Monday, July 30, 2007

Feminism and Me: My Role as a Man...

Kevin: aka Thin Black Duke, of Slant Truth had a guest post up at Thinking Girl's site that I thought was pretty interesting. The topic was 10 things that men can do to end men's violence against women, but it's also a good jumping point to discuss things that men can do to help end sexism and misogyny.

As a man, my role in feminism is something that I often think about it. It occurs to me that I don't think I've actually talked about that on here, which... well... is weird. You'd think it would come up.

One thing that I think feminist men should absolutely be doing is taking other men to task for the sexism that we exhibit. When we, as men, "get it" it's important that we work to help other men get it, too. This isn't always easy, but it's necessary. This sort of goes back to the question that cme asked me about here: It's not women's jobs to be a tourguide for men.

I think that's absolutely true, as I mentioned in response to that. I do, however, think that I, as a feminist man, do have an obligation in that area. I'm under no illusion that my voice will always find a willing ear or that I'll always get things right, but I absolutely believe it can make a difference, sometimes. I think that being vocal about supporting women's rights, and helping other men see that these are important issues is one of the most important things we, as feminist men, can do. I think of it as my responsibility as a man who supports an end to sexism to step up and help other men see what I see: a world where sexism is still all to common.

We also have an obligation to examine and challange our individual sexism and the roles we play in supporting sexist systems, and to work to understand how patriarchical systems benefit us- to see how male privilege benefits us, even when we don't mean for it to. It's not enough to fight against the systemic sexism that exists outside in the world around us if we don't also take the time to examine the ways that we exhibit sexism in our personal lives, as well. Even the most well intentioned among us are likely to harbor sexist beliefs sometimes, or unconciously benefit from privileges as a result of our sex. Part of being a feminist male, to me, is working to understand and be aware of the areas that I need to improve on, and to work on noticing instances of sexism that benefit me.

It's only after we've taken the steps to recognize how sexism and privilege play into our personal lives that I think we can really begin to help educate other men about our responsibility in ending sexism. This goes back to what I was talking about in the begining of this post- it's not enough to recognize sexism and say "Yeah, sexism sucks!" That's a start, but real action takes action. We have to be willing to move from recognizing sexism, to taking action against it, and that means being vocal, and it means being willing to address sexism when we see it, and it means working to educate other men about sexism.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Well... This *is* Awkward, isn't it?

For some reason, pages don't load for me anymore.

One wonders if this is a problem because my employer made it one, or if there's something else at play.

I suspect the former.

Point being: if I make a post and it looks funny, feel free to let me know, because I can no longer see the results while I'm still at work.

Also, it's Friday again, so if there were any questions you had for me or topics you were interested in chatting about, feel free to throw them here. Reader Participation is a good thing!

Kansas City: A Great Place to Drive (Unless You're, You Know... Not White...)

You might remember the case of Sofia Salva.

Salva is a Kansas City resident who lost her baby after police refused to get her medical attention after a traffic stop. Salva was driving without proper tags, and had outstanding warrants, and police arrested her and made her spend an evening in the slammer before finally releasing her to get medical attention. All of this despite the fact that she was bleeding, and had requested medical help a dozen times.

At one point, an officer responded to her pleas that "I have a baby in my stomach and I'm bleeding!" with "How is that my problem?"

You'd think that the ensuing lawsuit and controversy would convince the police that, you know... maybe treating non-whites like shit just for being non-white isn't such a good plan.

Not. So. Much.

So, what, exactly did this woman do to deserve the treatment she got? Well, she was black, and in a vehicle that may have matched the description of a vehicle implicated in a crime. It's ridiculous. Since when did driving the same type of car as a criminal give the police the right to treat you like that? Why didn't they run her tags? Why didn't they take into consideration that she was cooperating and pregnant?

At Tony's Kansas City, some of the comments, I think, lend a bit of insight into why the police acted the way they do. I have to admit that this was the first time I've stumbled upon Tony's blog, but if the quality of comment his post attracted is any indication of the general sentiments in the area, I guess it's not a surprise that the police acted like total asshats.

It's still most disheartening, though. How do you take comments like "Seems to me that you believe every story that some Black offers." (emphasis mine), to:

Did she even have license plates to run? I'm guessing from her ethnicity she had temp tags.

And for those self-righteous politically correct d-holes who are about to call me racist? Drive around and count temp tags and note the race of the driver. Driving while black? More like driving with a "temp tag/pull me over" sign in the window.

Stories like this are outrageous, and it always blows my mind when there are people out there who try to defend such blatantly hurtful and hateful conduct. I must confess, though, that stories like this also leave me feeling completely impotent. After all, what can I do about a story like this? I can blog about it, and talk about how it makes me feel, and how horrible it is... but does that help the woman involved? Does that help push the police into changing the way that they treat people?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can We Talk About Cronyism?

This story on feministing caught my eye. I wish I could say that it surprised me that Bush would would appoint someone to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who, in his last job, "undermined the unit's mission of securing the employment rights of women and minorities in the public sector, while defending employers' rights to discriminate based on religion." Because, you know, nothing screams equal opportunity like institutional discrimination. Er. Right?

Sadly, this administration has a bit of a history with making bullshit inappropriate nominations and picking the worst possible appointees. It's so fucking ridiculous when you start to think about it. Has Bush made a single good nomination? Did someone accidently misexplain the situation to him? Is he under the impression that you're supposed to appoint people with blatant conflicts of interest to positions? Does he think that the point of the EEOC is to violate equal employment opportunities?

But, like I say, it shouldn't be a surprise. Bush has repeatedly made awful nominations, and has a habit of using... *ahem*... underhanded appointment methods. When he doesn't put people into positions that they're woefully unqualified for, he sticks morally bankrupt criminals into positions of power.

Which is odd... because Bush seems to understand the point of political appointments. The White House homepage claims that "One of President Bush's top priorities is to select men and women of the greatest ability and highest ethical and professional integrity to serve in policymaking and key administrative positions in his administration." Bush himself says of political appointments:

The success of the Bush-Cheney administration will depend on the quality appointees we choose to join us to lead this nation in the years ahead. I will look for people who are willing to work hard to do what is best for America, who examine the facts and do what is right whether or not it is popular. I will look for people from across the country and from every walk of life. I welcome all who are ready for this great challenge to apply.

Read that, then consider some of his past appointees and nominees:

Michael D. Brown - appointed to the position of Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response by Bush in 2003.
Qualifications: Um. Well... none, really. He has a BA in public admin and poli-sci from 1978. He had absolutely zero experience in emergency management before joining FEMA.

Lest you think that Brown was the only FEMA official with no business being there-
Patrick Rhode - appointed as Chief of Staff of FEMA.
Qualifications: None. Has aboslutely no experience in emergency management. But, he was an event planner for the Bush campaign. That counts, right?

