Monday, November 30, 2009

Another TV Rant

As I'm sure you've noticed, I watch a lot of television. Forgive me if I've mentioned this before, but I really enjoy procedurals, mystery-solving, case-closing, OMG-what-a-twist kind of dramas like CSI, Law & Order and House, M.D.

Lately, Mr. Savant and I have also been watching Lie to Me and Castle, because we both adore Tim Roth (who plays Dr. Cal Lightman in Lie to Me) and Nathan Fillion (who plays Richard Castle in, duh, Castle).

These two shows share a plot point in that both main characters are divorced, single dads with what seems to be full custody of their teenaged daughters. In both shows, the daughters and the dads share an idyllic, adoring relationship. The ex-wives do make the occasional appearance, but they're pretty one-dimensional -- Roth's character's wife is a Ball Busting Career Woman, while Fillion's character's wife is a flighty, wacky, eccentric actress. Both daughters, however are smart, popular, well-adjusted and they seem to count their dads among their best friends. They share confidences, ask for and take advice and also are completely supportive and accepting of their dads' careers and the time these men must commit to maintaining a successful career (Roth plays a psychologist who is the world's leading deception expert, while Fillion is a best-selling author of detective/mystery novels).

So far, I'm cool with this. Yeah, I'm aware of all the stereotypes there, as well as the blatant ignorance of class and socioeconomic issues -- both families in these shows are upper class with money to burn, they're white, yadda yadda. I'm sort of willing to cut some slack here, because there really should be more positive portraits of fathers on TV, in magazines, in the news, online ... so, taken on their own, these shows don't really piss me off too much. At least not yet.

We're also big sci-fi (ScyFy?) geeks, and we've seen the first couple episodes of V. It was during the pilot episode that I noticed something was a little off. One of the plot points involves actress Elizabeth Mitchell as FBI Agent Erica Evans uncovering evidence of a conspiracy by the alien visitors, while her teenaged son simultaneously becomes enamored with the culture and message of the aliens. In the first episode, the two have a fight during which she tries to ground him for some kind of inappropriate behavior, he lands a few verbal blows about how she's always working, too busy to be a good Mom, and storms out. At which point, her cell phone rings and she heads back to work.

So, this is what's stuck in my craw. Single fatherhood is, apparently, an awesome situation for all involved. The Dads are happy, the daughters are happy, everybody wins, especially since the ex-wives were clearly not good mothers! Single motherhood, however, that's a completely different story. Obviously the Mom has made The Wrong Choice by not only having a career, but being successful and involved in a job that requires extreme intelligence, skill and strength, and is now paying the price -- with an unruly, obviously disturbed, rebellious son.

Maybe the lesson here is that I shouldn't watch quite so much television ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day (for a Feminist)

Sometimes, I'm quite hopeful about the future of feminism. And other times I feel such despair that, despite more than 30 years of fighting for equality, we've made seemingly little progress.

Case in point: today. Everywhere I looked I saw yet another example of how far we are from being truly liberated.

First, my husband says, "Honey, please change your name on all your grocery store club cards. I'm so tired of them calling me Mr. MaidenName." My response was, "How do you think I feel?! I've got to deal with people calling me by a name I was not born with all day long!"

Later on, we went to the mall to shop for a Father's Day gift for my father-in-law. As we're walking through Harry & David, I saw this:

Really? For fuck's sake. It's 2009, and yet relationships between women are still portrayed as frivolous, shallow, tenuous connections based solely on an assumed gender-wide obsession with shoes, purses and a squawking cell phone.

And then, to top it off, I saw this gem while skimming Google News:

Men-only Train Cars Sought in Groping Fears.

If you don't feel like reading, the gist of the article is that to avoid the (incredibly common) phenomenon of women and girls being groped on crowded Japanese commuter trains, the Seiku railway has established Female-only train cars during rush hour. The article goes on to say that men need similar protections against false charges of groping.

In a statement, the railway's shareholders say, "While measures against groping, such as setting women-only carriages, have been effective to a certain extent, no measures have been taken against false charges of groping... In the spirit of gender-equality, a male-only carriage must be introduced."

