Monday, May 26, 2008
Violence against women is so entrenched in every culture, (and yes, I do mean every culture because I haven't come across one non patriarchal society yet), that people (mostly men) thinks it's OK to continue to like this. They think they can get away with it and they do it, regularly. It's fucking endemic.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Popular culture IS the real world. It's the slang you speak, the clothes you wear, the products you buy, the concepts you integrate into your sense of self and your place in and around the world!
And that's why depictions of fictional characters matter.
Survived on 16 hours sleep over 3 nights
Shot a machine gun, hit the target and got bruises from the kick back.
Got an awesome masssage by a male masseuse
Spoke a tiny bit of Russian
Met many many many Stag dos
Tried lots of Slovakian beer
Freaked out in the UFO
Went to an awesome outside pool
Used unisex changing rooms
Had chewy chips and mystery meat/processed cheese burgers
Had a McDonalds (not bad considering)
Went to an incredibly dated club on a boat
Achieved my (desire?) dream of staying in a communist style hotel - not reccomended
Chilled out in the sun
Cadged a lift home from the airport from a random stag party going my way
Received an offer to attend Spearmint Rhino
Bought a truly awful looking choclate and cream croissant. Yuk.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I thought the art was by Michael Turner, apparently it's by Joe Benitez. But don't worry,he's been to the Michael Turner school of art and adapted it by giving the ladeez reeeaallly big foreheads.
I really really wish I could find scans of the offending images. The first page is a tied up pair of boobs. OK so there is a head attached. It's still pornfacey. To my chagrin this didn't register as a problem until the boyfriend pointed it out, i'm so used to seeing these images.
Donna looks like a blow up doll. For some reason Raven goes to Trigon's realm and is naked apart from some strategic blue stripes, (which the dialogue acknowledges, but you know what's better still? giving her the damn cloak back).
My real spluttery moment was on page 11. Starfire is leaning over to talk to Cyborg but in such a way that when I first registered the image I thought she was all on fours looking like she was about to be spit roasted. On a second look she is actually leaning over to talk to Cyborg with her back at a 35 degree angle, to the rest of her back. And bum raised. And mouth in an 'O' of blow job. That's not pornface that porn everything.
I'm not buying this again until they get a decent artist. I shall borrow an Ami phrase *headdesk* (repeat till pass out)
The mutant shark going chomp was rather good though. And Starfire's comment about Donna's hair was pretty cute.
Green Arrow and Black Canary on the other hand was fucking awesome! OK so, I have a giant crush on these two. The cover is fantastic, I love the inside art and Mia and Dinah cooing over English bloke is sharp. And Ollie's moody respsone just made me laugh (in a good way). This is Judd Winick being good (anyone coming here from WFA will probably violently disagree with me on this *ducks and hides*)
Huntress yr 1 \1 was also made of much much win. No cheescake! No T&A! No gratuitous cleavage! No huge boobs (ok maybe one panel, but I'll let that go)! Win win win win WIN. Moody, dark, regal, gorgeous. This is what comics can be, give me more.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Buffy. Buffy and her cohorts attitudes to sex. Now I adore the show, always have done since I first saw the film, made back in, what, 1992? I think the show has a lot going for it in terms of feminism and it's portrayal of women and it becomes my comfort viewing when I'm low or just plain bored. I adore the fights, the monsters, the plots, Giles Britishness and need for jaffa cakes, Drusilla's wacky madness and accent, the wonderful Anya, the strength of Tara, the gay total fanboyishness of Andrew, Willow's naivete, Faith's kickassness, Spike's hotness and Buffy's reliability to do the right thing, make the hard choices and be a hero. Have I missed anyone out? I loath Angel, I think Riley's an utter drip and Dawn's was one of the most annoying and overly melodramatic characters I have ever seen. Xander is currently annoying me as in season 3 he's still being a teenage sleaze. Cordelia is still rather one dimensional although I know this changes mostly when she moves to LA in Angel. And the slayerettes. Awesome. The last episode was breathtaking for me.
So far as I can remember Buffy was the first action show with a female lead. This counts for a lot. It first aired in the UK in what, 1996? If I think back to my regular cult viewing then and I'm coming up with Red Dwarf and the X-Files. There must have been other sci-fi/fantasy stuff around then, but as I can't remember show titles they obviously didn't make a big impression on me. Red Dwarf was all male and the X-Files, whilst having a female lead as important as the male lead, wasn't action orientated. I like me some action films. I like explosions and I like fire and I like ninja kicks to the head and I like big narratives about good vs evil. Aliens had a female lead. I think Sigourney Weaver/Ripley was one of my first female crushes. I totally fell in love with her upon seeing Aliens 3 - shaved head, tough, action lead. I can't think of any other action films from then (that I saw) that had women as more than a supporting character - as more than a love interest. Even if they were scientists they were relegated to being a love interest and giving the male lead a reason to keep fighting. Bleurgh.
Then in 1996 Buffy came along. Vampires? Check. Women in the lead? Check. A hot cast? Check. (I was 16 and a bag of hormones). Great - this was new and exciting. Actually looking back on it now I'd say that Giles was framed as being as big a lead role as Buffy was. If you watch the opening credits for the first 3 (2? 4?) seasons the last shot of the Scooby gang leaving the library (or wherever) has Giles leading the group. Later on as Buffy grows more into her role and matures she leads the gang.
But anyway, it was all pretty cool. And yes I love it, even the bad episodes. However I still think there's a need to pull it apart and examine what's wrong with it. I've previously written (here) about the Innocence storyline and the somewhat warped morality tale it offers. I want now to talk about other ways that the show deals with sex. In my mind, it takes a rather a conservative approach.
Bearing in mind that I'm currently on season 3 and Faith turned up a few episodes ago. The first time we see Faith is in Faith, Hope and Trick. She is dancing in the Bronze with a vampire (we discover later) and Cordelia comments:
"Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave"*
Nice Cordy, real nice.
I hate sexual swear words. They generally are used only for women and they imply two things, one, that our worth as human beings is measured by the activity between our legs, and two, that it is a bad thing for women to have sex, or think about sex, or look like we're going to have sex, or god forbid, to enjoy sex.
