Friday, October 30, 2009

Saturday Sesame Street

This morning's Saturday Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter "S", as in Sociological Images, because that's where I found it:

I'll admit, it made me tear up a little bit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jay Smooth Continues to Amaze

Or, a brief history of the Stonewall Riots and the start of the Gay Rights Movement:

This kind of reminds me of how "pansy" is thrown around as an insult, when in the Real World, the pansy is one tough flower. Which is kind of the opposite of what "pansy" as an insult is supposed to connote.

Women As Bodies: Climate Change Legislation Edition

Hi! I'm all into the environment and stuff. I want to help enact climate change legislation! I have womanly parts, and I'm not into the ladies. Want to know how to not encourage my pursuit of a better world? This video!

Wow, is that bad. You know what this reminds me of? A post I wrote just around this time last year! I'll just quote myself, kay?
It is demonstrably for the man's pleasure in these adverts; and it is more of a bartering system, a tit-for-tat, than it is an actual expression of healthy sexuality. And that is deeply problematic. Women have the right for their sexuality to be their own; men have the right to not be treated like brainless sexaholics.
And here we are again, this time with models stripping for climate legislation. So, let's revisit this in a little bit more detail, shall we?

Ahem. Women and women's bodies are not bartering tools to get men to do good deeds. This is because women and women's bodies are, primarily, for women. To live in. And reducing a woman's (or even these specific women's) contribution to how hot she can make the guys, actually, more than a little sexist. In fact, it is a lot sexist. As is the implication that the way to make guys do something like focus on climate change legislation (or, as in the last post, voting for Obama) isn't through reasoned discussion or facts but by the chance to see some naked ladies. Because it suggests that (a) a woman's only power rests in her ability to sex up a man and get him to do what she wants, and (b) men are animals controlled by their libidos.

But there are some other problems with it; those are that the men are the actors. Men are the ones responsible for getting climate change legislation passed and done (and I say "men", because I very much doubt the masterminds behind the ad thought about lesbian response). Women are cast in the role of encouraging men to do good and fight the good fight, and then reward the great Climate Change Heros with some nudity.

But I can act. I can act, I can write letters, I can call my representatives in Congress, I can write letters to my local newspaper, I can write blog posts, and I can do all of those things while Being A Girl. And a lot of the girls I know can do all of those things while Being Girls as well. And this ad? Doesn't touch on that. It doesn't encourage any female action other than the getting naked bit. Maybe it is assuming those models have already written their letters. And yet, nada is mentioned about that possibility. Nada is mentioned about encouraging other women to write letters, to agitate for change. And what a way to cut 51 percent of the population out of a larger part of the solution than just being the body worth doing something to see.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh Dear

Via Chris Hayes' twitter:
My wife and I both thought last night's Mad Men was flat, and that the writing has gotten really stilted. Anyone else feeling that?
Marti Noxon finally gets to write a Halloween episode. As long as we're passing around the Halloween congratulations, the woman who made sure Buffy kept fighting the good fight while Joss was adding Angel and Firefly to the Whedonverse co-wrote the "Halloween episode" of Mad Men that aired last night.
The combo of the two thoughts makes me even more nervous for her proposed new feminist show.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Changing Last Names

Over at Feministe, Jill has tackled the idea that women should change their names upon marriage in The Name Game. I like the piece a lot, probably because I agree with it wholeheartedly.

There are any number of unfeminist choices I make on any given day. I wear high heels a lot. That is partially because I have always walked on my toes, so having high heels takes away from my weirdness when I'm in a professional environment. But it is also partially because I like high heels; I like the different styles and I like how they look with skirts, and I like the few extra inches they give me. And yet, all of those things I like about high heels doesn't stop my continued wearing of them to be an unfeminist choice.

But getting married, changing my name, are not unfeminist choices on my list. At the moment, I'm not for getting married. Weddings, and their cost, kind of freak me out. It isn't that I don't like being the center of attention. I so do. It isn't that I don't like pouffy dresses. I like 'em a lot. It isn't that I don't like fancy parties with dancing and sit down dinners. All of those things are cool, too. But what I don't like is the idea that participating in a ritual somehow makes my relationship more meaningful than it was the day, week, or month before.

But if I were to ever get married, I wouldn't change my name. I'm a big fan of my name. I like the people who have my last name. I like the life I've had with it. I like how my first and last names go together. I like that people can find me with it.

But more than that, there is this nagging thought in the back of my head, and it is best summed up in this comment by Another Jill on the (long, long) Feministe thread:
more than that– there are some compromises that aren’t fair. Sometimes someone has to lose in order to to accomplish what both people want.
And the nagging sensation in my head is the one that asks, "And why is it that, in most circumstances, it is women who lose?" A while ago, my ex and I were having a theoretical conversation about marriage, and I told him I wouldn't change my name. He was, in a word, appalled. And at some point, I asked him why he wouldn't change his name to mine. "I like my name" was his answer. Exactly. For those women who want to keep their last names but change them for the ease of compromise, I understand that on the individual level, it is an individual choice. But on the whole, if women are the ones expected to acquiesce in this matter whether or not they wish to keep their own last names, and if the option is a completely foreign one to most men, then the individual decision relates to the system as a whole.

I'm not looking to get married, not now and probably not ever. But if I do, at some point, end up getting married, I'm keeping my name. If I have children (which I'm also not planning on), I'll want to give them my name. Because it is mine, and I like it, and I want it to continue on. I want my children to have my name (although some days, I think about playing around and giving my hypothetical boy children my name and my hypothetical girl children their father's name, or vice versa). It is a selfish desire, to be sure. But just because it is selfish doesn't mean it is wrong. Because Another Jill is right; there are compromises that have to be made in any relationship. I just don't think I'm automatically the one to make them in these specific matters. (Other matters, yes.)

That doesn't mean every woman should keep her name and give her children her name (if she marries at all). What it does mean is that, at this moment, my (theoretical, subject to change) choice is considered radical and/or political, whereas taking your husband's name or giving your children their father's name is considered normal. I want to live in a world where both options are considered normal, where there is a fair mix of husbands taking their wives' names, wives' taking their husbands names, husbands keeping their last names, wives keeping their last names, children getting their fathers' name and children getting their mothers' name.

I think SarahMC summed it up well on the thread when she said,
Men have bad relationships with their dads, shitty memories of nasty childhoods, unfortunate initials and cumbersome surnames just as often as women do. But you don’t see them ditching their names at the rate women ditch theirs. And that’s because adopting one’s husbands’s name is a patriarchal tradition, and yeah, we still live in a patriarchy. Until we no longer live in a patriarchy, that tradition will be loaded.

One reason men rarely think to drop their surnames is because, from the time they are born, their surnames are treated as though they belong to them. EVEN THOUGH they get their surnames from their own fathers JUST as baby girls do. And yet women still claim their surnames are “really their fathers’.” If that’s true, then the same can be said of men.
Exactly, and yet it isn't. And yet, women's names are still the only ones that are transient, when all names should be potentially so.

Alara Rogers' comment managed to articulate something that was sort of there for me in my head but almost completely absent from this post, and it adds more (and needed) nuance to SarahMC's point:
One thing I would like to note is that because feminists have fought so hard to give women the option of *not* changing their names, women actually have more options in this regard than men do. The female headspace includes both “change name” and “don’t change name” as reasonable options. And sometimes, as many posters have pointed out, “change name” is a great option to take, because if you do it when you get married, it’s free and it’s symbolic of your Great Love For Your Spouse rather than your Great Hatred Of Your Dad. But men don’t typically have that headspace available to them, and that’s because feminism has opened up options to women, but no one has really pushed on opening options to men. (Largely because the options men already have are the ones labeled as more powerful or better to have, and people don’t think in terms of “you know, it would be really great if I had the option to be weak and subsumed into someone else’s identity!”… but there are actually men who would take that option if they thought they could easily do so.)

