Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto RIP

Go read this right now.

I really can't express how sad and angry this makes me. I'll try to say something more coherant later, too shell-shocked right now.

(Thanks to Natalia for the link.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy belated Hanukkah or Eid, Merry Festivus…

Just a quick post to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Whatever holiday you happen to celebrate, even if it’s only “yay, I get the day off work!”, I hope it’s a good one.

Also, why do I associate Elvis with Christmas? Is this the fault of my parents for always making me watch TV? And if so, why does, say, It’s a Wonderful Life hold no appeal? Last night I watched The Hogfather, which was SO much more fun than most holiday movies, and today I was cleaning out my hard drive and came across the following punk Elvis cover, which for some reason felt completely holiday-appropriate to me.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Boob Wars terrorize feminist blogland…again.

So everyone read the Pandagon posting in which Amanda giggled with girlish glee over the fact that some sexist asswipe at Details doesn’t like women with big boobs, right? There were so many things wrong with that posting that I hardly know where to start. I couldn’t even be bothered to engage over there, because seriously, any woman who thinks that men making snide judgmental comments about women with big boobs, including implying that such women are stupid and lacking self esteem, is, like super-cool and awesome! And totally feminist-friendly! I'm not exactly feeling the sisterly love. I mean seriously – that Details article is dripping with contempt for women who don’t meet the author’s specific beauty standard. It’s Misogyny 101 for dudes who like skinny girls with small tits. Anyone who would praise that and think it’s something for feminists to celebrate? Clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed. Not able to think beyond “hey, this guy is saying that women like me are the superior model!” and realize that the entire premise of the article is “woman as consumer product whose worth shall be judged by whether or not men want to fuck her”, and that’s the exact opposite of everything that feminism stands for.

I ran across an excellent example of just why calling this kind of shit feminism is so very stupid today. Check out this Salon article.

And then check out the comments.

Notice anything interesting? A certain tone to the replies from men, perhaps? The pervasive idea that women’s bodies are everyone’s business but their own? That there is a “proper” breast size and that it’s up to men to determine what that size is? And that once such has been determined, women must strive to meet men’s expectations (whatever they happen to be this week)? The boldly and repeatedly stated insistence that women’s own opinions about their bodies are essentially irrelevant, that their lived experience doesn’t matter?

Here’s the reality that the Pandagon piece missed by a mile – the very idea that women can and should be judged by the size of their boobs as if that size was somehow a reflection on their moral or intellectual status, and that there is a “proper” size that is to be determined by men, is REALLY REALLY FUCKING SEXIST. That men feel free to do this is not something that feminists should be celebrating, even if the particular conclusions drawn by those particular men make a particular woman feel good about herself as long as she isn’t bright enough to think through what the implications of that framing are for women as a whole.

In other words – my dear misguided sexist-jerk-cheering-on sisters, kindly remove your heads from your asses for long enough to realize that whether or not the specific standard of boobage being proposed as the ideal is one that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and appreciated IS COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. The idea that there is and/or should be a standard is inherently sexist. The men proposing that standard, whatever it may be in any specific case, are essentially treating you as a product – “I prefer BMWs to Saabs”. That is not a victory for feminism.

And I’m not just talking about Amanda, BTW. I’m talking about all the other feminists who sat there (and continue to sit there on Feministe) going “I don’t see what the problem was with saying that the Details article was funny” after many, many other women have explained slowly and clearly exactly why buying into such blatant misogyny is not OK.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Attack of the Sex Pixies

So apparently the Sex Pox have a new name. We’re the Sex Pixies now. Which is cute, I suppose. At least they’re not comparing sex positive women to a disease that causes boils and then death any more, right?

In honor of the new name I decided to make a sex pixie of my own (credit to Kiya for the idea). Isn’t she cute? With her widdle wings?

Now here’s the thing. This whole sex pixie business…I’m assuming it’s meant to appeal to one’s memory of childhood fairy tales in which the pixies were adorable but fundamentally untrustworthy creatures who did things like steal babies and generally caused trouble for decent, law-abiding people. Yes, dear, we get the analogy. We, the sex pixies, are the harbingers of the Patriarchy, pure evil wrapped in a cute shiny package designed to hide our true (evil…did I mention that we’re evil?) natures. All we do is cause trouble for nice honest decent feminist women, with our suspicious affection for grooming rituals and pretty shoes and our tendency to pretend (admit) that we sometimes enjoy sex, even sex with men! Oh, the horrors! Don’t panic, I have your smelling salts right here. Go ahead, take them. I won’t be needing them since I’m not prone to fainting spells.

Nothing but trouble, the sex pixies. All we do is make other feminists look bad, and give men the idea that not all women view them with the maiden aunt’s jaundiced eye. The good feminists know that we don’t really like sex or shoes or booze or any of the other stuff we say we like, we’re just kissing ass so that the boys will like us. Because we have no needs or desires of our own. Women aren’t sexual, you know, not like men, those brutes. Plus we make other women feel bad, what with being so bright and shiny and what the hell does she think she’s wearing, that slut? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for that to slip out. What I meant was I feel so sorry for you because you have yet to see the light, my sister. Come sit with me and I shall explain it to you. Yes, I know that I’ve explained it a billion times before and you’ve told me you don’t agree, but I know that you will if you just listen harder. Silly little girl, thinking that you can think for yourself. That’s the last thing a feminist should be doing – why, she might draw entirely the wrong conclusions. Better to just let the collective do your thinking for you, because after all, when did that ever not turn out to be the best thing for everyone?

Now that we’ve explained who she is, let’s meet the Sex Pixie (de-winged this time, because they’re less dangerous that way). Be careful, she’s tricksy. Don’t get too close.

Funny thing about the Sex Pixie…turns out that she looks pretty much just like everyone else. In fact, this one looks just like me. Take a good look…is she really all that scary? Does she seem like she’s out to destroy womankind? Or does she in fact look like any other ordinary woman who you might find yourself standing next to in the morning waiting to get coffee, or chatting to on the train, or sharing an office with, or nodding hello to while you’re out walking the dog, or…

Don’t believe it, sisters! Under that friendly smile lies a heart of ice, dedicated to nothing except extending the dominion of the Patriarchy. She doesn’t have thoughts, she doesn’t have feelings – all she has is a maniacal desire to please men. Even if she’s a lesbian. It’s OK to call her a slut or a sociopath or insult her intelligence, because she’s not really a woman. She’s a Sex Pixie.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Help me edit this book review!

I have to review a book as part of a job interview process, and book reviews aren’t something that I normally do. How long are these things supposed to be anyway? I don’t have a word count to work with, and we all know that brevity is not my strong point.
I know we have some environmentalists around here – has anyone read this book? If so, what did you think? Am I capturing the essence of it at all?
Oh, and the dude wants it to be funny and engaging rather than “I am so fucking serious, man”.
Help! Review below.

