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.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer concert fun and fashion trends that need to die.

So it looks like I’m actually going to see Dir en grey twice. A friend of mine lives in Santa Cruz and she’s moving soon, and I’d kind of like to see her before she goes, so what better way to send her off than spending a whole day wandering around in the sunshine, then seeing a show?
I’m still not looking forward to the Deftones. I’m thinking of heading for the bar when they come on. Hey, at least the bar area will be entirely fangirl-free since none of them are old enough to drink.

Ah, the fangirls. I do love DEG but damn are most of their American fans annoying. Between the whiny little emo kids and the gofflings who talk about cutting as if it was something to be proud of and the completely deranged Japanophile babes who will no doubt spend the entire day stalking the band and generally behaving as if they’re at an N’Synch concert. And then there are the Gothic Lolitas. How did a perfectly respectable rock band end up with such idiotic fans?

Oh yeah. The Internet. Most of those kids fell in love with the band through pictures from ten years ago, when they were still Visual Kei and wore dresses and make-up. I really don’t get VK fans – it seems as if all that it takes to get their attention is a dude in a skirt and lipstick. Any dude will do, really, as long as he’s Japanese – they don’t seem to be able to distinguish between individuals at all. Everyone’s “beautiful” as long as he has enough make-up on and sufficiently overexposed photos (it really is amazing what you can do with lighting). Either beautiful or, God forbid, “kawaii”. I’m really starting to dislike that word.

Dir en grey haven’t been VK for years They pretty much look like a normal rock band now, with some added gore and extra bonus tattoos. So why do the little VK girls cling on, like badly dressed leeches, turning up at every damn show and whining about how the band don’t look girly or play their oldest songs any more? The first time I saw DEG there were a group of teenagers behind me who spent the entire show whining about the bass player’s shoes. Apparently motorcycle boots are unacceptable footwear for a rock musician. Who knew? They seriously expected him to get up there in a miniskirt and heels, as part of a summer metal tour headlined by Korn, in America…even though nary a skirt has been seen for years and years. Why? Why the insistence on clinging to the past? There are tons of current VK bands out there who still wear all the sparkly crap. Wouldn’t those kids be happier at an An CafĂ© show? Please? So that I wouldn’t have to listen to them bitching all the damn time?

Seriously, how does a band that looks like this…

And sounds like this…

Clever Sleazoid.

(Remember, kids, “someday I will fuck your parents”!)

Continue to attract fans like this?

(And yes, people really do show up for concerts dressed like this. Sad to say but the first pic is far more typical of what they end up looking like. The second one is much too pretty - they never look like that in real life.)

(Well, OK, there is this to explain why the little girls stick around...

But still!)

Seriously, I don't get it. I would provide photographic evidence of this bizarre incongruity but I couldn’t actually bring myself to take pictures of the fans at any of the shows. I was worried that the fugliness might break my camera. It was like a Hot Topic exploded. And that was before they started talking. Some of them were even threatening to parapara. At a METAL show. Are they trying to get their asses kicked?

Much as I try to be non-judgemental it’s really challenging to do so with the Gothic Lolitas. I had a friend from Osaka when I was in college who took a trip home right as the whole movement was exploding. He was so horrified by all the girls traipsing around in ribbons and bonnets that he called me to complain, going off on a spiel culminating in the words “could they be any less sexy if they tried?”.
In fact I still think his summation of the look was about as good as it gets.

“They look like over-decorated cakes.”

And this was from a girly goth dude who wore eyeliner every day.

Why has this look migrated to the US? And can we make it go away?

I’m sure I’m going to take a malicious sort of pleasure in laughing at the goth lolis who will no doubt turn up in Santa Cruz (they always do). Watching them sweat like pigs in their horrible polyester dresses under the summer sun in hippy beach town should be amusing, not to mention what the Deftones fans are going to make of them. They’re even funnier in the pit. Who goes into a moshpit with ribbons in their hair? And then whines because their poufy little dress gets all mangled and they lose some of their 50 billion ribbons?
The temptation to garrote them with their own ribbons is ever-present. Hey, I never said I was a nice person. Whenever they start whining I’m always tempted to dump them in the pit at Slayer. Have fun, kids!