Scott Morris - Appointed to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff of FEMA.
Qualifications: ... Yeah. None again. No experience what-so-ever in emergency management. Served as a marketing director for an e-business application software company, and served as a media strategist for the Bush campaign.

Claude Allen - Appointed as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and, then, in 2005, appointed to the position of Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, where he provided advice on non-economic policy issues like education, health care, HIV/AIDS, etc.
Points of interest: Supports abstinence only sex education. Opposes legalized abortion. Has made anti-homosexual comments to the press. In other words, exactly the sort of person I'd want in charge of shaping public policy. Yep.

Julie Myers - Became the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a recess appointment.
Points of interest: Lack of law enforcemnt experience

Joseph Schmitz - nominated to be Defense Department Inspector General.
Point of interest: Left his position to take a position with the Prince Group, who are associated with the mercenary group Blackwater USA.

Daniel E. Troy - appointed lead counsel for the FDA.
Point of interest: Has begun shooting down lawsuits against pharmecutical companies over claims that meds caused harmful and unexpected side effects. Oh, right, I almost forgot! Prior to taking this position, Troy was a lobbyist for the drug companies, and, as a lawyer, repeatedly sued the FDA.

Ann-Marie Lynch - appointed as a member of the Health and Human Services Department charged with helping provide advice to the president regarding consumer issues and medical drug policies.
Qualifications: Former drug industry lobbyist who fought attempts to institute drug price caps. After taking her position, pushed for policies that benefited drug companies and blocked reports critical of drug-company claims.

They're not the only ones- Bush has appointed over 100 former lobbyist and advocates into positions where they're expected to help govern the very industries they used to work for.

George Deutsch - Appointed to be the press officer for NASA.
Qualifications: Claimed to have graduated with a BA in journalism from Texas A&M, but didn't graduate until a year after he resigned. Instructed NASA website designers to add the word "theory" after every occurrence of the phrase "Big Bang" on NASA sites, claiming that "this is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue."

Philip Cooney - Appointed to head the Council on Environmental Quality.
Qualifications: Despite the position being of scientific nature, Cooney holds no science experience, but is actually a lawyer and holds a BA in economics. Prior to holding this position he worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute who opposed emissions limits. Later took a position with ExxonMobil.

Eric Keroack - Appointed as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Qualifications: Keroack is a non-board certified ObGyn who opposes contraception, including the birth control pill, and has claimed that premarital sex impairs one's ability to create successful long-term relationships.

Janet Rehnquist - appointed as Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. Resigned after a Congressional investigation into her actions regarding an audit of Florida's pension fund, and allegations that she forced out top career staff members for politcial reasons.

Kenneth Tomlinson - appointed to chair the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Later resigned in the midst of scandal and accusations that he had used his position to push a decidedly political agenda in an attempt to "purge" the "liberal bias" of the CPB.

John R. Bolton - Nominated to the position of permanent Ambassador to the United Nations. After a filibuster prevented the nomination from succeeding, was appointed via a recess appointment.
Qualifications: Bolton has strongly criticized the UN for most of his career, stating "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States." There were serious allegations that Bolton abused "power and authority" over intelligence analysts and contractors, including throwing objects, making derogatory remarks about sexual orientation and weight, and other inappropriate remarks.

Hans von Spakovsky - nominated as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, later appointed by recess appointment.
Points of interest: Implicated in the recent investigations surrounding the dismissal of US Attorneys. Pushed for policies that would restrict the voting rights of American Indians, and pushed for the Georgia ID voter law (later ruled unconstitutional).

Bradley Schlozman - Appointed as US attorney in Kansas City MO.
Points of interest: Accused of politicizing the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Along with Spakovsky, Schlozman strongly advocated the Georgia Voter ID law. In 2003, approved a plan to redistrict Texas, despite Justice Department lawyer opposition and arguments that it violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

David Safavian - appointed as the top procurement official of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.
Qualifications: Had less than two years of procurement experience prior to be placed as the top procurement official in the White House. Arrested three days after resigning in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal. The previous appointee to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy has two decades of procurement experience.

Julie MacDonald - appointed to the Interior Department.
Points of interest: repeatedly rejected and mocked staff scientist recommendations about protecting threatened plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, and urged scientists to more strongly consider the positions of industry and business leaders. Her actions have resulted in adding only 10 species to the endangered/threatened species list per year, compared to 64 a year under Clinton and 59 a year under Bush Sr.

Lurita Doan - Nominated to lead the General Services Administration.
Points of interest: Proposed cutting GSA contract audits which have saved taxpayers over $1 billion in the past two years. Violated the Hatch Act when she used her position to try to come up with plans to help Republican politicians in future elections.

Oh, and let us not forget good ol' Scooter Libby. Assistant to the president. Chief of Staff to the VP. Assistant to the VP for National Security Affairs. Also: convicted of disclosing the classified identity of a covert CIA agent, obstructing justice in a grand jury investigation, perjury, making false statements to federal investigators. Oh, and Bush commuted his sentence. Lovely.

I could go on, but, honestly, it's pretty depressing when you see the level of graft and corruption present in many of the appointees. It's clear that, in a disturbingly large number of cases, it's not strong ethical character or experience that are rewarded- it's political affiliation, loyalty to the president, and backing the party line.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breaking News: Men and Women Now Equal!

h/t Feminist Philosophers

"Britain's No.1 quality newspaper website" The reports on how to "Bag yourself a 'must have' male". I'm sure this will come as much a surprise to you as it did to me, but... well, the article speaks for itself:

Once they were happy to live with saggy jawlines, baggy eyes and a 'menopaunch'. Now they are turning to surgery. Fay Weldon on how alpha woman has reduced men to the status of mere accessories

You see, Weldon tells us all about how older men are increasingly turning to surgery to improve their looks. They're getting fat sucked out, hair transplants, and face lifts to keep that youthful look. To read the article, you'd think that it's an epidemic. Maybe it is and I've just missed noticing it? I don't know. I do find it suspicious that the number of men getting the procedures aren't mentioned, only the rate of increase... but, whatever.

Lucky for us, Weldon is here to set us straight on the real cause. You see, it's not that patriarchical beauty standards that have plagued women for ages are starting to catch up with well-to-do men. It's not that we, as a society, place unreasonable emphasis on looking and staying young. It's not that the beauty industry recognize that they can exploit men's insecurities about their bodies for profit, too. Oh, no. You might think so, but Weldon clears it up for us:

Or perhaps it's all the feminists' fault? The gap between men and women has narrowed so much over the decades that the sexes are intrinsically the same, and it's happening so fast that it makes us uneasy. Equal pay, equal opportunities, Health and Safety makes wimps of us all... what's the difference between the male and the female? Except, of course, that women occupy the moral high ground, live longer, look better longer, are more employable and need men less than men need women.