It’s hard to know where to begin when describing a book about environmentalism that is guaranteed to infuriate most environmentalists who read it. Break Through really does represent such a fundamental break from the way that people are used to thinking about environmental issues that it may take some people a while to understand exactly what the authors are proposing.
For a start, it talks about money. Most environmentalists, and indeed leftists as a whole, are rather uncomfortable talking about money. There’s a pervasive sense that an interest in things like financial markets and international trade is somehow unseemly, and a fundamental belief that these things just don’t have much to do with the environment.
Break Through takes that belief and rips it up into tiny little pieces, then makes them into paper airplanes and fires them directly into the eyes of more traditional environmental groups. How does the book accomplish this? For starters, consider the following statement.
“Material prosperity is a pre-requisite for ecological concern”
To most traditional environmentalists this sounds like nonsense – environmentalism is supposed to arise from one’s deep emotional responses to the beauty and majesty of nature, right? If so, what does prosperity have to do with anything?
Rather a lot, as it turns out. A significant portion of this book is dedicated to demonstrating the fact that when people’s basic material needs are not being met, the environment is that last thing on their minds. They’re too busy putting food on the table, or trying to avoid being shot at, to worry about saving the environment.
Take Brazil, for example. This book does an excellent job of explaining exactly why saving the Amazon isn’t all that high a priority for most Brazilian people, and isn’t something that even those who do care can do much about. Here are the facts. Brazil spends the majority of its money servicing its foreign debt. The reason it does so is that the military dictatorship that ruled the country in the 1970s borrowed heavily from abroad. As it turns out, they borrowed more than they could repay. In 1982 the dictatorship defaulted on its foreign loans and rolled over its debts. By the time the rolling over was done Brazil found itself with massive interest payments to make. The country currently owes about $511 billion. The initial loans have already been repaid several times over, but because of the magic of punitive interest rates that doesn’t matter – Brazil still owes $511 billion to its foreign investors. What that means is that, even though Brazil has some of the most progressive environmental laws in the world, it can’t afford to enforce them. After making its loan payments it doesn’t have enough money left to guarantee the safety of its professional middle class. Mounting an effective resistance to deforestation is simply out of the question. Not only that, but the very industries that are destroying the Amazon actually help to generate the capital required to service the debt. In those circumstances, preserving the rainforest just isn’t going to happen.
Contrast this with statements such as that made by environmentalist John Terborgh, head of Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke – “Poverty alleviation if not what conservation is all about. It’s a different enterprise. It’s a separate issue.”
Is it really?
There is of course an alternative approach, one that doesn’t ignore the economic reality, one that might actually allow Brazil to do something about protecting its great national treasure – wipe out its foreign debts. Break Through throws out the following challenge.
“In calling for the elimination of the dictatorship debt, we are most definitively not calling for debt forgiveness, a concept that implies that the debtor countries committed some sin for which they should be forgiven. It is not the indebted people of Brazil who should be forgiven but those who blithely insist that the dictatorship’s debt is either moral or legal. Brazil doesn’t need our forgiveness. It needs justice to be served.”
And one has to ask oneself…why not? Do we really want the Amazon to be saved? And if we do, why aren’t we looking at impediments to its being saved right now and doing whatever is necessary to get rid of them?
The Brazil example, and the way the book addresses it, is a perfect illustration of the fundamentally different approach to ecology that the authors are suggesting. The old way of “doing” environmentalism, by viewing nature as something fundamentally separate from man that man is encroaching upon and by setting limits on that encroachment, just isn’t working. Consider this – the UN states that we would need an 80% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. So far none of the countries that signed the Kyoto treaty are meeting even the far more modest reduction goals that the treaty demands. What does that mean? At the rate things are going the UN targets are never going to be met. And then there are the developing nations, whose emissions are rising all the time.
Break Through has a lot to say about China and India and what their emergence as global superpowers means for the environmental movement, and many environmentalist aren’t going to like it. Activists who focus on anti-racism and global development, on the other hand, will probably find themselves nodding vigorously at statements such as the following.
“China, India, Brazil and the rest of the developing world will not agree to any international approach that constrains the economic aspirations of their people – nor should they. The average Chinese consumes 15 percent of the energy of the average American. It would be immoral to attempt to lock the developing world into energy penury.”
Herein lies the rub of the current approach to global warming on an international level – the message being sent to developing nations is essentially “stop”. It is constantly implied, or flat-out demanded, that China and India in particular keep their emissions in check, and if that means that they remain stuck at their currently underdeveloped level – oh well, sucks to be them! Western environmentalist simply do not seem to grasp the idea that this is simply not acceptable to the countries being told to make sacrifices that the already developed nations are not willing to make themselves.
This is the most important reason to read Break Through. It joins up the dots between what’s happening to the environment and the global anti-poverty movement. It doesn’t start from the assumption that some nations will have to make sacrifices in order to make things better for others – instead, it starts from the premise that people whose basic survival needs are being met have a lot more freedom to care about things like protecting the environment.
It also starts from a radical re-imagining of man’s relationship to nature. The traditional environmentalist viewpoint sees man as standing apart from nature – Break Through proposes a model in which man is a part of nature just like everything else is. This model is a major challenge to the view that most environmentalist have of nature as something “separate from, and victimized by, humans”. A lot of dedicated environmentalists aren’t going to like it, but this reevaluation of the relationship between man and nature is what’s needed in order for environmentalism to grow into something that’s actually relevant to the situation we find ourselves in today.
The old environmentalism is based on the idea that all you have to do is show people what’s wrong and they’ll fix it, otherwise known as the show people pictures of the cute dead baby seals and hope that they decided to drive their cars less approach. This approach has been notably unsuccessful so far. The new environmentalism being proposed in Break Through is about trying to find positive, creative ways of addressing problems. Reams of social research have shown that people respond better to positive approaches than to guilt – what this book is suggesting is that environmentalists harness that tendency and use it to get people excited about improving the world we all share.
Perfect example – Global warming preparedness, or as the book calls it”recasting global warming in terms of preparedness for natural disasters and extreme weather”. The authors created a proposal outlining their ideas for this in 2005-2006. The UN International Panel on Climate Change adopted a similar plan in 2007, with an “aggressive strategy” including building seawalls.
Many environmentalists resist ideas like this, on the principle that they represent accommodation. A perfect example of the leftist tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – and I say this as a person who was raised to be a leftist from the cradle. The problem with the accommodation argument is that it’s already too late to worry about whether or not we’re accommodating – climate change is already underway.
“Even if humans had stopped emitting greenhouse gases starting in 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen announced to Congress that global warming had arrived, all of the changes today resulting from global warming – the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, the slowing of the North Atlantic Gulf Stream, warmer ocean surfaces, and more intense hurricanes – would still be under way. There is so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that even if humans stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, the planet would continue to heat up for several more decades and probably longer. As surely as the science of climatology tells us that the warming of the earth is caused by humans, it also tells us that a dramatically warmer and transformed climate is almost certainly inevitable.”
Given the choice between adapting and dying, isn’t adaptation the smart thing to do?
Traditional environmentalism has focused on the politics of limits – put caps on greenhouse gas emissions, only allow X number of people to visit area Y – and the pollution paradigm – one can approach the management of entire ecosystems the same way one approaches what goes into one small stretch of river. These approaches fail to engage the public, and they do not scale well to something as vast and complicated as climate change. Break Through offers a new way forward, an appeal to human potential rather than a scolding admonishment for corrupt mankind to leave nature alone, an idea which would be impossible to accomplish even if mankind were motivated to do so.
“The narrative of overcoming helps us to imagine and thus create a brighter future. Human societies will continue to stumble. Many will fall. But we have overcome starvation, disease, deprivation, oppression and war. We can overcome ecological crises.”
People respond better to challenges than to guilt. This fact cannot be repeated enough, which is why the authors repeat is throughout the book. Simply withdrawing from nature is impossible – man does not stand outside nature. We have always shaped our environment in one way or another. The question isn’t whether or not we’re going to continue to shape our environment, its how. Like it or now we’re piloting the ship – the option to just step back is not available to us. Attempting to frighten or guilt-trip people into withdrawal from some imagined nature that does not involve mankind isn’t going to get the results that we need. The problem isn’t that people aren’t scared enough; it’s that environmentalists are so busy trying to convince them that things are hopeless that most of them are too depressed to even think about what they might do better.
“The problem is not that people don’t see the nightmare, but that they do not allow themselves to dream.”
If you have any interest at all in ecology, or in global development, read this book. It may not have all the answers, but it’s the first real attempt to start asking the right questions.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wow, they have tragically Wapanese people in Europe now too?

Via Something Awful…person wanders around Helsinki with a camera taking pictures of walking fashion disasters. I don’t mean just “that shirt does not go with those pants”, I mean DISASTERS.

The whole Hel-looks section is worth pointing and laughing at, but this one in particular caught my eye.

Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything at the time. I think the following quote sums up my feelings quite nicely.

Zack: Do you realize we're the last generation of people that didn't grow up with a manga aisle in our bookstores? There are people reading this born in like 1989 that see this picture and think, "I don't get what's wrong with that" as they stroke their ermine rabbit doll with monster hooters.

And the sad thing is that I LIKE anime and manga. I just don’t like what happens when socially maladjusted people base their entire lives around them.

I am mildly disturbed by the fact that I can actually visualize Bjork, who I adore, wearing something like this in a music video. Especially the fluffy hat/ears combo.

I am forced to admit, however, that the lolifail pictured above still looks better than this guy. Check out his self-description.

Nu rave and renaissance, the time of Christopher Columbus and baggy shapes inspire me - but always with a touch of Nazi Germany to avoid a too clowny and buffoon look!"

Um…this is his non-clowny look? Wow.

(PS Veronica, I know that you had the misfortune to work anime conventions once upon a time. This one’s for you, sweetie.)

Fair Warning - The links above lead to Something Awful, so I guarantee that there will be something crass and stupid and offensive in the comments somewhere (and my linkage does not imply that I endorse said comments). Just so you know.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Note to stupid people – a 30 year old man fucking a 13 year old girl isn’t the girl “acting out”, its child abuse (and statutory rape).

