juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I've been thinking a lot about missing stairs and culpability and productive responses in light of Nick Robinson's suspension from Polygon.

I don't think I have the capacity for surprise anymore when a likable man is accused of sexual harassment/assault; yet this particular one has hit me hard, because Polygon-as-brand works proactively to be a safe space—which doesn't make them free from error, but does lead me to give the benefit of the doubt and expect better than average. Like, what do I do when I'm stressed, I watch Polygon videos, because they're funny and I trust them; and now the thing causing stress is ... Polygon.... It feels more like a betrayal than this sort of thing usually does, even when *cough Johnny Depp* it's someone I like or had emotional investment in.

(Car Boys is deeply, hugely important to me, on an existential/is-this-what-religion-is/emergent narrative scale; as trope, as concept, as art, also as funny.)

It especially does not surprise me in the now to discover a man's problematic behavior, nothing surprises me in the now, in this era of political and cultural crisis. I think it does surprise me to see it reacted to immediately and compassionately; to see a company take action and keep proceedings private, and for that company and independent outsiders to insist, rightly, that "it is not on anyone who has been hurt to provide detailed receipts of their trauma for your entertainment."

Missing stairs operate as a cultural phenomenon—the whole coming to light of this has felt like a thing that "everyone" knew and "no one" talked about, and also something that caught people by complete surprise; it makes me have conflicted feelings about what knowledge is within this phenomenon; about what some people experience and some people know and some people, because of their privilege, never see or never recognize. What culpability is there in that position of not noticing? when clearly it is noticeable, to those that need to or know how; even I feel like some of my "ehhhh" reactions to some things he's said have been given context. But that there are people apologizing if their involvement or position of power compelled others to be silent—and that Polygon/Vox Media is literally doing anything at all, but especially via clear, thoughtful communication....

Cumulatively: a personal betrayal in a way that's not awfully valid, because I wasn't directly effected, but I liked and wanted to like this especial person & didn't want these issues to invade that space—and a knowledge that this issues invade every space, that that's literally what the issue is: pervasive—and gratitude that this is the best possible initial reaction and response. Insofar as any of this is cogent, it's only because I turned it into a rambling narrative for Devon last night; these feelings of mine, while Very Much and A Lot, have effectively been resolved now. (Except that an actual investigation will take time, and while I don't want this to occur in internet time or internet space as a trial-by-popular-vote overnight phenomenon, I do want it to be resolved overnight and forgotten by the next so that it isn't on my mind anymore—not feasible, not desirable, but I still feel cheated for not having it.) But it was Very Much; also: A Lot, in a particular time when I've approximately 2.5 spoons and would in any other circumstances! be watching Polygon videos! for escapism and distraction!
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I have tried and failed to give even one shit about Marvel, and my social circle has said only good things re: Captain America and Hydra, so I’ve basically been able to put the whole thing aside as addressed, if not resolved

but then I read Tor.com article (which I won't link) about how this is one of many drastic character changes in comic history, and will be forgotten in time, and exists mostly as an clever, bold bid for attention and money, and that they the writer plan to give Marvel both.

This is the thing about a self-selecting social group! I forget there are other people out there saying harmful, false things with the reasonable tone of a tempered majority opinion!

This is personal, and private, and not particularly reasonable, and all about Nazism. )
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Beauty
Author: Aliya Whiteley
Published: London: Unsung Stories, 2014
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 100
Total Page Count: 178,525
Text Number: 525
Read Because: reviewed by BookishThoughts, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: All the women of the world are dead, and the men of the Group face a bleak future. And then the graves of the dead women begin to sprout mushrooms that grow into human shape. The Beauty is a strange little book, intentionally so. Whiteley's voice is sparse, almost distant; she slides from dream into nightmare, the atmosphere hazy but the speculative elements growing increasingly grotesque and detailed. The obvious metaphor is gender: its determining factors, the function of gender roles in heteronormative relationships, the relationship between gender and procreation. It leans gender essentialist, and there's something circumspect about eliding horror and small spoiler ). But it's also complex, intimate, and cast in compelling speculative terms. It's not a flawless effort, but I admire how far Whiteley takes such a short work.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In Sense8, a trans woman undergoes forced hospitalization and is threatened with a lobotomy (for reasons unrelated to but not independent of her gender identity); in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith, one Victorian woman is committed to an asylum under false pretenses while the other is held captive. If you asked, I'd probably say that my biggest fears, other than the crippling agoraphobia which is at this point more a personality trait than a fear, are spiders, automatonophobia/life where life shouldn't be, and existential horror. It's surprising how often those things come up, in daily life and in video games and in the night sky. But let me tell you, I am fucking terrified of the idea of forced hospitalization, medical procedures, and institutionalization.

Terrified, almost, on the level of agoraphobia. My other fears have that push/pull of horror, and revulsion that can be manipulated into intrigue. But, while I think there's room to creatively explore and even idealize mental illness/institutionalization, specifically in/of women (see: my thoughts on Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl), there's no potential in me for a pleasant thrill. I suppose it's too real. I've never been hospitalized, but it's always been at the fringe of my experience—offhand comments by authority figures, horror stories from peers; half the reason I'm afraid to seek any help is the fear of the form that help may take. On some level, I've always believed I deserved it—that I am sufficiently incapacitated that I should not be able to self-govern. What makes it worse is that these narratives are often about women who are not mentally ill: it's terrifying that the social standing innate to gender and perceived neurotypicality are used to control and punish women, but, even worse, these women don't even deserve it—and part of their punishment is being alongside actual crazies, who do. These women at least have the narrative to advocate for them; whether or not it ends well, we as consumers know that their situation is unfair. What advocate would I have?

(I think this is why Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl doesn't bother me as much—nor, to some extent, American Horror Story: Asylum: the PoV is not solely "sane person punished by being viewed as crazy"; both have mentally ill characters that the narrative still acknowledges are undeserving victims of the system.)

It's not something that will happen, and on society's scale of crazies mine are pretty acceptable—it's probably not something that could happen. And even if it did, there's every possibility that I have a skewed perspective built on historical evidence and horror stories, and that some forms of forced/in-patient medial aid would help me. And it doesn't matter. The idea makes me so anxious and miserable that a bit of logical counterpoint means nothing.

