Saturday, March 28, 2009

TIGER BEATDOWN FOR DUDES Presents: That's Not Funny. No, Seriously Dude, It's Not

OMG! Boys! They are so adorable, right? For example, here is an adorable thing boys like to do: sort of deny or dance around the presence of misogyny, no matter how blatant it happens to be, when it comes from somebody they want to like!

Oh, wait, that's not adorable. That is some lily-livered bullshit. Yet people do it, particularly when they're boys: name a famous misogynist (Updike, Roth, Tarantino, Polanski, Apatow, LaBute, etc.) and I'll name you an article or appraisal that contains some cowardly, passive-voiced admission that "some have called his work misogynist." Um, some? Who are these "some?" What were their grounds for leveling this criticism? Can you, the professional critic, give us a well-reasoned argument for or against? Oh, never mind, that sentence is totally over and we're back to talking about how this dude is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Because misogyny, whether or not it exists, is not a serious issue, because women aren't important. Gotcha.

However, I have been instructed not to "read into things" too much! By dudes, no less! Since I always do exactly what dudes tell me, particularly when they seem weirdly insecure and defensive and eager to invalidate what I am saying, I have decided to take these statements at face value. When someone says that "some have called [X] misogynist," without betraying any consciousness of why that might be important, and without delivering any appraisal of the misogyny or lack thereof in the work, I will take this to mean that (a) they don't actually know what misogyny is or why it is important, (b) they have no understanding of how misogyny might be conveyed in the work of an artist and therefore cannot identify it when they see it, and (c) they are completely unfamiliar with the many, many, many works by feminist critics which they might have used to educate themselves on these matters. (Curious fact: even though they are available in pretty much every bookstore and library under the heading of "Women's Studies," dudes can actually read them, and it will not even cause their penises to fall off!) It's OK, dudes: you're not sexist, just really fucking ignorant! There, doesn't that feel better?

Well, I am here to educate and entertain. Hence, the return of TIGER BEATDOWN FOR DUDES! In this ongoing series, we will learn how to identify sexism, and also to not be total dicks about it. This week, we will focus on Art, because y'all seem to have some problems in that sphere. We will start with a fairly obnoxious, seemingly innocuous sexist trope, which I like to call


Here is an indirect way to start today's lesson: I have been watching - and enjoying! Sort of - the televised comedy series Eastbound & Down for several weeks. For those unfamiliar, it is the story of a racist, homophobic, sexist, and in all other ways loathsome ex-pro baseball player, and how he returns to his hometown and is ceaselessly humiliated therein. Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but I am fond of laughing at and/or humiliating loathsome men! So, for maybe two or three episodes, Eastbound & Down and I were cool with each other. The problem came when I realized that I was meant to root for the dude; that he was going to be rewarded; that the show, which initially tried to represent his misogyny as one of his many glaring character flaws, actually endorsed it. This problem was manifested to me through the show's most glaring flaw, which is:

Yeah, her. She is the former high-school girlfriend of the main character, Kenny Powers, played by Danny "Face for Radio" McBride. She is engaged to another dude in the show's first episode; and, in the show's first episode, which is her finest hour, she views him with the absolute disdain which is merited and necessary, given his stupidity, hatefulness, narcissism, and eye-searing lack of any remotely attractive physical characteristic.

"God, I hope he doesn't become a better person and win her back," I noted to my gentleman caller after the first episode, being all too familiar with the conventions of the genre, wherein the dude, like, does one nice thing, thereby causing the lady to forget what an asshole he is and fall deeply in love with him because women are stupid.

Well, he doesn't become a better person, anyway. He's hateful, stupid, narcissistic, and resoundingly homely throughout. He calls her a "bitch" to her face, he makes it clear that he's primarily attracted to her because she has big breasts, his speeches about how she deserves respect and love are always portrayed as dishonest and self-serving and so out-of-character only a complete idiot would fall for them (they're also primarily directed at her boyfriend, because he's the one who needs to hear them, apparently) and when they make out, he comes in his pants, thereby demonstrating that he is not only mentally and emotionally and morally and visually but also sexually inadequate, and that she stands to gain absolutely nothing whatsoever by entering into a relationship with him. By the end of the series, she's totally in love with him, and willing to start life anew with him in a different town. (This comes directly after the "bitch" thing, by the way.) Because, um...?

The "Because, Um...?" Girl is a frequent feature in your Apatow-Brand comedies (and Jack Nicholson movies, and ugly dude/hot wife sitcoms, and basically any movie Woody Allen has ever made). She is the character who gets together with the main dude for no apparent reason other than that the filmmaker feels dudes like him deserve hot pussy. Eastbound & Down is decidedly Apatow-Brand, despite his apparent lack of involvement: the main creative players are Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), and Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights, Anchorman, Stepbrothers, etcetera). Apatovian cinema, much like herpes, spreads through contact. Also like herpes, it really burns my crotch. (Joke! I do not, in fact, have genital sores! That I know of!)

Katherine Heigl's character in Knocked Up is maybe the most commented-upon case of "Because, Um...?": yes, she's way hotter and smarter and more successful than Seth Rogen, although she is still apparently so broke that she lives in her sister's house, and yes, when some random distasteful stranger gets her pregnant she decides to have the baby, thereby endangering her career and further stretching her finances although the movie makes it clear that she can't even pay for her own apartment, and yes, she decides to involve this stranger in the inexplicably carried-to-term pregnancy despite the fact that he's not responsible enough to wear a condom when fucking a stranger (and she has a weird numb vagina that can't tell the difference between a rubbered dick and a dick au naturel), and also to date him for no reason that is ever explained (do they just start fucking again as soon as she tells him she's up the creek? I have no idea! All I know is, when I learned they were having sex again, it came as a total shock!), and yes, he has one of those last-five-minutes-of-the-movie turn-arounds which causes her to end up with him despite the fact that she dumped him earlier in what is perhaps her one understandable decision throughout the course of the film, and all of this is because, um...?

Here's the thing: Katherine Heigl's character is not even remotely the most offensive or blatant case of this problem. In Superbad, the entire plot revolves around two dudes planning to get girls so drunk that the boys can fuck them, in spite of the fact that they know those girls wouldn't fuck them sober and with corresponding full and informed consent, which, if I'm not mistaken, is what we commonly refer to as "date rape," and at some point Jonah Hill confesses to a girl that he was going to get her drunk in order to rape her because he knows she wouldn't fuck him otherwise, because he likes her so much, and she is okay with this, because, um...? In Stepbrothers, there are not one but two ladies who are irresistibly drawn to the sexual charisma of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, in spite of the fact that the characters are clearly written as, in the parlance of the times, developmentally disabled, and also they look like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, because, um...? In Pineapple Express, Seth Rogen actually commits rape of the statutory variety, by maintaining a sexual relationship with a high school student, and insofar as the script acknowledges this to be a problem at all, it is supposed to be a problem relating to his "immaturity," rather than a problem relating to his being an adult man who fucks kids, and of course he never faces any consequences, and of course the girl is portrayed as oh so very Muriel-Hemingway-in-Manhattan eager to submit to the sexual advances of a future To Catch a Predator star (if there's one good thing to be said for Diablo Cody, it's that she consciously subverts this; hence Juno's lovable indie-rock pedophile being (a) refused by his teenage lust object and (b) divorced by his adult wife, thank God) and of course the relationship doesn't even end until he decides that she is not commitment-worthy, because, um...?

The skeeviest of these examples, Superbad and Pineapple Express, are both written by Seth Rogen, so I suppose you could argue that he's the real problem, but he seems to only be the most curdled and malevolent example of the misogyny underlying the "Because, Um...?" girls throughout the catalogue. In the non-Rogen-scripted Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the whole message seems to be that women who break the rules and dare to have standards for their sexual partners must pay the price. For lo, it does come to pass that the lovely and admirable and in-no-way-deserving-of-this-shit-role Kristin Bell has to offer to suck off Jason Segel in order to obtain his "forgiveness" for the mortal sin of ending a relationship that was not making her happy, and he can't get hard, which is her fault, and so he calls her the "goddamn Devil." It begins by forgetting to write reasons for women to like or fuck men; it proceeds by arguing that men are entitled to have women like or fuck them, reasons or no (hence the whole, you know, wacky-rape-hijinks thing); it ends by saying that women who don't like you or fuck you in the absence of reasons to do so need to get on their knees and suck your dick, unless they can't even do that right, in which case they're pure fucking evil. It's an old, old, old, old story: good women give sex, bad women withhold sex, and truly worthless women don't inspire men to have sex with them at all.

So then, of course, you have Eastbound & Down, where a man calls a woman a "bitch" and promises to "fuck her up (with some truth)," because she doesn't want to immediately jump into a relationship with him, and her reaction to this is to dump her fiance and move to a new city with him about five seconds later, so he basically verbally abuses her into being his girlfriend, which, if we were encouraged to look into her motivations to the same extent that we're allowed to examine the motivations of the other (male) characters on the show, would be some spooky tragic cycle-of-abuse bullshit - the show emphasizes that the only other characters who are drawn to him are deeply fucked up, I would take "deeply fucked up" as an answer here - but in the context of the show, it's all cool. Because she's not a person; she's a plot point. Because she's a woman.