It’s never a feminist act to change your name to your husband’s. It may not be a *sexist* act, it may not be a misogynistic act, it may not be an oppressive act, and you can commit that act and still be a feminist. But it’s never a feminist act. That being said, yes, there are good reasons to do it sometimes. The problem is that these good reasons are only perceived by women. Men hardly ever see these good reasons; thus men don’t have the option of cutting ties with their abusive fathers, or escaping the pressure of being a Junior (sweet jesus, I really don’t understand why there aren’t hordes of Dude Name Jr. changing their names to Dude Wifename because my god, exact same name as your father! *My* dad goes by Tetter, pronounced Teeter, to all his friends because his first and last names are the same as his father’s, and he’s not even a full Junior. And how much would it piss off the dad that you hated if you gave up being a Junior so you could carry your wife’s name? But few guys do it, even though there should theoretically be *more* men motivated to do so, as women don’t formally do the Junior thing.)

My ex wanted to change his name because he didn’t even know his dad. But he didn’t want to change it to mine, he wanted both of us to take a new name together, and I told him fuck that noise, my name is my name. You want a new name, great, but I won’t change mine. (In the end we never got married anyway.) My husband already *has* changed his name, to his adoptive father’s, when he was old enough to decide for himself that he would rather be New Dad’s Name than Old Dad’s Name, but this has made him even more attached to his name and he wouldn’t change it for anyone. So I do know men who have wanted to change their names to escape their biological fathers, and funnily enough, neither of them took their wife’s name or wanted to. It’s just not in the repertoire that little boys are raised with.
Emphasis mine. I highly recommend reading her entire comment, as this is only an excerpt from it.

Monday Reading List

Thoughtful Masculinities (Theory & Practice) from Walking Vixen. Choice quote:
The frontier of gender, as I see it, is very much in deconstructing and radicalizing masculinities, it’s in really taking to heart the notion that “gender” doesn’t just mean women and trans-identified people.
Traditional Americans by Mustang Bobby, a rebuttal to Pat Buchanan's assertion that 'they' (namely white, middle class Christians) are "losing their country". Bobby's comeback:
You can't lose what you weren't entitled to think was yours alone. And you really can't lose what wasn't yours to take in the first place.
Right on. As an atheist, not having the Christian faith featured prominently in my school system helped give me a piece of My America, in a way my mother didn't have and my father didn't have, in the way my grandfather didn't have and my great-uncle and great-aunts didn't have.

Don't Let A Girl Beat You by Renee. I think the title is self-explanatory, but there is this idea that men are really the sporty ones and girls aren't. Still. And when a girl is really super good at a sport (or many of them), it seems like it is a personal affront to the guys playing against her.

Seven Scenes, For A Reason by Melissa. One of my close friends is what one would consider overweight. She is beautiful, healthy (until she discovered WebMD and began diagnosing herself), and she has a lot of jewelry. I have always thought of my friend as the Fashionista among us, because she always looks so well put-together. I've been envious of her gift since high school. But what occurs to me upon reading this is how she uses jewelry. She has a lot of jewelry; I don't. And now I wonder if what I saw as Fashionistaness, going above and beyond, is really just her spicing up what she can find - being a Fashionista out of necessity.

Things To Remember During the Fall Pledge Drive from Lawyers, Guns and Money. I don't like Ken Rudin. At all. I don't like Ken Rudin at all, and things like this are why. He grates me like very few others, and I much prefer his It's All Politics cohost Ron Elving. In this case, it is because comparing a president's actions to Nixon is kind of like comparing someone's actions to Hitler. Only in extreme circumstances does the comparison come close to illustrating reality, and only in rare moments are those specific hyperbolic statements useful. IE, not here. I'm not a fan of comparisons between Nixon and George W. Bush. I don't think Bush was as amoral as Nixon, I don't think Bush was as talented as Nixon, I don't think Bush was as successful as Nixon, and I think it demeans the truly historic and, frankly, horrific abuse of power and government Nixon perpetrated to drop his name willy nilly.

To whit, Weighing in on White House vs. Fox News: An Apology from Ken Rudin's Political Junkie blog. I still don't like him, but I begrudgingly offer Rudin's apology. If I have to give Rudin something, it is that he didn't go the "sorry if you found what I said/did offensive" route. But he did spend the first couple of paragraphs defending his position on Fox vs Obama Administration.

And, from xkcd:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Post In Which I Review Dollhouse's "Belonging"

This episode could have been subtitled "What Makes the Nice Guys® So Dangerously Evil". And it was good. The angst, the origin story, the societal implications of demonstrating the horribleness of Nolan, Topher - it was all so good. And, I think it may have had a little something to do with the lack of Echo and the abso-fucking -lutely brilliant performances by Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj (of course!), and last but certainly nowhere near least, Dichen Lachman. Oh man. Sierra rocked.

But, since I consistently end with Topher, I'm going to start with him this week. What makes Topher so fascinating is that we are watching him "wake up". We are watching him make up his own moral system. More than watching those figures with compromised morality - Adelle, Boyd, Ballard - or watching those with an established morality - Echo - watching Topher evolve is a brilliant thing. That is partially because there are so few chances to actually watch someone come to morality. Usually, people we watch on television start with a moral code: they falter, they fall, their code shifts to encapsulate new data. But there has always been a code there. Topher has generally been proud of his lack of code, and was able to maintain that lack of code by a lack of contact. He could think of the Dolls as "hot chicks" or "toys". But once contact has been established, once he is pulled from being Science Guy, following orders to the person who has to think and explore and establish right and wrong for the people under his care, Topher runs right smack into morality. And he runs into seeing the Dolls as people, not simply as objects. When he tells Boyd Echo is the one who brought him the painting, tells Boyd that Echo has always been "mother hen" to Sierra, and Boyd asks pointedly if that is something Topher should look into, it flies right past. Because Topher is no longer thinking of Echo as a thing to be fixed but a person with reasons for acting. He is no longer thinking of Sierra as a potentially malfunctioning Doll but as a person with a problem - a problem he is complicit in continuing and one he is determined to solve.

Topher is as asleep as the Dolls wandering the halls. Topher is as able to "wake up" as the Dolls wandering the halls. And Adele's House mostly depends on both Topher and the Dolls not doing that. It isn't like this House is particularly free of the trials and tribulations of compromised engagements, mostly stemming from Echo. But it most definitely depends on the Dolls not evolving into self-aware entities, or Topher getting ooky about sending these people he now sees as people out on engagements. And Topher is getting ooky specifically because there is no one there to play that ooked out role for him now that Dr. Saunders/Whiskey has exited the building. In her, Topher created a safety net, a person who could have and act upon the moral code he lacked. He did it because, as he said, "If you agreed with everything I said, then we would miss something and someone would get hurt." But also, I think, because it allowed him to continue down his amoral path, unthinking of the consequences of his actions because he made sure someone else would be. The burden of being moral, of being vigilant, of caring, was placed on someone else's shoulders so that Topher wouldn't have to carry the load. With Saunders having now absconded with herself, Topher is alone with morally compromised people or immoral people. When he tries to reach out, to provoke some moral stance from one of his counterparts, he's not given what he needs. Instead, his lack of morality is met with the exact lack of judgement he doesn't need and can't work with or through:
TOPHER: You can't let them do this!
DEWITT: They're not going to do it. We are. And when I say we don't have a choice, know that I mean it.
TOPHER: Aren't we supposed to care for these people? Dr. Saunders would never have allowed...
DEWITT: Which Dr. Saunders would that be? (TOPHER RECOILS) The avuncular physician so brutally cut down not five feet from where you were standing? Or the last woman to whom you gave a permanent imprint? The other wounded flower you restored by offering her a new life? Who apparently found you so unbearable, she had to flee the city. Is it that one?
TOPHER: How can you expect me to do this?
ADELLE: You'll do it because you must. The cold reality is that everyone here was chosen because their morals have been compromised in some way. Everyone... except you. You, Topher, were chosen because you have no morals. You have always thought of people as playthings. This is not a judgement. You always take very good care of your toys. But you're simply going to have to let this one go.
And so he, rustily, having never done it before, starts to develop as the counterweight. And we all know (at least, those of us who watched Epitaph One) exactly how well that works out for him.

