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In which I (unsuccessfully) attempt to disguise my disgust with sarcasm

12 Oct

Sorry about that break there; I was out of town for a bit and also things are starting to (finally) get busy for me on the job-hunt front! Fingers crossed on that, though it might mean posting becomes a little less frequent. But I have a totally fun post to make up for it! By which I mean feminist rage. Sorry.

I know that the rape business we’re all concerned about right now is Roman Polanski, but my friends, part of the fun of feminism is that there is always more than enough rape to go around! If you’re looking for some other rape case to cleanse your palate while you wait for the next course of Polanski, seems that 30 Republican Senators voted to defend the rights of a corporation over the rights of a woman that corporation’s employees locked in a shipping container, drugged, starved, and gang-raped.

Unsurprisingly, among the Republicans who voted in favor of the victim’s right to take Halliburton to court over this are all of the party’s female senators! I eagerly await the talk of how that clearly means that womenfolk shouldn’t be in Congress because their icky lady feelings get in the way of them towing the party line.

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In which I have thoughts on stage parents.

3 Oct

So there was an interesting letter in Salon’s broadsheet tying together the Polanski case and a recent incident in which a photograph of Brooke Shields was removed from the Tate Modern in London on the grounds that it might constitute child pornography. It got me thinking about how I am really bothered by everyone who blames the parents in situations like this! Like obviously what Brooke Shields’s parents did strikes me as pretty creepy. But the constant barrage of people saying “well, what about Samantha Geimer’s mother” in the Polanski case are making me really mad, because you know, it’s ultimately shifting the blame for his raping a thirteen-year-old girl to someone else, and a woman at that. And yes, it sounds like Samantha Geimer’s mother was a crappy exploitative stage parent for putting her daughter in a situation where she could be drugged and raped to begin with, but on the other hand, my parents sent me and my sister to a gymnastics school that was later closed down and our coach was arrested for raping students there. Possibly I am projecting a bit, but I don’t know, it’s still ultimately not their fault the dude was raping girls, it’s his fault.

I guess the insistence on tying it into terrible parenting—actually, not just terrible parenting, but terrible mothering, which I feel it’s important to note, because no one is talking about the fathers specifically in these situations, just the awful awful mothers—bothers me, because it’s a way of shifting the blame from the dude who actually drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl, and shifting it to a woman besides. And in an exploitation case like that of Brooke Shields, examining the parents’ behavior is valid, but when it’s a case like the Roman Polanski one, where Samantha Geimer was put into an exploitative situation and then raped, it seems really problematic to me to blame the mother instead of, you know, the guy who actually did the raping.

It’s also striking me as sketchy that Tracy Clark-Flory has reduced the judge in the Shields case to practically a footnote. Like, the focus is on how terrible the parents’ behavior is, not the judge who basically said that since Brooke Shields had done suggestive jeans ads as a teenager, she had no right to get upset about the creepy kiddie-porny picture that was taken of her when she was ten. This is a pretty classic example of what we in the Getting Irritated About Lady Matters biz call “victim-blaming”, and I would like to hear a hell of a lot more excoriation of that dude in this case, you know?

Like, there is more than enough blame to go around in our culture, because I do subscribe to the idea that we live in a rape culture and there are a lot of people who fucked up royally and betrayed both Brooke Shields and Samantha Geimer and, if they didn’t directly exploit them, at least allowed them to be exploited. But this just doesn’t sit right with me.

IDK, I originally intended to tell you guys how much I liked Zombieland! Maybe that will be an entry for tomorrow or something.

In which the legends are indeed true

29 Sep

What’s that I spy in the distance? Is it another mirage, or is it indeed an article that isn’t defending Roman Polanski for raping a child? Oh my God, it is!

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

Like, I was willing to hear out the people who didn’t think Michael Jackson did what he was accused of. I wasn’t sure I agreed, but I could see where they were coming from.

But when we are dealing with a dude who actually pled guilty to raping someone (sidebar: I love that in the linked piece, Harding notes how the defenses would probably get even creepier if the girl hadn’t been thirteen at the time), uh, I’m sorry, but how is there any room for debate there?

I have more thoughts on this, obviously, but that will probably be something for tomorrow instead.

In which some cave paintings set me off.

16 Sep

So there was a neat article that popped up in my RSS reader from the London Times, about how there’s been some speculation that the cave paintings at Pech-Merle are not all by dudes! The article is here, and this is pretty interesting stuff, but there is a lot in that article that is…not exactly irritating, but kind of weird and off-putting, pretty much from the first paragraph.

Cave art seems always to have been thought of, for no especially good reason, as the work of men.

Okay, that’s fair enough, I guess? I never thought much about it one way or the other, but I guess that’s as good an opening for an article about ladies doing cave-paintings as any.