This is part of why I keep pushing Dir en grey. They really are a great band, and they deserve better fans. Actual metal fans, not the whiny emo kids who hate all the new stuff anyway.

And if one more person calls Kyo “kawaii” when he’s covered in his own blood I’m going to poke her eyes out with a fork. How exactly is this cute?

It’s like puppies and kittens and fluffy little bunnies! Except not at all.

Oh, and did I mention the stalking? It’s pretty creepy. No wonder the band seem to be going out of their way to avoid their fans here. Some of those kids freak me out, and I’m not the one who they’re trying to molest. They even stalk the roadies, which is just sad.

I’m sure the actual show will be great, but I really could do without the fangirls. Eh, at least San Francisco will have a better crowd. We don’t speak idiot here.

If any of you are planning to go see the Deftones I really can’t recommend highly enough that you get there early so that you can catch Dir en grey. They’re a killer live band, and they really do need some exposure among actual rock fans rather than just the Japanophile kids. The new album’s awesome, too. See, look, here’s another song!


And another one! This one's softer and he's actually singing rather than screaming. Don't say I'm not considerate.

Ryojoku no ame

Please, God, let some other adult metal fans in the US get exposed to this band so that I don't have to go to shows with insane teenagers any more. I'm begging here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Movie Recommendation.

Has everyone seen Pan’s Labyrinth? If you haven’t you really should. I didn’t go see it in the theater, can’t quite remember why, but then this weekend I finally rented the DVD and…
It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. Perfect from start to finish. There’s literally nothing I would change, and I used to get paid to write movie reviews. I’m pretty picky.
The reviews of this movie really didn’t do it justice, probably in part because most reviewers were too overwhelmed to write anything coherent. There are so many layers there, myth interwoven with a painfully realistic story about fascism, as well as a story about children and imagination. The visuals are stunning – I especially loved the fairies that look like praying mantises. I also loved the fact that the kid looks and acts like a normal kid, not one of those horrifyingly perky Hollywood robo-children.
About the “this movie isn’t for children” reviews…I’m not sure that I agree with that, actually. It’s definitely not for toddlers, but at 7 or 8 I would have loved this movie. Kids will of course bawl their eyes out at the end, but then lots of movies for kids have that impact. There’s definitely violence, both real and fantasy, and kids may not pick up the political subtext or know what to do with it (although both Mr. Cassandra and I noted that as children both of us would have done so, probably because we grew up in dictatorships).
Also, can we just lay the whole “all male filmmakers hate women” myth to rest? No man who hated women could have possibly made this movie. Both the young female lead and the older character who’s spying for the rebels are portrayed with far too much affection and respect for that. That’s one of the best things about this movie, actually – the main character is a child and she’s not treated with the slightest trace of condescension. None of the characters are.
Having seen the reviews in the American press, and then the actual movie, the thing that jumps out at me the most is how afraid Americans are of death. I don’t mean just in a personal sense, I mean death as an idea, a phenomenon. I don’t think any American filmmaker would have given this movie the ending Del Torro did – they’d have felt compelled to make it happier, to “explain” things. Most of the earth believes in some sort of spirit world that’s separated from the mundane world by the thinnest and most permeable of veils. Americans, and Brits, in fact the entire British Diaspora, are actually in the minority in terms of their insistence on a strict separation between one world and the next. I really do think that an inability to accept mortality is at the heart of that. In many ways I feel incredibly lucky not to have been brought up within that mindset.
Anyway, if you haven’t already see this movie! It’s beautiful, it’s haunting, and it will make you remember what it was like to be a child, before all your perceptions of the world were forcefully blunted. Just don’t be surprised if you get weepy at the end.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Good news – I’ve started seriously working out again.
Bad news – My deltoids hurt every time I raise my arms. I think it was the Pilates moves that did it. Damn Pilates…it looks so easy until you actually DO it. My abs seem to be fairly strong still, which is good, although I won’t be able to actually SEE them till I lose some weight. Strong abs are still good from a strength and stability POV, though, so I’m feeling pretty happy in spite of the muscle pain.

