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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Final Frontier

I've been a Star Trek fan since I was a wee lass. Krista and I used to watch the series with our father, and we've both seen every movie, suffered through terrible spin-offs like Deep Space Nine and Voyager (though I have to admit Captain Janeway totally rules), and rejoiced at the mostly awesome reprise of Enterprise (Mmmmm, Jolene Blalock).

Needless to say, I. Am. So. Freakin'. Psyched. to see the new Star Trek movie. In IMAX. With Mr. Sharon, who's also a huge Trekkie.

Then, this morning I read this review of the movie by Jennifer Weiner, and my enthusiasm waned just a bit. Anyone see it yet and care to comment on its portrayal of women?

After reading her commentary, I just feel frustrated. How long have women been taking 'baby steps?' How much longer are we going to settle for tiny advances forward only to be forced back into darkness? It's quite infuriating to me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Green Days

As another Green Day album is churned out to the masses and on the heels of news about a Green Day musical, I can’t stop thinking of one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It was at the taping of the Carson Daly Show. Yes, I said the Carson Daly Show. I was there to see Green Day perform. Yes, I said I traveled from the east side to 30 Rock to see Green Day play live on the Carson Daly Show. Whatever you might think, Green Day is an amazing band to see live, and most people only think they’re cheesy because they aren’t listening very carefully or have only heard of them after Dookie was released and played on MTV incessantly. Anyway, I’m not here to argue Green Day’s worth. I’m here to talk about one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I went to see the show in the middle of the work day. I once had a job where this was perfectly normal, and I miss it terribly. It was a job where the music nerd half of me was satisfied on a weekly basis, even if my career brought me absolutely no fulfillment. 9 to 5 was a drag, but I saw about 4 free shows a week, and a typical work lunch meant arguing the musical impact of, say, Green Day, over whatever band was the indie upstart of the week. Atypical parts of the job included getting drunk with Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, and seeing acts like Devendra Banhart or Ted Leo play sets in the conference room. Those aspects of my job rocked and I missed them terribly.

And so, because of the only part of my job that kept me there for eight years, I stood in the midst of a thrilling mix of people who were actually there to see Carson Daly (maybe three in all, bedecked in fanny packs?), industry folks who had snuck in through work (like me) and an assortment of aging Green Day fans and the teens the band now attracts. As the band did their thing for television, I heard a young and incessant voice behind me. American Idiot had just been released, and this little high voice knew every word, every pause, every inflection—and every criticism of America the band leveled at their audience.

I’m ashamed to say I assumed the rabid fan behind me was a young boy. It wasn’t. It was an 11ish-year-old girl. No makeup, glasses. Pink backpack. Your typical Hannah Montana fan, but she was jumping around to punk rock like a firecracker lit twice, screaming anti-Bush lyrics as if she were the band’s lead singer or, to use a cliché, as if her life depended on it. Maybe it did. She was almost crying, and so was I.

I’m listening to “Holiday” right now, and she burns like a vigil in my memory. She was clearly much shorter than I was, and though she couldn’t see above my swelled industry, punk-rock-author head, she was having more fun than I had had at a show in years. As Green Day continued to play after their timed three minutes for fans like the girl screaming their lyrics behind me—and they played about five songs more, if I remember correctly—I asked her if she’d like to stand in front of me so she could see. She thanked me profusely and continued to do so throughout the rest of the set.

She was a sight to behold: a girl with no self-consciousness. A girl with no need to dress like the band and no need to seduce the band. A girl who raged to Green Day as I once did to the Go-Gos and Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. And maybe that anti-Bush sentiment settled in her like sediment. Maybe it’s a foundation on which she can build her own radical political empire, her own stories, blog, band, joy. It was gorgeous. Compelling. In the midst of a war we didn’t need to fight and the stupidity of a sycophantic media and a public swallowing lies as smoothly as a Slurpee in July, it was transcendent.

I have no brilliant or clever way to end this, except that I hope she’s playing an instrument right now. I hope she found the other, older, more obscure bands to which bands like Green Day can lead. I hope she’s living the life I didn’t until I was 18 or 20, and I hope she remembers that bright day as clearly as I do.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I'm a huge fan of detective novels, especially those with strong, multi-faceted women characters. In particular, I love Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner, and Dr. Temperance Brennan, who's the protagonist in Kathy Reich's novels based on her own life and work as a forensic anthropologist.

