Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sexism and Body Snarking: Olympics Edition

As I recently mentioned, I kinda love the Olympics. I'm a sucker for them. I'm not sure what it is, because I do not enjoy any other sports related thing. But every two years (winter/summer) I'm stuck at my TV.

I think one thing that I particularly enjoy is that women seem to receive as much attention and almost as much legitimacy as men's competitions. That's a rare thing. For example, I'm so used to people going gaga over the NBA and totally forgetting that the WNBA exists. (PS, why isn't it the MNBA and the WNBA--oh right, men are considered the standard. *Eye roll*)

But NBC is really crushing my spirits with their coverage. Last night, I turned into the late night segment and caught a discussion between Bob Costas, Shaun White, and John McEnroe. Apparently, McEnroe is at his first Olympics and White is there for the first time as a spectator. So they were chitchatting about their experience watching women's beach volleyball. And of course, it dissolved into a dude bro yuk yuk session about the women's bodies. Objectification to the max. (And LITERALLY while I was writing this, another male NBC commentator just talked about how when he went to the beach volleyball game, it was "sensory overload" because of the women's bodies.)

I stewed for a bit and then moved on. I wish I could say this is the end of it, but of course there's more. The media takes every possible opportunity to comment on women's bodies, and Olympians are not exempt.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Follow up to Dennis Croft on Small Town Security

I haven't been writing much anything in depth lately because I've been on vacation. Tomorrow evening I fly back to my humble abode in Austin, so I should be back to the norm the latter part of this week. In the meantime, I wanted to do a quick follow up on a recent post. As I wrote last week, after my weekly dose of Breaking Bad I caught a quirky new reality show called Small Town Security. The "twist" of the first episode was that Lt. Dennis Croft is a transman, born Denise. I held out hope that the show would deal with his story fairly and with compassion.

Fast forward to now. I've got two more episodes under my belt and I'm growing more concerned. In the second episode, a major plot point was how the whole security crew reacts to Croft. Things were far from perfect, but overall people were making an effort to address him with male pronouns...everyone it seems except for the captain, Joan Koplan, who made repeated references to "it" "he, she, whatever" and etc. It was particularly heartbreaking because Croft is admittedly in love with Koplan and waits on her hand and foot. When the producers asked Croft what he thought of the way Koplan was responding, he said that he knew she was trying.

I'm not sure exactly how long ago Croft transitioned, but it is alluded to it being at least years ago. It got me wondering how much leeway Koplan is supposed to get. I had only watched her behavior for half an hour and I was already annoyed. I could see how clearly that it takes an immense amount of patience to deal with misgendering and having to constantly correct people on a regular basis. But I'm someone watching it all from a feminist perspective, with at least a basic level of awareness--what message is everyone else getting?

The third episode wasn't focused on Croft. Instead, it centered on Koplan's husband's hoarding problem. But regardless she made a joke that Croft would "grow a full penis and testicles" before her husband would clean his office.

We're still very early in the series so maybe things will turn around, but as of right now, it certainly feels like Croft is dealing with at least mild transphobia on a regular basis. Sadly, I would expect that is fairly reflective of many trans* people's experiences. However, without story lines which allow us to hear a bit more from Croft directly, it feels almost like an affirmation of Koplan's behavior, and an exploitation of Croft's life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't Like What You're Reading? Cool! Move on!

It's amazing to me--the more that I read about various oppressions, the more I see a trend. Situation goes like this:

Marginalized person speaks up about an issue specific to their situation. Privileged people jump all over them screaming that their privileged view be taken into consideration, frothing at the mouth. Marginalized person reasserts their original view. Privileged person decides not to legitimately listen or learn, then usually name calls and flounces away.

From all the vehemently anti-feminist (unpublished) comments I get here, I know there exists a general tendency to try to "school" anyone who has a different opinion/experience from you. But I don't engage in any way, so I never continue the dialogue and get in a kerfuffle. But from following fat positive, queer, and POC Tumblrs I'm learning just HOW virulent some of the interactions can be. It's actually quite scary how poorly people treat others...and how they will try to so actively deny some one else's experience simply because they do not share it.

