Posted: August 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Tags: body, Christianity, Feminism, gender, gender roles, identity, media, minority rights, politics, review, violence
Now back from holidays, and a final post on Cologne is yet to be written, but is percolating around my head, I have much linkspam to share. And as always, this is a fraction of the cool stuff I’ve read this month.
Clem Bastow (who I adore), wrote a great piece on periods in Daily Life:
Back in the good old-bad old days of being fully immersed in social networking, I became known for my propensity to talk about periods: mine, my friends’, my family members’, other people’s, periods on television, periods and advertising, periods, periods, PERIODS.
(It reached a crescendo when some dude on Twitter whined that it was “gross” and I drew this smily face for them in response in mother nature’s own brick-red ink.)
The reason for such menses-mad tweeting was, in part, because I think the continued taboo about menstruation is one of the most depressing aspects of our allegedly enlightened society.
Chloe Papas writes “Speak Up About Partner Abuse” in New Matilda *trigger warning for discussion of partner abuse*:
Partner abuse has become a disturbingly normalised aspect of everyday life in Australia and internationally. There’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way from the hush-hush ignorance of decades prior to the 50s and 60s, but it’s still something that we often choose to not discuss, to sweep under the rug. Many see it as a private family matter, as something that should be dealt with within the home and not talked about publicly. But if it is never discussed, never acknowledged, how can the cycle ever be broken?
Rebecca Solnit writes a great piece, “The Problem With Men Explaining Things” in Mother Jones:
Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.
I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about Al Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to Al Qaeda and no WMD, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)
Arrogance might have had something to do with the war, but this syndrome is a war that nearly every woman faces every day, a war within herself too, a belief in her superfluity, an invitation to silence, one from which a fairly nice career as a writer (with a lot of research and facts correctly deployed) has not entirely freed me. After all, there was a moment there when I was willing to let Mr. Important and his overweening confidence bowl over my more shaky certainty.
Corinne Grant at The Hoopla writes about how Tony Abbott is in fact “A Hootin’, Tootin’ Good Ole Boy“:
Tony Abbott is a good bloke. He’s a good Aussie bloke. He’s a good Aussie bloke who is fair dinkum on a bike.
He’s exactly like John Wayne if you replace the twelve gallon Stetson and six shooter with lycra tights and a Consumer Safety Standards approved bike helmet. He’s a hootin’, tootin’, rootin’, good ole boy who knows what he knows and knows it’s right because he knows it. (And by rootin’ I mean he thoroughly enjoys barracking at the cricket – not doing dirty grown-up things that would make the baby Jesus cry.)
Libby Anne writes at Love, Joy, Feminism “Christian Patriarchy to Men: You don’t have to grow up!“:
What are the qualities we generally associate with maturity? The ability to see things from others’ perspectives? The ability to accept that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that things don’t always go the way you want them to, and that you just have to deal with that? The ability to cooperate with others, to communicate and find compromises that everyone can be happy with?
Yeah, under Christian Patriarchy, a man doesn’t have to do any of that. Because he’s the head of the family, dammit!
What he says goes! God speaks to him, after all, and everyone else should listen and heed what God tells him! He’s the one who gets to make the decisions for the family, and for the children! Period! In other words, a man is allowed to act like a willful, spoiled child who always expects to get his own way. And if he doesn’t get his own way? Expect a reaction of confusion mixed with anger and righteous indignation.
N.K. Jemisin (who I love heaps) writes an excellent review of Dragon Age, and about how to write oppression and privilege well in, “Identity should always be part of the gameplay“:
So basically, the DA creators have had the sense to acknowledge that the non-optional demographics of a person’s background — her gender, her race, the class into which she was born, her sexual orientation — have as much of an impact on her life as her choices. Basically, privilege and oppression are built in as game mechanics. I can’t remember the last time I saw a game that so openly acknowledged the impact of privilege. Lots of games feature characters who have to deal with the consequences of being rich or poor, a privileged race or an oppressed one, but this is usually a linear, superficial thing. The title character in Nier, for example, is a poor single father who’s probably too old for the mercenary life (he looks about 50, but via the miracle of Japanese game traditions he’s probably only 30), but he keeps at it because otherwise his sick daughter will starve. His poverty is simply a motivation. No one refuses to hire him because they think poor people are lazy. He meets a well-dressed, well-groomed young man who lives in a mansion at one point, and the kid doesn’t snub him for being dirty and shirtless. (In fact the kid falls in love with him but that’s a digression.) His age and race and class don’t mean anything, even though in real life they would. So even though I love Nier — great music, fascinating and original world — I like the DA games better. Even in a fantasy world, realism has its place.
