Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Triumphs of Unintentionally Feminist Humor! Well, Sort Of!

Today, I learned a terrible thing: in pop culture, feminism is dead! Dead! DEAD, I say! I learned this from Lynn Crosbie, who writes in a real live paper, and about whom you will read more later. (Mystery! Intrigue!) Unfortunately, since feminism in pop culture is DEAD and all, I basically have nothing more to write about, ever. Except... what is that other thing? The thing I talk about all the time, that you are tired of? Oh, yeah: the sexism!

For example: in her obituary for feminism in pop culture, Lynn Crosbie does note one bright spot for feminist film: Obsessed, starring Beyonce, Idris Elba, and that one chick from Heroes. Obsessed, in case you are unaware, is a film which features its two leading ladies both engaged in making the timeless feminist argument that the other should STAY AWAY FROM HER MAN, BITCH, because, as we all know, when YOUR MAN screws someone else it is merely a terrible accident caused by his proximity to a lady who would not STAY AWAY. He cannot be held accountable! I'm not opposed to STAYING AWAY FROM MY MAN, BITCH on principle, but I do not think I am out of line here when I suggest that perhaps the spectacle of two ladies beating the custard out of each other (one is a woman of color! One is white! This makes it all the more delightful!) in order to secure the hot, sexy approval of a dude is not going to automatically bring about the Womyn Sister Queendom in the manner that Lynn Crosbie suggests.

"But, Sady," you are saying, "why are you such a downer? If I cannot see Obsessed - for truly, I had planned to see it! And I have no other alternatives! And I construct my opinions on no other basis than that of your hastily typed blog posts! - then, truly, there are no entertainment options left in the world for me."

To you, I say: have you seen Neil LaBute's The Wicker Man?

Oh, dude. You need to see Neil LaBute's The Wicker Man. It always strikes me as innately hilarious when people are like, "are you aware that feminists are constitutionally incapable of telling jokes, or laughing at them? This is a true thing I have said," because I have always operated on the principle that stupid + absurd = funny and misogynists = stupid + absurd. For a demonstration of these advanced mathematics, I recommend that you view Neil LaBute's The Wicker Man, which is a comedy goldmine! A goldmine of comedy AT NEIL LABUTE'S EXPENSE, that is: truly, the best goldmine of all.

So, Neil LaBute used to be one of those all-too-common guys about whom people asked, "but is he really misogynist? Or is he, perhaps, commenting on misogyny by presenting us with it over and over and over, all the time?" Then he re-made The Wicker Man, and people were like, "oh, well, that answers my question, then!" Truly, it is a fever dream of lady-hatred; it is also one of the most hugely incompetent films ever made, which means that even dudes and ladies who are suckered in or charmed by the sexism of other movies (the "but some women really are bitches" contingency) are likely to look at it and be like, WHOA.

So, in The Wicker Man, also known as Women Terrify Me: The Motion Picture Event, Nicolas Cage, in full-on "I Do Not Even Have To Try; I Am Just This Ridiculous" mode, plays a cop. Some terrible bratty female child throws her doll out the window of a moving car, and then he has to pick it up! Can you believe it? Furthermore, just to make his day worse, while he is retrieving her doll, she and her terrible mother go and get themselves hit by a truck! This is bad for them, but far worse for Nicolas Cage, who now has various flashbacks about women getting hit by trucks that cause him to overact wildly.

While he is in this vulnerable state, he is contacted by an ex-girlfriend. (In the original Wicker Man, the plot of the movie hinged on the idea that the male protagonist was a virgin. This cannot be allowed in Neil LaBute's version! Nope, Nicolas Cage has totally sexed before - with sexy ladies, for sex purposes! He's a sexually active dude, all right!) Her daughter is missing, much like that girl from the first scene, who is also "missing," in that she was hit by a truck, FLASHBACK FLASHBACK FLASHBACK. Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend, who he has because he is totally sexually active, with women, needs his help!

But wait! There's more! In order to help this woman, he must go to her home, which is located in the Mists of Avalon, er, "Summersisle." Summersisle is a mysterious and forbidding island where, you will not believe it, all of the people in charge are chicks. I know, right? The psychological terror: it is intense! Some of these chicks are large, and speak in deep voices. Some of these chicks are older than fifty. Some of them do not respond well to Nicolas Cage bursting into their classrooms while they are in session and screaming at them and saying things such as, "I'm a POLICEMAAAAAAAAAN. See my BAAAAAAAAAAAADGE?" Yes, in the terrifying nightmare realm of Summersisle, it is not the badge, but the vadge, that rules!

So, the first half of The Wicker Man is a little slow, seeing as how it is almost entirely composed of women being ominous and/or unimpressed with the fact that Nicolas Cage has a penis. (NOTE: In this movie - and in the mind of LaBute - they are more or less the same thing.) Stay with it - for, as the movie builds to its climax, it gets much harder and faster and louder and makes much sillier faces. Wait, what? ANYWAY: the last twenty minutes of The Wicker Man are the most sublimely, supremely un-self-aware example of Unintentional Comedy at Sexism's Expense that I have ever seen, composed as they are of Nicolas Cage running around in a a hysterical violent rage and screaming "BITCHES! BITCHESSSSSSSSSSSS" at the top of his voice and oh, fuck it, LET'S GO TO YOUTUBE:

I'm sorry, I need to emphasize something here:

(Note: the YouTube comments on these videos, like all YouTube comments, will depress the shit out of you. This is because some people think that hitting women is inherently funny. They are incorrect. THE FACT THAT NEIL LABUTE THOUGHT HE COULD SERIOUSLY SELL A SCENE OF NICOLAS CAGE GETTING INTO A BEAR SUIT AND PUNCHING WOMEN FOR NO GOOD REASON as a scene of SUSPENSE AND TERROR because he is AFRAID OF WOMEN AND ANGRY ABOUT THAT is funny. For the rest, chalk it up to the fact that sexists have no sense of humor.)

Anyway, the Monstrous Regiment of Women finally, after much delay, reveal their master plan, which is: to accomplish the Most Ridiculous Movie Death Scene of All Time. It involves THE BEEEEEEEEES, THE BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSS, which are a metaphor for people having vaginas, and also something getting BURRRNNNNED, and oh, here you go:

Do you see what happens when you have the right to vote, ladies? Do you see? This is why we can't have nice things!

Anyway, for a woman of my sort - the sort who thinks that hating women is inherently really stupid, and also enjoys laughing at the failures of others - this movie, which demonstrates the stupidity thereof in a completely blatant and accidental manner, is much needed comic relief! Don't pay for it, though. Neil LaBute is in need of many things - therapy, a Women's Studies education, talent - but he does not need your money.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Time for Another Installment of: WHAT KIND OF PRIVILEGE DOES SADY HAVE?

An important feature! Today, we will be focusing on: size privilege!

Friends, I am not commonly defined as a fat* lady. I am also not as thin as I am told I should be. I am, on the scale of Popularly Recognized Normal Person Body Types as Represented by the Apatow Canon (IIIIIIII CANNNNN'T STOPPPPPPPPPP) neither a Rudd nor a Rogen, but somewhere in the Segel-y center.

Of course, I am a lady, whereas these noted stars of film and television and sometimes my nightmares (HELLLLLLLP) are dudes. The reason I am using them as my examples here is that there is no scale of Popularly Recognized Normal Person Body Types as Represented by Currently Successful Female Actresses, because Currently Successful Female Actresses tend to be (a) skinny, or (b) somewhat skinnier. This is true for the same reason it is true that, when Seth Rogen dropped some pounds recently, people were like, "hey, why'd he lose weight for, we are bemused," whereas when, say, Valerie Bertinelli lost weight, people were like, "amazing! Here is your magazine cover! You are now fit for our eyes to gaze upon you!" It is also the same reason that Seth Rogen has been subject to numerous profiles and reviews and blog commentaries focusing on his unconventional, real-guy sex appeal, whereas when Roseanne posed for an overtly sexual magazine cover, folks were like "OH MY EYYYYYYESSSS MY EYYYYYESSSSS I HAVE BEEN FORCED TO VIEW SOMEONE OF A LARGER SIZE IN A SEXUAL LIGHT I MAY NEVER RECOVER." It is a very simple reason, my friends. Can you guess what it is? If not, look for the answer key at the end of this quiz!**

So, my question today is, What Kind of Privilege Do I Have? Answer: lots! (Have I also mentioned that I am white, and straight, and middle-class, and cis, and stuff?) Today, however, the Privilege that I am focusing on is thinness, or more accurately, not-fatness.

I am, amazingly, not the first person to recognize the astonishing fact of thin privilege! Normally I come up with everything in a vacuum, but in this case I have been learning about it gradually over the past few months and also thinking about it all day long specifically due to a substantial amount of ladytalk over at Jezebel over the concept.

This means it is time to talk about my own personal privilege, size-wise!


For example, no-one fears becoming me (unless they classify me as a fat lady). In the inevitable girls-having-dinner discussions about what we want to eat vs. what we maybe should eat w/r/t what we've been eating lately and how we can improve or "give ourselves a break" in re: what we will be eating now, the unspoken fear of the people involved is not that they will come to look like me (again: unless they think I'm fat). My weight is neutral in terms of my culturally accepted sex appeal: people generally believe that there can be hot girls of my size and non-hot girls of my size, and I don't expect my weight to be the primary determining factor in whether people find me hot. My attempts to present myself as sexual are not found disgusting and/or comical due to my body shape. People do not determine me to be lazy on sight, although the fact is that I did not get out of bed on Monday except to buy more cigarettes and iced coffee. People also do not determine me to be unhealthy on sight, although the fact is that I did not get out of bed on Monday except to buy more cigarettes and iced coffee.