Perhaps it is because much of the art lies in deep, dark caverns,

Wait, what? Is there any way anyone can find to interpret this that does not boil down to “this is why we figure dudes made them, because everyone knows ladies are afraid of the dark”? Any way at all?

or because many of the paintings and engravings are of large food animals such as mammoth and bison, which men might be supposed to have hunted.

Wait, what? Because…ancient ladies would’ve been completely divorced from the process of hunting, if they weren’t hunting those animals themselves? If they weren’t the ones out there killing the big tough animals like the manly men were, there is no way they could possibly have known what those animals looked like? Seriously, dude, I do not understand what you are saying here.

Cartoons have often suggested that women played a part, however, with the animals shown as a shopping list, or as home décor.

I recognize that this is not meant to be lending sexist cartoons the same weight as actual scholarship, let alone saying that those cartoons may be right, but I don’t know, man, something about this sentence is still just rubbing me the wrong way. That might just be that it’s hard to get sarcasm across in print, though.

Handprints are not found in all, or indeed most, caves, however, and since many are those of men, it is so far impossible to say firmly which if any of the great animal friezes in caves such as Lascaux or Chauvet might be women’s work.

NONE OF THE IMPORTANT STUFF WAS BY LADIES, RIGHT? RIGHT?

While Professor Snow’s research shows that we cannot rule out either sex in any cave as the world’s first muralists, no doubt cartoonists will find in his findings a fertile new field for their humour.

IN CASE YOU DIDN’T CATCH IT THE FIRST TIME, LADIES LIKE TO DECORATE THINGS AND GO SHOPPING, AND THAT’S PRETTY HILARIOUS. Like, seriously, though, if cartoonists have already been making jokes about cave paintings being ~ladythings~, what the heck is finding out that these paintings may actually have been made by women going to accomplish? The jokes have already been made, and instead if you are the type of person who says that the only reason an ancient woman would’ve painted something would’ve been by way of a) decorating or b) nagging, JUST LIKE THOSE ARE THE ONLY THING LADIES ARE GOOD FOR NOW, AMIRITE OR AMIRITE, you instead are probably just going to cite this as proof of that. If, meanwhile, you are genuinely interested in this finding, you will probably just get irritated at how clumsily-written this article is.

In which I am ambivalent about TV.

12 Sep

So I am a reluctant (very, very, very reluctant) fan of the CW television show Supernatural, which just had its fifth season premiere last night. When I say “reluctant”, let me tell you, I mean reluctant. I mean I was told by friends for four years that there were things I’d love—the family dynamics, Dean Winchester’s Oldest Sibling Angst, the way folklore (American folklore in particular) is drawn upon to create horror stories, the American backdrop, and the occasional guest appearance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan—and resisted right up until the end of the fourth season.

In An Open Letter to Eric Kripke, Alaya Dawn Johnson, of The Angry Black Woman, articulates a lot of the reasons why I’m such a reluctant fan, and why I’m so ambivalent about the show at the best of times. The misogyny and racism in the show are appalling, and the misogyny and racism in the fandom are, in some ways, even more so (which reminds me; you may not want to read the comments, because a lot of them are pretty depressing).

Mr. Kripke, one of your show’s characters—who, surprise, surprise, was later brutally killed—said it best: stop calling me “bitch”.

In which I get ridiculously defensive of Mrs. Bennet, part 2.

11 Sep

So I will begin this post with a second anecdote, because who doesn’t love anecdotes. This past spring, the tubes were all abuzz with excitement over Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I was cautiously excited, until I found out that it was written by a man, and then the excitement level lowered a little, for reasons I had trouble articulating. Fortunately, my friend Judith managed to use words moar gooder than me on this subject, so rather than potentially drag this out for a whole other post I will instead just point you to hers. Anyhoo, the book was released, and I was curious, so I flipped through it at Barnes and Noble. In the back there was a “readers’ discussion guide”, and it was there that I hit the one that made me close the book, put it down, and never look back: “Does Mrs. Bennet have a single redeeming quality?”

Basically what this said to me was that the douche writing this had no understanding whatsoever of

  1. Early nineteenth-century England
  2. What life was like for women in early nineteenth-century England
  3. Austen

Here is the thing: what made Mrs. Bennet ridiculous was not that she wanted her daughters to all get married. What made her ridiculous was that she was overexciteable and overemotional for a woman of her age and station, and that she was bad at judging what it was appropriate to say in front of company and what was best left to the family. Wanting to marry off her daughters, and marry them off well, did not make her a bad mother for the time.