I’ve seen a lot of discussion in the SFF writing world about how to write “the other” — i.e., a character of a drastically different background from the writer’s own. It’s generally people of privileged backgrounds asking the question, because let’s face it: if you’re not a straight white able-bodied (etc.) male, you pretty much know how to write those guys already because that’s most of what’s out there. So right now I’m speaking to the white people. One technique that gets tossed around in these discussions is what I call the “Just Paint ‘Em Brown” technique: basically just write the non-white character the same as a white one, but mention somewhere in the text, briefly, that she’s not white. Lots of well-known SFF writers — Heinlein in Starship Troopers, Clarke in Childhood’s End, Card in Ender’s Game — have employed this technique. I’ve seen some books mention a character’s non-whiteness only as a belated “surprise” to the reader (near the end of the book in the Heinlein example). The idea, I guess, is that the reader will form impressions of the character sans racialized assumptions, and therefore still feel positively about the character even after he’s revealed to be one of “them.”
This technique is crap.
Chris Graham at Agenda Tracker has detailed a very damming piece regarding the ABC’s role in the creation of the Intervention in Indigenous communities, especially Lateline’s role in “BAD AUNTY: The truth about the NT intervention and the case for an independent media“.
An article about Courage to Care travelling exhibition (in Australia), featured in Australian Mosaic: the Magazine of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, “Have you got the Courage to Care?“:
Courage to Care aims to empower the people who are usually overlooked in situations involving prejudice and discrimination—the bystanders. Many social tolerance programs are directed towards the victims or the perpetrators. By contrast, Courage to Care focuses on the majority—the bystanders—encouraging them to take action and to confront incidents of discrimination, bullying and harm.
The program uses one of the most significant events of the 20th century to teach a universal concept: one person can make a difference. The Holocaust, the systematic murder during Second World War of 6 000 000 European Jews by Nazi Germany, is the most extreme example of how far racism and discrimination can go if left unchecked by ordinary citizens. Courage to Care uses living historians as well as text, objects, memorabilia and interactive discussion.
By exposing students to the personal experiences of Holocaust survivors and the remarkable stories of the people who rescued them, the program promotes learning and understanding. It does this through enquiry, discourse and critical reflection on personal values.
It does not seek to impose values, but rather encourages students to question instances of racism, intolerance and discrimination. It challenges the bystander who turns a blind eye, rather than stand up for what they instinctively know is right. It thereby challenges indifference.
Posted: April 14, 2012 at 12:19 am | Tags: academia, differences, privilege, racism, review, WTF
*Trigger warning for extreme racism*
A peer-reviewed journal by the name of “Personality and Individual Differences”, published a paper in March 2012 titled, “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?” (full paper available at link), by two psychologists. The psychology bit is important, because the paper is essentially looking at biology, and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of qualification in biology that the two authors of the paper have.
I strongly caution you regarding the racism in this paper. It is abhorrent and awful. The commentary below delves a bit into who the authors are, my WTF in relation to the contents of the paper, and how fucked up the whole thing is. The paper is a hard read, and this whole post may be triggering.
Posted: April 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Tags: gender roles, review, stereotype, thoughts
I don’t know how many people who read this blog have watched Greenwing, but I’m currently rewatching it with my house guest and it is such an awesome – and very wrong – TV series. I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched it, so this post will be quite brief. One thing I wanted to point out about the series is it’s interesting critiques on gender roles. The show is set in a hospital, and the characters are either doctors or administrative staff in the hospital. Thankfully not all the doctors are men, and although for the most part the staff in HR are women – that’s not too far away from reality. The gender of the character is important in relation to the stereotype they are assigned to play, but whether the character is admin or professional is irrelevant.