As fate would have it, Sense8 and Fingersmith are the primary show I'm watching/book I'm reading right now. They're both quite good! But consuming them at the same time meant that last night when trying to wind down to sleep I couldn't even give up one piece of media for another that would be less anxiety-provoking. "I know!" I thought. "I'll grab the next Circle of Magic book, because middle-grade wish fulfillment about found families and personal ability will certainly sooth my anxiety." But my elibrary hold still hasn't come in, and I couldn't *cough* "find" an epub on the entire damn internet. But by some minor miracle, even though it was 3a, Devon was awake and he read to me the two last chapters of a Wizard of Oz book, and then I read two chapters of a Narnia book, and then I slept.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
The closest analog I can find for Emilie Autumn's Fight Like A Girl tour is the film Sucker Punch; Sucker Punch meets burlesque. It's asylumpunk, if you will: the combined idealization and anxiety around mental illness in women, and the historical connection between women and mental illness—the trifecta of society creating it in women, and diagnosing it on the basis of non-normative/-socially acceptable behavior, and using it as a tool to control women's bodies and behavior. It's about the objectification and commodification of women, and reclaiming the female body—especially the sexualized female body—as a tool to gain personal power.

Sucker Punch rises and falls: on one hand, it's a powerful representation of dissociation as a result of trauma and sexual violence, and it's an attempt to attain agency using the sexualized female body—women gaining power via a tool used to take power from women; on the other, it gets swept up in its own aesthetic, is culturally appropriative, and objectifies conventionally attractive cis-gendered skinny young women in a way that doesn't defy the system in the least but instead buys into it.

'Punk movements and anything else that measures idealization against anxiety run the risk that the audience will see them for the former and not the latter, see: the problem with steampunk. Sucker Punch encounters a lot of this; Autumn's work, especially on the topic of mental illness, evades much of it by being a self-aware, ironic idealization combined with explicit statements about the problems surrounding such. Idealization is a tool used against and by the mentally ill: waif-like ill women, manic pixie dream girls, correlations between madness and creativity, and the sense that there's anything redeeming at all about mental illness, either for the sufferer or the individuals and society that surround them—which there's not, and insisting that there is denies the true experiences of sufferers; but the illness can so completely define its sufferers that idealizing it, and creating identity and community within it, is the only recourse. Like any reclaimed identity, this stems from within but attempts to fight against the oppressive system.

Because the worst of my mental illness is/was defined by total isolation, the group experience of Autumn's asylum and Crumpets is, for me, the least successful aspect of her work, although I realize what it achieves and how. But it's also dangerous: it's community, idealization, tragic beauty—sufficiently imperfect to be accessible rather than untouchable, but too easy to accept without viewing critically. And, as with any 'punk-like movement: when you fail to view it critically, with a focus on its anxieties, you end up supporting its roots in an oppressive system rather than its attempts to critique or controvert it. Autumn speaks explicitly about the anxiety; I feel as if the audience often doesn't hear her.

As an attempt to reclaim the female body, the FLAG show is even more problematic—because it, too, is about the objectification of conventionally attractive cis-gendered skinny white young women. It's the same problem of modern burlesque: it can be "male gaze"punk, reclaiming the same sexualized body that society creates and then punishes, engaging and subverting certain social standards—but too often it's viewed without an eye towards that anxiety, and the result is just more male gaze. In FLAG, it's a fan dance to "Dominant." It's also a hell of a lot of queer baiting: that two women kissing is presented as titillating, corrupting, or in any way worthy of a show, but only, of course!, just another skit.

There's an incredibly discomforting fanfiction skit that left our group divided. Autumn ends it with a faux-offended monologue about the masturbatory objectification about the "strong, proud women who you are supposed to respect," and the objectification is treated as a complicit joke—the artists using it to control and titillate the audience, but by doing so submitting precisely to the audience's script—which leaves the audience yelling out for "more!" Is this supposed to be as gross at it seems to be? Humor can be about tension, it can be the laugh that indicates discomfort, confusion, anxiety. The skit had a lot of that humor; the audience response had none.

I feel like Autumn knows her shit. I've been watching a good number of her interviews these last few days, and have the utmost respect for her. Her work is intentional; she couches explicit message within certain seductive tropes. I find it highly resonant, more as person with mental illness than as a woman but effective nonetheless. The live show was fantastic, but I can't say I was entirely content with the experience. There's some shows where half the audience leaves ten minutes early to beat traffic and you want to yell that they just don't get it; here, it was the front and center screaming crowd that seemed, to me, to miss the point. To take and change, to reclaim, the weapons of bodies and mind that are used against us is extremely powerful; it's a war I'm fighting, and Autumn's work can be a battlecry. But sometimes the show, and more often the audience, seem to lose track of their objective. It's not that there can be no sense of humor and fun, it's not that the corsets can't be pretty and the burlesque routines can't be attractive—but sometimes the truth of Autumn's experience screaming through in the lyrics feels shocking: like the surprise exception, rather than the show I'd come to see.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I make a fair bit of noise about my hatred of series both because I feel as if they've become as much a financial decision as a creative one, and because I often dislike them as a creative decision: I have no desire for sprawling, near-endless epics, but I can appreciate scope, depth, or story more than a single volume can contain. As such, I tend towards two sorts of series: limited runs, often duologies or trilogies (see His Dark Materials, The Orphan's Tales), that are essentially a single story; and series in which each book is complete unto itself, i.e. has an ending, regardless of whether the books must be read in order (see: Harry Potter), or more or less can be read in any order although their effects may be cumulative (see: Redwall, The Chronicles of Narnia).

I like endings, and generally I like them best in a single book. But I can appreciate the role of a series: sometimes in creating in a larger, more complex, more meaningful ending than a single volume can muster, sometimes in the additions, in layers and references and growth, that wouldn't be achievable in a single volume.

I've been thinking a lot about Elizabeth A. Lynn's social justice and The Chronicles of Tornor.

Spoilers for all books in the series. )

When I call it disorientating, it's because every time a character uses "she" as a default and neutral pronoun, every time a character passes a female guard on the street and doesn't do a double-take and/or fetishize her bravery at trespassing into a male realm, I notice—more than anything about that society—the limits of my own. In many ways, by Northern Girl Lynn has created a social justice fantasy: multiple female protagonist eating the Bechdel test for breakfast, a multicultural/majority POC setting and cast (somewhat complicated by the fact that the protagonist in each books in white), and a society much more progressive and less sexist than both its predecessors and our own. Nor does it seem artificial—it's not a leap but a journey, a slow progress conveyed in multiple novels; nor is it conscious banner-waving self-aggrandizing: this isn't about Lynn and how we should applaud her open-mindedness; it's about what should be the progression of things. Our world may be moving in that direction, too—but our pronoun is still "he," and so there is a constant reminder of how far we have not come.