Fear and contempt of women are the only motivating factors to write a character this way. In Apatow-Brand comedies, the girls who are not "Because, Um...?" girls are either bitches (wives; sexually unavailable women; professional women; ex-girlfriends) or sluts, typically of the crazy drunk variety. (Woody Allen, another prominent "Because, Um...?" writer, uses Manhattan to compress all of the above-listed "bitch" characteristics into a successful lesbian ex-wife, whom he hilariously confesses to having tried to run over with his car. HA! A man trying to murder a woman because she ended their relationship and/or is not heterosexual! It's funny, 'cause that's how a lot of women actually die!) Eastbound & Down takes this tack by having literally only two other female characters, a wife whom we're encouraged to think of as an uptight bitch and a "fuckbuddy" whose only defining characteristic is that she is such a crazy drunk slut all the time. The "Because, Um...?" girl can only exist in the negative space created by this double bind. If women have standards, they're bitches; if they don't have standards, they're sluts: try to write yourself out of this, and you find that the only feasible way to create a non-threatening female character is to give her no motivations or personality whatsoever, to turn her into a cipher who provides love or sex simply because the plot demands it.

Which, if you're a dude - particularly a dude threatened by women! - might just be a hilarious way to vent your gender anxiety and give your male character some pussy without having him face the complications inherent in dealing with actual individual female humans. If you are a female human, however, and are faced every day with people who are threatened by your existence, who are continually sorting you into the bitch/slut categories, if you know how painful and enraging it is to realize that the guy you're dating (or working for, or working with, or hanging out with at a party) is somehow incapable of recognizing that you have a subjective existence, just as deeply felt and worthy as his own, and do not exist simply as an extension of his own needs or desires, it's not that funny. It's pretty fucking bleak, in fact. Particularly when you know that your culture backs him up, and tells him that women actually do exist for his pleasure because they actually are not people like himself, and that these attitudes are so fucking normalized that even objecting to them makes you sound kind of crazy and extremist and, of course, bitchy, and that no matter how hard you work to explain and deconstruct these attitudes within the culture, no matter how prominent or successful you are in the field of said deconstruction, you're always going to be reduced to a nameless "some" who "have called [X] misogynist" in a one-sentence aside in an otherwise 100% adulatory appraisal.

So, gentlemen: the next time you see the "Because, Um...?" girl, I ask that you actually identify her as such, and recognize that she signifies both bad writing and some really reprehensible ideology, and perhaps even that you grow a ball or two and speak out against it! Because, um, it's fucking wrong.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sexist Beatdown: Now With More Saletan! Edition

Saletan, light of my life, fire of my blog posts. My sin, my soul: Sa-le-tan. He's none too fond of the abortions, that fellow! In this edition of the always-anticipated Sexist Beatdown, which is kind of like The McLaughlin Group except there's no old guy in a plaid suit yelling WRAAAWWWNG! every five seconds, Amanda Hess of the ceaselessly informative Washington City Paper blog The Sexist and I shall debate his merits!

Or maybe his merits... WILL BE DEBATING US?

No; no, they totally won't be. Enjoy!

Illustration: Here, Saletan outlines his plan to bring each and every embryo in the universe to term, in his own personal body, after which he will drop them off at Chuck E. Cheese and never look back. Or, he's talking about something else.

SADY: good morning! are you ready for SALETAN?

AMANDA: rarely am i afforded the pleasure of discussing a topic of such immediate ethical consequence!

SADY: indeed! i have now read the preface to SALETAN's book! on! abortion! It is entitled "Bearing Right," and it is about how conservatives have "won" the "abortion war" by changing the terms in which we talk about it, by, for example, not making it about a person's right to choose what happens in her own body. i have also read several columns by saletan in which he refuses to frame abortion as a question of a person's right to control what happens in her own body! so, he's learned well, one supposes.

AMANDA: and this, i suppose, is why saletan continually frames the abortion debate around pregnancies that do not happen inside a woman's body, but rather inside ... another woman's body.

SADY: exactly, or the IVF thing, which he hammers on constantly. he keeps talking about how, in the course of IVF, non-viable or extra embryos are produced and discarded. selecting embryos really pushes his buttons.

AMANDA: yes, i think it's very problematic. he thinks that when a pre-baby is in a petrie dish, it is therefore out of the realm of concern for a woman's body. but, look, it's got to go in some woman's body sometime. if saletan wants to implant all the frozen embryos in the world into his body to try to nurture them into little league, he's free to do so. BUT i am here to defend saletan!

SADY: oh ho! an unexpected position! what, pray tell, is your defense? i am probably way too hard on him, i will tell you that much for free. i mean, a lot of his positions - contraception being the best way to avoid abortion, for example - are completely sensible. however, i feel he pushes for some weird policy of shaming people to make them better. even in a 100% perfect educated world, people will miss a pill or get drunk and forget their condoms. it's not great, but it happens.

AMANDA: i think my only defense is a journalistic one. yeah. i dont think saletan and i agree on abortion, but i do share his interest in the fringe cases. the construction of his that you make fun of, an introduction, followed by a crazy ethical question like, "but, would you abort your medically unsafe pregnancy if there were a one percent chance your baby was the son of god?" i mean, i kind of LOVE those. i'm sure you take some sort of sick pleasure in them also

SADY: yes, it's true, the Saletan Curveball is strong.

AMANDA: but the point i guess is that these very uncommon cases that may never actually happen are where all the interesting debate comes in. i do often disagree with the results he draws from them though. the one where the women aborted the fetus that was possibly not hers---saletan basically says she and the biological mom should talk it out. like he's advising women who may go through this in the future---essentially, no one

SADY: exactly. i guess one of my main issues with the way he constructs these incredibly rare and weird scenarios is that i feel manipulated, as a reader. the second person that recurs - what if YOU, dear Reader, had YOUR fetus implanted in another lady's uterus? what if YOU loved YOUR fetus? wouldn't YOU be sad? - just sort of (a) runs right over these individual people and their individual perspectives, and (b) doesn't seek to allow you any empathy or identification with anyone else in the story. i feel like he's trying to back me into a corner, whereas, having a uterus, i could be either lady in some ridiculous implausible scenario. but i'm not either one! and i don't know their positions in the matter, because saletan doesn't tell me!

AMANDA: yeah. he essentially says that the person who cares more about fetuses should be able to make the decision

SADY: i say we do it biblically. cut that fetus in half! this is my King Solomon jurisprudence.

AMANDA: and in his mind, a woman who pays 100,000 for a surrogate womb cares about her fetus. the woman raking in the cash is just punching the clock. i looked at where the money goes, when you pay a company to find you a surrogate womb. one interesting tidbit: you have to pay the woman carrying the fetus $2,000 if you choose to abort it

SADY: oh, yowza.

AMANDA: so the assumption is that the bother or emotional stress of having to become pregnant and then abort it is worth 2,000 dollars. i say, if those women have to spend more than that on their pregnancies of these alien fetuses, that is when they are clear to abort without saletan's concern. think about it---their abortion grief is established to be worth only 2,000 bucks to the people who donated the embryo. spending more than that on not aborting the baby is charity, in my opinion. i wish saletan would get even deeper into his arguments, is what i'm saying. the columns are just too short. i need more what ifs!!

SADY: exactly, yet when he raised the issue of surrogates terminating the pregnancies due to lack of funds, he POSTED A DUDE'S CONTACT INFORMATION so that people could contact him to stop it. without checking with the dude to see whether any surrogates actually sought to do so! and my understanding is, one did, then changed her mind, so there are Zero Aborting Broke Surrogates in the picture. yet that dude got a whole lot of e-mails, unexpectedly, probably some from 100% certified crazy-pantses. and saletan didn't check on this? he has the dude's contact information! yet did not use it!this is what i mean when i say that he has no concern for the people in the picture.

AMANDA: yeah, and he did then say---well, i mean, these women are working for free and they deserve the money anyway. but why is this different from any other sort of breach of contract? you get the money LATER, in court. not from saletan.

SADY: hah, yeah, maybe he should just set up a paypal link on the page!

AMANDA: i guess he feels like the "pregnancy" and the "women" are so delicate that they need the money now, or a terrible ethical situation will rise again. but i applaud saletan for bringing all this weird lady part shit to my attention, because i think it's fascinating

SADY: oh, yeah, and i agree with you. more complexity = longer columns = better saletan. MORE SALETAN, is what we need! and, yes, i would never have learned as much as i have about weird pregnancy issues without him. so: thanks, guy.

AMANDA: i have a lot of unanswered questions. for example: if the woman implanted with the other lady's embryo did not abort the fetus would saletan ask her to give the baby to the other woman? or does she get to keep it? this could possibly be MORE traumatic for the other woman.

SADY: well, considering that he referred to it as THAT LADY's baby throughout, and talked about how she might never get another chance, i think he's asking her to be a surrogate.

AMANDA: shit, i would keep it. the one thing that i have to ask, personally, about all this stuff is: why is this even happening? the lengths people will go.
just buy one! i think it's cheaper

SADY: exactly! i have an ethical question: is it wrong for me to sell my babies on the black market? what if they're REALLY CUTE? but, yeah, for all the every-sperm-is-sacred thing we're hearing, adoption never even enters the picture.