That's right readers- it's The Feminists' fault if older men are getting cosmetic work done, because the gap has narrowed so much over time that the sexes are intrinsically the same.

I guess that's that, then, right? I can shut my blog down, and go home. We're all good now.

I have to admit that I'm unfamiliar with the Telegraph, but is this par for the course with them? First of all, can I just mention her egregious misuse of "intrinsically", please? No amount of work on the part of feminists is going to change an intrinsic nature of the sexes. That's... well... impossible. By definition. If the sexes are intrinsically the same, the only thing we, as feminists, can have possible done is made people recognize that fact.

Beyond that minor linguistic nit-pick... what the fuck is Weldon talking about?! This is one of the most blatantly anti-feminist and staggeringly woman-hating articles I've seen in a long time. Everything from the attached photograph, to some of the insane assumptions made in the article, to the entire premise is designed to instill a sense of fear that Women Are Ruining Men. It's sexist fear mongering at its finest.

By the time we hit line four, Weldon is off and running with her Bizzaroworld interpretation of reality. Apparently women want to be stick-like and beautiful to please themselves or impress other women - not men. - While I can understand the argument that lesbians are probably at least as worried about looking good to other women as they are concerned with meeting the largely male-centric beauty standards that society puts out, I'm not sure that's what Weldon is getting at.

For an article with the title "Bag yourself a 'must have' male" Weldon spends remarkably little time actually talking about it. In fact, the whole point appears to be that women don't have to "bag" a "must have" man, because women have all of the power now. It's we men who have to worry about bagging women. Women have all of the power, and men have to go under the knife to be attractive enough for women to deign to pick them as arm candy.

I'd love to know what world Weldon is living in where single older women who are dating "have the advantage" over older men, because older women "need only to comve over as kind and friendly" while men, it seems, need to look good. Because gods know that women are never criticized just for getting old. Heavens no.

If it weren't so completely out of touch with reality, it might be amusing.

But, maybe I'm just missing the joke? Perhaps this is supposed to be some sort of satire on... something... I don't know what... and it just went over my head? I know that Weldon used to be considered a bit of a feminist, but I sure as hell wouldn't have guessed it from that article.

Oh, and remember women: "What a woman thinks she wants is not necessarily what she really wants."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More on Video Games and Race...

I picked up Guitar Hero II a week or two ago, and I'm loving it. It's a blast being able to rock out to tracks like Carry on Wayward Son, Tattooed Love Boys, and Psychobilly Freakout... but...


Why in the hell are all of the starting characters white?

I'm looking at the characters, and you've got a bunch of white men (Eddie Knox, Axel Steel, Lars Umlaut, Izzy Sparks, Johnny Napalm) and white women (Casey Lynch, Judy Nails, and Pandora). The only non-white characters in the game? Xavier Stone and the Grim Ripper.


It's not like there's a dearth of excellent non-white guitarists.

I think it's safe to argue that, as far as guitar heroes go, it's pretty hard to top a self-taught, south-paw who played a restrung Stratocaster. What about the likes of B.B. King? Muddy Waters? Chuck Berry? Carlos Santana? Bo Diddley? Chino Moreno? Meshell Ndegeocello? Prince? Lenny Kravitz?

And the song list is pretty white, too. Hmmmm.

There's absolutely no reason why the only non-white character (not counting death) is an unlockable (I discussed this happening before, and what could be done about it).

I love me some guitar hero... so how about adding a little diversity to it in the future, okay guys?

(cross posted at 79 Soul)

Spoilerific Discussion of Race/Species and Harry Potter...

I warn you now- I'm going to be talking about Harry Potter here. I'm going to be talking about Harry Potter book 7. If you haven't read it and you don't want it spoiled a little bit, you might want to stop reading now. I'm not planning on giving away any major secrets, but I'm going to talk about the ending, and I'm not going to be held responsible for ruining the book for other people.

I'm not kidding.

Still here?

Last chance.

Okay. If you're still reading, I assume you're either fine with spoils or you've already read the book.

Over in this thread at Thinking Girl, there was some talk about how the world of Harry Potter (or, at least, the wizarding world) don't seem to have race issues- they have species issues. From the standpoint of the story, that's great- it lets the author play around with and discuss bigotry without directly pointing fingers at her readers- it can let her raise awareness and get people talking about issues of racism through the analogous treatment of the magical creatures in her world. I don't think that's particularly controversial, and I think that it works well- seeing how the wizards treat the centaurs, goblins, and the house elves as second-class citizens has pretty clear parallels to the treatment of non-whites in the muggle world.

I really appreciated the way that Rowling was handling this through most of the books- There were characters with varying levels of prejudice against the magical creatures, and the creatures themselves had differing levels of animosity towards wizards as a result. I thought it was really well thought out and executed- I loved that even the "good" characters were still guilty of speciest attitudes, in the same way that even well intentioned and progressive people are guilty of racist and sexist attitudes sometimes.

I was feeling this way, right up through the end of the last book. Now? I have to be honest, I'm a little annoyed. All the way through the books, she's made it clear that This Is A Problem. She had Hermione start SPEW, and she made it really clear through Hagrid that the poor treatment of the centaurs was leading up to a potential war. It was very clear that there's a double standard, and that it's sort of a dark splotch on the wizarding world. I kept waiting for something to happen- and then she just lets the whole thing fade away.

By the end of the book, the house elves join the battle, but nobody but the SPEW members gives a second thought to the ways that they're treated. The Goblins still get cheated. The centaurs join the battle for no discernable reason, despite the fact that their grievances are never even acknowledged.

And it's not like there weren't plenty of opportunities to have species/race discussed. I don't expect Harry Potter to solve all of his world's problems, but even a simple understanding of what is happening and the acknowledgement that it's wrong would have been a good start. Take, for example, the point when Harry makes the deal with Griphook to break into Gringotts. There, Bill warns Harry about making a deal with goblins, explaining that they have very different ideas of ownership, and that Harry would do well to remember the strained relationship between wizards and goblins.

At the beginning of their deal, Harry's bargain with Griphook is that he'll give the goblin the sword of Gryffindor back if Griphook will help them break into one of the vaults. Harry knows that they really need the sword to destroy the horcruxes, though, and plans on keeping the sword until after they destroy them, at which point he will give the sword back to the goblins. Hermione rightly points out that this isn't fair, and it's clear that the goblin will see this as welching on their deal. Instead of having Harry and Ron realize that this is true, and that it's just another example of a wizard backing out of a deal with the goblins (like Lugo Bagman did), Rowling has Harry lose his grip on the sword and has Griphook grab it and run away with it.