Funny thing though…I used to feel weird about strength training. I always worried that I would develop Governator-style muscles, which I find disgusting on both men and women. Lately I’ve realized that I’m probably not even capable of developing those kinds of muscles, genetically speaking. Both of my parents are small-ish, and my Dad had some decent muscle tone when he was younger but he never got bulky even when he was working out every day. Honestly the diseases for which lack of exercise is a contributing factor should be far more of a concern, since I have multiple family members with those.

So, I’m working out. The weird thing is that once I got past the mental block I actually LIKE feeling stronger. I was a strong kid, it’s nice to feel that way again. Honestly, I’m feeling really resentful of the whole ideology that women are supposed to be delicate little flowers and therefore weights? Are you insane? Just, like, jog or something! Except I don’t like jogging, and I do kind of like the strength training.

And speaking of the whole woman as fragile flower idea…some dude called me “doll” on Sunday. It was the weirdest thing…I was crossing the street and this random guy smiles at me and says “Hey, doll” and then follows me and tries to chat me up. And I’m thinking…”doll”? Dude, I’m 33, could you not think of a more age-appropriate generic sexist endearment? Don’t women sort of move beyond the realm of baby-talk at some point? Honey or darling or whatever I would understand, but when I hear “doll” I think of some teen or early-twenty-something girl in a cute little sundress, possibly with pigtails. I was in jeans, t-shirt and sandals, with no make-up on and my hair down. Doll?

I ran this past Mr. Cassandra and a couple of male friends and got “the guy had no idea how old you are, he probably thought you were about 25” and “well, you are kind of small”. To which I think…how hard is it to tell a woman’s age, really? And what the hell does height have to do with anything? OK, I was wearing sunglasses so the tiny telltale lines around the eyes (which Mr. Cassandra claims do not exist and I, obsessive weirdo that I am, have seen the beginnings of since my late teens) weren’t visible, but still…doll? I’m not sure whether to be amused or insulted.

Older readers (by which I mean older than me)…at what point does this stuff stop? Is it just a matter of how one dresses, ie. if a woman isn’t in obviously middle-aged clothes she still gets it? Do people take their age cues from stuff other than a person’s actual face, or is it just that in the minds of some men women are never really adults?

I just thought it was a weird thing to say.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weird-ass late-night blogging

Now here’s a thought, a philosophical question if you will. Female beauty, how one feels about it, how one relates to it, to what extent one resents it’s ever present prominence in all of our lives…
How does one’s sexual orientation affect that? How one feels about those things? How one reacts to other women who are considered beautiful?

For those of you who are thinking “Cassandra, what are you babbling about, and why? What have you been smoking?” let me explain where this is coming from. I’ve been having a little e-mail chat with a friend, and we happened to be talking about women getting jealous of other women who are dating men the first set of women lust after. Jealous in the insane, wanting to claw eyes out, potentially bunny-boiling sense.

Neither of us seem to get it, and that got me thinking. Is this a bi thing? See, if I see a man I have the hots for with a beautiful woman my usual reaction isn’t to think “I hate her! She’s a bitch!” so much as it is to think “Damn she’s pretty. I can see why he went for her. I wonder if she likes girls?”. I usually end up enjoying looking at both of them for a while. When single I usually end up creating a fun little fantasy threesome in my head. I sit around with male friends and point out women I find beautiful, and if they say “why yes, she really is beautiful” that doesn’t make me feel bad about myself at all. I just don’t look at it as a me or her, only one queen in a hive kind of thing. There’s plenty of honey to go around.

Am I a bizarre freak of nature who for some odd reason just isn’t that competitive with other women in terms of looks, or is it because I like looking at beautiful women just as much as I like looking at beautiful men? That I see beautiful women as potential lovers rather than as rivals? Or did my mother just fail to implant me with the hatred and distrust of other women chip, radical free-thinking weirdo that she was?

