Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Supposedly Feminist Thing I'll Never Do Again: Mistakes I've Made While Blogging

You know, friends: the Tiger Beatdown Internet Infotainment Experience has been around for a while now. Eight months, to be precise! That is like, seventy-seven years, in blog terms! Also, as I have been writing it, I myself have been getting older. I will be twenty-seven years of age soon! That is, like, seventy-nine-hundred years, in terms of how old it makes me feel! (Yes, I know. You are all older than me. I am a tiny infant baby. I should shut up.)

So, in a surprising twist, it turns out that I have a point here. It is this: with age, they say, comes wisdom. While I find this to be personally untrue (with age, for me, comes steadily decreasing lung capacity due to chain-smoking) I will concede that with blog-age has come the determination to be slightly less blog-stupid.

It is tricky, putting your thoughts out there once per day for the world to behold! Especially when you are dealing with a really complicated subject, like the feminism! I have put a lot of thoughts out there that I shouldn't have! And, considering that I have been nattering on about the feminism for even longer than I've been blogging, I've put some "feminist" "thoughts" out into the world that haunt me, even though they are not available through Google Search.

What I am saying, here, is that now that I am an old lady (no, I'm not. I KNOW. I will shut up) I have been thinking a lot about responsibility: as a person, as a blogger, as a conductor of ladybusiness. And, after thinking about it, I want to share with you a few lists of things I don't intend to do in the future.

The first list focuses on mistakes... in BLOGGING!

1. AIMING ROCKET LAUNCHERS AT MOSQUITOES. I like to write about things that are silly and trivial. I know! Are you SHOCKED? I think that misogyny in pop culture is important; I think that even the small things can help to show how the larger structures and myths of sexism function; I will probably never be your source for intelligent, measured critiques of US economic policy, but I am pretty definitely going to see "Funny People" and blog about it, because whatever. Nevertheless! Getting worked up and unleashing all of my rhetorical fury on some weird mommy-issues-having dude who writes a blog, or an obscure op-ed, or a vaguely-but-not-really-but-actually-yes-vaguely-offensive article only wastes my time and yours and it makes me look (sshhhhhh) hysterical. Even though, when I do these things, I am not actually hysterically angry, or even all that angry. I am just bored.

2. ALLOW ME TO USE THE INTERNET TO DEMONSTRATE THAT I AM A DICK. Here is a fact for you: I am a vulgar and immature person. Here is another fact: as a young writer, I had it drilled into me, again and again, that I should basically never criticize another writer publicly, ever, because they would, as the Mortal Kombat game says, finish me. As a vulgar and immature person, I had but one recourse: to start a blog, where, if it so pleased me, I could express my well-reasoned ideological disagreements by saying that so-and-so, in addition to being wrong on the issues, is well-known to eat ass for breakfast. (And ass for lunch. For dinner? More ass. It's a remarkably ass-centric diet, is what I am telling you.) And, you know? I really don't want to become the sort of person who measures her words so carefully that she's incapable of outright saying that someone is wrong or acting the fool. I am, however, steadily becoming more aware that people are actually reading this weird Internet thing of mine - and that when I promote a back-handed, arrogant, dismissive, snide attitude, not just toward a particular piece of work, but towards a person (with feelings! And a life! That I know nothing about!) others follow suit. Also: if I'm just feminism's playground bully, there's really no reason for anyone to listen to me or take me seriously. I'm not accomplishing anything if I devote most of my time to being a dick.

3. OH, LOOK, AN ARGUMENT! I MUST TAKE SIDES AT ONCE! I love an argument! I basically think conversations can only get better when people are unafraid to challenge each other, or call each other out. However: it is my understanding that lots of people do not like an argument as much as I do; they apparently find them hurtful and unpleasant. And, even in the high-minded world of ladyblogging, it's tough to keep arguments issue-focused. You know how it goes, when an argument goes south: an argument ensues, people appeal to the folks around them for backup, teams form, old resentments and grudges are unearthed, a lot of people are like "hum de dooo de dooo, not getting involved, la la laaaaaaa," someone else makes passive-aggressive comments about people who refuse to get involved in the argument (these can be made to sound very issue-based! Which is even more annoying when you realize that they are, in essence, somebody going "X smells bad and I hate her and you aren't helping me hate X, WHY, now I hate you too") and before long it's all about who you like and who you don't like and NOT the issue at hand. (Note: THIS IS NOT ALWAYS HOW IT GOES. It does go this way sometimes, though.) And then I, a person whose opinion nobody asked for, show up on the scene with one of my very useful blog posts! Which add nothing to the discussion, lots of times, and really only give me an excuse to work out my own personal thoughts on the issue being discussed! Here's how I would like this to go in the future: not like that. So, when an argument raises important issues, I plan to, you know, WRITE ABOUT THE ISSUES. And not about how X thinks Y is a big stinky poophead and have you heard about it and ooooh let's add fuel to the fire, it is so warm and shiny and whoops, HOWDITGETGETBURNED, HOWDITGETBURRRRRRRND. Yeah, no more of that, please, Sady.

4. REPEATING THE PARTY LINE BEFORE I UNDERSTAND IT. It is tough to determine whether this belongs in the "blogging mistakes" post or the "feminism mistakes" post. However, it's really a problem with writing - so, here you go. Feminism is a complex philosophy (yes! I would describe it as "a philosophy!") with lots of differing lines of thought, and arguments which link back to other arguments, and variations on a theme. You've got your Radical Feminists, your third-wave feminists part A: Reclaiming Femininity and Sexuality, your third-wave feminists part B: It's All About Intersectionality, your second-wave feminists who are glad about the third-wavers, your second-wave feminists who hate them and use words like "funfeminist" and "empowerful" and think intersectionality is just an excuse to place women last (DO. NOT. GET that one, really - there's going to be a whole blog post on that at some point), your third-wavers who don't seem to get the point at all and just want to trash the second-wavers for being so old and earnest because that's helpful, and basically it can be hard to look over all this and write only what you know to be true, rather than buying into some pre-packaged feminism that contains a lot of concepts for you to mouth before you truly understand them. But when I look back at the blog posts that really, really make me cringe - there are a lot of them, actually! - the chief mistake I made was always endorsing an argument before I'd analyzed it. This is not to say that the arguments were always wrong! (Some of them were wrong.) It is to say that I was writing what someone else would say, or what I thought I was supposed to say, rather than what I actually knew and believed. And it doesn't make sense to say anything, ANYTHING, about this incredibly complex and rewarding and necessary discipline of feminism before you know what you are talking about. So. I'm going to write my take on things, from now on, and not anyone else's.

4. WAS THIS JOKE FUNNY THE FIRST TIME? NO? HOW ABOUT THE SECOND? Or the third, or fourth time? By the time I reach iteration number 50 of this particular joke, I trust you will be well-acquainted with its subtle intricacies and laughter-generating potential! Basically, the thing I would like you to think about - carefully, and at length - is how funny this joke is, and how much funnier it will become after I have told it in eighty-seven different versions. For example! What if I ended several short sentences with exclamation points?! HUMOR!

Oh, OK. I'm not going to stop doing this. Sorry. It is the Tiger Beatdown way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Everyone Can Succeed! But Not, You Know, At Music!

Oh my god. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. The best thing ever has happened. Are you ready for it? BECAUSE HERE IT IS:

Okay. I am aware - thanks to numerous posts on the subject - that some of you may not be able to make it all the way through this without having a rage-based aneurysm. Others may simply object to awful rapping! Therefore, I shall provide you with some of the highlights.

0:40: He is one man! (Well, two. I guess.) He is outnumbered! He is the Miss California!

0:45: "Can't support abortion and call yourself a Christian" = BABY WEARING SANTA HAT! Don't abort! Think of the Santa babies!

0:53: Black-and-white "SOCIALISM" graphic. Seemingly unrelated to lyrics. Still awesome.

1:09: Oh God! The other, taller guy started rapping! He is even more terrible! Thank you, Internet, for giving me this beautiful gift. The tears you see, streaming down my face? They are tears of joy.

1:15: DRILL, BABY, DRILL. Yessssssssssssssssssss.

1:16: Ha ha, I don't hate you, Giant Conservative. Even though you are praying for me. I hope you live a long, happy life, and continue to think you have various talents that you do not actually have, so that you can post videos of them on YouTube. Young Conservative Rodeo Clowns, anyone?

1:32: "We need more women with intellectual integrity." Women like Megyn Kelly! Note to Young Conservatives: "intellectual integrity" does not mean "boobies."

1:51: "The Bible says we're a people under God." Um, I think that is the Pledge of Allegiance, actually? WHATEVER.

2:00: Oooooh, fun blurry effect on the word "soldiers" for no reason. We are heading into hardcore "no such thing as discrimination! Because soldiers die sometimes! And God, and the Bible! I'm gonna fuck me a fish" territory now.



