Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Random Ten

I am going to join in an internet tradition, or at least an internet tradition in some of the parts I lurk around. And that is to set my iPod to shuffle and post the first 10 songs that come up, no matter how embarrassing! YAY!

1. Bouncing Off The Walls - Sugarcult

2. Ride - The Vines

3. Deep Inside of You - Third Eye Blind

4. Echo/ Always On/ Easy Con - Blizen Trapper

5. Let Go - Frou Fou

6. Wart Hog - The Ramones

7. William's Doll - Alan Alda & Marlo Thomas

8. The World We Live In - The Killers

9. Say What! - Stevie Ray Vaughan

10. Hound Dog - Sha-Na-Na

I remember really annoying John with Bouncing Off The Walls, because I didn't know any of the lyrics beyond
I'm bouncing off the walls again/Whoa-oh
I'm looking like a fool again/Whoa-oh
Seriously, that's all I knew. At least one other friend in our group of friends would consistently sing those two lines with me, and even though John tried to teach us the rest of the words (or at least a couple more), we remained resistant to any other line of the song. He gave up after a couple of tries. I think I bought that song just because I had fond memories of singing those two lines.

But now, down to business (if anyone has made it this far)!

I'm still working on my master list regarding the male-to-female musician/band breakdown on my iPod, but I figured I'd start doing mini-breakdowns right here, in the Friday Random Ten. How exciting for everyone!

The rules are this:

1) There are three categories
- Male Bands
- Bands with Women
- Female Bands

2) There will also be a count of how many men and how many women are represented in the total membership of all the bands on the list.

3) Former members may or may not be counted. If the song in the FRT has a former member, the make up of the band at that time counts here. If it is a current make up, then that is what is counted. In the overall count that will (hopefully) be finished by the time the next SXSW festival rolls around, the membership count will be determined by the break down on the iPod, but the constant members will not be counted twice.
- Example:
AC/DC - 1 Album, so only the 5 members on Back in Black count.
Third Eye Blind - 3 Albums, 4 members from Self-Titled and Blue, 1 added from Out of the Vein; Jenkins and the other two constant members will not be counted twice

Now, for this FRT:

Male Bands: 8
Bands with Women: 2
Female Bands: 0

Men: 34 (Blame Sha Na Na, with its 12 members)
Women: 2

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Marti Noxon To Pen Feminist-Centered Show

Marti Noxon, she of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, is writing a show about "a feminist icon who attempts to reignite the movement by starting a sexually explicit magazine for women", which will star Diane Keaton. I'm... ...up in the air about this.

I should explain a few things. One is that I follow a lot of Whedony people - that is, people who have worked with Joss Whedon. The other is that while I like a lot of them, very few of them bowl me over when they're out of Whedon's sphere of influence. The ones I do like (really, really like) seemed to have gravitated over to Amy Sherman-Palladino's Gilmore Girls - those being Jane Espenson and Rebecca Rand Kirshner.

Marti Noxon is, notably, not one of those people. A little background on Noxon's contribution to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: she penned the episode I hate. I hate one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my reasons for hating it are similar to my reasons for hating, in no particular order, Faith (the character), Yo-Saf-Bridge, and Tennessee Williams plays. That is season 3's The Wish.

Noxon was also the co-creator of Point Pleasant, and one of the writers. Which was... just not a good show.

And I'm a bit concerned about the overall premise of this show, and I'm going to quote Jessica Valenti in order to demonstrate why:
But here's something that made me cringe a bit: Executive producer Dawn Parouse said of the show, "There seems to be a new evolution of what women are sexually. Women are acting more like men sexually."

Acting like men? Really? This is a line that anti-feminists use when decrying "hook up culture" and the evils of feminism. Also, women liking sex isn't "acting like men" - it's acting like women who like sex. Just saying.
At the same time, it could be good. It has friggin' Diane Keaton. It is about a feminist, a Gloria Steinem kind of feminist! I love Gloria Steinem! I love Diane Keaton!

And I want to believe that Marti Noxon can make something I will love. Because The Wish is a really well written episode I just can't enjoy. Because I think she got unfairly maligned when she took over Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its UPN years.

But mostly, it's because I want a show where the lead is unequivocally feminist, where that isn't a bad thing. Where it is even a good thing. I want a show where Diane Keaton can kick ass and take names. In short, I really, really want this to be good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The American Family, Kate & Allie, and Co-Parenting

I recently bought my father the first season of Kate & Allie, a show he (inexplicably) loves and that focuses on two divorcees raising their children together in New York City. It was a present for Father's Day or my parents' anniversary or something of that sort, and rewatching it - along with the reruns of Kate & Allie that are forever playing on the WE Channel - while reading Redesigning the American Dream: Gender, Housing, and Family Life by Dolores Hayden seems to have left some subliminal messages in my head.