How about, "In the spirit of gender equality, let's work to eradicate the societal norms that make it okay to grope women in the first place." How about that? Or maybe something like, "In the spirit of gender-equality, let's stop the objectification of women completely so that the thought of any inappropriate touching would be so appalling that men who did so would commit hari-kari."

My absolute favorite part of this statement is when the shareholders say the measures against groping "have been effective to a certain extent." So, instead of taking steps to educate, to promote equality and to ensure that the measures are one hundred percent successful, they turn their attention to the issue of ... men falsely accused of groping.

Sick, sad world.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

“Identity is no museum piece sitting stock-still in a display case, but rather the endlessly astonishing synthesis of the contradictions of everyday life.” –Eduardo Galeano

I can barely stand to listen anymore: far-right conservatives and news correspondents alike embracing arguments steeped in identity politics when they’ve spent their lives (and mine) denying that such arguments carry weight. Between biracial and female presidential primary candidates; the first nonwhite president of the U.S.; the desperate nomination of RNC Chairman Michael Steele; and the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, questions about identity (with absolutely no theory to back them up) have become the centerpiece of T.V. news debates, asked by everyone from Anderson Cooper to Glenn Beck.

I’m not going to delve into the abundant amount of frustrating--and occasionally amusing--criticisms of Sotomayor. They, like many arguments not steeped in actual knowledge or experience, lack texture and rely on black and white statements with no regard for logic. There is no way to counter silly speculations of Obama as a terrorist, the RNC trying to appear more “urban” with the appointment of Michael Steele, or the question—recently posed on Fox News--of whether or not Sotomayor “understands America” when she was born and raised here, except to laugh.

And laugh we should. These kinds of questions reveal the amount of power detractors have to lose when nonwhite minorities begin to gain power. Their quick embrace of the identity-based arguments they formerly despised reveals how much power is at stake.

For example, anyone who longs for the “good old days” of the 1950s is either rich, white or both. Most likely, they’re also male. I don’t know that anyone who is nonwhite, female, immigrant or gay who would wish to return to a decade where firehoses and lynchings, segregation, back-alley abortions, lack of career choices, discrimination for jobs or blind arrests for simply patronizing a bar were the norm. The “good old days” were only a reality for people who enjoyed power before it was wrested from them in the rights movements of the 1960s. I’d venture to say that most of the rest of us would run from it, screaming.

Today, the “good old days” refer to the days when the experience of anyone who isn’t white, wealthy and male didn’t enter into play because white men were the only ones up for the job. And the power they stand to lose now becomes even more transparent when pinned against their embrace of the very same questions once asked by minority groups about white, mostly male Supreme Court candidates and presidents. Considering that power impacts the oppressed more than anyone else, and taking into account the astounding incarceration rate of minorities and the poor in this country, questions of identity, when it came to wealthy white men, were asked with damn good reason: Will they uphold the law fairly? What’s their record on decisions around discrimination? Do they hate women, gays and/or brown people? Do they seem a fair judge? What’s their stand on non-Christian religions? How do they feel about poverty?

These questions were once asked by those under the thumb of power because it directly impacted their quality of life--with centuries of historical precedents to back them up. Now, they are being asked by those who, because of their privilege, traditionally treated such concerns as insignificant because it didn’t directly affect them. While identity-based criticisms of Obama and Sotomayor are foolish and such fear is irrational and xenophobic, it is the fright of the loss of power that poses them. While we might not want to listen to sweeping accusations on identity anymore, we should gleefully watch critics squirm as centuries-old power slips from their fingers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bristol Palin Pisses Me Off