This is what I can list in ten minutes! There are lots more things: things of which I have been, until recently, shockingly unaware! This is because I am privileged, and therefore have the privilege of not thinking about all this stuff. I'm not constantly told that my body is The Thing That Should Not Be, because I am not fat.

I do, however, know a bit what it is like to be told I should be skinnier. If there is one constant and recurring beauty tip handed to me, an American Lady, it is: be skinnier than you are right now. How skinny are you? Skinnier than that, would be good. I know about freaking out about what I eat. I know about putting off birth control and Paxil and quitting cigarettes because the side effects for all three were THE DREADED WEIGHT GAIN, because apparently my thought process there was, "I have panic attacks and terrible periods and also maybe cancer, but hey, at least I have not gained five pounds, good for me." I know about being nine years old and complaining to my Mom that my brother ALWAYS ate ALL THE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES before I got EVEN ONE, and being told that my ability to "delay gratification" was a good thing, because I wouldn't be fat (like her, she thought) when I grew up.

(A word about this: every time my Mom and I go out to eat she offers me half her meal, because she always had a "big lunch" earlier, but I have spent whole days with my Mom where she does this for every meal, and I am coming to terms with the fact that the mythical "big lunch" that always precedes our time together does not exist, she just does not eat an entire plate of food, ever. She doesn't just delay gratification in the food realm, she seems to actively flee it. It makes me sad.)

Now, a word: in a society where all women everywhere are told to be skinnier be skinnier also be more skinny, the women who are actually, by almost everyone's standards, objectively very thin are subject to some hurtful commentary on their own bodies. It can be extremely uncool - like, it is not OK to assume a skinny person's weight is a disease, and it is not OK to assume that a fat person's weight is a disease, and did you know that many diseases can relate to either skinniness or weight, or even occur in a body regardless of its weight? Seemingly the only socially acceptable reason to ever look at a person and be like, "I believe you to be suffering from a terrible illness, which means you are a bad person, and also I have no evidence" is when you are commenting on that person's weight, which: in my opinion, ew.

Here are some reasons why this might be: (a) in sexist society, every woman's body is constantly considered fair grounds for public evaluation, and (b) women's worth is primarily derived from their bodies, so devaluing a woman's body is the most common and devastating way to attack her, (c) sometimes people get angry at the folks who are presented to them as the "ideal" rather than the existence of a hierarchy of body-based worth, and (d) no woman ever measures up, it's divide and fucking conquer, have we not realized that? Let us not play this game. Let us get all '90s together and, yes, love our bodies.

Let us also recognize and work to eradicate the privileges that adhere to those bodies! Let us acknowledge that not-fatness is indeed sometimes one of those! Like straight frat boys who are constantly encouraged to reaffirm their own maleness and straightness by calling each other "pussy" and "fag" and constantly giving each other feedback on precisely how womanish or gay they are being and whether they have surpassed acceptable levels of said womany/gay behavior, non-fat women (and I know there are dudes who experience fat-shaming, I've met those dudes, and care about their problems, but I can only speak most accurately and assuredly to my own ladybusiness) are constantly being fed and feeding each other the Fear of Fat, of becoming fat, of leaving the realm of acceptable bodies and entering the non-privileged world of Fat. The fact that we're so goddamn worried about losing this privilege would seem to be proof that it exists.

Which makes me feel weird that I had to write a post about realizing that I had it.

Okay! Never mind!

*I am uncomfortable with this term because it is often used as an insult! However my understanding is that it is the preferred one, because, like, others are either outright pathologizing or euphemistic in a way that makes it seem like it's something to be ashamed of. If I'm totally wrong let me know!

**ANSWER KEY: THE SEXISM, DUH. We would also accept, "Seth Rogen blows."

Monday, April 27, 2009


I am supposed to be here!

But I am not, I am over here instead.

Go read that!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Superemosogynisticexpialadocious. If You Make a Film of It, It's Really Quite Atrocious!

JASON SEGEL: I'm interested in hearing a woman's point of view on this. 
- From "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." 

Ha ha, TOO BAD, film and TV star and Forgetting Sarah Marshall screenplay-writer Jason Segel! For the end of the Apatow Marathon is upon us, Forgetting Sarah Marshall has been viewed and is currently accumulating late fees in my DVD player, and it is time for me to deliver my analysis, which is: they are not even trying any more, for real. 

This is not to say that I didn't laugh. Maybe my standards have been gradually lowered, or maybe it's just that the hatred and shittiness in this movie are a lot more subtle than they are in, say, Superbad, but the fact is that Jason Segel is, as a performer, a pretty funny guy. He's got the market cornered on playing creepy losers who just might stalk you. Unfortunately, as a screenwriter, he would seem to be an actual creepy loser who might just actually stalk you: for behold, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a film explicitly and entirely about why women who don't agree to be endlessly tolerant and supportive mommy-ladies for the men in their lives should be humiliated and punished. 

Jason Segel plays Peter, a giant Apatovian man-baby whose hobbies include eating industrial-size bowls of sugary kids' cereal, writing a rock opera about Dracula intended to be performed by puppets, pretending to be Gandalf, and obsessing over his girlfriend Sarah Marshall (a gorgeous TV star, played by gorgeous TV star Kristen Bell, who deserves so much better than this). In a surprise move that no one could possibly anticipate, the woman who is way out of Peter's league dumps him, so he promptly puts on his crazy pants and goes to town. Crazy Town, that is! Population: Peter. 

Getting dumped sucks. It is unbelievably painful, especially when you are ending a long-term relationship, which is what Peter and Sarah are doing. A comedy about how painful it can be is something to which I am not opposed! It's also probably really tough to be an emotional or sensitive guy, given that dudes are constantly shit on in patriarchy for being so feminine as to have and express a full range of human emotions. I'd like to see a movie about that, too! Just not this one: for Peter is not merely a sensitive guy experiencing pain, but what my colleagues in the making-up-silly-names-for-sexism industry refer to as an "emosogynist." 

You know this guy. You've met this guy. Once you have met him, you can never again confuse him with an actual, decent, sensitive guy in pain - and I've met those guys too, and seriously, you're all great. The defining factor of emosogyny is not emotion, but what you do with it: specifically, whether you are willing to make the leap from "I have feelings, which can be bad and painful," or even "a specific woman has hurt my feelings by acting like a dick" - feelings to which everyone has a right! Feelings which I myself have had! And caused! - to "it is the job of women to make sure I never have bad or painful feelings, and they have failed, those bitches." We're all familiar with the Sarah Marshall "promotional materials designed to look like notes from your stalker" campaign, I trust - if not, this blog entry, charmingly entitled "Are All Women as Awful as Sarah Marshall," in which Peter details his adventures with Crazy Drunk Sluts, will clue you in  - and, seriously, if you've seen any of that, you've seen the first half of this movie. Um, PASS. 

So, anyway, Peter is a sad man-child without a mommy-lady, and he chooses to rectify this situation by stalking his ex-girlfriend all the way to Hawaii, which he knows is her favorite vacation spot, and taking a room in a hotel, which he knows is her favorite place to stay, and HOW HAS NO-ONE EVER FILED A RESTRAINING ORDER ON THIS DUDE, I guess, is what I am asking you - and, surprise! Sarah is there! With her new boyfriend! So he gets to follow her around obnoxiously for most of the movie, YAY.  

He also gets to pick up a lady played by Mila Kunis, who is seriously the most flagrant and obnoxious case of a "Because, Um...?" girl I have ever seen. I can't even remember her name; she basically doesn't need one. She's just some lady, so that is what I will be calling her from now on. 

Some Lady gives Peter a free room because she pities him. Some Lady goes on dates with Peter because she pities him. Some Lady becomes Peter's girlfriend because, basically, she pities him, and Some Lady consistently just says what Peter wants her to say and does what Peter wants her to do and it is so blatant and ridiculous that I seriously considered the possibility that he was hallucinating her because he had gone 100% around the bend, like the point of the movie would turn out to be that Mila Kunis was Tyler Durden. Here, a sampling of her dialogue: 
SOME LADY: Sarah Marshall's show sucks, anyway.
PETER: I do the music for that show.
SOME LADY: Oh, well, did I mention that the music for that show totally rocks?
SOME LADY: I'm not the kind of girl you have to dote on.
Cue montage of Peter having to hold Kristin Bell's bag at various events! She was much more successful than he was, you see, which made her a bad person. Oh, and: 
SOME LADY: Stop being so sensitive. 
Cue Peter getting to smack her ass during sex! 

And this, which was seriously so fucking ridiculous I actually THREW THINGS AT MY TV SCREEN, so much rage, I am telling you, did I experience: 
PETER: I'm actually working on a rock opera.
SOME LADY: Yeah? What's your rock opera about?
PETER: Dracula? And, eternal love. You know, I think the two sort of go hand in hand. I had this vision of doing it with puppets.
Ladies and gentleman, guess what her next line is. I will give you a hint: it is a question! You may wish to think of the questions you yourself would ask in this situation, such as: Gosh, it's about time for me to be heading out, isn't it? Or, So, do you have any back-up plans for your career? Or, Why would your friends and family be so cruel as to let you continue thinking this was a good idea? Wrong! The question is:
SOME LADY: Why Dracula?
She is, of course, giving him an adorable and sexy look of complete and utter tolerance throughout. Her eyes are fathomless pools of tolerance. She signals red-hot, uninhibited tolerance with every move she makes. She wants to take him home and tolerate the hell out of him. This makes her a Good Woman, as opposed to Sarah Marshall, who is a Bad Woman, as we are shown in a flashback wherein he plays some of this masterwork for her, and, you will not believe it, she thinks a vampire puppet musical about Dracula is a dumb idea.