Earlier on in the episode Buffy, Cordelia, Xander, Willow and Oz are sitting outside school grounds having a picnic. A possible new boyfriend for Buffy is spotted, this is the dialogue that follows:
Xander: Oh, you wanna date. I saw that half-smile, you little slut. (chuckles)
Buffy punches him on the arm, and none too lightly.
Xander: (smiles and chuckles) Ow. (winces and holds his arm)
Yep Xander it's not nice to call someone a slut. Or imply that by smiling at a bloke it means she's easy. Because being easy is baaaad. Whatever. Come to think of it, easy implies a certain passivity from the woman, another outdated stereotype. Outdated because it puts all agency into the hands of men and denies women their sexuality.
Anyway, diversion aside, there are loads of example of this type of language used throughout the show:
During Homecoming when Cordelia and Buffy are fighting about the Prom Queen title:
Cordelia: (to Buffy) You crazy freak!
Buffy: Vapid whore!
Xander: ...like that!
He pulls Cordelia away from Buffy.
Cordelia: (incensed) What did you call me?!
Buffy: It's come as you aren't night. The perfect chance for a girl to get sexy and wild with no repercussions.
OK. So we get subtle hints throughout the show's history that women liking sex is a bad thing. Faith turns up, is first spotted dancing with a vampire in the Bronze, I think we can assume she knows he's a vampire, and then goes outside to stake him, much to the surprise of Buffy. She later relates tales of naked mud wrestling with alligators (crocodiles?). This is about as far removed from Buffy as we are ever likely to get. I very much doubt Buffy sleeps in the nude and she wouldn't be so unashamed or confident in herself to talk about naked wrasslin' to people she's just met. I think Buffy and Faith are put forward as the virgin/whore dichotomy (is that the right word?).
Faith openly states, many many times, that she uses guys for sex. She has no problem with this and she continues to act as such until season 7 where she hooks up with the new principle. Buffy sleeps with 4 people throughout the TV show, 3 of which she's in a long term relationship with. (Yes, I count Spike as long term relationship). The 4th guy she sleeps with is someone she meets at Uni who then treats her like dirt the next day. Faith by contrast sleeps with who she wants, when she wants and doesn't suffer any repercussions.
Buffy is set up as the hero, the highly moral one with ultimate responsibility for the world. Faith is always a second stringer to Buffy, but she's also seen as the impure, dirty one. Neither Buffy nor any of Buffy's friends or other acquaintances sleep around**. Odd really, considering that they're teenagers and most teenagers I knew where at least having short flings when I was young. Even Spike doesn't sleep around, he's faithful first to Drusilla then to Buffy. Yet the only irredeemably evil character, who murders a human even though she has a soul and should know better is also the only portrayed as a slut-o-rama. I think that's grossly unfair.
Maybe this wasn't an intentional link made by the writers. Maybe I'm being paranoid and it's all in my head. Quite probably I'm not exploring or explaining this very well. I've been here for quite a long time now. I still don't like it.
I think there are other odd attitudes to sex and sexual relations too. Take Go Fish. One of the sports guys tries to assault Buffy in his car. She slams his head into the steering wheel and looks utterly affronted. Too damn right! She knows he's wrong and she won't stand for it. Later on, in the nurse's office the conversation is as follows:
Buffy: I wasn't the attacker, Principal Snyder. I was the attacked.
Snyder: That's not how it looked from where I was standing.
Cameron: I don't know what happened. I mean, first she leads me on, then she goes schizo on me.
Buffy: (steps over to him) Lead you on? When did I lead you on?
Cameron: Oh, come on. (to Snyder) I mean, look at the way she dresses.
When Buffy steps over to him she looks incredibly indignant, angry and like she's about to fry him with her laser eyes (if she had laser eyes). She looks strong and totally sure of her position. After Cameron's last comment she looks down at herself and appears wilted. She's doubting herself, she thinks it's her fault. And she continues to doubt herself and this isn't dealt with at any point later in the episode. Nowhere is it made clear that you cannot lead someone on by wearing clothes, by simply having a female body. You can't even argue that he gets him comeuppance because the swim team as fish creatures aren't destroyed, or evil or trapped. They swim out to sea to be free.
Buffy's moment of self doubt only takes a couple of seconds but it's so important. Especially because Buffy is emotionally fragile anyway and this only contributes to her inner feelings of turmoil, finely honed and hardened through another 4 seasons.
It's really frustrating and could Cameron's accusation could have been dealt with very differently. Buffy only had to glare at him, it would fit in better with the picture we had of her earlier where she broke his nose.
Are there other interpretations to this sequence? Am I too sensitive? I'm not calling this scene misogynistic or sexist because I think it adds to Buffy's character and is used to build her inner turmoil, but, there are other ways this could have been done that didn't involve sexual violence. It's not fair on Buffy, it's not fair on us as viewers and it muddies the waters of an otherwise sure of herself kick ass action heroine you want to become.
I'm perfectly happy to have people tell me I'm talking rubbish, just so long as it's done politely and your reasoning is explained. I like having my views challenged.
*Note: All script transcripts taken from http://www.buffy-vs-angel.com/guide.shtml. Some may be slightly wrong.
**Note number 2: I know Buffy finally gets a one night stand in the comics (season 8). Good for her. But that's too little, too late.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I don't really have much to add except that this needs promoting and statements starting with I'm not homophobic but...'* is generally a pretty good indicator that what you're about to say is homophobic, and what's more you know it. So don't lie.
Homphobia is everywhere. It's in the seemingly innocuous (to some) day to day insults of 'gay' used by kids in the playground to the beatings and pain inflicted by wankers who can't deal with two men or women kissing.
What is also needed is more visible representation of bisexuals. Everywhere. And not in the two hot chix getting it on in a male porn way. But that may be a different post and I'm not feeling too articulate right now.
*Recently heard in my progressive feminist workplace and thoroughly raised my hackles.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Anyway, now I've dashed people's expectations and thoroughly put myself down I'll continue with the fun.