The series was published in 1979/1980.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
On account of how change is scary and thus LiveJournal's new update page rubs me the wrong way, I've made the deeply ironic and incomplete change over to Dreamwidth: My skeletal account is now set up, so you can find me as [personal profile] juushika on Dreamwidth; everything will be crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] juushika and LiveJournal will remain my central hub for social interaction (although replies to my posts are welcome anywhere). Basically, this means no change for anyone reading this now, but if you prefer one site to another feel free to follow/interact with me there; meanwhile, I get to use a better update page that's more likely to load; the end.

I put J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy on hold when it came out on account of it being Rowling, and four months later my name finally came up on the list; I'm 30 pages in and about to call myself done. I'm also (finally, [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls) reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Spell Sword.

Last night while reading the latter I told Devon that while I agree that there's a need for sexist fictional societies—so we can explore their flaws, and make parallels to the flaws in our society—it would be lovely if maybe once in some fantastical setting in a distant era sexism could perhaps just ... not be a thing. Bear and Monette's A Companion to Wolves and Tipper's Grass (which I read last month) both have innately sexist societies despite the fact that they're as disparate as ancient pseudo-Norse and future space colonization, and it's sexism with depth and commentary and purpose—but it was still my daily dose of sexism, always explored to about the same point: hey guys, sexism really sucks! this man here is realizing that; this woman here is struggle to overcome that. their small efforts make us feel better but honestly make few significant changes to their society or ours.

So The Casual Vacancy is the intentionally petty story of a whole bunch of petty white folk, and I know it digs into issues of sexism and rape and poverty (and drug use and hot button issue of your choosing and and and) while still wallowing in the pseudo-depth of the sufferings of a bunch of suburban white folk. The Spell Sword is about a bunch of attractive white folk in heterosexual romances, and while it at least digs into some cultural divides it's still hugely homogeneous. And both are another same old story that mentions that sexism is bad.

And it is!

And I know that.

I'm about to return The Casual Vacancy barely begun, but I'm actually really enjoying The Spell Sword; likewise, I loved A Companion to Wolves and Grass. It's a two-pronged thing, the difference: One, the genre books are also the story of something else: telepathic powers and/telepathic companion animals and/evil telephathic companion animals and: trying to save the world. They sell themselves first on a fascinating premise; the premise of Vacancy is a social upheaval in suburbia, which is not so fascinating. Two, the premise in each book interacts with the "sexism is bad" commentary; in genre books, the interaction is unique.

The Spell Sword: telepathy introduces an incredibly intimate aspect to certain interpersonal relationships, therefore crumbling the wall of every social boundary—between sexual and nonsexual relationships, between sexual orientations, between gender identities and roles, between individual identities. A Companion to Wolves: a bond to a female animal puts a man into a "female" sex (and therefore cultural) role, making him personally aware of many of the effects of sexism. Grass: humans are exploited, telepathically and interpersonally, according to their gender roles; controverting that exploitation requires recognizing the harm of and deviating from the limits of those gender roles.

None of those books (well, I can't speak yet to all of The Spell Sword) do a stellar example of exploring or resolving the issue of sexism; as mentioned, they all hit home that sexism is bad (no, really, is it? tell me more), but their solutions to the problem are limited and more feel-good than convincing, especially on the level of permanent social change. But each goes about it in a way that's both interesting and unique, because they tell a fantastical story and because what makes the story fantastic gives it unique insight into the great beast that is sexism. It doesn't just tell me that sexism is bad, but shows so in a way that white folk is suburbia can't: they can't have men assume the sexual role of a female wolf, or experience a telepathic intimacy that makes them question their understanding of sexual or gender identity. The fun of genre, of crazy and intriguing ideas, is neutral: neither better no worse than the mundanity of general literature. But that it brings something new to the table both makes me a more willing reader and allows me to explore something I couldn't otherwise, be it that premise or an angle in towards a message, a bit of social commentary, which is also in dead earnest and is applicable to our society.

So back to the library with ye, The Casual Vacancy; may the next 736 readers with holds have better luck with you than I.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I've been watching a ridiculous amount of Supernatural lately. Stop! Hold your fangirling! I do not actually like it that much. I've been going through a rough time—a few solid months now of back pain and comorbid depression; mindless distraction is about all I'm good for, and Supernatural is plentiful and precisely mindless. I nearly gave up during the first season (as I liveblogged at the time: "Yup, women in Supernatural are like Bond girls: all the appearances of power and autonomy and competence, except that they're all traditionally attractive (and white) and replaceable/interchangeable. It's as much chick of the week as it is monster of the week. Super classy guys, nice going."), but stuck with it because I liked the aesthetic (so much better in the first few seasons, when it's a Sleepy Hollow ever-autumn of midwestern forest and desaturated color) and it eventually developed a plot.

I started season six yesterday, and I'm still here mostly because it's there: with a few exceptions the plot works for me, but I've yet to develop an emotional attachment to almost anything. The "almost" is Castiel, who is perfect. Misha Collins is a superb actor; he pulls off the possession/multiple character aspect with a skill that the rest of the cast should envy, and brings enough depth and humor to his character that I actually give a damn. I don't give a damn about much else—the stakes should be huge, and the characters claim to suffer so much; eventually it even pulls away from women in refrigerators, a small blessing. But so help me, even when bad things are happening directly to the boys themselves do not pass go do not collect $200, it all reeks of manpain. Look, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes either, but you have family, biological and otherwise, to love you (so please put away the goddamn brotherly angst) and at least be thankful you're impervious to actual death or bodily harm—unlike the hundreds and thousand of civilians who suffer in the course of the show. It's not bad, a few specific episodes (5.9 "The Real Ghostbusters" goddamn) aside; it's perfectly watchable, an increasingly strong balance of episodic and overarching; I've yet to find either Sam or Dean attractive but that's okay because Cas and I will get married soon and have awkward angel babies.

But then some new films went up on Netflix instant, some of which were on my physical disc queue, so I took a break and watched them.