Some Lady also does this really terrible thing which I have to tell you about, which is to laugh really, really loudly whenever Jason Segel does something we are supposed to find funny or charming, which is especially bizarre and annoying when the jokes fall flat, as they do with greater and greater frequency once the movie hits its stride. Like, there is this scene wherein she "surprises" him with the chance to perform his music in public, because fuck knows she doesn't have anything better to do than to give the guy she has dated 0.5 times the chance to serenade a bunch of harmless drunks with his as-yet-untested musical vampire puppet bullshit, and he performs the worst fucking song you have ever heard, I think it is supposed to be funny but really it is just Jason Segel singing a terrible song in a terrible stupid Dracula voice, and she laughs like FIVE TIMES during this scene, and then afterwards says, literally says the words, "that is funny." This woman is a plot device who exists specifically and entirely to show us that we are supposed to like Jason Segel's character, and 99% of her narrative function could be performed by having cards pop up periodically on screen as in silent movies, like "A Clever Jest!" or "What a Likable Young Fellow!" They could have just had a big neon sign hanging over the screen that periodically flashed the words LAUGHTER or APPLAUSE, and then there would be no reason for Mila Kunis to be in this movie.

Oh but I forgot there is also the scene in which they are standing atop a cliff overlooking an ocean and talking about how entering a new relationship after you've broken up with/stalked someone is a lot like jumping into the ocean from a cliff and then she jumps into the ocean from the cliff and then he is really scared and hesitant and unwilling to let go of the cliff because he might get hurt but, you will not believe this, he eventually jumps off the cliff into the ocean and they make out. I think there is some kind of metaphor going on in this scene but it is really complicated and subtle so I don't quite get it.

So, anyway, Some Lady just exists to reward Peter with the salty blue Pacific between her thighs and/or make Peter seem like less of a creepy jerk and/or provide a Good (endlessly accepting and tolerant and encouraging mommy-lady-type) Woman to make Sarah Marshall seem Bad, and we don't really have to talk about her besides noting that she does these things, so let's not any more. The real point of this movie is to humiliate and punish women who break up with or are less than perfectly acquiescent to and tolerant of men, or, more specifically, to punish and humiliate Sarah Marshall.


Because here's what happens to Sarah Marshall: she loses her job, and with it, the fact that she is more successful and socially powerful than Peter. She is revealed as a long-time secret cheater, so we know she was always an evil whore. She goes to a dinner where (a) her drunk musician boyfriend tells her he's cheated on her countless times, that he intends to continue doing so, and that he regards her as no more than a groupie, and (b) her drunk boyfriend and drunk ex laugh about how terrible everything that she's done with her career has been, and tell that her success is both unearned and unimportant, and that she will probably never succeed at anything else again, and (c) Some Lady tells her she's vapid and shallow, and then makes out with her ex-boyfriend in front of her expressly and specifically to hurt her feelings. She hears her ex-boyfriend having loud sex through the walls of her room, and she then tries to fuck her own boyfriend (Some Lady is shown as being totally willing to amp up her sex noises when she becomes aware that it is a contest, because there's nothing a Good Woman likes more than being used to help some guy work out his issues with another lady WHILE HIS PENIS IS INSIDE HER) but Sarah's boyfriend pushes her away and continues to tell her how terrible she is and how little he cares for her. She is dumped, so her crime of having a relationship with someone other than Peter is justly punished. Peter then makes friends with her newly-ex-boyfriend, and they have a nice little conversation in which she is compared to Hitler and Goebbels. She tells Peter she loves and misses him, and he too pushes her away until he forces her to say the words "I'm sorry," at which point there comes the truly unforgettable moment in which she tries to suck him off, and he can't get hard, and he tells her it's her fault because she is "the goddamn Devil." And Kristen Bell's last shot in the movie, as a physically present woman who interacts with the other characters, is simply a shot of her with her hair and makeup wrecked, in her underwear, lying on a bed while a man screams at and about her.

All of this for ending a relationship which, in the one scene where Sarah Marshall comes across as an actual human being, and which Kristen Bell sells so beautifully that I'm convinced she made them add it in, she describes thusly:
It's not anything you did. You didn't do anything... It got really hard to keep taking care of you when you stopped taking care of yourself. I tried to get you out of the house. I tried to get you off your little island you loved so much, the couch. You didn't want to see the light of day... that's what you don't get... I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried, Peter. I talked to a therapist. I talked to my mother. I read every book possible. I took love seminars, I took sex seminars. None of it worked. None of it made a difference to you, and I couldn't drown with you any more. Don't you dare sit there and tell me I didn't try.
She is, at this point, sobbing. What a bitch, am I right? 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sexist Beatdown: Second Prize, a Set of Steak Knives, Third Prize Is You're Traumatized for Life Edition

Good evening! Welcome to an extremely and regrettably late edition of Sexist Beatdown, starring: Amanda Hess of The Sexist and also, many long hours later, myself!

The lateness of this piece is, sadly, not the only thing that is regrettable: Caitlin Flanagan, the woman we will discuss today, is herself a deeply regrettable lady. Her piece on Alec Baldwin, in which she discusses the (imaginary, please, God) sexual dynamics between the Thomas the Tank Engine star and his daughter: this, too, is regrettable! Finally, the many jokes about psychosexual trauma (which are, in and of themselves, potentially traumatizing: FAIR WARNING) that I made in this piece are no doubt regrettable in the extreme.

Anyway! No time for an illustration today! Let's proceed!

SADY: hello! who wants to discuss DEEP PSYCHOSEXUAL TRAUMA? Specifically, the psychosexual trauma inflicted on me by Caitlin Flanagan and her latest piece.

AMANDA: sure dude

SADY: I had actually forgotten how deeply weird and wrong Caitlin Flanagan is in the past few years. Back in '06, her strange psychological issues and/or politics were all the rage. Now she basically has to assert that a famous man wants to sex his daughter in order to get noticed, I guess.

AMANDA: yeah, i'm wondering how much this "book review" about the baldwin family's psychological problems is actually a concerted effort on flanagan's part to air her own psychological problems in order to create a cult of personality around herself? it's too obvious not to be intentional.

SADY: exactly. and flanagan is professionally a provocateur - writing that women should have sex with their hisbands when they don't want to because it's their "duty," writing that working mothers damage their children irreparably with their selfishness, etc. this seems like another Flanagan Launch Party for her new theory, which is: women are basically giant incestuous adolescents, sexually speaking. oh, and divorce -no matter WHAT THE CONTEXT IN WHICH IT OCCURS - will make your child even more incesty, so don't do it. EVER.

AMANDA: i'd like to indulge flanagan's presence for a second here. let's say that (a) alec baldwin is a total hunk, and (b) daughters are immediately sexual replacements for their desexualized mothers (even when their mothers are renowned beauty of film kim basinger)

SADY: sure! let's say that!

AMANDA: why is divorce bad? then your hunky dad is totally a-vail-able! and he can shower you with all the fancy perfumes flanagan's mom got or whatever

SADY: this would seem to be true! and yet, unless daddy and mommy are both there to show you the ruins of their faded yet once-torrid sexual passion for each other (which you will, of course, want to spend much time contemplating) you might have fewer chances to flirt with your dad!

AMANDA: i feel so bad for that girl. first, alec baldwin is her dad, and now flanagan seemingly wants to be her, but a version of her that wants to have sex with her dad, alec baldwin. all he did was call her a pig on the phone.

SADY: right? and while that crossed lines, and does seem like verbal abuse, it's also a thing that I, a person not married to or spawned from a Baldwin/Basinger, feel I have a legitimate right to obsess about. yet flanagan (a) spends a ton of time talking about how abusive baldwin is, (b) furthermore posits the abuse as "almost sexual," and (c) talks about how hot - and totally universal! - that is at length.

AMANDA: it's actually kind of awesome. i feel kind of strange that i have to make the point that i'm a woman who doesn't think her mom is a bitch and doesn't want to have sex with her dad (or alec baldwin). i guess i'm a boring person to review a book. i kind of like that style: review a book about something fucked up, and try to one-up how fucked up it is. see: linda hirshman!

SADY: which is why i'll be writing a review of "wetlands" entirely in my own feces at some point. the dad-as-romance thing kind of keys into the whole issue here, which is that flanagan also sees romance-as-dad. women are SUPPOSED to get turned on by guys who are bigger and stronger than they are, and have more authority than they do, in flanagan's betty draper version of sexuality.

AMANDA: this is why jessica simpson's marriage turned out so well.

SADY: hahaha. it's kind of medieval: you will belong to your dad until you belong to your husband, so treat your husband like your dad, and vice versa!

AMANDA: and you will also neglect your children (a broken space heater is still a space heater!) to do so. i can't really tell if she's endorsing baldwin's behavior toward his daughter. i mean she seems to endorse fathers who treat their daughters like girlfriends. i guess that only turns bad when you divorce your real girlfriend and start treating your daughter like your "mistress." i have so much to learn about parenting.

SADY: i, too, need to learn about parenting. fortunately, i will have plenty of time to read caitlin flanagan's advice on the issue once my beauty fades. i think she thinks that the only reason baldwin went all Glengarry Glenn Ross on his kid was the divorce. whereas, i submit to you, this could have made him a divorceable man in the first place!

AMANDA: it's the chicken and the egg, man. we will never know if alec baldwin's ex-wife drove him to abuse, or whether alec baldwin's abuse of his wife drove her to divorce him.

SADY: yes, but fortunately it's not our business: it is the business of noted columnist caitlin flanagan.