3:58: Oh no! They turned into photo negatives, then the song ended! Now it is just a minute and a half of a black screen. You guys. HAS THE LIBERAL ESTABLISHMENT SILENCED THE YOUNG CONS?

4:38: Click: play. Again.

Sexist Beatdown: Youth Is Wasted On the Young, and Also on GREGG Edition

Oh, Elizabeth Wurtzel. So readable. So relatable (NOTE: this is more true if you are a thirteen-year-old girl). So seriously, seriously problematic and scary.

Like, for example: have you read this new essay of hers, about WHEN BEAUTY FADES? Well, Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I have! It is chock full of the self-loathing and the inappropriate messages for ladies! In it, she states, many many many many times, that she would seriously rather die than not be pretty or get laid any more, laments her age and withered, haglike condition (she is forty-one years old - yep, time to put Grandma in a home) and shares her regrets about the men that got away, AFTER they punched her, threw glass bottles at her, and chased her down the street with frying pans. Because, you know, it's a shame she didn't settle down with those dudes. Before it was too late.

Oh, and also, there's GREGG. GREGG, you see, is the perfect boyfriend. He comes equipped with an extra G on the end of his name, a heaping helping of boyfriendly condescension, and a bottle of Body Shop peppermint foot lotion that he may or may not throw at your head in a fit of pique.

Seriously, you guys. GREGG is so terrible.

ILLUSTRATION: GREGG totally has one of these. He will wear it on all your dates. With his "special" flip-flops.

AMANDA: hello!

SADY: hello lady. your beautiful dream of talking to me while i'm all hopped up on the cough syrup is about to come true. and also we get to talk about how wacky elizabeth wurtzel (still) is! is she not wacky?

AMANDA: she is, Sady. I was introduced to her wackiness at a tender young age, when my mother bought me Prozac Nation. I was maybe 13, so I loved it.

SADY: yes. I recall reading Bitch in junior high. and hiding it from my mom, due to its provocative cover!

AMANDA: looks like she hasn't "aged well," though! ha ha ... hmmm.

SADY: well... she still has mermaid hair! actually, this article is weird, because it is like, "i am old and ugly now. i should have settled down. however, i am neither old nor ugly, and still have lots of dates and sex." so, when you're reading it, it's like... "sad! umm... happy! umm... happysad?"

AMANDA: but those dates want her for what she used to be (young and not ugly), which leads me to believe, you know, it may be a personal problem. but i think she admits that throughout.

SADY: yeah. i think she still misses gregg. can we talk about how gross gregg, the perfect boyfriend, sounds? is that cruel? "sensitive, an inveterate graduate student who used to rub my feet at the end of the day with a lovely pink peppermint lotion from the Body Shop."

AMANDA: yeah, who was surprised when he threw a bottle at her face?

SADY: that was a shocking twist! he also pronounced that he was "her only chance at happiness," and that she would now fail at life, due to not dating GREGG. GREGG is a witch! He laid a curse on her!

AMANDA: i found that part really interesting. a few of the commenters were chastising her for "bragging" about her looks, but i thought she made an interesting point about societal expectations for young women ... i definitely identified with that, not with the "beautiful" part, but with the "smart young woman" part. not that i'm old and ugly or anything, but it was always like "you're so smart, why are you [with him]?" or you're so smart, why [aren't you happy]?" stuff like that. and in her case, it turned out to be, you're so smart and beautiful, why aren't you with someone like GREGG who doesn't fucking understand you at all and who does not make you happy? (and throws bottles). (like all your other boyfriends).

SADY: yeah, seriously. i mean, i get that she felt like the world was offered to her - and it was! she was elizabeth wurtzel! - and it still didn't make her happy, and that would be enough to send anyone into a tailspin. i can identify with that. but also: tying it to your looks seems to gloss over sooooo many of the other problems. like, there's this undercurrent of abusive bottle-throwing (or lamp-throwing, or frying-pan-chasing-with) relationships that i think it would be worthwhile to get into. yet she seems to blame herself for MAKING the dudes be all abusive, like so: "Now that I am a woman whom some man might actually like to be with, might actually not want to punch in the face—or, at least, now that I don’t like guys who want to do that to me—I am sadly 41." Ummmm... maybe they did that because they were jerks? Also: maybe it's good that you DIDN'T STAY WITH ANY OF THEM? Due to the jerk thing?

AMANDA: yeah man. i'm not sure she takes away the same lesson from GREGG---beautiful, perfect, peppermint foot-rubbing, complete jerk---that we might, either. Surely, she can't be serious that she ACTUALLY THINKS her one chance of happiness was with GREGG?

SADY: Right? I mean, she's all like, "if only I had stayed with GREGG - a dude i was so unhappy with that I cheated on him, multiple times, and also he broke into my computer, and also he threw a bottle at my face - I would be happy." Um, probably not. Probably you'd be begging him to throw away his damn hemp necklaces. And then banging the mailman. Interesting fact: Elizabeth Wurtzel passed the BAR EXAM! She became a LAWYER, for a LAW FIRM! I find it interesting that this whole "I wasted my life" thing does not take into account the fact that she has had two separate careers that require a pretty tremendous amount of work and intelligence to pursue. Apparently, if you're not with GREGG or a GREGG analogue, it's all for nothing.

AMANDA: points for honesty i guess

SADY: yeah, and wurtzel always gets those points. i just think it's weird that we have this narrative for women - and you see these pieces ALL THE TIME, it's not just her - that are like, "i once thought i could date around and not settle down and pursue my career, but now I know I should have SETTLED. For I am SAD, SAD, SAD."

AMANDA: yeah, but based on her earlier work, i mean, she's been sad throughout. the essay is just a sequel: "Sad at 40." that's not to belittle it --- i like her work --- but given what we know, i can't say that 40 has much to do with it.

SADY: exactly. i like a lot of what wurtzel has done, too. yet: it doesn't make sense to position oneself as a cautionary tale about regret and wasted youth, if your youth was also spent feeling sad. i guess it's just the positioning of this piece - as a one-more-lady-regrets-not-
settling thing - that i have a problem with. that and the "i've finally learned how to make dudes not punch me in the face, because before it was my fault that they did that" thing.

AMANDA: that one little aside ... she puts it in parentheses! i would like to read more about that little aside and why it is the case.

SADY: Exactly. That aside, for me, is the story.

AMANDA: i, too, have a lot of problems with this essay, but i think she's writing about what a lot of women experience and don't talk about. it's not acceptable for women to feel that this is "their fault" --- but it's understandable to me why they would feel that way, and productive to talk about that feeling existing. she should write a book about that aside, though.

SADY: Yes, definitely. I would buy that book. Even without the provocative cover.

AMANDA: she should interview all the dudes. that would be great. where is GREGG now?

SADY: Playing acoustic Bob Marley covers on the subway.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh, no.

Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no.

Abu Ghraib abuse photos 'show rape'

Oh, no.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

I mean: you knew it was happening, right? Even before you knew it was happening, even if you didn't know it was happening, for sure, until today: you knew it was happening. It was in the context. It was in the other photos, the ones where the rape wasn't shown. Eroticized violence; sex as violence; sex as humiliation; "feminization" as both violence and humiliation: it's a dynamic, a dynamic you know, something that's a part of jokes, fraternity initiations, straight-guy porn, something woven into the culture at such a deep level that you can't help but recognize it, get that sick taste in the back of your mouth when you see it. Especially when you know where it leads. And you know where it leads. It leads here.

So you knew it was happening.

But now you know it was happening.

Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no.
[President Obama] said: “The most direct consequence of releasing [the pictures], I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”
Right. Not to point out that military culture is tied to the performance of a very specific, very violent form of masculinity in which to be a "pussy" or a "bitch" or a "faggot" is the worst thing imaginable, that it is a culture that promotes and tolerates pro-rape attitudes, that it is a culture that promotes and tolerates rape. Not to point out that military culture systematically cuts the hearts out of our young men and women, makes them into sociopaths and racists and misogynists and sadists and murderers, in the service of allowing them to more efficiently torture and kill an Other, because recognizing the Other's humanity would only slow our boys down. Not to point out that rape is inevitably a part of war, that rape is a weapon of war. No. None of those would be the most direct consequence.
Mr Obama seemed to reinforce that view by adding: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.”
Right. Because we can construct a hierarchy of offenses against the basic humanity of others, in which rape is lower down on the list than pretty much everything else. Because that's not an argument frequently used by those who wish to minimize the impact of rape or anything. Whatever. The President is telling you that torture is worse than rape. That torture is more sensational than rape. As if rape isn't torture.

Oh, no.

Oh, Jesus Christ, no, no, no, no, no.