Heroes, season 2. Finally got my arse in gear to watch it (1st four episodes at least). I keep gushing over parts. there's so much good, and there's some baaad.
Second disclaimer: I'm hopeless with remembering character's name. So they get described by their power or their job.
Obviously this post contains spoilers
- Claire and flying boy's first flight. How Superman/Lois esque. And doesn't flying boy resemble Tom Welling in Smallville?
- (not quite yet) Ninja Hiro's foray into the past and his starting to become a ninja (I hope).
- Mohinder and Matt(?) the Cop's parental relationship. Awesome. I'd have expected more gay subtext and gay jokes, I'm very glad they haven't gone down that route. Plus it's nice to see that men can bring up kids without being portrayed as a child molester.
- Peter Petrelli is no longer an emo grease monkey. Thank the lord.
- Nathan Petrelli's beard. Then he shaved it off. Booo.
- Claire. Made of win. I love her. Although having the ability to regenerate and heal anything isn't so useful when she still feels pain. It's also kind of a defensive passive power - she can't do anything with it, yet. There were a few lines where she discussed the possibility of lending her body to research to help others regrow limbs and heal etc. That would be good if they went with that and gave her a more active role. On the other hand, she's what, 16? Up until episode 4 she still pretty much respects her parents and is a minor and will follow their lead. I don't really know where I'm going with this...
- Micah's imitative cousin. Women kicking arse in fights will always always win. Especially when it's done so damn elegantly.
- Peter's random Irish lady friend. For a start I'm pretty sure her and her mates/brothers don't have Cork accents. But that's a minor gripe.
- The Irish 'family' having a pint of Guinness to celebrate their robbery. What you couldn't think of another drink? Not everyone in Ireland drinks bloody Guinness you know. It was a pointless inclusion in the scene and smacked of racial stereotyping. It would have been a perfectly good scene if they'd all had a shot of whiskey instead, or a smoke, or just cheered.
- The lady friend. She seems rather pointless to me. I cannot fathom why she's in the show. So far it seems to be to provide totty for the viewers to watch, a love interest for Peter, Peter's conscience and a way for him to find out about his healing powers. All about Peter. We know nothing about her, apart from she's kind and sympathetic (for no apparent reason). There may have been a line in episode number 2 about her treating Peter nice because her brothers beating him hadn't worked, but that seemed rather forced to me. Am I being too picky?
- Allecto criticised Firefly for not providing enough of Saffron's back story. Saffron had a bloody saga given to her compared to Irish lady friend. I have no idea about how she feels about crime, about each of her brothers/mates or in fact anything beyond Peter. And I can't quite work out why she immediately fell for him, other than it suited the plot. Most other non powered characters in the show freak out when they discover someone has powers, and Peter's are pretty scary. Maybe she's a comic nerd. Or maybe I'm missing something vital. Do tell.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I also wrote those last posts quite late at night so again I'm stunned they made sense ;) And a qualifier - my views sometime change day to day so I may contradict myself today.
In response to people's comments so far:
Male feminists - I don't think I explained myself clearly enough before. I have said in post number 1 that I know men can be feminists, I know men who are. This is a good thing, a very good thing! I said before:
"I do not think that they are well placed to pick up on and recognise internalised misogyny and societal sexism because by and large it doesn't affect them."
I'd just like to clarify that I don't mean men can't pick up on blatant or subtle misogyny and sexism, they can and do. It's just that unless discrimination affects someone directly. or they are specifically looking out for it, then I think it usually gets missed. HOWEVER, many women also do not pick up on discrimination, or will disagree on what discrimination is. Some men will be better at getting it than some women, and vice versa. I also think that there is a danger in stating that the men will never get it like the women do, because it implies that if you're a woman your opinions are automatically more valid than a man's. And that's bollocks. Everybody's opinions are valid and everyone can learn from each other. There are as many different views and takes on feminism as people and that's great.
To me, feminism can also mean humanism, i.e. treat people, both men and women, like human beings. This means do not objectify, do not buy their bodies, do not beat, do not dismiss. Both men and women are perfectly capable of doing this. I consider all my friends, male and female, feminist because they are not jerks and they believe in treating people fairly. If they didn't believe in this I wouldn't be friends with them.
To say that one sex cannot understand a whole raft of theory is divisive and patronising. I do not believe there are inherent differences between men and women's personalities and make up - I believe we are socialized into gender specific roles from birth and it's damn hard to get out of the mind set.
I guess I do believe in Unicorns then. I hope they're shiny.
Ok onto Allecto's last post.
First off, I think people have got the hump with Allecto's posts for two reasons. The first one is that she's very confrontational and aggressive in the posts and the second one is that people have misunderstood the purpose of her blog. Her post titles are 'A Rapist's view of the world' and 'A wife-beater's view of the world', both referring to Joss Whedon. However at no point does she explain why she thinks Joss is a wife beater or rapist. And y'know, I think her lack of an explanation is ok. This is her blog, it's not intended to be a radical feminism 101, it;'s not intended to educate people to radical feminism or convert them to her way of thinking, it's Allecto putting down her thoughts about issues she sees in the world. I think the intended audience are those people who already share her world view.
On this page she writes:
Men who know little of feminism, this is not the space for you. If you wish to educate yourself further on the women’s liberation movement then, by all means, read what I have to say. Until you have a deeper understanding of feminist thought, however, I do not welcome your comments or questions. I am not here to educate men on feminism.
On this page she writes:
The women who comment here come from all walks of life. We represent a highly marginalised and vilified group and we are often viciously attacked for our views. I will not allow comments from women who are not supportive of Radical Feminism. I will not allow male-apologist comments.
So I'm not surprised she hasn't published all comments received and I'm not surprised she hasn't responded to criticisms. That's not what she uses her internet space for. Unless a blog is described as an educational spot, or states that it welcomes discussions and sharing of ideas there is no reason to expect this to happen.