It is one of my dirty little secrets that I read the tabloid headlines while standing in line at the grocery store. I try not to, but eventually my compulsion to read all things printed within eyesight overcomes my desire to be in the dark about what Brad and Angie have been up to lately. So, nonchalantly, I will scan the headlines as I'm emptying my cart, trying not to seem too interested, or even look as though I'm reading them at all.
However, the last time I was at the store, I read a cover article that made me drop all my feigned indifference and start muttering under my breath in genuine disbelief and dismay. Our good friend Bristol Palin is on this week's cover of People magazine with her (admittedly adorable) baby Frig, or Frack or whatever the fuck she named him/her. Underneath the bold headline "Bristol and Her Baby" I read this juicy quote by Bristol: "If teenage girls knew the consequences of having sex, no one would be doing it. Trust me, no one."
I take issue with this statement on so many levels, the first being that it is patently untrue that teenage girls as a whole are ignorant to the "consequences" of sex. Despite the Bush Administration's efforts, the majority of public schools teach sex education as part of health class as early as junior high. Girls and boys alike are instructed in the anatomy, physiology and mechanics of sex as well as the possible consequences of unprotected sex and how to avoid them through the judicious use of condoms, birth control and abstinence. This is in addition to the schoolyard gossip that starts, oh, around the second grade and very clearly informs anyone interested about where, exactly babies come from and how they are made. So, in my opinion, anyone who makes it through their teen years without the slightest inkling of what might happen if you have unprotected sex is either homeschooled by the Duggars or managed to skip class a large number of times, to their great detriment.
Since I didn't read the entire interview, I have to insert a caveat here: the cover may have paraphrased her statement, but somehow knowing her and her family I doubt it.
Which leads me to the second thing about her statement that chafes my ass. She implies that sex always has negative "consequences". This sort of thinking is clearly from the mind of someone who was subjected to abstinence-only brainwashing and doesn't realize that condoms prevent pregnancy 99.96% of the time. Further, she was clearly taught that sex is strictly "open legs, insert penis" and is perhaps not aware of all the other fun sex acts that will most definitely not get you pregnant (although you may have to wash out your mouth and/or ass afterwards). Or, alternately, she was aware of all this but was told that using a condom and sucking a dick makes you a dirty, dirty whore and God will not love you anymore should you do these awful things.
So, girls, I think we need to combat the insidious belief that sex is evil and good girls don't do it. We need to stand up for our orgasms and speak out against ignorant statements like the ones that fall willy-nilly from Bristol Palin's lips. Buy a box of condoms and go find a teenage girl to instruct. Make sure that the next generation of women is taught not to fear sex but to take control of her sexuality for her own health and ultimate well being.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Some Days

Some days I want to be selfish. I want to be alone. I want to go do something that I want to do, and not drag along two vocal children and a whining husband. I want to go do something that I want to do and not have to worry about getting back home to my husband and children in time to cook them dinner. I want to not be responsible to anyone at all. I want to go to the midnight showing of the Andy Warhol film festival and then go to my friend's house afterwards and smoke a bunch of pot and crash on her couch. I want to walk out my door with a full pack of cigarettes and come home with an empty pack and sore lungs. Some days I want to walk away from my life, freeze it and come back later when I'm ready to cuddle and kiss and cook and nurture and make love and I have gotten my bad girl back in her cage again, for another few months. Some days.
So, on the topic of the new Star Trek movie raised by previously by Sharon, I must say I wasn't blown away. From the perspective of a lifelong Trekkie, I felt slightly cheated. In one fell swoop they have re-written the entire timeline and made all those hours of watching and re-watching countless episodes on Spike (with their obnoxious "you're a guy so you must like beer and boobies" commercial slant) for naught, since now none of it ever happened. Temporal disturbances can do that, I guess.
But, from a feminist perspective I must say I was not surprised. The whole movie was based from the original series, which, although groundbreaking in it's portrayal of interracial sexual scenarios (another thing the new movie ruined!) it was nonetheless sadly lacking in strong female characters. Nichelle Nichols was not there for her brains, she was there for her gorgeous legs.
Of course, later Start Trek series corrected this flaw, and admirably. I have no complaints on the strength of characters like Dr. Beverley Crusher (a single working mom with a doctorate and a overacheiving son? Awesome!) who in the Next Generation finale is shown as the captain of her own medical ship, after marrying and apparently divorcing Jean-Luc Picard because, despite his sexy accent, he's just another womanizing cad.
Nor can I find much fault in Captain Kathryn Janeway of Voyager, a character who spends seven seasons showing us how she balances compassion with authority (a necessary skill for any woman contemplating motherhood) yet manages to hold to her own moral standards despite the pressure she is under to acheive her ultimate goal of getting her ship and it's crew back to Earth safely.
However, none of these themes exploring femininity were apparent in the original series, nor in the new movie. The original reviewer was absolutely correct in her statement that all women in the movie are two dimensional hoes, mamas or bitches. They tried to round out Uhura's character but only made her seem like a caracature of a strong black woman, like the person everyone wants to reduce Michelle Obama to being (why are we all drawing parallels between the first lady and Ms. Uhura?). In the end they seem to want to make sure we understand that although she is intelligent, dedicated and ambitious, more importantly she's pretty, can make polite conversation and Spock has the hots for her.
So, although entertaining enough in it's own right, I must say the movie only gets a B from me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Listen to guest blogger Lacey Banis. She's one wise woman:

