame women, liberals, the church etc. for the disaster, and so on. To me, it's the fact that such groups are almost non-existent in his world and the apparent focus on the Amazons that is troubling, not the mere existence of the Amazons alone - or even any of the actual interactions between Yorick and the Amazons (that I've seen). However, the Amazons exist and the religious fanatics don't because Vaughan sees the former as useful foils for Yorick, not because Vaughan thinks that feminists are evil, nasty, and out to get men. That doesn't mean his writing is any less flawed because of his lack of conscious intent, just that it's useful to keep that in mind when picking the story apart.

But, then, like I said, I met Gertrude first. It's hard to read a comic in which the fat, nerdy, cynic gets the hunk and think that the writer has it in for feminists.

(ps - don't worry about spoilers in the comments - I've obviously skipped ahead anyway.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Few Days Ago in the Backroom

Me: "Oooh...look! We got Backyardigans in!"

Co-Worker: "We got Madmartigan in?"

I spend the next few minutes giggling.

Co-Worker: "You're going to be thinking about that all night, aren't you?"

Today's Epiphany

After reading the ten billionth complaint about how X-Men 3 should have picked either The Cure or The Dark Pheonix storyline instead of trying to do both, then wondering for the ten billionth time how in the hell the writers/director/producers could manage not to see this, I realized exactly how this happened.

It's the Evita syndrome.

No, I'm not referring to Eva Peron herself, nor the movie really, and not Madonna either. I'm talking about the original musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

One of the fantastic things about going to a small, expensive, stuck-up, academically inclined, liberal arts college is that you get to take classes on weird but fun shit like "Musicals by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Stephen Sondheim" just because you feel like it - and still get actual credits for it. Ok, well, it was only one credit and it was an J-term (interim) class, but still - how many (non music majoring) UC students get to take interim classes where they study Sweeny Todd?

(Where was I again? Oh, right. Evita.)

It's even better, of course, when such classes are taken at a feminist-leaning women's college because then your professor isn't shy about pointing out the fact that Evita's biggest flaw is ALW's sexism - or the industry's, take your pick. Evita is supposed to be the story of Evita and Argentina. Or, rather, the story of Argentina told through Evita's experiences. However, ALW didn't think that a musical with a woman as the lead, rather than just a lead would work (for whatever reason). He didn't think her husband's character was really the right one to pull it off either, so he created Che, Antonio Banderas's character.

It should have been a good idea, actually. Che represented the working classes, Juan Peron the upper classes, and Eva Peron was the woman who fought her way from Che's world to Juan's. The problem is that Che's purpose was to take some of the focus off of Evita when he should have been simply used as a foil to highlight certain aspects of her character. So instead of an elegant story about class, corruption, and conflict, you get a schizophrenic mess that can't decide who the main protaganist really is.

X-Men 3 is the same kind of mess - it can't decide if it's setting up the younger generation to take over, dealing with the morality of a "cure" for something that may or may not be a disease, or the story of Jean Grey and why she is the way she is. It tries to do all of these and more and ends of doing none of them well.

It also suffers from the same underlying sexism - the belief that a woman (or a storyline centered around a female character) can't carry the movie.

100LittleDolls wrote:

I agree with others out there that the movie should have just been "the cure" storyline. A Dark Phoenix storyline is too big and should have had it's own flick.
I'd heard people say before that they should have picked one or the other, but if they'd stated which I'd missed it. The problem is, the powers that be probably felt that they couldn't do the cure storyline instead of the Dark Pheonix saga because Brian Singer's ending for X-Men 2 got fans all excited about the Dark Pheonix. (Damn you Brian for leaving before the trilogy was over! I have no idea if you would have been the best person to bring Dark Pheonix saga to the big screen, but you would have done so much better than the mess that ended up being made.)