As for the rapist and wife beater descriptions - I assume that Allecto believes that all men are potential rapists, a view I think is shared by members of the radical feminist community, as opposed to accusing Joss of personally raping or beating his wife (or any other woman). (I happen to agree with it but I also think that all women are potential rapists (of men and other women) too, but that's a whole different topic).
Of course if I've got this theory totally wrong please let me know.
OK onto the actual content of the post. As I said before, I'm no literary critic and I don't know the techniques for dissecting texts. But I do know that I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea that all texts always represent the world view of the writer. To say this would surely mean that the writer can only create characters and situations they know? Surely people can write from the point of view of someone they despise in a manner they don't approve of? Or am I missing something more subtle? Please someone tell me if I am.
"What makes me even more annoyed about this scene is the fact that Mal, as always, does all the talking, leaving Saffron’s potentially interesting history unexplored. This is typical of stories written by misogynists. They are not interested in women’s stories; women are only there to further understanding of the male characters."
Re Mal doing all the talking, I think the scene was written this way to demonstrate Saffron's character. She's meant to be submissive and think herself unworthy. Also, as we find out later, Saffron is a construct, therefore there is nothing real to find out about. So she wouldn't want to dwell on her male believe past.
In regards to women only being there to further understand male characters. This does happen an awful lot in fiction, and yes it is typical of stories written by misogynists. (For a comic centric view of this, see the Women in Refrigerators website.) But I don't think it is happening here. I think we are still getting to know Saffron and the exchange prompting Allecto's comments helps us do this. But again, I'm no literary critic and tend to look at things from within the universe, ie.e. if it makes sense within the boundaries of the story then I'm fine with it.
"the....scene where Zoe shows herself to be completely unsympathetic to Saffron’s slavery and blames Saffron for her own subjugation."
I am not one who believes in a sisterhood. I don't see any reason, given what we know of Zoe's character, why she should rush in and defend Saffron. Zoe is an military woman, she's a loner and she cares for her own, in this case meaning primarily Mal and Wash. Mal because he was her captain in the war and old bonds like that do not die, and Wash because he's her husband and they're in partnership together. Zoe cares for the rest of the crew because they're crew and the Captain brought them on board but she isn't going to take a new person under her wing freely. I get the impression that you need to earn Zoe's loyalty, it is not given freely.
Zoe says the Captain shouldn't be 'babysitting a damn groupie', well no, they've got jobs to do and he shouldn't be married to her - he shoulda realised what the ritual meant or Shepard Book shoulda told him. Zoe also calls Saffron trouble - well she did turn out to be trouble. This comment *could* be read as Zoe knowing something isn't right with Saffron's story, although I doubt it. I think she means Saffron's presence will interfere with the running of the ship and Mal's job.
Wash's inane geese juggling comment only serves to show up Wash - he hasn't realised the gravity of the situation and is trying to dissipate his wife's anger.
In regards to women not defending their own, when we first meet Saffron on the ship and Mal is being exceedingly rude, talking bout her like she isn't there or have ears, Kaylee comforts Saffron and calls Mal up on his rudeness. She does not get punished and if I remember right, Mal looks contrite at Kaylee's reprimand. But that's Kaylee - she cares for everyone, Zoe doesn't.
Allecto's comments about men abusing women for being born female I wholeheartedly agree with. I'm just not convinced that Our Mrs Reynold's so far demonstrates this.
Allecto's next comments are about the scene where Saffron is in Mal's bed. I pretty much agree with Allecto here. It does make submissiveness and vulnerability sexy, and you know, it's not! Saffron has been traded to Mal, Mal pretty much says just that:
"Just’cause you got handed to me by some couldn’t pay his debts, don’t make you beholden to me."
Therefore taking advantage of Saffron is utterly utterly wrong. You could argue that this scene is designed to show Mal being a jerk, but I don't hold with that. There's not enough made of Mal's jerkishness and far far more made of Saffron being teh sexy.
Allecto's comments about Joss writing that women lie about everything I think would only hold true if this were correct for all his characters. But I think that in Firefly (and Buffy) he's created a selection of diverse female characters with distinct personalities, mostly free from stereotypes. cough*except for River*cough. However I forgive River's cliche of mad super powerful teenage girl because she's so fucking awesome at it. And because his other female characters are truly diverse and strong.
Allecto's comments about the Wash/Zoe relationship:
"Wash openly admits that he wishes he could sleep with Saffron a woman who he has just met. He simultaneously believes that he loves Zoe despite the fact that he openly admits to wanting to fuck Saffron. And the primary motivation for him refusing to fuck Saffron does not seem to be because he loves Zoe, it is more because of his life may be in danger if he does. Wow, I really do just love these nice, white husbands. Whatever would women do without all these nice, white men?"
I'm not sure if you can love someone and truly want to screw someone else. I love my boyfriend very very much, I still crush on other people, but I don't think I could actually bring myself to sleep with someone else. I think most people are the same. Or am I naive? And the comment about Wash's life being in danger if he cheats on Zoe - if fear's the primary motivation for not sleeping with someone then you are lame. This seems to be representative of that old cliche that all men are driven by their cocks - kinda cruel and dismissive towards men I think.
The Inara/Saffron moment - Saffron is ruthless yes, Allecto thinks this is a good thing because Saffron gets to kick fuckwit men in the head. Zoe gets to shoot fuckwit men all the way through the series and River singlehandedly takes out an entire army of reavers. Saffron's ruthlessness therefore doesn't appear to me as a feminist moment because she's a bad guy. However, random titillating lesbian scene, yes. Unnecessary. But at least it's established in other episodes that Inara does actually like women.
Jayne's gun Vera is big and phallic yes, that's why Jayne has it. He likes big phallic things. Jayne is not a nice man. He's also not representative of all men because like Joss female characters, the male ones are also allowed to be distinct and different.
While Mal and Saffron are wrestling:
"MAL (cont’d)Looks like you get your wedding night after all."