That was particularly unsatisfying to me- it felt like a copout. Harry had every intention of cheating Griphook out of his end of the deal, and rather than have Harry deal with the consequences of this action, or having him come to the realization that it would be wrong to cheat the goblin, she created a situation where Harry never has to think about what he's planning on doing. She gives him an out from dealing with the very significant species issues that he's confronting. In the end, Neville pulls the sword out of the sorting hat, anyway- which means that Griphook wasn't able to maintain possession of the sword, but she never addresses how this effects human/goblin relations, which are, from all appearances, pretty strained.

Like I said, I didn't expect Harry to solve the problem of speciesism in the Potterverse, but I really expected some kind of progress to be made. I expected some characters who "didn't get it" to... well... get it. There are some minor instances of characters who might have gotten it- Bill makes a comment of being friendly with a few goblins (although I don't take that very strongly, since he works closely with goblins in his position at Gringotts, and his comment stank strongly of the "I'm not prejudiced against group X, why... I have friends who are X!" sort), and Ron brings up the house elves (which is negated by the fact that he was one of the founding members of SPEW, however reluctantly). It would have been nice to see Harry understand his mistreatment of the goblins, or maybe have some of the characters call someone on using slurs against the centaurs, or... I don't know... anything, really.

Ultimately, the issue of species just seems to have faded away. For all that Rowling repeatedly brought it up, it never really takes priority, and there's absolutely no real resolution in terms of action taking place. As far as I can tell, by the end of the book, the wizarding community still treats the magical races like lesser beings, and status quo has been maintained. For me, that aspect of the book was particularly unsatisfying, and I really wished that she had made a bigger deal out of what was happening there.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Notice, and a Book Review...

Posting will probably be light (read: non-existent) until Tuesday- I'm attending some Harry Potter festivities today, and then I'll be visiting with family over the weekend, so I'm unlikely to get much by way of blogging done.

Thanks to Jaclyn for forwarding me to one of the funniest book reviews I've ever seen. It's pretty damned funny. Also, sort of true, and I'd never really looked at the book in that light.

Hope everyone has a great weekend- Oh, and Natalie: I haven't forgotten your request for my views on the candidates, by the way. I feel woefully underinformed on them right now, and I've been trying to study up... My general feeling is that none of them are liberal enough, or, at the very least, none of them seem willing to take strong stances on the issues that matter to me. I'm tired of candidates who pitch "to the middle" when what they really mean is that they're pitching to the people on the left side of the right. I want candidates who're going to take strong stances on women's rights, gay rights, and on liberal social policies, and, right now, I don't feel like they're doing it. I've generally been leaning towards Edwards, but it's not really a tremendously enthusiastic support on my part. More as I get a stronger sense of positions, though.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Speaking of Guys That Don't Get It...

Fortune smiles upon me once again: The perfect illustration of a guy who doesn't quite get it.

Dustin Seibert- and his lovely little collumn here called "Game on the train? I'll take a pass"- is, I suspect, the sort of guy that many feminist blogs are talking about when they're call someone a Nice Guy™. He gives lip service to "getting it," but his attitude, and a lot of his comments, suggest to me that he doesn't really get it.

A casual glance might give you the impression that he's most of the way there. After all, he's writing about how he doesn't approach random women on the train. That's good, right? Of course. He also mentions that one of the reasons he doesn't approach random women on the train is "I know too many women who get freaked out by such advances." He's making progress, yeah? Well... maybe not so much.

See, while it's great that he's not bothering women on the train for their numbers, his attitude about the whole thing is depressingly angry and snide. Right after acknowleging that he knows too many women who are bothered by the unwelcome advances of strangers, he adds "The sneers that pop up on their faces a split-second before I even get a chance to smile say, 'I don't have a chance,' 'I'm not interested in what you're selling' or simply 'why the hell are you talking to me?!?'"

Ignoring for the moment that what he really means is "you don't stand a chance," think about that attitude for a second. His concern isn't about what the women are feeling about unwelcome advances- it's about how he feels about the rejection he gets from women who are bothered by unwelcome advances. He doesn't like feeling shut down, so he doesn't approach women.

On the one hand, the result is great- he's not bothering women and invading their personal space. On the other, the reason is a shitty one- he doesn't like feeling rejected, not because he respects their personal space. If there was any doubt about that, the stand-alone line "They're likely also thinking, 'Well, if he were really good-looking, then I might be more receptive." makes it quite clear. It's not that he thinks women don't like being bothered on the subway- it's that he thinks women want to be bothered by men more attractive than himself. He's taking a situation that ought to be about the woman's feelings and turning it back into something that's about his own.

In other words: Seibert? It's not about you. It's not about how attractive you are. It's not about how interesting or shallow you are. It's about respecting another person's right not to be pestered and hit on while they're taking the tram.

There are plenty of other cues about Seibert's mentality. He's unhappy that women might find him unattractive, but repeatedly discusses approaching attractive women: "that one very attractive women sitting by herself on your train", "Perhaps approaching a pretty young local in East Snackbite, Ill would be easier", "will the cutie standing on the corner..."

For an article talking about how Seibert doesn't hit on women on the train, he seems singularly invested in blaming women for his not hitting on them. He talks about the "inaccessibility" of women on the streets as though it's a bad thing that he can't hit on them. He refers to "lowe-culture" men who "ruin it for us good guys" as though, if only it weren't for all those classless losers, Seibert might have a chance to score some numbers on the street. After all, he's "no sketchy individual", and he's just trying to "offer substantive sonversations" that are "falling on deaf ears."

Shorter Seibert: "Poor Nice Guys! We have it so hard!"

The problem, of course, is that I think a lot of people probably read this kind of article and don't see a problem with it. They read it and they really do think "Wow, that sucks for him! Why are those women so mean to him! He's cute, and look at how nice he is!" Because he's paying lip-service to the desires of women, no matter how back-handedly, any criticism is likely to be met with resistence. After all, he respects women, so why are we so hard on him? That he spends the entire article blaming women for the situation and discussing how unfair and difficult it is that women are unreceptive to advances in public... well... never you mind that.

So, there you go, exactly the sort of subtle sexism that underlies a lot of what we've been talking about. I almost feel like I should send him a thank you note. But, somehow, "Thanks for being a sexist asshat who blames women for your problems" just doesn't seem like it'd go over well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to Confront Bigotry in a Productive Manner...

Yesterday, scarred left a great comment on my post about so-called "benign" sexism:

Have you noticed, however, that in the last years when you try to talk to someone and point out the sexism of a remark or worldview, the person gets defensive and accuses you of being "politically correct?" I'm not sure how to get beyond their defenses. I myself am getting very tired of being silent in the fact of a lot of sexism, but it seems nowadays that when a feminist speaks up, people get verbally "loaded for bear" and go after the feminist with everything they've got. Any ideas on how to cope with that or get beyond their defenses?