After attempting to prod Topher into looking further at Echo's problem-solving, art-interpreting, mother-henning tendencies in this hilarious scene (already discussed from the Topher Angle above):
BOYD: Is that where your hunch came from?
TOPHER: Yeah. It's Sierra's. Echo brought it to me. She was going on about a bad man. He's the blotch here, is what I'm getting.
BOYD: Echo brought it to you.
TOPHER: She's always been Mother Hen about Sierra.
BOYD: Should look into that.
TOPHER: I am! And so far, Echo's given me way more than you have.
Boyd decides to do some investigating himself. What he finds and how he reacts is one of the reasons I like Boyd, and yet don't trust Boyd. Boyd goes the same route of "If I don't do it, I am absolved" in the case of figuring out if the Dolls are beginning to evolve. Sending Topher after the intel wipes Boyd's hands clean if Topher comes back with an evaluation leading to a cleaning of Echo's slate or a more permanent home in the Attic. But if Boyd himself is forced to confront the reality of his former charge becoming more and more nascent, then his moral response shifts. He then responds with something more akin to protectiveness and solidarity, because he is forced to face the Echo he is protective of, the Echo he sees as a person, as extraordinary. Of course, I could be reading Boyd completely wrong and he could be the biggest backstabbing asshole in the world. It's up in the air at this point.

As for Echo, well, her lack of role in this episode made her brief moments kind of enjoyable. She had to do nothing other than be a semi-aware blank slate, so I'm sure that helped. But her evolution and her pushing others to evolve is actually - wait for it! - interesting.
BOYD: Echo, when did you learn how to lie?
ECHO: Am I in trouble?
BOYD: Not from me. But there are people who would be very upset if they knew what you were doing.
ECHO: Reading?
BOYD: You brought the painting to Topher. You're pushing. The Actives, the staff... What you're doing could have consequences you can't predict or control. Some people are not ready to wake up.
ECHO: I don't care. Something bad is coming, like a storm - and I want everyone to survive it. They need to wake up.
Maybe it is because Echo is treading upon familiar territory to Whedonites, the person (woman) pushing the story forward. It isn't exactly new ground, and yet it is familiarly comforting. It is where Whedon and his acolytes tend toward their most righteous, and I tend to agree with them. It is in the idea that we are all existing in Plato's cave, that we have to see the shadows for what they are and deal with the fact that the sun shining in our eyes hurts. Because the opposite is to remain chained to UnReality, and that leads to things like entire planets being decimated in the name of a Greater Good and creating monstrous cannibals or beautiful people being commodified in houses so the rich and powerful can pay to play in their own personal Utopian fantasies. And that? Isn't so great for the poor, unconnected individuals who have to live in that world with those forces.

And now, Sierra. A while ago, Emily at See Emily Blog wrote about George Sondini, and Kate Harding's No More Mr. Nice Guy article. Why am I bringing this up? Because one of the first scenes in Belonging is:
NOLAN: Sneaking out?
PRIYA: I was just looking for you to say goodbye.
NOLAN: Why are you so eager to leave? I mean, everyone is here to adore you.
PRIYA: Enjoy the painting, Nolan.
NOLAN: Come on, come on. Stay a little longer, Priya.
PRIYA: The painting's yours. My job here is done. I'm going now.
NOLAN: Why? So you can give it up to some guy you just met?
NOLAN: I've pulled out all the stops. I mean, this is our big night. We've, we've, we've -
PRIYA: No, this isn't our night.
NOLAN: We've planned for this.
PRIYA: There's no we.
NOLAN: No, look, I have - I've offered you everything. What else do you want?
PRIYA: I want to walk out the damn door.
NOLAN (stopping her from walking out the damn door): Hey. What did you expect, huh? Day after day, just dangling it in front of my face, seducing me.
PRIYA: Seducing? You're crazy, Nolan. It's all in your head. Get off me!
NOLAN: I'm sorry. I'm not going to take no for an answer. Alright? I'll do anything.
PRIYA: Stop it! You disgust me. Nothing in this world could ever make me love you.
And the tension I felt, sitting on my couch, just praying (figuratively, of course) Priya wouldn't be quite so wonderfully assertive, wouldn't be quite so open and honest with her very own Nice Guy®, stems from what Emily writes, namely
In the times I’ve been alone, I definitely don’t want to risk making the man angry, or having him come after me in any way. I’m sure few, if any, of these men were capable of violence, but it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take, even if some of them deserved a firm “leave me alone right now.”
Being assertive, being unwilling to smile demurely and go along with the uncomfortable levels of attention and uncalled for expectations of ownership, sometimes takes a horrific turn. Not that every girl ends up pumped full of anti-psychotics and then mind-wiped and brain-washed, but the threat of violence, of retaliation and retribution for something you haven't done is very real. And it is there. And every time a guy goes to the equivalent of, "But I did X,Y, & Z, so why didn't she fall into my bed?" it demonstrates the idea that women can be bought, can be controlled, and can be persuaded to stay, to love, and to give a lot of sex to people they Just. Aren't. Attracted. To.

But what I like about this is, well, how clearly it lays out the whole Nice Guy® thing. Becoming makes it absolutely clear Nolan is someone who, actually, doesn't like women very much. And that's highlighted by the Confrontation Scene:
PRIYA: I'm not your lab rat any more, Nolan. I'm free, clear-headed. It feels good.
NOLAN: What, and you uh, came here to get revenge for a year of loving every minute of it?
PRIYA: Did I love it? Must not have been very memorable. I remember you poisoning me, locking me up, but I have not a single memory of the year where I apparently liked you.
NOLAN: Oh, we-we had some good times.
PRIYA: Mmm, I got filled in on all the details. Brainwashing. Talk about desperate. You know, they even programmed me to think it was endearing how quick you were.
NOLAN: You were mine.
PRIYA: I'm sorry. I don't think I was faithful to you.
NOLAN: Yeah, I let them whore you out to anyone.
PRIYA: No, it's something else. It's someone uh, someone I trust. He helps me. He thrills me
NOLAN: Yeah, I know, see, it worked. You told me that you love me a hundred times. I changed you.
PRIYA: No, it's not you. I managed to fall for someone else.
NOLAN: You think this is cute?
PRIYA: It's absurd. I don't remember meeting him or even spending a moment with him. But I can feel it stronger than anything. I'm crazy about him! I love him so much more than I hate you.
The vitriol Nolan spews at Priya when he says, "Yeah, I let them whore you out to anyone" is not the typical statement of someone who loves women, or even a specific woman. It is someone who thinks you can dirty a woman by making her have a lot of sex. It is someone who thinks that victimizing a woman somehow demeans and delegitimatizes her. It is someone who is very clearly not a nice guy; instead, he's just a guy who is willing to spend a lot of money on objects for someone he considers his own object. Kind of like buying outfits and accessories for your Build-A-Bear. He - and those Nice Guys® like him - fancy that they are bringing some pleasure to this person they want, that the pleasure they supply somehow gives them power and control over that person, and that if the person rejects the gifts or rejects the man after accepting the gifts, she has not followed protocol and deserves to be punished. Because, obviously, the very act of lusting after a woman means that she (a) intended you to, and (b) you have an implicit right to her - her attention and her body. That person? Is the epitome of not a nice guy. And watching Priya, being made to see the world and story through Priya, makes it clear exactly how not nice a guy, how creepy, that guy really is.