AMANDA: ok. i claim her. i will become as obsessed with her as she is obsessed with alec baldwin. i will pen long well-publicized columns insinuating that i want to have sex with her. and maybe her children.


AMANDA: cheers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Superbad: Pussy Control

I would do terrible, disgusting things to hook up with [this girl], man. Unforgivable things.
- Jonah Hill as "Seth", in Seth Rogen-penned Sethtastic Apatow/Seth flick Superbad.

OH, MY FUCKING GOD, JONAH HILL'S VOICE. I HATE IT SO MUCH. I mean, sorry to be immature, but: really. High-pitched, nasal, whiny, insistent, raspy-squeaky like a rusty hinge - it's an instrument of torture, making everything he says instantly unlikable and creepy on the basis of sound alone, even before you process its meaning. Only for you, Reader, would I put myself through one hundred and nineteen minutes of the noise emitted by Jonah Hill's face. Only for you would I watch Superbad.

I did not even watch the theatrical Superbad! I watched the unrated, extended cut! This cut, of course, reflects the pure and uncompromised vision of the people involved, which could not be articulated in the original version due to the money-hungry studios and their commercial demands: it gives us more insight into the aliens who live in the Abyss and explains what is up with the sandworms and shows us what happens after the Hobbits get back to the Shire and also clears up the whole question of whether Deckard was a replicant. Ha ha, no, not really, it just has more dick jokes in it.

The basic premise of Superbad is that dicks are good and vaginas are bad, but vaginas are useful in that one can put one's dick in them to achieve orgasm. The movie opens with a very basic statement of this premise: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are discussing varieties of Internet porn they enjoy, and one young gentleman suggests to the other a site he finds both tasteful and expedient in ensuring orgasmic pleasure. "You don't see dick going into vagina, though, which is a problem for me," says the other gentleman - Jonah Hill - in his stupid, terrible, grating voice. "Have you ever seen a vagina by itself?"

He then shakes his head and makes the most disgusted face I had ever seen a human being make up until that point in my life.

Anyway, Seth (Jonah Hill) is very upset about the fact that his friend Evan will be going to a good college in the fall and that he himself will not. Seth would very much like a "girlfriend" that he can dump within the next two months after treating her to lots of terrible sex, because he needs to be good at sex by the time he goes to college. The girl he would like to ineptly fuck is Jules, who is in his home economics class; he demonstrates this by performing a little pantomime act for his friends in which he pretends to do sexual things to her body while she is not aware of it. (Foreshadowing!) Jules is a lovely young lady, but much like the Freak Woman Masturbator in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she suffers from some kind of tragic nerve damage and lack of peripheral vision that renders her unable to notice someone pretending to lick her ass when that person is directly to the left of her and about three inches away.

Seth's friend Evan also wants a "girlfriend," and would specifically like a girl named Becca to be his girlfriend. Seth makes clear that this is a pitiful and disgusting emotion on Evan's part because he likes this girl as a person and does not like to talk about how she seems skilled at "taking dick." The dynamic is best summed up in the following dialogue:
SETH: Is this about Becca? Is this about that girl, man?
EVAN: I like her.
SETH: Who cares, man? She's a FUCKING GIRL!
It is hard to convey the snarling fury and contempt in Jonah Hill's voice on the words "fucking girl." In any other movie, it would be gross and I would hate it and/or make jokes about it. In this scene? This particular scene? It is all of that, but I am not laughing, because it is actually scary.

Also scary: the fact that the movie can very clearly be read as a story about attempted date rape. The boys need to get booze for a party at which the girls will be present, so that they can get the girls drunk enough to slip their penises into them. This is initially presented as a normal, non-rapey thing: buy the girls booze as a favor, they'll appreciate it, people will get drunk and uninhibited, then they'll screw. I, like pretty much every woman in the universe, have had the experience of engaging in consensual sex while drunk (I have actually had pretty much every human experience, including the act of writing in this very blog, while drunk) so this in and of itself does not pose a problem. However, the equation of booze + appreciation + affection = sex gradually becomes booze = sex, which in turn slips into truly incapacitating amounts of booze = sex, until Evan is protesting that he "respects" Becca too much to fuck her while she is "out of her mind wasted" (it's "unethical," he says, which is as close as the movie ever comes to the r-word) and Seth looks him straight in the eyes and says, "I don't see why you have a problem with this."

They never actually do put their penises in these women, by the way: Evan turns down a massively wasted Becca, who then calls him a "little bitch," in an Observe-and-Reportesque moment about how upset women get when you don't take advantage of them, and Seth forces a kiss on Jules after she refuses to get drunk, whereupon she is as disgusted as anyone unexpectedly kissed by Jonah Hill would have a right to be (like, if Rodney Dangerfield had a baby with David the Gnome: this is the physical appeal of Jonah Hill, I submit to you) and refuses to go further, putting him off for "another time," at which point he snaps and shouts, "NO! There IS no other time," and there's that Highway Chainsaw Killer note in his voice again, and then he abruptly falls over into her face and the woman who refuses to fuck gets a black eye, ha.

Between these two points there are various wacky adventures and dick jokes. Like, there is the whole thing with their friend, Fogell, who changes his name to McLovin and is abducted by two cops at which point it is even more painfully clear than usual that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began writing this script as thirteen-year-olds, because - whoa, can you imagine if, like, cops liked to get high and party? That would be crazy! (Ladies and gentleman, please take note that the people who originated this story are, in fact, named "Seth" and "Evan." This is instructive, both in that it reveals the precise extent of their imaginative powers, and in that Seth was written by and was originally supposed to be played by Rogen, who apparently conceived of this character as a self-portrait, and this is one more example of why you never want to be trapped in an elevator with that guy.) I will not be addressing any of this because it is boring. (For example: "Fogell" can, with a cunning vowel-replacement strategy, be prounounced as "Fag-ell," and the comic potential of this device is indeed exploited to the full.) I will focus merely on the defining moment of the movie: the scene in which Seth is attacked by a rogue vagina.

So, he's at this party, right? And this random girl is dancing with him all sexy, right? And she's drunk, right? So she's your typical Apatovian Drunk Slut - but how, oh, how to utilize her comic potential? Simple: when she pulls away, Seth discovers that she was on her period, and that her blood is on his pants leg.

Now, you will forgive me for saying this, but I have now watched two separate films about men discussing their various manly bodily functions in great detail, and I feel inclined to share: I have never in my entire life bled that much in the space of a dance. It is an entire Ultra Heavy Flow tampon's worth of blood, and it's thick and clotted and sticky in a way that you would notice, were it coming from you. We see that she's bled on other guys, so she's been on the rag for a little while, yet it never occurs to her to wear a tampon or a pad or even (based on the amount and texture of blood) underwear beneath her skirt, which makes her a Crazy Drunk Slut, in true Apatow fashion, but also unlike any woman on earth who has ever had a period.

Seth, of course, freaks the fuck out and is more disgusted than I have ever seen a human being and all the men around him are equally disgusted and amused, and Seth yells endlessly about how he's going to vomit and oh God get it off get the awful terrible menstrual blood that every human being with a uterus has at one point or will at one point shed off of him, and of the movie's 119 minutes it feels like about 118.75 minutes are spent watching him act like the biggest fucking baby in the entire world about the fact that women menstruate. I mean, you thought Woman Who Is Capable of Masturbating was bad: wait until you meet Woman With a Normal Human Adult Reproductive System.

This, I would submit to you, is the entire point of Superbad: awful non-male women with their awful non-male vaginas, which you maybe need to fuck in order to get off, but which, if left uncontrolled, will touch you and contaminate you with their filth. The entire point of the scene is that this person is female, that she has a body that looks and functions differently than Seth's male body, and that this makes her monstrous. The movie ends with a scene of Seth and Evan lying next to each other, saying "I love you" to each other several dozen times, and spooning, and a lot of critics have pinpointed this scene as being "sweet." It's just another joke about gay being gross and funny, in my opinion, but on the other hand: good for them, I guess. They'll never love anybody else.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Sex Ed

I am writing a piece about Judd Apatow. I am watching major Apatovian releases that I either (a) saw too long ago to remember, or (b) haven't yet seen.

This is the story of my descent into madness.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin
begins with what, I submit to you, is the perfect Apatovian tableau: a grown man, surrounded by toys. He has movie posters! He has action figures! He has exercise equipment, and instruments, and all sorts of crazy business! He also has a boner, and lacks a vagina to put it in and hence prove his masculinity, and this is the crucial obstacle he must, in this timeless cinematic triumph, overcome.

Fucking makes the man: Andy has a number of male co-workers, including Seth Rogen (sporting a truly pubic-looking beard) who have all accomplished the quintessentially manly act of fucking. We are shown this by the way they swoop in on and battle over customers who have made the vast mistake of having lady bits, and relish anecdotes about the various nameless women who have pleasured their man-parts in ways that maybe a seventh-grader would think were hot or shocking or even vaguely plausible (the ladies' pleasure is never really addressed: it's about what they're willing to do for the dudes, never what they actually like) and/or the donkey shows they were shocked to find depressing. (An economically marginalized sex worker performing an extremely painful and humiliating act for no-doubt-low pay in front of a bunch of privileged white boys? WHO KNEW THIS COULD BE OTHER THAN HOT.)

Andy is far less normal or cool than these dudes, as we are shown by the fact that they believe him to be "a serial killer." The only dude who is even close to being as universally looked-down-upon as Andy is Dave, played by Paul Rudd, who had a girlfriend he really liked and misses her. I mean: liking a girl? Like, the way you would like a person? Icky. Fortunately, he's also stalking her and makes kind of a point of calling her a "bitch" and a "whore" on a regular basis, so it is not as if he is a pussy.