And then I started thinking about radfems and political lesbianism and all that stuff. And something struck me as odd.

I went to a few radfem gatherings back in the day. You know what always seemed weird to me? How little hugging there was. Any other time I’ve been in a group of women who all know each other there’s been cuddling all over the place. I cuddle my female friends constantly. Even women I’m friendly with on a fairly superficial level get hugged hello and goodbye. I do this with my male friends too, but I realize that I may be a little unusual in that regard. What can I say, I’m cuddly. Anyway, it always seemed odd to me how little hugging there was in radfem groups, in fact how cold the interpersonal energy was in general. For all the talk about loving women and sisterhood I wasn’t feeling much affection there, which is part of the reason I stopped going.

It’s even odder when you realize that most of those women identify as lesbians. Put a room full of lesbians together and I’d expect hugging, even flirting, lots of happy physical interaction, but nothing. Nada. What’s that about? Why the coldness?

And then I think – political lesbian. What does that really mean? In most cases it means a woman who is heterosexual in orientation who has chosen not to fuck men for political reasons. Actually fucking women is not required, as Sheila Jeffries has been kind enough to point out. ATTRACTION to other women is not required. In fact, in an odd way it almost seems to be discouraged. Every time I hear the term “safe space” I can’t help but notice that “safe” seems to mean “non-sexual”, and if we’re talking about a group of lesbians isn’t that a little odd? That we would want it to be non-sexual? Why would we want that? Why is that a desirable goal?

I guess if you’re not actually attracted to other women it’s a desirable goal. If being a political lesbian is about retreat from men, who in many cases the women who thus identify have been hurt by and don’t trust, then it makes perfect sense.

But what about the actual lesbians? The ones who are attracted to other women? Where do they fit in? If they were to get flirty in that space, would that make it no longer safe? Isn’t that really weird and stifling, if they feel that they have to muffle their sexuality in order not to make the basically straight women who have chosen to self-define as lesbians uncomfortable?

And then I started thinking about the radfem dislike and condemnation of beauty rituals in all their various forms. It sort of makes sense, really, if you keep the idea “political lesbian” in mind…if one isn’t actually attracted to other women then why would one want them to be beautiful, or to make oneself beautiful in order to attract those other women? I’m not even talking about men here, I’m talking about the way women who actually are attracted to women relate to each other. How much of the “beauty practices suck” stuff is coming from actual lesbians and how much is coming from political lesbians? And if it’s coming from political lesbians…well, why should anyone else listen? That’s such a small, narrowly defined group of people and their entire ideology is founded on a rejection of sexuality, why should anyone else really care what they think about it?

And then I’m back to where I started. I love looking at beautiful women. I enjoy having them look back at me. To whatever extent I indulge in beauty practices, it’s as much to appeal to other women as it is to appeal to men. Not only that, it’s to appeal to MYSELF. If I can look at another woman and find her beautiful, why can’t I look at myself the same way? And is that maybe why, although I certainly have tendencies to beat myself up about the slightest weight deviation, in general I cut myself more slack than most women seem to? Because I look at myself the same way I look at other women, with an eye that seeks to find beauty rather than to find fault? Or is it a cultural thing to do with growing up in the Middle East, where women are in general far more inclined to praise other women’s beauty than to look for flaws?

How does everyone else feel about this? I know there are a few people hanging around here who’re not entirely straight…does any of this make sense to you? What about the women who are straight…does this sound totally nuts?

I’m curious more than anything. Indulge me. How do YOU feel about all this? How does it affect your politics? And how you relate to other women?

Also, some big heavy questions in the post below that are not entirely unrelated to the stuff here. I’m on a roll! A radfems are pissing me off roll. So what else is new?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sparkle Ponies are Go!
Otherwise known as, kiss my sparkly ass.

Kim has a brilliant post up about a certain article in Bitch magazine Everyone should read it. Funny and informative.

She’s right, you know. This stuff is bad for the movement. And yes, I know that everyone who’s not a radfem has been FORBIDDEN! Did you hear that, FORBIDDEN to talk shit about radfems, but you know what? I don’t care.