Because when I was listening to yesterday's Talk of the Nation today (via podcast) about Geoffrey Canada's organization Harlem Children's Zone, something clicked. The thing that clicked is this: Canada said,
I was raised by a single mom, and it is so hard to raise children by yourself. There are so many obstacles, and yet we have this crisis in the country. There are lots of families that there's only one adult raising a child and they're trying to work and take care of the child at the same time. And the country has not made the kind of investment to help families who really have no other support. You know, when I grew up, my grandmother lived three or four blocks away, so we could stay with her and still be in sort of the loving confines of a structured family environment. Many families don't have this today, and so one of the real challenges is to make sure that we encourage fathers to stay with their children, support their children, stay with their spouses; and mothers to really make sure that you're forming relationships that will last for this child. So that these young people come up with two parents.
What clicked is that we as a culture are so focused on the ideal nuclear family, and that may not always be the absolute best possibility. I was with Canada up and through "encourage fathers to stay with their children, support their children". But I don't think that fathers (or mothers) have to stay with a spouse in order to continue to support the children, and that in many cases, there is a valid reason why the romantic (or sexual) relationship responsible for creating the child in question ended. Canada goes on to say,
It doesn't matter what the family looks like; there just needs to be two adults always focused on this child to maximize the chances.
And I agree with him.

I was raised in a two parent home, but I wasn't raised by two parents. More specifically, I was raised by a lot more people than just my two parents. My father has three best friends, two of whom have wives and one of whom who has an extremely doting mother. My mother has one best friend. My father has a sister, and had his parents - along with a fairly large extended family. I was the first child born in my generation, and for a long time I was one of the centers (or close to it) of almost all of these people's lives. They were frequently present, to the point where one of my uncles came on vacations with us and had his own room in our condo. My birthday is used for pin numbers and passwords, both for the people I'm related to and the people I'm not. I had (and have) a structured family environment, even though I'm not biologically related to a great deal of that support system.

Which brings me to Redesigning the American Dream, a book about architecture and community planning, and how America's development boom after World War II both reinforced gender norms and our isolated society. In it, Hayden explores why Levittown became the American Dream, as well as other, more innovative and diverse, housing projects in America and around the world. Some of the ideas in the book seemed alien while I was reading and after I had finished reading, like the Danish housing project Tynngarden, where "each family gave up 10 percent of its allocated interior square footage to create a shared neighborhood center for ten to fifteen families" and whose courtyard " contained mailboxes, the washing machines and dryers, a community kitchen, and a large two-level space for activities planned by residents". Seemed alien, until I started thinking about housing, how expensive it is, how expensive electricity is, and how expensive and time-consuming maintaining the ability to afford a residence is, especially when there are children.

Canada's program does an awesome job for low-income children, but I started wondering, sitting bored in my little cubicle, if his organization and countless other communities could be helped if we started rethinking our vision of housing and our idea of what constitutes a family, and what it means to be a community. Which is where this circles back to Kate & Allie. Kate and Allie had it slightly easier. They were childhood friends. But in today's world of internet access and social networking sites, there could be some sort of Harmony or for single parents (or even singles, low-income or otherwise) that could match up similar parenting philosophies or needs. There could be apartments buildings constructed with these kinds of created families, this kind of structured family unit, in mind. Apartment buildings that had adequate - if not huge - living spaces, that could support two co-mingling, co-parenting groups, or three, or more. If we stop thinking about the romantic couple in the nuclear family as the absolute most solid support system for a family, if we start accepting that mothers (and fathers) can form other types of relationships, platonic relationships that will last and be good for the child, then other ways to mitigate poverty and inadequate child care/supervision could develop, as another way to make a parent's and partner's absence less devastating.

This is in no way an attempt to prove fathers useless. I think fathers are important. My father is one of my favorite people, and I am who I am because of him. He has been my greatest cheerleader, my favorite sparring partner, my book buddy, my best friend, my confidante, my history teacher, my ethics teacher, and when I was younger, also my playmate and my song and story man all in one 6'2" package. I think Canada is right, other organizations are right, to push for fathers to remain in their children's lives even if they are no longer in their children's mothers' lives. But that doesn't change the fact that fathers do disappear, and working to make it less acceptable for them to do so is only half the battle. The other half is providing for those children and partners left behind.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Awesome Is This?

NPR has made available free 12 song samplers for each of the two music festivals taking up residence in Newport, Rhode Island (which may or may not have changed its name recently from the long, cumbersome, and obscure "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to the more well-known and shorter "Rhode Island").

If you have iTunes, I highly recommend downloading them. If you don't have iTunes, I highly recommend getting iTunes and then downloading them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Two Cool Posts

I was thinking about starting a Sunday Links post, like all the cool blogs do - but then I got lazy and didn't compile a list of links and didn't post the links I did think to mark, and then it was no longer Sunday but Monday and I gave up on the whole thing.

I also, maybe, might have consumed too much coffee today, because I'm still fairly hyper.

That being said, there are two posts that I wanted to highlight.

Reflections on a Gold Bikini, about Princess Leia and the lust that one particular outfit generates (excerpt):
And therein lies the crux of the fanboy lust issue for me. For all that so many of them say they love Leia for her strength, the fantasy focuses on the 10 minutes out of three films when she is forced into submission. The iconic image of sexy Return of the Jedi Leia is one of subjugation and powerlessness. In focusing their desire and fantasy on the gold bikini, the fanboys are identifying not with Han, who loves and desires Leia as a complete and autonomous person, but with Jabba, who sees her as a possession and a decorative object.
I'm sure that a lot of the lust directed at Leia in that moment is due to the massive amount of skin Carrie Fisher was exposing in that scene, and the fact that Fisher wasn't almost naked in any other part of the trilogy. But I do think that the reason why she was almost naked is almost as important. It may not be a conscious choice to be Jabba instead of Han when evaluating the hotness of Leia, but I think the point Melusine makes regarding Leia's autonomy - or lack of it - in choosing that particular outfit makes the reverence that gold bikini generates more than a little squicky is well worth considering.