Sex (rape?) jokes are not necessary. We get the comparison without the dialogue. Also, Saffron's pose and clothes are unnecessarily sexualised by this point. She didn't have to be wrestling with a tiny bra and low cut dress (top?) on. I do not hold that this is justifiable because it is in character, it would be nice to not include women as eye candy at every possible moment. Ok, Zoe, River and Kaylee are not treated as eye candy, so why does practically every other woman in the show have to be dressed like a tavern wench? I know it's a western style show but that's not an excuse. They could all be dressed like Zoe and still be in 'period' costume. Not doing so indicates laziness (and an inability to see women as other than sex objects) by Whedon, the producers and the costume department. (Inara not included her because her job is to look beautiful).
The scripted notes to this scene are pretty horrible too.
"She (Saffron) lets out a breath, smiles at him unfathomably."
"She (Saffron) looks at him… looks away, considering the question… — and he slams the butt of his gun into her chin, knocking her out cold. He stands, regards her genuinely vulnerable form. Says with a kind of sadness"
As Allecto says "The scripted description of Saffron in this scene make it abundantly clear that this scene is supposed to titillate." Titillation is not neccessary. Women do not have to equal sex. Why can't people see this?
"But perhaps most disturbingly this scene can be read as a justification for male violence in the home. Joss frequently references marriage in the scene, to bring on the funnies of course, having Mal acting like a spurned husband and Saffron the wayward wife. If we read the entire episode using this framework of reference we can see that Joss has constructed a vicious argument in favour of male violence in the domestic sphere."
This paragraph and the two following it I think are valuable. If you read the whole episode using the above frame of reference then I think Allecto has come up with some very valuable, interesting points. Of course if you don't think it's appropriate to use this frame of reference you won't agree with her.
"First up we have the innocent virgin wife. Mal romances the innocent virgin wife, teaching her to be strong and independent, but still ultimately subservient to him, and obedient to his authority. They come to the marital bed and it turns out that she isn’t quite so innocent after all. She transforms from an innocent country girl into a manipulative, callous woman, who is strong, capable and independent. She works for herself and bows to no one, not even Mal, her husband. In fact, she willfully betrays him and uses his faults and weaknesses to get her own way. It is clear that such a woman must be brought down. By any means necessary.
Saffron leaves Mal and Mal tracks her down, invading her home by force as a husband, pushing her to the bed, using his body to pin her down while he lectures her for not conforming to proper feminine womanhood, before slamming his gun in her face. "
If you view the episode like this, and I think you can justifiably do so, it revels in cliches and smacks of misogyny. It is this presentation which ultimately makes me quite uncomfortable with the episode. Mal, whilst being an anti hero, is still the hero. As such his actions are to be emulated and approved of. I also think Allecto is correct in presenting Inara/Saffron as the Wife(Virgin?)/Whore dichotomy. Again, making me uncomfortable with the episode.
So, while I disagree with the details of Allecto's interpretation of this episode, her overall view argument and conclusion I think has a lot going for it.
I also wanted to include some thoughts about Inara and Companionship. I think prostitution is wrong. The buying and selling of anyone's bodies is just plain wrong. I believe that the majority of prostitution is rape, because I believe the women are coerced into doing it. I don't know how to solve the problem, but penalising the punters not the prostitutes would be a good start.
Inara's job is not as a straightforward prostitute. She is a Companion. she sells her body and her services and her goodwill and her conversation and her ability to entertain. I get the impression Whedon was inspired by Geishas, except that they never ever sold their body.
The first thing I have a beef with is that prostitution, in whatever guise, is still in existence and is celebrated. And Companionship is presented as something desirable. Yes the Companions choose their punters but it's not a perfect system. The episode Shindig shows this - Inara's client does not respect her or her profession and hits her. Mal then wades in as male hero because 'his' woman has been hurt. I'm sure Inara can take care of herself, but by somewhat more subtle means. Unfortunately it seems that attitudes haven't changed much and men's first instinct is to challenger the other man. And when I say men here I mean men, not people. At any rate, Inara is not allowed to take care of herself, she stands quietly by whilst Mal partakes in an extremely stupid swordfight he can't hope to win. This episode could have been written differently with Inara getting revenge on her punter.
Alimaemia said in response to an earlier post of mine that Companionship is a high class social function, not like prostitution as we know it. I agree with both points but it does incorporate prostitution, Inara does sell her body. Now if she enjoys the sex every time then I'd be happier, but no one enjoys their job all the time. We also don't see any safeguards against hurting the women - there are repercussions in that men who hurt the women will be blacklisted but Shindig clearly shows that this doesn't deter some men. The reputation of the Companions does not prevent punters being rude and abusive.
I also wonder if the Companions have to pretend to be someone else in their job? I mean, do they have to grin it and bear it when they are with a boarish oafish punter, do they have to fake enjoying the sex? From the little I recall of a conversation between Inara and one of her female punters I think they do have to fake it. This could have been explored in so much more detail in the show, but it wasn't. Instead it was glamourised and portrayed as a respected profession.
I can see the paralells between Companionship and current day prositution. And I think that Companionship is morally and ethically wrong.
Comments and criticisms please, and thanks for reading!
EDIT: this page has Allecto explaining more fully her views on what constitutes rape and interracial relationships. Worth reading.
Friday, May 09, 2008
She's talking about the episode Our Mrs Reynolds. Synopsis nicked from her post:
Mal the captain of the ship finds out that he has married a woman when he finds a stowaway on his ship. The stowaway, whose name is Saffron, was traded to Mal as a gift because he helped the inhabitants of a planet to get rid of some bad guys.
First scene is Mal and Jayne driving a carriage. Mal's dressed as a woman. Allecto comments on the anti feminism of drag. I don't know anything about that myself, although it does seem to me that drag centres it's humour around caricatures of women and stereotypes of femininity. It seems the humour comes from contrasting the exaggerated portrayal of women with the tough natural manliness of men. I think this is what is happening in this episode. In which case, I do take issue with it because these portrayals of women are not real. Real women do not act like Mal-as-women does. And these caricatures piss me off, it's like a safe way to present a very one dimensional view of womanhood, and it presents this view as the truth. Plus yes, jokes about rape are not funny.