You have the competitive, objectifier of women who believes that you have to, “play them mean to keep them keen”, and who really doesn’t understand people or emotions at all. You have the mouse who is frightened of everything and is cowed by his more aggressive male colleagues, who he just wants to be like. You have the man who wants to be powerful and sometimes thinks he is, but is generally disliked by everyone because he’s either sleazy, incompetent, offensive or exceedingly eccentric (and sometimes all at once). You have the character who is affable, well liked, sometimes rude, generally caring and who isn’t particularly open about how they feel. You have the boyish character who likes to challenge authority, loves a joke, loves supporting those who needs it and is sexually voracious (which is completely fine in the series). You have the IT guy who is cute, charming and wanted by everyone.
You have the slightly eccentric, but well meaning woman who doesn’t know what she wants exactly, but has an idea and is willing to experiment a little to find out more. You have the female equivalent mouse character. You have the woman who is lovely but stressed with her personal life and keeping track of her children. You have the sexually voracious and generally nice character who likes to be silly (in fact all of HR are silly) and whose sexual nature isn’t an issue. You have the fat woman who at one stage is picked on by the objectifier and who tells him to “fuck off” (oh and he’s a little scared of her too), she’s also happy with her body and her attractiveness. There is the scheming, eccentric and rude woman who is one of the best characters on the show. The perfect woman who everyone aspires to be – beautiful, competent, intelligent, cheerful and always perfect. There is the rude, sleazy, incompetent, offensive and really wrong character who makes me cringe every time I see her on screen – though she does it SO well.
Extra internet points if you can name all the characters I’ve described in order.
I love this series. It has many moments of wrong, but is beautifully written, fantastically directed, has an awesome cast and makes me laugh every time I watch it.
Posted: April 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Tags: Feminism, movies, Red Riding Hood, review
(Just for clarity’s sake, there will be spoilers ahoy, because you’re not going to see this movie as it is SO awful)
Seriously, it is a REALLY bad film. Once upon a time there was a good script, but I think it was killed by a committee whose sole aim in life was to make something in their own image. The only two glimpses of the good script are at the end of the movie, one the “what big X you have grandmother” scene, and the other which was the twist to the whole movie – which had never been foreshadowed so was less of a twist and more of a “HUH???”.
Anyway, the director, Catherine Hardwicke, managed to get poor performances out of every actor in the movie. Gary Oldman, who is at his most entertaining when chewing the set, provided an incredibly wooden performance and I was much relieved when he eventually died. The pouting underwear models were wooden and unbelievable – as was pretty much everyone on set. Let’s get into the breakdown of everything.
Quick story synopsis – There is a village, and for the first time in a couple of generations the “wolf” has killed a villager. The villagers decide to go and hunt down the wolf and their priest calls a witch-finder. No hilarity ensures. The body-count builds, but no one seems to care much, and eventually after the witch-finder is dead, we discover who the wolf is (werewolf), and everyone lives confusedly ever after.
The movie is set in a village, in the middle of some mountains – it looks a bit like the German Alps or Scandinavia. Given the period(ish) clothing and basic living conditions, I would suggest that it was the Dark Ages, or perhaps if generous the Middle Ages. Everyone was surprisingly clean, with perfect hair, teeth and skin. No one was sick, no one was disabled from injury and everything was clean (they even washed their hands). When it snowed, they didn’t put warmer clothes on. I do get that people who live in cold climates have a different sense of what is cold and what is not cold, but their breath didn’t fog and there was no mud after the snow was trampled into the ground. It wasn’t really believable.