Then there is a post from Sady regarding Megan Fox, called Megan Fox: Sex Symbol, Mouthy Slut, Or Something Else Entirely (excerpt):
This is what we do to women: tell them to be hot, sexy, sexual. We consistently define women’s worth around their bodies, around how attractive they are. Then, when a woman actually goes for it, and makes bank with her sexuality or her looks, we tell her that she can never be anything else. That she should have been a “good girl” all along. That, having played the game, she can never express an opinion about it: We like you better with your mouth shut.

What’s most disheartening about the Megan Fox coverage is that a lot of the harshest statements seem to come from women, and often, as in the case of Zelda Lily, in the name of “feminism.” It’s hard to tell exactly what feminism means these days, but I’m pretty sure telling women that they should be seen and not heard – saying that they can be “good,” non-sexual girls who are allowed to think, or sex objects who remain passive, vacant, and acquiescent – ain’t it.
I have to admit that I am not a Megan Fox lover - or hater. I've seen her in exactly two things, the first Transformers and an episode of the Amanda Bynes show What I Like About You, in which she had a bit part and where I recognized her only due to previously watching Transformers.

That being said, when I first read about the remark Fox made to Entertainment Weekly, that being:
I mean, I can’t s— on this movie [Transformers] because it did give me a career and open all these doors for me. But I don’t want to blow smoke up people’s a–. People are well aware that this is not a movie about acting.
I was genuinely surprised that it could (or would) create that much of an uproar. It seemed like a pretty duh statement. Transformers, whatever else it might be, is not an actors' film. It is about the coolness of giant robots (while forgetting to give them actual parts, because that might make it a film that needs a bit of acting), and things blowing up. It is an adrenaline ride. I haven't seen the second one yet, but that's what the first one was and that is what most Michael Bay films are. And that's not really a problem, because those movies are fun for what they are. But apparently, pointing that out is a hate-worthy offense.

Cactus Flower

So last night instead of writing a blog post, I watched Cactus Flower, the movie that marked Goldie Hawn's first major film role and only Academy Award win.

And it is hysterical. Awesome. Wonderful.

And I'm at a loss over whether or not I'd categorize it as a feminist (or even feminist-friendly) film.

It doesn't pass the Bechdel Test.

But it does have two complex, three-dimensional, flawed and amazing women characters. Who talk to each other. And genuinely seem to like one another. And who, as odd as it may seem, respect each other.

Their relationship is built upon a false premise, namely that Ingrid Bergman is the wife of Walter Matthau, who keeps Goldie Hawn as a girlfriend/mistress.

That relationship turns out to be less tangible than the other relationships in the film, like the romantic ones. And yet, that isn't enough to make it patently not feminist. Passing the Bechdel Test would be nice, and far too many movies fail.

The movie has a lot of what would be considered cliches now (I'm not sure if they were or not in 1969 when the movie premiered). Walter Matthau doesn't recognize how he feels for Ingrid Bergman until she undergoes a Miraculous Transformation, physically, and is out with other men having a good time and reneging on her staid persona. Goldie Hawn inadvertently helps fan the flames of romance between her lover/fiance and his fake wife by sending her a mink stole and arranging for Matthau to take Bergman home. Goldie Hawn only recognizes her feelings for her (guy) neighbor when he flirts and dances with Ingrid Bergman. It contains the same old tripe about how all women want to get married, all men don't, and all men lie to get women. Oh, and perhaps the worst one of all, where a totally awesome woman ends up with a schmuck, because she loves him and knows there's more to him than meets the eye - even though his last relationship only ended because the woman told his lover that he was lying liar who lies and who still couldn't come clean in the end about what a douche he'd been to everyone involved in their little saga.

Something like that has, lately, been enough to make me throw my hands up in disgust and write the movie off as nothing worth my time - and could I please have the hours I spent watching 27 Dresses and Made of Honor back?

But there's still something about it that seems fresh, and yet vaguely Shakespearean. It could be that Ingrid Bergman can really act. It could be that Goldie Hawn really is incredibly adorable. It could be that Walter Matthau is a bit of an idiot and doesn't seem to recognize that Goldie would probably be happiest if he would just show up when he said he would for their dates, and doesn't, actually, need a proposal. Who knows, it could be just the Monkees music without the lyrics. But I think it is the strong women. I think it comes down to the writing making damn sure we know there is more to Toni Simmons (Goldie Hawn) than just a blonde who is willing to sleep with a married man. It makes sure we know that Stephanie Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman) deserves to be respected. And because it acknowledges the craziness of life in a well-written way. When Toni offers, "A man who lies cannot love", Stephanie shoots back, "That sounds like something out of a fortune cookie". And a movie that is well-written, that is wittily written, deserves to be watched.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Sesame Street

I freakin' love Snuffy and Big Bird:

Police & Perception

When I was younger, possibly 14, possibly 12, possible as young as 11 or as old as 17 (time and I have a tendency to not get along very well), my father instructed me to always drive to the nearest police station if I were pulled over later in the evening or not on a main road. There had been a rash of sexual assaults reported, many committed by men who were dressing up as police officers in order to more easily gain power over their victims. But some were actual police officers, who already had more power over their victims. So, my father told me to not forget these instances, to always drive to the nearest police station in the event I was pulled over late at night or not on a main road, and to do so if I felt unsafe in any way even if I was on a highway at noon.