Via Feministe…has everyone seen this story about a mother who forcibly pierced her daughter’s genitalia in an attempt to stop her from having sex? She also shaved her head, apparently in the hopes of making her less attractive to men (like, say, Mom’s creepy child abusing boyfriend).
How is this woman not in jail? Yeah, I know, we’re not supposed to criticize mothers, blah blah…but she HELD HER CHILD DOWN AND HAD HER GENITALS PIERCED WITH THE INTENTION OF MAKING IT SO THAT SHE WOULD BE IN TOO MUCH PAIN TO HAVE SEX. All the commenters saying that that’s not punishment…hello? Deliberately inflicting pain on your kid isn’t punishment? In what alternate universe is this, exactly?
As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, check out the comments from the jury foreman. Apparently being sexually abused by your almost-stepfather now counts as teenage misbehavior and the poor mom just had to stop her crazy out of control kid…by sticking sharp things through her genitalia.
What the fuck is wrong with people in this country? I mean OK, I know the USA was settled (actually invaded and colonized if we’re being accurate) by puritans, but that was hundreds of years ago – haven’t we moved on intellectually even a teeny bit? Do we really still think that little girls should be punished for the crime of having sex? Seriously? Even if said little girls were too young to legally give consent? And we also still think that parents own their children and can do anything they want to them?
I swear, there are days when I despair of people ever dragging their minds out of the Dark Ages. Grown men fucking children – BAD. Deliberately inflicting injury on your child – BAD. Jury deciding that being abused is the kid’s fault for being wild – ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This is the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever read

Behold! What would happen if a particularly dim-witted MRA met an evolutionary psychologist for a round of drinks, over which they discussed the possible future of the human race as determined by “sexual selection”? Maybe something like this.

To summarize – apparently we’re all going to be 7 feet tall with huge dicks and/or “pert” boobs. Except for the goblin people, they’re going to be just hideous.

You know, I read The Time Machine in high school, too, but unlike our friend here I didn’t assume that HG Wells was Nostradamus.

Also, this dude is an economist. In what way does that make him an authority on genetics, exactly?

Ah, the Daily Mail. Has anyone seen this story reported in a newspaper that isn't written by rabid howler monkeys? I'd be curious to see what an actual journalist would make of our wacky economist friend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music that did not need to happen

So I get these e-mails from a web store that I occasionally use to buy CDs. The e-mails are basically just a list of all the new stuff they have available in whatever category you told them you were interested in (I’m on the rock and pop list – no country or jazz for me, thanks, and they don’t have a punk list). Most of it is the stuff that you would expect, but there are some oddities.

Take the latest one. Apparently there’s a new album from Helloween coming out. Remember Helloween? Dreadful Euro metal band with a singer who sounds like someone just kicked him in the balls while he was singing something from La Traviata, complete with operatic tremolo? Videos and album covers with a pumpkin motif? Yeah. Not one of the finest moments of the eighties. This band still has a record deal? How is that even possible? Oy.

Next up – Duran Duran, who have a new album with Justin Timberlake on guest vocals. Wow. Generation-spanning mediocrity! Is the bass player still hot? Because that was always pretty much the only reason to pay any attention to Duran Duran.

And I saved the best for last. Manowar. Remember them? Imagine if the Gor people formed a metal band. Yes, it really is as awful as it sounds. Furry loin cloths and all.

You know, I love metal, but sometimes…sometimes it’s just embarrassing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I had the worst night/morning ever yesterday. Thursday night I got dizzy in the shower, and at first I just thought the water was too hot, but I turned it down and that didn't help. And then just as I was trying to figure out what to do I fell...I have no idea how, just collapsed. Not even sure if I passed out for a few seconds, I just found myself on my hands and knees, wondering what the hell was going on. And I don't remember hitting anything, BUT somehow I knocked chunks out of both my front teeth. Which I realised when I felt something wierd in my mouth and spit out bits of tooth.

How I managed to knock out part of my teeth without A. feeling any impact or B. giving myself a concussion I have no fucking clue.

Cue confusion and panic, not helped by the fact that I still felt weak and woozy. And of course this happens when Mr. Cassandra is thousands of miles away.

Finally I dragged myself to the couch and called Mr. Cassandra, then my 2 AM. Went in at 8:30 and didn't leave till 10:30. I now have front teeth again, BUT it's not permanent, I need to go back for crowns or veneers later, and they're still not sure if I damaged the tooth root.

WTF? I knew that I was sick, and I have low blood pressure so I get dizzy sometimes in extreme temperatures, but seriously, WTF?

I think I need to really take it easy for a few days. Oh, and I'm not allowed to bite anything with my front teeth or use an electric toothbrush for two weeks. And there are cuts on the inside of my mouth that I didn’t notice at first, and my teeth are now hot and cold sensitive, and the roof of my mouth hurts like hell, and I have a constant headache that makes me wonder if I actually do have some sort of mild concussion…although I don’t feel any nausea, so probably not.

Whine, bitch, moan, complain, etc. That was a hell of a way to start the weekend. I was intending to go meet up with some friends for a girls night out, but now…no chance. Especially since I’ve been instructed to eat mushy food for a while, which I am NOT happy about.

I don’t feel good. Someone give me a cuddle.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Random 10

Yes, I know I’ve been away for a while. Sorry, I was busy. But now I’m back! And I promise that I will try to be a better blogger. Honest.

Sneaker Pimps – Spin Spin Sugar
Manic Street Preachers – Suicide Is Painless (MASH theme)
Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers – Get Off Of The Phone
Portishead – Sour Times
Atsushi Sakurai – Sacrifice
The Dead Boys – Sonic Reducer
SADS – Porno Star
Schwein – You’re My Disease
Gene Loves Jezebel – Jealous
Buck-Tick – My Fucking Valentine

My randomizer is in love with Atsushi Sakurai this week, apparently. He showed up three times! (Solo, with Buck-Tick, and with Schwein). BTW…anyone who likes industrial stuff who hasn’t heard Schwein should really give them a try. Collaboration between KMDFM, PIG and Buck-Tick. Great stuff. Hey, look, here’s a video! Also, I missed them last time they toured here because I wasn’t paying attention, so if anyone hears about another US tour then let me know.

You're My Disease

I swear to God Sakurai just gets sexier every year. Can you believe this man is over 40? (He’s the one singing who’s not the dude from KMDFM).

Here’s the Sacrifice video. See why I affectionately refer to him as “The Gothfather”? And that voice…the man has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, male or female. I have no idea what he’s saying half the time but I don’t care, because that voice! Rich, layered, sometimes velvety soft, sometimes rough and raw, sometimes smooth like melted honey, sometimes so pure and beautiful it will take your breath away. DAMN that man can sing.


Anyone who’s ever wondered how I ended up into so much Japanese music – blame Sakurai. A friend from Osaka introduced me to Buck-Tick when I was in college, and it was love at first listen.

Look, some bonus Buck-Tick! I couldn’t find the My Fucking Valentine video on YouTube, so here’s Romance instead.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Time waits for no-one

So it’s my birthday in…a couple of hours. And that’s a weird feeling. I’m turning 34. I don’t feel like I’m turning 34. I don’t feel like I’m even close, honestly. It’s like…aren’t people this age supposed to be a little more, I don’t know, sorted? As in, pick a career track and stick to it, be so settled in a relationship that even the though of being with someone else would be inconceivable (I’m settled, but not THAT settled), feeling generally like things are winding down? I don’t feel like things are winding down. I feel like I’m due for another big dramatic change, actually.
Physically I don’t feel old at all. I mean, I can see lines where there used to be none, and the body is not as firm as it used to be, but in general…I actually feel healthier overall than I did ten years ago. It doesn’t feel like things are breaking down – my back doesn’t hurt, I have less headaches than I used to, if anything I have more stamina now. I do seem to need a little more sleep, though. All the things I really like are the same things I really liked when I was 25, or even 17. I’m calmer, there’s a sort of serenity there that wasn’t there even 5 years ago, but other than that…nothing much seems to have changed.
Eh, it’s weird. Anyone else have any idea what I’m talking about? It’s as if I have this idea in my head of what 34 looks and feels like and that’s not how I look or feel, and it’s wierding me out.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More musings about gender and desire

All this deconstructing of gender has got me thinking about how it ties in to patterns of attraction. Specifically, how it ties into my own patterns of attraction.

In my case what attracts me has actually been remarkably consistent through the years – I say remarkably because there have always been clear messages that the specific things that I’m attracted to in men are, well, a bit weird. Not so much culturally approved of.