So I was thrilled when I found out that Fox was developing a TV show based on Reich's own life and work and incorporating elements of her series' main character, Dr. Brennan.

Though on the show, the character shares the same name as the protagonist of Reichs' books, this television version of Brennan is based not on the fictional character, but on the author herself.

On the show, Brennan (nicknamed "Bones," natch) works for The Jeffersonian, a fictional research organization based in Washington, D.C. Her team is often called in to consult on murder cases, to identify bodies and assorted other forensic anthropologic tasks for the FBI, and Brennan's law enforcement counterpart is a "man's man," the gunslinging, chauvinist-with-a-heart-of-gold Agent Seeley Booth.

Now, the show airs on Fox. On American television. So you can make your own assumptions about how women are portrayed, if you don't watch the show yourself. But you know, hope springs eternal and all that shit. I don't know what I was thinking (obviously, I wasn't), but I wrongly assumed that the writers, the producers and the network itself might just TRY to address some contemporary gender issues, societal constructs and the role of women in science in a new, fresh way.

WRONG. Dead wrong. (Ha, see what I did there?)

This is arguably one of the most sexist shows on television. I won't bore you with minute details of plots and characters and such, but just off the top of my head I can tell you that the show has used the following stereotypes in an attempt to advance plot lines, create "drama," and draw belly laughs:

-Women are terrible drivers and also cannot handle a manual transmission. Hilarity ensues.

-'Incredibly intelligent woman' is mutually exclusive of 'funny, hip, warm, caring, friendly, sensitive and compassionate woman.' All sorts of awkward moments involving Dr. Brennan carelessly dismissing others' religious beliefs, morals, values and self-esteem ensue. There's one episode during which she must temporarily care for an infant and is depicted as completely clueless and insensitive to the kid's needs.

-Women that do not believe in monogamy and/or who are bisexual are sluts. Seriously, there was a whole episode where one character decided that instead of randomly fucking everyone she saw -- which viewers were to understand was her typical M.O--she would practice celibacy. All kinds of terrible, derogatory sex jokes followed as we watched this poor character fight with an all-consuming lust that threatened her job and her friendships.

-Androgyny is totally weird an unattractive. In last week's episode, an androgynous Japanese forensic anthropologist comes to the Jeffersonian to help out with a case. The character is much like Brennan, cold, stoic, and completely devoid of any social skills. Because, you know, scientists are like that. A huge subplot of the episode involved the team attempting to guess whether the Japanese doctor was male or female, and placing bets on the outcome. At the end of the episode, the aforementioned Slut character finds out once and for all by hugging the doctor, and then reporting back to the team that "It moved. He's totally a guy."

Believe me, I could go on and on and on (and on.) It's like a bloody, gory, gruesome train or automobile or airplane wreck, though. You know it's going to be fucking awful, possibly even permanently scarring, but you can't look away. So I faithfully DVR the stupid thing every week, and then I sit down with my husband to watch it and brace myself for the hell.

During one such viewing, in the midst of my hurling expletives at the television screen, Mr. Sharon says, "Honey, why do you let this get you so upset? It's just entertainment. There's no, like, subliminal messages here trying to brainwash the population!"

I wholeheartedly disagree. I do not believe there's such a thing as entertainment purely for entertainment's sake (unless my dog is involved), especially not on the Fox television network. Every piece of writing, every play, every song, every television and/or radio show has to draw from the tenets of the society in which it exists, and it uses the underlying assumptions of the general population, the current zeitgeist, recent events, politics and sweeping generalizations about human relationships to illustrate morals, to prove a point, to influence its audience.

I like to compare it to the 'urban legend' phenomenon. These stories are scary, or funny, or illustrate a supposed "real life" scenario in an attempt to elucidate to listeners how they should or should not act; what they should or should not do.

It's the same with television, radio; even literature and the performing arts do this. So for me, watching Bones (and everything else I ingest in my television diet) is somewhat of a lesson in how the general population continues to think about society generally and women specifically.

And boy, is it scary sometimes.