[NOTES: First, you know that "triggering" thing people talk about so much? Here is how that looks, with me: I get VERY VERY ANGRY. So I cut out bits of this that were just anger and not insight. Second, I started writing this after I saw Breslin's DoubleX post, but before I saw the Shakesville post. You should check the Shakesville one. We have a similar take - which take, apparently, includes the need to type some variant on "oh holy shit" over and over because what else can you say, really? - but Melissa McEwan is, as always, really insightful. And doesn't go off the deep end, as I tend to do, with the whole scorched-earth anger thing.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blogger, Walk With Me: BOB and Internet Feminism

I am always happy when there is a new post from Emily Magazine in my reader. It is a wonderful little gift! So this post - about women of her generation, and feminism, and inter-lady internet shaming - was exciting to find. It's really interesting! And you should read all of it!

I don't quite agree with all of it, however. This bit, for example:
I feel like Rebecca Traister and Linda Hirshman and their ilk imagine a hypothetical audience member — male, I guess, so let’s call him Bob — who is constantly trying to make his mind up, about Women. Bob is on the fence, and everything he hears and reads might sway him. Should women be paid as much as men, should women have the same opportunities as men, can they be trusted to run our corporations, our media, our country? Should they be raped, or not? Rebecca and Linda don’t give Bob much credit for being able to parse ambiguities. They would like everyone’s message to be as crystal clear as possible, so that Bob doesn’t get confused and start raping people. “No, no!” they keep trying to tell him. “Those aren’t women, we are! And we don’t like those women!”
Well. Huh. First of all: Rebecca Traister and Linda Hirshman in the same sentence? Really? Second: As far as I can tell, most people who write about feminism, or Women, are not actually writing for the benefit of men, or Bob. (Reducing this culture's complex, ambivalent relationship with gender, feminism, and misogyny to one imaginary dude who needs to "make up his mind" about raping women is, yeah, a weird thing, and maybe an explicit attempt to trivialize feminism itself: but whatever, let us roll with it.) That would sort of be missing the point, wouldn't it? There are a lot of Bobs out there - dudes who never really think about gender or women's issues because their privilege ensures that they never really have to - and the odds that they'll be persuaded to care by a post on a ladyblog such as DoubleX or Broadsheet are, well, slim. No, when you are writing feminism, you are writing counter to Bob's interests, because: Bob doesn't care about these things! Bob just wants you to tell him which new records to download! Bob wants to hear that Bob is a good person because Bob voted for Obama! The question that Bob asks, when perusing any given news story, is: what about Bob?

It's not that Bob is against women, per se. No, Bob - along with his non-fence-sitting, openly misogynist cousin, Steve (you may recognize Steve as the guy who likes to log into the Guardian website and leave long, angry comments on all of my articles) - is perfectly comfortable with women, so long as they fit his comfortable little stereotypes of what women ought to be.

Which is where it gets really sticky. I get what Gould is saying here - that telling certain women they ought not to do what they are doing, because it reinforces stereotypes of women, or whatever, is overly judgmental and hurtful. However, I don't think that objecting to another woman's writing, or behavior, is always wrong.

It comes down to the difference between Traister and Hirshman, I suppose. Traister wrote an article which was critical of Gould, and which also argued that certain women (young, pretty, prone to confessional writing) are marketed in a highly sexualized way that focuses on their youth, their prettiness, and their personas, rather than on their writing. She also said that giving women who fit this archetype lots of media exposure, and not giving the same kind of exposure to women with different styles and subjects, promotes a limited view of women and of women's writing. Hirshman, on the other hand, wrote that piece about how if you don't report your rape you are a rapist. You could argue that these are two examples of the same thing - women criticizing other women. I would argue that they're not. The difference lies in where you draw the line: when you say that something is too cruel or too personal. According to every standard of reasonable and compassionate behavior, Hirshman's piece crossed that line. Traister's did not. There's also the fact that Traister's piece was written in response to a particular, reoccurring phenomenon having to do with gender - something feminism is meant to do. Hirshman's piece, despite its pretense of relevance, was about throwing a shit fit because someone (Megan Carpentier, to be precise) had criticized her work.

Traister actually made a pretty important point in that piece: that the answer is not silencing certain women, but giving more exposure to more women, so that the full diversity of who we are can be accurately represented. Unfortunately, diversity means disagreement. The question is whether you think that having many women's voices and many female points of view available to the public is more or less important than not being criticized by another woman.

It's tough to disagree with another woman in public - especially when you like that woman's work - not least because you just know it will always get spun into some sort of "catfight." If there's one thing Bob and/or Steve love, it's news that women are raw bitches who tear each other down at every opportunity. Yet men have always had the privilege of disagreeing with each other, and of sorting out questions through debate. (Well - this is particularly true of men who are white and/or straight and/or of a certain class. However.) Insisting that any criticism of a fellow woman and/or feminist is a betrayal of women and/or feminism just takes us to the icky terrain so well-covered by that one Onion story.

Is it feminism's fault that women write critical pieces about each other? Um, yeah, kind of. It's feminism's fault that so many of us are writing, I guess. It's feminism's fault that so many women feel confident enough in their own opinions to voice them. So maybe it is feminism's fault that people will speak up and tell you when they think you're wrong. It can get loud, and it can get ugly, and I still prefer it to silence - or what happens in a lot of mainstream, non-feminist writing, where no-one is trying to convince men of anything, because they're all busy telling men what they want to hear. The question of who those pieces are written for has a fairly obvious answer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And Now: The Agony of COMMENTS OF THE WEEK!

Good evening! Do you remember last week, by chance? Last week, when I was all, "oh, my boyfriend is moving in, with me, so I may not be able to blog much, but I will certainly try to blog, and also next week will do far more blogging?" 

Yes. Well. About that. 

You see, friends, I don't know how you like to move in with your special someone, but what I like to do is get all of the boxes into the house, unpack a bit, and then contract THE DEADLY SWINE FLU. Which is pretty much exactly what I did. I was like, "yay, moving accomplished, I'm so exciteeeeurgh." Then I lost consciousness. 

Anyway! I am awake now! And have chosen COMMENTS. Here they are! 

Professional misogyny consultant snobographer demonstrates how one might best consult extra misogyny for screen phenomenon Sex & the City: 

I don't know, Sady. I don't remember any rape jokes in Sex and the City. Nothing misogynies-up a joint like some rape jokes. You could also easily throw in a scene where Charlotte and Amanda or whoever have an actual physical fight over a pair of Manalos (sp?) and/or some dude.

True enough! Other professional misogyny consultant Ashley takes it one glorious step further: 

I don't know... Sex and the City does seem to value human intimacy and female friendship. This is a problem for me, as a misogyny consultant. Love cannot be tolerated! What if we replaced Carrie with a bro, perhaps a bro played by Paul Rudd? He could write about how demanding and unreasonable the other three women are for wanting men to be nice to them. Instead of Carrie's usual column-starting questions, which are impressively vapid but usually lack the kind of misogynistic "punch" I'm looking for, he could start out the episode pondering questions like, "Are women crazy, or just bitchez?"

If we could throw in some jello wrestling and exploding cars, I think we've got ourselves a show.
This show gets progressively better! Actually, I plan to replace all four of the women with Paul Rudd ("Cary"), Jason Segel ("Sam"), Jonah Hill ("Charlotte, But a Dude Version") and Seth Rogen ("Um, Mirando?"). Chris Noth will play some blonde woman who is in all of those movies but whose name I can never remember ("Elizabeth Banks"). 

Finally, metaphor consultant Jess unpacks everything that is wrong with that one Gawker post about how TV is like your wife getting all raped so that she is now worthless, or something. Some of what is wrong with it will surprise you! 
Wow, so the dad just hopes that she makes it to the end of the aisle and the groom doesn't reject her? He doesn't worry about getting her to a hospital to treat the injuries? The dad's reaction is so inappropriate to the scenario that it should have been clear to Cajun Boy that it's a forced metaphor. I.e. it really doesn't represent what he's talking about, which is making a TV show. And then maybe that should have spurred him to think... "hey, does this metaphor totally trivialize rape?!? Oh my, it does! Maybe I should come up with a different metaphor!!"
Thank you! Congratulations! Etc! I hope that you all leave many more comments. Also, that none of you contract THE DEADLY SWINE FLU. Also, that I maintain consciousness long enough to write blog posts for you to comment on. I know! I'm a dreamer! But I'm not the only zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Comedy! Banter! Graphic Rape Scenes!