There’s a definite sense of pressure in American (and British, though not quite so strongly) culture for women to be attracted to men who are rather…macho. It manifests in a number of different ways – sometimes it’s about fetishising power, sometimes it’s about muscles and/or the overall sense that men are “supposed” to be substantially larger than their female partners, sometimes it’s about money. On a physical level there are multiple male “types” that are held up as cultural ideals. And none of them appeal to me sexually at all.

Typical example – the jock thing. I don’t like jocks. I don’t find them sexy. I do find people who have a strong sense of physicality about them sexy, and I have a distinct preference for men who are physically fit (that whole endurance thing always helps, you know?) but the big bulging muscles? Blech. Not my thing. The behavior that often goes with them? Even less sexy.

I can look at those men and find them aesthetically pleasing; I can see why other people find them sexy. But for me…on a sexual level it just does not compute. No response. It’s not even revulsion, it’s just…nothing. A blank space where desire “should” be.

That can be a disconcerting feeling when you’re young, that sense that there’s a way your libido is “supposed” to work and it doesn’t work that way at all. It was for me. I’ve gone through various stages of trying to convince myself that I can be attracted to those men, and it’s never worked. My body just won’t cooperate.

I also never, ever understood the idea of being attracted to wealth, or power. For me attraction is almost entirely physical – if I think someone is sexy I really don’t give a crap what he does for a living or how much money he has. Those things are simply irrelevant as far as my libido is concerned. I’ve known lots of women to whom those things do matter, but for me…again, does not compute. I try to understand it and my mind blue-screens on me.

It makes me wonder, though…are other women actually attracted to those things? As in, the idea that person X is rich actually makes them horny? Or is it a practical thing? Are they choosing to put their financial wellbeing ahead of their actual desires? Or does attraction work differently for them than it does for me, on a less specifically physical level? Are they the weird ones, or am I? Because I just can’t wrap my head around this idea of being attracted to wealth or power at all, and I sure as hell have no desire to wrap my body around it.

A powerful personality, on the other hand…now there’s an interesting thing. See, I’m a dom. But the men I’m attracted to aren’t really all that sub-ish on the surface. If I meet someone and their body language is radiating submission right from the get-go I’m really not all that interested. I want a challenge. I want to MAKE them submit. In my ideal sexual scenario there’s always an element of power struggle. People who give in too easily bore me. Most of the men I fit well with aren’t really subs, not exclusively, they’re switches. There have been a couple of cases in which the first person they were ever submissive to was me. Not only don’t I want them to submit immediately the first time, I don’t want them to submit immediately ever. A fulltime D/s relationship wouldn’t work for me at all. I’d lose all interest in the other person on a sexual level. I’d feel like his Mommy.

I’m not quite sure what to call that. Is there even a word for it? I know that it’s not a unique thing, and I know that there are men out there who complement me perfectly, because I’ve met them. I also know that couples that work that way tend to confuse and vex a lot of BSDM folks, probably because they’re not quite sure how to classify them.

I’m not sure how that particular kink intersects with my sexual preferences in general, but I’ve always wondered if there’s some sort of connection. Which brings us to…

The men I find sexy. I’m ignoring the girls for now because in all honesty I’m a lot more flexible there, and I don’t have quite such a clear “type”. With men though, I’m not very flexible at all, preference-wise.

So what do I like? I like skinny, but ideally with a little muscle definition, especially in the abs. I like pretty, REALLY pretty. Most of the men I find truly appealing were probably mistaken for girls quite a few times when they were younger. In fact, looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever been really attracted to a guy who hasn’t been addressed as “miss” at some point. I like dark hair and pale skin. I adore high cheekbones and full, pouty lips. Pretty hands do terrible things to me. I have an odd fetish for collarbones, and for shoulders that look bite-able. I also tend to prefer dark eyes, although blue or green eyes on a person with black hair can be stunning. Kind of sounds like the goth stereotype so far, huh? I’ve always wondered how much of my initial attraction to that particular subculture was all about the boys (and the girls – damn, did I love goth girls when I was a teenager). I also really, really like clothes. I’ve never dated a man who was indifferent to clothes, one of the ones who dress mostly just to avoid arrest. I like guys who I can play dress-up with.

A quick glance around my blog should give an idea of what I’m getting at. See, skinny pretty boys as far as the eye can see! I tend to plaster my site in VK boys, partly because that particular scene abounds in men who fit my type, and partly because those particular guys tend to be shameless camera whores, so it’s not too hard to find pretty pictures of them. OK, so in a couple of cases it’s because I also like their bands, but the guy I have up on the sidebar right now comes from a band that I’ve never much cared for, and as sexy as he is I still think he sings like he has peanuts up his nose. Sometimes it really is just about the ass.

Now here’s where the whole idea of gender comes in…how would YOU describe those guys? I kind of feel like part of what I’m responding to may be a very specific gender identity, or at least gender expression. Note the complete lack of interest in anyone conventionally macho. Note the preference for all things femmey. But, just to complicate matters…there’s a certain point at which men become too femmey for my tastes. I can think of dozens of VK guys who fit that description, who to me just look like, well, girls. There isn’t the particular blend of masculine and feminine that seems to be the sexual trigger for me. What do you call that? That weird mix of masculine and feminine characteristics? And why is it that in my case it’s so damn specific?

The one way in which I used to conform to typical ideas about what women are “supposed” to want is height. I always had a preference for really tall men. Which is sort of funny, since I’m 5ft2 and even the teeniest men are usually taller than me. For a while in high school I refused to date anyone under 6ft tall. Then I moved to London and met this one guy who was maybe 5ft7? 5ft8? And just the sexiest damn thing I’d ever seen. At that point I started reevaluating the height requirement. It never really disappeared, though; I just sort of slotted him away in my mind as the exception to the rule. I still clung on to the idea that men are “supposed” to be tall.

In the last few years that’s started to change, and I’m not quite sure why. Maturity? Not caring so much about what other people think any more? In a weird way I think maybe my insistence on the men I dated being tall was a way to counterbalance the gender ambiguity of the men I preferred in other people’s minds. As in, OK, so my boyfriend’s girlier than I am, but hey, he’s a foot taller than me! That has to count for something, right? Please don’t beat both of us up, random sexist dude.

Lately I’m finding that I just don’t care about how tall men are any more. I still love the look of tall + skinny, but the idea of man who totally fits my type in every way but just happens to not be very tall doesn’t trigger the same instinctive “I can’t do that” reflex that it used to. In fact, of all the men I’ve encountered over the past year or so the one I reacted to most strongly in terms of sheer attraction was about 5ft7. And OK, so he’s GORGEOUS, but still, in the past the fact that in heels I’m looking him right in the eye would have bothered me, and now it doesn’t. What’s up with that?

And then there’s another thing, a thing that I think had a lot to do with that instinctive feeling that I shouldn’t be going for men who weren’t tall that I had for a long time. If you take a guy who fits my type and he’s, say, under 5ft8, what’s your initial impression of that guy going to be on a physical level? Petite. In some cases positively delicate. And that’s something that’s totally verboten in our culture, women being attracted to men not just in spite of the fact that they’re delicate and sort of vulnerable-looking, but because of it. Women aren’t supposed to feel protective about men. We aren’t allowed to have that feeling that a lot of men have about women who are fragile and delicate and beautiful, that weird combination of lust and protectiveness and sheer fascination. It’s OK for men to feel that way about women, but for a woman to feel that way about a man? Freaky. Not OK. Positively unnatural.

And yet in some cases I do feel that way, and I think I always have. Maybe it’s a dom thing, maybe not. Who can ever really untangle those things, the way kinks and aesthetic preferences intersect? The way your personality affects what you’re attracted to? The way how you like to fuck affects what you’re attracted to?

I also think that this is part of why I’ve always been so puzzled by the standard boilerplate feminist argument that men are big and scary and aggressive and dangerous and women are little and frail and delicate and vulnerable. Those men that I’m attracted to? Even the really tall ones are still pretty damn delicate, really. The dude currently decorating my sidebar? 6ft1, 127 pounds. Not exactly burly, probably not much use in a bar fight. The guy who I recently encountered who I had such a weird visceral reaction to? He weighs about 115 pounds, which is less than many women I know. I’m supposed to view this person as physically invulnerable in the sense that some radfems seem to think all men are? Once again…does not compute, at least not for me. And I’ve met lots of men like that over the years.

