Saturday, September 30, 2006

And Now For Something Serious - and Long

Just warn you all - the title wasn't meant sarcastically.

There's discussion going on over at Alas about rape. (yeah, ok, so, a little sarcasm there) The initial post was mostly about Restorative Justice, which is interesting and all, but what sucked me in was the discussion about what constitutes rape.

Two possible scenarios that are examples of not good behavior, but don't meet the legal definition of rape, were brought up. The first is in the post itself and is essentially the story of a teen girl "giving in" to her (hopefully) teen boyfriend, partly because they're alone, she has no car, and she lied to her parents about where she was, so her options for leaving are limited and carry a lot of risk. The second one was a short description of a woman who "gives in" to her boss's advances because she fears she'll lose her job.

Sailorman replies to the second with:

... the “acceptable” option was for her to quit and sue under the various acts and statutes preventing sexual harassment. Then she’d get her job back, or get paid, and he’d get fire/fined/what have you.

Nobody thinks she should “suck it up” and have SEX with him. Yuck. But if she elects not to use the alternative avenues, and decides to sleep with him because she doesn’t want to deal, it’s not rape. It’s BAD, and it’s punishable under more than one law, and it’s morally reprehensible. But it’s not legally coerced.

Now I'm going to assume that Sailorman meant "it's not illegally coerced" since he just said that it's not rape and illegally coerced sex and rape are synonymous.

While you are mulling that over - as well as the supposed absolute certainty that she 1) can afford to quit her job, 2) can manage to bring the case to trial 3) manages to win the case and 4) that this entire process is less of an ordeal than just sleeping with her boss a couple of times - I'm going to switch gears for a moment and pick on the 16 year old author I love to pick on.

so - be warned - spoilers ahead for Eragon

Although that's kinda like saying "warning: I'm going to give spoilers for Joseph Campbell's synopsis of the hero's journey, as well as some typical elements of modern fantasy!"

But seriously.

I was thinking about that stupid scene the other day and I realized why it's always bugged me so much. It's not just that it's disturbing that the desire to own, er, I mean, rescue, a virginal maiden is ingrained in young men's psyche's at such a young age. It's not even just that it's frightening that it's so important that she be virginal and something he, and he alone, owns that Paolini would feel the need to insert sexual violence into a book in which sexual desire is fairly rare - just to show that she is both virginal and his.

The main problem is that Ayra is supposed to be a hero, but she is praised for a decidedly selfish and un-heroic act. In fact, she is considered worthy of being the object of Eragon's (and the reader's) affections by this very act. Tens of thousands of people are counting on her, an entire kingdom relies on her strength and wisdom; but she uses her last bit of energy, not for one last attempt to live so that she can return to the people who need her nor to make a probably unsuccessful attack on her nations foe, no, she uses it to save herself - sexually - for Eragon.

Now, technically, plotwise, she was just saving herself. But saving herself from what!?!? The woman had already been tortured and was described as being not just on death's doorstep, but straddling the threshold. Even if, for some weird reason, she could really only affect the guards in ways unhelpful to her escape, why not fight back, even if it's just one small punch? What did her actions really gain her, anyway? Are we under the impression that the guards just looked down at their crotch and said "Oh, well, it's not up for it today, guess we'll go back to playing cards."!?!?

Now, I can see lots of reasons why her choice made sense - but it wasn't a heroic choice. I'm sure she's a very nice person, but this should present a problem to her heroic status - not a leg up.

So why did she do it? Or rather, why did Paolini have her do it?

For the same reason Sailorman wrote
Nobody thinks she should “suck it up” and have SEX with him.

Well, why the hell not?

What if she has a dying parent or a sick kid relying on her? You'd expect a father to "suck it up" when it comes to a lot of crap, wouldn't you? To the point of risking his life, even. Isn't that what heroic father figures do all the time in the stories?

Yeah, yeah, this is real life, not the movies. But that's why I brought up Eragon. (see, there is a method to my madness) Women are supposed to scarifice everything for their loved ones as well, in the stories. Everything except their "purity."

(ok, so, um, spoilers forFirefly too.)

As uncomfortable as it is to watch, there is a part of me that loves the scene in Objects in Space, Firefly's last episode, where River calmly talks Kaylee through freeing the rest of the crew, despite the villian's threats of brutal rape if she tries to do so. Sexual violence is pervasive in mass media and women fighting back - and winning - is fairly uncommon, but it's even rarer to see women risking sexual violence to save others. Oh, they'll submit to it (ahem, see: Inara in the episode with the duel) - but they don't risk it.