AMANDA: yeah. ever sperm and egg are sacred, as long as they are mine. the other ones you have to birth, too, i just don't have any insight into what the hell you do with them once they're not fetuses anymore

SADY: well, you know. at that point the ETHICAL QUANDARIES become far less fascinating, i suppose.

AMANDA: yeah, then it's just kind of a bummer

SADY: until the ex-fetus grows up, and becomes a lady, and somehow gets pregnant with a toaster! how did THAT get in there? what do we do with the embryonic toasters? don't they deserve a chance to toast? i guess what i am saying is, there are many odd fringe cases left unexplored.

AMANDA: yeah, but the point is, we already have a mechanism by which to deal with those. the woman decides, the end. but saletan can certainly write an overture to her which she may or may not consider. what i want to know is---how do i get saletan to set up a paypal account for me? i'm currently not considering aborting anything

SADY: hah, yeah, we were all once fetuses. we deserve the right to live, and in my case, cable, which i can't afford. how do i get saletan to extend his noble efforts to my cable bill?

AMANDA: what about the fetuses without cable?

SADY: um, can they download stuff from itunes, maybe?

AMANDA: kids, they can do anything

SADY: just don't put an iphone in there, or your fetus will sext!

AMANDA: by william saletan

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God to Abortioners: You Started It!

Welcome back to Abortion Week at Tiger Beatdown! It is kind of like Shark Week, except I didn't plan it at all, and instead of sharks it has me, reveling in the slaughter of the unborn. So: more exciting than Shark Week, I would think!

Today, our Abortion Week programming centers on God. God is totally pissed about all your abortioning, dudes and ladies. It's killing babies, doncha know, and God doesn't like that. He likes it so little, in fact, that he is going to totally kill some babies, just for fun! Anyway, so saith the Lord's True Prophet Gingi "Some Crazy Lady" Edmonds, as revealed through His True Disciple Jill "Also Some Crazy Lady, But With a Blog" Stanek. Behold, sinners!

Some of you may have seen the major news story of the private plane that crashed into a Montana cemetery, killing 7 children and 7 adults.

But what the news sources fail to mention is... the [cemetery] contains... the Tomb of the Unborn... erected as a dedication to all babies who have died because of abortion.

What else is the mainstream news not telling you? The family who died in the crash near the location of the abortion victim's memorial, is the family of Irving 'Bud' Feldkamp, owner of the largest for-profit abortion chain in the nation....

Ruh-roh. Looks like God has decided to weigh in on policy matters by killing some dude's entire family again! God: Like the Mafia, but in Space.*

O Gingi! Blessed art thou among crazies! I beseech thee, mayst we hear thee gloat in an exceeding creepy manner over the deaths of these various children, and young adults, and also a pilot, who probably had nothing specifically to do with abortion in their (extremely brief, in many cases) lives? Ope thy lips, and pour unto my heart the balm of your lovingly rendered gory details!

In my time working for Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, I helped organize and conduct a weekly campaign where youth activists stood outside of Feldkamp's mini-mansion in Redlands holding fetal development signs and raising community awareness regarding Feldkamp's dealings in child murder for profit. Every Thursday afternoon we called upon Bud and his wife Pam to repent, seek God's blessing and separate themselves from the practice of child killing.

We warned him, for his children's sake, to wash his hands of the innocent blood he assisted in spilling because, as Scripture warns, if "you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you." (Ezekiel 35:6)

A news source states that Bud Feldkamp visited the site of the crash with his wife and their 2 surviving children on Monday. As they stood near the twisted and charred debris talking with investigators, light snow fell on the tarps that covered the remains of their children.

See? Gingi warned him that God was gonna FUCK HIM UP. Except... God didn't, and chose to kill some other people instead? Whatevs. God doesn't need to be bothered with these petty little details. There are charred baby remains on the ground, that's all God needs to know.

I don't want to turn this tragic event into some creepy spiritual "I told you so" moment, but I think of the time spent outside of Feldkamp's - Pam Feldkamp laughing at the fetal development signs, Bud Feldkamp trying not to make eye contact as he got into his car with a small child in tow - and I think of the haunting words, "Think of your children." I wonder if those words were haunting Feldkamp as well as he stood in the snow among the remains of loved ones, just feet from the Tomb of the Unborn?

Yes, Gingi: faced with unspeakable personal devastation, which no-one could predict and which must be more painful than anyone can imagine, I'm sure that the first thing Mr. Feldkamp thought of, standing in a cemetery near the bodies of people he had never imagined he would outlive, people he thought he would never have to grieve, was YOUR CRAZY ASS.

Lo, what saith the Holy Jill Spivak? Not much, but she hath chimed in helpfully:
Feldkamp's family has gone through tragedy before. Two years ago, his 10-month-old grandson, Chase, died after he was found to have slipped between a mattress and the edge of a bed during a nap. The child was taken to a hospital and was eventually taken off life support.

Now, all of these things are undeniably connected, because God is hateful and sadistic and wants you to undergo unimaginable pain for not doing exactly what Gingi Edmonds tells you. That much, I don't dispute! However, I do have one question: if we're defining fetuses as children, and God is killing actual children, several years after most abortions take place, isn't God, you know, performing late-term abortions?

Quick! To the Bible-Editing Software:
For God so loved the world that He aborted His only begotten Son in His 132nd trimester...

*Several theological experts have weighed in to tell me that God is not actually in space. To them, I say: phooey! He's either there or in some sort of top-secret undersea dome. We've already ruled out the North Pole; Santa lives there, so it would be crowded.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Awwww, he wrote a little defense of himself. Here, I shall translate:

I'm totally pro-choice! I don't believe abortion should be illegal. My friends think it should be illegal, though. Also, if you think it should be illegal, that's cool. Kudos for flooding that one dude with e-mails about how he must STOP THE PLAGUE OF SURROGATE ABORTIONS, even though there weren't any, because it turns out I don't research my columns. Ha ha, sorry, y'all!

Also, although I totally support abortions, if you get one, it turns out that you're a bad stupid slut who should be ashamed of yourself. THAT'S A BABY IN THERE, DARN IT!

In conclusion... um, Science?
Thank you, thank you. And now, for SEO purposes and future Saletan self-Googling: Saletan Saletan Saletan. Saletan, Saletan; Saletan. Saletan, William Saletan. Saletan, Saletan Saletan, Saletan: he blows.


Well, now he's just doing it to piss me off. For lo, another week is upon us, and it brings with it another column by liberal Republican pro-choice choice-hater William Saletan. In this week's installment: William Saletan totally supports your right to have an abortion! Also, ladies are getting abortions, and it's terrible!
If you're angry about the AIG scandal or Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme...
Oh, and I am! So angry! GRRRR. Tell me where to unleash my rage, Saletan!
...check out what's happening to the infertile couples and surrogate mothers involved in a California womb brokerage. It's a familiar tale of vanishing funds and defaulted obligations. But this time, the potential loss is bigger than property. It's pregnancy.
Um, I would maybe rather have a miscarriage than be homeless? Keep in mind, however, that I am an unnatural woman, kept barren though foul Trojan arts, and do not therefore lactate the milk of human kindness.

Anyway! Turns out that some ladies paid some other ladies to carry their fetuses to term, but paid that money into a company by the creepy and weirdly science-fictional name of SurroGenesis ("We thought we could make the babies better! Stronger! But they've turned on us! AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE") and then that company went totally bankrupt and lost all its pregnancy-funding money. So, now, the surrogates could conceivably choose to abort their pregnancies! Just like they could, you know, before any of this happened!
Thousands of women have hired themselves out as gestational surrogates. If you're the child's genetic mother, you can put a clause in the contract stipulating under what circumstances the surrogate can abort the pregnancy. But no court will enforce that clause...
Damn the courts! Is there no way they can be forced to override a woman's legal right to terminate a pregnancy? Justice, why art thou blind?
...because you aren't the one who's pregnant. The surrogate is. She can choose abortion unilaterally. All you can do is stop paying her for carrying the child.

But what if it's the other way around? What if you stop paying her first? If you had hired her to sew booties for your kid, she could respond to your nonpayment by halting work on the booties.
Hmm, that's true! I guess it really is just a question of paying for the booties to be delivered. I am absolutely confident that there is no way this detour into a discussion of the ethics of booty purchase and manufacturing could be turned against me. After all, it's Saletan we're dealing with here.
But her job wasn't to deliver booties. It was to deliver the kid. If she responds by halting work on the thing you've stopped paying for, that thing is your child.
BLAM! The patented Saletan Curveball, once again!

Reader, please note that the preceding two paragraphs of Saletan's column have both ended with the word "child." Not "fetus," child. Please also note that the article is illustrated with a seemingly disembodied pregnant belly and some breasts, sans face or any identifying features. These things are not unrelated! For, you see, when you and I look at a pregnant woman - indeed, perhaps even a woman carrying a surrogate pregnancy - we see this:

Whereas William Saletan, liberal Republican and poser of ethical quandaries for these modern times, sees this:

Or, perhaps more accurately, this:

The reason that Saletan missed the boat last week - by focusing on the feelings of the "mother" whose fetus was implanted in the wrong uterus, then aborted by the uterus-haver in question, rather than the feelings of the woman who thought she had finally managed to get pregnant with her own child, only to find out that, thanks to her idiot doctor, she was wrong - is the same reason he misses the boat here, by focusing on undeniably wealthy folks who can pay for a surrogate pregnancy rather than women who agreed to get pregnant, under the condition that they would receive appropriate care and recompense, only to find that they were up a very expensive - and, I hear, physically unpleasant! - creek without a paddle. He doesn't care about the pregnant women. He barely even recognizes them as people. What he cares about are people who (he assumes, never having spoken to them) oppose abortions, and the fetuses who (are quite literally, due to the fact that they possess nothing which resembles consciousness or personhood, unable to) love them. The women, with their damnable autonomy and legal rights and whatnot, are just in the way.