(Note: this girlfriend is played by Mindy Kaling. She is severely underutilized - there are, like, three seconds of her in the movie, all amazing - and this, in and of itself, is a crime against humanity.)

Anyway, these dudes are large of heart and spirit and (so they would like to convey) of wang, and are willing to help Andy become a man through the enjoyment of numerous vaginas, or "bitches," as they are also known. They do this through such commendable and not-at-all-date-rape-training-exercise-like acts as taking him to bars to find drunk women. I must convey to you that it is imperative for these women to be very drunk. The word "drunk" is repeated, in the early seduction-training sequences, often enough to stop being mildly annoying and become truly fucking sinister. It is repeated, friends, in lines such as these:

"Remember, it's more important that she's drunk than that she's hot."

Super. And:

"When you pick up a drunk woman who's falling down on the way out of the bar, you should probably drive."

Ha ha, what an awesome practical tip! For targeting girls to fuck who are drunk past the point of fun and to the point of being vulnerable and/or incapacitated. Which you should do.

These early scenes contain numerous bits of useful information, such as: the existence of a trans woman, who is (as in every Hollywood comedy ever since the beginning of time) a sex worker, is at once disgusting and hilarious. Asian women will smile and giggle and behave subserviently when you scream at them. Black people speak in a wacky manner that differs from the speech of white people, and should a white person attempt the distinctive wacky speech of black people, this will be comical in the extreme. Black people also speak very loudly in response to movies; black women are quite sassy, and black men proud of their large penises. Women who are your employers are hard-asses who probably just want to get laid, and one can say "fuck you" to their faces while remaining employed. "Gay" is an insult, which is useful if one wants to convey one's distaste of Coldplay. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is full of life lessons for you, Viewer.

But, surprise! We are not supposed to like these guys or to take them seriously! This has been explained to me numerous times by advocates for The 40-Year-Old Virgin; we are made to dislike them by a delicate strategy on the part of the director, which consists of giving them loving, personal attention, and letting us learn about their hopes and dreams, and making sure that they never face any negative consequences for their actions. Fun Fact: most of the people who tell me that we are not supposed to like these guys also specify the scenes of these guys talking as the funniest and most appealing parts of the movie. Here was my favorite scene, for the record, and it takes place between Steve Carrell (Andy) and Seth Rogen (Cal):
ANDY: What if she laughs at me?
CAL: If she laughs at you, punch her in the head.
ANDY: I'm not going to punch her in the head. She's really sweet.
CAL: No, I mean, punch her in the head emotionally.
I can only hope that this is one of the many scenes that Seth Rogen is reputed to have improvised for the movie. Its quality is so unrehearsed! Its performances, so buoyant! Its endorsement of abuse, so clear!

However, Andy must grow past the adorable and fun and carefree lady-punching society of his friends. He must undergo the quintessential rite of passage for all Apatovian males: finding some ridiculously tolerant mommy-lady to make him grow up.

Steve Carrell, as an actor, is capable of tremendous sweetness. Catherine Keener can do pretty much anything, including bringing the dead back to life like Superman by reversing the orbit of the planet. When her power is combined with that of Steve Carrell, an amazing thing happens: the movie almost stops sucking. You are so captivated by how wonderful they are that you do not notice what is going on, which is: he behaves like a freak, she seems not to notice, she is framed as a motherly type who is willing to delay sex for a ridiculously long time so you know she's not a slut or anything, and then they have seven thousand separate conversations about how he needs to "grow up" and sell all of his toys or at least take them out of their boxes so that he can Be a Man, but Steve Carell, in these seven thousand conversations, talks about how important it is to keep his toys and did you know you should never take your action figures out of the box? It damages their value. Andy really, really needs to keep his action figures "safe" and untouched, you guys.


Perhaps the defining scene of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" comes when Steve Carrell and Catherine Keener break up very briefly, and he goes home with a very attractive lady for hook-up purposes. After they go home for hook-up purposes, she acts as if she is looking forward to sex, which of course weirds Steve Carell out because he doesn't want some vile sex-liking lady to unbox and touch his action figure, and this is all neatly resolved when Andy's sex-having man-friends literally break into this girl's house and have a very loud conversation while gazing at her naked self, which she does not notice. They are worried for him, you see, because this girl is very scary and a pervert slut. Here is a sample of their conversation:
CAL: That girl is a freak.
ANDY: You think so? (Nods to woman engaged in perverted sex act just off screen.) ...That woman scares the shit out of me, and I want to go home.
The freaky, perverted, terrifying sex act in which this woman is engaged is: masturbating.

Seriously. She is masturbating. With a detachable shower head. It terrifies them all.

Then, once most of them flee the home of the monstrous Woman Who Is Capable of Touching Her Own Privates, Cal (Seth Rogen!) stays behind, and wanders into the bathroom where she is masturbating, and is basically like, "hi, I am in your apartment now without your permission, how about you pleasure me, since you are a whore." The scene cuts abruptly, and given the fact that we do not see her scream and/or call the police and/or press charges and/or beat him to death with the showerhead, we are pretty clearly meant to presume that a woman capable of such harlotry as masturbating in front of a hook-up who has just asked her what she likes sexually (shit, didn't you ever see "Mr. Wizard?" That's a scientific demonstration) will consent to fuck any penis in the world, even if it comes attached to a home invader who is, more or less, sexually assaulting her.

This isn't some raunchy, uninhibited, too-crude-for-prudes sex comedy. This is a comedy for and about people who are terrified of sex, who don't seem to have any real, useful sexual experience outside of what they've gathered from their boxes of very boring porn, who are basically so entirely clueless about fucking that they fail to realize that female sexual desire is not some repugnant mutation or mark of the Devil. Steve Carrell and Catherine Keener don't even screw until after they get married. Sex is just that dangerous and bad.

Which brings us to the central lesson I gleaned from the movie: a man may fuck, and fuck, and stay a virgin.

Tiger Beatdown Explains It All

You know, people, Tiger Beatdown is a social service. That is why I make a point of frequently checking the search terms people use to find it! It appears that, along with your more common random-phrase searches, such as "boy pleasure of the flesh" (huh), "cheap vagina tighter creams" (ick), "picture of women showing there boobies" (try searching for "pornography," my underage friend!) and "sexy decapitated woman" (AAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUGHHHHH), several people actually do type WHOLE ENTIRE QUESTIONS into the Google. Those questions lead them here, because they are misguided.

Well, accidental blog-readers, today is the day I answer you! Lo and behold, my very first Google-generated advice column, for the masses.

#1: do you really crap when you die

Excellent question, Timmy! Not only do you crap when you die (sometimes, or so I hear) you actually crap at regular intervals throughout your time as a living person. Crapping is very important, which is why you need to get plenty of fiber and preferably live in a home with modern plumbing.

This brings me to a very important point: the issue of why I smell so bad today. I smell very bad! The reason for this is quite simple: last night, while watching scary movies and contemplating whether to start a Tumblr (answer: yes), I heard a tremendous crashing noise coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE OH MY GOD OH MY FUCKING GOD, and naturally assumed that someone was coming to murder me. I didn't want to make a big deal of that, though, because if I did that and then ended up not murdered I would be somewhat embarrassed, and so I cradled my phone in my hand (on the theory that, if I were murdered, I could... call someone to chat about it? I guess?) and locked my bedroom door and went to sleep. When I woke up, I found that I had not been murdered, and so went to investigate the source of the noise and/or take a shower, at which point I found that MY BATHROOM CEILING HAD COLLAPSED and a very large chunk of it had fallen off and into my bathtub, which made showering impractical.

And that is why I smell bad. Just a little human-interest story for you, there! Yes, you could argue that I've wasted your time with this, Timmy; I think we can agree, however, that the more important issue is that you have wasted mine. NEXT!

#2: does a&p support patriarchy?

A&P is a store which is inextricably bound to modern capitalism, which is in turn patriarchal. So, yes! Burn it. BURN IT TO THE GROUND. However, I suspect that you are not asking about A&P, but are in fact one of the nine million high school and college students who have Googled the short story "A&P" in order to plagiarize the essay that your teacher assigned you directly following the death of its author, John Updike. In that case, you should know that the short story "A&P," which is rich in psychological content, symbolism, unreliable narrators, and other important literary qualities, is about a talking giraffe named Irving and how he breaks out of the zoo to rescue the beautiful Princess Patriarchy and become the 14th Wizard of Karthlingdome. Also, Harry Potter's in it. NEXT!

#3: does april die in revolutionary road

So. Many. Iterations. Of. This. Question. So, for all of you: hoo boy, yes. She dies, her fetus dies, hope dies, love dies, the American Dream of moving to the suburbs and not eventually realizing how boring you are and how much you hate your spouse dies, it's death death death all the way down. Oh, and then Frank Wheeler throws his magical necklace into the sea after telling the surprisingly salty tale of their courtship to a couple of pervs and/or Bill Paxton. Enjoy!

#4: does max hardcore rape women

This is actually a serious question, so: yes, he does. For more, read this.

#5a. does phillip roth beat women?
#5b. john updike how tall?

Excellent and pertinent questions, both! On Phillip Roth; don't know, hope not, sure does write some lady-hating books, though. On John Updike: he was tall, apparently, but now he is dead, leaving to readers of future generation only his vast catalogue of lady-hating books, which they will maybe pretend they've read before Googling plagiarizable essays. Say, do you read that Margaret Atwood lady? She has published many things, and I have never once been moved to wonder whether she beats women! So, read her books instead. Cat's Eye, that's a darn fine book for you.

#6: how do i make women think they're crap?