Why not? Well, partly because "yes means yes and no means no." Except when it doesn't. What if yes means "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than endanger the life of my child" or "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than move my parents to a dodgy nursing home in their last days" or even just "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than get grounded and not be able to go on the trip to DC" or "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than than have to deal with finding a job in a crappy economy."

Talk about the fallacies of choice feminism at it's finest.

The question is, though, are such actions on the part of the person doing the fucking illegal, and if so, is it rape?

I wrote:
If it’s a crime to threaten or attempt to do it, why isn’t it a worse crime to actually do it? As I understand it, attempted extortion is different from actual extortion. Just like attempted murder is a different crime from all the different levels of murder.

So, if threatening someone’s job in order to get sexual “favors” (don’t you just love that term?) is sexual harrassment, why is “accepting” sexual “favors” as a result of threats (overt or otherwise) still only sexual harrassment? It may not be rape as we generally use the term, but it most definitely is not sexual harrassment as we generally use the term, either.

To answer my own question: "Because Paolini wrote that even heroines avoid rape at all cost, to the point of endangering the people they are supposed to protect."

In other words, yes always means yes. You can't criminally coerce a yes except through physical threats, because nothing short of death is worse than real rape, not even torture - and even the death part is debatable. If she said yes, she must have been at least ok with it, so it's only bad in the abstract, like attempted crimes. Still punishable behavior on his part, but no trauma or victimhood on her end. No more than someone only threated with a crime, anyway, probably less, really.

The real commonality between Sailorman and Paolini is that they both deny women's ablity to be heroic when sex is involved, although they would probably disagree with my assessment. In a lot of ways, going through the ordeal of a sexual harrassment lawsuit is a heroic act (that is, after all, how they were able to make a movie about the first big lawsuit). But Sailorman denies this fact by assuming that not having sex is always the easier choice. I'm all for people being heroic, but I think it's ridiculous to make heroism a requirement for being a "real" victim of a crime. I think it's especially silly of a country whose Good Samaritan Laws exist to protect would-be heros from lawsuits, rather than anti-heros from criminal prosecution, to do so.

Can you think of a better way to cut down on sexual harrassment than to make harrassers guilty of an even more serious crime if she does ever say yes?

And can you think of a worse way to combatt sexual harrassment than for society to almost always see no crime at all if she does ever say yes, no matter the reason why?

If my giving money to an extortionist solidifies his crime, saying "yes" to sex with a sexual harrasser should do the same - not the opposite. If I can give someone money, and still be a victim of blackmail - without any physical threats involved - then I should also be able to say "yes" to sex and still be considered a rape victim, even in the absence of physical threats. It may be a lesser degree of rape, just as we have different degrees of murder, but it's still rape.

Newsflash: Focus on the Family Unaware of the Power of Alliteration

or irony...or something.

From a cool librarian's blog that I just discovered comes this article from Family News: In Focus.

In it Phil Burress with Citizens for Community Values accuses the ALA of "trying to censor those who exercise their free speech rights and say that there are books in the library that should not be available to children."

Like many people these days, Mr. Burgess is unaware of the difference between the verbs "censor" and "criticise." Well, I guess they both start with C's.

I'm not quite sure where the confusion between "say" and "do things" comes from, though. Perhaps he just believes so strongly in the power of words that he thinks that making a formal challenge is no more significant of an action than stating an opinion out loud.

Focus on the Family makes a point of saying that while "[f]our hundred books were challenged in 2005. None were banned," and that "hundreds of books that have been challenged...not banned."

Yet somehow Josh Montez, the author of the article, misses the significance of the not only the verb "tried" (as in "tried to ban") in the ALA's radio spot (despite quoting the entire thing) but also the fact that "banned" and "books" both begin with B's.

Maybe the book that covered alliteration and grammar was "challenged" and moved to the adult section of Mr. Montez's and Mr. Burgess's hometown library.

And yes, I'm completely aware of the irony of posting something critiquing censorship directly after publishing random mumblings in favor of burning books.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This is What it Has Come To

Tails, Harry Potter, Narnia, even The Giving Tree - they're all toast.

Everyone will just have to go buy their Christmas gifts somewhere else because they are all going up, up, away in a puff of smoke.

There are just too many of them. They are going to eat me alive!

They must be destroyed.

Ok, well, maybe I'll save some copies of Little Women and The Princess and the Goblin. But nothing else! Not even that new one about the chicken crossing the road.

Friday, September 29, 2006

simargl_wings is cool

that is all

Adonis (and his sidekick Cupid) to the Rescue!

Adonis here...

and me, Cupid, too!

....we've been reading a lot lately about how men just aren't as pretty as women, women are just naturally sexier, blah blah, blah. And we're starting to get damn pissed off about about it.