Did you know it's possible to tell compelling stories about female characters? To cast and costume women not as a decorated, sexualized Other, but rather as a diverse group of unique individuals? (Supernatural does subtle, natural makeup and grooming on men, but women must look made up, with visual makeup atop their traditionally attractive appearance—it's not just about being appealing, but about the cultural demand on women to make themselves appealing.) To have multiple women in a scene, having conversations among themselves, perhaps with no men present? Maybe even to explore the same aspects, like objectification and gender roles, which make Supernatural so innocuous but so troubling? See, I had forgotten.

I watched St. Trinian's—a group of students save a wacky private school for strange, erstwhile unschoolable girls. It's not meters deep but it's just what I expected, and delightful as such: colorful, silly, with some fantastic character design (amid plenty that's just okay) and an encouraging, if not entirely unproblematic, assumption that women can dress, speak, and do just about anything they want with any possible motivation. Who would have thought!

I watched Sleeping Beauty, which stars Emily Browning and is a fascinating inverse companion to Sucker Punch: Sucker Punch tries to have its cake and eat it too, exploring the issues of women's objectification and sexual exploitation while objectifying and sexually exploiting its cast, yet nonetheless creating a somehow fantastic exploration of sexual violence and dissociation (well discussed here). Sleeping Beauty is more about the desperate search for dissociation, prompted not by distinct sexual trauma but rather by an insidious prolonged culture of female objectification; it's explicitly sexual, but cold, almost sterile, and only once remotely titillating and there in the strangest way. It's almost too oblique and perhaps too cold to be completely successful, but it captivated me.

I watched Sister My Sister, a dramatization of the Papin murder case which is good but on the whole a poor cousin to Heavenly Creatures (read my nattering about that film here): same basis in true crime, where an unusually intimate relationship leads to murder, but Sister My Sister is less vibrant and more absurd in its mundanity, and so less memorable despite offering an compelling glimpse into class and family relationships. But it grabbed me in the opening credits, because nearly every name is female: producers, director, writer, and every actor (there are two male voiceovers, but no men seen in the entire production). Supernatural's credits are a predictable but depressing inverse.

I recommend all three films, by the way.

It's not that Supernatural is a horrible awful no-good egregious example of misogyny in media. It's that it's dead-center normal. It's that I would really like to watch something which is accessible and consumable enough for my addled brain, but has strong female characters or queer relationships or just about anything non-heteronormative and empowered which actually made me feel okay about being a living breathing human being, and my options for such range between limited and nonexistent: this run of good films is as miserable as it is refreshing, because I know too well that they're the exception to the general rule—a rule so general, so pervasive, that even when I see and know that it's being followed I may forget that it could ever be broken.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Still not reading. I've watched all but two episodes of Ao no Exorcist—and I will watch those last two episodes, but I'm in no hurry, and that says something not so good about the show. Its premise is interesting, its characters so-so, and its execution bland—more than bland, it's just amateur, lifeless storytelling all around. It does its damnedest to take The Son of Satan is an Exorcist, Man! and turn it into a snoozefest, which is impressive; while it picks up pace halfway through, the mediocre writing never quite overcomes its own hurdle and the results fail to be compelling.

I watched the first two episodes of Misfits, and I may or may not continue—its premise has potential, its execution is bold, but there was just enough that rubbed me the wrong way—sex and gender issues and YES thank you we got it, everyone here is a antihero, you have successfully driven the point home. I love antiheroes. I have less love for superficially quick-witted whiny little snipes who prey on and fall victim to the most banal of bigotries in the attempt to get a rise out of someone, anyone, please. Its not all bad, and I imagine it gains more solid footing after flirting with a few episodic episodes, but episode three very clearly broadcasts rape and I just didn't have the stomach for that.

So I've been watching Dollhouse, because nothing says No rape for me, please! like standing in line for the all you can eat rape buffet. I'm two-thirds through season one with predictable mixed success. I dislike Whedon—I enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I finally watched it in 2010 (read more), but Firefly struck me as above average but all gimmick—and a tired one, at that—with a side helping of sexism and rape culture (read more). I've seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog twice and I'm eeeh on it—cute idea! I do love Fillion! yay for people making entertainment for entertainment's sake! but not my sense of humor, and there's a bit of sexism of the manpain variety which, I know, is akin to saying Hey guys it's a piece of modern media—but still. I find Whedon trite, repetitive, and self-congratulatory—not just the tropes which appear and reappear in increasing strength, but his title of Feminist—self-assigned, and assigned by hopeful fans. Google is telling me that, bless, people are taking it with a grain of salt now.

I imagine Dollhouse helped.

Cut for a fairly inexplicit discussion of rape in media. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
And then I just had the best possible conversation about rape culture that I could expect right now, and I feel better—and somewhat calmer, if only because I'm exhausted—as a result.

I need to write a post about this sometime—about becoming intellectually aware of rape culture, about becoming emotionally aware of rape culture, about how I use the later to internalize the former generally to my own harm, about both the guilt and justification associated with that self-centered response, about how recognizing, repeating, and explaining this cycle has made it a little easier to deal with each time, about how the end point is sadness and fear, but not depression and terror, although I haven't reached a solution yet either.

But for right now, I need some Pokémon time.

Yes, all this from just a catcall. Because it never is just a catcall.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Watching The Sing-Off because I'm having an unapolgetically low key, brain-rotting TV day while I recuperate from a busy weekend, and because I liked the one episode I watched at my parents's house.

Introducing the judges, we have virtuoso singer-songwriter Ben Folds, beautiful pop diva Nicole Scherzinger, and legendary R&B vocalist Shawn Stockman.

And yes, Scherzinger is bloody useless. She's the Paula Abdul of Sing-Off: sweet and congratulatory and rarely a shred of criticism in sight. And I don't care. Perhaps they brought her on the show to, I don't know, contribute something fucking useful—in which case, that should be how they introduce her: by her credentials as someone with meaningful musical experience and skill. (And then I would appreciate it if she did indeed contribute something useful.) Elsewise they brought her on the show to fill that middle seat with someone attractive and female, in which case they're certainly introducing her with complete honesty—but shame on them, I mean, really.

No one would ever dream of announcing a male figure of power as "pretty." Men are "powerful." They're skilled and respected, and are worth more than their appearance alone. And I knew that already, and ranting here ain't gonna do much to change it, but it's fucking disgusting—and seeing it in something which is otherwise not that bad really does make me mad.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
I'm trying to read this book which has an industrial strength spine. Slim volume, standard mass market paperback, published by HarperCollins, and so I appreciate that they've glued the binding to last but I swear, you damn near need industrial machinery to pry the thing open. All that prying has yet to break the spine, so there's that—but it's wearing on my hands.