Believe me, I'm interested...*sometimes* I've been able to challenge people successfully, but other times it's fallen flat on its face...any thoughts?

I thought that was a great point, and worthy of a new post. I think that confronting bigotry is really hard at the best of times, but it's still a really important part of being active in helping to make change. After all, while blogging is a lot of work, and very rewarding, there's a certain level of preaching to the choir that happens. When you're out and about and someone says something really sexist, though... what do you do?

The reality is that it's really difficult sometimes to confront people about their behavior, even when you know they're wrong. You never know how people are going to react- particularly people who've already shown a willingness to be shitheads. It's certainly easier if it's someone that you know really well, because they're more likely to understand that you're not attacking them personally, just a behavior that they've exhibited. Still, it's hard to do.

Another problem, that autumn harvest points out quite well, is that:

A lot of people seem to implicitly think that racism, misogyny, and homophobia are fairly rare things in our society. The corollary to this is that racist beliefs are only held by racists, and racists are the sort of extreme aberrations from mainstream society who burn crosses on people's lawn. So when you say that what person X said is offensive, they think "No way! Person X wouldn't burn a cross." I think this is where "it wasn't intended to be offensive, so it must not be offensive" comes from.

That makes a lot of sense, and I think goes a long way to explaining where some of the "it was just a joke" comments probably come from. Most people probably don't think of themselves as racist/sexist/homophobic, so they take things personally when you suggest that they've engaged in a bigotted behavior. In other words: "Sexists, and only sexists, engage in sexist behavior. You've called my behavior sexist, so you must be calling me sexist. I'm not sexist. Therefore, my actions weren't sexist, either."

Because of this, I think that it's important to have multiple strategies for dealing with people who say or do sexist things (or any bigotted thing, really). When it's friends and family, I think that things are easier because you've already got a personal relationship with them, and they're less likely to take your comments as personal attacks, so you can more easily engage in dialogue with them. What about when it's a stranger, though? Say, someone on the bus with you?

So, what about it? Any ideas? What's the best way to react to someone who says or does something sexist in public? To someone else? To you? How do you think that feminist men should respond to sexism when they see it?

Miss the "r"... call her Ms.

Confession: I've always been a little unclear on the whole "Miss" "Mrs" "Ms" distinction. Sometimes I can't remember when you're "supposed" to use "Miss" versus "Ms". And, really, that whole adding an "r" thing because you're married just seemed so... weird. I haven't really given it that much thought lately, but reading this post over at feminasty piqued my interest.

Is there a backlash against "Ms" right now? Do people really think that it's archaic or outdated?

It wouldn't surprise me if they did, even though it's disappointing. As scarred mentioned yesterday in my post about the Travolta comment, there seems to be this sort of backlash against things that are deemed too "Politically Correct" and the honorifics are exactly the sort of thing that the anti-PC crowd would latch onto.

This is one of those things that I can go either way on: I guess I don't mind Mrs... except that there's no male equivalent. If we expect or demand that women give indication of their marital status like that, why aren't we expecting the same of us men? Perhaps "Msr" will work?

Somehow, I suspect that won't catch on.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Blatant Sexism *Isn't* Benign, Thank You Very Much...

When Cara over at the Curvature remarked about John Travolta saying that "women have power I didn't know they had" about being groped, there was a comment about this being, essentially, a non-issue. The commentor suggested that Cara should "lighten up... it's painful to see people getting offended at such benign comments..."

It reminded me a little bit of a conversation taking place over at Shrug, about sexism in RPGs. The conversation was a little different- there, the conversation was about the casual sexism a group of RPGers were engaging in, and how much the intent (or lack of) should matter in regards to the response- but there are some similar aspects.

In both cases, I think that there's a form of apologism going on that borders on concern trolling.

It's hard to know exactly what Cara's commentor was getting at, since there wasn't any follow-up, but the suggestion seems to be that, since Travolta likely didn't mean to be offensive (since his comment was described as "benign"), it's wrong to take offense. That's pretty similar to the comment over at Shrub, where it was suggested that a person who takes offense to a comment has some kind of obligation to find out what the intent was behind a comment before taking offense.

This sort of attitude is interesting- it's essentially saying "Because I didn't know that I was being offensive, I can't have been offensive." Interestingly, I'd guess that people engaging in this form of apologism don't mean to engage in apologism, either. This kind of apologism ignores the ways that positions of relative power or authority can lead to bigotry, or how easy it can be to be ignorant about the experiences of other people when one is in a position of power. It's easy not to notice how many people go hungry when you're feasting on steak every night.

Travolta's comments come from a position of extreme power. He's an upper class, straight, white, male commenting about the experiences of women based on his experiences in costume, in a safe environment, with people he ultimately has some level of control and authority over. In other words, his comments about the experiences of women come from a place of extreme ignorance. I'll totally give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably didn't mean to be offensive, and may not even understand why his comment is offensive.

Why does that matter, though?

A lot of bigotry probably comes from a place of ignorance about The Other. There's a tendency to assume that our experiences are similar to the experiences of Other People. It seems to me that Travolta is doing one of two things: 1. Making fun of, and attempting to minimize, the harassment that women go through based on his time in costume. 2. Trying to make a generalization about women's experiences based on his time in costume.

Either he really believes that it's empowering when women are groped, or he's making light of it, as though it's not that big of a deal. In either case, it's likely to be coming from a place of ignorance.

The good thing about ignorance of this type is that it can be changed. If I say something stupid and offensive, I can be corrected, and if I was unaware of what I was doing, there's the potential there for me to change that behavior and learn from the experience. If I say something offensive on purpose, confronting me about it is unlikely to change my mind, because the whole point was to say something offensive.

I'm not sure that Travolta knows or cares about whether he's offending women. My impression is that he likely doesn't give a damn. There are, however, other people who might read his comments and not understand or know that they're offensive. They might chuckle along thinking that he's just cracking a good joke. It's only by engaging his comments and making our stance clear, and explaining why these sorts of comments are unacceptable and inappropriate that we can work to change the attitudes that lead to them.

That's why it's important to engage with people who use bigotted language in their day to day lives. When someone calls something "gay" or uses gendered insults like "being girly" or "pussy" to insult or deride other's, we have an opportunity to challange ignorance and help that person understand why those comments are insulting and how they contribute towards cultural bigotry. Because the person in these cases wasn't setting out to offend, it's more likely that sie will understand where the offense came from, and might try to avoid that in the future. Someone who is unintentionally sexist is more likely to be willing to address that than someone who is actively invested in being sexist.

Which is why I find comments like that so harmful. If we're not supposed to engage with people who say things that are ignorantly sexist, with whom are we supposed to engage? If we don't point out the things that people say that are casually biggoted, what do we address? When we ignore things that seem obviously sexist, we don't do ourselves any favors. Ignoring that kind of bigotry won't help us change things. Ultimately, I think it probably hurts us, because it helps normalize that kind of thing. When casual sexism goes unchecked or unremarked upon, others can cite it and look to it as a justification for other practices.

