Adieu

13May11

I’m sure it’s obvious at this point that I’m not exactly keeping up with this blog.  I’ve moved over to the Tumblr community, where I can be immersed in discussion about the SJ movement and take more of a passive role in talking about it.  I needed this blog to help myself work through some things about feminism and life and social justice in general, but I’m no longer at a point where I need to talk everything out.

It’s a more casual, personal blog, but you can find me on Tumblr here.

I’m not shutting this one down, but it’s also not likely that I will be writing anything on it — at least not for a while.


Pretty much everyone is discussing right-wing rhetoric following the tragedy in Arizona, and I think it’s something that needs to be discussed.  No matter how the perpetrator of these terrible actions identifies, it is a fact that there is a culture of violence around politics right now, and that the right is encouraging it and making it grow on a large scale.  What has bothered me, up to this point, is the focus on Sarah Palin in particular.  This is not because she doesn’t deserve to be called out — she does — but because she is not the only person on the right who is using a position of power to encourage violence.  Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have hardly been mentioned by name in all of this, and they deserve their fair share of the blame.  But then, Palin made the “blood libel” comment.  And honestly, if you know that term, I don’t see how you can not know to what it actually refers.  And I realized, in that moment, that Sarah Palin wants this to be about her, and she doesn’t really give a damn if she reveals herself as a Bigot McBigotface to do so, because the majority of her base does not care.  We are the ones who care if she’s a bigoted asshat, and we are her enemies.

David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said:

Following this weekend’s tragedy, we—and many others—simply did two things: we prayed for our friend Gabby while keeping all of the murdered and wounded in our thoughts and prayers, and we talked in broad terms about our increasingly charged level of political debate—asserting that now is as good a time as any to look inward and assess how all of us need to dial back the level of vitriol and anger in our public square. Nobody can disagree with the need for both.

Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a “blood libel” against her and others. [NJDC]

And this is really indicative of Sarah Palin’s character as a whole.  In a time when she should have either stayed silent or made an apology for her rhetoric, she rushed to cover her ass and then co-opted a term in the worst way possible in order to play the victim.  In a time when we should be focusing on Gabrielle Giffords and the people who were killed and injured in the shooting, we are focusing on Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin wants us to focus on her.  And I know that, right now, I am talking about Palin and contributing to this.  But henceforth I am going to make an effort to change — when I speak about right-wing rhetoric, I will not focus on one person, I will focus on the entire group that is encouraging this violent political climate.  When I point out a specific instance, I will be sure to give attention to multiple people, rather than focusing on one.

I am never one to say that we should ignore an issue, because the left as a whole does that enough as it is.  But right now, while we are having these important discussions, I think it’s vital to make them about more than Sarah Palin.  I think we need to make them about Gabrielle Giffords, about the other victims of the shootings, about the victims of political violence everywhere.  We need to make them about putting a stop to this, about standing up for our ideals, about holding people accountable.  Does this require talking about Palin?  Yes, I think so.  But I think it also requires talking less about Palin than we have been, and a little more about everyone else.


Although it is usually seen as an unusual choice, Thor is my favorite comic book hero.  (Come on guys, he’s a fucking Norse god.)  Every time I see new information about the upcoming film, I get excited all over again;  I’ve been anticipating this since they started the Avengers movies.  But alas, all this is ruined, because Heimdall is being played by Idris Elba!  At least, the Council of Conservative Citizens would have us think so.  (I’m not linking the utter ridiculousness that is their website, but it’s easy enough to find.)

Guys, I can’t even articulate how ludicrous this is.  A quote from the Council:

It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves.

Hahaha…oh, man, I am dying over here.  We white people are so downtrodden!  We have no movies with only white people!  It’s not like our entire culture works to privilege us above everyone else!

The Council is a white supremacist group, so this really isn’t surprising from them.  However, I have the sneaking suspicion that some comic book fans might use the same logic.  “But it wasn’t that way in the original comics!”