They also had me watch movies like The Thin Blue Line when I was young, in order to start conversations about how the police weren't the ultimate authority, that the badge and the uniform doesn't mean perfection, doesn't mean absolute fidelity to the law, doesn't mean that when there is fidelity to the law that it isn't applied differently to different people. This is also the reason my first episode of Homicide when I was about 8 or 9 was "Black and Blue", an episode that wholly revolves around the police department covering when one of its own kills someone and one officer, Pembleton, fighting against the cover up while also delivering a confession to the murder by the murdered boy's friend.

Over the years, through the stories they told about their (black) friends and their (white) friends, that application differential became increasingly clear.

Because of all of this, I don't truly understand the hoopla that accompanied President Obama's remarks regarding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. during his press conference, especially since he made it clear that he didn't "know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that". Especially since he quickly shifted the conversation to a larger one about why those who have been directly affected by situations in which race did play a negative role - and those, like me, who only have tangential evidence for how race does play a negative role - have made the assumption that race did play a negative role here, in this situation.

The best break down I can give, myself, is that I don't think the arrest was one of racial profiling. I don't think the officers - any of them - went into the situation thinking, "Let's arrest a black guy today". I don't even think the woman who called the cops thought that because there were two black men trying to enter a house in the afternoon, it was suspicious. I can give the benefit of the doubt and say that if two white guys she didn't recognize were trying to enter the house to the other side of her, she'd have called the cops as well. I've had the cops called on me when I was trying to break into my house in the afternoon, because I have good neighbors. Over the years, my neighbors have become accustomed to my breaking into my own house and now call to confirm that it was me.

But I do think the race of Professor Gates influenced the dynamic of the ensuing conversation - or, at the very least, I can see where his race would. And I can see where it would because of the excellent write up Latoya Peterson gives in the thread during the conversation ensuing from her post on Gates' arrest. When she says (in comment 102, for anyone interested),
I’m a black woman. I’ve never even been *close* to being in trouble with the law. It just doesn’t happen for me. Plus I grew up in MoCo, I have a great “white” voice and learned to mimic the type of assumptions and entitlement that my white peers (and a few upper class blacks) just knew.


Every last one of my black and latino male friends has been arrested. They may not have been incarcerated. But they have all been arrested. I’ve seen maybe seven or so of these altercations begin. And in each occasion, the tone of the interaction is set by the officer. It’s normally the officer that initiates contact.

And for the life of me, I can’t reconcile these experiences.

I don’t understand why I’m at an out of control party with my white friends, who had a pile of cocaine in the bathroom, and the police come and barely look around, but when I’m sitting on a park bench with my black friend, the *park* police want to come by and harass him for littering since they spotted a cup underneath the bench. (One that was there before we arrived.)

I don’t understand why if the Salvadorean children I baby sat for were threatened with a knife by a white boy in the neighborhood, that the Officer who arrived berates us and their mother, then takes his hat off respectfully when approaching the grandparents of the white boy with the knife.

I don’t understand why I can watch the police get called to my building and watch the man making a ruckus get immediately escorted out, but when I call the police because there are two white guys down the hall screaming curses at a woman who isn’t answering the door, the police want to have a conversation and help solve his problem.

I say this as a person who was mentored by a Montgomery County Police Lieutenant.
I also understand that the very way we talk about race and racial dynamics - how on first pass, instead of writing,
But I do think the race of Professor Gates influenced the dynamic of the ensuing conversation - or, at the very least, I can see where his race would.
I wrote,
But I do think the race of Professor Gates changed the dynamic of the ensuing conversation - or, at the very least, I can see where his race would.
influences how we categorize events at hand. The difference may not seem all that grand, but for me, the difference is huge. In the original sentence, my original thought was that it was the fact that Gates was black that changed a neutral conversation.

But that isn't wholly correct. Race changes the conversation, period. If it were a white professor being questioned about whether or not he lived in this particular house on this particular street, the conversation would still be influenced by race. Depending on the individuals in question, maybe not much. And it might be that Crowley really did act stupidly for reasons wholly separate from race.

There is a part of this that didn't occur to me until I was reading what adelheide said on Ginmar's write-up of her impression of this particular incident:
The part that startles me is that the arresting officer is supposedly an expert on racial profilling and trains other officers how to not to do it. And yet he was completely baffled as to why Prof. Gates was upset about being confronted in his home. I would assume (dangerous word there) that someone trained to not racially profile people would understand that black people have a different experience with the police.
The fact that Sgt. Crowley "had been selected to be a police academy instructor on how to avoid racial profiling" seems to be used as shorthand, along with the fact that he gave mouth-to-mouth to Reggie Lewis, that he isn't a racist. And while that is probably true, I hadn't truly thought about what his being an instructor on how to avoid racial profiling meant in the opposite direction, what it meant for what Crowley himself should have potentially seen brewing in the context of the police's visitation.