But as I've said before, social media itself is neutral. It doesn't create the worst in us. It simply brings to light what is already lurking there.

I keep coming back to a simple thought. If you stumble across a corner of the internet that bothers you, why not just move on? I mean, I wish that more people would be open to feminism, queer activism, fat positivity, anti-racism, etc, but if you are outright opposed to these things, why even engage? Why bother? If you think we're so wrong, just see yourself to the door. Seriously! When MRAs pick up my blog, I don't go over there trying to teach them a thing or two. It wouldn't end well for anyone involved. I just. move. on.

I think there are a few ways one can actually enter a space and meaningfully participate, but that is certainly not achieved by coming in, privilege flag flying, and refusing to actually think about what someone else is saying. Unless and until you can begin to see past your own nose, just let people have their safe spaces without feeling the need to come stomping in.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Wrong Side of History: Choosing Anti-Gay Policies

Question 1: Why does a chicken sandwich have a political opinion?

Have you been keeping an eye on what's going on with Chick-fil-A? It's common knowledge that the fast food chain is Christian affiliated but they've decided to take this beyond being closed on Sundays. They're now openly anti-gay.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Sick of Guns

I don't write about guns often, if ever. Honestly, it's not something that I think about very much. But with the recent events in Colorado, I can't get it off my mind. I'm just so upset and I'm pretty sure I can no longer ignore what's going on.

Gun control used to be one of the liberal issues I focused on the least. My dad was a hunter and responsible gun owner when I was growing up. I heard phrases like "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" and I thought they made sense. But my opinions on gun control have evolved over time, and I think I'm more certain now than ever that we have a serious problem in this nation. I'm not alone in being concerned about this. More and more evidence is supporting my fears.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Small Town Security: A Surprisingly Interesting Move for Reality TV

I've been down on reality TV lately. As a television genre, it seems to so often highlight the worst of our society. You know that we all love to talk trash about it. We love to hate it. So much so, that despite being a widely despised form of entertainment, it flourishes. We're watching it.

Last Sunday, I was at a friends' place to catch the return of Breaking Bad on AMC. (I don't have cable.) All through the premiere, they kept showing previews for their latest reality show, Small Town Security...which to be honest, looked awful. It became the joke of the night to talk about how we were going to watch it since one of our friends went ballistic at even the mere suggestion. So we did watch it, of course.

STS, overall, is stupid and kind of boring. The name tells you everything you need to know, it's about a small town security company in Georgia. And, as with the reality genre in general, the aim is to exploit the people and laugh at their "backward" ways. I have to mention--I kind of loved a few things about it. Like for example, the company and the television station in town are both owned by women. (Even if the women did get on my nerves.)

But that's not the interesting part. At the end of the premiere, we find that the company's most dedicated employee, Dennis Croft, is a transman, and currently the only one on reality television. It was a surprisingly compassionate look at Croft's experience...at least so far. It was sort of treated as a cliff hanger, so it is yet to be seen how this will all play out. GLAAD featured an interview with Croft. Here's an excerpt.
GLAAD: What was it like coming out as transgender in your Georgia community?
DC: I haven’t really felt a change…those who know me and about me haven’t flinched. I found that surprising. It has not been what I expected of others and I see that folks are not the typical haters of my kind that I thought. The South has grown up from the childish games of prejudice. 
GLAAD: Is there anything you hope viewers take away from watching the show? DC: Be unafraid of who you are. Do not let yourself nor anyone tell you what you should be or how to live your life. Reach deep into yourself and see who you are and live that. That is your truth and it is the truth to all.
I've got to give major respect to Croft. I'm pulling for AMC to continue to treat him with dignity and compassion (well...as much as any reality TV character can expect!) I do think the whole "Oh my gosh! He's trans!" situation in the opening episode was a little stereotypical, but I'm holding out hope that this is ultimately a move in the right direction for the representation of trans* people in the media.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Women Can Be Badasses. But Just Two of Them.