For, you see, William Saletan loves the little children, and suffers them to come unto him. Just so long as they don't turn out to be girls.

Anyway, it's all worth it for the correction, which goes as follows:

Update, March 24: I originally invited readers to contact Vorzimer if they wanted to help the surrogates complete their pregnancies rather than abort them. In an email this evening, Vorzimer clarified that "there are no situations in which a surrogate has elected to abort because of this financial scandal."

Ha ha, WHOOPS.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Depressing News For Depressing People PRESENTS:

The statistics are shocking: women experience 572,032 violent victimizations a year and approximately 28% of those abusers are either husbands or boyfriends; men fall victim to 48,983 incidents a year.

- Second sentence of a study on domestic violence carried out, inexplicably, by an online dating service.

"We were surprised to see that almost three times more women than men would be willing to stay in a physically abusive relationship if they either got an apology or if their loved one went for counseling," said Shira Zwebner, Relationship Advisor for

- Fourth sentence of the same study, which cites "advisors" from online dating sites as experts on domestic violence for similarly inexplicable reasons.

Number of Paragraphs which Reference Chris Brown and/or Rihanna: 3, out of 3.

Number of Headlines which Manage to Imply that It's Women's Fault for Getting Hit, Because They're Stupid: 1, out of 1.

That Headline Is: "Single Women Would Stay in Physically Abusive Relationship; Single Men Would Hit the Road."

GET IT: "Hit" the road, ha ha ha. Or some women, the numbers would seem to indicate!

Just: Kill me now. Jesus.

Most Depressing Part: The surprise. Because, you know, it's not like these figures would seem to confirm that we live in a culture wherein male violence towards women is pervasive and normalized or anything. Women just keep getting hit! By men! 'Cause they're stupid! So let's all lecture them on how to avoid abuse, rather than using this opportunity to communicate to men - the gender which has the shockingly high propensity for physical abuse in the first place! - that they should maybe not do that shit, ever.

You know, after writing about this stuff every day for six months, I'm seriously wondering whether there is anything left to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

WAHHHHHHH: The Battlestar Galactica Finale Liveblog, Because You Wanted That, Except You Didn't

Good morning! Or, afternoon, I guess! I am feeling very classy today, my friends. Granted, I am classy every day of my life. However, today is special. I am eating french toast with blackberry puree, and I am also drinking a cheap yet totally acceptable champagne, also with blackberry puree in it because that's tasty, and I am watching the VERY LAST EPISODE EVER of Battlestar Galactica. Here is my reasoning: if other people won't watch Battlestar Galactica with me, they also won't be partaking of my super fancy breakfast! Suck it. 

Last week, on Battlestar Galactica: Baltar confirmed both my weird crush on him and the self-destructive nature thereof by revealing that he had an insane abusive father, then beating the feeble old man with a newspaper, Dying President Laura Roslin revealed that at one point she was super-cute with her sisters and then they all died and she ate the Sushi of Loneliness, and then the world blew up, Acting President Lee Rhymes-With-Obama fell in love with his brother's WIFE, because he is JUST THAT LAME, and also she was Starbuck, Helo revealed that at some point in the future dudes will be nine feet tall and perfect but will be married to robots on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and also the titular Battlestar Galactica (it is a spaceship, you know!) is about to basically fall apart, in space, which is depressing, but since they are all going to pretty much die anyway they are going to go on a mission to rescue Helo & Sharon's daughter which has a 0.0001% chance of success, because... well, because Bill Adama makes really good speeches, often, and all of the major characters, including Caprica Six, were incredibly noble and self-sacrificing and volunteered to join. EXCEPT BALTAR. What a dick. 

2:19: Starting with the last five minutes of the cliffhanger: OF COURSE the only President without terminal cancer was the first person to volunteer for the Death Mission. Because he's Lee Adama, people. He is a one-way Lame Train, on the way to Lametown, population: Lame Old Lee. What, it couldn't have been Tigh? 

2:22: You know, it strikes me that Gaeta's ex-boyfriend is the only queer person on the show who is not evil? Think about it: the only others were Helena "Rape: It's Interrogation Now!" Cain, and the suicide-bombing Six she was dating, and Felix "The Mutinator" Gaeta. It's the one part of the show I really, really hate. With that said, it's nice to see that Hoshi is just a regular dude who hangs out with Tigh sometimes and spills his coffee. UNLESS IT'S NOT COFFEE. 

2:23: THE FINALE BEGINS. And, ha! The lady Baltar was cheating on Six with is totally also the stripper with Tigh in the first scene! So, now we know where Baltar liked to hang out. DICK. 

2:31: OK, I just saw Bill Adama puke on himself outside a strip club. My Battlestar Galactica experience is complete. 

2:35: Sharon, PERK THE FUCK UP. I mean it. The whole ship is about to get blown up in the name of your demon spawn, so could you maybe stop hysterically weeping for like one second? 

2:38: "Thank you, Admiral Hoshi." WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT. 
2:48: "Congratulations, Mr. President ROMO LAMPKIN." WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT, AGAIN. 

2:50: And Baltar is going on the mission! And they gave him a gun! OK, now I'm totally gonna cry. 

2:56: Oh, they are having some harsh-ass star wars and explosions up in here. Also, the champagne or whatever? About half-gone. WOOOOOOOOOOO, SPLODEY. 

3:00: There is nothing worse than Lee's terrible Space Mullet of Jurisprudence. Not even the lame CGI on the actually-robot-looking Cylons. I bet the 14th Cylon is his hair. 


3:05: Oh, and also Assimilationist Sharon killed Cylon Purist Sharon, and for some reason, even though I kind of disliked both Sharons? This is where I cry, for real. 

3:10: Seriously, the actual-robot-Cylons look like an Atari game. This is so disappointing. 

3:12: And today, we celebrate the Martyrdom of St. Helo. 

3:18: And the Redemption of St. Gaius of Baltar. SO STILL CRYING, Dudes. 

3:21: "God's not on any one side. You want to break the cycle? Well, that's in our hands." So saith St. Gaius of Baltar. This is the best. 

3:22: Um, yeah, so Gaius Baltar just ended the war? Also, I'm going to the bathroom. Peace. 

3:27: "Um, I dunno. It's a lot of complicated technical information." If all science fiction contained sentences like these, I would be a science fiction fan. So: thanks, nerds!

3:29: Ha ha, Tory totally killed Chief's incredibly sucky wife. I was on Tory's side, for the record! Still: WAR ON. Again. 

3:35: Oh, and Kara totally killed them all while reciting the lyrics to "All Along the Watchtower." Whatevs. As long as I never have to hear that song again, we're cool! 

3:38: Um, SPOILER? They totally teleported back to Caveman Times. With, like, Hoshi and Lampkin. If you find me dead this afternoon? IT IS THE SOUL-CRUSHING LAMENESS THAT HAS KILLED ME. Also, Lee is giving some speech about how "science has failed us and we must start anew." OK, as of now, I promise never to watch science fiction again. This has cured me. It's over. 

3:42: You know what, Kara? Your sorrow over your dead Robot husband is nothing, compared to my sorrow over the fact that THE SHOW I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET ALL OF MY NON-NERD FRIENDS INTO FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS IS SUPREMELY NERDY BULLSHIT WITH CAVEMEN IN IT FOR FUCK'S SAKE. I am experiencing disappointment of the most epic variety. FUCK YOU, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. THIS SUCKS. 

3:49: It turns out the Dead-Wifed-Galen-Chief-Tyrol founded either Ireland or Nova Scotia. I do not give a shit which it is. If those cavemen don't turn out to have guns for hands, I'm going to implode with self-loathing for even watching this show in the first place. 

3:54: OK, whatever, Roslin is totally dead. I'm not made of stone. I'll cry. FOR THE FACT THAT SHE DIED IN THE WORST TV FINALE KNOWN TO MAN OR ROBOT. Even the redemption of Gaius Baltar cannot ease my pain. 

3:57: The secret of Lee and Starbuck is that they almost fucked while her husband, his brother, was passed-out drunk in the next room. Then he woke up, then, several years later, he got terribly dead. Then it turned out she was an angel. The End. Where is Baltar? I am sad. 

4:06: Helo's not even dead? But, whatever, they've founded the human race, in Africa, I guess, for whatever reason. Baltar is back, and Six is there. If there is any justice any world, we, their half-robot descendants, can work toward a better series finale. 

4:09: "You know, I know about farming." OK, that just saved it for me. Good job, show. 


Friday, March 20, 2009

Sexist Beatdown: Abnormal Boners Edition

Hello! And good afternoon! My computer works now, you will no doubt be pleased to note. It was totally not doing that this morning, which was sad.