The real issue I'm taking with the book is that 75 pages in I'm looking at a rape threat on the naked female protagonist presented to show that the world she lives in is all dark and gritty (because, given that she's a cop, it would be impossible to illustrate that via the crimes and murders which surround her, to say nothing of the murder of her mother which drove her to this line or work) and that she is both strong and vulnerable: she can handle herself, and is a trained and skilled cop, but she is also just a normal human being capable of being scared and threatened (because just building a complex, nuanced, and realistic character would never be enough to illustrate that point). And let's not kid around: she's also capable of being victimized, that's the point here.

No, it's not the worst-ever example of rape in a cheap little crime thriller. Hardly. But that's just it. It's cheap and dirty and banal, so banal as to be unremarkable. It's just one more rape threat because rape is happens to tough female protagonists, don't'cha know? It builds their character while displaying their humanity! Oh, come on now. I don't pick up a book like this expecting a work of art or even remarkable skill, but I wish it weren't too much to ask that it take the higher road, do actual work, and build setting and character without relying on that amorphous danger of a dark shadowy criminal threatening our brave (but vulnerable!) female protagonist with the big bad of rape.

I'm just tired of this. I'm tired of all of this.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
I'm trying to watch Torchwood to intersperse with all that Doctor Who, but it's not going to well so far. I know that the first season is a bit rocky, so I'm approaching it with patience—but I'll admit I'm a little tired of audience surrogates. One might be necessary without the background in Doctor Who, but even then this isn't "meet an alien man who happens to be a master of space and time"; this is "meet a pretty normal human cast (give or take one) who is dealing with alien forces." That's not so distant, not so alien (if you'll excuse the repetition), that the audience needs their hand held as they come to understand the concept and grow invested with the cast. Add the knowledge of Doctor Who, and it grows a bit redundant and condescending.

Even with my hand held, I'm not developing investment in the cast. I loved Eve Myles when she appeared in Doctor Who 1.3, but between being yet-another-audience-surrogate (yawn) and her makeup, which irks me for some reason, I have no love for Gwen. Captain Jack is a little unrefined and, as much as I love what many of his character traits are meant to be, that they're handled so heavily makes him grate on my nerves. I like Toshiko Sato and Ianto Jones an awful lot, but they're too undeveloped for now. And Owen: Owen, whose face bugs me for superficial reasons (it's his mouth and jaw, mostly—too wide, overbite, just looks a little off despite that they groom him as such a pretty boy); Owen, whose first character crisis is over a dead woman's rape and murder even though the introduction to his character is rape.

Because that's the thing, Owen, my boy: if you make sexual advances on someone and they say no, and then you drug them until they say yes, you are a rapist. Rape isn't just something that happens in dark dank tunnels under bridges—it is something that happens every time you have sex with someone who has not given their consent. If someone is unable to consent (because, for example, they've been drugged), it doesn't matter how outrageous or sexual-orientation-defying the situation may be: if you have sex with them, you are a rapist.

Owen's crisis over the rape he witnesses doesn't forgive or balance out the rape he's committed. When we see some events (e.g. violent rape) as rape, and other events (e.g. date rape) as circumspect, forgivable, humorous, and otherwise maybe-bad-but-not-rape, we perpetuate rape culture—we allow more rapes to occur. It is never okay to remove someone's ability to consent. It is never okay to rape. There are no lesser varieties of rape, there are no excuses, it is never humorous, and that it's part of this character's introduction and never adequately resolved or condemned makes it hard for me to care what more he does or becomes from there.

ETA: I also find myself increasing discontent with Torchwood as the "grown up" Doctor Who. DW has nuanced, mature relationships, thousands of deaths, and personal and global losses galore. That it doesn't show explicit sex and violence does not mean that those aspects don't exist implicitly. It may be more ratings-friendly but it hardly lacks maturity. Conversely, adding sex and violence doesn't necessarily make for mature media, in the sense of complex, developed, and dark—even if it mature in the sense of rating. Take, for example, DW's Cybermen vs. TW's Cyberwoman: A species created through painful, violent mutilation, which strips away personality and emotion so much so as to essentially equal the death of the converted human, and as such tears families apart; a species designed to propagate itself by continuing these conversions, subjugating humans to intense pain and essential death or murdering them outright if they prove arbitrarily "unfit" for conversion—that is a fucking mature concept, one that proves to be brutal and heartbreaking in DW. A beautiful cyborg woman in a metal bikini is a lot more naked, but not inherently more mature, or adult, or dark and developed. In fact, that teenage glee in naked flesh is immature, not mature. I've yet to see anything from TW that has made me thankful for an after-hours spinoff of DW, because I've yet to see anything from TW that covers something they wouldn't be able to cover in DW with the same maturity, skill, and complexity that DW would turn on the subject if it could.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Two nights of sleep made up of horrible, violent, terrifying nightmares, and I slept just fine. I was chased and abused and stalked and humiliated and ignored but for whatever reason—Devon posits that I knew I was dreaming, and that's possible; somehow I felt enough distance, enough remove, that even though the dream was happening to me, even thought I was objectively horrified, I could just shrug it off. I slept long and hard, and woke well-rested.

Last night began without dreams but I was up, uncomfortable, restless, and depressed, every hour or three. Eventually I just got up and watched a movie; when I went back to bed I had a dream about going back to school which was so stressful that my heart was pounding when Dev woke me up when he got up. He was able to calm me down a bit, but when I got to sleep again I had another stressful dream about going to a three-day political rally that mirrored a speech and debate event or a con—until I finally stopped attending events, went back to my dorm, and ended up adopting the animals that I found there—a kitten, an adolescent cat, a ferret, a small rodent, and two guinea pigs. Dink was one of them, although his fur was spotted black and white (but I knew it was him) and I woke up miserable and missing him.

Things with the other pigs just haven't been the same since Dink died.