See, here’s the problem. As far as the general public is concerned? That IS feminism. Bitching about make-up and clothing and children’s toys and how people have sex – that’s what feminism is all about as far as most people are concerned.

Now, those of us who’re actually involved in the movement know damn well that’s not what it’s really about. I don’t give a shit what any other woman wears or who she fucks as long as she genuinely wants to make the world a better place. There are lots of ways to go about making the world a better place, and lots of different stuff that people can focus on, which is cool, people being individuals with different priorities and all.

HOWEVER…some issues are quite clearly more pressing than others. Helping victims of domestic violence escape dangerous situations and get on with their lives? Important. Providing counseling to rape victims, and working to raise awareness of how common rape is and why that’s a bad thing? Also important. Making sure that all women are able to exercise control over their reproductive abilities, and that means being able to HAVE kids if they want them as well as being able to NOT have kids if they don’t want them? Really fucking important.

Make-up? Miniskirts? Little toy horses for pre-teens? Give me a fucking break. Priorities, people!

Imagine you were a young person who knew nothing about feminism, and the article Kim fisked was the first feminist-identified thing you ever saw. What impression of the movement would you take away? Would you think that feminism was worth taking seriously? If you were a woman, would you think that feminism was in any way relevant to your life? Or would you be thinking “You, woman who I do not know, are fucking nuts. Whatever you have been huffing, please stop. It’s clearly not good for you.”. You’d be thinking “what kind of stupid, pointless movement is this?”. And you’d be right.

I mean seriously…the person who wrote that thinks that My Little Pony toys look like animated kiddy porn? Did she see an episode of Sailor Moon and somehow mistake it for porn? Has she seen any actual porn, ever? Or any actual anime porn, which is way freakier than even the freakiest live-action stuff? Because hey, I’m pretty kinky, and even I’m having a hard time imagining how anyone could depict those toys as pornographic. Has she ever seen a horse, either? Horses really do have rumps that are higher than their chests and shoulders, and they have some of the biggest asses in the animal kingdom. Big muscular ass plus long skinny legs equals a creature that can run really fast. One does not need a conspiracy theory to explain this.

And then there’s the anorexic part of the article. Um, forgive me for pointing this out, but by equine standards My Little Ponies are positively zaftig. I’ve never seen a real horse with legs that short and chunky. Also, when did it become acceptable to use “anorexic” as a general pejorative with a nice little implication of sluttiness on the side?

Of course there’s an argument to be made about toys for girls versus toys for boys and how very different they are and what message that sends. If people want to make that argument, fine, let’s talk about that, but could we drop the extraneous bullshit and focus on the real issues? Please?

And another thing…those toys are marketed at horsy girls. I happen to know quite a few horsy girls. I rode horses myself when I was younger – hey, I can even jump! And I still have the pants and the nifty little jacket!

You know what’s interesting about horsy girls? Not the most patriarchy-compliant of girls in general. Rather more independent of spirit and physically adventurous than is generally perceived as appropriate for a girl. Riding horses can be a downright liberating experience for a girl. It teaches a sense of one’s own competence and ability to master difficult skills. It teaches girls to be at ease in their own bodies. It teaches that a being of small stature is not necessarily at the mercy of a being of much greater stature. It also teaches interdependence rather than codependence, working together to achieve goals. It is, overall, a good thing for the girls involved.

The author is sort of right in one way, though, even though she sniffed something out and then completely misinterpreted it. For many girls there really IS something sexual about riding horses, it’s just not at all what she thinks. A lot of girls get into riding precisely because they love the feeling of being in control of a creature much larger than themselves. There’s a reason we use the word “riding” for sex too, you know. I honestly wonder how many toppy women first realized just how toppy they were as a result of learning to ride a horse. I will also point out that many women say that they rarely or ever experience orgasm. The horsy or formerly horsy women I know? Not so much. Learning to feel comfortable in your own body and take control of something 10 times your size has many interesting fringe benefits.

And no, random lurking weird guys, I do not mean that the women fuck the horses. It’s a symbolic thing.