And resulted in a delay in Sexist Beatdown! This week: a groundbreaking new study finds that, when you ask a bunch of boring straight people which sex acts are "normal," you come up with some pretty boring, heterosexist ideas about sex. Oh, and also: dudes are judged more harshly than ladies for getting all freaky in the sack, apparently? Must be because they're not doing it to keep their menfolks satisfied! Pervs.

... Or are they? Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I debate!

Illustration: Justin Timberlake would like to bring sexy back, but you are making it hard with all your harsh societal constraints. DON'T JUDGE JUSTIN.


SADY: hello! i am just perusing the great "who is a sex freak" study now. confession: i'm kind of bad at just reading raw statistics. did you read through it?

AMANDA: i did read through it. i skipped most of the intro.

SADY: as did i

AMANDA: but i basically get the findings

SADY: so, the operating theory behind this study is that men are judged more harshly than ladies for getting all freaky in the sack. here is an interesting fact: MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO RESPONDED TO THE SURVEY WERE LADIES. so seriously, are we surprised that girls are maybe more understanding of girls getting off in weird ways?

AMANDA: that's a good point. But i think commentators---and the original news story---are overestimating the difference between perceptions of men and women here. and i think it's important to note what respondents were asked. they were asked whether something was "normal" or "abnormal,” not whether something was acceptable or unacceptable. so when i see a question like this one:

A man (woman) in a wheelchair performing oral sex on someone who is able-bodied

do I think that's normal? I've never done this, or heard a story about this happening, or seen it in porn. i think it's very abnormal. That just doesn't fucking happen all that often. That doesn't mean that it's wrong, it's just not really an average thing

SADY: yeah, it's unusual, but probably not to folks who are romantically involved with someone who's disabled. my favorite question is "a normal weight person having sex with a person who weighs 322 pounds." surprisingly, 32% of folks surveyed thought it was "abnormal" for a "normal weight" dude to have sex with a 322-pound lady, but only 25% thought it was "abnormal" for women to have sex with a 322-pound man! That's not freaky sex time, that's the plot of "King of Queens."

AMANDA: i know. and how specific the weight is! but that's exactly where i was going to go with this---a lot of our idea (or 104 Canadian college students' idea) of what is normal comes from what we see regularly on television or in porn. you're more likely to see a 3-way with two women and a man than two men and a woman---that's "more normal.” you're more likely to see a girl get peed on than the other way around---that's "more normal.” also, i can see why some men would want to say, you know, for example, it's totally normal for a woman to want to have anal sex, because i want to have anal sex with my girlfriend.

SADY: hah, right, and a lot of that (porn) IS based on a model of sex and gender wherein men are totally active and in control and hypersexual and women are only responsive and there to gratify the dudes. that's just the way these things go.
AMANDA: right, exactly. i think the idea that this study has any implications on the sexual double standard is misleading. a man can say he thinks it's normal for a girl to want to have a threesome, and a man may want to have a threesome with two girls, but does he want to date a girl who he knows has had a threesome? that's an entirely different survey.

SADY: that's the survey of my life, friend.

AMANDA: hahaha

SADY: i do think it's interesting, though, even though we admit that we're looking at this totally overtly normative version of sex, that there are two questions with HUGE disparities: one, it's considered way abnormal for dudes not to get turned on by nekkid ladies, and two, it's considered way abnormal for dudes to get turned on by wearing lady clothes. neither of those are AS abnormal for girls.

AMANDA: you're right about that. i did read somewhere that the vast majority of respondents were heterosexual, with only one gay male reporting

SADY: yeah, precisely... and all of the questions about partner sex were phrased in an overtly hetero way, the only question where you don't know the gender of the partner are the ones where somebody's getting peed on.

AMANDA: also, while everyone thought it was abnormal for men to get turned on by children playing, only 91.7 percent of respondents thought the same of women


AMANDA: i have no explanation for that one

SADY: yeah, well, it's also more "abnormal" for dudes to have rape fantasies than ladies.

AMANDA: i think this study would be more interesting if it were accompanied by one that surveyed people about their actual turn-ons. how many dudes get turned on by peeing vs. how many women think that is normal? now we'll see who's normal!

SADY: that would be exciting! there could be a whole undercurrent of pee-love in the American populace, and we wouldn't know about it. but who's going to answer those questions honestly? this all reminds me of the bonobo porn study from a while back.

AMANDA: i know, maybe we're not ready to rehash that just yet. it would be interesting to know, at least, how attitudes about what's "normal" affect your feelings for a person. "would you be more/less likely to date a man who liked to be peed on?" i'll answer that: i would date him, but not necessarily pee on him.

SADY: i would feel bad about dating that dude. i would be unable to pee on him and i would know that he was missing out. i think he should meet a nice girl who drinks a lot of beer and coffee, that's my answer.

AMANDA: no very abnormal feelings toward you though, man. also, what university can only find one gay person out of a hundred?

SADY: exactly. i mean, these are just questions about Generic Dude and Generic Lady and their many (hetero)sexy adventures. so are we surprised that we're coming up with this super-generic picture here?

AMANDA: you're right, there's no personal investment here at all. i bet most of them don't give a shit what a theoretical person does on or off a wheelchair

SADY: exactly. there's no history there at all. like, is the wheelchair dude or lady in question having sex with his/her spouse? girlfriend? MAILMAN? we don't know!

AMANDA: and do they get off on the disability, or do they just happen to be with a disabled person? inquiring bloggers want to know. in short, this study was not nearly sexy enough

SADY: too true. one thing i have learned from this study is that the 68 ladies who took it (as opposed to the 36 men) are REALLY not into (a) dudes not getting turned on by their nekkid parts, and (b) dudes masturbating while in a relationship. are we that insecure that dudes can't occasionally NOT have boners, or get boners on their own sometimes? there are plenty of boners to go around! in conclusion, boners.

AMANDA: boners

SADY: embrace your boners, people of the world! let no-one tell you they are abnormal!

AMANDA: boners.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Which I Solve William Saletan's Problems For Him. AGAIN.

Here is a shocking confession: I kind of love Slate contributor William Saletan. This is not because I think he is "smart," or "interesting," or even "a particularly good writer." No, my reasons for loving him are far more complex. I love him because he is always asking DEEPLY STUPID QUESTIONS, in such a way as to imply that he thinks he has blown your mind with his amazing brain-teasing skills. "We all like to eat pancakes. But would you like it if a pancake... ate you?!?!?" Such is the level of the typical Saletanian inquiry.

It is especially fun when Saletan writes about reproductive choice! He has spent a lot of time thinking about it, he would like you to know, and is eager to pass around the rich, sticky juices produced by his mind-grapes. Here is his lead, this week:
Would you abort a fetus just because it wasn't yours?
Um, maybe? That sounds like a pretty decent reason to abort, as these things go. But wait, maybe William Saletan has tricked me with his crafty prose stylings!
The question sounds crazy. How could it not be yours? If it's in your body, you must be the mom, right?
OMG, SO CRAZY! He's totally right! There is no way I could have a fetus that is not my own in my uterus! Except, you know, science, and surrogates, and... no, no, he's right. This is SO CRAZY!
Wrong. Through in vitro fertilization, you can get pregnant with somebody else's fetus.
Damn! Fooled again! Well, Saletan, I guess you've won this round...

OK, so now that we know William Saletan (a) assumes his audience is so deeply stupid that they would be willing to read an article about in vitro fertilization without even knowing that such a procedure exists, and (b) is out to blow ya mind, we can proceed to the moral quandary in question, which is: some Japanese lady went and got in vitro. The doctors accidentally got another lady's fetus stuck up in her babymaker. She aborted it.
The scary scenario is the one you never expect: going through IVF and discovering, weeks into your pregnancy, that your doctor put the wrong embryo in your womb.

If you think this can't happen...
And it totally can't, right, Saletan? I mean, you just confirmed for me that I think it can't happen! There would be no reason for you to assume that on my part, unless...
... I have bad news: It just did.
BLAM! Another twist! Classic Saletan!

So, anyway, Saletan wants you to ponder this little quandary: if there's a bun in your oven, and you don't really want it for whatever reason, do you have the right to a safe and legal abortion? Maybe not, huh? (Saletan also calls himself a "liberal Republican," which would seem like another indication that he is operating at 75% brain capacity at best, or just enjoys tossing random words together to create the illusion of cleverness.)

It's generally understood that if you hire a surrogate to carry your embryo, she, not you, gets to decide whether to abort it. It may be your baby, but it's her body, and that's the legal trump card. A woman who's carrying your child against her will, as in the Japanese case, presumably has an even greater right to end the pregnancy. But what about you? You didn't sign a surrogacy contract. You made that embryo so you could give it life yourself. The doctor picked it because it looked like a good candidate to become a child, and the subsequent pregnancy proved him right. A healthy child, your child, was terminated without your consent, consultation, or knowledge. Is that right?
Oh, OK, Saletan. I see that you are legitimately confused. I mean, why else would you resort to question marks, unless it was to make some disingenuous and ineffective rhetorical point? (These are the same Saletanian question marks employed in the article about whether women might actually enjoy rape - "are women inherently less autonomous in this sense?" - for the record.) Fortunately, I have five free minutes to spare this afternoon, so I'm willing to solve this one for you.


