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Category Archives: Gender Relations

Celebrate with Freedom, Love, and Life; Fight Against That which Would Destroy Those Ideas

Today is Independence Day. I was born and raised in the US. My parents were born here. My grandparents were born here. My paternal great-grandparents were from Sicily. On my mother’s side, I have family that came over with the pilgrims. I also have an ancestor on that side who’s mother was from Ireland and who’s father was black. He made up an Italian last name and erased his black ancestry. This ancestor was discovered when one of my cousins decided to do our genealogy and found his birth certificate. My family history with the US is extremely varied. It encompasses many different experiences of being a US citizen. But this is basically true of most Americans.

On this day, usually reserved for drinking beer and watching fireworks with friends and family, most of us are scared. We’re scared because our nation and the entire world is in upheaval. The pandemic has cost many people their jobs or businesses or homes on top of costing so many lives. Food scarcity, already an issue in the US for many, has become an even worse issue with the weakening of the supply chain. People began protesting for their freedoms, worried that the lockdowns were an attempt at government overreach. These fears were not unfounded as nanny statesmanship has been gaining favor in some cities and states. With the economy coming to a standstill and Congress not working fast enough nor doing enough to help the citizens, too busy fighting over the bone to appear as the heroes to the people, those who had been or had loved ones affected the worst had had enough. And the media chose to shame them instead of listening to their plights. And at the end of May, things just got worse.

People all across the US were in agreement that George Floyd was murdered. Both political sides agreed that it was police brutality that cost him his life. But then when we were our most united, those who practice critical race theory shouted the loudest and were given center stage. Critical theory ideology doesn’t bring people together. It divides us into groups based on identity factors out of our control. We cannot help but be who we are, even trans people. But critical theory uses that fact to prop some voices up and silence others. It hates the number one tenant that our nation was founded on: the freedom of expression.

Critical theory does not believe in the freedom and diversity of ideas that has allowed the US to progress to such a point that slaves were freed, women gained the right to vote, people of color gained that same right, and people were allowed the opportunity to live their lives in the way that felt best to them. The US has a history of activism to make our lives better than previous generations, all built on our first amendment. While the first amendment prevents the government specifically from silencing the people as long as they are peaceful in their activism, our freedom of speech is under attack from many corners.

You may have noticed it a few years ago when Zionist Jews were starting to be silenced, fired, or not hired in our universities. You may have noticed it in social media when people with more conservative or moderate views were cancelled en masse. You may have noticed it when moderators of those social media sites starting playing favorites with whom they decided to deplatform. You may see it now as many scientists, academics, politicians, professionals, and celebrities are fired over dissenting opinions. Maybe you’ve noticed that some of those people were of minority groups, liberal, loving, kind, or simply doing the job they had been hired to do and following the rules they had laid out before them. The hierarchy of ideas followed by the hierarchy of identities to see who does or doesn’t get shouted down is in full force, which is why JK Rowling, being a white woman who espouses for women’s rights over trans women’s rights, is under fire and why Terry Crews, being a black man who espouses universal liberalism and caution, is being called racial slurs. Both of whom have been victimized in the past but overcame it, which is why I believe they are still able to stand up for themselves despite the mass bullying. Maybe, like me, you’ve noticed all this and you’re afraid that the number one focus of what this nation is founded on is in danger.

If you feel this way, understand that you are not off the mark. If visions of an Orwellian or Maoist future are haunting your sleep, you are again not far off. Actions such as the tearing down of any and all previous forms of science, art, commerce, and religion, most recently depicted in the silencing of STEM, the tearing down of statues, even those representing or honoring freed slaves, the abolishment of slavery, black contribution to previous wars, or black heroes of the past, and the burning of churches or businesses, are the very acts committed at the beginning of such cultural revolutions. History is a harsh teacher, but it is important to pay attention to it.

Black people, like Terry Crews, Candance Owens, and Marcellus Wiley, who do not “fall in line” with what critical theory wants from them are being attacked with ad hominems, many of them the worst racial slurs I’ve ever read. The same is true for women, like JK Rowling, Helen Pluckrose, Asra Nomani, and Lydia Morphy. Gay men, like Dave Rubin, and lesbians are also under fire, especially if those lesbians state they will not date a trans woman who is non-op or pre-op, such as the deceased Magdalen Burns. Trans people like Buck Angel and Blaire White, who disagree with critical theory, often face attempts to silence them since they espouse the existence of sex and their identity as trans specifically over blending it into sex to the point where trans does not exist and cannot be spoken of unless it seems someone is facing dysphoria. Men and women of color are under attack, especially those of mixed race, for their dissenting views and “proximity to whiteness”, such as Tim Pool and Andy Ngo. Many people think being in a protected identity means those people will be, well, protected from ad hominems based on that identity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Because ideas are more important than people in critical theory ideology. And once someone strays from the approved ideas, their identity is fair game for attacks.

Because critical theory promotes attacking a person based on identity. This is why white men and women are especially under fire for being allies or for not being allies. They are assumed to be racist no matter what their experience and the more they wish to help, the more racist they appear. When it comes to sexism, men cannot talk about their problems at all, to the point that male victims of gendered violence must remain silent along with all other men while their teachers encourage the female students to speak on their victimhood, imagined or real. A white woman can be followed home by a man and be accused of racism for simply being frightened of this very aggressive and dangerous action because that man is black. Actions matter less than identity and identity matters less than ideas. This allows real predatory behaviors to go ignored and unpunished. This is how so many sexual and racial predators end up in high political positions. This isn’t the America that even our forefathers envisioned.

When the forefathers decided to stand up to the English overreach, they argued over the sticky issue of calling themselves a free and equal nation while allowing slavery to continue. One of the earlier versions of the declaration of independence had slavery as being illegal, but there were too many men that would not support the revolution while having to give up their slaves, so the rewrites capitulated on that horrific issue to allow the US to unite against the English. But the language was there. It was a seed of freedom and equality, and it was exactly the rhetorical tool left in the declaration of independence to allow abolitionists to fight slavery down the line. And to continue to create more freedom for more people. The only idea that matters as much as human life is freedom. Because that is what life should be, free.

One of the best freedoms the US has gained is the one to love whom we wish, and that one is facing a great amount of attack. Inter-racial relationships and the children they produce are now a sign of proximity to whiteness. The right to be homosexual is now seen as bigotry against trans. Love is, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., the only thing capable of destroying darkness and hate. Telling people who they can and cannot love is, in a time when Americans should be drawing those they love closer to them, wrong. Invalidating the very existence of that love for those who could not experience their love even fifty years ago is wrong. America in the last one hundred years has embraced love of all kinds. Critical theory does not support that love.

As a US citizen and a human being, I believe in your right to express yourself. I believe in your right to disagree. I believe in your right to protest. I believe in your right to be who you are. I believe in your right to love whom you wish. Today I celebrate those things that do make America great: the love we share, the ability to express ourselves, the ability to be who we are freely no matter how different, the people of the past and today who fought for equality and freedom and the rights they gained for my generation and for any other US citizen. I will stand against ideologies that work to break those rights down. I may be only one person, but there are, in fact, many who feel the same way. I stand with them, and I will support them, even if they aren’t Americans. Because these freedoms should exist for everyone.

 

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Fake News?: What Happens When Trump Is Right

Have you heard the latest news debacle? Video has surfaced of a group of white teenagers bullying a Native American U.S. vet. Or so that’s what most media organizations big and small are selling for their headlines. Definitely gets clicks and shares. Like my headline. Thing is though, I don’t make any money if you read this. I also hate the idea that Trump is right about fake news. He shouts it like Oprah giving away prizes and about things that are typically not fake. But not so in this case. I’ve had issues with news media manipulating the public before, but this instance is only proving that it is getting harder and harder to do so what with the internet and now we can all feel free to call the intent of the news into question.

The Reporting

Take a look at what was originally said of this incident on major news sources. The Washington Post shows four minutes of the incident and speaks specifically to Phillips the U.S. vet and several representatives of the Native American rights associations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/01/20/it-was-getting-ugly-native-american-drummer-speaks-maga-hat-wearing-teens-who-surrounded-him/?utm_term=.acfbde9d2669. ABC has less than two minutes of video but interviews on a more balanced level despite the click-baity title: https://abc7news.com/politics/boys-in-maga-hats-mock-indigenous-elder-in-dc-video/5097427/. The initial CNN report video shows only seconds of the footage but makes many moral judgements using tone and statements, but forces the responsibility on society as a whole, but seems almost ironic when it moves on to the idea of people promoting “going viral” considering how much news itself relies on audience attention and shares (and the fact that the video didn’t come from the teenagers themselves): https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/01/19/maga-video-teens-native-american-unfiltered-vpx.cnn. Fox News obviously didn’t say much about the video until the backlash started. Yahoo News shows less than two minutes of video and then four minutes in another embedded video and had no interviews: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/maga-hatted-teens-harass-native-182138098.html.

There is actually more than an hour of footage of this incident, including moments of a group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters taunting the teenagers with racist and homophobic slurs, but most shockingly of all the video starts with the Black Hebrew Israelite group blaming the Native American protestors for the loss of their land on their “idol worship” and that’s just the first 30 seconds. You want to talk about offensive? That’s offensive. Why isn’t that the headline? Because it is two minority groups butting heads instead of a majority group and a minority group. While the clip everyone is showing has one kid being silent and a Native American banging a drum and singing, the beginning of the whole video includes a shouting match between a Black Hebrew Israelite protestor and what appears to be a Native American woman. “Half of understanding is listening,” says the guy that’s not listening. After eight minutes in, the man filming turns the camera on himself to spout extremely sexist comments. Then the main protestor starts asking where her husband is. He calls another woman a “culture vulture” as if telling Native Americans that them worshiping idols instead of God isn’t disrespectful of their culture. The person recording then calls who seems like the MAGA teenagers crackers and threatens to “stick [his] foot in their ass”. A chunk of the video after this is the Black Hebrew Israelites discussing religious history with a Native American man as the Indigenous Peoples’ March kicks up a bit. After a while, the main protestor starts shouting at the Native Americans again, suggesting that their march is useless, but recognizes the similarities in Native American and African-American struggles. Afterwards, they point out the teenagers again and use the N-word. Then there is a lot of political/religious preaching, followed by the reasonable question “When has America ever been great for us?” Which he then hurts his message by calling the kids peckerwoods. But he keeps promoting separation of White people from the other races as they are all oppressors to him. Then he disrespects Native American culture and religion again. A Native American man started yelling at them for not showing respect. The Black Hebrew Israelites call them the N-word, stupid, ignorant, demons, and Uncle Tomahawks and ask why the Native Americans don’t yell at the MAGA teens (who’ve been quiet thus far on the video). Then the MAGA teens come over and the man recording talks about how disrespectful they are to the Native Americans for wearing those hats at their march. A woman starts yelling at them and the Black Hebrew Israelite leader start asking about her husband and after she starts preaching love, peace, and unity, he says he’s done with her. More preaching. A man points out that they are proselytizing. More preaching. Then some anti-Semitic comments. The man recording starts pointing out the teenagers again. The boys don’t do anything. More preaching. Then homophobic comments about a pedophilic priest. Then homophobic comments about Trump and Giuliani and the Catholic Church. More Uncle Tomahawk comments about a member of the crowd, telling him he might as well put on a MAGA hat and calling him the N-word and coon. The guy filming asks them why they won’t yell at the teenagers. Then he walks up to the teenagers and calls them crackers. They still don’t do anything. The Black Hebrew Israelite leader calls them all future school shooters and the man filming calls them animals. The teenagers put some distance between themselves and the Black Hebrew Israelites. More political/religious preaching, including something about UFOs. Some guy skateboards through the area playing music, and they start threatening him with “punishment” if he gets too close and call him a clown. A woman talks to them about a prophecy. More preaching. A near fight breaks out between the skateboarder and the guy filming. The skateboarder goes off, but circles them still, and the man filming says he’s going to hit him. The leader starts talking about Bill Clinton, Haiti, and Paris. The man filming continues to point out the teenagers, that still haven’t engaged. The skateboarder’s music is still playing, as he seems to be trying to drown them out, and they keep threatening him. More preaching. A man starts shouting, but he’s really hard to understand, but they call him a five dollar Indian. A woman shouts that we love everybody. The leader shouts “We love you as much as Donald Trump loves us.” More preaching and threatening of the skateboarder. Someone asks if this is a Stand Your Ground State. More preaching. Then they call the teenagers incest babies and bastards. The teenagers start chanting, but it is not “Build the Wall”. They call the teenagers dogs and hyenas. A water bottle is on the ground between the two groups and one of the teenagers runs forward to pick it up. It is not clear where the bottle came from, if it was thrown or dropped or by whom. The teenagers then chant and focus on one of them who takes off his shit, and after that the man filming calls them cavemen. He says they are surrounded by them but you can clearly see a way without any of the teenagers that people are walking through. The teenagers keep chanting. Then we can hear Phillips coming and he stops between the two groups and continues drumming. The teenagers jump up and down in front of him, and yes, some of them are disrespectful. They chant Hey in time to the drum and clap, then it sounds like some of them sing O, but some of them are still and quiet. A couple of the teenagers engage with the Black Hebrew Israelite leader, booing him for calling them school shooters. It’s hard to see Phillips, but we can still hear his drum. Some of the teenagers say at best cheeky things to the leader at worst immature. Some White adults start making the teenagers back up. School chants ensue, one kid says they are being racist. More cracker and N-word slurs. Most of the students are standing there but are very close. The man filming calls one of them a young clansman who had said something I couldn’t understand, and the man filming appears to be holding a stick (like a broom-handle). The students appear to be about four feet at least from the protestors. One of the students says they can’t vote. More preaching and the kids are shocked by many of the things he says. One teenager says you can swear on a law book instead of the Bible, one says they don’t judge them. Some of the teenagers are laughing. An adult says Let’s go, the teenagers cheer and leave. Then the Black Hebrew Israelites start shouting at a group of Native Americans. More homophobic comments. A woman comes up and says We love you. He asks for his land back. A White man says that Black Africans sold others into slavery. After more stuff about religion and child molestation, a woman says “You’re not going to change their minds.” At this point it is clear that nothing will stop these protestors from shouting down the people around them, using racist, sexist, homophobic, and disrespectful comments. This is so hard to watch. It is so hard to sit and listen to everything these two men say. I did it though. I watched the whole thing, and I know it is hard to watch anything longer than five minutes these days, but it is worth our attention, so here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQyBHTTqb38. I won’t say enjoy, because I didn’t find anything about this enjoyable.