So, with the whining about the unbelievability of the set up out of the way, let’s move to the story itself. Now Valerie (Red Riding Hood herself) has a really bad day. Her love interest tells her that he’s just found out that she’s now betrothed to marry the other underwear model. They decide to run away together, but then the church/alarm bell sounds and everyone returns to town. Valerie’s sister has been killed by the wolf, and there is much wailing. Afterwards, while they are preparing the body (Valerie, her mother, and Valerie’s friends) of her sister for burial (which never features in the film), Valerie’s betrothed comes with his family to pay their respects. Valerie climbs the stairs to the loft of the cottage and retreats. Her mother follows her and they talk about how important it is that Valerie marries this underwear model than the other one, because this one has more money, and how the mother didn’t marry the man she loved either, and that’s just the way it is.
This is pretty much the end of the dead sister plot device. No one is sad in this film when someone dies. There are some immediate tears, but life goes on and a couple of hours later people are partying, working, whatever again like the dead person never existed. The townsmen go off to kill the wolf, believing that it lived in a nearby extensive cave system, when they return with a wolf corpse (and the dead body of the betrothed’s father – again briefly touched upon death, just another plot device), they throw a party. The witch-finder turns up just before the party, tells everyone that he knows that the wolf is not yet dead because his wife was once a werewolf and he had to kill her to save himself and his children, and then he wanders off with his army while the party is prepared.
It’s more of a rave than a party, and if I EVER find the choreographer of the dancing in this movie I will stab them repeatedly. The love interest is off dancing with another woman (after telling Valerie that they should go their separate ways), and Valerie is upset. So she grabs another girl and joins in the dancing. It’s a cross between the lambada and stately court dancing and is truly awful. Faux-lesbianism is incredibly wrong on many levels, and this movie doesn’t make it any more right. With a witch-finder in the village, I’m sure nothing else would attract his attention more than two women apparently dancing sexually together.
The wolf turns up, savages a few villagers, quite a few soldiers and then escapes. During this the village idiot (yes, they even had one of those) is suspected of knowing who the wolf is, and he’s captured and tortured. His sister (because apparently they didn’t have parents), goes to the witch-finder to bargain for his release. She gives him all her money (which isn’t much) and when he isn’t impressed offers her body to him. He’s still unimpressed so she offers information “about a witch”, specifically that Valerie can communicate with the wolf. Once Valerie is captured, the informant goes back and demands to see her brother, and she’s shown him crumpled on a bed of straw. We never find out if he is alive or dead, and again some minutes later the plot-device is discarded and everyone moves on.
Death as a plot-device certainly doesn’t endear me to any of the characters or the movie in general. Oddly, perhaps, I am more likely to engage with characters who experience the full range of human emotion, including grief that family or friends have died. Even shock that a massive werewolf is bounding around the village would be a good start.
This movie could have gone places. It could have been a great feminist movie about a woman taking a stand against the kyriarchy and living independently despite the unfriendliness of the world (does anyone ever wonder WHY Red Riding Hood’s grandmother lives out in the forest away from the village?). It could have been about a woman (or group of women) rewriting the rules of their society in order to make their lives fairer despite the wolves – because in the end Valerie ends up killing the wolf.
It could have been good, but it really wasn’t.
Posted: March 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Tags: growing up, review, science fiction, sexism, story
I think I might write a series of articles over revisiting various things I loved during my childhood, and going back and finding if they have any appeal to me as an adult. I don’t know how frequent they’ll be, but I thought I’d start with a series of books by an author I adored (one of many) when I was growing up in Alice Springs.
Given my mother’s love of Science Fiction, and the religious viewing of Doctor Who, it isn’t all that surprising that as soon as I discovered that I loved to read (which would have been when I was around 10 years old or so) that I found the science fiction books at the public library.
Today’s post is on the Last Legionary Quartet by Douglas Hill (now out of print, but available second hand on Amazon and in second hand bookshops (where I got mine)), a typical space faring adventure but with some really interesting tweaks. First up, the first book of the series, Galactic Warlord was published in 1980, a time I certainly associate with bad science in science fiction, however Douglas Hill has gone out of his way to ensure that the science in the books is as accurate as it can be. Space is three dimensional and a vacuum (so no noise in space), and performing sudden manoeuvres in space will result in g-forces being applied to the craft and pilot. Some future technology is incredibly similar to 1980s technology with tapes and keyboards in use, but there is a large array of energy weapons, faster than light travel and different worlds, so that certainly makes up for it.