In an odd sort of way I feel protective about those kinds of guys. Actually, there are lots of men who I feel protective about. I have a concert buddy who I get incredibly protective about sometimes, and OK, he’s only 17, but he’s about 6 ft tall and he towers over me. And it’s not just the age that triggers that protective instinct, it’s the personality. There’s a particular dynamic that I always seem to have with gentle, soft-spoken, introverted guys, and a sense of protectiveness has always been a part of that. I see those men as vulnerable, in some ways far more vulnerable than myself, and in a certain way that’s part of the attraction.

I’m guessing that the standard explanation for all this would be that it’s a kink, a sex thing, and on some level I’m sure it is, but then again…why should we assume that men are invulnerable? And isn’t vulnerability part of what attracts most people to each other? Is it really so odd for that to be part of what attracts someone to a particular person, just because of gender?

I’m still trying to sort all this out in my head. I had a weird moment there, when I met that man, the one who I was really drawn to, and I realized that that sense I have of him as soft and delicate and oddly vulnerable is part of what I find so attractive. And then I realized that on some level I’ve always been that way, I’ve just written it off in a lot of cases as something else, as sisterly feelings or kink or some other thing, when in fact I think it’s something that’s far more basic than that. It’s part of my nature to be drawn to and want to protect vulnerable things. It’s also part of my nature to be fascinated by beauty. Combine the two and of course I’m going to find that person nearly irresistible. Why the hell did I ever try to convince myself otherwise?

In this case I blame both the patriarchy and the feminist theory. How often do you get to say that?

Opening the floor to comments now. Does anyone else have any idea what I’m talking about here? Am I really the only woman in the world who feels this way? Do other women have that same protective feeling towards the men in their lives, just not necessarily so much based on appearance? Do any of us really buy the theory that men are invulnerable? And if most of us don’t, how the hell did that idea ever become such an entrenched part of feminist theory? And finally…how does this all tie in to the way we conceptualize gender, and what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine”?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some thoughts about gender.

Advance warning – this whole post is going to be me thinking aloud. Completely unfiltered and basically stream of consciousness. It’s possible that I may offend. If so, feel free to tell me so. In fact, feel free to tell me that I’m an ignorant jackass and here’s why! I won’t mind.

That said, I’ve been thinking about the ongoing grudge match that a small number of radical feminists seem to have against transpeople, particularly MTF transwomen, and a few things have been sort of jumping out at me. This isn’t meant as an attack, BTW – if there’s one thing you can say for me it’s that I’m honest. If I mean to attack you I’ll walk right up and smack you in the face with my gauntlet rather than sneaking around nipping at your heels. So, not an attack, just some musing.

What got me started were some comments by Qgrrl over at Alas. I don’t just mean her comments on the latest round of fighting either – I’ve been reading her musings about how she feels about this issue for a while now. And then I read a post over at Heart’s place about a trip she and a few friends took to some sort of women’s festival, and something clicked in my head. It was weird. I still don’t AGREE with the radfem critique of transpeople, not least because I dislike the fact that the way they frame it really does come across as an attack on the PEOPLE rather than on an ideology or a way of thinking and that just isn’t OK with me. I do, however, feel as if I understand where they’re coming from a little more, and I’m wondering if anyone else is seeing the same thing I am.

(Note : This is also where I may piss people off. Sorry, I’m really trying not to.)

So I was looking at the pics that Heart posted of the roadtrip she took, and you know what jumped out at me? Other than Heart herself almost every woman pictured falls into a certain stereotype, and that stereotype is intimately tied up with how we conceptualize gender as an issue.

This is a tricky area, discussing people’s sexual personae. What I’m trying to say is that there’s a certain type of woman that I encounter over and over again in feminist circles, and that that type of woman has a very distinct gender identity. It’s sort of butch, but there’s more to it than that, I think. I’m not even sure what descriptive term to use for that particular gender identity, but I’m willing to bet that everyone who has any familiarity with feminism knows the “type” I mean. It’s probably the most common “type” of woman that you meet at feminist events, along with the hippy earth mother “type” (ie. Heart, or our buddy Daisy). I’m going to call this “type” radfembutch, for lack of a better term, although if there already IS a better term let me know and I’ll use it instead.

(And no, male readers, terms that are designed to communicate disdain for a woman’s appearance do not count and I will not use them.)

The fact that the English language doesn’t seem to have a word for that “type” is interesting to me, and I think that it’s significant. It’s a basic principle of linguistics that anything a culture considers worth thinking or talking about, it has a word for. So why don’t we have a word for that particular female gender identity? It’s not like that identity is all that uncommon. I’m willing to bet that everyone here can point to a woman they know, even if only peripherally, who has that identity. So why the gap in the language?

I think it’s because our culture doesn’t much like those women. It doesn’t know what to do with them, how to classify them. They confuse a lot of people, because most people see gender as a binary and so they don’t tend to deal very well with people who don’t fit easily into the categories “masculine” and “feminine”.

Neither do transpeople, and I think this may be where the grudge match comes from. I looked at those pictures from Heart’s road-trip, and I remembered Qgrrl’s comments a while back about how the language used by transpeople made her uncomfortable because it made her feel erased. From what I can tell, she very much of the radfembutch type – not at all comfortable with being “feminine” but not identifying with “masculine” either. Not quite sure where she fits, feels as if she had to figure it all out on her own.

That has to be a scary position to be in. I’m not sure that those of us who have always felt more or less comfortable with our gender identity can really understand just how unsettling that might be, to feel like society was determined to slot everyone into neat little gender categories and not feel like you fit into any of those available. For a teenager that could be terrifying.

So, I started thinking about that, and wondering how many women involved in radical feminism had to go through something like that. And then something clicked in my mind, and I finally saw WHY those women are so protective of their “space” and why so many of them are so very hostile to anyone they see as an interloper. If you’d spent most of your life feeling like you didn’t belong, and then you found a place where you DID feel like you belonged, wouldn’t you be protective of that? Wouldn’t you want to hold on to it?

Qgrrl’s point seemed to be that trans language, particularly the word “cisgender”, left her feeling discomfited because she felt like it excluded her experience (and I’m not her, so if she happens to come across this and I’m misunderstanding what she mean then please, jump in and correct me). I’m guessing she’s not the only one. It seems to me that there are TONS of women who fit that mold, and that many of them feel like they found a home within feminism. I wonder to what extent that may be what’s really going on with the trans issue. The way that I see some radical feminists reacting looks as if they feel threatened in some way, and other than Heart most of those women do seem to be kind of on the butch side. How does that play into this whole issue? Is that where the root of the conflict lies, with one group feeling like their home and their identity that they worked hard to create is under attack, and the other group (transwomen) feeling like those women are attempting to exclude them from places that SHOULD feel like home purely out of spite? In some cases it does look like spite, but in others it honestly looks more like fear, or confusion, and in an odd way that’s kind of encouraging. Spite or malice are hard things to get around, but fear and confusion? Those can be addressed. Compromises can be made. People can become more comfortable with things that once disturbed them.

Putting that aside for a second, the little flash of clarity I had while looking at those pictures had a second part. I’ve seen a lot of arguing amongst feminists about the idea of a feminist “dress code” or image or whatever you want to call it, and what usually ends up happening is that two opposing camps form. One camp says “there is no dress code, what the Hell are you babbling about, you’re just being paranoid” (otherwise known as the “no one’s trying to take away your mascara, honey” argument when the speaker is being patronizing). The other camp says “Of COURSE there’s a dress code, are you blind? Go to any feminist event and take a look around and you’ll see it”.

Now I fall squarely into the second camp. Yep, there’s a dress code. Of course it’s not official, because that’s not how feminists do things. It’s there, though. But again, I always wondered WHY the other side didn’t see it. Then I looked at the pictures taken at the festival and I had a flash of clarity.

The women who have that radfembutch gender identity that I was talking about earlier? For them it doesn’t feel like a dress code. For them it feels natural. It’s what makes them comfortable. The mainstream idea of “feminine” makes them distinctly uncomfortable. For most of those women, feminist culture probably feels like a safe haven, and feminist events like the one place where they can be themselves and nobody will give them any shit over it.

I really don’t think they realize that for other women, ones who don’t have the same gender identity as them, that look, that way of being, isn’t comfortable at all. It feels unnatural, just as unnatural as a skirt, heels and lipstick would probably feel to them. For a feminist like me, whose gender identity is pretty “feminine”, feminist events don’t feel like a safe haven or like coming home. I feel out of place. People look at me funny, and it’s not just me being paranoid. I’ve seen pictures of myself taken at those events, and I stick out like a sore thumb. Even if I’m in jeans and a t-shirt and I have no make-up on.