I want to say that I don’t understand why the headline is about the teenagers. I want to say that I don’t get it. But I do understand. It is about an agenda of divisiveness that increases viewership. It’s about clicks.

Assault, Harassment, and Defamation

Because of how the media has presented the events of the quick bit of video they show, the main teenager in the video and his family have gotten death threats, he is facing expulsion from school, and is one of the most hated figures of social media right now. It’s no wonder that he came out with a version of events from his perspective, even if it laden with rhetoric to make himself out to be the victim. To be honest with you, considering that he and the other students are underage, I don’t believe the video should even be shown with them in it with their faces clearly identifiable. Other countries do this, and it’s high time we did, but minors should not be part of the media circus. To me, it prevents mob mentality from judging minors for life, in the same way we protect them from the stupid, inexperienced criminal choices of their youth by sealing juvenile records. Not everything is protected as if they are charged as adults, then it sticks. But I certainly don’t think any of these teenagers committed the kind of felonies in the video that would mean we never let them forget it. But the media has decided to vilify these teenagers. And if some of them did see the whole video before reporting, they decided to hold minors to higher standards than adults.

I don’t agree with why the teenagers were there, I don’t agree with their support of Trump, but they are still young and people change quite a bit in their early to mid twenties from who they were as teenagers. I also believe they have the right to march in a rally that I don’t believe in. They have the right to buy hats I don’t like. We can’t assume they deserved to be vilified simply because of those hats, as some people vilify women for wearing low cut necklines or LBGT people for wearing rainbow hats and shirts nor do we accept them being harassed by others. But apparently we’re supposed to okay with a minority group heckling Native Americans. Those two men also had the right to be there and they also had the right to say what they did. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t, but they still had the right. Everyone had the right to be there. There were some near assaults when people started to get into each other’s personal space, and only if people followed someone around and said horrible things to them repeatedly would it be considered harassment. The event itself was fine. Uncomfortable. But legal and fine. As Trevor Noah put it “All First Amendment and no Second Amendment.” It was fine.

The Backlash

What isn’t fine is how the major media networks decided to reframe this video to rabble rouse and sow division. As if things aren’t bad enough. And after everyone found the long video, many people were upset at having been misled, and now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Those on the extreme right feel vindicated and able to character assassinate Phillips, as if that’s okay too. It’s really not. I’m a huge opponent of ad hominem. I don’t believe it promotes empathy, trust, or the seeking out of the truth. Very rarely do I see a purpose in condemnations of others unless a true argument with evidence to support claims is given as well.

People who are typically in the middle, like me, see this news debacle as disheartening. For me, it is just more of the same. I’m unsurprised by their decision to manipulate their audience, but this has given a lot of people something to think about. A lot people, despite Trump shouting fake news, trusted the major news networks to give them unbiased information, but now they feel lied to or misled. They may even look back at previous reports on political and social topics and wonder. My hope is that more people will start digging deeper as a result, which is now easier to do with the internet.

A lot of the old guard think that the internet actually makes it harder to know what is real and fake, but a person just has to be discerning in their sources. It also one of the only places Americans can get international news as while interest hasn’t dropped, reporting from the major networks has (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ly7Btx0Stg). There is still some left push back, people saying that the teenagers deserve what they get both in the video and by way of punishment and harassment since they were wearing MAGA hats and were there for a Pro-Life rally, but as I said before, they have a right to believe what they believe, wear what they want to wear, and protest what they want to protest. I don’t have to like it or agree with them, but they have the right, just like anyone else. That is what America is about. Even if it isn’t always pretty.

But some of the networks are defending what they did as it is not always easy to get the whole picture before you have to publish, and that’s a load of bullshit. We now have 24 hour news cycle, but I suggest if they can’t do it ethically and competently in the amount of time they are giving themselves, that they need to slow down. It’s their job to fact check. You don’t win anyone over by whining about how hard it is to do your job. They’re more afraid that someone will report the story before them that they are all jumping the gun than they are of getting the story wrong, but look at what it has gotten them. If they hadn’t jumped the gun, if they had done their due diligence, they could have reported on the video accurately and looked like the good guys. Now they just look like assholes. It is shameful that they have misstepped so badly as to allow extremist right shouting of Fake News to be credible.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Oh, but Fox News does it! Yeah, and they’re wrong when they do it too. You can’t control what someone else does, only what you do. CNN is not responsible for what Fox News says, but they are responsible for what they say. You can’t hold yourself to the standards and principles of those you don’t like or find unethical. You can’t think of it as winning or losing. Disseminating information is not a game. It is about ethics, the truth, and honesty. That’s what you hold yourself to. I can’t believe that I have to pull out an adage meant for five year olds to talk about major news networks comprised entirely of adults. That’s the kind of immaturity that exists in that industry. I understand that there is a competition for viewership, but there should not be a competition for hearts and minds. The news should be objective, despite the flashlight theory–it should at least strive to be as objective as possible. The point of the news is to provide the people with information, not to sway them politically or socially. That’s the job of politicians and activists. The real problem is the death of local news and coalescing of news, especially in major print and TV services, to a few sources. A few people get to decide that the truth is less important than a political or social goal, even if people are trampled by their manipulations. But the news is sold to us as an informational source, not a persuasive argument. So we have a mockery of that idea in all the major networks. They may claim to be news sources, but really that is a mask they wear to put forth a perspective subversively. It seems that yellow journalism rules the day. Left, right, I don’t care. I don’t want my news littered with rhetoric designed to manipulate me. And neither should anyone else.

Why This Is So Bad

But this debacle is going to have long term consequences. I can foresee in 2020 any “outrageous” things being held in suspicion. I foresee that if Trump does run that swing vote people will go for him because they won’t trust sources like CNN and ABC who will be pushing for a democrat winner. They already had a hand in Trump winning in 2016 (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/a-lack-of-respect-the-path-to-a-trump-presidency/). I know this sounds like conspiracy theory, but at this point too many people believe that left leaning news networks are not worth trusting and we can’t pretend that they’ll get over it. I figured out all news networks were trying to manipulate me a long time ago. Teaching rhetorical analysis gave me the edge needed to recognize it, and since I am a Centrist I did not ignore it from any source because no source was telling me what I wanted to hear. I don’t buy into the narrative that one side is evil and one side is good. I believe most politicians are in it to win it, no matter what, and are willing to promise anything to get a vote. So when any news source promotes one candidate over the other, and it’s not an Op Ed, but the kind of subtle jabs at one candidate and subversive advancement of another while “reporting” on debates or campaign appearances, I’m just pissed. And I think it is safe to say that more people are pissed at them after this incident then before, and I think they will remember, mostly because the right is not going to let it go. So great job, any left leaning media, you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 26, 2019 in Gender Relations, Politics, Social Issues

 

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Ethnocentricity and Gender Violence: Where Sense8 Failed

I was quite upset last year when I found out there would be no more new episodes of Sense8, especially when the last episode ended on such a kickass moment. But a year on, I realized an issue with the show that I hadn’t noticed when actually watching the show. There were glaring issues that were present in my mind as I watched the show. But this one that I’ve more recently thought of is quite possibly the biggest issue in the crafting of the show. And that is the issue of the whitewashing of Kala’s experience in India to be basically the same as any privileged American woman. Spoilers below.

The Characters

Some characters had very personal issues while others had issues that dealt with major national and global issues. Sun, who lived in South Korea, had to deal with the fact that no matter how good or capable she was in her life, she was often seen as inadequate based on her sex alone, and her brother could be the worst person imaginable and still be considered better than her. We see this in her decision to sacrifice herself to the law to hide her brother’s embezzlement of the family’s company funds. We also see this in the fact that to compete in her favored martial art, she had to do so under an assumed name and eventually quit competing altogether. Nomi was a trans woman, who had to face her family’s rejection and even the rejection of other women of her identity. Her mother continually dead named her whenever her family deigned to contact her. And some feminists saw Nomi as a man trying to take more from women. Riley’s issues were much more personal. She had to deal with the underbelly of club life, but most of all, she had to deal with her grief over losing her husband and child. Wolfgang had to deal with the gang life of Berlin, trying desperately to both stay alive in a dangerous world and carve out a place for himself in it. Lito, living the predominantly Catholic and highly toxic masculinity soaked Mexico, had to hide who he was from the world in order to continue the career he loved. This was definitely the most turmoil filled of the character issues. Capheus had to deal with the difficult task of getting his mother AIDS medication and surviving the very dangerous violence of poverty-stricken Kenya and possibly corrupt government. Will, a Chicago cop, had to deal with the very adversarial nature of policing an area that hated the police and divisive community that both wanted help and was suspect of it. Kala was asked to marry the son of an affluent man who owned the company she worked for and deal with meshing her religious family with his non-religious family.

Some of these storylines grew and development or were dropped entirely by the end of season two. Eventually, Sun just worked to murder her brother, Nomi spent most of her time in hiding from the law but also developed a better relationship with her sister, Riley had a pivotal moment wherein she had to at least stop suppressing her memories of her deceased family but then simply spent season two helping Will, Wolfgang continued to try to find himself a place in the organized crime of Berlin, Lito was outed and his Mexican film career was ruined but his career was opening up in the US after giving an amazing speech at a Pride parade, Capheus was pushed to run for a political position to help his community with integrity, Will developed a heroin addiction but also spearheaded the fight against the shady organization after them, and Kala married her wealthy paramour and found out that many of their poorly produced meds went to the areas that needed them the most, such as Kenya.

Gender Inequality and Violence in India

Back in college, I took a course in Global Women’s Issues which covered problems that women faced the world over. For example, FGM in Africa or Bride Burnings in India. If like me, you’ve paid attention to the gender violence that goes on in India, you would notice that it hasn’t slowed down much. First off, women are not highly valued in their infancy but many communities in the country cannot afford numerous children. As such, there aren’t currently many women in India. Counter to most statistics elsewhere, men outnumber women in India. Recently, the NYT covered this subject, but the number of women there is trending upward. But not only are women outnumbered by men, but due to the lack of plumbing infrastructure, there are many public bathrooms throughout major city centers that require people to pay for their use when defecating. Last I read, men’s bathrooms far outnumbered women’s bathrooms beyond the male to female ratio, and since it is hard for a woman to prove whether or not she had only urinated without a major invasion of her privacy, going to the bathroom costs women money more often than men. These two things seem minor, however, in comparison to the violence perpetrated against women in India.

First of all, I had previously mentioned Bride Burnings which involve the killing of a young woman recently married for either her family not paying a dowry, not paying enough or more in the dowry, or when the husband dies and the husband’s family does not wish to pay or care for the young bride. These women are not killed and then their bodies burned. They are burned alive. Unfortunately, the India government, mostly local courts, has turned a blind eye to most of these murders, with a conviction rate of only 33% in 2008.

More commonly, rape is a very prevalent crime in India, despite the idea that it has one of the lowest rates of rape of all countries. This is because rape is not often reported in India. One of the most known incidents was the rape and murder of a student on public transport back in 2012 in Delhi. A male friend of hers was badly beaten during the incident and all six other men, including the bus driver, raped her. She was also violated with a metal rod, severally damaging her internal organs, leading to her eventual death. After this, the public outcry against this kind of extreme gender violence broke out into protests, the demands of which included better safety for women in India. Fortunately, the court did convict the rapists of multiple charges, including rape and murder. All levels of the Indian government got  involved, including the parliament. But this didn’t change too much, as not even a year later, another student was gang-raped. But the men who raped this woman in 2013 got the death sentence, so the government was trying to make rape less and less appealing to gangs. But even as recently as this January, an eight year old was raped and murdered by eight men including two political party members. There have even been reports of mass rapes, which included children and elderly women. The anger over all this gender violence once came to a head in 2004 when a crowd of about 200 women lynched a rapist who called one of his victims a prostitute. The women had stated that he had been bribing the local authorities to prevent arrest or prosecution.

In cultures where women are not valued as equals to men, rape tends to be pretty common. Rape has a much worse impact on women and communities where women are not valued as equals, because a woman’s body and virginity are the way by which the majority of the society values them and how they are able to create livelihoods, not as prostitues but as wives. Rape damages their worth in the society and lowers the number of women considered viable for marriage even when the overall number of women is already too low. One would think that the act of rape would result in the worst possible punishment in communities that bases women’s values on their bodies’ worth as wives and mothers, and while India, the nation, is trying very hard to fight against rape, local governments are fighting against the tide to punish rapists to the maximum limit. The tide is shown below. It shows absolutely and without a doubt what rape culture looks like when it runs amok.