Unfortunately, not only did all the new people have all their own pet ideas they wanted to use (and this was a big part of why we got the mess we did as well) but there aren't very many people in the movie business that think that a female lead can carry a movie the way a male lead can. So, no matter what, they would have been looking for another story to fill in the gaps of the one they were not capable of writing well- just like Andrew Lloyd Weber did back when he wrote Evita.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Et tu, Joss?

As much as I'm enjoying Astonishing X-Men - and just generally love Joss' work - I have to admit that Karen has a damn good point. (caution: spoilers there and below for Astonishing X-Men and Serenity)

I think it's quite evident that Joss has issues with adults and authority figures in general, but he does seem to have problems with adult women more than adult men on top of everything else. I think Karen is right that a lot of this is ingrained and unintentional. I also think it's the type of thing Joss was trying to allude to in his little speech about inequality eating at everyone's soul - but that still doesn't excuse it.

Kalinara once argued that women were stuck in refrigerators not because they were women, but because they weren't the main characters. I responded that it's more than that. Since male is the default gender, it's not just that male heros mean more female love interests, it means that women are less likely to be anything but love interests.

For Joss, it's not so much female characters as it is characters that exhibit traditionaly "feminine" characteristics while still retaining their confidence and authority that he tends to write off. It was Wash and Book that bit it in the movie, not Inara or Zoe. I have a feeling that a lot of this comes from the mysogynistic tricks people get taught as storytelling techniques. Somewhere I have a half-written and never posted rant that I started about the epiphany I had after watching the season finale of Criminal Minds: even when women make it all the way to secondary/co- hero, they are usually the obviously expendable characters - and I think that has to do with "feminine" characterstics being considered expendable.

It was obvious from the start of Lost* that Claire and Shannon were more vulnerable than Kate to the whims of the writers because they were both written as more "feminine." A part of this is due to all of these stories being action stories - but only part of it. Many of the story arcs have been about people stepping up and displaying survival skills they didn't realize they had - a character that starts out vulnerable need not end up that way, and not all vulnerable characters need to be female. Part of why Sun and Kim's stories are so interesting to watch is because both of them are vulnerable at times and strong at others. They not only love each other very much, they have learned how to rely on and support each other.

Joss has the kick-ass teen girl down. He also does a hell of a lot better job than most when it comes to treating women as people and writing about women who have relationships to each other and not just to men, but I do think Karen is right. Joss e really needs to find a way to write about strong, feminine adults without having to kill them off all the time.


Betty says everything else that needs to be said over in the forums:

I think that Joss gets more than his fair share of criticism simply because he can support it. No one's going to bother spending more than five minutes on showing why, say Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire is problematic to feminists.

Alternately, he gets more than his fair share of criticism because he's not perfect, and he keeps on getting held up as the pinnacle of achievement by feminism in pop-culture. While Buffy is fabulous, I do hope that it's not the best thing feminism ever achieves in that medium. Onwards! Upwards!
*ahem - I should note that I've only seen the first third of the second season - so, sorry if what I'm writing doesn't make much sense in light of anything that happened after that point.

Things I Want to Write About But I Don't Have the Time (Yet)

Why I love my alma mater (inspired by Ragnell's post about joining the military and some of what's been going on at Girl

My first impression of Gail Simone's Bird's of Prey. (short version: yes, I like it)

Why Y: The Last Man has me hooked despite the fact that when I first heard the premise I thought I was going to barf and I still have some serious issues with it. (hint: I'd be interpreting it completely differently if I hadn't read Runaways and met Gertrude first)

Misogyny in Disney's Pirate's of the Carribean ride - and why the changes actualy made it worse. (grrr..this one is half done and I really want to finish it in time for the release of the new movie)

Net Neutrality and how copyright issues got me reading blogs in the first place. (yeah...this was supposed to be done in time to actually attempt to raise awareness about the law being voted on today)

That really cute thing my niece did the other day.

Oh...and there was that summer reading thing.....and I have tons of ideas for this too.