This is part of my series on the gender of the 2012 big budget blockbusters. Check out the others: The Hunger GamesPrometheusMIB3The AvengersBraveSnow White and the HuntsmanTed and Abraham Lincoln Vampire HunterMagic Mike, The Amazing Spiderman.

Last night, I went to a midnight showing of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, the culminating piece in his gritty Batman trilogy. It's a movie I've been waiting for all summer so I've decided that it will conclude my summer blockbuster series. I, of course, will continue to write about the gender of movies that strike me in a particular manner, but I'm not going to write about them with this frequency until another series idea strikes my fancy. (Maybe Oscar season? Who knows?)

Anyway, while there are a few failures, my overall reactions to the gender situation are positive. The two main female characters, Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) are strong, independent, and pretty much badasses. It was a shift from the previous main character in Nolan's Batman universe, Rachel Dawes, who much more fell into the stereotype of the goodhearted woman who needs to be saved.

Spoilers to follow, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Reviews: Little Bee and She's Come Undone

I have a notion that it's sort of hard for me to connect to female characters written by men. While I truly value authentic female voices represented in literature, I'm coming to realize that the more that I think about judging an author based on their gender identity, the more I am treading into assholishness. I mean, do I want more womens' books published? Yes. Do I think that women can most adequately tell women's stories? Yes. But does this mean I should write off male authors? Certainly not.

Luckily to challenge my preconceived notions, I recently had the pleasure of reading two great books by male authors that I'd like to recommend. They are Little Bee by Chris Cleave and She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Spoilers to follow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Nonsense Moment Reflecting on VH1's Horrible "Reality" Shows

Sometimes it's fun to track your brain where it goes...or at least, it is for me. Maybe you have to have an odd brain to think these thoughts.

Last night, I learned that actor Michael Clarke Duncan recently had a heart attack and was allegedly resuscitated by his girlfriend, Omarosa Stallworth. Remember Omarosa? She was the "villain" on the first season of The Apprentice...or at least she was constructed to be that way by the show's producers. This got me thinking about how it seemed like there was a period of time in the mid 2000's where if you were a woman of color with an opinion, you were sure to end up as the villain on a reality TV show, once all the editing was done. (Maybe this is still happening now? I don't know, I don't watch the stuff. But seriously, what was up with that?)

Tiffany "New York" Pollard
From here, my mind went to Tiffany "New York" Pollard. Oooooh New York. Perhaps here you are lost and I commend you, because it means that you didn't spend 2006-2010 watching extraordinary shitty TV on VH1. And if that describes you, I suggest that you bail out now, because this probably won't make much sense. But if you're with me, then maybe you'd like to stick around for this reflection on how I spent way too much time in the mid-late 2000's watching the worst of awful TV.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Scissor Sheldon!

I used to really dislike Sarah Silverman. She can be raunchy as hell and sometimes she takes stuff too far. But after getting into her show and later reading her bookThe Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, I decided she ain't so bad. And I started to find her pretty hilarious.

So you'll have to forgive me for loving her latest campaign: Scissor Sheldon.

I don't have a transcript, but in the video, Silverman shares that she has an indecent proposal for billionaire Sheldon Adelson who has pledged $100 million to Romney. She suggests that if he gives that $100 million to Obama instead, she'll--well she won't have sex with him (because they're not married, obvi!) but she will scissor him while wearing a bikini bottom.