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The American Gaze

The average American has no idea about any of those issues in India. Feminists tend to know about it, and some other people have a general vague idea about these problems. But American news tends to focus nearly entirely on the United States. A person typically really has to dig to find out what’s going on in other countries. It’s not because interest in other nations went down. It’s that a wider American audience was wanted for the news so more US stories tended to get a wider view. So when most Americans hear about another nation, they tend to put an American cultural context on it. And the American cultural context is almost impossible to untangle from slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. The United States literally sees most things in Black and White, even though those aren’t the only races in the US, let alone the world. Sometimes jokes that are meant to be about regions are seen as racist against Black people. One great example of this is the Brittish conductor’s firing from an American music festival for making a joke to his long-time friend from the South about his possibly wanting grits. This friend happened to be Black. A White woman overheard the joke, which was long-running between the two who traded barbs on a regular basis about what the other one culturally was more likely to consume, assumed it was about his Blackness, then reported it. The music festival never once asked the person who was supposedly subjected to this so-called racism what he thought about it. Their administration made a unilateral decision and fired the conductor. This is far from an acceptable way of handling an accusation of racism. If one simply ignores the cultural differences between Americans and Brittains, but just looks at the fact they didn’t ask the Black person if it was racist, but decided for him that it was, that can be considered racist to the extreme. But the fact that the conductor was Brittish is important. We hardly acknowledge that other countries and cultures have a different and unique history with Black people, let alone consider the interplay between other races. We often don’t pay attention to those issues that affect other minority groups in other countries. We don’t hear about them either, because the US media focuses almost all its minority attention on how Black and White people interact in the US only. As such, the average American tends to apply this filter to all issues in all countries without knowledge or context. You can see such reactions to the attempt to protect women on transport through segregation below. I’m not sure if this will actually help, especially considering the aforementioned victim who died was also raped by the bus driver, but I understand that they are trying something.

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I appreciated the fact that more informed tumblrs were willing to share their information. But since we don’t know the sex of anyone on tumblr, we can’t say for certain that those who brought up segregation were all male nor that all of those who were informed were female. It’s surprising who is and is not informed of other nations’ issues and violence against women. To me, the funnist and most ethnocentric comment is that it reminds them of something “everyone” has learned in school. Do people truly believe that all the intricacies of US history is taught in all other countries in the world? Because that’s just ignorant.

Sense8’s Failing

My real issue with Sense8 in connection to all the above problems is that Kala’s story is whitewashed. It’s about a woman feeling pressured to marry an affluent man (something that still happens in the US) while she’s in love with another man (another thing that happens in the US) and dealing with a pharmaceutical company’s unethical practices (definitely happens in the US). We get a glorified love triangle. To not even mention the very real physical dangers that women in India face, when the show seemed to pride itself on showing the issues facing people of specific demographics around the world, is an unforgivable oversight. And if it was a conscious decision to do so, then the show wasn’t nearly as progressive as it liked to appear. We need more awareness of these issues in India, not to have them glossed over in a TV show that could have exposed a global audience to the gender violence in India.

Maybe they were planning this in another season, but the show was cancelled and I don’t believe that they were planning it, because it’s not even in the background. Kala behaves as if rape isn’t a possibility in her life, going to public places alone and without some kind of defensive device all the time. Even most of her clothes are very Western by comparison to what some of the women in India wear on a day to day basis. I just can’t help but think that this is a great disservice to the women of India. I’m not saying Kala needed to be raped on the show. I’m saying that it should at least have been a topic and fear that she had to deal with on daily basis. Instead, her experience and story feels very Western, and while Western women still worry about rape and rape culture still exists in Western societies, the degree to which Indian women must deal with both is in a much greater extreme. This needed to be shown. Realizing how much this subject was ignored in the show in favor of a love triangle really bothers me and I will most likely not watch the show again, as I have other cancelled or completed shows, because it is just plain bad writing, which is sad considering that Jessica Jones deals with rape in such a poignant fashion.

But What Do You Think?

Were there any other topics that you felt this show ignored that were ripe for showcasing? Were there other shows that ignored a major issue in a culture? Do think it’s purposeful or an accident? I’m interested in what you have to say on the subject.

 

I’m Not a Female Writer; I’m a Writer

I remember once during my grad school time, I took a class on creative writing theory. One essay we read was by Langston Hughes, and in it he said that the young black writer who doesn’t want to identify himself as a black writer is wrong. Of course, discussion followed. I was against this idea. My professor hit the nail on the head when he asked me if I want to be identified as a “female writer”. I gave a very quick and very loud, No! in return. I’ll explain why this is so important to me.

To Be Identified Is To Be Qualified

We don’t say that Stephen King is a white writer or a male writer. We say he is a writer. Some may say he is a horror writer, and that is a qualifier of a different sort, but with all the minimization that the genetic qualifiers are used with. Identity social protest and politics are very in right now. I’ve never been behind them, and I’m not behind them in art either. When our identity is put before everything else, it pigeonholds us. It’s a qualifier. “Miceli is a female writer” vs “Miceli is a writer”. It’s clear to me that one of these implies that as a writer, I’m not on equal footing with others. It implies “less than”, a niche, a special case. We get the same thing with athletes and scientists. It’s not necessary to say a person is a woman. Let other people figure it out on their own.

To say that Stephen King is a male writer is to suggest that we can’t expect good women from him. But his first novel blows that theory out of the water. To say that he is a white writer is to suggest that we can’t expect him to understand the issues that ethnic minorities face. That’s also disproven. To say that I’m a female writer is to suggest that you can’t expect good male characters from me. Empathy is supposed to bridge these gaps. It is a writer’s greatest tool and we can stop qualifying people at any point.

The Womanly Effect on Writing

Well, being a woman has an effect on my writing in the same way that being a man effects a male writer: minimally, if you wield empathy correctly and well. I have no control over the sex I was born with, nor even with the sex I identify with; however, I’m a strange person. I don’t get along with most women. We often have less to talk about. I don’t wear makeup, and I get haircuts every two years. I hate fussing with my appearance and don’t like kids. This is basically the opposite of most women I know. I do identify myself as a woman, but about as much as I identify myself as a human being. All of us are human beings, and a little more than half of us are physically female. It’s what I am. It’s not who I am. I have other things that I feel make up who I am a little stronger than those two things. Those are foundation, not home.

I have a learning disability. It made me incredibly different those around me. It made learning how to read and write so much harder. Yet all the rewards were so much sweeter. I am an atheist, not by choice (it’d be easier in this world to believe and I tried), when everyone around me was devout. I had to discover Christianity and discover that I didn’t believe in it, nor anything else resembling creation, the divine, or an afterlife. I more recently discovered that I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and had to learn how to deal with that. These things more greatly explain the kind of person I am and explain the kind of writer I am a lot better than simply being a woman. Being a childfree woman has more of an effect than just being a woman.

Being a woman is so simply a part of me that it is hard for me to focus on it. Just as I imagine being a man is hard for men to focus on. I think only people who want to simplify themselves focus on their genetic differences. It’s easier to feel like you’re part of it all when you can pick out others who look like you and feel the same things you do. But I identify with no one and everyone, because everyone feels differently and feels the same. I think that’s what writing and art is supposed to show us, which is why what the writer is doesn’t matter, just what they write.

Proud to Be a Woman and My Name?

First of all, my name is Alex. It is not Alexis, Alexandrea, Alexa, or Alexandra. My first name really is just Alex. Yes, people have thought that I was male before meeting me on occasion. This doesn’t usually bother me too much. I am not proud of what I didn’t accomplish. I didn’t accomplish being a woman. That doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t control it. Genetic chance doesn’t seem like something I should be proud of. I’m proud of the things I do. I’m also not ashamed of things out of my control, like genetic chance. It doesn’t make any sense to me to be so. I feel like pride and shame should be wrapped up in actions, not chance. So I’m proud of this blog, my Patreon, my published play, the awards I’ve won, the stories and poems I’ve written, the actions I’ve taken to help others.

I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar?

I care about women’s issues. I  also care about men’s issues. I care about poverty issues. I care about animal cruelty. I care about messed up beaucracity. I care about everything that feels like it is hurting another living creature. Some are higher on the list of emotional response, such as women’s access to sterilization in the US and animal cruelty or the treating of animals as property. I don’t necessarily let these things guide my writing however. Instead, I let my writing guide itself. Will it be effected by these things? Of course, they are all in my head, and what’s in my head invariably comes out in my creations. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m going to write about animal cruelty”, unless I’m writing here in this blog or for a paper. In my creative work, I’m writing from an image or a character first, not an ideal or an injustice. Let the work be interpreted as audiences are wont to do. I know I interpret work I experience.

I’m Simply a Writer

The end goal of equality should be to be seen no different than someone who is different. Of course, that doesn’t apply when I go to the doctor, except that the doctor should still see me as someone who is smart enough to make decisions about my body. Overall, though, I am simply a writer. This is who I am above all things. I’m reading about Jonathan Swift right now, and I keep having some eerie feelings while doing so, because his attitude is so much like mine (Everybody can fuck off, but I worry that you’re being treated like shit). He lived centuries ago, in a different country, and with a different set of sex organs, but I keep getting the idea that I would have loved this man and also never hung out with him, just as I never hang out with anyone. I don’t like people when they are in front of me, but I certainly care about them. This seems to be something a lot of other people feel, and it doesn’t seem to be effected by gender. It’s an example of how characteristics transcend obvious genetic differences. They can also transcend cultures and times. We can all find something that connects us to someone else. Anyone else. We can all empathize, if we try, with everyone in the world. And that effects my writing more than my sex.

 

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Passive vs Active: The Language of Victimization, Victim-Blaming, and the Intent vs Effect of Communication

Recently some friends on Facebook posted this spiel about the use of passive voice in talking about gendered crime and statistics. Read it for yourself below.

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I immediately felt uncomfortable with the whole thing. I have several reasons why. Keep reading if you’re interested in why.

Passive Voice and Crime Reporting

The quote above by Katz is focused on gender related victimization; however, we use the passive voice when speaking about crime in general. Reporters will often write or say “Last night a man was mugged while walking to his car” or “Many people’s identities were stolen last week” or “A teenager was hit by a car yesterday”. So right off the bat, I question the validity of linking the use of passive voice with gendered crime exclusively. “Was murdered”, “was attacked”, “was car-jacked”, “was mugged”, “was abused” are all terms used in the reporting of crime and do not specify gender. I argue that rape isn’t even a gendered crime, so I cannot help but feel that Katz is limiting the use of passive voice to gendered crime is a limit of the mind and excludes victims.

Counting Crimes

Another issue with this argument is that the number of victims and the number of perpetrators is disproportionate. We can easily count those who have been victimized. We cannot count perpetrators until they have been convicted. The teen pregnancy is the best example of where in reporting the number of instances, the pregnancy count is more accurate than the number of males involved in those pregnancies. First of all, the chances of a male getting more than one teenager pregnant is pretty good (which is horrible, I agree), but we have no way of tracking that. We can, however, track the teen pregnancy amounts. If the guy got pregnant or had some sort of messed up score card emblazoned on his forehead, we would count that instead.

Focus on the Pain = Focus on the Victim

I don’t believe we should take the narrative of the event away from the victim. In doing so, we remove the focus on the pain they have suffered. We can argue that active voice about a perpetrator can express outrage; however, outrage should not be the focus. Empathy for the victim should be the focus. We do this by presenting the narrative of the event from the perspective of the victim. We keep the victim as the subject of the sentences. When the media reports on victimed crimes, they are required (generally) to do so impassively. They cannot present outrage in their tone, especially with written reports vs verbal ones. As such the narrative with the perpetrator as the subject of the sentences can create a dissonance because we are used to narratives wherein we are meant to believe and empathize with the subject of the sentences. We all have years and years of training to think this way. Imagine the story of Brock Turner and his victim as presented by him vs the letter she wrote to the judge. Or compare the dispassionate reporting of the events from his perspective vs from hers. If the press gave his story first, most people would be predisposed to disbelieve her story coming second. The act is not made illegal based on the inner thinking of the perpetrator but for the damage it causes the victim. While I see the dangers of passive voice in fictional narratives, I see it as a necessity in the reporting of victimed crimes to focus the empathy on the victim.

Passive Voice and Victimization

Katz presents the idea that by focusing on the victim, we are also holding them responsible for their victimization. However, besides leaving the victim as the subject of the sentences and thus the focus of empathy, passive voice perfectly matches the reality for victims. Being a victim is a passive act. Victims did not do anything to bring on their victimization. Of course, passive voice should be used when describing victims. They were not active in their victimization. It is the very opposite of victim-blaming to use passive voice. Victims themselves are allowed to use whichever form they please (I was mugged vs Someone mugged me) because as the authors of the sentences about the event, they are already forcing the audience to acknowledge them. But if a reporter were to use active voice with the victim as the subject, that sentence would have to be very carefully structured to avoid victim-blaming. I foresee sentences like that being unwieldy and unclear.

Violence Against Object Phrasing

While I get what Katz is saying that men aren’t involved in the structure of the phrase “violence against women”, the argument ignores the fact that most organizations that fight against violence structure it that way: Violence Against Children and Violence Against Animals are both used in organizations lending assistance to those groups. Most Violence Against groups are victim focused first. They try to help the victim out of bad situation. Secondary to rescue actions are education actions. It makes sense then that the title should focus on the victim of the act, not the perpetrator as the organizations usually have no direct contact with those people and legislative lobbying is not as big a focus.

If a person searches for “violence against” in an online search engine, most results will be about women. Half of those will be organizations with Domestic Violence in the organization name. I believe that Domestic Violence is a better term. While many believe that the term Domestic is problematic because it can imply Privacy, I relate it to Domecile, which implies co-habitation. Domestic Violence is specific to two people in a relationship living together, one of whom has become abusive of the other. This is non-gendered, which to me is highly important. So often, people say that domestic abuse is not about who is physically stronger, but who is more powerful and controlling. This is not a gendered issue, also because people of non-cis-sexualities are capable of domestic abuse. Believing that a man simply by being physically stronger can never be a victim of domestic abuse feeds into toxic masculinity and just compounds the gender divide. That is why Domestic Violence is a more inclusive way of describing the problems. Women can and do abuse men, emotionally, verbally, and yes, physically. However, abuse can still happen if the two aren’t living together, so even that term is not enough. Inter-relationship Violence is most encompassing of the terms I can come up with because while we have a word for a guardian abusing a child (Child Abuse), we don’t have a word for child to child abuse or a child abusing a parent, both of which do happen. Our terms unfortunately are based on archaic ideas of relationships and family, namely the nuclear family. The nuclear family was rarely a reality and even rarer now than it was when it was considered the norm. So I agree with Katz in saying that the term Violence Against Women is problematic, but not for the same reasons.