Whedon's Words of Wisdom

A late edition of Wednesday Words of Wisdom

Equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity; we need it to stand on this Earth as Men and Women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.
Go here to hear him say it himself.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Customers

The Saturday before Father's Day

Customer 1

I'm running around getting stuff ready for the Clifford storytime that's starts in less than an hour, and I notice that the man sitting at the picnic table with his two preschoolers has put playdough in front of them - right on the actual table. I'm so distracted by this stupidity of this that I idiotically ask him to make sure the playdough is on something other than the actual table top - rather than asking him right away to pack it all up like I should have.

A few minutes later I walk by again, and not only is the playdough still on the table, it is also now, predictably enough, on the floor as well.

I apologize (because we wimmin-folk must always apologize before we ask the menfolk to do something they should have done to begin with - god, I hate it when I do that) and I tell him that I need him just to pack it up and save it for when they get home - like I should have done to begin with. I point out the fact that his kids are like, three and they are going to be messy no matter how well he supervises them.

He looks a little flustered and confused, but says ok. He promises to pick the mess on the floor up as well.

A few minutes later I walk by again, and the kids are still playing with the playdough. Daddy is sitting right beside them absorbed in whatever reading material he is currently browsing. I say - in a slightly firmer and more exasperated voice, that I really need him to pack it all up - now. I make a mental note that he has at least picked the huge chunks off the floor - but that I'll need to pick up all the little bits he missed once he leaves.

However, at this point the jackass starts to argue with me. Not in a threatening way - no, in a wonderfully passive-agressive way. After I respond to something he says by pointing out the little bits still on the floor, he practically feigns blindness and asks me to point out ever single tiny piece on the floor so that he doesn't miss it. Somebody obviously doesn't know how to function without Mommy around - and it ain't either of the kids. (Who, btw, are playing very nicely - they just happen to be so young that I doubt either of them has the motor control to be able to write their names legibly. Keeping 100% of the playdough within a confined space on a horizontal surface is beyond them both in terms of mental and physical development.)

I walk away and come back a few minutes later - and yet again the kids are still playing with the freaking playdough. I say, quite emphatically and visibly annoyed, that he needs to put the playdough away now. Daddy Dearest then proceeds to look up at his preschoolers, who happen to be 6 inches away from him, and say "I told you to put the playdough away." Um, yeah. You know, what, jackass? It's actually quite age appropriate for them to not follow directions when they don't feel like it. You, otoh....

I immediately make a beeline to my department manager who happens to both be in the kid's section at that exact moment and the manager in charge of the store for the next few hours, and I ask her to keep an eye on them and go talk to him if he doesn't start putting the damn playdough away in the next 30 seconds.

He doesn't , of course, so she does, and then he finally does.

A moment later, as I'm walking within spitting distance of him, Daddy Dearest stops me and asks what our policy is regarding things, like oh say, bringing playdough into the store. I say that our customers are welcome to come in and hang out, so long as whatever that are doing is neither interfering with our business nor potentially damaging or annoying to our property or other customers. Exact policies depend on the situtation. Sitting down and using the table to do homework, for example, is ok - as long as there aren't people wanting to use it to browse the books that we actually sell. It's not as if, however, he ever would have brought paints into the store, now would he? He then asks "Is playdough really that messy?" To which I look at him incredulously and ask back "Have you ever had to pick it up off your own floor?" Unfortunately, this was obviously a rhetorical question. Even more unfortunately, he continues being a jackass and accuses my manager, who has walked up, of being rude. Still in that passive-agressive "but I don't understand why you needed to be so rude about it" kind of way. We both have a hard time not laughing when he threatens to report her to her supervisor.

Customer 2

After we are done reading Clifford stories, we invite the kids to come up and give Clifford a hug and get their picture taken with him. As always, the kids rush the stage to form a semi-circle around Clifford, and then patiently wait their turn to give him a hug or to pat his fur. Some are eager, others are hesitant. Some give him a quick hug and turn around. Others linger so long I start to think that I may have to remind them that other kids are waiting.