I just don't get it, really—what circumstances and content it is that makes dreams into nightmares for me. Or perhaps I do. I think all of the bad stuff used to get to me, but I've grown inured to some of it by now. Desensitized by repetition. Being stalked and humiliated by an abusive ex-boyfriend? No big deal! It doesn't target my own personal fears and memories and experiences. Objectively, I know it's awful; personally, I have some distance. But man, send me back to school and I turn into a shaking mass of anxiety, because in dreams and out of dreams that is my nightmare. I toss around the idea of finishing my degree one credit at a time at a public school, because the one class I took at PSU actually did me a world of good, it got me out and working but it wasn't stressful—either by being a difficult course, or by immersing me in the college atmosphere—and so, all good things forfend, I was actually able to complete the damn thing. Doing more of that tempts me, under similar circumstances. But college—the people, the culture, the schedules, getting myself on campus, being on campus, doing homework, receiving assignments, trying to complete assignments that require me to work with others and/or come on campus even more, every bit of it adds up, it even seems to multiply, exponential growth that builds a stress greater than I can completely imagine or hope to bear.

And I dream of it, I fear it, all the damn time. I wish that I'd discovered Reed earlier, before Whitman crushed me, I wish I had completed my degree, but I wouldn't be a fulltime student again for my life. I can't.

I have more to say about why I'm thinking about college again, about the death of a Rutgers freshman and how much of all of this anxiety comes from Whitman, not just started there but was born and bred there. But I'm only just starting to realize that I'm not looking objectively at that suicide. I'm taking too personal an angle on it—this happens, I hate it, it's useless. High school for me wasn't fun but it was no big deal, socially, and I still don't understand what made it into living hell for so many people; but college, the social abandonment and ostracization in a society so isolated that when pushed out of it you had nowhere to be, and mine was only a case of that, of rejection rather than ridicule, and I can't even imagine how much worse the latter would be. But I know it happens. I want to warn people that it doesn't get better, like some magical turning point—that depending on person and circumstance it may get quickly, remarkably worse. And what do you do that when they promise you that the day after you leave high school it will all magically improve—and then you get to college and they humiliate you?

And I think those are fair concerns—and then at the same time I know I'm being so negative and hopeless that instead of encouraging a little good I'm denying even that effort. Well done, me. I don't want to think it's hopeless, that there is nothing that can be said or done to make things "get better." Awareness and dialog helps, but wearing purple ain't gonna do a goddamn thing and that breaks my heart because I understand the impulse, I do. But we're looking at a beast that a purple t-shirt can't change: a combination of the social acceptance of bullying and the prevalence of anti-queer sentiment. Just one of those by itself is a monster; together they do horrible things to kids and to promising college students but I can barely even see it, barely even fully understand it, and the size of the problem scares me.

Into nightmares, and inaction.

I do this. I hate it. I hear about someone's rape and it leaves me incapacitated by my fear of rape culture, I hear about a suicide and and it gets me stuck on my own memories and fears of the hell that can be college, and that's selfish and it does no goddamned good. It arises from sympathy and love, it is how I try to understand how I feel about others, but it all comes back to me. How self-indulgent, how privileged, that I can complain about how these big things make me feel so small and curl up into my little ball and hide. I understand the want to wear purple because I can do that, I can wash a purple shirt and put it on, that's easily within my abilities, it's concrete and it's safe. It's also largely useless, and because it is so easy and so satisfying it's all we do do: we make ourselves feel better with a t-shirt, and then go on to ignore that huge and terrifying problem that it's supposed to represent. Awareness matters. Talking about, sharing, realizing, attempting to publicize the existence of these events matters. Symbols for them can matter, too. But that's not all it takes—it just feels like all that we know how to do.

I actually haven't been that depressed, lately. I've been okay. But I interpret this all too personally. I always do. I feel hopeless and I panic and make myself sick with nightmares. It shouldn't be about me. I'm not sure, though, how to wrap my head around the rest.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Julie took a deep breath and her voice dropped to a murmur. "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy; for girls it's like a promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading. Why else would you think it's humiliating for Tom to wear a frock?"

"Because it is," I said determinedly.

"But why?" Jule and Sue called together, and before I could think of anything Julie said, "If I wore your trousers to school tomorrow and you wore my skirt, we'd soon see who had the worse time. Everyone would point at you and laugh." Here Julie pointed across the table, her fingers inches from my nose.

"Look at him! He looks just like ... ugh! ... a girl!"

"And look at her"—Sue was pointing at Julie—"she looks rather ... clever in those trousers." My two sisters laughed so hard they collapsed in each other's arms.

The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan, 55-6


This thought has been on my mind lately for no particular reason; I didn't expect to encounter it in this of all books. I withhold judgement about whether or not I'm glad to see it there until I know how the sex and gender themes play out, but the above excerpt at least I like and pass on to you.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Friday, Day 6, At Sea
To come back up North [as we had, at this point, just began the return journey] is like coming home. When I was at school in Walla Walla, I felt the same thing on those long drives south. In the last two hours I would come back into a land of evergreens and fog, of water and growth, a richness of the land that the desert end of Washington refuses to offer—and as the view out the window went misty and dark (even in the warmth of summer) it would tug down to the deepest part of me that was—this is—home.

The temperature has dropped an easy 20 degrees, and we sail today into the wind--a wind to lean into, a wind strong enough to knock knots from the boat's speed. The sky mists at its borders, and the waves are rich blue again. This is like coming home. It's almost a relief to know that, when shoved south for a week, I don't suddenly realize that I love the warmth--my world is not rearranged, but rather what I assumed to be true is true: these dimmer, darker, deeper days are my days, they are my comfort and my home. I don't have to move to Mexico.

And to think, these aren't even the cold, salt-bitter Pacific coasts of my home state.

Tonight, meanwhile, is the big family night—the actual anniversary, and a formal dinner no less; we're taking group photos in just a few minutes and first I need to brush out my hair, because a walk on deck has turned it wild. I am not looking forward to pictures—but perhaps the rest, the closeness of the family, for a reason, with direction, perhaps even with good food--perhaps that will be nice. But there's no time left for wishful thinking—Devon's just finished using the comb.


Further thoughts, four days post-cruise
The anniversary celebration did indeed go well.

I had the same quibble about family photos as I always have: I have no problem with a commemorative group photo or two, but feel it's offensive to peer-pressure or demand others take part in numerous other photos (of individuals, small groups, family groups, etc.). I understand why some people would want to have those photos (I don't like or keep snapshots, but for those who do they can be pleasant mementos), and I think it's perfectly acceptable to request someone allow their photo to be taken—but more often than not, it's not a request but a simple assumption which removes the individual's ability or right to refuse. And, you know? It's unacceptable to take away that right, especially when it comes to someone's body—even if you're just transferring their image to film. That this assumption exists isn't my family's fault; it's wider-spread than that, it's cultural. And no, being photographed didn't do me lasting harm. But it made me resentful and uncomfortable, in part of the standard of assumption that lies behind it*, and that counts for something.