Intent > Communication > Effect

When I pointed out to someone that I felt that Katz argument was flawed, I mentioned intent and was parried with the statement that intent did not matter. I’ve been reading up a lot lately on how to speak to someone who has distorted thinking in order to properly communicate intent to the right effect, all of it written by psychologists and psychiatrists. So I’m going to break down what I’ve learned.

  • Intent: Person A’s desired effect fed or countered by bias, emotion, thoughts, memories, and situation – example: to report on a recent crime in an objective manner to make Persons B knowledgeable of the crime
  • Communication: the words by which Person A will attempt to match effect to intent
  • Effect: Persons Bs’ mental and emotional reaction to the communication, influenced by their pre-communication memories, thoughts, and feelings

Of course, in a perfect world, intent and effect would always match. We don’t live in a perfect world, so they don’t always match, because Person A’s conscious intent can be greatly effected by their unconscious intent. Person B can also be suffering from distorted thinking. Distorted thinking is a symptom of depression, anxiety, PTSD, several personality disorders, and other mental health issues. Disorted thinking can warp communication to mean something it doesn’t mean, such as seeing hostility where there is none. When the issue is Person A’s bias or unconscious intent, they can have this gently pointed out them and re-evaluate how they communicate their conscious intent. When the issue is Person B’s distorted thinking, they should be made aware of this, probably with a professional, and use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help them change their reactions to the communication.

Triggers

CBT is used to help people have more rational reactions to triggers. Now, I’ve been hearing a lot about trigger-warnings and safe spaces. About people trying to prevent people who suffer from bad reactions to certain things from experiencing those certain things. Especially victims. Now, victims of crimes are not the only people who experience triggering events, as explained above. Those with anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and depression who may never have been victims of crimes experience triggering events as well.

Every psychologist I’ve spoken to and every book on the subject I’ve read by psychologists and psychiatrists has stated that it is best if patients limit their contact with triggering events, but that they also learn to change their reactions to those events through therapy methods such as CBT or DBT. The goal is not to walk around in a bubble, silencing everyone around them to prevent them from ever feeling pain. Friends and family are meant to help by not exasperating the bad feelings by triggering them; however, strangers are not meant to change their behavior. Therapy does not expect this. In fact, it explains that a patient can expect to be triggered through non-personal interactions on occasion. Just because the patient is triggered, does not mean that their reaction is appropriate or requires change from others. Again, therapy expects the patient to eventually change their reaction. The basis is always that a person can control only themself, not others. We can only control ourselves and our own reactions. This is actually very helpful to hear when dealing with other people who have distorted thinking.

Does this mean that people get to be insensitive? No, of course not. There needs to be a balance between communication that matches the intent, which shouldn’t be to harm, and the reaction, which should be free of distorted thinking. Both sides require empathy; it is the only way for understanding to happen.

But there is one group of people who get to be purposefully insensitive: comedians. Why? This again takes understanding. First of all, it is a long standing tradition, as in centuries old, for comedians to be able to say what no one else is daring enough to say and to use that daring to satirize issues in our society. This includes sensitive, triggering subjects. The understanding from people listening to or reading comedians that is required is that comedians will do this and that is their job to do so. Acting surprised and hurt that a comedian said something shocking about a sensitive subject is frankly silly. Comedy is meant to make us laugh about sensitive subjects and relieve some of our tension and pain on those subjects. It’s also supposed to make us think about them differently. That’s a good thing. I’ve had bad reactions to jokes before. Yes, some of them were in poor taste and/or not funny in my opinion, but that just means I don’t have listen to that joke again. I can say I don’t think it’s funny or that it’s not for me. I can turn off the special and decide not to watch that comedian again. Again, I can only control my reaction and actions. I let my feet doing the talking when it comes to my opinion on comedy. I don’t expect the comedian to change. But if enough people agree with me and decide not to watch that comedian, well, that comedian will get the message that they aren’t all that funny. But then again, maybe other people think they are funny and that’s fine. Even if they are offensive. It’s called freedom of speech.

Conclusion

Language is a tricky thing. It is also one of my favorite subjects to think about and discuss. It’s a subject that requires a lot of critical thinking. I don’t believe I have all the answers because language is constantly changing because society is constantly changing. Some things are always the same. Comedians make jokes. People get hurt. People say hurtful things, both on purpose and by accident. People learn to get past being hurt. Or at least, they should try to. I react to things in overly negative ways too. I say things that get distorted. I say things that are hurtful. We all do these things. This is life. It requires us all to think about what we say, what we mean, and what others mean. There are no easy answers, and we can’t just look at one way and expect everybody agree with us. I don’t expect all of you reading this to agree with everything I’ve written here or even any of it. That’s discourse. If you still agree with Katz’ point of view after reading this, that’s fine. I’m not upset. It’s not necessary that you agree with me. You’re your own person, so you’re allowed to have your own point of view. That’s also life.

 
 

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Couple Fights: Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald vs Leonard and Virginia Woolf (and Jim and Aurora from Passengers a bit)

Amazon Prime has a new show called Z which follows the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, starting from around the time she met her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I watched the pilot during the pilot season more than a year ago and was immediately hooked. It doesn’t hurt that Christina Ricci is an amazing actress and the Modernist time period is one of extreme interest. A few months ago, I read an article on the women behind the men whose names we all know, while the women, who actually did the work, are hardly known to most of us. Zelda was one of these women, and in the brief history of her life that was given, my whole world and my trust in all the American Literature courses I took in both high school and college was completely destroyed. Suddenly, I understood the social justice warriors’ need to force our schools to shape up. Because the truth behind the juggernaut that is F. Scott Fitzgerald destroys any enjoyment I ever had of his work. But this isn’t just about how horror music should play in Amazon’s show when Zelda meets Fitzgerald. It’s about how two real life couples, in the same time period, in the same creative business, with very similar personal hardships and backgrounds, resulted in two completely different outcomes, both tragic, but one absolutely outraging.

Outrage

So many people hated Jim from Passengers and they hate the movie for forcing Aurora for forgiving him and they hate her for doing so. I love this movie and I love Jim and Aurora, and it’s not just because it’s interesting sci-fi or that Jim and Aurora are played by two of the hottest and funniest and, it turns out, most talented actors of our age, though that helps a lot. We all know that Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actor. She kills all her parts. I was not expecting Chris Pratt to deliver the same level of skill in that movie. Now, I remember the trailers presenting the film as a sci-fi romance, and to some extent it is, but it is more of a satirical examination on romance and what some people consider romantic. Many people would say that that statement is a little too deep for such a film, especially because it just makes them so uncomfortable. But uncomfortableness from fiction is usually a sign of a theme that no one likes to think about. People often display outrage at satire that is totally justified but they aim at the creators of the piece and not at the idea they are showcasing as messed up.

We see this a lot on Swift’s A Modest Proposal. It happened when he wrote it, and it still happens today in our college classrooms. I don’t remember realizing that Swift wasn’t serious about eating Irish children. I just know that I knew that. Too often teachers have to explain to students that Swift is trying to create outrage in the English people against the mistreatment of the Irish by bringing that mistreatment to a ridiculous level. This happened in the last century again on the stage production of Caberet, which has a song wherein a man dances with a gorilla, saying how much he loves her and how everyone treats him like a pariah for his love. At the end of the song, he drops the bomb that she’s Jewish. There was a protest over this by a Jewish organization because they didn’t get the idea that the song was pointing out that that is how the Nazis thought about miscegenators, not how the minds behind the song felt, and wasn’t that just a messed up way of thinking about Jewish people and those who loved them. Sigh. I hate having to explain satire. It hurts to do so.

But I will explain how Passengers actually is satire here because I am tired of all the hate it gets. Most romance movies are under fire right now for showing stalking, harassment, and sexual assault as “chasing” or “courting” and thereby, acceptable. Passengers dives right into that debate with more vehemence than any journalist or debater is capable of. The trailers somewhat misled people into thinking that Passengers would be like any other romance movie: sweet, light-hearted, and sexy in it’s presentation of their relationship with a bit of disaster thriller thrown in there for conflict. The truth of the movie far more interesting. Jim, who wakes up alone ninety years early, tries his best to make the best of the worst possible situation. He has no way of fixing his situation and he holds out against his two only choices for as long as he can. Those two choices: kill himself or consign another person to his same fate. Being alone is only a choice in stasis. As long as he is alive, he is constantly going to be battling those two choices. He nearly kills himself. Then he becomes obsessed with Aurora, in a way of self-medicating his loneliness, much like any stalker does. But unlike a real stalker, Jim has no misunderstandings that waking up Aurora is wrong. Stalkers believe the other person loves them and they believe they have a relationship. Jim knows they don’t and knows he has no right to wake her up. There are several scenes wherein Jim debates doing it, shows extreme self-hatred for even considering it, and begs himself not to do it. But I argue that the movie showed Jim going through every possible other option of living in his situation for as long as he could before this was the only thing he could do to survive. I also argue that by showing Jim as a normal guy at the beginning, nervous and excited to meet the other passengers and even smiling at the second word he uttered upon waking up (“Friends”), that not only were they trying to show that anyone in his situation would choose to wake someone up but that Jim fought the urge as long as he could which was torture for him considering the fact that he is an extrovert. We would all do what Jim did. Only an actual hermit wouldn’t wake up someone else. We are all Jim, and we are all capable of this horror.

Does that make it okay? Of course not, and the movie says so. When Aurora finds out that Jim woke her up, the cinematography and music shift dramatically from low-key romance to thriller and horror styles. The point of view of the shots also focus on her instead of him, in contrast to the previous scenes of the film. The movie makes no bones about whose side you should be on: hers. As such, the film does a brilliant job of showing how typical film romance tropes are in real life dangerous and sometimes violating. You are meant to be outraged, revolted, and uncomfortable. And frankly, you should feel that way when you watch a bunch of other romance movies. If the man lies, stalks, harasses, or manhandles (something Jim never does) the woman, you should feel that way. Regardless of the tone the film presents. Passengers sets the romantic tone before she finds out to juxtapose it with the reality which is horrifying, and when that tone flips with her new knowledge of his lies and stalking, near murder and some would argue rape through misleading circumstances, it is drastic and we all feel it viscerally. It is in the movie. The shot does that Hitchcock move that throws the layout off kilter, her face is a silent scream, and the music warps from smooth, caressing notes into discordant and painful sounds. The following scenes show her fear and her anger. When he tries to explain himself over the PA and she screams that she doesn’t care, we all get it, and so does Jim who stops trying to explain himself. When she attacks Jim, we all get it, and so does Jim who doesn’t even defend himself. She is now the center of the movie and his violation of her is the focus. The only reason we and Aurora don’t want him dead is because he doesn’t defend himself from her. He acquests in that moment that what he did was worthy of death and she has every right to do it to him. He already hates himself for what he did, and he is completely prepared to die in reprepration. Some may argue that because he did date her and have sex with her that he only hated himself after he was caught. I counter that the dating period allowed him to forget on a conscious level what he did, but because he was doing everything he could to be the most movie perfect romantic boyfriend ever wasn’t just a way of the film again playing off romantic tropes but also from a character standpoint, born out his extreme guilt. As if he could offset what he did by being absolutely perfect in every possible way for her.

Jim again proves that he is ready to die to make up for what he did at the climax of the movie. Why does Aurora try so hard to save him? She says she can’t live without him. I believe when she realized that he was possibly going to die, that she also realized that if he did, she would have to live the rest of her life alone, the prospect of which was more terrifying than living with him. This fear also made her further realize that that was what Jim faced and what he did was completely understandable, not justifiable, but also irresistible. Why does she forgive him? That’s easy. He found a way to fix what he did. Jim found that he could put Aurora back to sleep, and then he told her about it. He let her choose whether or not she would do it. It wasn’t that he saved the ship or was willing to die to save the ship. It was that he was willing to go back to being alone, meaning he would let her go, and die (probably within a year because he would commit suicide) without her all based on her choice alone. That’s why Passengers is a real romance. It’s not perfect. It is in fact painful and hurtful at times. But it is truthful, and Jim learns that it is about letting Aurora make her own decisions. This makes Passengers better than most romances.

On a side note, I found the final point of decision to be contrived and flawed. The idea that there is only one Autodoc for 5500 people is insane. There was a way to create this same point of decision without that flaw: someone had to be outside the Autodoc to activate it. Voila! Problem solved and impact intact.

But why is Passengers so important to how I feel about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Leonard and Virginia Woolf? It’s because it showcases a troubled relationship in a perfect balance and in a way, Leonard and Virginia Woolf are similar to Jim and Aurora, only often the roles were reversed. While the Woolfs make me think of how similar the Fitzgeralds’ situation was and how perverted their relationship was. The Fitzgeralds’ relationship is the way most people see Passengers. Only, in my opinion, even worse than people see Passengers. So I guess we should get to it.

Premarital Life

Virginia Woolf née Stephen born in 1882 suffered many nervous breakdowns since she was a young teenager and was even institutionalized. Her mental health issues, which were often manifested as depressive episodes, were thought to be caused by sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers and brought to the forefront by the loss of family members, such as her mother, a brother, her father, etc. It is believed that Woolf suffered from bipolar disorder as opposed to major depressive disorder. But before her marriage to Leonard Woolf was not entirely a time of unhappiness for Woolf. She, in fact, took part in a hoax, along with Leonard Woolf. Leonard also happened to be a writer, though he would never reach the notoriety that Virginia would. I have heard, however, that before they married no one told him that Virginia had suffered multiple breakdowns, preventing her unstable mental health from scaring him off. If true, it is a serious lie, but given the times, also understandable. To read Woolf’s journal entries pertaining to him though, one clearly understands how much she loved him.