One particularly cute little boy comes up beside me; inching his way towards Clifford and giggling hysterically the entire time. When he finally makes it up to Clifford, he laughs even harder and starts sort of patting him with his fingers. I realize that he's trying to tickle Clifford, so I say to Collene/Clifford "Clifford, he's tickling you!" because I know you can't see or feel a damn thing in those costumes. (Half the time you can't tell when the ankle-biters are trying to hug you.) She hunches Clifford's shoulders and starts shaking like she's actually being tickled. Little boy giggles even more hysterically, which I hadn't though possible until then. He continues to tickle Clifford for a little bit longer, and then walks off, still having giggle fits. By this time, I am, of course, suffering from them myself.

Coldstone's or Ben and Jerry's?

(via When Fangirls Attack, as always)

For Christ sake I was attacked for using the term "female" instead of "woman".
Oh my, do I get to take credit for this, or is it just a matter of great minds thinking alike?

I may have to buy myself an ice cream - just in case.
Somehow using the word that most accurately sums up both girls and women as a group makes me a misogynistic woman hater. But I can refer to men and males, and that's fine.
Ok, well he does have a point there.

And yet, there don't seem to be very many boys in comics, at least not compared to the number of "girls" - a not insiginificant number of whom are all grown up and have been for quite some time. So I can rather see where his detracters are coming from, and I don't think that, at the moment, it is unrealistically demanding to ask people to use the term females not just when they mean both girls and women, but when it will be obvious to others that they are referring to both children and adults - for everyone's sake. It's good to be clear - the problem is that common usuage of the term "females" has made that particular word anything but clear in most instances.

Besides is it really going to kill you to type eight more characters?

(Well, apparently, it's much more of a task than forgetting you ever liked any of the characters and comics put out by one of the biggest and most well-known comics publishers in the nation (world?) because the people in charge of the company keep proving that they veer towards "asshat." Oh, no, Scott, you weren't being a tool at all - it's all the fault of those damn feminiazis)

Updated to add:

Scott is also being terribly inconsistent here. He claims that he was using the terms males and females to make it clear that he was talking about children and adults, but his initial complaint equates "female" with "woman" not "girl or woman."

I've said before that the unnecessary use of the term "females" bugs the shit out of me; since we're on the subject of consistency, I'd like to take this opportunity to make it clear that I'm not overly fond of the term "males" when used a synonym for "men and boys" either. It doesn't come across as nearly as derogatory as "females" - partly because it's used much less often. However, since it is most often used when one is discussing gender differences, it's purpose is usually to reduce people to their biology - not to save typing time or be more precise. I'm against this for obvious reasons.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yes, Virginia, You Do Have to Grow Up

I'm posting this here because I'm going to have to gut this to post it on Hugo's blog, and I wanted it in it's entirety somewhere on the world wide web.


You wrote in Hugo's comments:

I am not a hard player. I was asking why I shouldn't try to be one! But I am not sure whether I am a profemnist!
I need to first point out that you seem to be setting up a false dichotomy here. Perhaps, though, you were really trying to ask "Is being a player really being anti-feminist?" or "Can I be feminist and a player as well?" These are not only thought-provoking questions but also happen to be the ones Amanda and others are trying to answer with their "feminism is fun!" comments.

What came out instead was "Do I really have to be an adult yet?" The answer to which is "hell, yes." Which, unfortunately, did not seem to be the bulk of Hugo's answer to you.

My beef with Hugo is not that his teaching method doesn't work, but that (judging by his own words) he's abandoned it in his most recent advice to you. I'm guessing that Hugo got you to treat your sisters more nicely and change your views on gendered double standards in part by tapping into your genuine concern for the women around you and challenging whether or not your attitudes were really helping them or being respectful of them.