Things of Note:
  • Dichen Lachman is incredible. Going from Priya to Wiped Sierra, there was palpable change on screen. I'm still on the "Yay Ra-Ra Enver Gjokaj" team, but Dichen is quickly creeping up on the Whoa Factor.
  • What in the hell was Priya thinking, in the whole not tying Nolan up first before confronting him?
  • "We gotta run. We gotta run. We've gotta get out of here." Was Topher preparing to run completely away with Priya? If Boyd hadn't shown up, would there be three members of the Dollhouse "going rogue" (sorry, I couldn't help myself) this season?
  • Topher on telling Adelle about Priya: "We gotta tell her. She's gonna flip her biscuits. Unless she already knows..." In the beginning, Topher declared you couldn't have a conspiracy theory while in the employe of the conspiracy (per the unaired episode). I guess those days are gone.
  • So many backward references! Awesome!
  • Sierra and Victor's love! Aw!
  • I'm impressed if anyone made it this far into the post.
And, done.

Grade: A+

Quote(s) of the Episode:

PRIYA: Am I allowed to have beer in here? Or is this my last one?
TOPHER: No, you're allowed. On special occasions.

Saturday Sesame Street

Live from the Nestropolitan Opera:

Happy Birthday to Me!

And I want this cake:

Because part of my junior year in college was spent on the couch, rewatching the Fraggle Rock from my childhood on DVD with my best friend instead of studying for exams. And because I love it so.

(Ganked from Cakewrecks a million years ago in preparation for this moment).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happiness and Women

From Judith Warner, When We're Equal, We'll Be Happy, about the (un)happiness studies done lately finding that women are less happy today than they have been in the past:
The wage gap persists, particularly for mothers, who now earn 73 cents for every
man’s dollar. Our workforce and education system is still sex-segregated,
operating along generations-old stereotypes that steer most women into low-paid,
low-status, low-security professions. Women pay more for health insurance than
men, have more extensive health needs than men, and suffer unique forms of
discrimination in their coverage. (Women may be denied coverage because they had
a Caesarean delivery or were victims of domestic violence — both “preexisting
conditions.”) Regardless of the number of hours they work, they continue to do
far more caretaking and housekeeping work at home than do their husbands. And
discrimination against mothers (but not fathers) in the workplace is all but

These are not happy-making developments. And they’re not
failures of feminism. They are instead indicators of all the ways in which
society has failed women, most importantly — and this comes up time and time
again, in every section of the report — by failing to address the needs of
working families.

I haven't been interested in writing about the happiness gap simply because the response to it was so mind-numbingly expected ("feminism makes women unhappy!") that it was just an eye-rolling subject that other bloggers more than deftly handled. But Warner's contribution is the non-snarky antidote to the misplaced concern these types of surveys brought to the surface. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I Want For My Birthday

A whole lot of Whedonesque bumper stickers. Namely, this one:

I would want this one:

except I want at the very least the "Buffy" part to be in the Buffy font. Like, this:

I also really want this one:

I think, with all of those, I'd have the coolest CRV ever.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Conservatives,

I was going to start this off with "in all likelihood", but no. A stronger statement is needed.

Thomas Paine would not be your ally. Not now, and very probably not ever.

Paine was a radical liberal. Paine was a fan of the progressive tax. Paine was a (strong) critic of religion, and especially of Christianity. Paine was a Deist, just like George Washington. Paine was a proponent of a guaranteed minimum wage. Paine was a believer in the redistribution of wealth - as well as an old age pension.

And, he was a fan of the French.

Please, for the love of my sanity, find another Founding Father. One who wasn't quite so prolific in publishing oppositional writing to your views.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whip It Reviewed

I went to a roller derby game once. I'd heard a podcast from Stuff Mom Never Told You about the sport, one of my favorite bloggers/TWOP reviewers began playing the game, and in a fortuitous twist, my best friend discovered that Connecticut had a roller derby team (who seem to be quite good, if the game I saw was any indication) and wanted to go. So, I went on YouTube and found a video (this one, actually) to visually illustrate what in the hell would be going on, to go with the audio explanation offered by Molly and Cristen. Because as much as I love Molly and Cristen and the Mom podcast in general, roller derby didn't seem like the kind of thing I'd get just by hearing it. And you know what? Not a bit of that did any good! I was so confused, and after the first 15 or so minutes of general excitement, the fact that I was sitting uncomfortably close to the person next to me began to sink in. It was a fun time, but probably more fun if you can hear the announcer/have any idea how the scoring is happening.

With that being the background of my derby knowledge, I desperately wanted to see Whip It. And I finally did, last night.

It was so much fun, and I think I have a better grasp of derby rules now. I may want to go back, if my friend ever gets a break from grad school homework.

Whip It is, as I said, fun. It isn't the most innovative film ever, but I say that with the caveat that it kind of is, what with its focus on an almost all female cast and a passion that isn't boys (which, sorry Michael Phillips, isn't enough to give the film a "crypto-Sapphic vibe"). Not that boys aren't in it, but getting the boy/keeping the boy isn't what the film's about. The film is about precisely what the poster says: being your own hero. It is about finding your own place, your comfort zone, your tribe. It is about growing up, and having some fun along the way.

Watching Bliss go from the timid, soft-spoken girl we meet at the film's beginning to the more confident and raucous Babe Ruthless, watching her becoming comfortable in her own skin and as a person separate from her best friend, was gratifying. Seeing the mistakes she made and the selfish actions she sometimes took as a 17 year old moving from who she was pre-derby to who she was becoming through roller derby was also pretty cool, helped along by her mentorship with Kristin Wiig's Maggie Mayhem.

And as interesting as I find Bliss and her evolution, the thing that makes the film is how there are no straight up villains. Bliss' mother Brooke, set up as an overbearing pageant-obsessed woman with a psychotic obsession with 1950s womanhood and could have been easily left as such, becomes more understandable through the eyes of Maggie Mayhem, a single mom who lays out the parental element for Bliss. She also comes through with an only semi-awkward sex talk, which just further highlights the complexity of mother-daughter relationships. After Bliss leaves home, it is still her mother she goes to when her life crumbles. Even Juliette Lewis' Iron Maven, the main source of conflict in the World of Derby, isn't left as a cartoonish blight on Bliss' derby happiness. She becomes, though late in the game, a fully three-dimensional character. When she reveals to Bliss that the first time she found anything she was good at was when she discovered derby at 31, a different Iron Maven is revealed - one who is jealously guarding her place as Derby Girl Extraordinaire and who doesn't want to be usurped by a 17 year old who discovered her place a good decade and a half earlier. Iron Maven is just someone late to finding her tribe, who doesn't want to lose it or the feeling of accomplishment it gives her.

Perhaps my favorite part, though, is Bliss' reaction to her boyfriend's potentially cheating ways during his 34 days on tour with his brother's band. Hearing her come back to his, "I didn't even cheat" with "But you didn't call; I would have called", and making that the justification for the break up was all sorts of awesome. It was a confident, strong, willing-to-take-no-bullshit position, one I didn't have at 17 and that I wish I did.

I haven't said anything yet about Pash, Bliss' best friend, and I really should because she is one of the reasons the film works as well. She isn't simply a cheerleader for Bliss' ambition. She is a girl with goals that include getting out of the small Texas town she and Bliss live in. She is protective of Bliss, and somewhat dependent on Bliss. And her angst over feeling like she is losing Bliss to Roller Derby and a rocker boyfriend is allowed and legitimate. It is the depiction of female friendships as complex and deep that also make Whip It a film I loved.

Whip It was, at points, sappy. But that willingness to be sappy, to be silly, to revel in the fun and wonder of a cool life filled with good-hearted and wild people, is partly why the film works. Whip It isn't trying to be too cool for school. And it is all the better for it.

My Favorite Exchange:
BLISS: Oliver is such a great name.
PASH: Yeah, if you like wayward Dickensian orphans.
Grade: A-

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Reading List

From coffeeyogurt, health reform from a provider's perspective.

Emily's doing a series about domestic violence, stemming from her volunteering at a DV shelter and because it's Domestic Violence Awareness month. So, Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Overview & "Why Do They Stay?" and Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Children's Issues.

At Unapologetically Mundane, there is a hilarious post about Terror on the Elevator. The elevator is one of my weird, slightly-more-rational-fears (the irrational ones being about mummies and mannequins), not because of the small space but because it is a small space other people get into and a small space from which you can't get out until it gets to your (or, more precisely, a) designated floor.