Zelda Fitzgerald née Sayre was born on the other side of the Atlantic, eighteen years after Woolf. Zelda was always a very outgoing person. She liked parties and often lead the charge of her social groups in the changing ways of her times. She very much liked being the center of attention, shown in her long-running relationship with the ballet. She also liked to flout social conventions and started rumors about herself skinny-dipping. Her life very much encapsulated carpe diem. All this along with what would become of her later, however, has led many people both in her personal and professional life and those looking back on her biographically to believe that she was mentally disturbed in someway. This actually seems unlikely to me. Many people who are simply different or just don’t like the way society wishes them to act are erroneously considered mentally ill. Though I do believe that the circumstances of Zelda’s life led to mental instability, though so did F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.

Married Life

The Woolfs married, and I wish I could say, they lived happily ever after, but that was not to be. Virginia and Leonard started a publishing company together that often did not do well financially. Then they met a popular writer of the time, Vita Sackville-West, who loved Virginia and helped boost her self-confidence, pushed her to write more, and starting publishing with the Woolfs’ company as a way of helping support them financially. Not only was she there for them in those ways, but Virginia and her started a romantic liaison of sorts. Leonard knew about this and didn’t take issue with it. In fact, the couple set their relationship as an open one. To many people, this would appear to mean troubled waters in a relationship, but Virginia and Leonard never expressed any bitterness or resentment over their extramarital relationships. This is obvious in Virginia’s diary and her suicide note to Leonard, expressing nothing but love for him and guilt over her illness and how it affected him. Some may argue that the guilt was a sign that he blamed Virginia for her illness, but depressed people often feel like they are dragging down their loved ones and that their death would free them. It doesn’t seem to matter how much their loved ones express the falsehood of this belief. As such, I don’t believe that Leonard ever truly pushed Virginia to believe her illness or herself were an albatross in his life. I don’t believe her expressions of love for him could be so heartfelt if that were true.

The Fitzgeralds married once he got his first novel published (a common occurrence for couples to wait for financial success of the man at the time) and moved to New York. The two blazed through the party scene, surprising everyone with their antics. The two drank to excess and only slightly slowed down once she became pregnant. Even then though, the two didn’t let parenthood stop the party. During this time Zelda no longer performed in any ballet and really only wrote sporadically, though she continued to write in her diary regularly, as many women and writers, such as Virginia Woolf, did at the time. This diary became a point of contention between the Fitzgeralds, not for anything that Zelda wrote, but because F. Scott would steal entries from the diary to include in his novels. Parts of The Great Gatsby are taken straight from her own writing about her life. Zelda was even once asked to write a review of her husband’s latest novel, upon which she discovered the bits of her diary in the novel and stated that Fitzgerald believed that plagiarism began in the home. While written in a flippant tone, one could understand the underlying resentment that would begin to fester. Once the two moved to France, F. Scott met Ernest Hemingway, who did not get along with Zelda, and spent less time with her. In this period, Zelda grew close with another man and asked for a divorce. F. Scott’s reaction was nothing less than abusive and mentally unstable: he locked Zelda in their house until she gave up. Let me restate that: he imprisoned his wife who was asking for a divorce until her will was worn down. The two of them, at this point, really couldn’t stand each other. I’m not sure why F. Scott resented her so much, when she was the one with all the cause for feelings of resentment, except to say that he didn’t like that he couldn’t control her, which her wildness is what attracted him to her in the first place. At one point, the two went back to the States because Zelda’s father was dying. F. Scott did not stick around for his passing, instead, going off to Hollywood to begin writing scripts. After her father passed, Zelda was in and out of mental hospitals with F. Scott barely around. During one of these hospital stays, Zelda was inspired to begin writing seriously. Upon getting out, she wrote a novel: it was highly autobiographical and included her attempts to get back into the ballet and her father’s death. She even got a publishing deal; however, F. Scott was furious and demanded that she change many parts of the novel, removing whole sections of it, which he wanted to include in a novel he’d been working on. The result is a very broken novel that has never garnered much attention from the public. F. Scott even berated Zelda’s writing and her will to do so. Zelda’s fragile self-confidence was even further shaken. This whole time F. Scott was drinking more and more and his own self-worth was damaged by a lack of further success, but he had also started a long-term affair with another woman.

Through the Years

At one point a lit-crit writer published a book about how Leonard Woolf never supported Virginia emotionally in her endeavors and actively worked against her until she killed herself. This writer is an idiot. A lot of people also disagreed with her. I say if she wanted to write about a creative woman who was driven into an early grave by a horrible mistake of a marriage, she should have written about Zelda Fitzgerald, who sadly died in a fire when the asylum she was checked into burned down. We have work by Woolf, lots of work, enough to fill a grad level course all on its own. We have one novel by Zelda, we have no ballet performances by her, we have barely anything by her. Obviously, she was the one of the two women who was actively and successfully silenced by her spouse and the world around her. And still some people look upon Zelda’s wild lifestyle as the reason behind or a symptom of her mental illness and downfall, even though F. Scott was just as crazy. Without knowing which sections of Fitzgerald’s novels are word for word from her diary, we should be printing them as novels “by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald”. So far this is the only instance wherein I feel like “correcting” history, but as a writer, I can’t help but think that if people were to quote from my blog or my private journal and pass it off as their “fiction”, I would want my freaking credit!

We have so much outrage over the satirical depiction of romance in Passengers, but way less people know about the horrible reality that was Zelda’s life. We have a TV show depicting her life now for a wide audience, and my hope is that it shows F. Scott for the theif and controlling jerk that he was. If they try to show his kidnapping  of her as somehow romantic, hopefully the Passengers outrage will carry over. But if they try to do it satirically, I’m okay with that, and then hopefully, the outrage will be focused on F. Scott Fitzgerald as it should be.

What do you think? Should Zelda be recognized in the lit classrooms of our colleges and in the English classrooms of our high schools? We don’t teach Woolf much here in the US, but we do teach The Great Gatsby all across the country in high schools. Shouldn’t our teachers be telling the students that pieces of this work are straight from her mind? Shouldn’t it be obvious by the print on the cover of the book?

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Gender Relations, Social Issues

 

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The Taking of Women’s Agency and Men’s Victimization: How They Can Relate

What Brought It Up?

I’ve been reading a lot on CHE lately, from editors and opinion pieces and letters to the editor on adjuncts’ rights and Chancellor Wise’s and the UI BOT recent pulling of the rug out from under a faculty approved applicant, but mostly, on Title IX and I’ve also perused Bing and Yahoo! News a bit about Emma Watson’s recent speech to U.N. on her new campaign HeForShe. All of it has my brain churning. These situations seem to feed into each other a bit, maybe a lot. Unfortunately, I can’t link to all (or even most) of the articles because CHE doesn’t really let free readers browse old articles and some of my references are to articles I can’t even find anymore (in a bunch of moves–5–in the last year and half I’ve lost a lot of books, movies, CDs, and articles I would have loved to have kept).

The Statistics on Female College Students and Sexual Assault

In many of the articles and letters to the editor, the number of 20-25% of all women in college would be sexually assaulted was repeatedly brought up, but many commentators on the articles brought up that the reported number does not match the percentage. One could easily chalk this up to assaults going unreported. I’ve always questioned that logic though. How does one count what has no indicators? Other commentators brought up another good point on these numbers: what counts as sexual assault? CHE commentators tend to include sources or cogent counter arguments (though as a website it can be prone to trolling and fallacy, but this tends to be countered again by other commentators calling them out on it), and some started examining studies on college sexual assault and what counted as sexual assault in those studies: actions like forced or attempted forced kissing (such as may happen at the end of a first date) and consensual sex wherein the female party was intoxicated but did not call the sex non-consensual. This seems like a much more logical reason behind the 20-25% statistic as it would indicate why the number of reported instances was lower than the rate would suggest. I’m not saying the statistic is wrong; I’m just calling into question the calculation of it.

College Committees and Their Inadequacy

I don’t trust any college employee to go into a sexual assault hearing and not be prejudice, either way. Why? Because they are human and employees of an institution that has a culture they want to promote. Either they want to find the accused not responsible because he or she benefits the college in someway (typically this boils down to a male athlete). Or they want to find the accused responsible because they want to have a reputation of being hard on sexual assault. If the committee members have these thought/feelings/leanings before an instance is brought before them, they are going in with bias, which means they will downplay the evidence they don’t want to hear or perform mental gymnastics to get the conclusion they want. There are no checks and balances to this. Another form of their inadequacy is their extreme lack of skill in the matter. They are not detectives, they are not lawyers (all of them anyway as many colleges to not have justice or pre-law departments), and they are not judges in the usual sense. This means the majority of committee members do not have the experience or expertise to make judgments in criminal matters, meaning they can either try to be objective as best as possible or fall back on their personal feelings. Neither bodes well for the validity of their findings. Third, they do not have access to some of the tools available to police investigations, such as rape kits and physical examinations of the accused. This is important in proving that any intercourse, in the accusations of rape, actually took place. Without this evidence, the idea that sexual contact even happened is called into question. I’m not saying that in all, or even most or half of, cases the rape didn’t happen. I’m saying that in the small number of instances (and I do believe it is small) wherein the rape did not happen there is no evidence supporting one claim or another. The physical examination of the proposed victim and attacker are most important in the instance wherein the victim describes the rape as one of the violent type or wherein the accused says the rape and even intercourse never happened. In these cases, not having this evidence is a giant gap in the support of the judgment of the committee, in either accuser or accused’s favor or detriment.

Drunk Sex = Sexual Assault

This is such a sticky equation, but one that seems much too black and white to have any real world application. Any married person would most likely find this idea laughable as a common occurrence among married couples is drunk sex, say after a party at a friend’s house or similar alcohol infused situations. I don’t just find it to be joke; I find it to be an insult. The idea is that women in college when intoxicated are incapable of giving consent, but that men in college, intoxicated or not, should be able to see that a woman is intoxicated and stop intercourse even if she has given her verbal consent. This is insulting in many ways. 1): People (all people, men and women) are always responsible for their actions when intoxicated when they brought on the intoxication themselves, meaning that all people are responsible for whether they get behind the wheel of a car, physically assault someone, or commit other acts illegal or legal that they would not do when sober. Regardless of the genitalia they happened to be born with. 2): It takes away a woman’s agency, by suggesting that a man in the same state of intoxication is more capable of reasoning than a woman. How is that not sexist against women? As in, women lack a capability that men have. 3): It places an archaic and nearly impossible to meet responsibility on men for not only their own actions when intoxicated but also women’s. They’re supposed to “take care of us women”. When are we going to move past this idea that men have to make decisions and take responsibility for the women in their lives and let women have responsibility over their own lives? Apparently, not in college. It is also unfair to assume that his judgment is not as impaired as hers at the same level of intoxication and requires basically omniscience, when he may also be intoxicated, on his part. 4): It waters down the reality of sexual assault and lowers people’s empathy for the victims of violent and non-violent sexual assault. Please understand that these insults apply to when a woman in conscious and intoxicated. If a person is unconscious when intoxicated, obviously consent was not given and sexual assault occurred.

It is also a weird contradiction that many colleges think this way about alcohol consumption in relation to sexual assault when they are not even allowed to talk about preventative measures involving alcohol consumption when they have their sexual assault orientations: don’t tell women to alter their behavior by consuming less alcohol, but find men responsible for sexual assault if the woman has consumed alcohol. Uh, . . . I’m not even sure how to respond to this, because I understand why they don’t want to tell women to consume less alcohol, but I really don’t understand why they think drunk sex = sexual assault in relation to their reasoning (not allowed by most Title IX related polices) to not telling women to alter their behavior. It would seem to mean that drunk sex ≠ sexual assault.

Pragmatism vs Victim-Blaming

I am not a fan of victim-blaming, more than that I hate it. I don’t think what a woman wears, says, or does excuses sexual assault, even if she is inhumanely cruel beforehand (think the first episode of AHS: Coven). But I do believe in pragmatism. I have a right to walk down a dark alley, but I also know that I may get attacked if I do, which is why I carry pepper spray. That’s pragmatism. If a person leaves their front door unlocked and open when they go on vacation and someone burgles their home, it doesn’t make what the criminal did any less wrong and doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished, but the preventative action of closing and locking one’s door is just smart. It means one didn’t have to go through the violation of being burgled. Victim-blaming is different than pragmatism. Victim-blaming is when someone says that the victim deserved what they got because they were wrong for some erroneous reason. They may have been wrong. It’s wrong to leave your front door unlocked and open, but it does not change the fact that the criminal was wrong. It does not mean the victim deserved to get burgled. The idea that we have to change possible criminal behavior is nice to say, but it is not something we can actually control. We can say that crime is wrong as much as we want. We can promote a crime-free society as much as we want. It will not completely eliminate crime. The means to crime are desire and opportunity. We cannot take away the desire, but we can lower the opportunity. Otherwise, banks wouldn’t have vaults, guards, cameras, and alarms. There will always be people who want to hurt others, who want to steal, and we cannot eliminate their existence, but we can be prepared for it.

College Men and Sex

I was appalled to see some commentators on CHE on the recent “Presumed Guilty” article saying that college men should just abstain from sex to prevent incorrect judgments against them because it is the kind of argument put against women (“Maybe you shouldn’t do your laundry at midnight alone . . .” “Maybe you shouldn’t walk at night . . .” “Maybe you shouldn’t dress like a slut . . .” “. . . if you don’t want to be attacked”) basically saying they should change their legal behavior past the point of pragmatism to the point of living in fear. Some men have abstained from having sex in college, but that won’t protect them from judgments, which is another reason the argument disgusts me. One of the men examined in the article, who went by John Doe in his law suit against his university, claimed that he and the woman who had accused him had never had sexual contact. That he, in fact, just walked her to her dorm after a party. If true, and it just might be as I’m not about to assume his guilt based on his genitalia nor assume his innocence simply because he professes it, this throws the changing their behavior argument not just out the window but out of this dimension. One argument that often baffles me is that all guilty people profess their innocence, which isn’t true as some people plead guilty. But what is true is that all innocent people profess their innocence, because if you were innocent why would sit back and let people call you guilty?