So, no, Travolta's comment wasn't benign.
His comments were offensive, and it's absolutely appropriate to call him on his shitty behavior. The only people that would profit from silence on the subject would be sexists, and I'm not really interested in helping them.

Nebraska Judge: "We Wouldn't Want the Jury to Think You Were the Victim of a Crime, Or That You Were Accusing Someone of Rape, Would We?!"

I'm sure, by now, that most of us have heard about the case in Nebraska where a woman is being told that she can't use the word "rape" during the course of... well... a rape trial. Bowen claims that Safi raped her while she was too drunk to consent to anything. Safi's attourney requested that the judge prohibit the use of the words "rape" or "victim" during the trial, and the judge agreed. In other words, Bowen isn't allowed to say that she was raped. The defense is arguing that "rape" is a legal term, and that Bowen isn't in a position to be able to use that term. Which, quite frankly, is bullshit.

The argument here is simple: There's a constant battle between the rights of the accused and the rights of the accusor. Both parties have a right to see justice served. In the case of a trial, there's a balancing act, because the goal is to make sure that the jury is hearing the facts of the case and isn't being persuaded by irrelevent factors. Or so the story goes- given the blatant emotional pandering and the playing on prejudice that happens in trials, it can sometimes be difficult to see this. But. Whatever. In the end, there are many things that a lawyer simply isn't allowed to do, because allowing it would prejudice the jury against or for the accused. The lawyers often aren't allowed, for example, to refer to the accused as a murderer, during the murder trial. Allowing them to call the defendant a murderer prior to conviction can create the impression of guilt regardless fo the facts. I can understand that.

There is, however, a tremendous difference between saying that a lawyer isn't allowed to use legally defined words in other ways, and saying that the victim of a crime isn't allowed to use common words to describe it. The entire point of the trial is to find out whether a jury believes that Safi raped Bowen or not. Bowen has accused him of this, and she ought to be allowed to tell her story as she sees it, just as the victim of a mugging should be allowed to say that someone stole his wallet. Stealing is certainly a legally defined word, and the whole point of a mugging trial would be to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused, but it would be a gross miscarriage of justice to tell the victim- "well, you can't use words like 'stole' or 'mugged' or 'attacked' to describe the way you were beat up and had your wallet stolen."

This case has been getting a lot of publicity, and Bowen has made it clear that she has every intention of fighting for her ability to call a rape a rape. There has already been one trial that ended up in a hung jury, where Bowen was under the language ban, and this latest trial ended up in mistrial. The Nebraska Supreme Court refused to hear her complaints, and her lawyers are talking about taking this to the federal level. I say, good for her.

Refusal to follow the judge's order can result in potential jail time or worse for Bowen, but I absolutely think that this is a case worth fighting. Artificially limiting the language available to the victim of a crime trying to describe the events to a jury doesn't- as the judge suggests- help keep them from being tainted. Instead, it creates the false impression that the crime wasn't as heinous as the victim might actually have found it. Particularly when, as in this case, the judge refuses to tell the jury that there's a language gag in effect. In other words, the jury would be hearing testimony that Safi and Bowen had intercourse or sex, but wouldn't have any notice as to why Bowen wasn't describing it as rape.

On Friday, the judge declared the mistrial because of the protests taking place, and Safi's lawyer, Mock, remarked that the actions of Bowen and her family were an "irresponsible and reprehensible public campaign" to improperly influence the jury selection. Says the lawyer who called for having "rape" stricken from Bowen's testimony. Of course, when the prosecution tried to have "sex" and "intercourse" stricken as well, given that they carry the implication of consent, the judge refused. Surprising? Hardly.

As others have noted, this stinks of silencing the victims of crimes. Rape trials are notoriously difficult for victims, and this is just one more step towards silencing their testimony. Words have power, and forcing the victim to use words that carry implications of consent only makes it harder for the victims of these sorts of crimes to express what happened.

And while it's true that we should have juries that are as impartial as possible, it's insulting to everyone involved to suggest that a jury can't hear the victim say "that man raped me" without their jumping to the conclusion that it must be true. The judge has a responsibility to say "You're here for the purpose of determining the guilt or innocence in this case. You'll hear testimony, weigh the facts, blah blah blah."

Ultimately, words have power and meaning, and when a judge takes it upon himself to try to create artificial limits on the words we use to describe things, it doesn't further justice, it pushes us further from justice. It silences the victims. It limits the effectiveness of the testimony jurors will hear. The victim is forced to use words that are just as loaded and carry just as many implications, only in the other direction, and it puts an unfair burden on the person who has already been victimized once to tread lightly because the judge assumes that the jury is composed of complete morons incapable of understanding the point of the trial.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cobra: A Ruthless Terrorist Organization Determined to... Outfit Women in Stupid Uniforms?

I was a huge G.I. Joe fan when I was a kid. The show was... well... stupid, but when you're all of 7, I think that your viewing standards are perhaps a little more lax. The toys were the real treat, anyway. The Joe forces were mostly a wash, except for Snake Eyes (who doesn't love a ninja?), but Cobra? Cobra had the best troops. They were all wearing crazy hightech uniforms with cool looking helmets and had futuristic tanks and jets to fight the boring looking Joe forces.

From a feminist perspective, G.I. Joe was far from perfect. There was, for the most part, a distinct lack of women on either team. You had Scarlett and Lady Jaye on the Joe side, until the later introduction of Jinx, and you had the Baroness hanging out with Cobra Commander and Destro, and that was pretty much it. I have to at least give the show credit for trying to make the women powerful in their own right, though. The Baroness is the second in command of the entire Cobra organization, and the leader of their elite Crimson Guard unit (essentially, Cobra special forces). Scarlett was third in command of the Joe forces, and was their primary counter-intelligence officer. Lady Jaye was a master of covert operations. All three of the women were depicted as every bit as capable as- and, in most cases, superior to- the men in hand to hand combat.

They were tough

And their uniforms were actually pretty okay. Baroness, who was the femme fatale of the show, wore a "sexy" outfit, but it was clearly black leather and body armor that actually, you know... provided protection. No weird cleavage windows or underwear outfits. Scarlett's outfit was ugly, sure, but at least it was covered her whole body.

So... why, in gods' names, did Hasbro decide that Cobra would outfit women in corsets to go into battle?

Bullshit, Hasbro.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You can't keep a good woman down... but you can sure as hell rip on her clothes and hair.

I was reading through my daily blogs today, when I noticed that Jessica Dreadful took on an article appearing in Live Science about Hatshepsut.