These situations are incredibly complex, but there is a reason why many minorities think that Gates' race negatively influenced the arresting officer's actions - and there is a reason why many whites don't think race influenced the decision. It is easier to believe individual actions matter when your individual actions are spun positively, when you are met not with suspicion but with respect. When you aren't pulled over for driving while black, when you aren't questioned on park benches for litter that isn't yours, when these same situations keep happening to everyone you know. It is death by a thousand minute injustices; and those of us who don't have those continuing and continual experiences, for those of us who only occasionally deal with an asshole cop, it is easy to fathom that the way to handle these situations is to be polite, to be unfailingly gracious, to be thankful that a cop has come to your home to make sure you are supposed to be in it. And it could be easier to overrespond to an incident, to one incident after the dozens or hundreds or thousands that came before, incidents that involved you directly or friends or family or acquaintances, and believe that this particular incident has everything to do with your race - when it might only have something to do with your race, and unconsciously at that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Must Read

This post about rape jokes:
So when rape is not depicted as a serious act, something that affects real people, something that women live with for the rest of their lives (because women aren’t real people), of course it’s not considered a serious topic. The stereotypical representation of rape is as serious as a fat waddling Southern man with a belt the size of a hula hoop. So when we trot out rape a a topic, unless the audience has personal experience with rape, we are all thinking of the Lifetime channel, or some hot hot scene from a movie, or angry-faced women on the news marching down the street all frumpy and queer. Of course it generates nervous giggles, and “edgy” humor, and is allowable conversation for not-so-secret misogynists — that’s what the cultural depiction of rape is meant to do. Humor that is degrading or offensive to oppressed populations has always operated as a pressure release valve for the things we know we are not “supposed” to say or think anymore. You might not be able to say you really don’t think 1 in 4 women are actually being raped, and if they are, they probably deserved it, and there are some circumstances where rape is okay – but you can sure as shit make a joke about it! And if somebody objects, well, here’s the built-in beauty of an oppressive system: that somebody is probably going to be a member of the oppressed class you are mocking. And it’s very easy to dismiss the opinions of oppressed populations. If we valued the thoughts, feelings, and desires of oppressed populations, we wouldn’t be able to rationalize and minimize the rape, torture, and murder of them.
It is an engrossing. long, incredible piece.

Affirmative Action in America

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. How many people do the first two?

Americans seem to be notoriously bad at follow through. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We can get one of the three major parts of how to green our world down (incidentally, it is the one that affects our routine the least), but the other two? Nah. We're already recycling.

That's kind of how I feel about the Affirmative Action fight, and the Race in 2028 editorial by Ross Douthat in Sunday's New York Times a friend of mine highlighted on his blog.

Affirmative Action is the slightly more arduous version of "recycle" in the whole "making America more equitable racially"...

The other steps, the ones we know about and the ones we haven't quite worked out yet, well, we can ignore those because we're already working on this Affirmative Action thing.

Because we've accepted that Affirmative Action has to happen, at least for a little while, we can ignore the fact that the world, our world, the world we live in and play in and work in and are entertained by, still remains pretty damn white - and male. We can talk about how "the senators are yesterday’s men. The America of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is swiftly giving way to the America of Sonia Maria Sotomayor and Barack Hussein Obama" without truly delving into the fact that there is one African American in the whole of the Senate, that he wasn't elected, and that he isn't going to run for an actual election (admittedly, for reasons not stemming from his race). We can ignore these facts:
Women – Women of voting age represent 51.6 percent of the voting age population yet are 16.3% of the Congress, putting America below the global average of 17% female representation at parliamentary level. As of 2007, the US ranks 68th in terms of women holding office in the legislature — this puts the US just above Turkmenistan, and just below El Salvador and Panama.

Latinos – Hispanics represent over 14% of the U.S. population, while their Congress representation is 3% in the Senate and about 5% in the House.

African-Americans – The Senate is 1% African American and the House is roughly 9.2% African American compared to the 12.3 percent of American population that are of Black or African-American descent
This is the world in which, as Douthat notes, "The nation’s largest states, Texas and California, already have 'minority' majorities. By 2023, if current demographic trends continue, nonwhites — black, Hispanic and Asian — will constitute a majority of Americans under 18. By 2042, they’ll constitute a national majority." And it is a world in which racism, real and actual and deadly and debilitating and degrading, is still present. In this society, "where the quest for diversity is already as likely to benefit the children of high-achieving recent immigrants as the descendants of slaves", and where those children of the high-achieving recent immigrants are still considered less than, and are still likely to be discriminated against.

I'm not against class-based affirmative action, but I also don't think that we - those of us who have been privileged and still remain privileged - should necessarily be the ones to decide if and when Affirmative Action has done enough. I don't think one African-American elected president and one Hispanic on the Supreme Court is the ushering in of a world in which Affirmative Action is ultimately unnecessary. At some point, I hope that it will be. At some point, I hope that we as a nation learn the follow through. I hope that we as a nation learn to suck it up. I hope that when white America is truly a minority, we recognize that we should probably then be a less of a majority in a majority of the institutions we now, as a race, have a hold over.