One respondent to this article in a letter to the editor called for an apology for its publication. No, don’t apologize for this. We need to recognize that the system of judgment in academic sexual assault is broken in more ways than one; otherwise, it will never be fixed. We do not improve systems or ourselves by ignoring flaws. We improve by recognizing all the flaws, even when they seem contradictory. They aren’t actually, because each case has its specific nature and culture with its specific people involved. Cases can be mishandled in different, opposing ways within the same university depending on the people involved alone, because universities all together and within themselves are not homogeneous entities.

Other Equations

I’ve already explained how I believe the Drunk Sex = Sexual Assault equation hurts both men and women, but the institutions seem to be using it as an excuse to pre-judge in sexual assault cases. I am not suggesting that all sexual assault cases are bullhockey, but that the university committees may be coming into it un-objectively, in either gender’s favor or detriment. I believe the ideas that Women = Victims and Men = Assailants is very prevalent in our society, often even in the parts of society that consider themselves progressive or politically correct, but I feel like this is sexism with both equations. It’s still very archaic. It still casts women as damsels in distress. It makes us less human. Women are just as capable of being assailants as men. Again, the idea that men have a capability that we don’t is in people’s minds, and just because it may work in a woman’s favor doesn’t make it any less sexist. Because on the other side, we have men who are the victims of abuse at the hands of women. Such as but not limited to: assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse. These black and white equations take away the voice of victims. Victimization is victimization, and wrong is wrong. Just because one empathizes with one group more than the other doesn’t mean they aren’t all in pain. Don’t judge one person’s pain against another. Don’t say “It could be worse”. Don’t minimize a person’s victimization by saying that in the past, or even now, the other side had it worse. That doesn’t mean the victim deserved what happened to them just because of the gender they happened to be born with. Isn’t that victim-blaming? And even not about that victim’s actions but about a group’s actions they by chance belong to?

Recently, I saw the above PSA on Tumblr (of all places) wherein two actors of the opposite sex were hired to pretend to get into an argument in public then one start to physically assault the other. In the first instance, the man started to assault the woman. People got involved. They yelled at him and threatened to call the police. In the second instance, the woman started to assault the man. People laughed. It was funny to them. The PSA ended with a statistic of how many abusive relationships have men as the victim. That number is pretty even with ratio of men to women in most developed countries (2:3). I’m not willing to ignore that many victims, nor downplay the pain they are in. The argument sometimes goes that a woman cannot hurt a man as much as a man can hurt a woman. My god. Again: women lack a capability that men have. Yes, we can. We’ve all heard of those times that women have mutilated men. Run them over with cars. Shot them. Poisoned them. Women are just as capable as men at hurting and victimizing someone else. And men are just as capable as feeling helpless when in an abusive relationship. As the PSA’s last poignant statement says: Violence is violence.

Systematic Sexism

In most instances sexism on a large scale is against women, but I’m not about to say that it is all instances. A year or two ago, I read a great article on men’s reproductive rights (which I do believe in as strongly as women’s reproductive rights even though they can sometimes be at odds–it’s complex like most important issues) wherein specific allegorical examples were used. “Stop right there!” someone may say discounting that personal stories have meaning. No, one cannot usually make worldwide or overarching generalizations based on allegorical evidence, but such evidence does have validity as it means “This happened” and we must recognize that. A couple of the stories were downright horrifying in how they showed rapists using the courts to further victimize their victims. Most of it was based on child support. A man who was passed out at a party found out later he was raped (it is rare but not impossible for a man to still have an erection while unconscious from intoxication) and his rapist got pregnant and then sued him for child support. The court found he owed her money. Another case was about a twelve year old boy was told by the court that he needed to pay his (statutory) rapist child support. A third man who had oral sex with a woman, who saved his sperm then later inseminated herself with it, was required to pay her child support. Often an argument against men about child support is that they shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to take responsibility for any possible child that comes out of it. Again, this seems one sided as it used to be the same freaking argument laid against (sometimes still) women who wanted abortions. But this argument becomes so outrageous when applied to these three cases. None of these men (or really, boy) were taking on (or capable by law of taking on) the possible responsibility of pregnancy. But the courts found them responsible for the children anyway even though the first two cases involved criminal action on the part of the woman (remember criminals are not meant to profit from their crimes). Why? The courts have a monetary incentive for finding men in these situations responsible: if the mother cannot afford to take care of the child on her own, then she must either turn to the father for child support or the state for aid. Before applying for aid for a child, a mother must report whether or not she is getting child support (in most cases) and if she isn’t, the court will (most likely) go after the father for money first, because if he is helping to support the child then the state may be let out of its monetary obligation. That means the court has a stake in the judgment. But this doesn’t mean that sometimes a court won’t screw a female parent over in child support cases, letting the potential paying parent off the hook often times in benefit of the man. It is just to show that in some instances the pendulum is on the other side, because courts are not an amorphous blob that is homogeneous in nature, just as colleges are not like that. Different cultures, different personal opinions are involved.

But I do feel like we are missing a vital element in law when it comes to abortion rights and the right to give a child up for adoption. If a state allows abortion, I believe that men should be allowed a “legal abortion” so to speak in the same time period (if he has been told by the woman that she is pregnant) that a woman is allowed an abortion wherein from his point of view, both financially and legally, he has not had a child. If he was never told, he should be allowed the same length of time after his notification to make the same decision. The same type of allowances should be given him for an “legal adoption”. Because if a woman is allowed to decide after intercourse what to do about a pregnancy and child, then a man should be given the same option. It may not be his body, but it is not just about a woman’s body but her whole life after the conception, so it isn’t “my body, my choice,” but “my life, my choice.” I doubt this would ever happen in my lifetime. As I stated above, the courts have an incentive to find men financially responsible for any child they may have fathered, so I doubt there would be much political support for such a thing. Some may argue that this is a way for “irresponsible/lazy” men to get out of paying child support, but it is also a way to protect Childfree men and raped men who under current laws are not as protected as Childfree women and female victims of rape (which sounds almost ludicrous but we don’t even think of women raping men as being an issue–it affects a small amount of men, but no means no for men too and just because they aren’t as high a number doesn’t mean their victimization is any less horrible). Many may say that Childfree men are just being jerks, but any one of any gender who doesn’t want to be a parent ever in their lifetime should be allowed the freedom to choose to not be a parent. Many women’s rights advocates would say that Childfree women have the right to access to those things that would help them maintain this life choice, abortion and sterilization, but I believe Childfree men have just as much right to live their lives as they wish.

Feminism, the Dirty Word

A lot of people don’t like this word. I’m one of them. It has nothing to do with the idea that feminists are man-hating or “don’t really believe in equality” despite the definition. I know the definition, and I know what the movement means in general and in many specific instances (there is a myriad of different types of feminism, not all of them pretty and some of them really good in the fight against gender inequality), but the word itself is what I have a problem with. Words, especially for movements, social issues, and political ideals, are like doors to ideas. The word, not the definition, not the movement, is exclusionary by nature. It’s a door that looks like it has a “No Men Allowed” sign posted to it. Men see it, hear it–some women see it, hear it–and think men are not a part of or automatically against the movement. The word promotes the idea that feminism is only for women’s rights and that it is a “gender war”. I’m not saying that’s the goal of the definition or the movement, but it is what the basis of the word itself which is feminine can present to people. While it doesn’t mean to, I think it can feel exclusionary, or make some people think they have the right to exclude. I believe there could be more inclusive words that would allow men (and women) to understand that gender equality is everyone’s right. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last one hundred years, and in that ground, we haven’t just shown that women are as valid as individuals as men, but we’ve also brought men and women closer together and fostered understanding between them. I think the time has come to stop separating us as people because both sides have a much clearer view of the other and the needs they face. “Picking sides” needs to put aside to continue the journey of ending gender inequality, because separating us into these groups to promote equality just seems like another subtle way to cause inequality.

Humanism, the Lazy Word

It has been suggested that calling oneself a humanist instead of a feminist ignores/diminishes the fact that women have it worse off than men. First off, I’m not sure sexism is so simple as that, which should be made obvious by the length of this post. I am worried, upset, and quite frankly pissed off by any sexism, racism, bigotry, or prejudice. It doesn’t matter who the victim is. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is. What matters is the act. What matters is the pain inflicted. I don’t care about the gender, the race, the demographic of either party, because what I care about is if one party did something hurtful to another party based on these things. If I base my caring on the labels of the two parties, I am still thinking in these same bigoted ways. The idea that I don’t care about a woman’s pain caused by sexism because I care about a man’s pain caused by sexism is fallacious. I can care about both of them. I do care about both of them. I believe that only caring about one group, based solely on their genetics or some other label that can be subject to bigotry, is still bigotry and diminishes the pain of other victims. I know not everyone agrees with me because they see a majority of pain inflicted one way, but I care about that pain too. I look at each instance, instead of trying to generalize all of them at once, to prevent a victim from being forgotten. That’s why I’m even talking about this. This word, humanist (sometimes also equalist), is accused of being a way to downplay the importance of sexism against women usually when men use it. I’m not sure one could appropriately accuse me of this as I am a woman and veryvery, VERY angry when I see/hear about sexism against women. I’m just that same amount of angry at any injustice. I understand some people want to focus their energy on one issue to do the most good, but I really can’t do that. I have the same visceral reaction to every instance of prejudice or unfairness. Until we stop casting groups and labels as victim or villain, we will not move past bigotry. We will still be thinking in archaic ways. We will still be separating ourselves and saying one group matters more than another.

The Personal Side and My Stake in the Conversation

I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I don’t push my femininity as part of my identity either. I don’t consciously suppress it either. I like being what I am. I just don’t feel like running around shouting that I’m a woman (or the less metaphorical version of this). I have felt some sexism before, but I’ve felt more racism (mostly in early childhood), which some may find shocking or unbelievable considering what race I am. The sexism were little things, words not actions, that I brushed off, because I told myself that if someone is willing to be sexist to me than their opinion of who I am and their idea of my validity as a person does not matter. The sexism invalidates their opinion of me. So that sexism never brought me down. Somehow, not sure how it happened, I’ve always thought of myself as a person, then a writer. Those seem to be the labels I most identify with, which is weird I know. I love the unisex quality of my first name (which is not Alexis or Alexandrea, but just Alex which I wrote an essay on in high school). One would think that I am a “woman” first if anything at all, but I’ve never considered myself different based on my gender. I mean, a lot of people fall under that category, that to me means “not different”. I do consider myself to be weird though. I try to understand every side and imagine every scenario in every situation. I’ll try to understand someone who hates me, understand what motivates them, what happened in their childhood to make them the way they are. It’s a major reason why I write. I want to understand people who don’t even exist. I spend the majority of my time trying to think like everyone else, real, fictional, different, or similar. Mainly because people baffle me. What they do and say is so different than what I would expect, always. I think that’s great, but also a bridge I need to continuously cross to prevent my words or actions from causing harm.

What has seemed to define me more greatly than my gender has been my disability. It has eclipsed in my own defining of myself many other labels one may put on me because it is a part of every moment of my life. Not in a bad way. I do not consider myself a person of less value based on my disability. If it has affected me, which I believe it definitely has, it has all been to enrich my life. I am not ashamed of it. It has made me a better writer and thinker. Some may ask how this is possible as a disability means an inability to do something. Well, that’s complex. Because I had a certain learning avenue shut off to me, one most people in the US go down of phonics, I had to learn to think in different ways, ways most people are capable of but are not taught to use. This means one of the capabilities of thought I have in common with most people is stronger than average as it is used more often than the average person. This is another part of me that I like, so I guess I would say I am a person, then a writer, then learning disabled, because even as I write this I’m still having to think sideways to spell my words correctly and not confuse them for other words (not homonyms but more along the lines of “emphasizes” and “empathizes”; they look and sound almost exactly the same to me even though I know they are not).

But why do I care about injustices that have nothing to do with me? It isn’t because I think “What if that happened to the men in my life that I love?”, but because we should all care when horrible things happen to others. My stake is that I have a problem with injustice, with bigotry, with prejudice. My stake is that I don’t need personal benefits to care.

The Pain Bucket

There’s this weird idea about empathizing with other people that one can only care about those whose pain is considered “valid”. I’m not sure why. It’s like some higher power has a bucket filled with water representing pain and he/she ladles out the pain in varying amounts to different groups. The group with the most water has the most validity. The group with the least amount of water doesn’t matter at all. This is ludicrous. Every single person has an infinite amount of possible pain inside them, and it is all valid. One’s group/label and the prejudice against that group/label may be the cause of the pain, but that group/label is not what makes the pain valid. The existence of that pain makes it valid. The fact that it happened at all makes it valid.

Those that Have No Place in the Conversation

Sexist people. What I mean by this is those *expletives* who threaten rape and murder upon Emma Watson and those other feminists who are trying to fight sexism, all in an attempt to shut them up. I don’t think all these people are men. I think there are some women who also have sexism against women, which is sad. But I don’t believe men shouldn’t be invited to the conversation–that was, after all, Watson’s point in her speech: men should be part of it. Not sexists. They should be told to shut it. But people who don’t agree with feminists on all the issues should not be called sexist just because they don’t agree, nor should they be told to shut up, because within feminism there is disagreement (a Separatist Feminist may be at odds with a Liberal Feminist who may be at odds with the newly emerging Maverick Feminists). Not all types of feminism agree with each other, and not all feminists within even each type agree with each other. There is a conversation. Shutting up cogent counter arguments or points will not be helpful in getting rid of sexism, but these sexists who threaten Watson or belittle her message just enforce the idea that we, as feminists, as humanists, and as moral and ethical people, need to do something in first place.