It’s true that the Thor comics are inundated with white people.  It’s true that, classically, there is a great deal of segregation and underrepresentation of everyone who is not white.  But shouldn’t we now be making up for that?  Using the argument that it’s never been that way is a weak excuse.  Perhaps it hasn’t, but when it comes to fiction it is not our duty to uphold the racism inherent in the originals.  Rather, it is our duty to work toward changing it.  The fact that a comic started in the 60s focuses intensely on white people (as well as the light = good, dark = bad dichotomy) is not surprising.  But shouldn’t we now be taking a stand against that?  Shouldn’t we be working to make our media more inclusive, and to rid it of the tendency to whitewash everything?

I don’t think this act is too much, I think it isn’t enough.  The majority of the actors in this film are still white people.  The majority of the actors in every film are still white people.  Anyone who isn’t white tends to be slotted into a particular trope — fiery Latina, scary black man, smart Asian.  Hardly anyone notices the underrepresentation of everyone who is not white.  Hardly anyone actually notices that, when there is a small bit of representation, people of color are pushed into the same stereotypical roles.  And yet everyone notices when a black man plays a strong, non-stereotypical character.  We shouldn’t notice, because this should be a common occurrence.  And when what should be happening constantly (but doesn’t) actually comes about, we should be excited, not worried that a racist legacy may be altered.


The Duchess

14Dec10

I finally got around to watching The Duchess the other night.  I have many thoughts on it, none of which I’m sure how to put into words.

The social commentary in this film was heartbreaking in its truth.  I’m not sure if they intended it to be such a stark picture of our current state of affairs (rather than of the past), but it was.  It’s likely not a film I’ll watch again, but only because I don’t think I could bear to see those events play out another time.  It is not one that I regret watching in the first place, however.  It was most certainly not what I was expecting when I started it.

In Netflix, the movie was described thus:

Keira Knightley stars as Georgiana Spencer, a young duchess who indulges in extravagant vices and begins a scandalous affair with politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) to balance her unhappy marriage to the duke of Devonshire (Golden Globe–nominated Ralph Fiennes).

This is not exactly a lie, but it doesn’t even begin to encompass the actual film.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Continue reading ‘The Duchess’


What is freedom of expression?  Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
(Salman Rushdie)

I am an adamant free speech activist, and have spent no small amount of time defending the free expression of people whose ideas I despise.  I have also been known to speak of language, and its power, and the uses of it that I find unacceptable.  I do not think that these two are mutually exclusive.

Salman Rushdie had a huge influence on my life, both in terms of my thoughts on free speech and my thoughts on religion.  I read Haroun and the Sea of Stories in high school, and it forever changed my outlook on what I had been taught was good and right.  I’d feel safe saying that this was only because I was open to the message; I had been falling out of love with religion for a couple of years, though I always tried to rekindle my faith.  Nevertheless, Rushdie is largely responsible for my atheism, my liberalism, and, indirectly, because of these two, my feminism.  And so I am going to use another quote by him to help illustrate my opinion:

A book is a version of the world.  If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.

I believe that there are some things that should not be said, for various reasons.  I will also defend the right to say those things, even if I think they are awful and detrimental to our society.  But this does not mean refraining from speaking out against something with which I don’t agree.  This quote is about literature, but it applies to life – if you do not like something, ignore it, or offer your own version in return.

I don’t like when people say  something is “gay” or “retarded,” or when “bitch” is used in a derogatory manner, or any number of phrases calculated to harm members of the population that don’t quite fit in with the privileged.  And so I offer my own version of the way things should be in return.  I talk about why I don’t like a certain phrase, why I think it should not be said.  And sometimes, let’s be honest, I do just ignore it; there has to be balance or I would burn out.  But banning a form of speech is not my intention or desire, and there is a difference between trying to educate and trying to edit.  If someone is going to refrain from using a phrase, I want it to be because they understand what’s wrong with it, or at the very least because they respect me enough to be concerned about my opinion.  I want it to be voluntary.  Anything else goes against everything in which I believe.   As someone who knows what it is like to consistently, systematically be silenced, it is something I would never wish on anyone else, no matter how much I disagree with their words.