Say, who likes dudes who use rape as a metaphor for any given experience? You do, you do! So, you are totally going to love this (extremely graphic and disturbing! If this sort of thing upsets you or gives you flashbacks, you should not read it! I rarely give these warnings, but I am serious about this one!) post on Gawker, from contributor The Cajun Boy, sent to me this morning by J. Mastodon:
[MY EXPERIENCE] is sort of like giving birth to a daughter, [WHO IS A METAPHOR FOR MY EXPERIENCE], a daughter that you raise and nurture with tremendous care, and then one day you bring her, beautiful, statuesque, perfect in your eyes, to the church to walk her down the aisle, where a dashing groom, [METAPHOR], is waiting to embrace her on the other end of the aisle. But just before the organist plays that "Here Comes the Bride" song so she can begin her walk down the aisle, out pops a herd of groomsmen, [METAPHORS], who proceed to throw your daughter down and violently gang-bang her in the back of the church, and by the time they're done with her she's bloody, beaten, and battered, almost completely unrecognizable to you, the person who raised her. Both of her eyes are swollen completely shut, one of her legs is broken, she can barely function at all, and then the very groomsmen, [I REMIND YOU: METAPHORS], who just finished violently raping her turn to you and say, "Okay, now make her walk down the aisle," and you, the person who conceived her, nurtured her and cared for her for all those years, has to walk with her as she hopelessly flounders her way down, and all the while you're hoping beyond hope that she a) makes it all the way down before completely collapsing and b) that her groom, [METAPHOR], isn't so freaked out by her when he sees how hideous she now looks that he turns and bolts out of the church.
Say, who can guess what this is a metaphor for? What human experience could be so profoundly scarring and terrible as to be morally and emotionally equivalent to this extended, graphic rape scene? Watching a loved one succumb to a drawn-out and painful illness? The effects of ground war, famine, or genocide on various countries? DEVELOPING A TV SHOW??????

Yep, it's that last one. As J. Mastodon notes, it's really the last line that sells it: you've really got to hope that this groom, who apparently loves your daughter enough to want to spend the rest of his life with her, won't be so "freaked out by her when he sees how hideous she now looks" that he abandons her. You know, because she's ugly now. From being raped and beaten.

As usual, Melissa McEwan makes the best point on the subject of rape metaphors. Her latest post on the subject is delight, and features a quote from a celebrity of the silver screen!

"I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It's like, 'Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!' I'm pretty sure if I talked to a woman who's been through that horrific situation and I said, 'What was it like, you know, being raped?' she's not gonna look at me and go, 'Have you ever played Halo?'"Dane Cook, in his new comedy special "Isolated Incident."

The other night, I turned on the television and the channel was still tuned to Comedy Central from watching "The Colbert Report" the night before. "Isolated Incident" was airing, and in the maybe 6 seconds it took me to change the channel, Cook said something racist, xenophobic, and sexist.

And even he gets that casually throwing around the word rape is inappropriate.

Which means that anyone who doesn't is a bigger douche than Dane Cook.
Yep. Gawker contributor The Cajun Boy, you have won this week's official Worse Than Dane Cook award. Enjoy it! And hey, maybe there's a reason your TV show didn't do so well? Anyway, here is what noted public asshole Dane Cook - who is morally superior to you, and also has a better sense of humor - thinks of your blog post:

Good luck, Chuck.


Greetings! Are you aware of how sad - so sad! So prone to bleak despair! - all women now are, due perhaps to progress? Well, we are. Sad, that is! I read a study about it! It was full of SCIENCE. I even wrote about the SCIENCE, for The Guardian's Comment is Free! Observe:

Women: you are all terribly sad now. This, anyway, is the message of "The paradox of declining female happiness," a new study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolvers of the University of Pennsylvania. The study, which takes into account various happiness surveys - these exist! And people are paid to conduct them! - from the 1970s to the present, comes to some fairly troubling conclusions: although women have better educations, better pay, more sexual and reproductive freedom, and a greater capacity for self-determination than ever before, we're less happy than ever.

"Women have become less happy, both absolutely and relative to men. Women have traditionally reported higher levels of happiness than men, but are now reporting happiness levels that are similar or even lower than those of men," quoth the study. It's a fairly sensational point. (Feminism has betrayed women! Don't you miss the days when all you had to worry about was birthing babies, cleaning kitchens, and satisfying your man? Well, you should!) However, as you read the study - which I have done, at great risk to my own personal happiness - it becomes clear that it isn't the whole story.

Yes, friends, upon close examination, this entire study has a rich aroma of backlashy pseudo-scientific bullshit! I have shoveled through it, however. So go read the rest. Please?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: This One, Actually, Is Not About Me

I have a question for you, reader. Do you like to read things? More specifically, do you like to read things... ON THE INTERNET? Do I ever have a thing for you!

It is The Second Awakening, by the glorious C.L. Minou, and it is a blog that you will like! Because it is very amazing. This entry, specifically, is one of the better pieces of writing the Interweblogosphere has produced lately. Because, if you are me, and you are maybe a little over the whole "I Have a Vagina: Let Me Tell You About It, Because It Is There, and a Vagina" genre (no offense, ladies with vaginas! It is just a thing that we have various monologues for at this point!), well, C.L. is here to tell you: it is, in fact, possible to produce a REALLY SUPER ENTRY on that topic, in this day and age, mostly by being super honest, and a fantastic writer, which C.L. Minou just so happens to be:
I see my vagina at least three times a day, and usually six, and can look forward to a long future of regularly saying hi to my down there.

My vagina is a bit different than other women's, as a consequence of my not having been born with one.

One of the things you learn about, if you are transsexual and if you are thinking about having The Surgery (italicization was really unnecessary, wasn't it? I mean, if I mention surgery I know where your head is going to go) is about the D-Word--dilation. It's one of the aftercare things they don't tell you about back when you first realize that you want to be female, not that you'd have told anyone, at least, not if you were me.

The commonplace that nature abhors a vacuum works on my neo-vagina as well: left to its own devices, my body would fill it in gradually, like silt in a canal. (Ick.) So everyday, three times a day right now, I have to--well, dilate it: put something inside to hold the shape and gradually convince my body that it's supposed to be there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It is time! For COMMENTS OF THE WEEK! Yes, they are late again, I am sorry. And also, have announcements. Which you will read, right after these COMMENTS OF THE WEEK:

s. captures the strange loop that is the World Wide Interblogs, on Sexist Beatdown: How DoubleX is Hurting Basically Everything Ever Edition:
If I comment on a post about how comments have changed the form of blogs and made awful things like DoubleX, does that mean I'm officially in internet hell?
Harriet Jacobs weighs in with a truly epic story (and hilarious one-act play!) which I am obligated to quote in its entirety, on Who Takes Responsibility for the Responsibility-Takers?:

This kind of logic is SO FASCINATING.

I have a story.

Once upon a time, I left my abusive husband. He wasn't pleased.

At one point, lacking friends who were willing to help me out here because "choosing sides" and "not my problem" and "really awkward", I had to go give my ex some of his stuff.

He owed me money, and when I dropped off his stuff, I waited an extra second or two to see if he'd give it to me. I could tell he was waiting an extra second or two to see if I'd ask. And since I knew his entire purpose here was to drag things out, I decided, fuck it, I don't need money bad enough.

Later he discovered an UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT of things I had unfairly taken when they were not mine, such as spatulas, and crockpots my grandmother gave me for my birthday, and I really ought to return those things or I would be all kinds of mean bitch. I told him I would return his spatula when he paid me what he owed me. He said he wasn't going to pay me, because I NEVER ASKED, which is what GROWN-UPS DO. I said paying back debts without a pretty please is something grown-ups do. We ended our conversation, and the last words we ever spoke to each other, with, "I'll give you your money when you can be ENOUGH OF AN ADULT to actually GROW UP AND ASK me. So go ahead. Act like an adult, and ASK ME FOR THE MONEY I OWE YOU."

Hey there I have been wronged.
I, uh, what?
Gosh, that'd be nice.
I guess that's a superficial sort of sense...
And, finally, a mysterious person or persons known only as Bad Editor weighs in on IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I WROTE A STAR TREK PIECE GO LOOK AT IT, with this shocking confession:
Now everyone has stopped reading these comments I can cowardly-confess the Josh Weedon misspelling thing was my fault. Sorry Sady.
Ha ha, that's OK, Bad Editor! I don't think too many people are into this Jodge Whebron person! Anyway, your secret is safe with me. Which brings us to


1. As some of you may know, Jauze Weevil's important teledrama, The Doll's House, is returning to TV! Do you know what this means? It means, my friends, that I am going to try to provide weekly recaps of it. Not that I expect them to be well-read: this Jose Weezer guy is not very popular among feminists, or people who read the Internet.

2. I am moving this week! Well, sort of. Someone is moving into the apartment I have now. Which necessitates moving things around, and putting furniture together, and doing all sorts of non-blog related things! So if I don't reply to your e-mail, or post many things, I hope you will forgive me. I must focus on attaining perfect Feng Shui! Or, like, furniture that is put together! That last one is more likely.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lars von Trier: Director, Genital Mutilator, Accidental Life Coach

You know, people, if there is one beat that I, as a blogger, aspire to provide comprehensive and informative coverage of, it is this: graphic genital mutilation in film.