That is what I'm suggesting he do now. Tap into your desire to be a responsible, respected member of your community - however you define it - and question your priorities. Not by arguing that you can't have fun, but by reminding you that any amount of power brings with it a certain amount of responsibility. If you can find a way to be a "player" and still be responsible and respectful, more power to you. But if you are trying to decide between being a "player" and doing what you should, your beef isn't really with feminism specifically - it's with being an adult.

That is not, however, what he did. Or at least that wasn't the part he focused on in his blog post anyway. Perhaps your actual conversation was quite different, but as he presented it, responsibility was only a quickly dropped tangent in the overall discussion.

Quite frankly, whether or not you consider yourself to be a feminist is not my main concern. My main concern is that you treat everyone around you with respect and dignity.

In a recent interview, comic book artist Brian Wood was asked
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
He answered:
I don't know.  I don't know how to answer that question.  I guess I would say no — I'm uncomfortable with labels, and writing mostly female characters isn't a deliberate decision, at least not on the level of a social or political statement.  However, I don't try to get in the way of other people's interpretation of my work.  I just find it odd and a bit sad that a story with a strong woman in the lead has to be something that's rare and noteworthy and possibly a feminist act, and can't just be commonplace.
The "I'm not a feminist, but..." sentiment usually annoys me to no end, but Wood's sentiment practically warms my heart, and I vastly prefer it to this:
I get that injustice and inequality exist, but at the same time, I don't know why I have to get involved in this now, when I'm so young.
Since Hugo couldn't be bothered to focus on the obvious, I repeat, once again:

If you are old enough to understand that injustice and inequality exist, you most definitely do have to get involved in this now - no matter how young you are. The extent of your involvement in any particular cause or issue will be tempered by how capable you are in dealing with it and by any other responsibilities you may have, but under no circumstances do you get to put off growing up until you feel like it. Not if you expect others to respect you back.

Please also note that, as Hugo points out, feminism is a process - this is mostly because growing up is a constant process. (God knows I'm still working on both myself.) The fact that other people - even female people - are sometimes less feminist than you is no more a valid excuse for you to backslide than "but everyone else was doing it!" was ever a valid excuse with your parents. Questioning whether or not certain actions are really feminist or not - based on your experiences with the way many women react to them - is a valid and logical response. Basing your conclusion on your experiences alone, or using others stupid behaviour as an excuse for yours, are not.

Life is a Process

Apparently Hugo wants to compound the annoying.

Right off the bat, he gets it wrong. I, at least, was not annoyed because I "felt [Hugo] took it too easy on Pete when he announced that he wasn't ready to practice pro-feminism and give up some of his "bad boy" behavior" I was pissed because he failed to concentrate on the most obvious and fundamental problem with Pete's framing of the question: treating others nicely in order to get something out of them isn't really very nice.

Hugo then goes on to argue for an incremental approach - without (yet again) explaining his actual approach. As far as I can tell, the idea seems to be that he wins Pete's trust by being one of the guys, and then Pete slowly comes to see how wise Hugo really is.

First of all, sorry, but that shit ain't ever gonna to work.

By all means, use your privilege to everyone's advantage - but if you aren't using your privilege to challenge the whole idea of privilege, then it really isn't to everyone's advantage, is it? That goes for every step of the process - not just the final event - because, as you point out, there isn't one. You can challenge it a little or a lot depending on the situation - but it must always be challenged.

Secondly, yes, Hugo, we all realize that becoming feminist is a process. Amazingly enough, we know this in part because practically all of us consider ourselves to be in the middle of this process ourselves. Despite my snarkiness, I don't actually believe I know everything - even about feminism. I'm not questioning that one needs to learn to walk before one can run - I'm questioning your actual arguments.