This is the complicated, confusing part that I’m trying to get at. It’s the meat of the whole issue. Gender identity is about more than clothes. Put me in basically the same clothes as the standard radfem “uniform” and I still don’t look like I belong. I don’t feel like it, either, and people don’t TREAT me like I belong. They look at me suspiciously, like I’m a spy. Or possibly a really evil, dangerous ninja. And it’s weird.

And yet I’ve had this conversation with radfems of that type, and they’ve told me that I’m imagining things. And I’ve tried to understand why they don’t see it, and ended up confused. And then I had that moment, and it clicked. Those women can’t imagine why I (and other women like me) don’t feel comfortable in their environments because they really believe that what feels natural to them is what’s natural for all women. They think women who feel differently have been brainwashed.

That’s not an unusual way of thinking, really. Most people assume that their subjective reality is the “truth” in some metaphysical sense and that everyone else is lying or wrong. In truth, though, everyone’s subjective reality is a little different, and we all see the world in different ways. Most of us never really grasp the fact that our reality isn’t universal and that others do not necessarily feel as we do. And that, I think, is where all these intra-feminist conflicts come from, the inability of people to see the world from someone else’s perspective.

I’m not saying that I’m some mystical being who’s above all this, by the way. It took me a while to grasp the fact that my reality wasn’t universal. For years I truly believed that everyone was bisexual and that people who said they weren’t were either deluded or lying. I finally accepted that I was wrong, but it took a while. I’m not sure that most people ever even try.

I’m not sure if any of this makes sense to anyone else. I just had a weird moment where something clicked and things that had been confusing me suddenly made sense. I’m still not sure what to do with that, but it was interesting enough that I though it might be worth sharing. Does anyone else get what I’m talking about? And, if I’m right and the core of the conflict here is partly that there are some significant differences in gender identity within feminism, and those differences are making it really hard for people to communicate with each other because our basic frames of reference are so different, what can we do about that?

It occurs to me that people who are used to doing work on race issues might have some interesting things to say about this, since they’re probably accustomed to having to deal with the “different frames of reference” thing.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Random Friday stuff…
Dinner tonight – chicken and sausage gumbo, which for some reason I was craving even though it’s been warm. Odd, since in warm weather my Cajun/Creole cravings usually manifest as Jambalaya. Maybe I’m coming down with something, I have been sneezing all day.

Also, coming off a conversation about food at APs place…I have an idea to throw to the peanut gallery (heh…eh, OK, I’m not funny). Does it seem to anyone else that a certain sector of the Left suffers from an odd sort of anhedonia? Almost as if the awareness of all that is crappy in the world renders people unable to take pleasure in simple things? Food, sex, music, whatever…it seems that for a certain subset of leftist people EVERYTHING must be Terribly Serious Business and the idea of doing anything simply because it gives pleasure is regarded with extreme suspicion. Thus you end up with mushy awful hippy food, oddly un-sexy cuddle-sex between people who don’t seem to be particularly attracted to each other, Billy Bragg and/or what my hairdresser calls “sad lesbian music”, and so on and so on. And on an intellectual level I think I understand why, but on a gut level…hey, it’s not my revolution if I can’t dance to it.
Why is there such a refusal to seek out and embrace joy on the Left? Do people think that if they’re happy they’ll be bad activists? Am I the only one who thinks that everyone needs to recharge their batteries occasionally? Is pleasure inherently a dangerous thing? Is it to do with the idea of self-indulgence? Fiddling while Rome burns, as it were? Is it just that nobody wants to think of themselves as Nero?
All of this confounds me, unrepentant sensualist that I am. I don’t WANT to live like that. I’d be miserable if I did. I think most of the people who do ARE pretty miserable, and I don’t think they need to be. So why? And am I a Bad Leftist because I don’t feel that way?

All of this musing sprang from one mention of the dreaded lentil loaf, BTW. I started thinking of leftist gatherings I’ve been to and it struck me that at every one of them the food has been dreadful. And this is the Bay Area, foodie Mecca, where you can’t walk more than a few blocks without tripping over a gourmet cheese shop or a farmers market. I just don’t get it. Where is the virtue in rejecting pleasure?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A bit of comic relief...

The whole Amp debacle reminded me of some other cartoons that I’d been meaning to post. I’d been looking for these for a while and I’m so glad that I finally found them, because they’re AWESOME.

These were written and drawn by the dude whose naked torso adorns my icon. See, I told you I didn’t just like him because he’s pretty. They probably aren’t quite as funny if you don’t know the band well enough to get WHY he’s making fun of the other two in the specific ways he is, but they’re still cute and amusing. Anyone who actually does know the band will love these cartoons to death, especially since the reasons for making fun of both guys still stand nearly ten years later.

(I have to say though that I, personally, would have made fun of Kaoru’s collection of anime geek toys too. Seriously, what kind of grown man has a rubber ducky collection made out of Gundams and Evangelion figurines?
I nominate him for the “World’s Sexist Geek” award.)

Now for the cartoons...first up we have Die. The thing about the hair...for some reason known only to himself the guy always has a little fan at his feet on stage, which produces a hilarious Victoria's Secret commercial-like effect with his silky locks blowing gently in the breeze.
Yes, it really is as silly as it sounds. Bless.

Bold is the actual text from the comic, normal print is the translator's added comments.

Title of Manga: "The 'Lone Wolf' Guitarist"
"I am the Lonely Guitarist..."

"Fluttering out my red hair, I will melt all your hearts!!!"

But... hang on a minute!!

Doesn't the Die I draw, kinda remind you of *'Gachapin'? (To all the Die fans of the country, I'm sorry!)
The small print to the bottom-right says "Sorry Die-kun~"

The green thing in the pic above is Gachapin, BTW. It's from a Japanese kid's TV show that was kind of like Sesame Street.

And now Kaoru. This one used to be affectionately known to the fans as "The God of Death". I never will understand why so many people find him so intimidating, I've met the guy and he seemed perfectly nice to me.
Also, his cheekbones really are that impressive, if not more so, up close.

Title of Manga: "The Guitarist of the Soul"
I am the Guitarist of the Soul...

I spike my hair up like blades, and I want your soul...

The arrow pointing to the character behind says "Kyo-kun". Tragic as it is to say this, the difference in scale in the pic isn’t all that far off the reality. Poor Kyo, he’s his own chibi.

But... hang on a minute...

Kaoru-kun is REALLY similar to the Grim Reaper, isn't he!!This ain't even funny/a good joke...(To all the Kaoru Fans of the country, I'm sorry!!)

See, I DO like geeks! OK, so I mock them relentlessly, but it’s done with love.
(PS I didn’t do the translations, so don’t kill me if they’re not exactly right.)

Also worth noting for those who got bent out of shape about Amp's cartoons...exaggeration and mockery are inevitable parts of the art of cartooning. That's just how it works. Cartoons are funny precisely because the readers understand the visual shorthand.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Alas drama continues, plus some more anti-trans bullshit

The radfems versus Alas fight seems to have broken out again. Well, actually it’s more like a certain tiny subset of radfems plus a few garden-variety bigots versus pretty much everyone else on the left, with a side order of said tiny subset of radfems versus Amp specifically.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will point out that I’m not exactly unbiased here. Alas was one of the first places that I found that made sense to me when I started dipping my toe into blogging, and I’ve always been glad that it existed. I found a lot of other interesting blogs through Alas, and encountered some really great people. I also happen to like Amp, even when I don’t agree with him – he seems like a thoroughly decent human being to me. We could really use more of those.

So, I’m not unbiased here. However, even taking that into account…look, I can see why people might have been offended by Amp’s cartoon. (If those people took themselves far too seriously and had no sense of humor. Oops, there I go again being biased.) But, yeah, I get why the cartoon ticked some people off. If said people wanted to say “you know what, Amp, that pisses me off and I’d like to tell you why, and ask you to explain why you chose to tread on such sensitive ground” then OK, fine. That’s part of what blogs are for, after all, thrashing out our differences.

However…in what way is Amp’s weight relevant to this discussion? The man is a cartoonist, people, not a model. Washboard abs are not in his job description. A perfect body isn’t in the job description for a blogger, either – if it was most of the blogosphere would be out of business. And that’s OK – not everyone has to be conventionally beautiful, or skinny, or whatever. Pretending that everyone IS required to be physically perfect is, well, kind of fascist to be honest.