OH! WAIT! NO! That is totally not something I want to cover! It's icky.

Nevertheless, Lars "Sunshine" Von Trier has, apparently, created yet another film in which something terrible happens to a lady. Or, to be more precise, to her genitals. Also, to her husband's genitals! Also, to their child! (He falls out a window while Mommy and Daddy are making the beast with two soon-to-be-damaged sets of genitals; compared to them, he gets off easy.)

Now, this has been extensively covered elsewhere in the blogoworld, so I will not really go into it here: suffice it to say, Charlotte Gainsbourg apparently separates her husband's meat from his vegetables, and he ejaculates gore ("He Ejaculates Gore," BTW, is also the title for my forthcoming album of feminist death-metal fuckjams) shortly before she, um, excises... or, er, removes... um, she... oh, okay. SHE CUTS OFF HER CLITORIS WITH SCISSORS. There really is no useful euphemism for that! Gruesome as this injury is to contemplate, it is also worth noting that it is exactly what I contemplate whenever anyone brings up the topic of Brazilian waxing, which is why the whole process fills me with terror. I'm pretty sure we should not be ripping things off of that area! One ill-judged yank, and the whole thing can go awry! AWRY, I tell you.

Anyway: remember when I said I would not be getting into that scene? And then I did? Good times! My point, back then, was this: all of the focus on this scene is taking away from the most wonderful thing about the movie. The most wonderful thing about the movie is:


I know, right? A misogyny consultant! I did not know people did this! I was, until today, entirely unaware that "misogyny consultant" was a valid career path, which one might profitably pursue. "Mom, I want to be a misogyny consultant when I grow up; also, I hate you," is a conversation that young people all across this great nation (and also in Denmark, where Lars Von Trier is from) are apparently having, before embarking on successful careers as Hollywood misogyny consultants - and I did not know.

Now: here is the thing. You know I am looking for a second job, right? Sure you did! I think I mentioned it once! But did you also know that I have a blog, where I talk about misogyny, pretty much all the time? Now, a person of entrepreneurial mind, when considering these facts in tandem, can only come to one conclusion: if Lars von Trier, who manages to portray a woman being hanged/raped/mutilated/fed to wild ravening bears every single time he picks up a camera, and is widely regarded as somewhat of a knowledgeable source on misogyny himself, looked at the script for his latest movie and was like, "hmmm, I'm not sure this is misogynist enough: better hire a consultant," then there should be - nay, must be! - other directors who could benefit even more from this service!


As a sample of my talents, I shall now consider several hit movies, and give you my carefully considered, professional advice as to how they might be imbued with more misogyny.

1. CHICAGO: Well, all of the ladies are criminals. That's a start! I also appreciate the way that they are all portrayed as shallow, two-timing, and dim, using men only to satisfy their insatiable need for fame and adulation. HOWEVER! I note that there is a man lawyer, Richard Gere, who is also a big old liar. Make him a helpless victim of their ploys, say I! Also: there's lots of singing and dancing. TOTAL CHICK STUFF. You're going to want to replace all of that with exploding cars.

2. TITANIC: Here's your problem: Kate Winslet, two-timing hussy, lives. Leonardo DiCaprio, the helpless guy whom she lures into sin with her wiles, does not. Kill them both! Or, just write Leo out of the picture. Let's focus on that Billy Zane guy: he's really the character with whom you want your audience to identify. Also, could we make it so that Kate Winslet sinks the ship? On purpose? Maybe you could make some jokes about her weight, or something. Those are funny and misogynist.

3. TERMINATOR 2: Okay, so you've got this robot, right? And he can kill anything, right? And yet he chooses to hang out with this chick Sarah Connor and her whiny little kid? And - this, I cannot believe - he fights another killer robot? Dudes! Lame! The other robot is his bro, man: you don't violate that bond. Write a scene where they have a beer and talk about how Sarah Connor and the kid are totally weighing the first robot down. Then, they can kill her and the kid. Together. That's what bros are for.

4. SEX & THE CITY: Women who define themselves entirely through their relationships to men, you say? Whose professional accomplishments are ceaselessly backgrounded in favor of obsessive man talk? Frivolous, shallow women, whose interests are limited to shopping, gossip, and the performance of a restrictive and frankly insulting variety of traditional femininity? Women who - and this is the important portion - I myself cannot help but hate? As a professional misogyny consultant, I must tell you: there is nothing I could possibly do to make this movie more offensive to women. My work here is done.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Highly Judgmental (Yet Positive!) Movie Reviews PRESENTS: Kicking and Screaming

This weekend, a strange and wonderful thing happened. I saw a movie! Okay, that is not the strange and wonderful thing. The strange and wonderful thing was that this movie, which I saw, was about a group of close male friends, all of whom treat girls like crap, are under-employed and lazy, and refuse to engage in anything which might even vaguely resemble grown adult male behavior.

Okay, not even that was the strange and wonderful thing! I lied! There are 500,000 movies which fit this description! The strange, wonderful, nearly unimaginable thing which happened was: I saw this movie, and I liked it.

I KNOW! It was so crazy! I may never get over it! WHO AM I.

The movie that I saw was called Kicking and Screaming. It was written and directed by one Noah Baumbach. It is, I tell you, a fantastic movie, simply because it is one of the meanest and most honest movies I have seen. (I like mean! And honest!) It is a tremendous takedown, this movie, of (a) undergraduate intellectual pretension, (b) that tired Generation X "slacker" mythos, which was lame and embarrassing even in its time, and (c) the whole Apatovian man-child dynamic. Which, considering the fact that it was made in 1995, before there even was an Apatovian man-child dynamic, is quite an accomplishment.

Anyway! On to the movie! It begins with five dudes, most of whom have just graduated college, and are having that "WHOA, dudes, WHAT WILL COME NEXT FOR US, this is so heavy" conversation that everyone throughout the history of colleges and/or graduations has had. Like most people, these five dudes are convinced that their conversation is unique and fascinating; also, deep.

Actually, these five dudes are convinced that everything they have to say is unique and fascinating and deep, or (worse still) deep precisely because of its careful avoidance of depth or meaning. These men: Jesus God, they are so terrible. Never have I seen a group of characters work so hard to establish themselves as urbane and witty and intelligent. Like most people who try this hard - and, specifically, like most people in their early twenties - they fail spectacularly, coming across instead as pretentious and affected and annoying on levels heretofore unknown to man. I cannot get this across with prose alone (especially not MY prose, ha); therefore, I am going to show you the scene that nearly killed me.

"Prague is a cliche now?" Self-congratulatory Kafka references? "Selfish girl abandons helpless boy?" AUGH, WHY DOES SHE HAVE A NOTEBOOK. WHY ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT "MATERIAL." Did someone accidentally film a community college production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE. I HATE THEM.

And it just continues along these lines: the movie's lead characters are the sort of guys who build entire conversations around statements like, "if Plato is like a good red wine, then Aristotle is a dry martini" (NO. FALSE. BAD), or trivia games in which they challenge each other to name five empiricist philosophers and/or movies with monkeys in lead roles, or an interest in the plots of detergent commercials. Not that they are actually interested in the plots of detergent commercials; that would be stupid. No, it's more like they are pretending to be interested in the plots of detergent commercials, which would be stupid, in order to show that they are not interested in the commercials, because they are not stupid, so they need to talk about the commercials, in order to... oh, whatever. I give up. SHUT UP, MALE LEADS OF KICKING AND SCREAMING.

The thing is: you know dudes like this. At least, I have known dudes like this; shit, I might have even been a dude like this at one point (except, you know: a lady version). This kind of pretension, and arrogance, and aristocratic disdain for the world at large is, to any objective observer, very clearly the result of raging insecurity and perhaps one too many wedgies in high school; nevertheless, every kid who's ever considered himself "smart" has fallen into it. SAY, who wants to see a movie about how much you sucked?

The four leads of Kicking and Screaming (their names are Skippy, Max, Grover, and Otis; they are all youngish, tallish, thinnish white men with dark hair and identical-sounding dialogue, and they are, for this reason, difficult to tell apart - which I think is part of the point) are not only far too sure of their own talents, they have each other, and are willing to spend countless hours giving each other verbal hand-jobs of congratulation re: how special they are. They are a terrible four-headed hydra-beast of pretension, stilted dialogue (at first, you think the actors are terrible: then you realize that they are geniuses, because twenty-one-year-olds who try to talk like this sound just this awkward), and privileged white male ennui, and as long as they have each other, there will be no reason for them to ever change.