What a provocative query, Billy! And so politely typed, with the question mark and all! I've done some research in this field, so I'm happy to provide you with a reliable and time-tested answer. The best way to make women think they're crap is to nick yourself all over with razor blades and jump into a tank of sharks. My goodness, will the women in your life ever feel bad about themselves then! Another easy way to make women think they're crap is to try the hilarious "spilling gasoline on your pants, then lighting your farts" move. It is explosively effective! At damaging women's self-esteem, that is. Thanks for visiting Tiger Beatdown today, William, and be sure to come again! You know, after the shark thing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Daddy, Daddy, You Bastard, I'm... Ew.

Good afternoon! Are you aware that Caitlin Flanagan has LOST HER ENTIRE MIND?

Now, some of us may argue that Caitlin "Working Mothers Are Evil: Now, To Hire a Nanny So That I Can Write Professionally About This Fact" Flanagan had not much of a mind to lose. Regardless, she is in the Atlantic, arguing that you want to have sex with your entire family, so I would say that she has definitely progressed to the deep end of the already very deep pool of wrongness in which she is accustomed, like a nutty anti-feminist mermaid, to swim. The reason for this is that... she has read Alec Baldwin's book? Or something? I don't know.

Anyway, yeah, Alec Baldwin verbally abused and threatened his daughter Ireland and is just generally a guy I would not want around my kids, were I ever to spawn them. Caitlin Flanagan reads his harassment of his daughter as somehow "sexual," based on the fact that he used the word "pig." This is an occasion for her to reflect - at length! At terrible, terrible length! - about how sexy this abuse must be for the young lady in question:
This child must know that the endlessly engaging, personally attractive Alec Baldwin would instantly drop everything to come to her assistance if she ever needed him.
Ha ha, OR POSSIBLY BEAT HER UP, OR SOMETHING. But, whatever, Caitlin Flanagan maybe wants to bone Alec Baldwin. He is, as pointed out on 30 Rock, a man formerly possessed of a "Superman chest." She's a little swoony; creepy, but understandable. This is understandable. However, she can't possibly attribute her own feelings to Ireland and turn this into some kind of justification of... oh, holy shit:
In his daughter a father discovers a person whose very bloodline ensures that she will be charming to him: at the precise moment that his wife is fading into middle age, her beauty resurges in the daughter—there’s that unlined face you fell in love with so long ago! And instead of nattering away about all the tedious things your wife is always going on about, this ravishing new version has been programmed (by you) to talk about and care about all the things you are interested in. As for the girl’s feelings about you—well, you’re everything. You’re not a man; you’re the measure of a man.

So, anyway, Caitlin Flanagan feels that incestuous feelings are totes cool - we all have them! Or maybe just Caitlin Flanagan does, and details them, at truly astonishing length - but how does this relate to divorce and family law, the ostensible subject of Alec Baldwin's book? Well, here is the thing: Caitlin Flanagan believes that, should you ever find yourself married to a person with a history of abuse (real; documented; bad) and incestuous feelings toward your children (probably made up by Flanagan; still pretty bad, though), what you should do is at all costs avoid divorcing that person, because oh my Holy Christ she literally says this:
If your father thinks you’re enchanting, but he’s put your mother out to pasture—well, that’s just disturbing. You have somehow beguiled this powerful, grown man in a way your own mother could not; what’s wrong with you?
Oh, is it? Is it really, Caitlin Flanagan? Please, tell me more about what is disturbing, because you certainly seem capable of making those judgments!
The real sorrow of Ireland’s young life is not that she has a father with an ugly temper; it’s that the circle has been broken. She cannot use her relationship with her father as a way of testing the waters of romance without bringing sorrow to her mother. Nor can she exalt in herself—as girls are wont to do—as the product of an epic love, because by now she has become the opposite: the animating force of a great enmity, the only reason these feuding adults are forced to contend with one another.
Yes, little Timmys and Suzies of the world, remember: when Mommy and Daddy get divorced, it is all your fault.
And now, as she casts around in her girlish way for a model on which to shape her own dream of marriage and enduring love, she must look elsewhere. Her own home—that contested piece of property, subject to her father’s mood and her mother’s caprice—can offer her nothing.
Nothing except the absence of her abusive parent that is! But what is that worth, when it means missing out on the attentions of your sexy, sexy Dad?

Excuse me, won't you? I feel I may need to spend the next fourteen or so years barfing.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Dollhouse, Joss Whedon, and the Strange and Difficult Path of Feminist Dudes: Some Thoughts

Here is a thing that will surprise you: I did not like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I know! I know! Everybody liked Buffy! Specifically, every pro-feminist lady who's into Strong Female Characters and has a medium-to-high tolerance for nerdy science fiction stuff and had a hard time in high school, especially ladies who are aware that Joss Whedon, the show's creator, identifies openly and specifically as a feminist and talks about how great feminism is pretty much all the time. I fit, in pretty much every way, the profile of somebody who should like Buffy - yet, for reasons I can't quite articulate except in long-winded blog post form, I never connected to it in the ways I've been told I should.

Part of it was the cotton-candy sweetness of it all, the pandering to nerds and dorks and ladies in the form of delivering on-screen avatars who are far more articulate and charming and, in some cases, possessed of actual magical powers, than any of us could ever be. I, unlike a lot of feminist ladies, get annoyed with Strong Female Characters Who Kick Ass, because it seems to me that making your heroine actually magical and skilled in various made-up martial arts is a really silly way to go about delivering Female Empowerment to your viewers, who will have to be strong on a day-to-day basis without access to superpowers or magic. Yeah, yeah: it's a metaphor. It just wasn't a metaphor that worked for me. The strength was always just a little too superhuman, the magic too magical, the villains too obviously and literally demonic, and Buffy - most crucially - way too adorable for me to buy in. And perhaps it will help you to understand when I tell you that the only episode that I really connected with, on an emotional level, was "Ted," which nobody seems to like, and this was because (a) it was, to a spooky degree, representative of my own interactions with a certain stepfather, and (b) for the first two acts, at least, Ted was not a monster.

Which leads me to: this new show, Dollhouse. Are you watching it? Oh my goodness, it is amazing. It is also the Whedon show that has drawn the most critique from other feminists: because it depicts rape of a very "gray" variety, because it doesn't condemn the forced prostitution and human trafficking it conveys strongly enough, because its characters aren't Strong or lovable in the way they have been in past Whedon shows. Fair points, all! Also: points with which I disagree.

Dollhouse is, pretty much specifically and entirely, a show about consent. It's built around an organization - the titular Dollhouse - which erases volunteers' personalities and memories and renders them childlike and passive, in order to implant them with new, built-to-order personalities custom made for wealthy clients who wish to order the "perfect" person for a specific job. The purpose for which these mind-wiped folks (called "dolls," and I do not think that we are for a second supposed to miss how creepy that term is) are rented out is, primarily, sex. Also, they have no knowledge of or ability to consent to the "engagements" for which they are rented out. Also, they seem, in large part, to not really be volunteers at all - most of the ones we know about, including the central character, Echo, have become dolls in order to get out of jail time or worse, and one woman in particular was literally sold into the organization. Also, several Dolls have been used for sex by Dollhouse employees, sometimes with the illusion of consent in place and sometimes not.

So, at this point, people were like, "um, is noted feminist auteur Joss Whedon aware that he is making a show about forced prostitution and rape?" Whedon's politics have repeatedly been called into question, and usually for damn good reason. (Here is the thing about doing stuff that appeals to politically engaged audiences: you cannot fuck up politically and have people fail to notice or just go, "oh well, par for the course, ha ha ha!" You get yelled at. Sorry. Deal.) Dollhouse, in particular, had the potential to be hugely offensive. Here is the thing: Whedon, unlike most folks and many feminist or progressive-identified dudes, seems to actually listen when he is called out and to improve his work accordingly. In the case of Dollhouse, I think he is doing smarter work than he ever was. Getting smarter about oppression, I would submit to you, requires making the visible manifestations of it or metaphors for it much, much uglier.

The answer to whether Joss Whedon and his showrunners know how rape-culturey the entire Dollhouse concept is would seem to be, at this point, a big huge Yes. The Dollhouse is a giant metaphor, not only for rape culture, but for patriarchy and oppression at large: even the boy dolls are girls, stripped of agency or access to power and cast in pre-defined roles to fulfill the fantasies of the folks who are actually in charge. When they have sex, they aren't consenting - they've been made to think that they are consenting, by being made to think that they are the people who would consent to such things. They exist either in a state of infantilization and non-personhood (in which they are "cared for" by people who have a vested interest in continuing to use them) or implanted with false consciousness in which they are not aware of what's being done to them. I mean, false consciousness: Whedon's metaphors, they are rarely subtle. Their reactions to learning this, when they "wake up" (which Whedon has shown them doing, albeit briefly) are horror, disgust, and rage at how deeply they've been violated.

You can't just stake the enemy or cast a spell at him or throw him into Hell this time. The enemy surrounds you and controls you and is much, much bigger than any one person. The enemy is in your head: it controls what you're allowed to think, what you're allowed to know, who you're allowed to be. Resistance, this time, isn't about throwing punches. It's about getting your mind back. It's about reclaiming your right to define who you are - your right to be a person.

That seems, to me, like a much bigger and more profound and all-encompassing metaphor than saying that some boys are vampires and will turn evil if you fuck them. Just saying.