As with everything, I’m not perfect at balancing the two.  There are times when they come into conflict, and the only thing I can do is manage it in the best way I can.  For example, I am more likely to focus on the utter douchebaggery of those who protest outside abortion clinics than their right to protest there.  But I think when we begin to be willing to sacrifice the rights that have made it possible for us to be vehicles of social change (at least, to be so without endangering ourselves), we begin to lose the entire heart of the movement.  Perhaps it is my relationship with Rushdie that has formed this opinion.  After I first read Haroun and the Sea of Stories in high school, I did further research the author, as I tend to do.  His experiences after writing The Satanic Verses engendered a deep respect for free speech in me, and made me think of it in a way I may not have if left to my own devices.  We are all too prone to take for granted the things we were raised to see as givens.  But no matter how I came to this, or whether I would have without one particular author, I know that I am incredibly privileged to be able to speak out against oppression.  I am privileged to be openly atheist, feminist, and socialist, to be and say so many things, and not even the people who further a system I actively work against should have this right stripped from them.


A Short Post

03Dec10

I know, I know.  If I see a link to a website called Ladies Against Feminism, I should ignore it.

But I never learn.  And now I must post, or else be pissed off about this all day.

This article discusses feminism — mainly, how feminism has destroyed the world.  Here’s how the author defines feminism:

For the sake of the discussion, I’ll say that feminism is any movement that distracts a woman from her natural role as a wife, mother, nurturer, and guardian of the home.

This sentence, all by itself, embodies pretty much everything that is wrong with the article.  It also illustrates why there is no possible way I could ever see this as anything but utter trash.

You see, I don’t want to be a wife or a mother, nor am I particularly a nurturer or a guardian of the home.  The things that I want do not fall in line with what the author states should be my “natural role.”   What’s more, I did not want these things even before I was feminist.  I, admittedly, had trouble realizing that I had an option, but that is not the same.  Without feminism it’s very likely I would have ended up trapped in a situation I despised.  The author states,

I firmly believe that, had all husbands treated their wives in the fair and kind way they were supposed to, the utter concept of feminism would seem laughable.

This is simply not true.  Even if my marriage situation was ideal by the author’s terms (i.e., if I had an affectionate, kind husband who provided for me flawlessly), I would be miserable.  A gilded cage is a cage nevertheless, and any role that requires me to be subservient and wholly reliant on my romantic partner is abhorrent to me, no matter how kind he is.

It’s obvious that the author does not truly understand feminism, or why feminism is wanted and needed.  She assumes that the role in life that she is happy with is the role that all women should embrace.  But all of us who know that gender does not define the traits of human beings know that what is right for one woman is not right for every woman.  If marriage, children, and homemaking are what make you happy, then that is what you should do.  However, there has to be an acknowledgement that this is not right for everyone, and there has to be a choice.  I can see why she hates feminism.  Feminism is all about being able to choose your role, rather than obeying one that has been chosen for you.  I have the choice to reject marriage and motherhood and to go make my own way — or, in short, to reject her idea of the only role a woman should take.

Academics and career are not a “treat;” they are now an obligation, and the reason why this is not fair to women is easy to see when you observe women juggling career with marriage, motherhood, and homemaking.

I don’t want to go in depth on this, but I thought it worthy to note that the author also blames feminism for the unfair distribution of household duties.  This is something that is clearly the doing of a patriarchal society that tells us that women should be the primary caretakers; feminism advocates for equality in this realm, as in all others.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg and in no way a full account of why I see feminism as nothing short of a tremendous social disaster and the cause of terrible tragedies in countless families and society as a whole. Truly, I could continue talking on and on about rampant divorce, promiscuity, abortions, the downfall of the father’s authority, and general confusion and misery that sadly, now plague the women of my generation.

Ah, my favorite paragraph in the article.  I don’t really even know where to begin.  Perhaps I should merely say this: I would proudly take responsibility for rampant divorce (a sign that people are leaving bad relationships), promiscuity (people expressing their sexuality freely and as they see fit), abortions (women taking control of their bodies and being given a choice of what to do with them), and the downfall of the father’s authority (the opinions of women having more equal weight with the opinions of men).  If the confusion and misery she bemoans follow the lines of these examples, I’ll gladly take that as well.