(1) An undesired pregnancy is taking place within that woman's body.

(2) Women are human beings, whose bodily autonomy is not to be compromised against their will; forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is a violation of her human rights.

(4) As fully autonomous human beings, women have the right to terminate pregnancies taking place within their bodies, regardless of whether anyone else approves of said termination.

In conclusion:
(5) Yes, for fuck's sake, women have the right to have abortions, how stupid are you?

Be sure to stay tuned for our next installment, when William Saletan asks whether it is morally right for a woman to have a job when he so clearly needs someone to keep house and make him sandwiches. He particularly likes Reubens!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone, And Also I Write A 9,000-Word Blog Post About It For You: A Post About Battlestar Galactica

There are many lady issues facing ladies today: for example, pay inequality, the problematic coding of masculinity and femininity as oppositional, the exclusion of women from legitimate positions of authority, the goals of President Obama's Council on Women and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

OK! More importantly! Battlestar Galactica is totally almost over! 

Oh, my God, Battlestar Galactica. I love it with an epic love. Tragically for me, no-one in my life seems to understand or share this passion. No, the only people who share my love for Galactica are nerds. Nerds, on the Internet! Tragically, all of my friends - and blog readers, I assume - are awesome and cool. Therefore, before its last episode airs (on Friday, when I will not be watching it; may the gods of speedy iTunes download smile upon me in my hour of need) I would like to introduce all of you non-nerds to its wonders. You are already on the Internet, people! That is the first step! So here, for those of you who have missed out, are the key lessons to be learned from Battlestar Galactica


Did you know there was a really bad show called Battlestar Galactica in the '70s? Crazy, right? Anyway, such a show happened, and at its creamy, poop-flavored center was one Dirk "A-Team" Benedict, playing a Han Solo-esque douchebucket by the name of "Starbuck." 

Here, Face details his epic struggle to bring this character to life. He smoked, like a rebel! He drank, like a rebel! He slept around with sexy ladies, like a rebel! Like a rebel, and perhaps more importantly, like a real man. "But 40 years of feminism have taken their toll," he informs us, rebelliously. "The war against masculinity has been won. Everything has been turned into its opposite, so that what was once flirting and smoking is now sexual harassment and criminal." Benedict's main support for his theory? Well, in the current version of the show, Starbuck has all of the original character traits (and oh, so many more) but is played by a lady. 

OH MY GOD STARBUCK IS A LADY YOU GUYS IT IS AMAZING. She is the primary action hero of the show, she is tough and blunt and doesn't shower all that often, she throws punches and drinks and smokes all the time, she doesn't wear dresses or makeup or want babies or feel the need to be a gentle civilizing influence on the folks around her, she takes obvious and obnoxious pride in being stronger and braver than anyone else, and she continually hooks up with dudes because she thinks they're pretty but is never, ever, ever soft and squishy about it (Apollo, the dude protagonist/foil, has had about 50,000 scenes with her where he is like "but I loooove youuuuuuuu" and she is like, "tough nuts, thanks for the intercourse," and no matter how many times this happens it is never cheesy like it was when Cameron inexplicably did it on House that one time. It is great). 

EXHIBIT A: Yeah, she does this a lot. 

The second I saw new Starbuck, with her biceps gleaming like salvation, I knew that it was insane and awesome and fabulous that a female character with zero traces of conventional femininity was not only in a television show, but was one of its central characters. There is a reason Starbuck is pissing Dirk Benedict off, I am telling you. ("Faceman is not the same as Facewoman. Nor does a Stardoe a Starbuck make. Men hand out cigars. Women 'hand out' babies.") That reason is that, yeah, those "40 years of feminism?" They made her possible. 

Oh, and also, the President is a lady? And she is totally tough and competent and maybe the best role model you could ever possibly ask for? That can happen, in fictional TV shows set several thousand years in the future. Just so you know. 


So, Battlestar Galactica begins with killer space robots, AKA Cylons, destroying 99.99% of the human race via nuclear Armageddon. This, unsurprisingly, leaves both the viewer and the surviving characters with distinctly unfriendly feelings toward the Cylons! They are scary and unfathomable and alien and They Want to Kill Us All. 

Here is another interesting detail, tucked away in the beginning of the show: humans caused the Cylon war in the first place. Cylons were robots, and were used to do the things that robots do, like unpaid labor and such, and then at some point they looked up and were like, "oh, BTW, you created us to be self-aware. Also, this is fucked up." So: killing. 

By the time we see the Cylons, they look and think like humans. They are basically indistinguishable from humans. Lots of them think they are humans, and have human memories, and have to deal with the whole Philip K. Dick mindfuck that entails. With all that in play, the show is less about the war itself than about how we deal with the Other. 

EXHIBIT B: I am just hanging with my non-robot husband, you guys, could you maybe stop yelling at and torturing and sometimes shooting me? 

The show doesn't start from a Wire place, wherein we see that every person and/or robot has reasons; it takes time to get you there, and to let you realize that the side you've been rooting for can be - and is - sometimes pretty vile. It reaches critical mass somewhere around the episode wherein we learn that humans are actually raping lady Cylons as a war tactic. That one's a downer. Then there's the one where Starbuck waterboards a Cylon, or the one where the President commits election fraud to save humanity from the Cylons, or the extended run of episodes that are basically an allegory for post-"Mission-Accomplished" Iraq wherein our analogues for the American troops are the Cylons, or the one wherein the human race sees an opportunity to commit total Cylon genocide, and takes it. 

Yeah, it's a space opera, with the requisite crap dialogue and space battles and futuristic melodramatic hoo-ha, and if you can't deal with that, fine. Lots of people can't. Still, people who think this is a show about good guys and bad guys are either not watching or maybe a little screwed up in the head. There are no good guys. There are no bad guys. There are just a bunch of guys killing the shit out of each other. They've all got valid perspectives. The thing is, they're all going to die. 


The principal antagonist of the show is Dr. Gaius Baltar. He is handsome; also, funny and charming. Furthermore, he is very smart, as evidenced by the fact that he has managed to invent both Communism and the Mormon religion in the last year and a half alone, in addition to being apparently the only scientist in the entire fleet and serving as the first Vice-President and the second President of post-apocalyptic humanity. Oh, and also there is all sorts of other stuff about him that is way less appealing! 

EXHIBIT C: Baby, if you elect me President, I swear I won't hook up with my robot ex-girlfriend and leave you to mount an insurgency against her occupying forces, resulting in a bloody and interminable ground war. 

Like, for example: he is totally selfish. Also, kind of arrogant? And petulant? And weak, and irresponsible, and has issues with women, and lies a lot? And he has these weird self-glorification/self-loathing issues stemming from the fact that he's all screwed up inside, and so no matter what is happening around him, his main agenda is (1) to make everyone love him like Daddy and Mommy didn't, and (2) there is no second point, EVERYONE MUST LOVE HIM? Basically, if you can imagine the worst boyfriend you've ever had, and make him a Communist Mormon President, in a spaceship, you've got Baltar. 

Yet you love him. Baltar, I mean; not your boyfriend. Battlestar Galactica is very good at casting interesting actors in interesting parts, and at handling moral complexity (within the limits of a show about 'splosions and robots and why war is bad, obvs). A lot of that complexity hangs on Gaius Baltar. He's relatable, he's human, he's even sympathetic: he tries to do the right thing, or tries to try, and yet he just keeps accidentally killing people. Lots of people. Like, "oh dear, it appears I've triggered a nuclear armageddon that has more or less ended the human race" amounts of people. He feels really bad about it, too. In the cliffhanger to the series finale, which involves black holes and space battles and visions from God, one of the most decisive factors is whether Baltar has managed to become a decent person. The fact that we're even asked to consider this, let alone that it could very plausibly go either way, says something about the nature of the show. 

Because he'll totally come through and save them all, right? 


Or he could douche out and let them all die, like he did last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. 

Worst boyfriend ever.  


Yep, it's a show about space wars. Wars of the star variety! Get over it; it's fun. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sexist Beatdown: OMG I CAN SEE UR BOOB LOL Edition

Sexist Beatdown! It is the highlight of my week! Yours too, if you have any sense at all. But is it... SEXY? 

Probably not sufficiently sexy, no! In this week's installment, the sexy Amanda Hess of sexy Washington City Paper blog The Sexist and I sexily discuss "sexting," the sexy texting craze that's sweeping the nation! The nation of sexy teens, that is. 

Oh, and also: if you send pictures of your boobies to the douche you are dating as an adult, it is just a bad decision? But if you send them as a teen, that is child pornography! And you will be charged with such! Just a warning.

Illustration: I did a Google Image search for "sexting" and this is what I found. THANK YOU, GOOGLE. 

AMANDA: Sexting!

SADY: oh, yes. the sexy teens, sending each other sexy messages. is there no way we can stop it? perhaps through ridiculous charges of child pornography!

AMANDA: that ought to do it.

SADY: what strikes me, with this, is the way that so much of the burden of shame - and sometimes actual, legal guilt - rests on the girls who send naked pictures. instead of the dudes who "accidentally" send these naked pictures to every other dude they know!