One of Whedon's perennial concerns is masculinity in a feminist era: if women are so powerful now, how are guys supposed to relate to them? It's a good question, and one of the better themes a male writer can explore, if he's willing to do it honestly. Whedon has offered solutions before but they've always been imperfect, because they haven't addressed how pervasive gender inequality is, and how much we're all complicit in it, how our thoughts and perceptions are informed by it from Day 1 simply because it is the context in which we live. In Dollhouse, he's giving it deeper and more sustained focus than ever, and is more willing than ever to implicate masculinity: in parallel to the story of how the dolls work to reclaim their personhood, there's the story of the people who take it away from them on a day-to-day basis, and how they justify their actions.

They tell themselves they're protecting the dolls. They tell themselves that they're doing the dolls a favor, by taking away the responsibilities of personhood. They tell themselves they're doing society a favor by keeping the dolls' services available. They tell themselves that the best way to fix the system is to work within the system. They tell themselves that the dolls aren't really people, so none of it matters. Sometimes, they don't have to tell themselves anything: they just like the thrill of being in charge.

Whedon has done a lot of shows about magically powerful women and the men who protect them (Buffy had Giles, River had Simon and Mal), which is sweet - hey, at least they aren't actively seeking to take power away from those women - but also paternalistic and troubling, and in Dollhouse he seems to know and specifically address just how creepy it is. Lots of parallels have been drawn between the "handler," Boyd, who is a protective father figure to Echo, and Giles, who is a protective father figure to Buffy, and those parallels are correct. However, this time around, Boyd is also directly invested in keeping Echo powerless: he's the guy in the creepy van, who takes her back to the Dollhouse to have her self taken away once she's served her purpose, and if she were a whole person, she might not need him at all. The question of whether he loves her enough to help her free herself is continually raised. Paul Ballard, the FBI agent who wants to "save" Echo, is also implicated: a hero, sure, but also weirdly and sexually preoccupied with "saving" a girl he doesn't know so that she will love him, a person just as involved in projecting his desires onto a blank slate as any Dollhouse client. The show doesn't steer around that fact. You don't hate these men - you love them, in fact - but Whedon is far more willing than ever before to implicate them in the oppression that he condemns. He's toyed with ambiguity and complicity before, but this time around, ambiguity and complicity are what the show is about.

Because then, there's Topher, the programmer, who is responsible for constructing the artificial personalities and implanting them in the dolls, who is a dorky blonde guy just like Whedon and who speaks in distinctly Whedonian cadences and lines, and who we are encouraged to dislike more than almost anyone else in the series. What you hear, when you hear Topher speaking about how difficult it is to construct a believable personality, how all of his creations have to be full and nuanced and have reasons for how they behave, how achievement is fueled by lack and he gave her asthma because that made her a more complete person and blah blah blah, is noted feminist auteur Joss Whedon reflecting, very consciously and very obviously, on his life's work - hiring gorgeous women and making them into who he wants them to be - and saying that sometimes, he feels kind of icky about it. It's a beautiful thing: brave, and self-questioning, and radical in a way that entertainment by dudes - even entertainment by dudes who identify as feminist - very rarely is, and in a way I trust more than I'm used to trusting my entertainment, and in a way that I've come to expect from the show as a whole.

Which, as I found out while writing this piece, has pretty much been cancelled.

Oh, well. Par for the course. Ha ha ha.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What Is Going On In This House? Or, In Defense of Laura Palmer

I was halfway through watching the Twin Peaks again when it occurred to me to wonder why I like it.

One of the things that happens when you write about art you consider bad is that you start to encounter other folks' defensiveness about their own taste: they like it, so it can't be bad, so they need to accuse you of lying or advocating censorship or "not getting the context," whatever gets them through the night and alleviates their fears that you are going to break into their houses in the middle of the night and steal all their DVDs in the name of Feminism. What it comes down to, all it comes down to, is people drawing the line in different places - one of my best friends is hugely into Tarantino, and liked Superbad, and I sure as hell can't listen to the Country Teasers without getting irritated but I know and like folks who do - so I really am sick of people telling me I can't draw my lines where I draw them or call them like I see them, because, shit: I don't need to hear your 20,000-word dissertation on why you are allowed to like what you like. You were always allowed. I'm just calling stuff out, and letting you go wherever you go from there.

Still, when you hear this enough - and it comes from everybody, people you admire as well as your average Internet dick complaining about mouthy women - you start to examine your own taste a little more closely, wondering if you are the same kind of chicken. It's rare, if not impossible, to find art in this problem-filled world that is not at least a little problematic. Still: it's one thing to like something in spite of its problems. It's another to like something and therefore insist that its problems do not exist.

Pretty much everything I complained about in that Tarantino post can be attributed directly to David Lynch: he's a fetishist (Twin Peaks is, amongst other things, perhaps Lynch's most extensive long-form documentation of his own foot fetish: shots of women's shoes, shots of women's feet, shots of people kissing or touching women's feet, shots of female characters that begin with and pan up slowly from their feet, on and on and it just gets more disconcerting with each viewing), the characters do not act in any way that is recognizably human, everything is there on the screen because he likes it or because it alludes to other movies, and his female characters are memorably - and graphically, and sexually - brutalized on a fairly regular basis. The thing is, with Lynch - or maybe specifically with Twin Peaks, because God knows sometimes it is too much, I haven't seen Fire Walk With Me because I'm really not looking forward to all the incest, and I don't think I could sit through Blue Velvet again but if I did I would probably Have Some Issues with it - these things don't register for me as problems.

My favorite moment in any Tarantino debate is when people accuse me of not "getting it" because I'm not into trash or camp or B-movies, because this is when I know these people have no idea what they're talking about: I would rather watch an audaciously bad movie than a well-groomed and boringly competent movie any day, I look forward with great pleasure to the day when I can see Dead Snow (Nazi zombies! And you thought apolitical zombies were bad) but you couldn't pay me to see The Reader. On this note, I would like to point out that one of the finer achievements of Twin Peaks is the hilarious way it riffs on teen films of the fifties and sixties, complete with thirty-two-year-old actors playing high school students, Homecoming Queens, Football Captains, sensitive motorcycling rebels named "James," and the requisite scene wherein the heartthrob just out of nowhere sits down and sings a song:

Yes, there are microphones in the living room for no discernible reason. Let us never speak of this again.

Yet it's not just that, not just intertextuality for its own sake or for the sake of being cute or cool or showing off all the awesome things you know: it's complex and purposeful, silly and campy at the same time that it is sad and weird and deeply terrifying. Tarantino, for me, fails to be more interesting than his source material: I'd rather watch the stuff he is riffing on than the stuff he makes. That is not true of Lynch. When he uses something, he gives it more meaning than it had before he touched it, letting his images resonate in new and deeper and more interesting ways.

Here's where we talk about the sexual brutality. Twin Peaks is built around a beautiful dead girl, Laura Palmer. She was the Homecoming Queen, she was pretty, she was perfect, everyone loved her, and no-one can believe that anyone would want to kill her. That's how it stands in the first episode, anyway: after a few more have gone by, it's apparent that pretty much anyone in the town could have killed her, that many of them preyed on her, and that her life was so filled with specifically sexual abuse and betrayal that she maybe even wanted to die.

It has been pretty widely pointed out that Blue Velvet is Sons & Lovers with oxygen masks: a story of family abuse and Oedipal pain, in which Mommy is Isabella Rosselini and Daddy is Dennis Hopper and you are a deeply troubled young man who hates what Daddy does to Mommy but kind of wants to do it also. What I haven't seen pointed out to nearly the same degree is this: just as Blue Velvet is a story about men and their mothers, Twin Peaks is about girls and their fathers. SPOILER: Daddy is pretty bad news this time around, too.

Leland Palmer, Laura's father, killed her. To be more specific, he killed her after raping her for most of her life. To be yet more specific, he did all of the above while possessed by the actual, literal Devil, who goes by the name of BOB. Yeah, it's harsh to the point of being unbearable to think about, but what is most interesting is that the theme of daughter and abusive-father/predatory-father/dual-father is played out, again and again, throughout the show: Audrey Horne is Daddy's little princess, and Daddy is the man who owns and patronizes the teen-prostitute brothel at which many of her classmates have been put to work. Donna thinks that her father is the lovable town doctor, but he's actually brothel-owning Ben Horne. Laura turned to her therapist, Dr. Jacoby, for the care her father didn't provide, and he repaid her by making her the star of his masturbatory stalker crush. Even the comic-relief plot, Lucy not knowing who the father of her child is and having to choose between adorable simpleton Andy and indeterminately European dandy fop Dick Tremaine, is about having two fathers and not knowing which one to trust. Young women are continually preyed on, hurt, fucked, and exploited in this show, specifically by older men in positions of authority and whom they have trusted to take care of or protect them: we can talk about scary scenes in Twin Peaks, because there are many of them, BOB in the mirror and the Black Lodge and the phantom bloodstain on the carpet, but for my money, the most terrifying scene in the series is Audrey Horne in the brothel, about to receive her first client, watching the door open and realizing that her father is coming into the room.

You can watch the series for the first time knowing about Leland or you can watch it for the first time not knowing: knowing, for me, makes it better, which is why I'm telling you about it now. When you watch it that way, you realize how much the series is commenting on or implicating the dynamics of abusive families. There's a reason for Leland to be so hugely and creepily distraught throughout the series; there's a reason why Laura's mother, Sarah, keeps seeing "visions" of things she can't or won't acknowledge that she knows; there's a reason she looks torn-up and on the verge of losing her mind from the first moment we see her, and there's a reason she can't stop screaming.

The thing is: when you watch this without knowing what's going on, it's pretty fucking weird. When you watch it knowing what's going on, it is much, much weirder.