What's Not OK

I heard about this story on Sam Ronson’s Twitter page:

"I'm A Lesbian. Would You Like to Punch Me?"

To say I was aghast, fearful, and angry would be an understatement, but sadly, I was also not surprised.

Since coming out almost exactly one year ago, everything that I once knew is no longer the same; something as routine as walking my dog in my own neighborhood now invites comments like “Guy or girl?” or “Are you fucking kidding me?” to be hurled at me by passersby. Drive-by bigotry. Awesome.

I’m no stranger to ignorance. Having grown up in a town that was about as diverse as a pint of vanilla ice cream, I can still almost tear up if I think just a little too long about the comments that were sneered at me in my classrooms, on the bus and in hallways. Add to the fact that I’m adopted by white parents pre-Angelina, and I may as well have been wearing a “Kick Me” sign.

But I grew up and left my hometown, met people who weren’t dumbasses, and learned to joke about the ignorance. Even to this day, though, I will encounter the random racial epithet. One guy I had held a CVS door open for looked at me and said, “Aaahhh! Eggroll!” It’s amazing how 3 seconds of your life can bring you back twelve years. My upstairs neighbor likes to alternate between calling me a chink and a dyke, depending on how many gas fumes he’s inhaled in any particular week. And I’ve even had a grown (albeit, stupid) woman tell me to “go back to where I came from.” Well, bitch, here I am.

I’d like to say I’m probably stronger as a result of this, but each comment still chips away — if only slightly — at my ego nonetheless. I’ve wearing the proverbial armor, but by now you can imagine the chinks it has.

I do realize my hair plays a HUUUUGE role in the comments I seem to attract. [Lacey has one killer fauxhawk and she's had it for YEARS. -Ed.] Even my own mother seems to think I resemble a woodpecker, and chooses to remind me of this on a regular basis. The difference is, though, that her comments stem from love, whereas people who ask me what’s up with my hair in an unfriendly manner (holla to Doschbag for asking what’s up with their face in response) do not.

The truth is I can deal with the hair comments. My hair is my choice, and, hey, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite flavor, but that’s OK. Opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one.

What’s not OK, however, is being made to feel afraid or hurt or humiliated for being who you really are, whether your identity is based in your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or whatever makes you, you.

What’s not OK is beating the shit out of someone because you don’t like how they look, dress, act, or who they go home with.

I’m not gonna lie. You wanna know why I work the speed bag so hard these days or why I’m weightlifting like it’s my second job? Read the story above. Look at the pictures on Shirley's Twitpic's page. For me and so many others, being able to be ourselves requires as much physical effort as it does mental and emotional fortitude. This is not OK.

You can’t live your life in fear of what might happen, however, if I can make myself a little stronger, a little faster then if, God forbid, something were to happen, maybe I’d have a shot in hell of defending myself. How fucked up is it that I have to think about this? But that doesn’t mean I’m crawling back into the closet. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dressing as I do, walking as I do, loving whom I do. I can no more change the slant of my eyes than the fact that I am gay. It took me 30 years to get here, and I’ll be damned if I’m packing it in now. In fact, I’m just getting started.

So to the supremely ignorant dumbasses of the world, to the asshole who thought it was OK to blacken both of Shirley Spears’ eyes and fatten her lip, you don’t get my anger. Anger in these types of situations comes from fear, and I. am. not. afraid. You won’t get my tears. You’re not worth them. No, the worst thing I can do is pity you, live my life and refuse to let you dictate anything about me. Karma will handle the rest.