Rocky Horror was a large part of my life in my high school years.  My parents had forbidden me to see it, and so I always told them I was staying with one of my friends (and sometimes I did actually stay with her, after the show was over) and went anyway.  It symbolized a lot of the things that I was experiencing at the time – breaking away from my parents’ religious and political ideals, figuring out who I was, working through the fact that sexuality was really okay, despite what I’d been taught.  I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today without it.  The act of illicitly dressing up in fishnets and corsets to yell profanities at a movie screen in public shaped the younger me, and I will always be of the opinion that it shaped me for the better.

This past weekend, a few of the friends with whom I used to frequent RHPS in high school got together to see the show.  It had been a long time since I had seen it; the last time I attended, feminism wasn’t yet on my radar (at least not past the feminist stereotypes that pervade our culture).  The experience this time was much different for me.

The thing that I was most startled by was the issue of consent as it was addressed in the movie.  I know that it is purposefully absurd, and that the characters are not intended to be held up as standards of the right way to act.  This especially applies to Frank, whose issues are the driving force of the film.  However, the issue of consent is consistently glossed over in a way that goes past the rest of Frank’s actions.

(Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie, by the way.)

When Frank commits murder, all the characters have the proper reaction (i.e. horror and shock).  When he later serves Eddie for dinner, most of the characters are appropriately disgusted.  When he goes completely batshit insane, almost everyone is frightened.  But when he, in every single one of his sexual interactions, proceeds to completely disregard whether or not his partner (using the term loosely) is willing, it is shown to result in sexual empowerment and a breaking free from constraints.

There is one scene in particular which disturbed me, and that is the one right before the dog chase.  I have always been bothered by Riff’s part in that scene, but somehow in all my previous viewings the fact that a man who had been expressly made to be used as a sex partner (and made in a way that seemed tailored to create a partner incapable of objective decision-making) was chained to a bed slipped past me as completely unproblematic.  Even ignoring the fact that Rocky was not capable of consent at that point (essentially a child, only alive for hours), it’s obvious that he still had to be physically restrained.  Of course bonds are often consensual, but in this case I think it’s fairly safe to say they weren’t.  And somehow every other time I saw this, before I was made aware of these issues through feminism, I was not once disturbed by this.

I won’t go into what that says about who I was at the time.  It’s no secret that I was working through some very fucked up ideas about consent and sexuality.  But there was something else that also bothered me – not one person I have ever seen that movie with has ever seemed to find anything wrong with that scene, or with any of the utter lack of consent in the film.  This wasn’t just something that I was working through, but is instead something that pervades our culture.  It’s not surprising, of course, but it will still never cease to scare the hell out of me.

I suppose you could say that, in the end, Frank’s actions result in the destruction of them all.  They also touch briefly on the issues Rocky now has because of his short life after his creation (though that may be too kind an interpretation).  But this isn’t enough for me.  The two characters who are supposed to be the everyman constrained by societal expectations of sexuality still, in the end, see themselves as freed.  Brad sings about feeling sexy, Janet about confidence, open-mindedness, and an end to bad times.  I am all for embracing sexuality, but I just cannot reconcile my ideas of what that means with the way that those characters reached that point.  I also cannot ignore the fact that, in the end, Frank’s lifestyle is romanticized as decadent and thrilling.

I know Rocky Horror is really not a movie meant for serious interpretation, but it did have such a huge impact on my life that I can’t help but to see it that way.  Further, I can’t ignore these aspects of it now.  The movie that embodies my path to adulthood seems to embrace ideas that go against everything I believe in, and it will now never be the same.

 

 

Adding a note to clarify (and to call myself out): I used a bit of ableist dialogue when discussing Rocky, and while I meant it as “He doesn’t speak because he is basically a child who has not yet had time to learn anything,” it didn’t read that way, and we all know that intentions only carry so far.  It’s important to avoid that kind of language altogether, and the burden is on me to make sure I do.  I’ve corrected it to express my meaning more clearly, but I am making a note, because I do try to be upfront when I make a mistake.




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