The figure of the beautiful virgin - Homecoming Queen, cheerleader, Good Girl - is a huge part of this particular patriarchy's erotic consciousness. We fetishize the Good Girl and her purity, and we fetishize the idea of defiling that purity - often, but not always, by force - and the idea that there's a dirty little slut in there, hungry and waiting for you, if you can just find it. Twin Peaks is, to a huge degree, about those two fetishes and how closely linked they are, and what betrayal and evil is inherent in playing that out on the bodies of actual young women. This, if I'm not missing something, is something we feminists have been harping on about for at least fifty or sixty years.

And because I want to Be The Change I Want To See In The World, which is people acknowledging that the things they like are problematic and calling them out, now is the time to address that Lynch's handling of race, both in general and specifically in Twin Peaks, is just plain fucked. I mean, volumes could be written about Josie the Sexy Yet Treacherous Asian Woman and Hawk the Mystical Native American Man Who Shares the Legends of His People, let alone the fact that one of the white ladies on the show is pretty frequently in Asianface and at one point during a run of episodes I haven't seen because the general consensus is that they are really, really bad, this white lady apparently forces Josie to become her housemaid, which: no, no, for oh so many reasons, no. It reminds me of this other show I like, and how it handles GLBT folks (short version: invisible or villains): I want to be having a good time, but here this is, and there's no way around it. So, there you go.

(Here also is the point where I stopped writing to go re-read that David Foster Wallace piece on Lynch, because I worried that I was cribbing stuff from him. It is amazing, and you should read it! It turns out that, yes, I do agree with him on many substantial points, but there was way less focus on the father/daughter thing in Twin Peaks than I remembered, and that I'm actually disagreeing with him in several places, including his assertion that "we the audience" are titillated by the rape in Blue Velvet and that it "implicates us" - who is this "we" you speak of, sir? - and that the overwhelming whiteness of Lynch movies makes them "apolitical" because come on. What I did not remember, and the reason for this particular aside, is that the piece at several points unfavorably compares younger directors to Lynch and implies that they are imitating him without approaching his level of talent or his moral sense, and that the director he indicts most frequently, specifically, and hilariously is one "Q. Tarantino.")

The female leads of Twin Peaks, Donna and Shelley and Audrey and Laura (who only exists in what people say and remember about her, and so is only presented to us as a mess of conflicting perceptions) cross back and forth over the good-girl/bad-girl, virgin/whore line so frequently, often several times within the space of an episode and without any apparent reason, that the line becomes completely blurred and we can't categorize them as good or bad at all. They're just girls: fetishized, confused, and trapped in roles that can't begin to contain their actual complexity. The weight of transgression, indictment, and evil is always on the adult men who exploit, seduce, violate and betray them, not on the girls themselves, and the show doesn't suggest that any kind of revenge can come close to erasing or making up for what those men have done. The show's hero is Dale Cooper, and one of the reasons that we know he's a good man is that, when Audrey propositions him - turning to an adult man for approval, and care, and protection, and thinking she can get all of this through sex and only through sex because HER NEGLECTFUL FATHER ROUTINELY FUCKS TEENAGE GIRLS, DUH - he says no.

I mean, I don't think David Lynch or any of the writers and directors on Twin Peaks are specifically feminist. I have no reason to think that, and David Lynch is probably too weird to subscribe to any recognizably human political position. In fact, if I had to bet, I would say that Lynch, like most men and many women, has some severely fucked-up ideas about the ladies. I do, however, think that Twin Peaks is feminist: or, to be more specific, that it allows for my particular feminist reading. Which, after much self-interrogation, seems like a reasonably good explanation as to why I like it.

It's also just a good show.

SEXIST BEATDOWN: Your Body Is Blooming Like a Spring Flower, So Don't Punch Anyone In The Face With It Edition

Hello! I do not know if you are aware of this, but today is Friday! This means it is time for another edition of Sexist Beatdown, starring the charismatic Amanda Hess of Washington City Paper's The Sexist, and co-starring the slightly less charismatic Me of Tiger Beatdown.

This week: OMG! Boys! To be more specific, teen boys! What should we teach them about not being jerks to girls? Is it different from teaching them not to be jerks in general? What the heck is Perri Klass, M.D. talking about, anyway, and why is it so focused on elevators? And: why did I name my imaginary son of the future Timmy? Read on to learn!

ILLUSTRATION: Do not let this man give The Talk to your son.

SADY: hey lady! are you available to talk now? about BOYS?

AMANDA: i have so much to dish about. particularly, why is "when to get off the elevator" the only specific circumstance that story ventures to apply to its analysis of teaching girls and boys how to behave?

SADY: well, you know. clearly elevators are the most pressing sexual or gender issue for our nation today! i refer you, of course, to aerosmith's "love in an elevator," which explores these issues in depth.

AMANDA: "what can the most gender neutral experience ever teach us about how to teach boys not to rape people?"

SADY: that whole article weirds me out, because she's talking about giving boys The Talk, yet stubbornly refuses to address anything in a specific or concrete manner.

AMANDA: yeah, anything. i was glad the Times decided to bring this issue to the forefront, after all the discussion lady publications have been giving to victim blaming / empowerment in domestic abuse situations. but it was mishandled

SADY: "you should know that there are certain people who will view you as dangerous in certain situations which are related to certain things." she would give the worst Talk ever!

AMANDA: i know.

SADY: i mean, and i got this whole weird aura of defensiveness "people make MISTAKES [hitting people? raping?] and could be AUTOMATICALLY viewed as aggressors in AMBIGUOUS situations [again: hitting people? rape?]"

AMANDA: and, you know, maybe she really was just talking about getting out of the fucking way on an elevator? what was she talking about? the comment this piece begs to include is: well, girls learn about some things because they have to. boys will learn about them if we teach them.

SADY: ha. i think it's important to address this stuff head-on with guys, because not only do they get messages that disrespecting girls is ok from the culture at large, they are likely to know other boys who ACT on that even if they personally do not. and, i mean, how awesome would it be if there were all these well-educated boys intervening with their friends to be like, "hey, perhaps you should not be such an asshole, for it is uncool?" god knows they won't listen to GIRLS about this stuff, having already been told that girls should not be listened to, ever.

AMANDA: yeah, and of course there are more delicate ways to teach these lessons than say, you know, "you are a strong dangerous rapist in training, stop being the way you are!"

SADY: right. i mean, i too would probably give the worst Talk ever, because I would be like: Timmy, you have Urges. Girls also have Urges. Your Urges are OK and you should not treat anyone like crap because they respond or fail to respond to them. One day you will meet a nice person with Urges like yours - maybe a lady, maybe not - and on that day you can act on your Urges together in a mutually respectful manner. I apologize for naming you Timmy. The End.

AMANDA: haha. so i had forgotten what Perri Klass, MD's conclusion was.

SADY: that we should teach boys AND girls to get off the damn elevator?

AMANDA: yeah (that also made absolutely no sense), but right before that: "It’s too bad that one side of teaching our children about sex and relationships means reminding them that there are bad people in the world; stay away from them, stay safe, speak up if someone hurts you or pushes you. But everyone needs that information, and that promise of adult support. We have to get that message across without defining some of our children as obvious perpetrators and others as obvious victims, because that insults everyone."

SADY: yeah, and teaching both genders to protect themselves from predators is a nice message, or, to be more precise, FIFTY PERCENT of a very nice message. because teaching people not to BE predators is important too.

AMANDA: yeah, and nobody is saying, "don't tell girls that their strength can be used for hurting.” i just can't really see where klass is coming from here. she seems to think it's a widespread problem that parents are only teaching their boys not to be bad citizens, not to rape, not to hit, not to be fucking jerks about the abortion. is that happening? i'm all for teaching girls not to be jerks about the abortion too, but i don't think these conversations are happening at all, much less that there is a huge gender disparity in them. she seems to still be focused way back in time, on chivalry, which is horrifically misleading and not important.

SADY: yeah, exactly. lots of boys can be very courtly on a date, but courtly does not equal actual respect. i mean, yeah, i'm sorry, teen boys are getting messages that being predatory and violent specifically towards teen girls is acceptable. so addressing those messages head on (how do your friends talk about girls? Ah, I see, your friends are dicks) is maybe the only way to counteract that, and we can't be afraid of HURTING SOMEONE'S FEELINGS by telling them that it's not OK to hurt someone else. if she's thinking that guys are getting traumatized by folks telling them that women are people and no means no, i really don't get where she's coming from.

AMANDA: agreed. it comes from the same place as the idea that like, teaching men about these things will emasculate them and they'll turn into puny feminine gay boys. we don't want oversensitive boys running around!

SADY: yes, if your son is taught to talk to ladies like they are people, his male parts will wither and he may BECOME a lady overnight. sad, but true.

AMANDA: it's just funny that after months of conversations about the Celebrity Domestic Violence Incident that Klass Shall Not Name that focused on the idea of victim blaming and making women responsible for ending violence, we see this response---"hmm, awkward, should we really be blaming boys before they've actually done the violence?" ??? who is doing that?

SADY: yeah, right? because all i hear about these days is how it's the lady's responsibility and [via that crazy Linda Hirshman lady] ladies who get into abusive relationships should just leave - leave! LEAVE RIGHT NOW! - or else they are weak. i hear about nine million things each day about "don't get drunk, don't walk home alone at night, leave immediately if abuse happens, take responsibility or your raping/abuse/whatever will be YOUR FAULT for letting your guard down." and women do have so many things they do to protect themselves. but one way? one REALLY EFFECTIVE WAY to make sure rape and abuse don't happen? is to make dudes take responsibility for not abusing or attacking women. and to intervene with friends or peers when they see something like that take place.

AMANDA: "awkward"!

SADY: perri klass seems to think it's incredibly sad that some people are scared of boys. i agree. so why not teach your boy to be someone people don't need to be scared of?