I'm not completely sure what to make of the article. I'm going to be charitable, and assume that the writer- Meredith Small- is an Anthropologist over at Cornell, and she's written a bit about the intersection of sex and culture. It's hard to be charitable here, though, because the article just strikes such a negative tone.

Turns out, Hatshepsut was no Cleopatra. Instead, she was a 50-year-old fat lady; apparently she used her power over the Upper and Lower Nile to eat well and abundantly. Archaeologists also claim that she probably had diabetes, just like many obese women today.

Hatshepsut also suffered from what all women over 40 need—a stylist. She was balding in front but let the hair on the back of her head to grow really long, like an aging female Dead Head with alopecia.

This Queen of Egypt also sported black and red nail polish, a rather Goth look for someone past middle age.

On the one hand, I sort of feel like this is Small's attempt at... I don't know, exactly... sarcasm? Irony? Taking a stab at shitty modern portrayals of women? I can't quite tell. The "rather Goth look for someone past middle age" thing seems a little bit too out there to be serious, so it's got to be some kind of attempt at humor or snark.

Later comments support that feeling a bit. She goes on to say that, "like today, one should not be fooled by a woman's Look." She discusses how Hatshepsut was powerful and ruled Egypt with her half brother/husband, and even "grabbed the throne for herself." Still, it comes across as really aggressive and insulting. She talks about Hatshepsut being a "grand" ruler in spite of her wearing nail polish and a false beard, as though those things have anything what-so-ever to do with her ability to rule. And, you know, ignoring that the false beard was a prop. It was a symbol of the pharaoh. It'd be sort of like saying that a male judge was grand in spite of wearing robes.

Ultimately, as much as I want to think that Small is trying to be snarky, and has a point to make, her closing line, " simply can't keep a good woman down", just isn't enough to save this article from being offensive- intentionally or not.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm *Not* Trying to Take Your Toys Away...

You know what I'm really tired of?

It seems like any time a feminist critiques some sexist potrayal of women in movies/books/comics/videogames, there's someone who feels personally slighted by that. They get very defensive about it, and say things like "Well, some women are like that!" or they talk about having rights.

The impression I get is that these people are confused about the nature of the criticism. There's this undercurrent of: You're trying to take away my toys.

It's like they're worried that failure to defend the sexist portrayal of women in Soul Calibur will result in Soul Calibur being banned. Which, I admit, would bum me out, too. I love Soul Calibur. The gameplay is awesome. The character designs blow.

So, just a generally announcement: Generally speaking, when feminists criticize something, we're not trying to take your toys away, we're trying to change the way you play with them. I don't want to ban videogames. I love videogames. What I'd like is for videogames to quite hypersexualizing women characters, and to see a more reasonable distribution of character types for female players.

Stop acting like we're trying to ruin your fun.

Because you know what's funny? Gay People. And Asians. Oh, and short people. And, well... everyone but average heighted, straight, white men.

What the eff, Hollywood?

I went to see Transformers the other day (Shut up!), and was treated to the delightful previews. There was a preview for the new Adam Sandler flick, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. See, they're fire fighters, but there's something about them needing to be married to make sure that their families can get the money if they die. Or something. The point is, they pretend to be gay! See, that's funny! The preview includes the brilliant comedy bits you'd expect: When told they can kiss at the wedding, Adam Sandler punches Kevin James instead, and says something about "Yeah, that's how we are in our family." Which, of course, gets a knowing look and an "Ooooooh" from the man officiating the ceremony. Oh, and the hill-are-ee-us scene where Jessica Biel strips to her underware in front of Adam Sandler because, you know, he's gay, right? And she makes him feel her breasts. Because they're real.

Anyway. Yeah, looks like a real flippin' winner, this one. Nothing screams comedy like men pretending to be The Gay.

And if that wasn't enough brain smashing comedy genius, I got to see a preview for Rush Hour 3, as well! See, it's a loud black man, and a martial artist Asian man! And they have wacky hijinks! Woooooaaaaah! Ker-azy!

Yeah. It looks awesome. Especially the part where they're in France, and a Chinese man shouts something in French at Tucker, and Tucker responds "You Asian, man, stop embarrassin' yourself!"

Yeah. Brilliant.

I hate that. I really do. It's not that race or sex or other statuses can't be used to great comedic effect. They can. It's just that the majority of Hollywood writers seem quite content to play it low. They're not looking to poke fun at stereotypes, they're looking to reinforce them. It's possible to poke fun of and subvert stereotypes for comedy, but, far too often, being gay/black/female is the joke. If your whole schtick is "Look, I'm a man pretending to be gay! I loooove fashion." then you're not being clever. Sorry to break the news to you.

And before anyone says it: No, I havne't seem them yet. Maybe I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry will be awesome. Maybe it'll expose some of the very real and very harmful bigotry that homosexuals still face in our society. That'd be awesome. As it stands, though, the preview plays to that very same sort of bigotry. Stereotypes of homosexuality are funny. Har. Har.

Speaking of movies and previews:

Most of us have heard the news about the billboard ads and the lead-in to Captivity. Joss Whedon put up an impressive missive on his site after seeing the ads and watching the trailer. It was, shall we say, a shit storm. The news on the release party- suicide girls, cage fighters, live torture rooms, something "probably not legal" etc...- didn't help. That the party was touted as a "personal little tribute" to "women's groups" didn't, either. The whole thing painted a pretty bleak picture.

And that's the thing that's interesting to me: I know it shouldn't be a surprise, but it is. The whole controversy? All the "it's a movie about kidnapping, torturing, and murdering a woman"? It's all smoke and mirrors.

It's all PR bullshit meant to drum up controversy in support of the movie. From reviews of people who've seen the movie, and from the many posts you can find online, it's pretty clear that the whole thing was manufactured. It's all a scam. All the posters and billboards and the buzz around it being about her getting tortured and murdered? Intentional controversy to get people's interest piqued.

Which, ultimately, brought a question to my mind:

Which is worse? A guy who makes a movie about kidnapping, torturing and murdering a woman because he's an asshat who thinks that is totally awesome, or a guy who makes a movie where the woman escapes, but uses shitty adverts to sell it?

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's Reader Participation Day: Part II - Blog Title

Yesterday, I asked you what kinds of things you'd be interested in reading. Given that I gave you all of a day, I think I got some good responses. So, as promised, I now tackle your topics. Part I was about feminism and film, which you can see right below this post. Part II is about the title of the blog: cme asked me to blog about the title of my blog, and what the phrase "You don't get a cookie or a tourguide" means to me.