"A bit later Mal talks about how he likes to wear dresses with Inara. “Like woman, I am a mystery,” he says of his enjoyment of wearing dresses. Sorry, Joss, score zero for that one. Women aren’t a mystery, WE ARE FULLY CONSCIOUS HUMAN BEINGS."
Unfortunately I know lots of people who think the opposite sex are a mystery. Well they bloody well wouldn't be if people bothered to be honest with each other and quit playing games. Grumble grumble grumble.
"When Zoe is told that Saffron has been traded to Mal as a wife/slave she begins to laugh. She then calls the rest of the crew and invites them to join her in laughing at Mal’s newly acquired possession"
I think she's laughing at Mal, not Saffron. Laughing at Mal's predicament in acquiring himself a wife. (Not that's necessarily better). I also suspect that Zoe never thinks for one moment that Mal will treat her a slave. I think in this episode the mistake made is that the crew treat Saffron as if she has the knowledge, nous and experience to make her own decisions and choices when if she really were a slave, she wouldn't be able to do so. This storyline was not handled in a very sophisticated way.
I don't think that Mal shouting at his crew is indicative of misogyny or sexism, because I don't think he's shouting at them because they're female. I think he's shouting because he's the boss. I believe that the intent behind the action is important, but it does not always excuse the end result, if that makes sense. Of course, you can argue that the whole military set up is patriarchal and not women friendly, but to do that I think you'd have to argue that men and women are radically different beings. I don't think we are.
"And just a tip Joss....If you believe that women should kill men who try to kill them then, quite frankly, I agree with you. If you want to show your encouragement and support for women who defend themselves from men, then write a female character that kills a man who is trying to kill her AND GETS AWAY WITH IT. "
Agreed. Would not River Tam in Serenity count? She does kill all the Reavers. Something no one else has ever been able to do.
I don't understand why Allecto thinks Joss uses porn, and Hustler in particular, so I cannot comment on this point.
"White male husband wishing his black female wife was more submissive and cooked his dinner. Anyone else see a problem with this?"
I think it's possible to view this exchange without looking at race, that is, I don't think race is a motivating factor in Zoe and Wash's relationship, although I can see the symbolism of what Allecto is saying. And yes, this could have been written better, with more awareness.
Black female wife being jealous of a woman she terms a ‘slave girl’. Anyone else see a problem with this? "
I don't think Zoe is jealous of Saffron, I think she's pissed at Wash for acting like a dick and implying her cooking needs to be improved. Mind you, I can't see Zoe cooking anything for Wash. i reckon he does the cooking and household stuff.
"Given that Mal nobly believes in protecting the female members on board his ship from the ravages of ‘the world’ (read: men), I find it hard to credit that he allows Jayne to stay on board his ship. In this scene Jayne talks of women as sexual and domestic property, obviously unaware that women are human beings. Men who think like this about women ARE DANGEROUS. If Mal did care about the protection of women, he would have spaced Jayne immediately, or at least locked the fucker up."
Playing devil's advocate here, Mal does keep an eye on Jayne and watch what he's doing. But in a realistic setting yeah Jayne should be shot off asap. However, he's a good character to have on the show. From an outside, meta perspective, he's entertaining, his attitudes are ridiculous and we can laugh at him. And we know it's OK to laugh at him because we figure the rules of the show will keep him in line. He wouldn't seriously fuck up one of the female characters because that would be uncomfortable viewing.
From the view within the show we figure the women are safe because of this exchange:
JAYNE: Six men came to kill me one time, and the best of them carried this. It’s a Callahan fullbore autolock, customized trigger and double cartridge thourough-gage. He holds it out to Mal.
JAYNE (cont’d): It’s my very favorite gun.
MAL: The explosive diarrhea of an elephant, are you offering me a trade?
JAYNE: A trade? Hell, it’s theft! This is the best gun made by man, and its got extreme sentimental value! It’s miles more worthy’n what you got.
MAL: “What I got” - she has a name.
JAYNE:So does this! I call it Vera.…
MAL:She’s not to be bought. Nor bartered, nor borrowed or lent. She’s a human woman, doesn’t know a damn thing about the world and needs our protection.
Jayne is asking Mal for permission. He won't step out of line because he knows Mal will kick him to kingdom come if he tries anything. Plus, I think Jayne is a little scared of the female crew. He's definitely freaked out by River, he wouldn't dare lay a hand on Zoe cos he knows she'll kick his ass, Inara is out of his league and has the protection of Mal and the academy and I don't think he quite knows what to do with Kaylee. She's confident, clever and isn't intimidated by him.
Yes there are obviously issues with one man asking another for permission about a woman, but I believe that this used to highlight Jayne's sociopathic-ness (Is that the correct word?). The other characters do not treat women like objects so I don't believe the text as a whole can be read as endorsing Jayne's view.
OK one more to go. As usual, comments and criticisms welcomed. Especially as I'm not a literary critic and wouldn't know those methods of analysis if they bit me on the nose.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
I promised in my earlier post that I would talk about this more extensively. I read the info about it in the magazine gamestm and at the time it seemed massively urgent that I write about it. Now, I'm not so sure.
My first reaction upon glancing at the article and seeing the subject matter was wtf? How on earth can you create a game about the Holocaust that is not exploitative and deals with the subject in a sensitive and appropriate manner?
I should add that my experience of gaming comes purely from the boyfriend playing. I don't play. I don't get the appeal and I have no desire to pick up a console. The Wii got me interested for all of 5 minutes, and yeah cow racing and the wii-lypmics are fun but there's no way I'll sit down and game all evening.
So with my limited knowledge I was very concerned that it would be a shoot em up beat em up chicks with huge boobs type thing - no I don't know how this'd fit in either but as I said, I have a very limited experience of games. Then I read the article - always a useful thing to do I find (!).
The game's designer is Luc Bernard. the storyline is comparable to the movie that came out a few years back about a father and son in a concentration camp, the father creates a a game out of it for the boy in order to shield him from the worst of the horrors. It was Italian I think. (And if anyone can tell me the name of the movie I'd be very grateful). In the game a child is taken to the camp and he creates an imaginary world in order to cope with what he's experiencing. Gradually throughout the game reality seeps in more and more. The game also contains facts about the Holocaust, including the one featured in my earlier post.