(....and that really bad pool analogy - but others have covered that pretty well already)

As I said elsewhere, like a lot of people asking for advice, Pete's question just screams "I know I should do this, but I don't want to; please tell me I don't have to!" At which point your job is not to say "No, you don't have to." Commiserating on the fact that life is both hard and strange is just fine - helping him turn this lament into further excuses not to act like an actual adult is not. Especially when such laments essentially boil down to "they are not worthy!" as one can easily argue your upholding of the of "good girls" who like "bad boys" stereotype most definitely falls under.

Pete is going to decide to be a good person or not. As with everyone else, this will be daily decision and struggle. Pete's problem is not with feminism in particular, but with being a responsible adult. Once he learns to act like an adult, you can argue feminism with him on a point by point basis - until he learns to be an adult, any feminism he adopts will be half-hearted and easily abandoned.

If your goal is to stay friends with him so that when he finally decides to become and adult, you can be there to guide him into feminism - fine. But that's not incremental, that's "waiting in the wings". And in the meantime you are reinforcing the homosociality that makes it so easy for him to stay a child when it comes to dealing with women.

You claim to be following Martin and imply that those who disagree with you think everyone should be Malcoms. I am saying that you are not even following King's example in this particular instance. King did not back down from focusing on the truth just because it might anger people. In fact, angering people was a crucial part of his strategy - the whole non-violence thing only really works when you have something to compare it to. If all they'd done was serve the protesters food when they sat down at the lunch counter, there really wouldn't have been anything to protest, now would there?

In missions work, you learn fast that hectoring (the "hellfire and brimstone" strategy) gets you nowhere fast.  Though Christianity has a history of aggressive and often violent proselytizing, modern evangelism is an elegant, intellectually sophisticated,  culturally sensitive seduction.  I'm convinced that those of us who preach feminism should use the same strategies!


Telling people they are evil doesn't win many allies. Wow. Real shocker there. So feminists should do everything they can to never show anger - no matter how justified?

Again, WTF?

Feminism has never had quite the problem most religions have had with regard to separating the sin and the sinner. Public perception that they are one and the same is a big problem, but so is public perception that feminists are bitter, frigid, hypocritical, whores who do in fact hate all men (not just acts of sexism). You are in the position to help dispel these myths. And what do you do? You argue that even feminists like "bad boys" because women don't like wussies. You go from "Being pro-feminist isn't about getting laid!" to "you're reinforcing stereotypes if you act that way!" in less than a nano second. What about focusing on "women are individuals" or suggesting "maybe the "bad boys" were just better looking than you" or perhaps even "maybe the "good girls" could see through yourmask"? What the hell happened to "feminism is about (believing women are human/treating women with respect/etc.)"?


I can't give up on him though, because in addition writing a lot of thought provoking posts, he has the sense to apologize for his most obvious mistake.

For that reason, I'll reiterate. My problem, Hugo, is not with the idea of an incremental approach, it's with the idea that an incremental approach is synonymous with nibbling around the edges. I think that, no matter what, you always need to do your best to go after the heart of the issue before you. Sometimes it's not best to push very hard, but if the issue raised is childish selfishness, and you end up spending the bulk of your time talking about showing a good front and not giving fodder to enemies, you fucked up.

It's ok that you fucked up. As long as you admit it so that you can do better next time. (even if it's only to yourself)

This whole feminism thing is a process after all.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

In Which I Pick up the Mantle of Feminist Police Yet Again

There's a lot about Ms. Healey's recent post that deserves applause - but at the moment I'd like to call attention to this part:

The patriarchy (or patriarchies) is not a conspiracy. It doesn't have to be. It is an insidious creator of and creation of culture and the ideal of male domination is so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of humanity that it is occasionally difficult to recognise its slimy appendages.
Because it can't be repeated enough, let's have that again:
The patriarchy (or patriarchies) is not a conspiracy. It doesn't have to be.
Why did I pick this part out? Because I'm getting really annoyed with the latest reincarnation of "I'm not a feminist, but...":
I'm not one of those feminists who believe in a vast patriarchal conspiracy, but....
Sweeties - that's like saying "I shave my legs, but..." or "I don't burn my bras, but..."