From Feministe: Jon Stewart takes on GOP opposition to the Franken anti-rape legislation. Because Jon Stewart rocks. Like, a lot.

And from What Tami Said, there is this: Dispatches from Nappyville: What Is "Good Hair", Anyway? Plus, a continuation of the theme with Newsweek Attacks Black Toddler , Calls Her Hair a Hot Mess - Leave Zaraha ALONE from What About Our Daughters?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Sick Puppies"

This is actually why I like Keith Olbermann:

When not on his own show, he's actually not bombastic and hard-liney. He's rather reasoned and calm(ish) and intelligent-sounding. That kind of sounds like I don't like his show, and I do. But I'm sure that if Olbermann covered this on his own show, he wouldn't be offering up the paternal defense and going straight for the "Are you calling me a sick puppy, you sick puppy?" And I like that defense, because it is actually understanding of the different impulses human beings actually have - even Republican ones.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank Goodness I Was Discerning About My Best Friend Pick In Pre-School

And those friends I made since then, because otherwise I may believe that
BFFs are great when you’re upset about a boy/sick cat/whatnot. But there are limits to friendship...
Luckily, I've got myself a great best friend. One I can go to with more than boys or sick cats or whatnot. One I could call early in the morning hours to come and get me from the streets or who would come to the ER if I found myself there in a bad way. That is, if she had her cell phone near her and the ringer on (there's a reason we're best friends). I had thought that this is typically why people have best friends instead of just regular old friends - so that you could have someone who would be great if your biggest problem was that you have a sick cat or if your biggest problem is a great deal larger than that. Apparently, though, being there for anything above and beyond "sick cat" is too much to ask for from a best friend. Like, say, not abandoning a best friend at a club without knowing whether or not she wants to be abandoned there and begrudgingly picking said friend up from the hospital after she had been "slipped a mickey". At least, that's what Friend or Foe tells me.

The letter is as follows:
A couple of weeks ago, my two closest friends and I went to a small live-music venue to hear a band. While at the concert, someone “slipped me a mickey.” I remember nothing about the rest of the evening, but I was told that the police officer found me lying alone on the sidewalk. I came-to in the hospital E.R.—alone. The entire experience was frightening.

Since then, I’ve tried to piece together what happened. Apparently, at the end of the band's set, I left for the ladies room with my purse—and didn’t come back. My friends figured I had left, so they left, too. Later, when I called them from the street, sobbing in hysterics and asking for help, they told me to go back to the club and that they would have an ambulance pick me up there. When my mother—who lives 2,000 miles away (and hopped on a plane the next day to be with me)—later called these two friends of mine to beg them to join me while I was recovering, they refused. It wasn't until I told them that the hospital wouldn’t release me until I had someone to drive me home that they came to pick me up. They then angrily drove me to my car, and I drove home alone. By then, it was the next morning.

I have known these girls for more than 10 years, and had until now considered them my best friends. But I can't help feeling as though they’d abandoned me. If I found out one of them had been taken to the hospital, I would have dropped everything and gone to be by her side. Am I expecting too much from my best friends, both of whom are mid-twentysomething professional women?
The response? Well, that leaves a lot to be desired. Let's take that from the top, mkay?
Wow, that’s a tough call.
Really? A tough call? Your friend calls you, hysterical in the middle of the night, and it's a touch and go thing whether or not you should book it to the hospital when her mother calls and asks you to sit with her?
A spouse or even a boyfriend? Yes, it would be his or her duty to haul ass to said hospital at 4 a.m.
Well, yes. A spouse or a boyfriend would be driven to haul ass to said hospital, though hopefully out of something more than simply "duty".
But your single female friends who are already, presumably tucked in their beddy-bies?
Should also be hauling ass to said hospital at 4 a.m., not in the least out of concern because the last time they saw their friend, she was heading off to the bathroom. Which means they should be incredibly concerned that her evening ended in the hospital. Because friendish people tend to care when even their liked ones end up in the hospitals after a night spent mostly together. But in this specific case, it seems more likely this woman's friends were not called at 4 in the morning, but instead later along in the day. Which makes their refusal to come to the hospital all the more appalling.
For one thing, it’s not even necessarily safe—depending on where you live and how far you live from the hospital—for a woman to head out alone at that hour.
I'll concede this one, if we're talking about the original sobbing hysterical phone call. And even then, I would expect my best friend to at least feel bad about the not coming out to collect me.
For another, presumably, by the time your mother called you were out of danger.
But not this one. Because, really. One of the reasons to have someone at the hospital with you isn't because you're in danger, but because you've gone through a traumatic experience. And may want some recognizable and sympathetic people hanging around to calm you down.
Yes, overnights at the E.R. are the opposite of fun. So are disastrous drug trips. (I had one in my twenties, which pretty much sealed my fate as an illegal-substance ninny.)
Um... What don't you get about being "slipped a mickey"? That isn't a "disastrous drug trip"; at least, not a voluntary one. That is being drugged without one's knowledge or consent. That is the whole point behind the phrase "being slipped a mickey". A "mickey" isn't something you take for funsies. A mickey is something someone covertly gives you because they want to do all sorts of illicit things to you you may otherwise object to.
But only nuns make it out of youth without a few ambulance rides.
Wait, what?

No, seriously, what?!

And with that, we pick up at the sick cat line:
Here’s a little secret. BFFs are great when you’re upset about a boy/sick cat/whatnot. But there are limits to friendship—limits that don’t apply to our romantic partners or close family members.
Well, yeah. Most people don't share bank accounts with their best friends, or expect their best friends to co-sign loans. But coming to hang with someone when they're in the hospital after a roofie incident? That's not one of the limits I would reasonably expect on my best friendship.
And the piece de resistance:
I also wish they’d been a less critical of what was, by your account, a freak incident. Why were they so unforgiving? I’d wager a guess that they think you’re lying about the mickey, tales of which are sometimes used as a cover for irresponsible behavior. (Only you know the truth.)
There is so much fail contained in those lines, I don't even know what to say. Seriously. Don't even know what to say. Except what kind of dumb ass friends does this Lucinda Rosenfeld think are acceptable?

Let me say this: friendships aren't really that complicated, especially in situations like this. If your friend ends up in the hospital, go there. It really should be just about that level of simple.

(h/t Feministe)

My Crush on Josh and Chuck Is Now Solidified

Josh and Chuck, of the Stuff You Should Know podcast (it can also be easily found on iTunes) and blog, are - in a word - awesome. Why, you ask? Well, because they did a podcast about microlending a few (or, possibly a dozen) podcasts ago. And what they've done now is this:
At the end of the show, we announced that we’ve set up a Kiva team, something we’re all really excited about. You can refer to our show on microlending to fill you in, but here’s the gist… Sign up with the Stuff You Should Know team at and lend an entrepreneur in a third world country (at least) $25 and feel good about yourself! It’s really that easy. You can track the status of your loan and when it’s fully satisfied you can get your money back if you want. Or if you don’t miss it you can roll it into another loan or donate it permanently to Kiva. Our mission is to surpass the lousy fans of The Colbert Report. We’ve publicly challenged them to a “Kiva-off” and sent e-mails to Mr. Colbert in hopes that he responds. We’ll keep you up to speed as things progress, but get on over there now and throw down $25 for the Stuff You Should Know team. It’s the right thing to do.
I want to kick some Colbert butt, and I - as the the post's catchy title says - have a bit of a crush on Josh and Chuck (and Ira Glass, and one of the guys from Buzz Out Loud, and Mac Wilson and David Safar and David Campbell from Musicheads, and... you get the picture). Anyway, both of these things means that I am joining, and I am lending (to a general store in the Philippines), and that I may periodically mention this on the blog. Because I can. And because the About Us states:
Arguably the finest assemblage of people who have never met dedicated to the common purpose of hastening global peace in $25 increments.

And who could ever resist hastening global peace?