The next best thing about the series is that it is not sexist. Yes the main character is male, but it is clearly stated from the beginning that he is from a world where the entire adult population could be turned into an army, where everyone is trained to be a warrior from early childhood, and that his squad’s gender make-up was secondary to its capability. So the main character could have been a woman. Women are not written as sex objects, nurturers, princesses needing rescue or victims of circumstance, they are strong, capable, leaders, agitators, aggressive, good, evil, wise, and just like men. At one point the hero hesitates in attacking a woman, not because she is a woman but because he thought she was on his side and his friend.
Another positive in the series is that there are humans who settled on other planets in the galaxy (it turns out that humans are the only sentient life form in this galaxy), and who have developed beneficial mutations to survive on those planets. Those planets are collectively known as the “altered worlds” and the emotive word “mutant” is rarely used throughout the book. The inhabitents of those planets are referred to coming from the “altered worlds”, but no value judgement is made about any difference that has developed in that group of humans. Additionally, any individual who comes from those planets (and this holds true for all individuals in the book regardless of where they have come from) is taken to not be a representative of their race/planet/home world system/type. So if someone is evil in the book, that person is evil, not all people like them.
That last positive that I’d to note out of this series is that the hero can’t always win the day on his own. He has a non-human companion – an alien from another galaxy, who is female and non-humanoid – who comes to his rescue, shields him when required (she’s a telepath), and who is completely capable on her own.
This series really lives up to my memories of it – in fact I’d forgotten how awesome they were. I’m enjoying it immensely and only have two books to go before I’m done. They’re quite short – so all four books is normal novel size. I was sad to find out recently that Douglas Hill had died just after submitting the final manuscript for the last book in another of his series (one I haven’t read in its entirety), but given how good The Last Legionary Quartet is turning out, I’m going to go and hunt down all the books of his I can, and enjoy them all.
Posted: January 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Tags: alien, books, difference, random, review, science fiction, thoughts
I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood collection (containing Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), and I’ve been thinking about alienness, specifically how we react to things that are very different to our experience or how we’d actually react if aliens arrived tomorrow. This post was also partly inspired by e.smith’s post, “I can’t help myself, it’s innate” and by my girlfriend’s reaction to slaters.
A slater, a small, multi legged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae. Photo credit: Joe Buckingham*
So, after reading Dawn, I thought about whether or not I’d be repulsed by aliens or scared by them, and I thought about all the science fiction I’ve watched and over the years, and all the weird and wonderful creatures I’ve watched on nature documentaries and how I react to seeing something for the first time. I’ve had conversations with my husbands (yes that is plural and it is not a typo) about what we’d do if spaceships hovered over the city (I’d run to the hills, they’d want to stay and watch). My initial reaction to new and different things is caution. If I found a creature that I’d never seen before, I’d watch it before deciding whether or not to touch or interact with it. I’m not likely to know if a creature is going to sting me, bite me, poison me, spit at me or any other defensive reaction. In the event of aliens hovering over my city (a la Independence Day – terrible movie, but fits this scenario well), I’m going to want to wait and watch and see if I’m likely to be harmed before approaching something new… so in that way, I understand Lilith’s reaction to the aliens, though without the corresponding fear – mostly because I haven’t experienced a true level of alienness.
And I wonder, does the fact that I have been exposed to science fiction since I was old enough to start remembering TV (Dr Who to begin with), mean that my reaction to an alien, if I ever come across one, is going to be different to someone who hasn’t been exposed to as much science and speculative fiction. In most SF, aliens are taken as given, and it’s rare that a human panics when they first come across one, and they’re either on the side of humans or against them – depending on which story is being told. Will that influence me, make me cautious instead of scared?