All of these statements set up a false dichotomy which undermines the feminist goal you are supposedly professing support for. If you feel clarity is needed, it's best left to the end. Otherwise your "clarification" is really just a concession that weakens your argument and insults those of us that actually understand what "the patriarchy" means.

psst - thanks for the links Karen

Because I'm Picky

(...and I apparently inhierited my dad's fondess for lecturing...)

Inertia is something objects have. It doesn't change unless the make-up of the object itself changes. Mass is a measurement of inertia.

A superpower that allows one to change an object's inertia would be very cool and very useful. I could make someone "light" enough that I could easily throw him or her, and I can make myself (or just parts of myself) "heavy" enough that my opponent would have a difficult time harming me. I could even start doing all sorts of cool things most people only get to do in zero g. The acrobatics I could do would be more useful and unique than my ability to use my powers as a substitute for super strength. Like Superman, I could be both impenetrable to bullets and able to leap tall building in a single bound - I would just find it more difficult to do both at the same time.

Momentum is also a quality that objects posses, but it is dependent upon both mass (inertia) and velocity. (p=m*v) Velocity is a vector, which means that it must include not only an amount (speed) but a direction. A change in velocity may consist of nothing more than a change in direction. A change in velocity will, of course, change momentum as well.

Kinetic energy is a kind of mechanical energy. Again, it is a quality used in describing objects. Like momentum, it relies on mass and velocity, but unlike momentum it relies on velocity more than mass. (KE=1/2*m*v*v)

A superpower that allows one to change an an object's kinetic energy would be rather like a superpower that allows one to change an object's momentum. Anyone can do that by applying force and affecting velocity. It's only a superpower if you can do it ten times better than normal humans. This is what Superman does - he uses super strength to change momentum and kinetic energy to a greater degree than a normal human could.

Being able to simply transfer kinetic energy from one object to another is only a superpower if you can do it without having to touch the object with anything else. Being able to play pool is not a superpower. If you are able to transfer more kinetic energy than a normal human would then your superpower is the ability to change an object's kinetic energy to an abnormal degree, not the ability to "transfer" kinetic energy. If you are able to store kinetic energy and transfer it at will, then that is your superpower. It has very little to do with inertia and claiming that your superpower is the ability to transfer kinetic energy is like saying Nighcrawler's superpower is the ability to travel from one place to another.

Sorry for the physics lesson.

I just read Jake's excellent snark on Inertia (via When Fangirls Attack) and I'm not going to blame anyone in particular (I have no idea if the fault lies with the people who created Inertia or with the people describing her powers), but there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding of basic physics terms going on here. Plus, I've run across even more in trying to find her powers described further: Yes, Nightcrawler's inertia does not change when he teleports, but I still rather think you meant to say that his momentum does not change when he teleports. Inertia may sound fancier and kinetic energy may sound cooler, but cool and fancy sounding words just make you sound stupid when you use them incorrectly.

I realize that comics are all about suspending disbelief (radioactive spiders, genetic mutation, crime fighting aliens that pass as bumbling reporters) but it's one thing to not limit yourself to what is known or possible, it's another to toss out Newton for no reason. I'm enjoying Runaways, Astonishing X-Men and the new Wonder Woman very much, but I worry that reading most superhero comics would be like watching The Core: I'd laugh hysterically through most of it, and yell during the rest.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Hugo's most recent "insert foot in mouth" post (hat tip Amanda) reminded me that I wanted to say something a while back about feminist friendly spaces, converting others to the cause, and polite discourse. One of Hugo's comments about believeing in the power of politeness or some such (yes, I'm too lazy to look it up) reminded me of something my mom told me about my grandfather once.

"He was always to polite to people in public," was what she said about him.