You know the funniest part of all this? I hate My Little Pony and always have. At one point I convinced myself that the reason for that was that I was a feminist and they were oppressive to women in some mysterious way. Then I grew up and grew a brain.

I don’t hate My Little Pony because I’m a feminist, I hate it because I’m a goth and a punk and a metalhead. I loathe all things pastel and sparkly. It has nothing to do with politics, it’s an aesthetic preference. Those of us who are rational adults learn to distinguish between the two.

I think there’s a lot of that going on in radfem circles, people going “hey, I really hate X and it annoys the crap out of me, and I am a feminist, therefore the reason I hate X must be because it’s anti-woman”. This is sloppy thinking. One can always invent some grandiose theory to support one’s preferences, but in the end many preferences really are just preferences. I don’t hate pastels because I’m a feminist, I just hate pastels, period. I am drawn to things that are dark and spooky and primal because that’s my nature. Not everything is about politics. People have individual preferences and personalities, and that’s OK. The problem comes when people start extrapolating “I hate X and find it offensive” to mean “therefore X is oppressive to women as a whole and it must be stopped!”. One of my best friends loves all things pink and sparkly. I think she’s nuts and tease her about her desire to be Kylie Minogue when she grows up. She thinks my love for all things dark and spooky is weird and teases me about my dark gothy lipstick. So what? People are ALLOWED to be different. Some of us actually kind of get a kick out of those differences.

So, back to the main point. I think that all this focus on trivial shit is damaging to the movement. Not only is it a distraction from the more urgent issues, it’s bad PR. Think that feminism doesn’t need PR and that we should be above such worldly concerns? Guess again! I’ve lost count of how many younger women have told me that they don’t consider themselves feminists and feel that the movement has nothing to offer them right after telling me that they care about all the things that feminism is actually supposed to be about. Does this not strike anyone as a problem?

Like it or not, every movement needs to be aware of how it present itself to outsiders, and every movement needs fresh blood. If a movement is presenting itself in such a way that no fresh blood is forthcoming, that movement is going to die a slow, painful death. Is that really what we want? Are those of us of the “I’m a feminist, not the nuts kind” variety willing to sit back and watch that happen?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I am vexed. Also, a gay Satanist Republican? WTF?

Mr Cassandra came home the other day with short hair! OK, it's really not all that short, and it's still pretty awesome-looking, but it's at least 5 inches shorter than it was. Apparently his boss thought that the old style was "unprofessional". Which was sort of the point, really - he's in design for fucks sake! Why should he look "professional"?
So yes, I am vexed.
At least they didn't make him shave off the facial hair. I'm rather fond of the facial hair.

Remind me not to buy the boss a drink next time I see her, the depressingly conventional little twerp.

And speaking of facial hair...anyone who hasn't seen Veronica's commentary about her little skirmish with a certain gay Republican Satanist really should go check it out. His name is - and I'm not kidding about this - Jack Malebranche, and he is a very manly man indeed. So very manly that he feels that the entire gay community, and the straights too, should join him in heaping scorn upon any man who he feels is too queeny. See, apparently the problem with gay men is that they're too gay! If they would just see things Jack's way and be manly like him then homophobia would vanish, just like that!
Bears, apparently, are still too gay for his tastes.
Also, he loves Anton LaVey, and has chosen to attempt to recreate his look. Either that or he's going for the Emperor from Flash Gordon, I'm not quite sure. I do however assure you that his overwhelming attention to his own personal grooming is in no way unmanly (even though everyone else's is, apparently).
There's also some wierd crap in there about Spartans and gay samurai and a bunch of other assorted stereotypes that he would like to see replace the idea of gay men as femmey. The fact that the Spartans murdered babies considered to be insufficiently tough and the samurai were as meticulously groomed as even the queeniest queen appears to have been entirely lost on him. But hey, they all carried big manly swords!

File Mr Malebranche under "people are inherantly stupid and selfish". He'll certainly have plenty of company there. Perhaps he and Sheila Jeffries can have a little "we hate everyone who isn't just like us" party.