I mean, I know we don't have any of those cool new powers like the X-men...

Please, laser eyes? I'd like to see Cyclops try and go up against the real Cylops...

So why should you listen to us, right? We're only ancient gods after all.

or Zeus!

But I, for one, am sick and tired of all you mere mortals trying your hardest to ignore the obvious truth that men's bodies are a thing of beauty....

you're all just jealous 'cause you know you can't compare to us. I'm putting you all on notice: start behaving or BEWARE MY WRATH!

(um..Adonis...that was soooo not scary)


(You need to do smething. You know, demonstrate your powers...)

(Oh, ok.)

(Ahem) So that you may know to tremble before me, I will give you just a small taste of what you deserve for such insolence...

this'll be good....
...and since sexy, beautiful men seems to be what you fear most, I give you




(I don't think that's an improvement...)

(Have you seen the way fanboys react to the idea of the female gaze...much less the gaze of the gay male?)


(It'll work, trust me.)

(Whatever you say, boss. I'm just the sidekick after all.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some Advice for Authors (and Future Authors)

Please do not go into a bookstore between mid September and the end of October to check up on the sales floor stock of your newly released book. Unless, perhaps, you are Eric Carle or Nora Roberts, but probably not even then.

If you cannot find your book, please do not walk up to the information desk and ask the nice employee there to find your book - all the while pretending to be a customer and not the author of said book. The employee in question is currently trying to do the work of two people at once because corporate is full of jackasses who recently took all the extra hours the store had saved up for Christmas. Consequently, the managers have been running the increasingly busier store you are now in on a skeleton crew for the last few weeks - and they need to continue doing so until November. The employee in front of you, and his or her manager, would much rather spend the five minutes you are sucking up either helping an actual customer or getting more books out onto the floor.

If you cannot refrain from doing this, do not be surprised if stacks of books "accidentally" fall onto - or maybe just near - you. It won't be on purpose, I swear. Really, it's just that we've realized you are right and that we need to make getting all our new books onto the sales floor our number one priority - right after customer service, ringing up customers, cleaning the bathrooms, and, of course, dealing with local authors. Unfortunately, just about everyone's books come out between September and November. That's when we get our Christmas overstock in as well. It's also when the always brilliant corporate big-wigs decide they are going to steal our store managers for a week for their annual retreat. When you are trying to get hundreds of boxes filled with thousands of books out onto the sales floor per day* - all while multi-tasking, because, well, I suppose the customers should be helped every once in a while - accidents are bound to happen with all that rushing about.

One final note....

To the nice, but slightly annoying author who came into RandomCity B&N, CA the other day and got me at the information desk: don't take it personally, but if I haven't managed to find the time to get the brand-new pop-up book by the author of Where the Wild Things Are out from under a stack of books in the receiving room (a stack of books, by the way, that not only covers an entire work table and then some, but is also taller than I am*) and out onto the floor, despite several customer requests, I really don't give a shit that your new mass market is still sitting on the top of one of carts in the back.

*ok, I lied, one more note: these are not exaggerations

My Grandma Rocks!

Thanks to her I now have a nearly new monitor that works. So, not only will it be easier to do my homework, but I may even begin posting regularly again.

Let's hear it for the pack rat/Depression Era mentality that says you should never throw anything out that works (or can be fixed) - even if you no longer need it. Woohoo!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Losing Libby

I picked up a copy of Lost: Season 2 and the latest Entertainment Weekly recently in order to catch up in time for the season premiere next Wednesday.

(warning, serious season 2 spoilers follow)

In Entertainment Weekly Stephen King wrote that:

If you didn't see Libby's death coming, join the club. Neither did I. Because, I'd argue, neither did the producers
Sadly enough, I think Stevie may be right about the producers not seeing Libby's death coming. I, however saw it the moment she and Hurley started getting close. I just wasn't expecting it so soon - I figured they'd wait until after they explained her stay in the mental ward.

I first saw season 1 of Lost last year right before season 2 began. I really liked it; partly because it was well written and partly because it had interesting, strong, female characters. However, I had a hard time going from watching all the episodes all in a row on dvd to waiting from week to week. Plus it clashed with Veronica Mars. So I hadn't see any but the first few episodes of season 2 until a few weeks ago.

I'm still curious about what is going to happen this season, so I'll likely at least try to follow it, but I must say I was really disapointed with the second season in terms of the writers/producers treatment of female characters.

Yeah, yeah, I should have seen this coming. It's not as if the first season was a fantastic tribute to women and feminism, and this is J. J. Abrams, after all. But still. I guess I just saw the glass as half full - but failed to notice the sinking waterline.