So, I’ll say it again over here. Argue with the ideas if you like. Critique the logic or the reasoning, but can we please lay off the personal insults? It’s irrelevant, it’s childish, and it’s shallow. Knock it off.

And about the trans issue, I’m just going to repeat what I wrote over on Alas.

“I’m no authority about trans issues, but here’s what bothers me about the way this conversation keeps playing out. It’s as if people want their abstract political theories to be more important than other people’s actual lived experiences. The implication seems to be that we have a theory on gender and trans people are fucking it up by existing, so they should shut up. We liked the theory, why should we have to change it just because that group of people over there keep telling us that it doesn’t work for them and doesn’t describe their experiences?

The problem with which is, those people do exist, and ignoring them and/or demanding that they stop mucking up your tidy little theory makes you A. not a very good theorist and B. a collossal asshole. Theories are MEANT to evolve, that’s why we call them theories, not rules.”

Is that clear enough? Theories are fine, theories are great, but when your theory consistently fails to address the lived experiences of a whole bunch of people you might want to do a little rethinking.
I totally stole this from Verte. Apparently my personality is 73% masculine and 43% feminine. When compared to other people my age and gender, however, I’m only 10 % feminine. Even though I wear heels and lipstick almost every day and cry over baby birds. Are all the women my age completely wimpy and passive or something? Because that’s what the test seemed to be measuring, woman=passive and unsure of self and man=active and competent. This is the problem with having a psychology degree - you can always tell why these kinds of tests are set up the way they are and what specific questions are designed to measure.
Test is here if you’re interested.
Depressing stuff

I went over to the Guardian page to figure out what was going on with the floods back home – I will admit that at first I didn’t take the whole thing that seriously because, um, heavy rain in the UK? Not exactly unheard of. I was wrong, though – this time it really is a big deal. British readers, how are you all doing? Is everyone OK?
Then I wandered off to look at some of the other articles and made the mistake of reading the comments posted in response.
Apparently MRAs are making some serious inroads in the UK. Every single article on the Guardian Women’s page has some prat posting a response in which he whines tediously about how evil Western women are and how he’s going to get himself a mail order bride, so there! Articles about FGM – not so much the practice itself as how to limit its application amongst immigrant communities in the UK, where the practice is illegal – bring out the “male circumcision is just as bad” brigade (hello thread hijack!). Articles about anorexia prompt more self-centered whinging about the evilness of British women and how anorexia is somehow caused by feminism (even though the disease pre-dates the movement).
And all I have to say is…my British brothers (the MRA ones, I mean, I’m quite fond of the rest of them), kindly STFU already. Or at least find something important to complain about. There’s a fucking crisis going on, can you not lay off the whining for a few days and go help sandbag or something?
I’d almost forgotten how entrenched that particular kind of snotty, whiny, dismissive sexism is in the UK. Now I understand why so many of my British sisters are so pissed off all the time.
And seriously guys, all this whining? Not very manly. Not that I care much about preserving traditional gender roles, really, but since you’re all so concerned about your manliness you might want to keep it in mind. You’re not exactly helping your own cause here.

PS. If any of the “male circumcision and FGM are exactly the same” lot come across this and are tempted to start an argument on my blog…don’t. I’ve heard it a million times, and you’re still wrong. I’m quite willing to entertain the idea that male circumcision is unnecessary and should be eliminated, but to claim that the two practices are the same is just plain dumb. Not to mention incredibly cynical and self-serving.

PPS. It’s not just the MRAs that need to STFU. All the whining about immigration? The British population has increased by only 4 million since 1971. That’s not exactly a crisis, so again, STFU already.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Male readers – Care to give me some advice? (Women can play too)

So I have this new friend, acquired through some recent concert-going experiences, who has presented me with a most confusing problem. Well, for me it’s confusing. I’m hoping that it may be a little less confusing to other people and that they can help me figure it out.

Where to start? So, this girl is a lot younger than me, in her early twenties (I’m 33). We seem to be developing a big sister/little sister sort of relationship, and that’s cool, that works for me. I like her, and I’m happy to play that role if she needs me to, which seems to be the case. She’s also very different to me in a lot of ways. Actually, she’s different to pretty much any other friend I’ve ever had, and this is where my big sisterly prowess is failing me.

She’s a pretty geeky kid. Into comics and roleplaying games and such. Kinda tomboyish. Not quite comfortable in her own skin. Really insecure about her weight. She has an awesome personality and she’s smart and funny and all that good stuff, but yeah, geeky and awkward and thoroughly unglamorous (and not at all interested in having me glam her up, either).
She’s also never had a boyfriend. Never even been kissed. This is mind-bending to me. Especially the part where she is quite convinced that this is a permanent state and that she never will find a boyfriend. She is convinced that no man has ever been interested in her, which to me seems pretty much impossible – after all she really is a lot of fun to be around and she has tons of male friends. And yet, somehow none of those friendships ever turns into anything romantic (which again seems odd to me, since I have a habit of hooking up with my friends both male and female).

It’s not that she doesn’t WANT a boyfriend, she just seems to have no idea how to go about getting one. I’ve been trying to help, but I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to get her past the “no one wants me” mindset. See, I’ve never felt like that. Not even as a teenager. I was an arrogant little shit when I was a teenager, and even worse at her age – I always pretty much assumed that I could have almost any man I wanted unless he was already spoken for. She keeps saying things like “I know you won’t understand”, and as much as I want to argue, she’s right – I don’t understand. And that’s making it hard for me to be of any assistance.
So, female readers…did any of you ever feel like that? If so, how did you get past it? What can I do to help and support her?

Then there’s the other problem. The kind of guys she’s interested in? Not the kind I’m into at all. Not something I have any experience with. She adores boys who are shy and geeky and sweet as can be, almost innocent-looking. To me they kind of seem like life-size teddy bears, to be honest, though of course I’m not going to say that to her. The thing is, I don’t know any men like that, and I’ve never had any as friends. Most of my male acquaintances could be described not so much as “quiet” as “damn, does he ever shut up?”. My male friends are LOUD, brash and confident and often pretty full of themselves, honestly. I don’t have any experience dealing with sweet, shy, geeky guys. I suspect that I probably scare the crap out of them.

How do two shy people hook up, anyway? I can see the kind of guys she likes around and about, I am able to identify them, but I’m not sure if my intervening and trying to get to know them with the intent of introducing them to her would be a good idea or if it would just freak them out. It seems like most of those guys are WAY too shy to approach her even if they realized that she’s interested, which I don’t think they do.

Shy guys – how does one approach you? As in, in a way that would be comfortable for you? Can you even tell when another equally shy person is interested in you (it’s not like she’s going to just say “damn, dude, that’s a fine ass you have there” like I might)? Where do you all hang out? Since she’s into general geek stuff I’ve been suggesting that she might want to spend more time at comic stores and other geek hangouts, maybe join some kind of sci-fi book club or gaming group. Can you think of anything else? Where do sweet, shy geek boys hang out other than in the IT department?

I’m seriously at a loss here. Help me!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Help!!! Does anyone know anything about taking care of birds?

So I seem to have adopted a baby bird. I found it hopping along in the middle of the street looking lost, and I was worried that it would get hit by a car so I tried to move it to the sidewalk...then I realised that it's a baby that must have fallen out of it's nest and it was hopping because it can't fly yet. It even still has down. I tried to find it's nest but no luck, and I tried putting it in a tree to at least get it away from cats but it just sat there looking helpless. Then every time I went back to check on it it hopped into my hands and begged for food. So, because I'm a huge sap and I was pretty sure it would die if I left it there overnight, there is now a baby bird living in a shoe box on top of my stereo. Watch as any trace of bad-ass reputation I may have ever had goes up in flames...

The problem is, I know nothing about birds and have no idea how to take care of it. I'm a city girl, I've never even held a baby bird before. I made a sort of sugar water and fed it some with a dropper, and I think it's warm enough, but I have no idea how much or how often to feed it. It seems to be sleeping now. Should I wake it up again later to feed it? Is it worth taking it to the pet store and seeing if they have any idea what to do with it? To reiterate - this bird is TINY. You could probably fit three of it in my hand, and I have small hands. Putting it back outside in the morning isn't an option - it can't fly, and it can't hunt. So what do I do now?

Friday, June 29, 2007

See, and I said I wasn’t going to talk about anything serious.

I have to get up early tomorrow so it turns out I’m chained to my computer for the evening (boo hiss), and you know what that means? Actual blogging!