It's absurd, but so are the facts behind the Romney campaign, and his biggest supporters, which Silverman hopes to highlight. As she shares about Adelson at ScissorSheldon.com:
  • He’s totally open about buying elections. He said he’s “against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”
  • He’s willing to do “whatever it takes” to defeat Obama including “limitless” donations to Romney’s campaign.
  • He likes his casinos to be loan-shark and gangster-friendly.
  • He is under investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission and the target of a civil lawsuit.
  •  I guess if you're going to be a really absurd comedian and make people cringe, it might as well have a larger, greater purpose. Good on ya, Silverman.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    The "Tosh Sucks" Roundup

    TW rape jokes, rape culture, rape apologists

    I haven't thrown in my 2 cents about Daniel Tosh's recent defense of rape jokes and threat of gang rape to an audience member, because I've just been reading, absorbing the situation, and positively seething. I've long known that Tosh loves him a rape joke so I actually wasn't surprised. Although I am always a bit shocked just how many people jump to a comedian's defense when this type of thing happens--say it with me now, people: RAPE CULTURE.

    Anyway, I've read a bunch of really great pieces on the subject, so here's my round up of recommended reading:

    Shakesville: Daniel Tosh is a Rape Culture Enforcer

    Student Activism: For Daniel Tosh, Actually Assaulting Women is Comedy

    Anarch*ish*: Dear Comedians, And People Like Me Who Think They're Comedians: Please Stop

    scatx's "Calculating" discussion, on what it's like to be a woman in the rape culture

    Feministing: Daniel Tosh was heckled & that’s the real crime or how not to write a real headline

    The Kardashians and Birth Control: Proof that Everyone Does Something Right Once in a While

    Ugh. Sex negativity is about to make me stand up for the Kardashians. Yeah. It's happening...

    Context: Last month Kim Kardashian told Oprah that her mom, Kris, allowed Kim to go on birth control at 14, when she disclosed to Kris that she was going to have sex with her boyfriend. Cue the backlash. 

    I had somehow missed this (probably because I couldn't care less about the Kardashians and their vapid empire of highly manufactured, pseudo-reality controversies.) But when I did hear about it, it was clouded in a discussion on NPR* of, "Would you put your daughter on birth control at 14 if she said this to you? Is it bad parenting?" type questions.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    It's a Big Day in Mississippi

    Edited to add: the decision has come down and the law continues to be blocked! YAAAAAY! Keep reading to see why I think that the judge has made the right decision.

    An anti-abortion law is going before judges in Mississippi today. I'm really crossing my fingers on this one and hoping that anti-choice extremists are again put at bay by the more reasonable individuals in MS.

    The law in question would require all abortion providers to be board certified OB-GYNs who have admitting privileges to a local hospital. If you don't know much about medical systems, this sounds pretty reasonable. If you dig a bit deeper you learn that this act would strategically result in the closure of MS's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Young Adult Fiction's Virginity Problem

    I missed the boat on the YA fiction craze--or I at least came to it really late. When series like Twilight and The Hunger Games were really taking off (roughly 2005-2009) I was immersed in academic reading and rarely had time for anything that wasn't assigned in my political science, women's studies, or nonprofit classes. While many of my peers (and girls much younger than me) were falling in love with Edward Cullen, I was connecting with bell hooks, June Jordan, and Margaret Atwood.

    By the time I emerged from my literary isolation. Twilight was too popular to be unaware of; especially given that its problematic themes were covered on nearly every feminist blog. Besides, in my direct service work with teen girls, I needed to keep up with what they liked. So I began to be somewhat aware of YA literature and the movies that came from them--aware enough to ask my girls the right questions about the main characters in order to get their wheels turning.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Things are Much Happier in my Bubble

    At a party this weekend, two people were discussing how absurd traditional gender roles are. HEY! What a great topic. I can get down with this--or so I think. I knew one of the people better than the other, and I was legitimately curious, so I asked if he identified as a feminist.

    Of course, this opened a can of worms. A big, nasty can of worms where feminism was posited as something deplorable. Amongst the things said were...

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Yay, Sarah Robles!

    From Sarah Robles' Indiegogo Campaign Page
    Olympics season is upon us! I'm going to be honest, I'm a bit of nerd about the games. I think one thing that particularly appeals to me is that it's one of the rare times where we hear about women athletes almost as much as male. Speaking of which--I'd like to talk a little bit about Sarah Robles. Have you heard of her? She's an Olympic weightlifter and all around remarkable young woman. 