That's not an exact quote, but that was the gist of it - and she said this as if it was a virtue.

At the time, the shocking relevation was that my (then recently) deceased grandfather was likely a closet bigot. The context of the conversation was one about race, civil rights, and growing up in the south. My mom has lived in southern California since she entered junior high, but she spent her childhood going back and forth between So Cal and my grandfather's home town in Georgia. She was a small child when Brown was decided. When my grandfather was a child growing up the rural south, the youngest Civil War veterans were still alive. I've been told that my grandmother will still avoid supermarket lines if there are black people at the register.

My mother was essentially telling me that my grandfather may have been prejudiced, but he was nice enough not to let anyone he was prejudiced against know it.

I can't help but think of this when people argue for politeness for politeness sake and I wonder about the people he was polite to - in public. Did they suspect? Would they rather have known the truth? Could they sense it anyway? Did they resent the fact that the mask of politeness my grandfather hid behind made it that much harder to fight his bigotry? Were they sometimes grateful that his mask made theirs that much easier to wear? Did they apprecraite the irony that it was their honest anger that forced him to adopt the masquerade they had always been forced to be a part of?

I understand that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, I just think people need to remember that allies gained under false pretenses tend to make shitty allies. Individuals for whom the deciding factor in their political and ideological beliefs is the number of times they may get laid do not make good feminists. Being bluntly honest may be a bit "off-putting" but it's still more likely to result in a useful ally. After all, non-violence may have been a hallmark of the civil rights movement, but "polite" discourse was not. "Polite" conversation doesn't include discussions about race to begin with - and "polite" sure as hell doesn't describe the act of holding a lunch counter hostage. I rather think a hell of a lot of people considerd it downright rude at the very least.

I always hated the stupid intro to "The Real World" - the one where they talk about people not being polite and being real instead. As if the two are polar opposites and rudeness is somehow inherently more real than being considerate. I hate the idea that one must always have polite discourse for the same reason. Adhering to social norms isn't any more real than breaking them simply because you can. Pretending to respect someone isn't really any more polite than being honest about how little you really do respect them. Sometimes you have to be polite to gain allies - and sometimes you have to be honest to the point of rudeness in order to make any progress.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Yes, I am Alive

I have spent the last couple of weeks

A) being sick

B) getting my parent's kitchen ready for the remodel

C) coming home from work exhausted from moving crap around for our "remodel"


D) obsessing over the excessively geeky Dr. Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler, from Criminal Minds

I was planning on writing a semi-decent post today. However, yesterday morning, about an hour before I needed to leave for work, I discovered that someone had incapacitated all three of the cars in the driveway. Two had two tires slashed each. The other car only has one damaged tire, but two of the side windows were shattered. The best part? Two of the cars belong to my parents - who happen to be in freakin' Alaska on a cruise at the moment.

So - I spent today trying to at least get mine fixed so that no one has to drive me to work and back and I don't have to try to take the bus. (I'm all for mass transit, but this is So Cal - the mass transit here sucks and should be avoided whenever possible.)

It's like one of those riddles. You have three cars that don't work. You have very little money in your account. Most of it is being taken out on Monday to pay for one of the cars. The rest was saved up to buy books during employee appreciation days - which ends before you get your next paycheck. It's the weekend and the only people picking up at the insurance office have no idea how the insurance money gets doled out. How do you get at least one car in working order in time for work Monday morning - without spending so much that you bounce a check or can't buy yourself some books as an early birthday present? Remember that simply putting the spare on and driving to Costco Tire center won't work because you have two damaged tires and the spares for one car won't fit on the others.

Apparently, the solution to this particular riddle is a very nice older brother; a pair of level headed parents who call from Alaska to suggest putting the spare on, leaving the other end jacked up, and taking both tires to Costco in the trunk of another car; and a half-forgetten credit card that was never activated because credit card debt is bad (and you have enough of it already anyway).