It’s an interesting train of thought, and one clearly I’m unlikely to tease out further in my lifetime – what with the current lack of aliens wandering around. It’s also not something that many current SF writers (that I have read – please provide suggestions below if you know of any others) are addressing currently – that being how humans would react if aliens turned up tomorrow and were not evil. District 9 put aliens in a slum and otherwise generally ignored them. Galaxy Quest had a couple of characters faint, but generally the cast of the TV show got on with saving the universe, with help from some fans. Babylon 5 only briefly touches on earth’s first contact with aliens, specifically the Centari who lied to them about them being distant relatives, but no mention of mass panic. Many stories have a government or secret organisation out to kill the alien, but everyone else harbours it and keeps it safe.
I’m enjoying Lilith’s Brood, and am most of the way through Iago now. The ideas and issues identified by Butler in the series are as fresh and current as when she wrote them. I do recommend the books to anyone who hasn’t yet read them.
*Joe Buckingham’s Flickr link here
Posted: August 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Tags: bechdel test, movies, review
Ok, two movie reviews for the price of one… or something. Spoilers everywhere (where I think relevant) and these are just my thoughts… so if you don’t want to be spoilt on either Inception or Scott Pilgrim vs The World, go and enjoy my Flickr photos (shameless plug).
I think I’ll just divide this review into the good things and the negative things about this movie, then I might remember my thoughts for wrapping it all up. I meant to write this review some time ago, but got distracted with a holiday to Alice Springs, so here goes:
- The first movie with some original concepts that I have seen in AGES. It was quite refreshing to think my way around a new universe.
- The special effects were STUNNING. This movie could sell itself on those alone, and I do know that quite a few people went and saw it at the cinema for that alone.
- The story twisted and turned and the ending was unclear. A lack of guaranteed happy ending with a big “BUT?!?!?!” added to an already great experience.
- Not all the characters were white. This was fantastic. The “good guys” were from all over the world and the “bad guys” were generally all white. Two white American males, one Subcontinental male, one East Asian male, one British male, and one white American female made up the “good guys”.
- There was only one female in the team. There was no reason why there could not have been more.
- The movie failed the Bechdel Test
- The female characters were reflections of the hero’s story, with Leonardo’s character’s wife being a subconscious projection (she no longer existed as an individual) and Ellen Page’s character being the helpful assistant to Leonardo’s character to help him get on with life.
Coherent wrapping up type thoughts have failed to materialise, so I will move onto the next movie.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World
I’ll go with a narrative style here. Be warned, there are spoilers.
So, I know quite a few women who are not interested in seeing yet another movie about a boy having to fight something/someone to win the girl as a prize/rescue the girl. Oddly enough, although the boy does fight the evil exes, this is not a movie about a boy having to fight to win the girl as a prize/rescue the girl. The actual ending (hence the spoiler warning) is about fighting, not for the girl, but for yourself and gaining self respect. It also focused on Scott learning to like himself and realise that he is a great guy without having others tell him that – which at the beginning of the movie was really annoying.
The movie does pass the Bechdel Test, though narrowly. There are named female characters who have (albeit brief) conversations about topics other than a man. Given the movie was about a man, this pass is actually unexpected – though apparently the comic, which I haven’t read, passes the Bechdel test beautifully.
The pop-culture references are fun and overall the movie is very silly. The sound-track is awesome and the filming beautiful.
The gay house-mate/bed-mate of Scott is sweet and funny, and the less creepy Culkin (Keiran) played the role perfectly. As a character his queerness was not an issue, he was gay and that was perfectly normal, as was the main (and presumably straight) character sleeping in the same bed as him. The fact that he had multiple partners during the movie could be viewed as problematic (all gay men are sluts!) but it wasn’t played in a negative way. After all there are plenty of straight men portrayed in movies with multiple partners and that is rarely negative (women doing the same thing is a completely different story).
Although Scott fought a female evil ex, and that ex referred to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character as a “hasbian”, the ex being a lesbian was again just a thing. She was no more evil or anything than the other exes.
So yes, I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to. And now it is time for bed.