Because It’s the Right Thing to Do

I loved that Watson recognized that men still face gender stereotypes and inequality, but I disagree with her argument that we as women should support their equality for the benefits it will give us as a gender. That is not why we should stand up for men’s equality. We should do it because all victimization is wrong, because all sexism is wrong, and standing up against injustice is the right thing to do. I also feel as though her argument ignored the victimization men can and do face at the hands of women. Those men in abusive relationships, wherein they are not the abusive party, are not being aggressive and their female aggressor is not being submissive; in fact, the opposite is true in these cases. I do not believe that all gender stereotypes against men result in gender inequality for women. Men are taught not to cry, not to be nurturing, not to be vulnerable, as Watson said, but I do not see how that perpetrates gender inequality for women. Women do have voices telling them it is okay to get angry, to be aggressive, to go for the hard career. Not every woman in the world can hear it, but every day the number of women who do goes up because those voices (bless them for it) won’t shut up. I do not hear the same voices telling men that non-stereotypical action for men is okay. I hear the opposite of the positive reinforcement that women get. Not all women get positive reinforcement for these things, but a lot (in the US and many other highly developed countries anyway) do. It’s in the news, it’s in our T.V. shows, it’s in our movies, it’s in our novels. The “girl power” prevalent in our recent Disney movies (Brave being the biggest one) is one such instance. Then there’s all of Joss Whedon’s work which promotes the strength women have naturally and the support of their right to be sexually active even in casual ways. The Harry Potter novels present one of the most complex, strong, intelligent female role models ever (I hated the change in the movie when Hermione cries after Malfoy calls her a Mudblood. I felt it undermined her character’s strength, though I loved that they had her punch Malfoy in the movie instead of slap him).The enforcement of traditional male roles are still present in abundance in those same sources. This is something we should all fighting against, because as human beings we have a responsibility to fight against injustice, not because it benefits our own lives, but because we should care that people are in pain.

Feel free to voice any disagreements , but do so without threatening or hurtful language or I will remove your comment. This includes trying to shame me or calling me a traitor to my sex: that is not productive language nor a counter argument.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Empathy, Gender Relations, Social Issues

 

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Badly Written Women: The Bitches of Hollywood

LOOK OUT! SPOILERS BELOW!

Turned Milk

I watch a lot of television, none of it on cable or broadcast, so mostly I watch a whole season of a TV show over a week or two. Like any person, I connect to those characters who remind me the most of myself, and that typically means women. But often, no matter how much benefit of the doubt I give a character, I eventually have to turn my back on a female character because they are selfish, unreasonable, and a downright awful human being. I like strong women, more to the point I like strong people, but there is a Pacific Ocean sized difference between someone who is strong and someone who is a bitch. I’ve seen this confusion happen in movies and books, but no where is it more prevalent than the American TV show. For example:

6: Nina on Alphas (update from September)

This two season run show was amazing. Just mind-blowingly good, but Sy-Fy isn’t interested in quality story-telling right now, or should I say Comcast? Either way, this show was great with only one major problem. Nina, the rapist. Yes, I’m being serious. Nina’s ability to take away a person’s free will is a terrifying power and often she struggles with the implications of it which is understandable, but she at best walks a line of unethical pushing of others and at her worst rapes others. Sometimes the rape is figurative, a simple violation of a person’s free will, other times the rape is very literal as she did to Cameron Hicks once and when she went off the deep end and pushed her ex from childhood for days if not weeks. Even when Nina is meant to be one of the good guys she is committing crimes left and right, that some may consider harmless fun but a deeper look reveals just how immoral they are. For example, we learn that Nina does not pay for her fancy car or penthouse: someone lost a lot of money because of this, someone could have lost their job, because when they try to explain to the owner of the dealership why they let her walk out with that car they have none. In the first episode, she is pulled over for reckless driving (which by the way puts lives in danger) and prevents the cop from giving her a ticket by pushing him. Then she asks him he is married. We see later that she often takes advantage of unmarried men by pushing them into spending money and time on her, and the implication is that she has sex with them as well. This coupled with that question posed to the cop suggests to me that Nina only cares about messing with married men, but not with attached or gay men. Some of these men had other things to do with the time she takes them over, such as work. I’m very afraid that someone will make the argument that the majority of these men enjoyed it because men like sex with beautiful women, but if a man had Nina’s powers (as correlation see the Christmas episode of Misfits wherein a man proclaiming to be Jesus buys Alisha’s power and uses it to rape women), we would never make the same argument. Taking away a person’s free will is quite possibly the worst thing anyone can do to another person. These men had no ability to say no, just as women who are given date rape drugs have the ability taken away. The implications put forth by the creation of Nina as a supposedly sympathetic and aggressive person are horrifying. I can’t like her because she just brings up the idea that it is okay for a person to take what they want from a group just because they may “enjoy” it, which is the same suggestion put forth by the idea that promiscuous women and prostitutes can be raped with little judgement upon the rapist.

Woman on the show who is actually strong: Rachel of course. She is not physically capable, but that’s not where her strength lies. She comes from a very traditional family and manages to defy her family’s traditional values put upon women again and again. We see her strength grow as the show goes along, and she always tries to do the right thing.

5: Allison Blake of Eureka

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This show was only on air for five seasons, but it was one of my favorites. It had charm and style—it was downright hilarious. The theme song was Andy Griffith meets The X-Files. The main character, Sheriff Jack Carter, was likable and funny. My favorite episode is Up in the Air, so good. But there is just one fly in the ointment, and that was Carter’s love interest—personally I like Kaley better. Allison seemed like an okay person most of the time, but when she was given power, she lost all sense of priority. She would be rude to Carter for no other reason than he was being himself and she wouldn’t listen to him as she’d done before. At times this was very serious, such as in Liftoff wherein listening to Carter meant the difference between life and death for two other beloved characters. She also seems to hold her intelligence over Carter, often laughing at his misunderstanding of science. She often didn’t trust Carter with important information and when he would learn that she had been lying to him, you could see that he was hurt by it, in the same way a person can see that kicking a puppy is wrong. Once in a moment of insecurity, she nearly ruined Carter’s relationship with his best friend Jo Lupo. And when he had created a beautiful and romantic gesture of a dinner in an automated sub in the aquatic lab, she was just pissed and annoyed at the interruption. Some may argue that by the end of episode in each of these examples, she got over it all and was thankful and nice to Carter, but I say no. She was unreasonable in all cases, and her turn around at the end of the episodes was rushed by writers to resolve the issues within the confines of forty minutes. And that’s what it comes down to: the writers. The character of Allison was abused and jerked around for drama because the writers couldn’t come up with a better way of presenting conflicts besides pitting Allison against the main character. Lazy.

Or possibly Carter was into unreasonable women, if his ex-wife was any indication.

Abby: Are you saying she only runs away from me?

Abby (earlier scene): It’s called insecurity and it stems from the person speaking not from the person listening.

Woman on the Show that is Actually Strong: Jo Lupo not because she can shoot a gun or can keep up with the boys, but because she often knows that she can but isn’t afraid of her gender either nor of people holding her gender against her. Some fans may say, hey wait a minute, what about that time she didn’t tell Carter about the new security system at GD? Well, imagine if a male deputy did the same thing to Carter. We would still think it’s funny, because it is the kind of harmless prank friends pull on each other. Jo somewhat transcends gender on this show, which makes me really happy.

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3 & 4: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls

I watched and owned all seven seasons of this show, and actually rewatched them several times. At times the two main characters did or said hilarious things, but my favorite character was Luke, not just because he was a hottie. But I found major flaws with this show, one being the major plot points because at times I feel like enough is enough. Rory makes her big mistake first in sleeping with a married man. “Oh, but he convinced her that he didn’t love Lindsey to get into her pants.” No, not a real excuse. Rory is presented as highly intelligent, then she buys the very old song and dance, that I guarantee has been presented in at least a fourth of the thousands of books she’s read, about how he doesn’t love his wife and they’re not working out so she should let him in her pants. An intelligent woman does not buy into that stuff and if she does, she does so knowing what she is doing is wrong and hurtful. She is still ultimately responsible for her actions—everyone is, but Rory—and by extension the audience—expects understanding for buying the song, but you can’t cheat an honest man as the saying goes and to add to the phrase, you can cheat a stupid one. So either she is dishonest or dumb, and I’m not sure which pisses me off more. Dishonest because she is not a good person or dumb because the writers lied and/or manipulated her character.

10/26/14 Update: Recently, I’ve been rewatching the show since it is on Netflix, and I’ve noticed more character problems. For one, Dean is not a nice guy before he cheats on his wife. While dating Rory, he is obsessive, jealous, and angry. Rory feels the need to hide things from Dean often, before Jess even comes on the show. When they break up (the first time), it is because Rory didn’t say she loved him back. This is unreasonable. The two girls keep going on about what a great guy Dean is, but I see no action to suggest he is. In fact, I see more to suggest he is a psycho, whom Rory should have gotten a restraining order against. 1) He calls her multiple times a day. 2) He gets angry with her every time she needs to do something other than spend time with him. 3) He takes out his anger at Tristan and Jess on Rory. 4) Regardless of what Rory says to him on how she feels about either of these boys, Dean does not trust her (despite Rory’s growing feelings for Jess during season two and three, Dean’s distrust of Rory is something that drives her away). 5) He acts in a threatening manner towards Jess once Jess and Rory are now dating. 6) He attacks Jess without provocation in another person’s home, destroying and damaging property and hurting other individuals, despite not knowing why Rory is crying, which could be anything from Jess hurting Rory (which is what we are led to believe is Dean’s motivation) to a stubbed toe. 7) He marries at a much too young age while obsessed with another girl. 8) He cheats on his wife while taking another woman’s virginity–note: while what Rory did was wrong or a manipulation by the writers, I point out the fact that Dean takes Rory’s virginity lightly by taking it while still married to another woman. All this evidence shows that this program lacked true character development. They can have other characters say that Dean is a great boyfriend, that Rory is smart, or that Lorelai has a handle on their life all they want, doesn’t make it true. The actions of the characters and the motivations behind what they say are much more important evidence than the idea of characters as presented by other characters.

Then Lorelai makes her big mistake. Because Luke is somewhat unsure of himself as suddenly a father, he wants to hold off on getting married, but one day Lorelai loses all control over herself and issues him an ultimatum that he must respond to immediately: Elope Now or It’s Over. I am a firm believer that ultimatums do not have any place in a relationship (beyond “If you ever hit me again, I’m leaving” or “Don’t cheat on/lie to me again), especially if one expects the relationship to be healthy and equal. Luke can’t respond immediately, so Lorelai doesn’t go home and cry over the loss of a good thing (which would have been her fault anyway), but instead goes to Christopher and sleeps with him. This seems like the actions of a reasonable individual—no, wait, not that. And to top it all off, all Luke needed was one night to agree with her plan. She originally seemed like a role model: strong, independent, fun, well-adjusted if a little weird, but Lorelai, by these hurtful actions, is an unhealthy person emotionally and I no longer have any respect for her.

So where does the audience go from there? The show, if you’d notice, did kind of peter out after that as it was hard to get behind such horrible people and root for them. The writers took a gamble that these two developments would be exciting and interesting to the audience, but instead they ruined the integrity of the main characters. In fact, even Sookie was often crazy, especially when she tried literally to force Jackson to get a vasectomy (reverse the sexes and see how wrong that is: “You’re getting your tubes tied, woman! I don’t want you having any more kids.”—See? Psycho.), and I felt somewhat vindicated when he didn’t go through with it and it bit her in the ass.

Woman on the Show that Is Actually Strong: Almost Emily Gilmore, she’s the closet the show comes to a woman who is aware of who she is and still makes mistakes but has strength of character. The audience also expects Emily to do horrible things now and again.

2: Kaylee of Firefly

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This short run TV show is beloved, by me as well. I love the movie too, and the characters are so well done. Joss Whedon is great with characters, typically with women especially, but this is one character that I just can’t stand. In a few number of episodes, Kaylee manages to make herself completely unlikable. She is meant to be strong, not in the way that Zoe as in ability to handle violent situations or showing physical strength. Kaylee is meant to be strong in a much more subtle way. She struck out from her home planet (leaving your family and all you know is brave) to be a mechanic (breaking a gender stereotype is hard and requires confidence and strength of character) to travel with strangers (bravery again) and enjoy all aspects of her life (including her sexuality without being called a slut or a whore). But—BUT Kaylee is mean, rude, and hurtful in the things she says, especially to Simon whom she supposedly likes. She is also overly sensitive to his bumbling (does he seem capable of talking to women at all? “Is there anyone you can talk to?”) and doesn’t cut him any slack for it, showing her extreme insecurity. She makes this face every time he makes a mistake (only in words by the way never actions and never maliciously) that is so judgmental and without any empathy that drives me up a wall. I’ve met women like Kaylee, who consider themselves strong but are so insecure in their strength that they can’t let any near insult go. I’m not saying that her cowardice doesn’t bother me either, but her inability to display empathy and her ability to misinterpret other’s intent and meaning in what they say in the worst possible way bothers me more. I can’t stand that kind of oversensitivity, because it shows a lack of belief in oneself and in the good intentions of others. Beyond that she betrayed River for the same actions that saved her life. Who does that? Apparently, I’m supposed to like her because she talks sweetly and is presented as cute, but I don’t actually find her character to be sweet. She smiles a lot (and the actress does have a cute smile), but she is very judgmental and unforgiving. Her character suffers the same fate as Allison Blake’s: she is used for drama.

Woman on the Show who Is Actually Strong: Pick Any Other Woman, even River with her mental problems, but especially Zoe because of her strength of character, even excluding her alacrity at violence.