But I can understand focusing on the selfish crap. I'm a selfish person. I like knowing how something will help ME. And in truth, Affirmative Action does help me - and not just because I'm a girl and girls are helped. It helps me, because it makes my country better. It gets more viewpoints out in the open. It helps tear down the false belief that there is such a thing as an objective viewpoint. It culls from a wider source. It forces new thoughts and new ways of thinking into spaces that would otherwise be bereft of them. It creates opportunities to interact with and learn from people who have had profoundly different life experiences. It creates different ways of thinking about the very people who have, through the history of our country, been oppressed and discriminated against. And, if we go into Affirmative Action mindful that we as white people were very often not the subjects of a meritocracy and instead had a leg up due to that whole being white thing, it helps reinforce different avenues of viewing fellow citizens.

In a world where a preeminent African-American scholar is arrested after breaking in to his own house and providing identification proving who he was and that the house he was found in was indeed the one he lived in, we as a nation haven't learned all the necessary lessons from Affirmative Action, and we certainly haven't done the necessary follow-through. In a world where latently racist assumptions are made about our president's birth place, in a world where Rosario Dawson - who was born in New York City - was disregarded as the main character in But I'm a Cheerleader because she was Puerto Rican, and thus not "All-American" enough, we haven't fully acknowledged that the only Americans worthy of that title are white Americans. We haven't fully accepted that we aren't the center of our nation's universe.

I agree with my friend's quoting of Andrew Sullivan's "The goal of the gay rights movement should be to cease to exist", and his assertion that should also be the goal of Affirmative Action programs. But I'm not the person who gets to tell the gay rights movement when it has done enough, and when it should declare the ultimate victory by ceasing to exist. And I'm not willing to declare that by 2028, Affirmative Action will have done enough and should cease to exist. White America may not get to be the most central voices in that conversation, and we probably shouldn't be.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To The Person Driving The Dark Grey Prius:

If it's raining, your wipers are on because it's raining, and the surrounding sky is the exact same color as your car, turn your damn lights on. It isn't that hard. And with those lights, people on the road will be able to see you. It is an amazing thing, with light comes visibility.

And while we're on the subject, maybe - just maybe - you should think about the practicality of both lighting a cigarette and talking on your cell phone while you switch lanes in your dark grey Prius without its lights on or the barest hint of a signal in the middle of a seriously torrential rain storm. Cuz speaking both as the person who nearly rear-ended you previously and also as the person you nearly sideswiped with that brilliant maneuver, I'm going to say that as far as sane and smart moves go, that wasn't one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What Have I Been Doing With Myself, As Of Late?

Reading this blog.

I become obsessed with things, as gentle readers of this blog should be well aware of by this point in time. Normally, those obsessions come on strong and remain for a certain period of time, until after I've consumed all material available and get bored waiting for more or until I inexplicably stop caring. Things I've been obsessed with in the course of my on-line life that I no longer am (but still like a whole lot):

And a whole lot of other things.

The thing I like about What Ladder? is that it could conceivable that a couple of the professors I've had could be writing it. My favorite philosophy professor was/is that snarky, and a girl. My favorite literature professor is that disdainful of students, even though he wasn't so fond of early Brit Lit and is (as the pronoun alerted everyone), a he. Also, I didn't go to college anywhere other than America. But other than that, reading the sarcastic, sometimes impassioned, sometimes completely confounded thoughts of this professor has made my week.

Something else that has made my week:

Painting my nails.

I've been thinking a lot about gender performance recently, both how we (all of us) do it, and how we perceive it. It goes to the larger question of narratives I've been trying to articulate, though cowardishly not posting any of my rambling musings. What I've come to is that I've never thought of myself as particularly girly, but (a) I am seen as such by people who exist outside of my head, and (b) I take certain pleasures in girlish acts. Painting my nails (right now, they are an awesome shade of red) is one of those girlish acts. It is a lot more enjoyable now that I don't care how they turn out, much like coloring books became a lot more enjoyable once I stopped caring if I got a little of the color outside of the lines. That didn't happen until I was almost not a teenager, so I'm not all that surprised that it's taken me this long to get into nail polish.

Painting my nails is kind of like when I recite Our Fathers or Hail, Marys. It is comforting and slightly hypnotic. It is the closest I can get to meditating, and even though I'm not performing these acts for their normal reasons, it still gives me a bit of pleasure. I like these things for themselves, and for the moment I do them.

Another thing I've been doing lately is attempting to both listen to all of the music on my iPod and to categorize it in terms of how many 'boy' bands I listen to, and how many 'bands with girls' I listen to. At the moment, things aren't looking too good for the girls, and I hope to (someday) have a post cataloging my findings and what I think about them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

But, you know, one day, we will have American meat in Europe; and one day, we will have more cheeses from France in United States, and we will make love together and that will be fantastic. By the way, you look very good.
- Lionel Gerard, Professional Cheese Guy, optimistically opining about the future and hitting on David Kestembaum

Via the Planet Money Iron Chef/Economist competition from yesterday's Fancy Food Economics podcast. 

If you haven't listened yet, I totally would. Between Adam Davidson's faux bugles incident, Chana Joffe-Walt's recantation of the evolution of the vanilla bean plant in Madagascar, and David Kestembaum's trek to find the most expensive food item, it's well worth it.

Plus, then you can vote for who did the best! Polls close tomorrow at 1 PM.

I voted for Adam Davidson. I totally believe him that his convo in Arabic referenced a Griffin. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ending of a Career

Yesterday, after I posted a quote from Eugene Robinson's Washington Post op-ed, I began to revisit it. There was another line in Robinson's piece that bothered me when I first read it, and continued to niggle at me through the night. It was this one:
But when he brought up the "wise Latina" remark, as the GOP playbook apparently required, Graham said that "if I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over."