As for the rest, well, I'm not sure what to say.** The actual anniversary, the actual family event, it was lovely. By nature of my grandparents's personalities and relationship, the dinner was laidback, lively, humorous, and yet still authentically touching. But my memory is limited and inconsistent, and already a summary of that evening has fled me. Instead what I remember is this: Despite a few glasses clanged and words uttered, there were no formal toasts. There was, instead, my grandfather rising simply to say they were blessed, to thank everyone for coming, and to pledge that in another ten years, we would meet again. Ten years ago we celebrated 50 years while on a ship touring Alaska. No one knows where we'll be ten years from now (and general consensus begs it's anywhere but another cruise ship) or who will be around then, but we will be together to celebrate family and love.

And that—that is beautiful.


* For further reading: My body is not your property, by [livejournal.com profile] shadesong writing for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center blog. This essay is about the assumption of consent (or the assumption that consent is unnecessary) for physical contact, but the two issues are hardly unrelated.

And while I'm on the topic, I also had issues with assumptions related to physical contact and consent while on the cruise. I'm hyper-sensitive to issues around touch because I avoid most physical contact, and so what bothered me probably wouldn't bother most: the instances of unasked physical contact were all fairly "safe" (being touched on the shoulder by our waiter) or occurred between family members (being hugged by my grandparents). But they did bother me—because for every majority that doesn't mind this sort of touch there is a minority, like me, which does; because even if each individual incident is minor, they all reflect a culture in which one (especially if that one is female) is not able to determine how and when others interact with their body. And that culture scares me.


** Am I better at writing critically than appreciatively? Yes, yes I am, thank you.



Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England
Editor: Jack Zipes
Published: New York: Routledge, 1989 (1986)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 270
Total Page Count: 89,869
Text Number: 258
Read Because: Contains Tanith Lee's "Wolfland," borrowed from the library
Review: In three sections (following a lengthy introduction), editor Zipes compiles three revised, purportedly feminist takes on traditional fairy tales: Feminist Fairy Tales for Young (and Old) Readers and for Old (and Young) Readers, 17 modern fairy tales from authors like Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, and Anne Sexton among others, and four pieces of feminist literary criticism on fairy tales. That a work purports to be feminist, however, does not necessarily make it so. Or, rather, a work can claim to be feminist, can aim to be feminist, and still fall short of the mark—as is the case here. First, it's Zipes that drags down the anthology. In his overlong introduction and concluding critical essay, he's given to cumbersome academic dialog and bold leaps of reasoning, a tendency towards form (in place of content) which makes for inscrutable, unsubstantiated arguments. Those arguments are promising, but they beg clearer, more thorough address. The anthology's second weakness is the stories themselves. There are some gems—most provided by the authors mentioned above, and Carter's "The Donkey Prince" and Atwood's "Bluebeard's Egg" also appear on my list of favorites. But there are many stories which fail to push their feminist premises far enough, leaving them open to worrying commentary.

"In none of these tales is marriage a necessity or a goal for young women, rather it is a possibility which may or may not enter their plans. [...] In addition, the lives and careers of the young women are not telologically [sic] shaped by marriage (17)," writes Zipes in his introduction, yet in a surprising number of Prince's stories marriage is presumed—and in more, female energy is focused on male figures, roles, and relationships. The stories that don't fulfill heteronormative goals of romance, marriage, and childbirth often focus on that failure, mourning the sense of loss that accompanies it. For a purportedly feminist anthology, Prince has a surprisingly strong focus on men (even in the title!), and heteronormative standards are nearly inviolate. Perhaps I aim too high (and take too modern an approach) when I wish that Prince didn't constrain its feminism to heteronormative obligate male/female relationships; the fact that it does not, however, makes it limited in scope and depth. And then there's de Larrabeiti's story "Malagan and the Lady of Rascas," in which a husband has his wife made grotesque to force her to remain faithful, and when she does for many years remain faithful—and good, patient, and forgiving—he learns to be a decent human being. A story where men make decisions, women survive ill treatment without complaint or agency, and men reap the rewards of the experience is not feminist—certainly not feminist enough to fit a collection that totes the word so boldly on its cover.

Prince is not all bad—many stories are second rate (not just because of their feminist content, but because they are too far divorced from their source material to be effective retellings), Zipes is a constant irritation, but the other essays are thoughtful (if dated and brief) and there are some intriguing stories in the collection. But the volume aims to be more than this, and it's a lofty goal; that it fails to reach that goal makes it a disappointment. There are better feminist takes on fairy tales out there, even if they don't come in such proud packaging. I don't recommend this one.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Some belated, brief thoughts on the new Star Trek movie
Because I've officially encountered one too many fan responses that made me want to beat my head against something firm and flat. For the record: When Spock changes Uhura's assignment from the Farragut to the Enterprise, he is not "whipped." Assigning her to the former rather than the later in the first place was an effort to avoid the appearance of favoritism. When she pleads her case and he reassigns her, he is righting a previous (if well-intended) wrong, and assigning her a position which is fairer and better suited to her skills.

But my point really is: it drives me crazy that one of the few times that the only female crew member in the movie asserts herself is viewed not as strength on her part, but as foolish weakness on a male's part. Spock is not whipped. Rather, Uhura occassionally has a backbone and oughtn't that be a good thing?

I really disliked the new Star Trek film, and fan response to it has my mind boggled. Did we all watch the same over the top, obnoxious, improbable, plot-holed, shoddy-scripted, lens-flared, shaky-cammed, sexist piece of Hollywood shite? Sure, I've seen worse—but this was definitely not good or enjoyable enough for love it's received from fans.

Notes to self
The first: Quit it with the milk, and cream, and the root beer. It all looks very yummy but your body cannot tolerate it, especially not right now.

The second: Sitting hunched over the laptop only seems comfortable. When you stand up, you will find that it is distinctly otherwise.

Because between menstruation and the fact that my back is, sad to say, becoming increasingly pained, life has been all sorts of uncomfortable lately.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I've been dealing with a lot of (entirely generalized, e.g. unprovoked and unpredictable) anxiety the last few days, which is dying off now thank goodness. As a result, I was in search of some mindless activity for when I wasn't calm enough for active consumption (reading) or production (reviews, posts). And I was up to date in all my favorite TV shows.