Friday Random Ten

1) Gangsta Boogie - Love Stink

2) Nice Work If You Can Get It - Billie Holiday

3) In My Time of Need - Ryan Adams

4) Revenge - Mindless Self Indulgence

5) Africa Unite - Bob Marley & the Wailers

6) Hello Little Girl - The Beatles

9) Everybody Loves a Lover - The Shirelles

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This Has To Be A Joke

A really, really, really bad joke:


The best part of the episode has got to be this:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
I like how he thinks having black friends exonerates him from expressing a really, really racist sentiment.

In other news, I may have to bend my "one charity gets money per month" thing and donate to the ACLU this month even though they're my June charity.

Keith, Ya Done Wrong

I like Keith Olbermann. Mostly, this is linked to the fact that I - unlike a great many other people - am actually unbothered by hysterics in regard to politics. I don't particularly like Bill O'Reilly, but the only time he really gets my dander up is when what he says is an instigation to violence (or is sexist; I'm also not so good with the sexist). I think hysterics are needed, I think people who are far to the right and far to the left are needed as much as people who lean more toward the center, and I don't have a real problem with ideologues. Also, Olbermann looks good in a suit. And that's important, because so few liberals on television do (I'm looking at you, PBS).

But liking Keith Olbermann is problematic. Liking Keith Olbermann means sometimes listening to the same type of shit I'd be hearing if I were listening to some partisan figures on the other side of the isle. In short, listening to Keith Olbermann means sometimes hearing him say something profoundly stupid, hurtful, and the opposite of progressive. Like, his recent commentary on Michelle Malkin:
[Malkin's] total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it.
Both Air America and Shakesville have posts up about this, and they both come at the problem from different perspectives. I agree with them both.

Megan Carpentier makes the salient point that
on average, once every 24 minutes in this country, a woman does become a "mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it." Nearly 1.3 million American woman will be a victim of domestic violence this year, and one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

A liberal, progressive critique of Malkin need not and should not resort to an attack on her looks or her gender or rely on silly stereotypes or imagery that brings to mind victims of domestic violence.
Over at Shakesville, Paul the Spud argues Olbermann's description
is sexist, it is dehumanizing, which is a central strategy of racism, and it is not helping.
They're both right. They both cover different aspects of why Olbermann was wrong, and they're both right. Olbermann f'd up.

He should apologize, but he probably won't. He won't because most of his viewers probably didn't catch how wrong he was, didn't catch how woman-hating it was, and - most depressingly - probably wouldn't care if they did. Because it is "just" Michelle Malkin. Just like it was "just" Sarah Palin when sexist and at times misogynistic crap was being flung at her. Just like it was "just" Hillary Clinton. And these viewers and Olbermann himself presumably feel these women deserve it, that these women are a special case when dehumanizing language is allowed, is appropriate, is understandable. But it isn't. Precisely because of the reasons Carpentier and the Spud point out.

On Sexual Assault


I was at a friend's shindig - which was more of a gathering, if Oz's definitions are correct, though there was no brie - a couple of years ago. There weren't a lot of people there, and I knew all of them. We watched some television, listened to some music, probably played a game or two; these are people an ex-coworker of mine described as my "basement buddies", people who would rather go out than stay in. There's also some drinking going down.

Around 2 in the morning, I was asleep. I was still a little drunk, and I'm a heavy sleeper as it is. Around 2 in the morning, I'm asleep on the couch, and I slowly come aware of the fact that one of the mutual (boy) friends is touching me. And not in mutual friendish places. Places like under my shirt, under my bra. And I am, strictly speaking, afraid. And ashamed. And silent. Being a deep sleeper, I can talk in my sleep. Being a deep sleeper, I oftentimes can't talk when I'm starting to wake up - even if I want to. Being afraid, I didn't really want to talk at all. I just wanted the touching to stop. I wanted this "mutual friend" to recognize the fact that I was most definitely asleep - and therefore not open to his touching. It went a little further - toward the pants further - and I did the cowardly thing by turning over. The touching didn't stop immediately, and all those things they tell you to do when you're in a situation like this weren't coming to mind. And I started to really wake up - and then he stopped and went into another room.

I stopped trusting Mutual Friend, stopped thinking of him as a Mutual Friend. But I also didn't name what had happened, didn't tell anyone else what had happened for a long time. I told my best friend about six months or so after that night. I never told my then-boyfriend. I've never told my friend, the person whose shindig it was and whose couch it was, because I have always been nervous about the reaction I'd get back. Even more than that, I'm not sure what reaction I want to get. I know what reaction I don't want. I know I don't want what happened to be minimized, to be laughed off or brushed off or apologized for in the "I'm sorry for Mutual Friend" way. But I don't necessarily want Mutual Friend to no longer be my friend's friend either. Because I don't want the guilt of saying, "Hey, Mutual Friend? Not a great guy" and having my friend believe me and lose a friend my friend likes quite a lot. I don't want that burden. I've never wanted that burden. And even more than that, I don't want to be seen as the problem, as the burden, as the person who brought up this thing that we could have all just as easily ignored and had life go on as it has always gone on.

And so, I go through, telling myself that it wasn't that bad (and it wasn't; it could have been a lot worse). I tell myself that it didn't affect me much - I just haven't spent the night with a group of people since. I tell myself that Mutual Friend was drunk, that I was drunk, that I should have stopped it, that I should have woken up and immediately said, "What in the hell do you think you're doing?" I tell myself that all it was was touching, that to make a big deal out of touching would be weak - would be taking something away from those people who have actually been assaulted; you know, the people who weren't gently molested - the people who were grabbed violently, the people who were subjected to Bad Things, the people who fought back. The people who were forced. I wasn't forced, not really. I was just asleep and didn't say no. And I try to make it seem like being asleep and not being awake and conscious for the start of the whole thing makes it less big of a deal, when in reality it makes it more troubling.

If someone had asked me a series of questions after That Night, without asking directly if I felt I was sexually assaulted, the answer would lead to me having been sexually assaulted. If someone asked me straight out if I had been sexually assaulted, I would have said no. Because he was a friend. Because I should have said something. Because I don't want to think of myself as a victim. Because I don't want to make other people think of this guy as someone capable of sexual assault. Because I don't want someone to look at me and pffaw me off, to say, "That? You're making a big deal out of that?"

And I don't want to make a big deal out of that. But I would also like to live in a world where sleeping on someone's couch doesn't lead to a foreign and unwanted hand down the pants.


A year or so out, I can say that I was a victim of (a relatively minor (and I'm still qualifying it)) sexual assault. The day after? I couldn't. The day after that? I wouldn't have been able to. Now, I can.

And that's why sometimes it is important to accept what someone has described as the truth, and then possibly come to a different conclusion about what that was, legally and/or statistically, than how the victim would describe it. Because the reasons for how and why we describe things the way we do are vast. And sometimes, the way we describe them and the way we think of them are a way of coping with what has happened, and nothing more or less than that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rape ≠ "Messed Up Romantic Relationship"

This is an FYI for Stephen Goldmeier, who says this:
By far the most dark and twisted relationship on Dollhouse, though, is that between Sierra and her original handler. Her handler, on multiple occasions, took advantage of the preternatural trust programmed into the otherwise blank Sierra to take advantage of her innocence and rape her.

It's one of the most twisted sexual events Whedon has yet crafted, and it further proves his fascination with strange, unconventional, or even downright disturbingly messed up romantic relationships.
Which, no. Just no.

I'm not one who believes there is a total disconnect between sex and rape, forever and always. I am one who believes rape is a form of asserting power, but rapes come in many different forms. There are rapes that do exist within "disturbingly messed up romantic relationships". One of Whedon's own shows even examines that: Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Spike trying to "make [Buffy] feel it" is an excellent example of where power and sex manifest into attempted rape.

Hearn raping Sierra doesn't fit in that pantheon. It is the classic rape-as-power. Hearn says it himself when Adelle asks him, "Did it make it better? That she didn’t struggle?" and Hearn responds, "No. It made it easier."