AMANDA: yeah, it is a weird double standard. first they're told, don't send naked photos of yourself! it is a form of "dating violence" against YOU. then, don't send naked photos of yourself! you are a pornographer, the objectifier!

SADY: hah, yeah. oh the violence of maybe sending a dude a photo of your boob! oh, the slutty pornographer you will be if you do so! it reminds me of the conversations people are having about "hooking up." (did you know the young people are doing this now?) first, girls are told they're being taken advantage of by men, who are of course the only people to actually experience a desire for sex. THEN, they're told that they're making it impossible for any man to ever NOT treat them like crap, by putting out!

AMANDA: i also wonder how much this is condescending to teens, too. is this a "teen" epidemic? don't older people also regrettably send naked photos of themselves to their significant others?

SADY: i have spoken to many adult women who are in the practice of it, yes. there was an episode of 30 Rock about it, so you know it is a pressing social concern.

AMANDA: the name is really, really dumb. it smacks of Parent. with the aid of Fox 5 at 10.

SADY: I know, right? It's very late-night-local-news, seven-ways-your-dishwasher-can-kill-you. SEX + TEXTING = SEXTING! Great work, Bob!

AMANDA: yeah. the whole thing really is just old news repackaged for a "new generation." teens have always gotten naked in front of each other. teens have always talked about it to other teens. teens have always coerced other teens to do something they're not really ready to do, in some cases. now their parents can just find out a little bit easier.

SADY: yeah, precisely.

AMANDA: they should just make some iphone app and get over it.


AMANDA: yeah. another point of concern that i have is: my phone is busted and i can't take photos. why do these teens have way sweeter phones than i do?

SADY: it's their darn permissive parents, i say! in my day, we had to use polaroids, or make crude etchings of our privates!

AMANDA: hahaha

SADY: i think that it's way easier to see the hysteria underlying ANY sex when we look at TEEN sex, because teens are supposed to have bodies specifically under control of their parents. as opposed to everyone else, who is supposed to have a body under the control of DEEP SHAME.

AMANDA: yeah, it takes about 18 years to get that ingrained in you.

SADY: haha

AMANDA: this most recent case in spotsylvania though (real name) one of the girls whose photos were spread around is twelve years old. and even i, as a relatively young person hip to the underage sex, have to pause at that one

SADY: yeah, that one gives me pause. and i think that this is a weird thing, because girls, specifically, are under pressure as soon as they hit any region vaguely definable as "puberty" to be sexy. but not SEXUAL. be hot. but DON'T GIVE IT UP. and i wonder what combination of intimate and social pressures were happening to make this girl think she needed or wanted to do this. because one thing you can't do at that age is walk a line that charged without getting confused or fucking up. and now, obviously, she's being punished for it.

AMANDA: lock her up! lock her up! this all makes me very glad i'm not in school anymore. if my naked photos were sent around to people, i can at least know that most of them would not be people i'm forced to sit still with for six hours every day of my life. it would probably just be on some blog or something. whatever.

SADY: i really think that the technology aspect of it is part of what causes the furor. i mean. not that i've never woken up and thought "oh, god, what did i do last night and is it on facebook?" but you're right, the access to a technology which allows you to notify the whole school of your boobal region, combined with the fact that none of these kids is probably even sure of how to handle sexuality ANYWAY, because they receive NINETY-SEVEN CONFLICTING MESSAGES on a daily basis, makes it scary. particularly for the olden-timey folks who are raising them!

AMANDA: i know, i'm sure they are so very confused. it's just how everything is. future employers can google you, future boyfriends can google you, stalkers can google you. things you do stick around longer but they also get buried in so many things that also stick around that i think they can become less important. not that this isn't a shocking and terrible thing for a 12 year old to go through, but i think shocking and terrible things are just changing.

SADY: right? i mean, i recall passing a note to a boy when i was maybe twelve. because i had a crush on him. and i think it contained the phrase "i wish we could make out." also, maybe lyrics to janet jackson's smash hit "if?" I WAS TWELVE. anyway, the moral of the story is that he did not return my affections and consequently read it out loud to the entire school bus. but AT LEAST IT WAS NOT AN E-MAIL, JESUS.

AMANDA: adolescence is tragic, i tell you. at least we weren't prosecuted for it

SADY: yeah. that note has been lost in the sands of time. only the memory does not fade. unlike some of these girls, who are maybe going to be on a register of sex offenders that shows up, ON THE INTERNET, for the rest of their lives! because that will show them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adventures in Victorian Literature: Kelly Clarkson Version

You know what I haven't talked about much lately? Literature, that's what! I have been remiss. Fortunately for all of us, popular singer and poetsmith Kelly Clarkson, along with chronicler of our times Katy "If I Say Being A Girl Is Lame, Boys (And Self-Loathing Girls) Will Find Me 'Rebellious'" Perry, have produced an epic for the ages.

The song of which I speak, performed by Ms. Clarkson, is entitled "I Do Not Hook Up." It is a thoughtful examination of sexual politics, and also why boys won't like you if you consent to have sex with them without extorting some promise of undying love and/or a wedding ring from them first! Let us perform some literary analysis of this groundbreaking piece.

Oh, sweetheart
Put the bottle down
You’ve got too much talent
I see you through those bloodshot eyes
There’s a cure you’ve found it
Slow motion
Sparks you caught that chill
Now don’t deny it

In the opening tableau, we are confronted with a guy who is drunk all the time, and seems like kind of a loser. Ms. Clarkson disapproves of his wanton self-destruction! Yet he has found the cure to his suffering, she insists. The cure of which she speaks is, of course, becoming her boyfriend. SHE CAN CHANGE HIM. Note to girls: this always works. That's why you should date every remotely attractive asshole within your reach.

But boys will be boys
Oh, yes they will
They don’t want to define it
Just give up the game and get into me
If you’re looking for thrills
Then get cold feet

Yet the gentleman in question rejects the self-improvement regimen suggested by Ms. Clarkson! He would prefer to make out! How crude! Kelly reflects ruefully that men are tied to their animalistic sex drives; Kelly herself cannot lubricate without the assistance of diamonds, flowers, and a weekend bed-and-breakfast retreat, and hence congratulates herself on this evidence of women's gentler, more inherently pious nature. Truly, she is the "Angel of the House," sent to be a civilizing influence upon the male gender.

Oh, no
I do not hook up, up
I go slow
So if you want me
I don’t come cheap
Keep your hand
In my hand
And your heart
On your sleeve

Goodwife Clarkson does not "hook up." Oh, no! That would be most slatternly behavior. She is not a whore, like other women - who want to have sex, if you can believe such a thing - but consents to the physical act of love only after much hand-holding and romancing, and during the act itself closes her eyes and winces and thinks of the convent in which she was raised. She is not averse to doing her girlfriendly duty, mind you; it is only that she cannot conceive of any woman being loose and bestial enough to take pleasure in the act outside of God's Holy Compact of going out for maybe a month.

Oh, no
I do not hook up, up
I fall deep
Cause the more that you try
The harder I’ll fight
To say goodnight

Also, the guy might be a raper? But whatever! As previously stated, HE CAN CHANGE. She can MAKE HIM CHANGE.

I can’t cook, no
But I can clean
Up the mess she left
Lay your head down
And feel the beat
As I kiss your forehead

This is not to say that Clarkson embraces antiquated models of gender relations, such as performing unpaid domestic labor! Ah, no: like her pre-eminent colleague, Madame Perry, she is quite rebellious, and even goes so far as to reject the feminine arts of cookery. She does, however, note that she can "clean"... up the dude's whole messy network of issues, caused probably by his ex-girlfriend! Let us pause to appreciate this clever play on words. Let us also once again note that both men's betterment, and their downfall, are always the responsibility of women. This is in no way unfair; nor should men be obliged to clean up their literal or figurative messes. A woman's work is never done!

This may not last but this is now
So love the one you’re with
You wanna chase
But you’re chasing your tail
A quick fix won’t ever get you well

Clarkson notes that "this may not last," and that one should strive to "love the one you're with." It may sound like she is embracing the "hook up" culture here, but take note, dear readers: this is what, in Literature, we call an "unreliable narrator." Or, "just singing nonsense to fill up the verse." After this baffling passage, the true meaning of which will be debated by scholars for generations, Clarkson once again castigates her gentleman caller for "chasing (his) tail," and notes that only the true and embettering love of a virginal woman like herself can "get him well," for SHE CAN CHANGE HIM. I cannot stress this enough. SHE CAN CHANGE HIM, and MAKE HIM LOVE HER, by WITHHOLDING CONTACT WITH HER VAGINA UNTIL HE FINALLY CAVES AND AGREES TO USE THE WORD "GIRLFRIEND" WHEN REFERRING TO HER. Love: it is a contract negotiation in which your goal is to manipulate the other party into giving you everything you want. No wonder the poets praise its beauty!

Oh, no
I do not hook up, up
I go slow
So if you want me
I don’t come cheap
[bla di bla bla, other girls are whores but I am the Madonna, bla di bla blee bla bloo]

Cause I feel
The distance
Between us
Could be over
With a snap
Of your fingers
Oh, oh no

Ah, and now we come to the moral. For the fair Lady Clarkson may have seemed, to our refined ears, unforgivably bold until this moment: telling a man what to do? Shocking! Yet here, she reaffirms his position as her rightful Lord, Master and Instructor. She may only provide gentle suggestions, and lead by example, as a maiden ought. Yet she awaits his command, for truly, the choice to court a woman or no should always belong to the gentleman.