Here is the next thing: the Bennets are at the very bottom of the upper class. In Chapter Seven, it’s noted that Mrs. Bennet’s father “had been an attorney”, that her brother-in-law was a clerk for her father, “and succeeded him in the business”, and that her brother “settled in London in a respectable line of trade”—all fine lines of work, but all lines of work nonetheless, meaning she was middle-class and married up into the gentry. She wants her daughters to do at least as well as she did, first and foremost because the only way any of them are guaranteed security is if they married men with secure incomes. Remember Mr. Collins: because of the legal system in place, since the Bennets had no heirs (you’ll note I don’t say “male heirs”, because at the time, that would’ve been a redundancy, since only men could inherit) the Bennets’ estate would go to him when Mr. Bennet died. They would just have to depend on his not turning them out if they wanted to, you know, continue having a roof over their heads.

It sucks by our standards. It sucked by their standards, too, in a lot of people’s eyes; there’s a lot to suggest that Austen was one of these people herself. But it was a fact of life. Again, we get into “the past is another country” territory here. Reading Pride and Prejudice with the knowledge that good marriages were the only chance the Bennet girls had at stable, secure lives independent of their parents, I like to think that Mrs. Bennet becomes a little more sympathetic, her motives little more understandable. Make no mistake, she’s still there in part as a comic foil to Lizzie and Mr. Bennet, but the fact that she wants her daughters to marry well isn’t what establishes her thusly; how she deals with this fact, as I said earlier, is.

In conclusion, I think the main problem with Mrs. Bennet is that she is not a character who aged well as times have changed and women’s options have increased. No longer is marriage the primary goal for most young women, if it’s even a goal, period; women from rich families can inherit and stay rich; women who aren’t going to have inheritances to make them rich have plenty of options besides getting married or being passed from relative to relative for support. It can be hard, therefore, to understand why this is so important to her.

(Also, I kind of think Mr. Bennet is a bit of a dick, and I like the 2005 version for drawing a direct line between his benevolent neglect and Lydia’s behavior, as well as Mrs. Bennet’s dramatics and Lydia’s behavior, but I think I have lectured you guys enough for now. But one day, when you least suspect it, you will look at this blog and BOOM.)

In which I get ridiculously defensive of Mrs. Bennet, part 1.

10 Sep

Sorry about the break in posting, there; I was out of town for a family thing. Actually the place we were at has some historical significance of its own, but first there is this special two-part thing I have been working on for some time. You read that right: two-part. OH YES, MY FRIENDS, I REALLY DO HAVE THAT MUCH TO SAY ON MRS. BENNET.

So a few years ago I had this classmate, and we got together for lunch, and eventually the topic turned to Austen, because it is a truth universally acknowledged that two young ladies, in possession of large girl-geek-boners for the Regency and for books, must eventually discuss their feelings on Pride and Prejudice. We disagreed over the merits of the 2005 film, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden (I enjoyed it, she hated it). I mentioned that one of the things I liked about it was that it showed a certain amount of real affection between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and how I thought it was unfair of a lot of interpretations to portray Mrs. Bennet as not caring about her family or her husband, and she said something that made my blood run cold.

“Well,” she said, “I think that Mrs. Bennet loved Mr. Bennet as much as she was able.”

As much as she was able.

AS MUCH AS SHE WAS ABLE.

AS MUCH AS SHE WAS ABLE.

Because clearly, you know, if a lady (or a person in general, but I suspect a lot of the dislike for Mrs. Bennet is based on some of her more traditionally “feminine” characteristics) isn’t intellectual, she’s not capable of actual emotion, amirite? Like, ugh, I am the first to lament the rampant anti-intellectualism in my culture, but I am not the most intellectual person out there, either. I’m fairly intelligent, I think, but—put it this way, a friend of mine categorizes most characters in genre things as being either Thinkers or Smashers, and if I were a superhero, I would definitely be a Smasher. And like Mrs. Bennet, I sometimes enjoy stupid traditionally-girly things like dresses and daydreaming about big fancy weddings and gossiping. Sometimes I don’t like those things, but sometimes I do! And I am pretty horrified by the implication that caring about frivolous things automatically nullifies any thoughts or feelings I might have.

I mean, I am all about not prescribing gender roles, so I certainly don’t think the only things that women should care about are dresses and weddings and gossip, or that all women should care about those things. But the fact that these things are considered bad and/or stupid because they are considered feminine, and thus that anyone who cares about those things is a bad and/or stupid person (because they are liking things that are considered feminine), is awful.

This is why, for all my issues with Joss Whedon and gender, Buffy Summers was so significant. Where there had been a run of action heroines like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, who kicked ass but where completely un-“girly”, where there had been a world of Final Girls with gender-ambiguous names who only saved themselves by turning the killers’ weapon against him and thus getting symbolic phalluses of their own, suddenly you had a young woman who liked shoe shopping, and was a cheerleader, and could take you down if you fucked with her.

Part Two, where I talk about the Serious Historical Business that makes me defensive of Mrs. Bennet, to follow in a couple of days, since I’m going to be in New Hampshire for the weekend on family stuff. MULTI-PART POSTS, SO THRILLING.