This was an abuse of the power a caregiver has over his charge, nothing more and nothing less. To describe Hearn's continued abuse of Sierra in romantic terms is to completely misunderstand the presented scenario, and to categorize all rape as somehow romantic in nature, no matter what.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jay Smooth on Caramel

Just because:

Plus, the face he makes when looking back at the drug spot/candy store is all sorts of funny.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Reading List

"My Tits Are Real; So Is My Penis" by Rebecca. I like the internal debate being waged over whether to be out as a trans woman all the time, or if she can some days just be, just pass and not have to be on guard for the questions or comments (or violence) that may come. Me, I'm in support of having a day off, of having the ability to say, "I am not in the necessary place to fight this battle today", of having the ability to say, "This is not a safe space for me to have this discussion, to acknowledge my difference". Galina of Oh, You're a Feminist?! comes to this internal tension from a different perspective, and discusses her own decision to 'out' herself via her tattoos (as well as just ruminating about her tattoos) over at Female Impersonator.

Cacophonies ponders the Micro vs. Macro divide in talking about feminism and breaking down of privilege.

Echnide's post on Sleeping Beauty is one I like a lot, because I was fairly well obsessed with fairy tales as a kid. Not Hans Christian Anderson, because his were generally friggin' scary as all get out. But the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, those I loved.

Rape Culture 101 by Melissa McEwan, with a whole host of links, is one of the most comprehensive readings on exactly what Rape Culture is. Its definition isn't about feminists denying women agency, and it isn't about feminists making men the singular horrific thing in our universe. It isn't about all men being rapists; it isn't about all women being victims of rape. It is about a cultural norm surrounding sexual violence - and how we react to that sexual violence when it is presented to us. Some are more engrained in it than others; those people who love Tucker Max? More entrenched. Those of us who live on rom-coms and can get through most of them without retching (*waves*)? Pretty well entrenched. What's often missing from discussions like this is the balance between the agency of the individual and the influence of society/culture. The reason for that seems to be pretty clear to me; that break down is on an individual level, and can change rapidly depending upon the subject within the overall discussion. That discussion is about how the micro interacts with the macro, and that is - in many cases - a discussion that is deeply personal.

Schrödinger’s Rapist kind of follows the above. I like the idea of Schrödinger’s Rapist being how we discuss rape and how we talk to women about rape; I like the article linked a lot as well, even though it does have some problems. But I think that this is an implication often lost when discussing rape. When feminists talk about how every man is a potential rapist, there is an (oftentimes erroneous) implication that what feminists mean is that every man could rape you at any given moment and that no man is to be trusted not to rape. But I don't think that is the correct reading. The idea isn't that every man would rape given the chance or that every man has the potential to rape; it is that because women are often given the responsibility to prevent themselves from being raped, and because there are no helpful signs clearly labeling rapists (like, stickies that say "RAPIST: STAY AWAY!!"), then every man you meet may be the guy who rapes. It isn't that every guy is a rapist or has raped; it is that it is impossible to tell - like it is (theoretically) impossible to tell whether the cat in Schrödinger’s box is alive or dead. So, Schrödinger's Rapist is all about not being able to crack open that box.

Racialicious Loves OK Cupid... and Of OKCupid and Denials of Racism break down the data from the internet dating site and discuss what it means in terms of race and gender.

And, because the fall is my favorite season, Autumn is Beautiful (stolen from Coffee Shop Philosophy's Sunday Links).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Post In Which I Review Dollhouse's "Belle Chose"

Episodes like this one are why I adore Tim Minear; episodes like "Omega" (an episode I still haven't reviewed! Gah!) are not. That's the line of delineation. Well, truly, episodes like "Epiphany" and "Out of Gas" and "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been" are why I adore Minear. This one just kind of confirms that I'm right to. First, though, I'm going to jump in with the bad.

Every week I watch Dollhouse, and I see problems. Last week was the whole structural-vs-episodic nature of the show. This week? I'm back to ragging on Eliza Dushku. It isn't that she's bad. Okay, it is that she's somewhat bad, but she isn't totally bad. She just isn't versatile. At all. As a serial killer, she rocks. As a person fighting off serial killer personas and trying to keep some women alive, she also rocks. As Kiki? There is no rocking. What there is are a bunch of stereotypical bounces? and hair twirls? and ending each sentence like it is a question?, but no actual Kiki. There is Eliza Dushku not understanding how to make Kiki a character. There is very clearly Eliza Dushku playing the stereotype of a possible former non-rocket science cheerleader, whose wit (and she does have some, what with the "Scarlet Lady" remark) doesn't make it clearly into the presentation. Which is strange, because Buffy the Vampire Slayer could have easily been Kiki the Vampire Slayer. Going back to the books and watching how Sarah Michelle Gellar or Mercedes McNab or Charisma Carpenter managed to be ditzy and human, recognizing that there is more to that girl than the hair twists and the awkward delivery of sentences would have been a real help. This line:
Okay, so I probably never should have taken this course to begin with. But I figured it was Mid-Evil lit, not Advanced Evil. How hard could it be? So I skipped Intro to Evil or whatever, but how is it I get an "F" when this guy that we're reading, Chauncy, can't even spell?
was so incredibly painful to watch. Made even moreso by the fact that Enver Gjokaj managed to pull off a much more complete Kiki later on in the episode, and most of that was just dancing his heart out - and his tearful reunion with Paul. I long to see Gjokaj in the above scene with the professor, just to show Dushku how to knock it out of the park. As an aside, I join the list of people who think Enver Gjokaj is the most talented member of that cast. That, by the way, is probably the end of the bad from me this time around. Unfortunately, that bad is the star of the show, and should be able to pull off ditzy/dumb-but-beautiful better than she does. The rest of the episode? Aces.

Here's why: this episode succeeds in doing what I just complained the Dollhouse episodes weren't doing in my last review! See how that works? It is an amazing thing. It's more of an amazing thing if you've seen Epitaph One (And if you haven't, what are you waiting for? Go. This review will be here when you get back). But it is amazing all the same in that it is substantially a stand-alone episode that explains a majority of how the Dollhouse works and what it does, and advances the end game. I should also point out that this episode was supposed to be 2.02 and was bumped to 2.03 for the not-so-goodness that was "Instinct", for whatever the reason. We're introduced to a large portion of the procedure part of the Dollhouse through Ballard navigating his first assignment as Echo's handler. The explanation about the "R" for Romantic Engagement, seeing how the Dolls are dressed, all cool, and lead to this tickle-the-funny-bone exchange:
RANDOM HANDLER: I won't even do this for my wife.
BALLARD: I was trained at Quantico.
This brings us to Ballard. Who is, in a word, a creeper. The somewhat pornorific slow shots of "Kiki" taking in her new outfit with pleasure while being watched by Paul wasn't very pleasant. When Boyd came to take Ballard's place as the Handler, I was with Ballard in his "Serial killer? Thank God" remark. What makes the tension kind of wonky (and quite probably in an intentional way) is that the show makes it hard to tell if Paul is upset by the fact a dirty old professor would be making a student to seduce/be seduced by simply because it is Echo and he has a thing for her or if he would be just as revolted if any Doll - say, Victor - were to be put in this play situation. After all, he felt fine making an Echo to be married and sexed up when he was in control. And that, my friends, is why I can't like or trust ex-agent Paul Ballard - too much.

And yet, I do like him. I acknowledge that Tahmoh Penikett, has, as Maia says, "so little range it’s embarrassing". He's an "upset-frown, confused-scrunch up your face" kind of actor. And yet, for Ballard, it kind of works. It could just be that he continually gets lines that are inherently funny, like:
So... Terry. I gotta ask and I think you know I gotta ask. Have you been practicing dentistry on large cats? Leopards? Pumas?
Out of the many things Ballard had to ask or that Terry knew he had to ask, I don't think that was even on the list. He is also one of the most forthright in being able to put in direct terms what Terry is, and as a by-product, what with the intercutting scenes of Echo's engagement, what the Dollhouse is and caters to:
No, you're weird, Terry. But what you're not is special. It doesn't take a criminal profiler to figure you out. Maybe a pimp. It's ordinary. You're ordinary. Maybe you got bottle-fed, maybe you got dumped. It doesn't matter. At some point, you decided real people weren't worth it. You pushed them away. Alienated everyone in your life so you could surround yourself with the fakes, the copies. It made you feel like you had some control.
Since Ballard is both a criminal profiler and a pimp, he is uniquely qualified to diagnose Terry.