That's true.
The reason the line, and Robinson's acquiescence regarding its truthiness, bothers me is because I don't really think it is true. Senator Graham's career may have been over had he uttered a similar line. I'd be willing to bet his senatorial career would have suffered. But I'm not entirely sure if Senator Lindsey Graham would actually lose his Senate seat, or if his career would be over. And the reason why is because of Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions has said some pretty boneheaded things. I would be willing to step away from the rule I generally follow, the rule outlined by the incredible Jay Smooth, of pointing out racist behavior without calling the person in question an out and out racist. I'm willing to lay it down that Jeff Sessions is, in point of fact, a racist. I'm willing to lay it down because due to his comments about the NAACP and the ACLU, and the comments he allegedly made regarding a white civil rights attorney being a "race traitor". And while Jeff Sessions didn't get the federal judgeship he was nominated for because of his comments, he has hardly become a pariah in society. His career has not been destroyed.

That is the problem with the outrage over Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment. It is that it is all too easy for those who are already privileged to move beyond a kerfuffle like being outed as a racist in the Senate. That is the problem with Graham making such an assertion when his colleague is very much someone who has made statements "remotely like" Sotomayor's, except his statements were couched in a history and carried a power Sotomayor's words aren't and don't have - because, as Eugene Robinson alludes, Latinas haven't been running the world for the last millennium. And to ignore how many white men get away with racist and biased and prejudiced statements, to ignore how many minorities have been beaten or killed or harassed for daring to even assert equality, is to ignore the world as it is and as it was. 

Edited for accuracy, via mikhailbakunin's corrections.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quote of the Day

Pretending that the historical context doesn't exist -- pretending that white men haven't enjoyed a privileged position in this society -- doesn't make that context go away.

Yes, justice is supposed to be blind. But for most of our nation's history, it hasn't been -- and women and minorities are acutely aware of how our view of justice has evolved, or been forced to evolve.
- Eugene Robinson

I do love Eugene Robinson so, and I highly recommend reading his column from today.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

If Cirque de Soleil has always lacked that certain, creepy Stalinist
nationalism you crave, this might be for you.

Rachel Maddow, on North Korea's Rythmic Flip Card Uber Circus.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Idiosyncratic Sexism" Isn't Idiosyncratic

Look at the picture:

Which is coded "male" and which is coded "female"? It sounds like a stupid question. It really isn't. The one we see as inherently masculine, and thus male, has no markers as such. "He" has no testicles. "He" has no hairstyle specific to men - the hairstyle on the figure we see as feminine is exactly the same. "He" is masculine for two reasons: the other figure is "clearly" feminine, and because male is the default gender. "He" needs no signifiers. Absent any, we assume the figure is male. 

Simone de Beauvoir has written, "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman." In that one line, there are a myriad of different readings. I've pondered many of them. But the figures above illustrate the interpretation I like best, that I see as best representing what my own take on the thing is. And that is this: 

Gender is both real, and made.

Women learn how to be women from a young age. Men learn how to be men from a young age. But in the case of stick figures, books written in the singular before the implementation of "s/he", and medical studies, men (and boys) are the default.

There is nothing idiosyncratic about sexism, aside from the fact that it happens and is accepted. There are people who display their sexism idiosyncratically, like Keith Olbermann, who has engaged in sexist remarks when it comes to women he doesn't like or doesn't agree with. But sexism, from representation in films to representation in medical research to representation in government, is profoundly linked to certain historic - and systemic - elements. To deny the role sexism - unintended, unexamined, unrecognized sexism - plays in these areas is to deny the very truth of the matter. The truth of the matter is that men, mostly white and able-bodied and middle-class, are still generally in charge. 

Look at Pixar's roster. Look at the people running Pixar: Steve Jobs, John Lassetter, Jim Morris. 
Look at the writers: Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Bob Peterson, Pete Doctor, John Lassetter.

There's nothing idiosyncratic about a bunch of men writing movies about men. It is seen as much more idiosyncratic for men to write about women, and strong women. Those men get asked questions like, "Why do you always write these strong female characters?"

Which is why describing sexism as idiosyncratic kind of misses the point about the big deal regarding sexism. It isn't that only Pixar's films don't do a good enough job representing women. It is that films don't do a good enough job representing women. I pick on Pixar for a couple of reasons:

1) I love Pixar films.
2) Pixar is a studio that consistently makes thoughtful, complex, daring films that are commercially viable.
3) Pixar is a children's film studio, and it is important to show children media with both girls and boys as the main protagonists.

It's important in other films as well. There is a line in America's Sweethearts,
I really want to play a character like the Terminator, you know, because I think the Hispanic people are crying out to see a deadly, destructive, killing machine that they can embrace as their own, you know, that they can relate to...
Now I don't know if women necessarily need a female deadly killing machine. But there is a problem when, as Joss Whedon says, "all it takes is one Catwoman to set the cause back a decade."

That isn't an example of Pixar's "idiosyncratic" sexism. This is an industry-wide issue.