So I watched Firefly, because it was available and I had never seen it before.

I'll admit that (not a sin unique to me) I have a habit of doubting popular media. In part because I distrust majority opinion, in part because (the guilty bit) I want to be unique and special and not love the same things as everyone else. So I came to Firefly with some doubts simply because so many folk love it so much. I also had doubts because I've lately been running into a high number of feminist critiques and discussions on rape, some in reference to fiction, or science fiction, or Whedon's work specifically. Who knows why all of this at once—a combination of stumbled upon links and discussion triggering more discussion and the controversies over Dollhouse, no doubt. (That and the fact that Whedon, a self-professed feminist, invites such discussions.)

A partial list of those essays:
A Rapist's View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly by [livejournal.com profile] allecto / Allecto
Taboos and Tropes: Part II "Rhetoric and Writing about Rape" by Rae Bryant at Fantasy Magazine
Dear Genre Fiction Writers: Quit This Sh*t by K. Tempest Bradford on Jeff Vandermeer's blog
Working in the Dollhouse by Shannan Palma at Feminist SF

I don't agree with the complete contents of all those essays; since I'm not watching Dollhouse, I can make even less comment there. Nevertheless they're all food for thought and having read them I came to Firefly with worries and open eyes.

I found the show just above average in most ways. I've never seen the huge appeal to Whedon, so perhaps I'm just not the ideal audience for his shows. The dialog is clever, Kalyee is a entirely lovely, and the plot had promise—River's story in particular makes me wish that the series had run longer that we might find out more about her in a less frantic and trite method than the film Serenity. On the other hand, the space cowboy theme is patched together (better to take the Cowboy Bebop route, cowboy mentality in a scifi setting; actual cowboy aesthetics are hokey on a space ships), many of the characters are two-dimensional (and some, like Zoe, barely manage that), and the episodic format is wearying: episodic can be done well but here, where a routine starting point undergoes an unexpected twist by the opening credits, then turns into a frolicking adventure, and is tied up within forty minutes, continuing for fourteen episodes in a row, it's not well done—indeed, it's unbelievable.

For the most part, Firefly is witty, unusual pulp, fun if not groundbreaking, and largely harmless. But yes, there are issues of gender and sexism which bother me a bit. They're characters, sections, little niggling things, not the majority of the show. But they're still there, and they bugged me.

There's Zoe, who appears to be a powerful black woman but actually has no personality of her own: she's defined as Mal's second in command and as Wash's wife. As Mal's second, she's a plot point, supporting him and bringing his plans to frutition. As Wash's wife she's a source of contention between Wash and Mal, she's Wash's motivation, and she's wife and sex object which humanizes and sensualizes—no, better, sexualizes—the ship. And that's all she is. Even when Wash directly confronts her (in "War Stories") about the difference between her personal opinion and Mal's opinion, she cannot make one. Zoe totes guns and she makes a clever quip or three about Mal's judgement, but she makes near enough no decision which is strictly her own. (One of the only ones she does make, to return for Mal in "Out of Gas," occurs entirely off screen.) She's powerful only in appearance. In reality, she's barely a character and has no autonomy.

But what really got me is Inara (who is a Companion, akin to a courtesan) and her relationship with Mal. When she first comes on the ship (in flashbacks from "Out of Gas"), she makes it clear to Mal that he is not to enter her shuttle without express invitation and that he is to treat her with respect (specifically: not refer to her as a whore). He agrees and then consistently betrays both of these edicts. This is part of Mal's character as an equal-opportunity asshole, but he claims, in "Shindig," that he respects her even if he doesn't respect her career—not that that stops him from invading her privacy. Inara always has a sharp retort to Mal's disrespect but as the show progresses it becomes obvious that they both harbor affection for the other, culimating in a scene where Inara cries after Mal has sex with another sex worker ("Heart of Gold"). So, get this: an independent, educated, employable woman who has chosen and enjoys her career as a paid companion and a sex worker rightly demands that a man treat her with respect; when he intentionally treats her with disrespect not only is it a sign that he actually cares for her, she also proceeds to fall in love with him.

That doesn't seem so "shiny," to me.

There are other little things, like stupid sexist Jayne who functions as a flimsy foil for asshole but good at heart Mal; con artist Saffon's confrontation with Mal, where he threatens her with sexual violence in guise of a "wedding night" ("Our Mrs. Renyolds"), like Wash's poorly concealed and would-be humorous desire for an wife as subservient as Saffron (Ibid.), the fact that Inara uses "whore" to describe non-Companion sex workers even though she takes offense when called it herself ("Heart of Gold"), and no doubt others which I'm forgetting now.

Is Firefly the scariest anti-feminist show I've ever seen? Goodness, no. It wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, either, coming to it as wary as I was. And I want to say "feminist issues aside, it can be an enjoyable if mediocre show"—but that's just the point. I know that tearing media to pieces can seem to pull all the fun out of it, but feminist issues should never be set aside, even if they make entertainment somewhat less entertaining. Ignore them, and you tolerate them and allow them to persist. And where sexist media persists, sexist mentality is free to thrive. It doesn't mean boycotting and hating every questionable show or book. It means keeping eyes and mind open and being wary of sexism (and indeed any form of discrimination) and how easily it can slip in, even in the work of a would-be feminist writer, even in the guise of humor or ensemble casts or bickering romances. Being aware of those issues and speaking on them helps to prevent them, in the long run, and that's worth the cost of a little less fun.

(But was Firefly and feminism the best choice for my anxious brain? Not so much. I almost wish I'd been able to take it at face value, for the sake of entirely mindless occupation. Next time I should stick with My Little Pony.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
On a completely different note!

I read Feministing in a passive sort of browsing way, but this post caught my eye and my attention. It's a video done by a group by Pleix, and a brilliant bit of social commentary in a quietly disturbing package. Well, just watch it (potentially disturbing, but the imagery is not graphic):


The video's social commentary, and my further thoughts. )

I'd love to see similar satires. If you happen to know of any, please do recommend them! This video is wonderfully done and a perfect length, given the premise and content: it makes the point without becoming repetitive. But I'd love to see something similar in book length. And I want to reread Gunnm, of course, but it's buried deep within my boxes of books.

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