    I first heard about her last week because of her financial situation. As reported at Feministing:
    The twenty-three-year-old is the highest ranked weightlifter in the country, beat out every female and male American at the world championships last year, and can lift more than 568 pounds–which is apparently equivalent to one large adult male lion. And yet Robles scraps by on $400 a month from U.S.A. Weightlifting and donations from friends because she doesn’t the kind of body that secures lucrative endorsement deals.
    Think about it. Athletes in other sports, particularly women, who have slimmer physiques are considered more attractive by out societal standards and receive much more attention (such as swimmers, gymnasts, beach volleyball, and tennis players to name a few.) I mean, think for a moment about what type of body we call "athletic"--it's a label we wrongly extend to only slim, toned, and minimal muscled women. And because a woman's worth is so often reduced to how much Joe Six Pack wants to bang her, these particular athletes rise to the top of our national consciousness. This translates into endorsement deals and sponsorships; these deals, if you are an Olympic athlete, are your bread and butter. 

    Consider for a moment what Roble's income of $400 a month means.

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Representative Joe Walsh is, Perhaps, a Moron

    Maybe I should start a feature called "my weekly blood boil" because without fail, something comes along to enrage me. As reported on Think ProgressRep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) recently declared that his opponent is Tammy Duckworth is not a true hero...

    If you know nothing about Duckworth, which I didn't up until 10 minutes ago, that doesn't seem to be the worst statement of all time. But if you do know anything about her, then you know that she is a double amputee, due to injuries sustained when she was piloting a helicopter in 2004 in Iraq. She received a Purple Heart, an Air Medal and an Army Commendation Medal during her 20 years of service. 

    But all of this means nothing to Walsh. Apparently Duckworth is a little too aware of her situation to be a hero. As Walsh said,
    Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, “Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!” He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we’re so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done.
    Ah boy.

    Really? I'm trying to formulate some words that explain why this is BS, but you know what? There aren't any--it's just so plainly evident that it would be a waste of my breath to even dwell on this guy for any longer. I hope that the people of Illinois' 8th district take notice that what Walsh has going on ain't right.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    The Amazing Spiderman Says, "Ladies Are for the Saving"

    This is part of my series on the gender of the 2012 big budget blockbusters. Check out the others: The Hunger GamesPrometheusMIB3The AvengersBraveSnow White and the HuntsmanTed and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Magic Mike.

    So there's a new Spiderman movie out and it's entertaining. Or at least, looking at Andrew Garfield is!

    But my objective with this series isn't to talk about how attractive the leading man is...it's to examine the gender situation of each film, so that quite changes the spin I have on The Amazing Spiderman.

    Unfortunately, women are of little consequence to this film. The only two significant female characters are the love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Aunt May (Sally Field) and simply put, the way they are both dealt with fulfills stereotypes. (Spoilers to follow.)

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    On Magic Mike, Objectification, and Expressions of Sexuality

    This is part of my series on the gender of the 2012 big budget blockbusters. Check out the others: The Hunger GamesPrometheus, MIB3, The AvengersBraveSnow White and the Huntsman, Ted and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

    When I started this summer blockbuster series, I remember thinking, "Will I write about Magic Mike? Is it a blockbuster?" I certainly planned on seeing it, but I thought it looked cheesy and silly and I didn't really think it would be a big deal or have a crowd. Um yeah. I was so, so wrong.

    As I wrote over at my Tumblr "Magic Mike is selling out DAYS IN ADVANCE. It sold out for Friday night by Wednesday afternoon. Plus, Tuesday, it was the first free screening that I’ve been turned away from in months!" Clearly something was happening, and as I could see from my own attendance at the film and my friends' Facebook posts, it made for mass "girls night out" this weekend. Dozens of women I know went with their friends in droves to see this thing.  

    In that vein, I figured I'd make this a friend affair. I'm going to conduct a discussion with two of my friends, Brittany and Maria, who I saw the film with, about our various reactions to Magic Mike