Look at the statistics compiled by Women & Hollywood:

Only 6 of the top 50 grossing films (12 of the top 100 films) starred or were focused on women.
Women comprised 9% of all directors.
Women accounted for 12% of writers.
Women comprised 16% of all executive producers.
Women comprise only 23% of film critics at daily newspapers. (San Diego State)

In 2007, women only comprised 15% of all directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 grossing films. (San Diego State)
In 2007, only 6% of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women. (San Diego State)
In 2007, only 5 of the top 50 films starred or were focused on women.
Of the 6,833 single speaking characters in the film nominated for best picture from 1977-2006 only 27.3% were females. (USC)
Women make up 27% of TV writers and 19% of film writers (WGAW)

In 2006, less than a dozen of the 307 films eligible for an Oscar were women driven (EW).
In 2006, only 3 movies in the top 50 starred or were focused on women. (EW)
And one of the reasons for this is direct discrimination, both historic and current. But part of it is the discouragement one receives when one doesn't see oneself reflected in a particular industry/job. I'm not saying this happens with every person; obviously, it doesn't. If it did, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have never run for president, because no one who looked like them had won that job before. But I wonder about how many kids never even entertained the thought of becoming president. I know I didn't, and I can't say whether that is because I saw no one who looked like me on my presidential flashcards or because I honestly didn't think I, as an individual, had the ability to do so. I do know that my cousin - a tall, muscular, multiracial guy - wanted to be a kindergarden teacher. I do know the constant discouragement, both direct and oblique, eventually pushed him away from that path.

I know that as much as everyone is an individual, we are also shaped by our experiences - by how those around us react. I know that there is a reason why women are better at chess when they are unaware their opponent is a guy. I know there is a reason why "white males got higher customer satisfaction ratings than women or people of color, whether they were doctors, university bookstore employees, or staffers at a golf course."

And I know that the reason Pixar is only a year younger than me and has yet to release a film with a female protagonist isn't idiosyncratic in the least. Instead, it is merely par for the course. Which is why it is sexism, and why sexism is dangerous.

Another Installment of "Stupid Things I've Done"

Last time, it was tumbling down a flight of stairs.

This time, I managed to slam my front door on my hand. 


Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the Shit

Seriously. Read the New York Times interview with her. It is friggin' amazing.

Also, I should probably not watch Juno again for a while...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palais Des Papes: Reprise

When I was in 10th grade, I went on a school trip to France. It was a trip full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like, I got to visit Versailles, but then had one of my train bunkmates proceed to puke all over our sleeper car. One of the lows was our visit to the Palais Des Papes, which was a gorgeous and barren Medieval castle and home to various popes from the 13 hundreds to the 15 hundreds. We had about a two hour tour, narrated by headsets; those headsets frequently said things like, "Imagine a dark blue velvet covering this vaulted ceiling, sparkling like the night sky" - because there was practically nothing left in the castle. Every room was empty, and the headset merely told us to imagine what was there before.

That was what I began having flashbacks to when I saw a clip of the Matt Lauer tour of Neverland on The Daily Show. It was so horrific, I had to find the whole thing:

Just like France!


I did not see this coming.

Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, is resigning some time this month.

I honestly don't know what to say to this. There's speculation afoot that this is to best prepare for a 2012 run for president.

But I seriously hope not. Especially since she apparently said "she feels she can be more effective working outside of government."

If she does run, I want that thought to be brought up. I don't want someone running my government who doesn't like government, or who doesn't feel effective within government. I want someone running my government who likes government; I don't even need someone running my government who likes Big Government, as long as they believe in Efficient Government.

For my money (not that the GOP would want it or take it - they've practically ex-communicated Colin Powell after all), a Sarah Palin presidential nomination would be a Bad Thing. For the party. For the country. In general. It would be good for Saturday Night Live, and possibly John Stewart. But few others.

I can only hope that Palin realized that politics may not be the best fitting of hats. I can only hope that she'll find something else to do that won't put her on my television screen incessantly. I can only hope that she has felt a pull toward a different calling.

Editing to Add:

In an ironic twist, this:

is what greeted me on the "Post Successful" Blogger page.

Oh, the pleasures of keyword generated advertising.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cool Stuff

A cipher that has eluded cracking for two hundred years, one that was sent to Thomas Jefferson, has finally been solved.

I kind of want to know if Candace Keener is going to do a podcast about this for Stuff You Missed In History Class. She does love Jefferson so.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Quote of the Day

And another thing is the werewolf character, he's supposed to be, like, sympathetic; you're supposed to relate with him. No. By two thirds of the way through the album, he's not sympathetic. He's just creepy. I mean, seriously. There's songs about watching this girl and saying, "Oh, I need to make you mine, I can't wait to get you into bed". You can only take that so much before you start to worry about E. Has E ever had a girlfriend? 

...I don't know if its supposed to be autobiographical or not, but that was just a little bit off-putting and I was disappointed across the board...

...All of these songs are about unrequited love, and when you hear 12 songs about unrequited love in a row, presumably all about the same woman, you realize why Eels had a song called "Restraining Order Blues". I can't get past that, Bill.
Mack Wilson, one of my new favorite people, obsessing about the new Eels album and its disturbing message, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire on the latest Musicheads podcast.

I'm kind of glad Mack Wilson was there to bring this up - and thought to bring this up - because I often compulsively buy the music I don't immediately dislike that's featured on my music podcasts. Now I know to avoid Eels. Especially since "Restraining Order Blues" creeped me the hell out.