The boys move into an apartment near campus together, where they watch TV and pretend to have read books. They venture out only to go to the bar, where they are confronted by the grim spectre of their future, Chet. Chet is played by Eric Stoltz, and he is hilarious: a dude who has been in college for ten years, "working on his dissertation," hitting on undergraduates, and tending bar. He's the one who says the thing about Aristotle and Plato; Stoltz gets a ton of mileage out of his airy, lah-di-da inflections when referring to the latest "tome" of the eternal dissertation, or describing Cormac MacCarthy as "arousing."

None of the members of the Skippy/Otis/Grover/Max collective like Chet, which is unfortunate, given the fact that they're about to become him: Otis turns down grad school to work in a video store, Skippy re-enrolls in college so that he can take all the courses he missed, Max is reduced to getting his daily fix of intellectual superiority from crosswords, most of the boys appear to be entirely unemployed, and all of them are busy targeting and fucking undergraduate girls - or, in Max's case, a cafeteria worker, who is sixteen years old. Yeah. Sit with that one for a while.

At this point, the superficial similarities to the bromosocial world of Apatow should be apparent. (Although, to be fair, Apatow's man-boys are gleefully, self-approvingly dim and childish, not men who pretend to be intelligent in order to forget how childish they are.) You've got your arrested development; your tightly knit band of bros; your contempt for and exclusion of the lady-folk. It's all there. So, it's time to talk about the differences.

In any other movie, we would be meant to like Max, and Grover, and Skippy, and Otis unequivocally. Their hermetically sealed little world of boy-on-boy bonding would be idealized. Fortunately - nay, gloriously! - Baumbach never forces us to love these guys: he makes it clear, throughout the picture, that they are windbags, douches, and losers, who nevertheless get off a few good lines. Their aimlessness isn't freedom; it's failure. Their privilege isn't ignored. (There is a specific class of people who get to complain about how "overrated" Prague is, and that is the class that gets to tool around Europe directly after receiving a pricey liberal arts college education. Fuckers.) Their grand artistic ambitions - which Grover, at least, has and talks about - are never realized. And their misogyny: well.

The undergraduate girls are a given, right? The undergraduates, the freshmen, the teenaged cafeteria workers: these guys are busy convincing themselves that they are the smartest dudes on the planet, and the one thing that dudes like this can never do is date women who are as smart or smarter than they are. (This is - sorry to be rude, guys - a very specifically male thing; smart and/or pretentious women, from what I can see, tend to go for smart guys, maybe just because they're sick of the dumb ones feeling all emasculated by their giant, man-like brains.) So they seek out girls to whom they can easily feel superior; if they get past the first fuck and into an actual relationship, they make a point of belittling their girlfriends, frequently and publicly, to remind them that they will never be quite as important or central as the bro-bond, and definitely not serious competitors in the Who Is Today's Smartest Person game.

And, I know this is running long, but I have to go into detail here, because this movie is really unparalleled in depicting the little atrocities that dudes like this tend to inflict on ladykind: When the movie opens, one of the girlfriends (Parker Posey, hurrah) is trying to participate in the trivia game. Her boyfriend, Skippy, berates her for not saying "ding" before she answers, and tells her, to her face, in front of everyone, that this game is "not for her." When the cafeteria worker, Kate, tries to take part in the game later, Skippy once again displays his sparkling personality by telling her to "excuse herself" so that the men can talk. Grover stays on the phone during the early portion of a hookup, and signs off with, "got to go sleep with this freshman," and Max greets his about-to-be girlfriend, whom he has actually met before (back when Grover was trying to fuck her) with, "oh, right: you're the girl."

Um, yes! I am a girl! Glad to see you noticed that! And not, you know, my name. Or ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT ME.

Yet these girls - Parker Posey, and Kate, and Jane, who kicks off the movie by "abandoning" Grover, and returns in many flashbacks, which are unfortunate, for I cannot stand her - aren't cheated by the narrative. They're not hollow sluts, or supernaturally competent saviors, or one-dimensional bitches (though Posey, for the record, pulls off a spectacular Bitch Move that effectively annihilates the group dynamic - which would seem to be her intention; go to 5:42 of this clip for her beautiful and "ding"-centric revenge). They are, for the most part, precisely as fucked-up and adolescent as the boys are. (For example: in a neat little twist, it's revealed that Grover has stolen most of his affectations, and his lifestyle, from Jane. I knew there was a reason not to like that girl!) (Oh, OK. I'm sorry, Jane. I only hate you because I HATE MYSELF. PUT DOWN YOUR NOTEBOOK, YOU IDIOT.) However, the women are also the only characters in the movie who seem to get how irritating and regressive the M/S/G/O Dude Collective is. They're the ones who point out - and all three of them, at some point, point this out - that the guys all speak alike. Also, that what they have to say is meaningless.

So, by the time the boys get around to hating themselves and each other, and lamenting their "affectations that harden into habits," they've really only arrived at the place where the women have been all along. The question of whether you see redemption in the end of this movie, or on the horizon of these characters, is a tricky one: the person who recommended the movie to me thinks that they do grow up, whereas I'm of the opinion that, if they do, it's a boring, dishonest Apatovian (proto-Apatovian?) ending. Oh, look! They've learned the error of their ways! All is forgiven! Etc. Fortunately, they don't so much grow up as burn out: by the time the film ends, they know that they need new lives, but only because the lives they currently lead have become unbearable. None of them really seems to know what to do next. If they ever find out, we don't see that. It's better that way.

Because then, there is the final scene: the scene in which Grover decides to change his life! And go to Prague! To find Jane! He rushes straight to the airport terminal, and gives a speech. You've heard this speech before. It's in every movie: he must take a chance, he must go with his heart, he must - must - learn from his mistakes and become a better man, the sort of man who would go to Prague. FOR ONCE IN HIS LIFE, he must DO SOMETHING SPONTANEOUS. The woman at the counter is moved nearly to tears, and miraculously finds him a seat on the (full) airplane. Then she asks for his passport.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Sexist Beatdown: How DoubleX Is Hurting Dolphins (Who Are Bastards Anyway) EDITION

As you know, people, I am paid for my Tiger Beatdown contributions on an excruciating ten-cents-per-pageview system. HA! I am just kidding! No-one would pay for this!

It is true, however, that many paid bloggers are dependent upon the will and/or clicking power of the public to survive. Some of them cannot deal with this! They go crazy! They start writing pieces that are basically just designed to piss other, more well-known bloggers off, in the hopes that they will get links from those other, bigger blogs (ah, yes, the "this person is a dick" link: the blogoworld's most honored form of Aiding Thine Enemy) and therefore PAGEVIEWS PAGEVIEWS PAGEVIEWS! $$$$$$$$$$$! Etcetera! These bloggers shall remain nameless, except for the fact that they are Linda Hirshman and Susannah Breslin of DoubleX, about whom you have read things already. And will read things again!

In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Amanda Hess of the Sexist and I will discuss the limits of controversy, use the word "snark" far, far too many times, and tell the heartwarming story of how my e-mail inbox taught me a valuable lesson in tolerance. Also, talk about how terrible dolphins are! THAT'S RIGHT, ALL YOU PRO-DOLPHIN BLOGGERS. I HATE THE FLIPPERY LITTLE BASTARDS. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY TO THAT?

ILLUSTRATION: Look into the totally adorable face of fear.

SADY: hello! are you ready to speak? or are you too busy KILLING FEMINISM?

AMANDA: i actually just thew up a blog post, which, as you shall see, is what i actually think is “killing” “feminism.” let me start with the Bust quote on DoubleX’s dead feminism obsession, though: “We don’t know about you, but we’re disappointed. (And we also need to figure out the best way to fight off this new undead feminism before it eats our brains.)”

SADY: yeah. I mean: any new publication that focuses on lady issues is exciting! And, Katha Pollitt! Latoya Peterson! That is super exciting!

AMANDA: did you follow XX Factor religiously (or, subscribed to the RSS) like i did?

SADY: Yes, I did! Every single day! So this new DoubleX thing, with its lead off of "7 reasons why feminism is boring/stupid/dead/anti-feminist” is kind of puzzling to me. the quote of the day on the first day was about hating feminism!

AMANDA: … april … fools

SADY: fortunately, today, it is about how dolphins are rapist babykillers. which is a slightly less controversial opinion. FUCKING DOLPHINS, man. they think they’re SO GREAT.

AMANDA: it’s just kind of bizarre, i think maybe the “conversation” format which worked so well for the blog hasn’t really panned out as a “magazine” yet

SADY: yeah, exactly. on XX factor you got to see people talking back and forth, which was exciting! this time around, it’s just weird and hard to navigate, because you don’t know who’s saying what or if anyone has yet spoken up to disagree with them.

AMANDA: yeah. did you read breslin’s piece about how DoubleX is an entity “beyond” feminism after its death? her point is, basically, “let’s shut up and just do it.” But isn’t the point of writing in general to “not do anything and just talk about it”? or more positively, “do something BY talking about it”?