I came up with the title of this blog because I firmly believe that I don't deserve some kind of special prize or gold star (or cookie) just for being a minimally decent human being. I'm generally opposed to the idea that we should be bribing people to be decent human beings. When someone goes above and beyond what we should reasonably expect, we should absolutely give that person the gold stars sie deserves. But, it makes me very uncomfortable when I see men get special praise just for holding feminist opinions- as though thinking that women shouldn't be treated like shit because of their sex is or ought to be remarkable. In some sense, I suppose that it is remarkable... but it shouldn't be. Anyway, the point is that I don't expect or want extraordinary rewards for holding views that make me a minimally decent human being.

I hadn't heard that tourguide part before cme mentioned it, though. Is this a common expression? I must confess that I have slightly more ambivalent feelings about that part. I absolutely agree that women have no responsibility to give men a map to what is or is not acceptable behavior. It's not, as the saying goes, the responsibility of the oppressed to point out the oppression to the oppressors. Or something like that.

On the other hand, I do recognize the importance of having someone who can help you see through the bullshit and figure things out. I don't expect someone to hold my hand the entire way, but having a mentor or a guide can be a tremendous help in realizing how wrong some things are. I look back at my own experiences, and I'm not sure I can count the number of times that women have explained or pointed out a situation in such a way that I was able to make the connection, where I might not have otherwise.

So, I guess what I'm saying about that is that I think it's my responsibility to seek out and try to learn what I can, and to ask questions about the things I can't figure out, and to seek out the people who can help me learn about things that I don't understand. It's also my responsibility to respect that no woman is obligated to help me. I think that there are things I'm not necessarily going to be able to figure out on my own, but it's my job to find people who can help me, it's not someone else's responsibility to hand me things on a silver platter. I am helped by women who are generous and take time to explain things to me when I don't get them, but I don't have a right to that- it's a favor they're doing for me.

Does that make sense?

I think that this is a great topic, and there are some sticky aspects to it: I know that I've felt, at times, like I was getting more praise than I deserved for things that I've said because I was a man. I also know that there are some people who feel like it's important to praise or reward men who "get it" so as to encourage them or make them feel appreciated. I'm not so sure that this is the best tactic, but I understand where it comes from. There's a lot to talk about, though, and I think I'd like to hear what some other people are thinking about this.

Also: if you've got more ideas, feel free to throw them here- I'm going to try to reserve Friday to answer reader questions or to blog about suggested topics. Friday can be Reader Participation Day. Huzzah!

It's Reader Participation Day: Part I - Feminism and Film

Yesterday, I asked you what kinds of things you'd be interested in reading. Given that I gave you all of a day, I think I got some good responses. So, as promised, I now tackle your topics. Part II, which will be right above this one, is about the title of my blog, and what it means. Part I is about feminism and film: Jaclyn asked me what films I would feature, and why, if I were in charge of a feminist film festival.

That's a tough one, because (I'm almost embarassed to admit) I'm rather unfamiliar with feminist film. The majority of mainstream American film doesn't seem to be particularly feminist, though there are a few that I'd consider feminist friendly, for sure. Obviously, I'd put Alien/Aliens in there- I've written about that before, though. After reading Amanda's review of 28 Days Later, it might get a place, as well. I think I'd be remiss in not including Antonia's Line, as well, but since I actually learned about that movie through Jaclyn, I suppose that's not particularly helpful.

So, those are easy because I've written about them before or been told about them. So, let's go for the harder ones.

I suppose I'd have to start the festival off with something by Helke Sander- I confess that I've never seen her work, but the impression I get is that she's a pretty important feminist film-maker. So, I'd start with something by her, if for no other reason than that I want to see what she's all about.

I think that the Killing Us Softly documentaries are sort of a must see. I haven't seen the newest one (2000), but I remember watching the first one, and the analysis of the way that women and women's bodies are portrayed in advertising is important.

I'd also include A Question of Silence, which follows an investigation into the murder of a shop-keeper by three women. The movie serves as a device to explore the nature of sex-based oppression, and is an excellent analysis of the ways that the personal can become political- the murder of the shop-keeper is assumed to be an act with some kind of individual, personal, or phsychological motive, but, by the end, the psychiatrist (and the viewer) realize that the murder was, in fact, a political, not personal, act stemming from larger social inequalities. There's a lot here about the ways that women interact with each other, and how connections can be made.

I've heard some good things about Girls Town, as well, though- like Sander's films- I haven't seen it. It deals with a girl who commits suicide, and how the fallout from this leads her friends to question their roles as working-class women in our society.

I've got a strong soft spot for The Children's Hour, with Audry Hepburn, so I might include that, as well, for an example of how women's sexuality can be used as a weapon against them.

I think that's a solid start... I'm going to think on this some more, because I'm sure that there must be many great films I'm missing. Anybody else have suggestions that they'd add to our little festival?

Also: if you've got more ideas, feel free to throw them here- I'm going to try to reserve Friday to answer reader questions or to blog about suggested topics. Friday can be Reader Participation Day. Huzzah!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Out of Town Recap...

Greetings all!

I spent the last five days visiting the lovely Boston, so I, sadly, haven't really had time to post any updates. Can I admit that I'm loathe to forego updating because I feel guilty about it? Or is that just a wee bit pathetic?

Regardless, I'm back, now, and ready to blog.

While I was in Boston, I had a chance to go to a Center for New Words event. It was their monthly Feminism and Desert event, and this month they did a book swap, which was absolutely awesome! Chocolate cake, cranberry lemonade, chocolate covered almonds, and lots and lots of books... yum.

Around 20 or 30 people came to the event (including a couple of people who, as it turns out, read my blog! Hello you two!), and the selection of books was fantastic. I brought an old copy of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and left with Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch. I picked up The Handmaid's Tale years ago, because it was one of those books that I kept meaning to read, and felt like, as a Lit major, I ought to have read... but hadn't gotten around to reading yet. Sadly, there are still many, many books left on the list. I figured that I can't have been the only person in such a situation, so I brought it along. As it turned out, the woman sitting next to me was in exactly the same situation- she'd been wanting to read it for some time, and just hadn't gotten around to picking it up, yet. So, Atwood's book found a nice, new home.

I got, as I mentioned, Bait and Switch. It has, so far, been quite interesting. The only other Ehrenreich I've read was Nickle and Dimed, but it was such an eye-opening and interesting book, that I've been wanting to read Bait and Switch since I heard about it. Given that I work in a pretty white collar position, I'm finding myself nodding along as I read- "Yeah, I've definitely heard that." I'll probably finish it this weekend.

So, now, a little reader participation: On 79Soul, I do a thing on Friday's (usually) I call List Day, but I'm not sure how well that fits in here. I thought I might give it a little nudge, though, and do a reader participation day. I was thinking I'd fish for topics from you, my readers. So, now is your chance to ask me questions, or suggest topics, or give me links or articles that you think I should check out... whatever you're interested in seeing on here, now is your chance to push it on me. Tomorrow, I blog about what you want to see.

If this is a hit, it can be a weekly thing.
So, lay it on me!