Now, let's jump to the very thing Ballard is describing, the engagement. The Dollhouse operates under the premise that it gives people what they need, when instead it becomes clearer and clearer that they generally traffic in what people want. Case in point: the engagement of the week. I can't imagine that a professor ever truly needs one of his students to sleep with him. I can imagine that a weaseling one like the guy we see may want one of his students to sleep with him. To the point where he'll actually make a fake student to seduce through the words of Chaucer and sleep with her, all the while asserting the student is in control of the situation, and making that clear to her:
DIRTY PROFESSOR: No, [Alisoun]'s not a whore.
KIKI: You're saying she uses sex to get what she wants.
DIRTY PROFESSOR: Yeah, I-I'm saying she's a lusty, bawdy, self-aware woman. She doesn't allow men to define her. She knows she's the one with the real power.
KIKI: What power?
DIRTY PROFESSOR: The same power that all women have.
This is one of my favorite scenes, because it demonstrates the lie the professor weaves. The professor is the one with all the power, both because he created Kiki to play out this fantasy and because he is the one who has the option of turning that "F" to an "A". He is the one who wields his intellectualism like a weapon; he is the one who is determined to 'teach' Kiki about this inherent 'power' she has over him. But the only power she has is the power he is willing to grant her. She isn't allowed to have an alternate reading of the text. She isn't allowed to argue her point in a salient manner or to ask if she can rewrite the paper with his critiques in mind, if she can do extra credit. Her power is purely relational to his attraction to her; her power is purely relational to how far he is willing to allow that attraction to go. Her power is wholly contingent upon him. And in one scene, the meme of the sexy worldly woman who successfully seduces the men powerless before her is revealed as a sham. Because the men she seduces aren't powerless, and because her power is determined by how much they are willing to give her - how much they are willing to take. And the professor may truly believe that he - and men - are helpless before the power of women. But that just makes him, well, wrong.

This connects to Terry, the serial killer. He also is under the mistaken belief that women are incredible masterminds - that the women he abducted orchestrated his getting hit with a car and then transferred into Echo. He's the one who the show opened upon, arranging his very own, slightly more mannequinesque fully human dolls. And, by the by, with my mannequin fear, I'm not going to be able to go to a department store for a very long time. It is exceedingly clear who has the power, and it isn't these women being used as Terry's playthings. As Uncle Bradley put it:
There have been other... indiscretions. Women, "survivors", I should call them. And when you have a survivor, you have a person who might be persuaded - monetarily or by other means - to stay quiet.
The rich and the powerful get to do their thing and have their way with the women of the world, and it is swept up and under the rug by money or other means - because the happiness of the Terrys and the Dirty Profs are inherently more important than the women; you know, those women with all the power.

Boyd, either because he's a better person than most in the Dollhouse (and that includes Ballard) or because he's an ex-cop, has issues with that before the whole "potential serial killer" thing comes rattling on out:
BOYD: Do we really want to wake this guy up?
ADELLE: Mr. Langton, have you no charity? We are working to reunite a desperate family with their wayward loved one.
BOYD: By "wayward", do you mean that they've been looking for him ever since he skipped his last bail hearing?
ADELLE: A bail hearing over a minor matter which has since been resolved.
BOYD: And, by "resolved", do you mean -
ADELLE: Yes, yes. A judge was bought off. There is no need to continue to translate me.
And is it just me, or is Boyd becoming more and more Oz-like? All I could think of in this scene:
BOYD: What are you trying?
TOPHER: Uh, a remote wipe?
BOYD: Why?
TOPHER: Oh, well... Victor's loose, doesn't have GPS and apparently he's a serial killer?
was how Oz would have a remarkably similar reaction. Well, that, and how Fran Kranz's nervous, making-statements-into-questions thing also put him in the running for being able to create a more believable Kiki than Eliza Dushku.

And we're jumping to Topher, who I've saved for last (perhaps erroneously, if no one has managed to get this far) because he has become my absolute favorite. Topher is one of the least complicated moral agents in the Dollhouse, and one of the most complex characters. He's one of the least complicated on the moral front because he won't do what he feels is ethically unsound. He's one of the most complex characters, because the list of things he feels are ethically unsound so far begins and ends with purposefully waking up a serial killer. Also, we have learned that Topher is not, in point of fact, a sociopath or a psychopath. Which makes where his ethical divides begin and end slightly more problematic. And, I have to give the scene, because I love Tim Minear's writing:
ADELLE: Good news on the coma front?
TOPHER: Uh... yeah. Good news is that he's in a coma.
ADELLE: I beg your pardon?
BOYD: Just show her what you showed me.
TOPHER: This is a brain - a healthy brain. Frankly, an overly smart brain. It's my brain. And this is Terry Karrens' brain. See these dark areas? How they extend all the way out to here? You know what that looks like that? That's because Terry Karrens doesn't use that part of his brain. And that'd be where you find stored such things as empathy, compassion, an aversion to disemboweling puppies. Basically, this is what some of your more famous serial killers' brains look like.
ADELLE: You're quite certain of this?
TOPHER: Certain enough that I have serious ethical problems trying to wake him up.
BOYD: Topher has ethical problems. Topher!
One of the questions that arises from this scene, as well as from the scene in "Vows" with Dr. Saunders and the broken Topher we see in Epitaph One, is when does Topher's moral code grow beyond that? When does he recognize that just because an idea may be intellectually brilliant, it can also be morally bankrupt? That, and Fran Kranz, is why Topher is my fav.

The other scene I loved with Fran Kranz was when he is encouraged by Adelle to create the tech know how that will eventually bring about the end of the world as we know it, the remote wipe:
TOPHER: A remote wipe? It can't be done!
ADELLE: It can be done. Alpha did it with Echo.
TOPHER: But he used a tonal interface! Serial Killer Victor would need to have a phone. I need to have a tone. I'd have to get him to answer the phone. Do you have his number?
ADELLE: Obviously not.
TOPHER: Well...?
It is odd to know the end game, and to see the beginnings of the evolution of the tech start as a way to save people, and Victor. It is odd that, for all the Dollhouse does that is destructive, that we can assert is actively destructive, it is this thing that is hard to characterize as such that helps bring about the dystopian version of the future.

Now, to the character the show is ostensibly based around: Echo. Echo is able to reassert control just as Terry Karrens is about to kill his next victim. Which inevitably leads to the question: Does Echo have some form of control?

If she does, is her willingness to go along with engagements now a tacit acceptance of that engagement? Is it a coerced (unknown, to the Dollhouse at large) consent based purely on a need to survive and the understanding that if she broke rank under almost all circumstances other than smashing someone's head in with a croquet mallet, she would be either wiped thoroughly or sent to The Attic? Or is her ability to assert control minimal, only in situations that go against the very core of who Echo/Caroline is, that there are certain imprints that won't take simply because they are so far removed from the lingering persona that makes one Active #1 over another?

I don't think she ever will have the ability to accept or reject an engagement while she is in the Dollhouse, but I do wonder if she is making a deal with the devil on a conscious level or if she only comes out to play when she glitches or when something occurs like a serial killer tries to murder some people whilst in her body. Either way, it is pretty interesting.

Grade: A

Quote(s) of the Episode:

BOYD: Then what? Just leave him out there in his Doll-State? Totally wiped?
TOPHER: He'll be an empty-headed robot wandering around Hollywood. He'll be fine.

ADELLE: We cannot allow Victor to be used as Terry Karrens' vehicle for abduction and murder.
TOPHER: I'm personally against it.