I’m guessing that by now everyone’s heard about the attempted car bombs in London. Those were both pretty close calls – its sheer luck that they were found before they went off.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and there’s one nagging thought that I can’t get away from. Not only that ignoring the underlying problem that’s causing things like car bombs isn’t going to make the problem go away – obvious, but people do seem to have a hard time grasping this fact – but that a really big part of the problem isn’t being addressed by either the media or the governmental powers that be at all.

By which I mean – I have yet to see any mainstream acknowledgment of the fact that, whatever anyone may think of the actions taken by Muslim extremist groups (for the record, no, I do not approve of those actions), they actually do have some valid grievances. I’m not sure if it’s because people can’t quite separate the means of expressing those grievances from the underlying issues, or if the racism and cultural imperialism runs so deep that people genuinely do not see that the Arab world has some really valid reasons to be angry with the West, and particularly with the USA, the UK and France. I’m guessing it’s a mixture of both. Regardless, the fact remains – the Arab world has all kinds of reasons to be angry with the West, and most of them have nothing to do with religion per se. Most of them have to do with things like the West’s nasty habit of propping up vicious dictators, our disconcerting habit of ignoring human rights abuses by our allies while screaming about those of our enemies, our quite blatantly utilitarian approach to the region in general. Pretty much every time the Western powers have gotten involved in the Middle East they’ve royally screwed things up (drawing completely inappropriate borders in an attempt to carve up territory amongst our greedy selves, anyone? Selling torture devices to the Saudis?), and we have yet to demonstrate any ability to learn from past mistakes. We have also yet to apologize for them. As much as people here may not want to acknowledge this, lots of people in the Middle East dislike and distrust us, and it’s not out of religious bigotry. There’s a history there. Look at the way we hung the Kurds out to dry after the first Gulf War. People distrust us for a reason.

I really don’t see any way in which this situation is ever going to be resolved without that basic fact being acknowledged and dealt with – that the Arab world has legitimate grievances, that the West did a lot of very bad things during the colonial period, and that some of the bad things continue to this day. What is it going to take to get people to see that? Do you actually have to grow up in the Middle East to grasp this fact?
Because every time I try to talk to people about this issue I’m confronted by this blank look, as if the very idea that there might be actual reasons why terrorist organizations exist and have popular support is completely incomprehensible. It’s not incomprehensible. It’s very easy to understand if you just take the time to study the history, and if you acknowledge that people there are just like people here. They feel the way they do for a reason. They’re not just crazy. Until that fact is addressed…well, I’m seeing a lot more car bombs in our future.
Crazy radfems again

BelleDame pointed me over to yet another completely batshit screed over in Twisty-land. I swear that woman gets more reality-challenged every day (Twisty, not Belle).

This particular rant was all about a disabled athlete who was profiled in Sports Illustrated. Not a magazine I have much (or indeed any) respect for in general, I have to say. Fawning articles on sports celebrities and boring stats interspersed with the occasional bikini issue. Yawn. However…

Twisty’s basic point seems to be that EVEN THIS POOR DISABLED WOMAN is being sexualized (or pornified, or whatever the hell she’s calling it this week) by the eeevil male-dominated media.

To which I have to ask…um, in what way is a disabled woman being “pornified” any different from any other woman being “pornified”? Like, it would be OK if she wasn’t disabled? We already know that’s not what Twisty thinks, so what the hell is she on about?

Now, I’m not a PWD, so I may be wrong, but I’ve never gotten the impression that PWD particularly want to be viewed as desexualized by virtue of their disability, which is what Twisty seems to be implying would be desirable. Or assuming. She does that a lot, makes assumptions about groups to which she does not belong and into which she does not seem to have any particular insight. I guess it’s that “I’m every woman” thing again. Except if she doesn’t even speak for me, a white Western woman of similar class and cultural background, then how in the hell can she possibly speak for Class Woman, much less Class Women With Disabilities?

Her little spiel did give me some insight into how she thinks, though, and the thing is I don’t think it’s just her who thinks this way. I think it’s a lot of radfems.
The underlying assumption here seems to be that all women find the male gaze oppressive and wish to be freed from it. All women dislike being viewed or depicted in a sexualized way, see it as something forced upon them that they are powerless to resist. Eliminating that sexualization is a major goal (in some cases it seems to be THE major goal) of the feminist movement. I think that most of her readers would agree, actually. This seems to be a very common radfem view, although it isn’t universal.

And here’s where I part company with Twisty and Co., ideologically speaking. The idea that all women resent being viewed in a sexualized way and see the male gaze as something oppressive that they wish to be freed from? Not true. It’s true for some people, most definitely, it may even be true for many people. I can particularly see how that feeling might be very common amongst women who have been abused in a sexual way, although interestingly enough it’s not universal even there. But the idea that that viewpoint, that desire, is universal amongst ALL women, everywhere? Not true. Demonstrably false, in fact.

Where I really parted company with that group forever to the point where I’m not sure that any sort of agreement or working together is possible, though, is over the idea that eliminating the sexualization of women in that particular, clothing and make-up, how women are seen in the media in the First World way is the primary goal of the movement. Because…huh? See, I think our first goal, our VERY first goal, before we worry about anything else, should be dealing with the things that actually threaten women’s lives in a practical sense. The fact that the vast majority of the world’s poorest people are women? That’s a problem that needs dealing with right now. The fact that that poverty is literally killing them? Also a right-now sort of problem. Human trafficking? Another right now problem.

Now, one could construct an argument that these things are related to each other, that, for example, a tendency to view women in a sexualized way contributes to the trafficking problem, and I would actually agree with that. The problem is that she’s putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Getting rid of Sports Illustrated and all glossy magazines (because the ones for women are just as guilty of this as the ones for men) would not solve the trafficking problem and, quite frankly, an excessive focus on things like that makes Western feminists look like selfish assholes who don’t care about anything but themselves. This point has been made over and over again by WOC, but it never seems to get through. OK, fine, so you (Twisty, whoever) really, really care about the way women are depicted in the media. It bothers you. OK. BUT…do you seriously think that’s priority number one? And if you do, what the hell have you been smoking? Seriously…the mind, it boggles. No wonder people think we’re trivial and irrelevant.

The whole thing is fascinating to me, though, because something finally clicked in my head when I was reading that thread. The problem that I have with a lot of radfems is exactly this. They really, truly believe that all women feel as they do, and that any woman who says she doesn’t is either lying or brainwashed. They genuinely do not see that other women have different priorities.

That’s a problem, because most women don’t share their priorities. Not at all. A lot of women have some concerns about the way women are depicted in the media, but in terms of wishing to be free of “the gaze” altogether and never looked upon in a sexualized way by men again? That’s pretty unusual. It’s not the norm. It’s certainly not the highest priority, not even for privileged Western women. The idea that it could be a high priority for women in the rest of the world is simply laughable. You think someone cares about whether a magazine takes pretty pictures of a disabled athlete if she’s worrying about how to feed herself and her family? If she’s in the middle of a war zone?

Like I said, it’s a matter of priorities.
I really will catch up with the blogging soon…
Apologies to all, I’ve been a crappy excuse for a blogger recently. My only excuse is that it’s summer and the sun is shining and the birdies are a-chirping and I’m finding the idea of walking away from the computer and going outside much more appealing. That and looking at all the baby squirrels running around. Seriously, have you seen those things? So cute! Plus I’m going to two shows this week and spending time with a friend who I’m not going to see for a while, plus looking for a new job, so I’m sort of distracted in general.

Speaking of those shows…I’m thinking that I will deliberately wear the most obnoxiously bright colors I can find just to annoy the gothic lolitas and the whiny emo kids. There’s an aspect of my personality that probably doesn’t come across online very well, a tendency to want to sort of poke and prod people who I find annoying just to see if I can get a reaction out of them, and the lolitas and emo kids REALLY bring out that part of me. I keep wanting to smile and tell jokes and be all “cheer up, kids!” - not because I actually want to cheer them up, just because their moping annoys me. I was seriously contemplating showing up in some kind of cute little pencil skirt and tank top ensemble just to prove a point “hey, kids, guess what, there is a way to do cute and feminine without looking like an overgrown infant!”. That wouldn’t be very practical in a mosh pit, though, so jeans and a t-shirt it is.
The other advantage of bright colors is that it should make it a lot easier for my friend to actually find me after the show, which is always an issue. Being petite of stature does make one hard to spot in a crowd of much bigger people. At least my friend has bright, and I mean BRIGHT, red hair so she’s easy to find. She’s like a homing beacon.

So yeah, I will get back to the serious stuff soon. When the sun stops shining.