SADY: oh, susannah. i’m happy that she writes in-depth stuff about porn and all, and i like what she writes, but every once in a while she’s just like “feminism! I hate it! I ran it over with my truck! Now it is dead! You are all victims!” And it’s just like, huh. I like your reading of it, though. That makes more sense than mine. And, you’/Susannah are right, it does make more sense for folks of this generation to LIVE their feminism, given that we have more opportunities to do that than elsewhere.

AMANDA: i don’t mind the “death of feminism” so much—hell, i’ve written a eulogy for feminism before, mostly because it’s kind of fun and pretty easy—but the way it’s weirdly tied in with rape victims is unsettling.

SADY: yeah, and that “Jezebel is hurting women” piece - it made no sense at all, or rather, made sense on a level I really can’t get down with, which was: (a) Megan Carpentier has taken exception to my stuff before, so I will write about how she is a bad rape survivor who makes ladies get raped, or something, and (b) what is a way to get traffic for our feminist blog? Attack another feminist blog in a way that is certain to cause controversy!

AMANDA: rape + Jezebel = $$$$$$$$

SADY: it’s odd. i am the first lady in the world to say that feminist (or “post-feminist,” whatevs) disagreements are enlightening and good and awesome. HOWEVER. It seems weird to me to lead off your (initially marketed as feminist) site with all of this stuff that is, basically, contrarian for the sake of contrarianism.

AMANDA: and i think that’s a problem that affects the blog/commentary world in general: what’s around, and how can we be different—let’s find something to criticize about something else. i do it all the time, you do it all the time — we just choose different targets. and if they think feminism is boring, i think that’s okay! but it’s more interesting than talking about why feminism is boring. i’d rather they talked about the dolphins.

SADY: RIGHT? we have got to end this mindless social acceptance of dolphins. and, you know, it’s fun to make fun, or to criticize, and sometimes it’s easier to define yourself in opposition to something else. like, “see, this is what I DON’T believe, so now I can talk about what i DO.”

AMANDA: i think they should have gone meta and asked their contributors what the problem is with DoubleX instead of what the problem is with “feminism”

SADY: yeah. and, you know, probably all of this “AUGGGH DOUBLE X LAUNCH” is going to open up conversations that we can use. at some point. i have a story with a moral about snarky blogging. can i tell you my story?

AMANDA: yes.

SADY: okay. so, a million years ago, when i was a tiny little blog person with a blog that was read by 3.5 people in the whole world, i wrote a very snarky post about john devore from the frisky. and this morning, when i opened my e-mail, there was a message! from john devore of the frisky! telling me he liked my blog! and i was like, “ha ha, um… THANKS?!?!” but the moral of the story is that this dude i wrote a cranky post to make fun of turned out to be a totally reasonable dude who writes very nice e-mails. and this established for me some of the things that you DON’T know when you sit down to write a weinery post about somebody else on the Internet. and, yeah, i like the fact that double x is committed to writing stuff that can be snarky (MUST STOP WRITING THIS WORD) or harsh or controversial. still. maybe peeing all over feminism’s bloody corpse is not the best tactic, given the fact that the people who are going to read your new lady blog are likely to be… you know. feminist, and stuff.

AMANDA: definitely. and maybe we should think about why it’s almost a guarantee that people who write mean blogs also write really nice emails. ALWAYS TRUE. So i usually just write the blog stuff off as a big game that we’re all trying to win, but isn’t personal—but that gets complicated when you write about personal stuff (rape experience) and a writer takes that personal life (not reporting your rape) and turns it into snarky commentary. in short, bloggers are people too. people who need pageviews.

SADY: ha. yes, we do. which is why my latest story, “How Linda Hirshman Is Hurting Women, and Me Specifically, Because She Made Dolphins Give Me an Abortion” is going to be SOLID INTERNET GOLD.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who Takes Responsibility for the Responsibility-Takers? Hint: Not Linda Hirshman

Hello! And welcome back to Anti-Feminists Say the Darnedest Things Week here at Tiger Beatdown!

For they do say things, these anti-feminists. DARNED things! Things that sound very dismissive, and critical, and devastating, until you realize that they make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Today, we will be discussing my two very least favorite statements in the history of discussion about feminism. They are:
1. Stop playing the victim! And,
2. Why can't you take responsibility for yourself?
I hate these statements, so much, you guys. Whenever somebody makes these statements, in the context of a discussion about feminism, I want to hit him or her in the face, with a dictionary, in the hopes that some knowledge of the English language and all of its many definitions for words will somehow penetrate that person's skull. Because, in all the many years I have seen people employ this rhetorical tactic, I have almost never seen anyone use it in response to someone who is actually pretending to be a "victim," or shirking actual "responsibility."

I have, however, seen people use it (frequently!) on folks who are actual victims. Of, like, crimes.

For example: have you heard about this Double X thing? Ha ha, yes, of course you have, because I am slow. However, it is illustrative, in that two separate writers on that site combined their powers to create a near-perfect example of how this rhetorical tactic actually works!

Short version: Linda Hirshman, in the way-back-long-ago, wrote that women who don't leave their abusers are bad and stupid and wrong, and we should shame them, because that is very helpful. Megan Carpentier, at Jezebel, wrote about Linda Hirshman's statements, in a manner that basically amounted to, "um, FALSE." Linda Hirshman can hold a grudge, apparently! Because then she wrote an article to the effect that (a) since current Jezebel writer Megan Carpentier and former Jezebel writer Moe Tkacik have both been raped, and (b) Moe Tkacik did not report her rapist, and Megan Carpentier did not report her FIRST rapist (important distinction, there: take note of it), that (c) Megan Carpentier and Moe Tkacik are personally responsible for the fact that their rapists may have raped other ladies, so (d) everybody who writes for Jezebel is a hypocritical rapist, Jezebel is a website for rapists, and if you read Jezebel you are going to get raped, and it will be your and/or Jezebel's fault, so there.

Which, you know: this argument (Megan Carpentier didn't report her rape, and is therefore responsible for rape, and also should not write about rape, ever) would not make any sense EVEN IF MEGAN CARPENTIER WERE NOT CURRENTLY SEEKING TO PROSECUTE HER (OTHER) RAPIST RIGHT NOW, WHICH IS SOMETHING SHE HAS WRITTEN ABOUT MANY TIMES, ON JEZEBEL, LINDA HIRSHMAN. But this is not the point; the point is that the "responsibility" argument is used in the piece, like so:
Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic.
Um, "responsible" for what? The crimes that someone else may have commited? Crimes committed against them, which were, pretty much by definition, performed against their will? Both, apparently!

Which, understandably, pissed a whole lot of people off - people like the folks at Feministe, and Feministing, and, um, Jezebel - and they wrote about how this was a really stupid move on Linda Hirshman's part. ENTER THE BRESLIN - Susannah Breslin, that is - who responded to all of the criticisms of Hirshman (because Hirshman herself was... having a sandwich? In the bathroom? Crying about all the mean girls on the Internet? God only knows; maybe she was just so busy telling other women to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY that she couldn't take responsibility for writing her own response) as so:
It seems to me that "feminist" sites like the aptly-named Feministe are interested in having it both ways. They want all the power their feminist foremothers promised them—and the right to play full-time victims of the patriarchy. Get over it.
"But, Sady," you are saying, "you must have quoted this out of context! I even clicked through to the link to the Feministe piece, and it still makes no sense whatsoever! Especially given that the Feministe piece was not at all victim-y!" To you, I say: nope, it didn't make any sense in context, either. And I read Susannah Breslin's blog! I like some of her writing! This was still a weird piece: one that managed to address all of the criticisms thus far aimed at Hirshman and/or the site with a resounding, "no, YOU shut up!"

Because that's how these conversations go, and I have been through them one million times (in e-mails, in blog comment sections, in real life):
1. Somebody makes a dick move.
2. You say, "wow, that was a dick move."
This allows the maker of dick moves to avoid owning up to his or her own dickishness, or the fact that s/he is the aggressor in the situation, and to pretend that the real problem is that you object to the situation s/he has created. Now, there is something that a person who employs such a tactic is, very obviously, not taking - it begins with the letter R, and rhymes with "phlesponsibility for one's actions" - but let's avoid that one, for the moment. Let's talk about what victims are.

Because the "victim" role is passive, isn't it? I'm not speaking, here, about people who have been victims of crimes, like rape or abuse, since we all know that you can take every imaginable precaution and do everything that you learned in self-defense class and terrible things can still happen, which are not your fault, but the fault of the person who does the terrible things to you. I'm talking about what the word "victim" usually summons up. I've known people who actually do "play the victim," for whatever reason: they're reactive, passive, unwilling to do anything to advance their own interests. The world happens to these people, and they rely on other people to take care of them, and to take pity on their weaknesses. They define themselves as weak, and they live up to that self-definition.