Here's an article on a Holocaust survivor's reaction to the game.
My thoughts on this? If it can be handled sensitively and appropriately then yeah, make a game out of it. use it to educate people. It'd not been designed for entertainment purposes, which is good. Shock people into realising what happened. I don't think we know enough. I've been to a holding camp in the Czech republic and I've been to Auschwitz. They were vile horrible experiences but people should go. When I read the fact in the magazine I broke down and cried. I do not cry at anything, I am not a weepy person. I read that and cried for half an hour. We had friends over that evening and I had to excuse myself whilst I went upstairs and cried for 40 minutes. If a game can do this then hell yeah, develop it, put it out, increase people's knowledge. And for god's sake don't forget that atrocities are still being committed in the world. Ethnic cleansing is still happening. Genocide is still being carried out on government orders. Use the knowledge people and start making little changes in your home towns, notice the people around you and stand up for what's right. Please.
I've been re-reading Allecto's posts on Joss Whedon here, here and here. As I said previously when I first read what she had to say I was taken aback by the forcefulness of her feeling. I didn't understand what position she was coming from and the amount of hate in Allecto's text shocked me, nonetheless on first reading I was left feeling uneasy because some of what she was saying seemed to make sense. Now, I like having my views challenged, I like reading new things, but it does take me a long time to mull things over and get my thoughts in order. Anyway, the end result was my previous post.
Now I've had time to think I've decided I want to go through Allecto's posts and respond to them. This will not be an attack on her, as I've said I think a lot of what she's written is valid. I mostly want to get my thoughts in order and exchange ideas. Like Allecto, I think Joss as producer and in charge of concept development of both Firefly and Buffy he should be held accountable to the content of each show. Fine. Let's get some general points down first:
- I do not think that Joss is a misogynist, neither do I think him sexist. I think he is trying to overcome sexism and misogyny, however being male he is always coming from a vantage point of male privilege and so will always always overlook some issues and representations etc. Lacking the lived experience of being female he will also not be able to fully understand what it means to be female in patriarchal society.
- Buffy and Firefly are two very different shows, with different characters and different moral standpoints. Both demonstrate different world views and I don't think either should be used as an indicator of the writer/producers mindset and worldview. what goes for Buffy may apply for Firefly.
- No matter how much I love this show or others I think we should always call out those responsible when we see errors and offensive material included in the show. Both programmes were written by a man in a patriarchal society and will undoubtedly reflect that society.
Ok, let's go:
Post number one: A Rapist's View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly
Allecto stated in the first line that this a rant. To me this means it is angry and not necessarily well planned out. Don't give her grief over the presentation of her arguments ok? (Quotes from Allecto are in italics).
"Zoe runs around calling Mal ‘sir’ and taking orders off him....a white man tells a black woman to ‘shut up’ for no apparent reason. And she does shut up. And she continues to call him sir. And takes his orders... for the rest of the series."
I don't see this as an issue of race. I think it is clearly set up in the episode that they are in the army together and Mal is the Captain. In an army setting you take orders from your boss or you risk getting killed. You trust that your orders are good ones because if you start arguing and breaking the cohesiveness of the unit you put your squadron/unit/whatever in danger. Although we could ask why not have a black female captain and a white male subordinate.
I don't think Firefly is very good on issues of race, not because of scenarios like the one above, but because for a show set in the future where there's a huge Chinese/Asian influence on the culture there are remarkably few people of Asian descent included. This has been rectified slightly in the comics, but really should have been recognised and rectified when casting the show. Also, I suspect that a lot of the Asian cultural references, e.g., furniture, dresses, background stuff etc, are based on stereotypes and may not actually reflect the true diversity of Asian culture in existence today. I say suspect because I'm cynical - I know next to nothing about Asian culture.
"Jayne asks Mal to get Kaylee to stop being so cheerful. Mal replies, “Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” Kaylee responds by grinning and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek and saying, “I love my Captain.”
What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused."
I read Mal's quote as Mal showing up Jayne's inherent ridiculousness. Jayne probably would see no problem with duct taping Kaylee and shoving her in the hold for a month. Kaylee recognises this, hence her response. Jayne is the counterfoil in a lot of Firefly - he's a real selfish git who doesn't give a stuff about anyone else and is something of a sociopath (I think that's the correct phrase). He's out for number one and he truly doesn't understand why duct tape and imprisonment are bad things. Mal is also flawed, he's got a dubious morality (more on that later) but he's not as much a low life as Jayne.
Now Mal and Inara. Mal behaves awfully towards her. He consistently calls her a whore because he's uncomfortable with her job. He says he respects her not the job and does stand up for her when another guy gets too possessive, yet he calls her a whore and ignores her requests to give her privacy. I'm totally with Allecto on her views on Companions and Mal and Inara's relationship. I diverge a bit regarding Inara servicing the entire crew.
I think there are implied differences between Inara with a client and Inara talking to the crew. I think Inara is a thoughtful, diplomatic person and that she talks to the crew and supports them because it's in her nature to do so, she also argues with them when disagreements arise. I don’t think she’s being exploited here, I think Inara and the crew are having natural normal relationships and I don’t read it as a problem. However you could argue Inara’s training has shoehorned her into being this way and as such she is being exploited, but on a more subtle level.
Regarding Allecto’s points about the series being action centred and homoerotic, personally I like action. I like gunfights, I like fist fights and I like explosions. Whether it is homoerotic I think is debatable. Mind you I have issues with the term homoerotic anyway – yet again it places sexuality with men not women. There’s a picture of a hot topless male – it must be homoerotic, because of course only men have sex drives! Women could never be turned on by pictures of naked or near naked men. ‘Homoerotic’ takes away women’s sexual legitimacy and engagement. It implies that we are passive. And that’s bollocks.