Libby is the very epitome of the WIR phenomenom. Abrams and Linderlof may not have created her just to kill her off, but she was created (or at least given a more prominent spot) with the express purpose of furthuring Hurley's character development. She was never important in her own right, only as a part of Hurley's life. The pairing was also odd from the beginning. Not because she was "hot" and he's fat, but in the fact that the writers made it feel even more forced than it needed to be by making it clear that this was mostly about the "nice guy" getting the "hot girl" instead of choosing to focus on the more likely story of two supposedly dissimilar people bonding in the face of extreme circumstances. It was more important to show Hurley's insecurities than it was to give us any solid reasons for why Libby liked Hurley and the focus was more on his ineptness when it came to romance than it was on their growing relationship. Unlike other pairings/triangles/circles on the show, Libby and Hurley were never equal partners when it came to how the writers treated their role in the relationship.

And so, when Abrams and Linderlof were looking for some way to make the season ending that much more shocking, she was the obvious choice. Not only was she expendable, but she was also an ill-fitting peice of the puzzle and her murder would create more "character development" for Hurley. The fact that the obviousness of the choice was less than obvious to a seasoned writer like King speaks to the blindness of privilege, not the orginality of Abrams and Linderlof.

The fact that we never got the expected confession from Libby made the relationship even more about him and even less about them and makes me angry rather than just annoyed and dissapointed.

The fact that the writers probably completely missed the irony of having an emotional prop character say to Hurley, merely an episode before her death, that it was insulting of him to suggest that everyone else may simply be figments of his imagination created to meet his emotional needs - well, that's just completely maddening.

So, in homage both Libby and the orginal WIR list, here is the Lost Body Count:


Steve (or was it Scott?)*

Leslie the science teacher*



fake Sawyer

Sawyer's Dad

US Marshal*

guy that flies into the engine*


Kate's "step"dad

Boone and Shannon's Dad

Sayid's friend

Hurley's grandfather

the guy that shot Ana Lucia

Mr. Eko's brother

countless people killed by Mr. Eko

window washing guy

the two Others Mr. Eko killed*


guard at Iraqi prison

drug runner


Goodwin* (how could I not remember Goodwin?)



Sawyer's Mom



Ana Lucia


countless people killed by Mr. Eko


Cindy* (or was she simply taken?)

*single episode characters/characters with no real screen time

characters in flashbacks in italics

(feel free to let me know if my count is wrong)

A few things stand out:

1) Definitely more men than women, but the situation reverses if you stick to just multiple season characters that are (er, were) on the island. Which is typical of the WIR phenomenom. It's not so much that more bodies are female (in fact the opposite is true because more characters period are male), but that women are more likely to die than men and they are more likely to exist mainly as emotional props.

2) Two of the dead women that were not main island characters were created so that main characters could attempt to save them. While many of the men who died in flashbacks did so in order to create emotional baggage for main characters, none of them were characters created to be saved. (the guy Jack tried to operate on doesn't count 'cause Jack was saving him for his daughter, not for his sake)

3) A large number of the men killed in flashbacks were fathers. As much as I'd like to make jokes about Daddy Issues, the writers already made it for me when they came up with the title "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", and besides, it really has more to to with the process of adulthood than personal problems. In the original Little Red Riding Hood, the grandmother stayed dead. In other words, they're fathers because the characters and writers are mostly men, not because dads are bad and moms are good.

4) Several of the men who died in flashbacks were murdered by main characters. They were all bad people (with the exception of Mr. Eko's crimes), but their murders were not justified. Only one woman was murdered (excepting women killed in war), and her murderer committed suicide immediately after. All the men murdered on the island were either bad guys murdered by good guys or good guys murdered by bad guys. All of the women murdered on the island were good characters murdered by good guys. I'm not sure what this means, but there does seem to be a definite gender difference when it comes to being murdered. And murder, not accidental death, is what the original WIR was really about.

One thing J. J. Abrams does do a better job than most of is creating male characters to be used as emotional props; however, he tends to focus on fathers and not mothers (even when the character is female) and still usually falls back on female characters as emotional props even when it's not about parents. The fiance in the bathtub on Alias was a notable exception; but, well, it was a notable exception, not the norm.

I loved the first season of Alias, but it quickly went downhill for me. I had hoped that Lost would turn out better, but now I'm not so sure.

If the buzz I hear is even remotely true, I probably should have just bought Battlestar Galactica instead.

edited because it's Linderlof and Abrams - not Linderhof and Abrahms, to add names to the list, and to include the quote from Libby