These people tend not to be feminists. Because feminists - whether or not they have been victims of crimes - are engaged in continual acts of strength. To be a feminist is to be, on one level or another, an activist: actively engaged in confronting the problems of the world and seeking to change them. They confront injustices. They speak up. They refuse to shut up. They cause trouble. They take responsibility, not just for their own happiness, but for the betterment of the world around them. They also (especially if they are lady feminists) continually make the point that they are not weak, they are not passive, and they are not incapable of independence or self-determination. They are, in short, about as far from being victims as possible.

Because victims say, "what happened to me was fucked up, my life sucks, the world sucks, and there's nothing I can do about it: I guess I'd better stay at home and weep and hope that some big strong person will come to save me." Feminists, on the other hand, say, "what happened to me was fucked up, and I think I know why it happened, and I want to change the entire goddamn world so that it stops happening to other people. Also, I think I can do that. The world-changing thing, that is." Which is a lot of responsibility to take on oneself, especially for a group of people that are supposedly so damn irresponsible.

"Playing the victim?" Hell, there are a lot of people out there who would probably like more feminists to act like victims: it would shut us up and get us out of the way, at least. However, when I look at my own personal life, it's pretty clear to me that, if I am meant to be playing the victim, I am not doing a very good job - because, alas, when people act like shits, I continue to tell them that they're being shitty. And that's not "playing the victim." That's refusing to be one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Raging Narcissism: Now Including 51% of the Earth's Population!

Friends, I got a very smart and intriguing comment this morning! It is from Ashley! Ashley points out:
I notice a theme that interests me... Several of the commenters say that you need to "get over yourself," that "it's not all about you," or some variation on the theme that a feminist critique is somehow narcissistic... I am interested in what they are trying to say, because I recently had a guy say a similar thing to me when I made a feminist critique of something he liked.

I'm beginning to smell an anti-feminist trope that I hadn't particularly noticed before. Theories?
Well, Ashley, I'm glad you asked! Your insightful comment has inspired - yes, inspired - me to write a blog post that is, to a disconcerting degree, All About Me. Because one of the chief points I want to make, concerning feminist critique in general, and (for a more specific example) the feminist critiques leveled by Me, is that most of them are not All About the writer. So, why would someone argue otherwise?

Here is the first and simplest answer: feminist critique is, typically, about women. To be more specific, it is pro-women, and anti-things-that-oppress-women. I am, as it turns out, a woman! As are many feminists! Therefore, when people who don't care for things such as "reading" or "analyzing arguments" or "paying attention on the most basic level imaginable" read or hear pro-woman critiques from women, they often assume that the person talking about women in general must be talking, specifically and entirely, about her own personal self. At best, they think, she is feigning concern for other women, in order to cover up the fact that she is upset about things that affect her, and would like her own life to be easier.

Now, as far as I am concerned, this is a stinging and terrible and on-point critique, if you assume that being a woman is the single defining factor of my identity. If, that is, you assume that the only thing going through my brain at all times is "woman, woman, woman, woman, woman: boy howdy, am I ever a woman," it would make total sense.

Unfortunately, however, I am not every woman, it is not all in me, there are plenty of other things that comprise the marvelous package that is Sady, and if I wanted to write about issues that affect me, specifically, I would be doing precisely that. I would not be writing about gender in society, but about 5'4" brunette white straight women from the Midwestern suburbs who moved to New York six years ago, spend too much time on the Internet, are moving in with their boyfriends at the end of the month, just got moved from full-time to part-time at their jobs due to the ongoing economic fucktastrophe, and need to buy new copies of Microsoft Word but aren't sure they can afford it given the economic fucktastrophe thing. "WHY DOES MICROSOFT OFFICE COST SO DAMN MUCH: A Problem for Society Today," my post titles would go, if I were doing such a thing. Or: "I CAN'T REACH THE TOP SHELF: Why Are There Things Up There, Which I Cannot Reach? How Did That Happen?"

This would be very boring! The fact is that I write about gender specifically because it is a thing that fascinates me, and that I like to read and think about, which is pretty much by definition not All About Me. As it turns out, around 51% of the people on Earth are ladies, and I am only one of them! I would assume that most other feminist writers, who spend hours researching and studying issues that affect women, are not doing it specifically so that they can write about themselves, when the fact is that they could do that just by registering and writing at, which would require no research whatsoever. At least, not into anything but the source of the cat hair.

Let's pretend it is About Me, though, for the moment. Let's assume that you, and I, and every woman who has ever leveled a feminist critique, have in fact done so because we are upset about things that affect us personally, and would like our own lives to be easier. Let's assume that we don't care about the fact that these things also affect other women (which would totally explain the amount of time we spend thinking about and talking about and seeking to understand or counteract their effects on those women, right?) and are only concerned with the things that happen to our own personal selves. Because the next question is: why is that so bad?

"Narcissistic" and "selfish" are, for some reason, particularly potent insults to aim at women. Narcissism or selfishness have been offered as an explanation for lesbianism, female masturbation, "frigidity" and/or clitoral orgasms (yes, ladies, if a dude is not getting you off, it's because you don't care about his feelings), women not wanting to get married, women not wanting children, women wanting jobs, women wanting children without marriage, women wanting marriage without children, women wanting children and/or marriage without jobs, women wanting marriage and/or children and jobs, women being successful at their jobs, and basically anything else that even slightly resembles self-esteem. Dudes can get the "selfish" label, too, but they actually have to work at it (in spite of the fact that actual narcissism, the kind that is a personality disorder, is diagnosed mostly amongst men): all a woman has to do is think about or talk about or act on behalf of herself even a little, and the whole stereotype of the self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-enthralled ladyperson comes down instantly upon her head.

The reason for this - the reason that any level of self-involvement is so terrifyingly repugnant and hideous in women - is that, basically, women aren't supposed to have selves. You know the drill: we're empathetic not objective, relationship-driven not goal-driven, givers not takers, team players not leaders, feelers not thinkers, and boundless sources of love and compassion and fluffy sparkly puppy twinkly fairy snuggly wuggly bullshit. Women - REAL women, that is - are supposed to be willing to put others first, all the time, no matter what. So, when you voice anything along the lines of, "can we please stop pretending that your comfort is the most important thing in the world and focus on the crap you just pulled," somebody is going to get deeply offended, because: you are not playing the game right! You are not supposed to refuse to take shit; you are supposed to put various multi-colored sprinkles on it and pretend that it is a delicious chocolate sundae!

Now, here is where we dive from the heights of generality into the lovely, welcoming depths of talking about voicing feminist critique, because: the fact is that, to do this, you do have to have an unladylike amount of self-esteem. Something in your brain has to click - to go from, "huh, that is sort of messed up," straight to, "what I have to say about this is important - important enough to interest others!" You, basically, have to stop looking for permission to have an opinion. This scares the hell out of people.

Andrea Dworkin, a lady with whom I have a ton of disagreements, actually pretty much summed up the entire Tiger Beatdown Approach to Cultural Criticism when she wrote this:
[This book] does not narrate my experience in order to measure it against Norman Mailer's or D.H. Lawrence's. The first person is embedded in the way the book is built. I use Tolstoy, Kobo Abe, James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Isaac Bashevis Singer, not as authorities, but as examples: I use them; I cut and slice into them in order to exhibit them; but the authority behind the book - behind each and every choice - is mine... I love the literature these men created; but I will not live my life as if they are real and I am not. Nor will I tolerate the continuing assumption that they know more about women than we know about ourselves.
And, as we all know, everyone loved Andrea Dworkin and she never had any problems and her opinions were always listened to and debated respectfully and thoughtfully, forever, The End.

Oh, wait! That is totally not what happened! Sorry!

No, what happened is what always happens: people tried to silence her, and they did this, first and foremost, by attacking her as a person. Because, if you don't like someone, there's no way they could possibly be right! Is what a second-grader, or exceptionally stupid adult, might think. A slightly brighter adult, who also happens to be evil, might put it another way: if a person doesn't like herself, she won't be able to say what she thinks, because she'll be too busy self-hating and trying to get approval from outside sources.

Which brings us to our final point: the issue of why the "it's not all about you" or "get over yourself" mode of silencing is so fucking weak and ineffectual. When somebody aims this at you, they're not actually saying you're wrong. They're not demonstrating any kind of flaw in your argument. What they're saying is that, since you are saying an entirely valid thing about something that affects women, or you (a woman), your argument is unimportant, because women (including you) are not worth caring about. They're saying that, since men are the more important gender, they're allowed to hurt or oppress women; since men come first, women should not be allowed to challenge or object to this. They're saying that the only people we should talk, write, or care about are men. They're objecting to "selfishness" in the most profoundly selfish way imaginable.

Because, when someone tells you that feminist critique is wrong because it's "all about you?" That's not actually why they dislike it. They dislike it because it's not all about them.