Oh, no
I do not hook up, up
[bla di bloop bleep blap blorp, I-don't-want-you-the-way-you-are-I-want-you-the-way-I-want-you-to-be, blurp bum bow kazam]

Oh, sweetheart
Put the bottle down
Cause you don’t wanna
Miss out

Ah, yes: if he could only see, Clarkson protests, the joy of entering into a committed relationship with someone who uses her vagina as a bargaining chip, would like to re-arrange his priorities to suit her own, sees no problem with manipulating her partner, and will always relate to him from a position of caring yet ever-so-slightly-judgey, self-righteous for-your-own-goodism. Truly, how can the pleasures of the flesh compare to this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How To Pick Up Chicks: Try Talking to Them! And, Not Being a Douche

This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to a party, and speaking therein with someone who reads, and apparently does not hate, my blog. You will never guess what happened next: it turned out he was a dude!

Artist's representation

Yes, friends, a dude. A dude who specifically wished to speak about this post, which is about dudes who excuse themselves for not getting involved in changing sexism, because they are dudes! This was a learning experience for me: a sign, if you will, that I need to do more outreach to the dude community.  

I would argue (and am arguing, right now, in fact) that dudes can both learn about feminism and affect feminist change. Radical, I know! I believe I am the first person who has ever thought this incredibly revolutionary thing; please feel free to credit me in all your many dissertations. Also, here is another thing dudes can do: fuck up big time. 

So, inspired by President Barack H. Obama, I am forming the Tiger Beatdown Council on Men and Guys. In my very helpful pieces, tailored for those of the manlier gender, you will learn about common fuck-ups, and how to avoid them. 


The final frontier! These are the voyages of you not being a total dick, for the space of which I speak is specifically conversational. One of the things that comes with privilege is the ability to take up space within conversations: to center them on yourself, to express yourself within them safely, to position yourself as an expert or judge of conversational merit, to define "appropriate" expression, and to decide what does and does not matter (or, who does and does not matter) to the discussion. Here is an interesting thing about taking up space with your privilege: it tends to push other people out of the discussion! Also, makes you an ass! 

As you may be aware, I myself have privilege, of the white-straight-suburban-middle-class variety, and therefore can unfairly Take Up Space depending on the conversations I find myself in. Having fucked up enough (and heard enough about it) to have learned a bit about it, I will now share with you three common dick moves related to Space.  


This is what happens when somebody challenges your privilege, and you decide that they are mean, and then you require everyone to stop the conversation they are having and instead have a conversation about how your feelings have been hurt. (OR, how they've made you mad: this is maybe more common for dudes, since you all are not really allowed to admit that you have feelings other than "anger" and "horny." Poor victims of the patriarchy. I've had over five feelings in the last half-hour alone.) As I have mentioned, I myself am privileged, and have even had this reaction in the past - when somebody says something about straightness, or whiteness, or middle-classness, I get the urge to mount a defense of my bullshit, which goes along the lines of "but I'm trying, and why would you say I am doing this on purpose, and anyway my privilege doesn't really benefit me to the extent that you say it does, and you are lumping me in with hateful people, and also, wahhhhhh." I have learned a lot from others about why it is obnoxious! Renee at Womanist Musings writes about it, and you should read that, because she is very, very good. 

Here is the short version of what I have learned: conversations about the hurtfulness of privilege are not always entirely and exclusively about you. Unless the conversation begins with, "hey, Karl, we need to talk about why you are single-handedly responsible for the suffering of all women, everywhere," that is probably not what it is about! Making the conversation all about you, and using your privilege to Take Up Space therein, however, means that if you were not the assily privileged person folks were discussing before you did that, you definitely will be thereafter. 

SOLUTION: When I am in a situation like the one described above, I like to practice a special, secret tactic, known as Shutting the Fuck Up. It is like yoga, or meditation, except that it consists entirely of not talking and listening to other people until you understand what they have to say, which is usually on point, or else you wouldn't be defensive. Try it! 


This is the flip-side to the Stop Everything tactic, wherein you say something that is actually offensive to a less privileged person and then insist that they have no right to object to what you said. This is typically because you are "joking," and/or they need to "lighten up," and/or they are attempting "censorship" or "being too P.C." or (a dude once actually said this to me) "accusing you of Thought Crime." As folks my age all know, from watching TV in the '90s, there is nothing worse than being too P.C.

Except, as it turns out, being a fucking douchebag! Also, using your privilege to once again center your own voice and insist that it be heard, while defining what is "acceptable" and "unacceptable" within the conversation to align magically with what does and does not make you comfortable! Those are both worse. As we have seen, privileged people get to derail entire conversations when their feelings are hurt; yet, in a whimsical little twist, when they hurt someone else's feelings they reserve the right to insist that feelings are inappropriate, irrelevant, or wrong. This is not about your "freedom of speech," it's about the fact that your speech is privileged, and that you have more freedom than anyone else does to speak up, and to make people uncomfortable with no repercussions while never leaving your own comfort zone. See also: Rape Is Hilarious, an ongoing series by the incomparable Melissa McEwan.  

SOLUTION: Here are two tactics you can use to avoid this form of assiness. The first is our good friend Shutting the Fuck Up. Listen to the people around you until you lose the urge to be defensive; learn from them, because they are actually doing you a favor. Secondly, after you have Shut the Fuck Up for a while, you might want to try a little thing called "apologizing." Ask your folks about this, as they should have taught you how to do it in kindergarten.


Of course, in order for either of the above to happen, you would actually have to be talking to women in the first place. This, I have observed, is a problem for dudes! In many - even, perhaps, most? - of the mixed-gender interactions I have taken part in, there occurs a moment in which the dudes retreat to a special land wherein they speak only to each other, sometimes without even leaving the room, leaving the ladies of the crowd to stare blankly at each other and wonder if we should construct some sort of crude menstrual hut. This is not to say that I, a lady, don't enjoy talking to ladies! Nor do I fail to understand why dudes enjoy talking to other dudes! However, when gender segregation occurs within a conversation (a) only when dudes wish to discuss something Serious, such as Art or Politics or other spheres from which women have historically been excluded, and (b) the dudes rebuff, ignore, seek to invalidate, or somehow, mystically, actually fail to hear the women who attempt to join the conversation, it leaves the sphere of Dudes Having Dude Time, Isn't It Cute, and enters the sphere of Dudes Being Sexist, What the Fuck. 

I have observed that this can even happen in one-on-one conversations with dudes! I have no idea how, or why, but it does: a gentleman will suddenly succumb to the illusion that he has been invited onto a podium to give a special lecture on Why He Thinks What He Thinks, Which You Should Think Also, and will quite blithely cut off or talk over the woman who tries to address his points due to her unfortunate belief that she is taking part in a conversation which goes both ways. If the woman in question should actually penetrate the wall of talk, and make points - especially, the sweet Lord forbid it, points that challenge the dude's argument in any way - then she, my friend, is in for some bad times of epic proportions. Note, to the former boyfriend who curled up in a fetal ball and refused to speak for a good half-hour when I challenged his thoughts on the electoral college: I don't miss you, dude. In fact, I tell people that I lost my virginity to the dude who came after you. If I met you on the street, I would pretend not to know you. That's how little I want my life to be affected by the fact that you exist. 

I mean: you know why this is a problem, don't you, dudes? You know, somewhere, deep in your manly hearts, that unless the topic you are discussing is the specific technique or undergarment or brand of lotion you use to avoid ball chafing, there is literally no good reason why you should forbid women to participate in the discussion. You know, deep down, that expecting a woman's participation in a one-on-one discussion to consist only of "ohhhh" and "ahhhhh" and "tell me, how did you come to be the smartest man alive, and also irresistible to women?" is some fucked-up Betty-Draper medieval-tymes bullshit. So why are you doing it? You know, still? 

SOLUTION: The solution to this is actually not Shutting the Fuck Up! It is far more complicated. The reason women try to talk to you in the first place is because they might be interested in what you are saying, and might therefore want to participate in the discussion. In fact, try to assume that is the case! You can also assume that women have been exposed to the phenomenon of Man Talk often enough that they might feel insecure or weird trying to talk to you freely, openly, and passionately. They are probably expecting you to treat them like they are kind of dumb, honestly. So the solution for this, when you notice your conversation is excluding women, is to seek out the viewpoints of the women around you. Try asking them things! Things like, "what do you think?" Or, "I know you have an interest/some thoughts concerning/a Ph.D. in this subject: I would be interested to hear your thoughts." Or, "your facial expression and body language indicate an interest in, and perhaps even an opinion on, the subject matter of our conversation: would you care to share it with us now, especially given that we have promised not to act like jackasses?" Then, you actually listen to them, and respond to what they have said, rather than just continuing along with your original thought as if they had never spoken in the first place. It is crazy, right? You talk to women... as if they matter! Over time, they will become more comfortable, and you will be having conversations with them, almost as if they are your friends or something! Yes, that's right: friends, who are girls. It is a radical concept. But that's what this is all about.