I’m sad to hear that. Allecto’s experiences are terrible ones. Without meaning to denigrate Allecto’s experiences I would argue that it is possible for white men and WoC to have healthy relationships. Obviously not all relationships go well, most end badly (for partnerships of all colours), but in mixed race relationships problems and failure within the relationship may not be down to race. I don’t think race has an impact on Wash and Zoe’s relationship. However, I am white and I am coming at this from a position of white privilege and I am fully aware that this affect my readings of any text. As such, I will not pick up on all or any issues, particularly not subtle or hidden ones.
All thoughts and criticism welcomed.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
When I read the first installment of Allecto's analysis I was rather taken aback. I didn't understand where she was coming from and as the piece was not intended as a radical feminist 101 it took me a while to understand it. Although I don't agree with everything she writes she makes a damn good argument for all of it.
I do believe that men can be feminists. I do not think that they are well placed to pick up on and recognise internalised misogyny and societal sexism because by and large it doesn't affect them. But men can identify as feminists. They cannot however preach to women about how the bets way forward to advance women's rights. They will never know what it is like to be a woman and to be treated as a second class citizen. When I went to get my mortgage with my boyfriend the mortgage advisor directed 90% of his spiel to my boyfriend. Despite the fact I was asking the questions, despite the fact that I earned the most. The boyfriend did not notice this, because he has never had to, because he's never been in that position. However, he fully supports feminism. This is fine. He, and all the other men out there, just don't notice 95% of the crap women deal with.
Anyway, I'm slowly going through all my Buffy videos, (I know, videos, get me not with the technology), and am currently on season 2. Bearing in mind what I'd just read from Allecto certain things, say, problems, were occurring to me whilst watching it.
During Innocence, where Angel loses his soul after he's slept with Buffy. The blame for this is put squarely on Buffy's shoulders. By Giles, by her other and by Buffy. By the time Willow tells her it's not her fault in I only have eyes for you, several episodes later, Buffy is thoroughly convinced it's all down to her. She's completely internalized the guilt and won't give any of it to anyone else.
She had been in a relationship with Angel for a pretty long time now. 6, 8 months, a year? She's 17 years old. In the UK, it's legal to have sex when you're 16. I'm not sure about the law in America. She knew she couldn't get pregnant, he couldn't give her STDs cos he's dead, they loved each other. She knew nothing about the curse. Jenny knew something, but couldn't tell anyone. What exactly was wrong with them having sex?
Giles later said to her "Do you want me to say you acted rashly and wag my finger at you? You did and I can." Buffy then looks destroyed. This is her one trusted and knowledgeable authority figure in her life, her stability, and he tells her that? She did not act rashly. Having sex is not a crime. Later on her mother finds out about it and is unimpressed. But that makes more sense, mother's don't like to hear about their daughter's having sex. But then in Passion Joyce puts the blame on Buffy again for Angel changing. How is this Buffy's fault? How is it ever the woman's fault? Angel's behaviour reads like a stalker. Yet this isn't picked up on, Joyce doesn't help Buffy stop it, just blames her. The two people Buffy cares most about have told her it's her fault that her boyfriend changed after sex. If she hadn't had sex with him everything would be still be all honey and roses.
Why is Joyce not showing her it's Angel's fault he's changed? Did he not have anything to do with it? Why is Giles not placing the blame squarely on the Romany tribe who put the curse on Angel? Everyone hates Ms Calendar but I get the impression that's because she wasn't open with them about spying on Buffy and Angel. Not because it's her tribes fault he's changed. Jenny calls her uncle out about the curse, but that's the only time it's mentioned.
This whole storyline makes a pretty shit morality tale - it removes all culpability from the man. I understand that maybe Whedon wanted to show how teenage girls feel after sex when their boyfriend turns into a jerk, but it could have been down without everyone blaming Buffy. She didn't know. How could she have known? And as such, how is it her fault? Angel wasn't raped, it was fully consensual.
Maybe there's other reasons the story was written this way. Maybe instead of intending to show how it's always the woman's fault and that sex for teenagers is bad, Joss wanted to show the difference between teenagers and authority figures (Buffy and Joyce/Giles) as opposed to peer to peer relationships(Buffy/Willow). Maybe.
Still, it's not all bad. Although in Firefly's Our Mrs Reynolds, Mal is obviously taking advantage of and abusing Saffron, in the Buffy episode Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Xander cast a love spell and inadvertently makes every woman in Sunnydale want him. Including Buffy. He doesn't however take advantage, and he clearly states that it would be wrong and he does the right thing. So, I am thinking that Mal's behaviour in Our Mrs Reynolds is not symptomatic of Joss being a misogynist.
Mal is a bit of a grey area when it comes to morals. He happily kills people, he steals and he beats people up, and he enjoys it. His behaviour with Saffron then indicates further that he is a jerk. Contrast this with Xander, who is most definitely a good guy, though a bit of a sleaze, he generally does the right thing. Ergo, Joss can write good feminist texts. Except that the Buffy episode in question was written by Marti Noxon, and Our Mrs Reynolds was written by Joss. Damn.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
A few comics before this he's also hitting on his hot young neighbour and only stops cos he realises she a criminal. Wally, you are a dick.
And this page just confuses the hell out of me:
Bears and Menstruating Women. Should you camp?
This reminds me of my friends corgi, who recently went to the trouble of digging out her used tampons from the bin and eating them. 3 of them. They had to take the stupid thing to the vet and it was prescribed it some sort of laxative. I was thoroughly grossed out.
Pac man pie chart
I like the one done on the bathroom floor.
Optimash Prime! Best. Toy. Ever.
Power Girl gets own series Now please lets make it a little more consistent than the Supergirl one, ok folks?
Women of the DC Universe poster 'tis wonderful. (In my head this is a kind of alternate universe where Kate Kane isn't a total femme and would wear trousers. Everything else remains the same though) And Adam Hughes manged to draw the hands ok. Ivy and Harlequin look like they are lovers sharing an intimate moment. Kara is spot on. Power Girl looks like a goddess.
Edit: Also the pirates app on facebook, awesome!
The menstrual posts and Optimash Prime toy were first seen on Occasional Superheroine's blog. the Optimash Prime toy had me giggling on the floor for 5 minutes.