1: Any Sitcom Woman

I’ve watched quite a lot of sitcoms, but for the most part the main character is male. Sitcoms more often than any other show genre use other characters as a source of drama, and since the main character is male, then the reasonable assumption is that women would often be the cause of drama. This is fine as long as the reason for contention isn’t that she’s a horrible bitch. The biggest example of this is in Wings. Helen, the main love interest of Joe, had moved to New York and basically cut off all contact with Joe. Ten months later and no contact from her during that time, Joe is dating another woman and Helen calls him in the middle of the night. When he goes to New York, he finds her miserable and waitressing in a stripclub. He convinces her to come home, and it is not until she does that she realizes he’s moved on and is now dating another woman. She freaks out, saying that he misled her into thinking they would be together, even though she has no claim on him (it is unreasonable to assume that someone would wait celibate for ten months with absolutely zero contact—that’s enough time to make a human being, for god’s sake). Then to express her anger, beyond just screaming at him like a banshee, she runs her car through his office. Tell me that is not crazy. Tell me that is not unconscionable.

Then after he fixes it, she does it again. She should be in jail. I actually don’t understand why he ever married her. And so many women are like this on sitcoms, unfair and unreasonable. Such as, Jill Taylor on Home Improvement who would drag Tim to the opera but wouldn’t allow Tim to go to monster truck rallies on his own (reverse the sexes and see how controlling that is: “We’re going to this car show, and you’re going to enjoy it . . . No, you can’t go to the ballet. I won’t let you.”) And once he found out she had a secret bank account, and she felt there was nothing dishonest or wrong about hiding money—which are often the actions of someone who is going to leave their spouse. And she even went so far as to say that her money was her money, and his money was their money. Talk about selfish and greedy. But the episode isn’t about her lack of trust in Tim, but the fact that Tim made the majority of their money and his lack of care for her sense of insecurity in her independence. He didn’t make her be a housewife. She made that decision on her own. She was lucky that he made enough money for her to do that. If she’s feeling insecure about that later on then that’s her misfortune and she shouldn’t take it out on her husband nor should she hide things from him—that’s the sign of an unhealthy relationship and a dishonest person.

Sometimes the show isn’t using women for drama though. Sometimes it’s just misandry because the women are always right, the men are always wrong, even when I, a woman, disagree. Scrubs is the biggest culprit of this. Eliot is mean to JD for simply being himself sometimes, and in the beginning especially, she is a backstabber. Some may argue that at times JD could be a jerk to her, like when he got her to breakup with Sean and then didn’t want her, but no matter what he did, it was not okay for her to shove him, and do it so hard that he flew over a table at a rehearsal dinner for friends. That’s abusive and inappropriate. Carla is often unfair to Turk. Once Turk was just trying to show solidarity for his new female boss, and she took offence. Carla and Eliot go on and on about how his actions were wrong because “Medicine is such a boy’s club.” And Turk was forced to apologize for being a feminist. I believe that Turk did the right thing by standing up for her against his friends. He could have taken part in their disrespectful behavior or just been passive about it. Instead, he told them that what they were doing was wrong and that they should stop. I’m glad he did it, but every woman on the show gets mad at him. He can’t win. In one episode, we see that he actually cannot win, wherein the show takes two what if paths. In one Turk stands up for Carla, and she gets mad at him for “fighting her battles” so to speak. In the other Turk doesn’t stand up for her, and she gets mad at him for not being more supportive. It’s not funny; it’s insulting and frustrating. And Jordan, god, that woman is crazy (but I’m willing to let that slide because they present her as a bitch). Eliot and Carla are supposed to be likeable, but I hate them because I don’t like people who will be that cruel and unreasonable without ever realizing that what they are doing is wrong.

Woman on a Sitcom who Is Actually Strong: Penny, Amy, and Bernadette of The Big Bang Theory are all likable and interesting. When they are pitted against their men, it is not often because they are being unreasonable (such as when Bernadette had a bone of contention with Wolowitz spending thousands of dollars on a 3D printer without consulting her—relationship tip: talk about any expenditure before going ahead, and that goes for both partners) and if they ever are unreasonable, they realize it later (such as when in a moment of extreme frustration Penny berated Leonard, and the other guys, for being too nerdy and childish, making Leonard so insecure that he tried to sell off all of his collections, but once it was pointed out to her, by Sheldon, that she was being unfair, she apologized.).

Shows That Just Have Strong Women:

The X-Files has Dana Scully, who is flawed (she is so skeptic that sometimes it’s ridiculous), but she is never cruel or mean to Mulder or anyone, possibly because she is an equal character on the show. Arrow has Laurel, who sometimes is cruel but later takes responsibility for her actions, admits what she did was wrong, and apologizes. Dollhouse has both Echo, who starts as a tabula rasa but quickly develops into a strong and capable person who is not infallible, and Adelle, who runs the house. My favorite part of the show is when they catch the handler that’s a rapist, and we’re led to believe that Adelle is sending him to murder a woman, but then it turns out that woman is a doll and she kills him at Adelle’s command. Vindication! Some may say, ooh, that’s a bit dark, but it wasn’t like Adelle could turn him in to the police. Warehouse 13 didn’t have a single weak or bitchy woman on it. And that’s all I can think of right now. Maybe others can come up with more examples. The sad thing is I can think of more poorly written women than I can well written women in TV shows.

The Problem

The issue isn’t that women are bad, it’s that these women are badly written for the sake of drama. And that’s lazy writing. If other shows can write women well without compromising drama then every show could with effort. Also, if the issue is not that they are poorly written, but that the writer thinks she’s right even though what she is doing is wrong, then the show condones selfish, cruel, and unreasonable actions from women. That’s not okay. Mean actions should never be condoned, no matter what demographic is committing them. If ever a viewer can switch the genders and the situation becomes a Lifetime movie, then it is wrong, regardless of gender. I want strong women in my shows. Strong—not bitchy and selfish. I want good people, even if flawed, in my shows. I want strong writing over lazy writing to take precedence. We all deserve a better class of character in our shows, and we don’t have to pay for it in a loss of conflict or interest.

 
 

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The Providing Man: An Inescapable Gender Role

Caveat

A lot of people talk about the gender roles that are put on women and how shackling they are: devoted wife, nurturing mother, chaste virgin, the whore—I also find feminist to be a bit of a gender role by this point as I feel more pressure to be a “champion of womanhood” than any of those other things, no thank you—but if there are roles for women there are also roles for men, such as the strong and silent type, young angry man, chivalrous knight, fearless warrior, and, my absolute least favorite—the providing man.

What, Pray Tell, Is the Providing Man?

The Providing Man role comes from the idea that the head of household is the man; therefore, all monetary responsibilities fall to him. This is why men, especially of older generations, often get jobs that make them unhappy but are lucrative. It’s why a man who doesn’t have a job is viewed so negatively. It’s why men give up their dreams, while women often—but less so than before—give up their dreams for children. The Providing Man mindset makes men think that if they aren’t bringing home the bacon then they aren’t worth a damn. Nurturing their children and being there emotional for their wife is a distant second to depositing a (healthy) paycheck in the bank account on the regular basis, so they are distant, distracted, and depressed.

But Isn’t Money a Way to Power?

Actually, more often than not, at any level, money is a prison, especially when a person thinks that is their sole responsibility and contribution to life. It’s too much pressure for one person, and some people may say that men just need to “get over it”, this is the kind of attitude that is disgusting to those people in the reverse (i.e. Woman: “I don’t want to give up my dreams to have a baby.” Society: “Get over it.”). Mostly because being told who you are and what makes you important is a trap, no matter who you are.

Where the Role Is Most Seen

If you’re a man, you’ve probably paid for a woman’s meal, and if you’re a woman, you’ve probably had a meal paid for by a man. This isn’t inherently a problem. If both man and woman find this equitable and what they want, than it’s not a problem. It becomes one when the man doesn’t really want to pay for her meal but feels he must or when she thinks that he’s a jerk if he didn’t pay for her meal. I’ve also heard men say something to the effect that his money is their money, but her money is hers alone, which can be sweet if they have a good relationship, but is nearly codependent when they don’t. A woman shouldn’t feel entitled to a man’s personal earnings, and a man shouldn’t feel obligated or forced to provide and to give her his earnings.

Lazy, Shiftless Men

Some people completely disagree with me, stating that the only men who have a problem with this role are the kind of men who lay around all day, drinking beer, eating, and watching T.V. Maybe people will also say they are dishonest in their relationship, taking and taking from her and possibly sleeping with other women. They are immature, have no ambition, and are irresponsible. Some men are like this because they enjoy it and their friends and family enable them, but some men seem this way because the pressure—especially in a bad economy where their skills may not be useful—got to them and they gave up. For those men, it is a spiral: they failed to provide for their families because they were laid off or couldn’t get a job, they felt so down that they stopped trying, they kept failing because they weren’t trying so they felt like more of a failure and their will to try lessens even more, and so on down the drain. Calling them names or accusing them of laziness is not going to make them feel good about themselves. Some may respond “What about the guy who doesn’t pay his alimony or child support?” Child support is based on a separate idea from this gender role; it is based on the idea that both parents are responsible for their children’s well being. Alimony confuses me in a society where women act like they can do anything and support themselves; it seems to undermine the idea that women are independent and can take care of themselves without a man’s support and money. Different from even that though is . . .

The Succeeding Woman

On the other side, wherein a bad or shifting economy has a similar effect on women, is the woman who feels the pressure to succeed. This success isn’t as strictly tied to monetary gain, but more to a sense of “doing it all”: having the career, the house, the husband, and the children. Women often feel like they need to prove to the world that they can be successful “in a man’s world” by reaching the same levels professionally as men, so depression of the same sort can happen to women who feel this kind of pressure. This is the career woman who can’t get her career off the ground, who hasn’t found a job or a good enough paying one to feel as though she has been “successful”. Success in our society is tied strongly to two ideas: your wages and your usefulness—neither of which are ideas I find very good for personal happiness.

Ambition, the Murderer of the Soul

From both these gender roles, ambition is born. People strive for a goal that they think will get them satisfaction in their lives, but this goal which they believe is the “end” of the strife never comes whether you are successfully reaching for it or if you fell short. Why? Because ambition begets ambition. Once you catch the ambition bug, you are a slave to it. The Providing Man and The Succeeding Women are both ambitious, even when they feel they have failed because ambition and a loss of identity is what is hurting them and forcing them to care so much. The actual lazy, shiftless man has no ambition, and frankly, I’m happy for him because he is ignorant of its barred cage. Either way, successful or failing, ambition is too painful. Either you’re not focused on other things in life that also matter (family, joy, self-awareness, personal integrity) or you end up hating yourself for failing your grand ambitions.

Personal Identity vs Social Identity

Gender roles are social identities, labels. They are inherently designed to make the machine keep moving forward, but most people end up ground up in the gears. When a person replaces their personal identity with a social one—or maybe they never had a personal one—they destroy themselves. They end their lives and just stand in line.

The Man Wearing a Tie

So when you hear the voice in your head telling you you’re worthless because you don’t have a job, because you don’t have a goal, wife and children, because “childish” pleasures make you happy, that you need to grow up, that you need to give up your dreams to get a paycheck, tell that voice to SHUT UP! We are all capable of being happy and amazing people if we stop listening to the roles talking at us. Like the Angel in the Attic or the Grandmother in a woman’s mind, the Man Wearing a Tie or the Grandfather in a man’s mind need to be killed, need to be told to be quiet. And if you are one of those people who actually voice those imprisoning ideas to men, remember the Angel in the Attic of Virginia Woolf or the Grandmother of Erica Jong. If you don’t like it to happen to women, don’t do it to men. Just as a woman’s worth isn’t based on how many babies she’s had and if she is domestically optimal, a man’s worth isn’t defined by how much money he makes.

 
 

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Prejudice Knows No Bounds

Note: I am not making the argument that members of the traditionally victimized groups aren’t ever victimized or that it’s not wrong. Both of these things are still true. So don’t argue like that is my point–that would be a straw man. Everyone’s pain matters because they are feeling it.

The Common Idea:

Most people believe that bigotry is something of which only certain people are capable. There seems to be this thought that one has to be in a position of power to do it, and power is defined in a strange way too: one has to be of a powerful [gender, race, social class, etc.]. This seems like a weird way of defining being mean to someone based on a group from which they have roots.

Why?

Well, because power comes in different forms. The Indian man behind the counter of a convenience store doesn’t come from a traditionally-held powerful U.S. race or class but he can refuse service to anyone—which is a type of power—and maybe he does refuse to serve the Hispanic man. All I can think of when people talk about power and bigotry is Sanders’ essay “The Men We Carry in Our Minds” wherein he showed that being a man is just as powerless, if not more so, when poor than a woman who grew up wealthy. Just because someone is of the powerful group doesn’t mean they possess any of that power themselves.

You’ve Heard This Before

Anyone who has seen Ron White’s latest special or any of Bill Burr’s has heard the argument before that men are not always in the power spot. They make a joke of it, but it has always been my opinion that the best comedy comes from pointing out the issues and problems no one wants to talk about. They are also serious. They want people to think about how everyone is angry over the abused woman but we all laugh at the man who is literally emasculated/mutilated by a woman. I don’t like to laugh at someone else’s pain—I mean, sometimes I do, when Tosh.0 is on—but cutting off a man’s penis and laughing is just beyond the pale. How powerful is that man when he’s bleeding to death?

Serious Stuff

The problem goes beyond one woman cutting off one man’s member. The problem is on T.V., on the internet, and in the papers and magazines. When someone does something this horrible to a person of a “powerful” group, the media laughs, tells society it is okay to do so, and now the pain isn’t taken seriously. If something that big isn’t taken seriously then the smaller things are also not taken seriously. Physical abuse isn’t just men attacking women; it’s someone hurting someone they supposedly love—man, woman, child, animal. The assailant isn’t always packing genitals on the outside of their body. Women assault men all the time: slapping a man, throwing a drink in his face; but nothing is done because society says women can do these things. The prejudice comes from the fact that a lot of people hold the notion that men can never be victims and women can never be attackers. Where does that leave the men who are victims? Out in the cold, just like women used to be.

Not as Serious, But Still Very Important

The prejudice that says men can’t be victims of physical abuse perpetrated by women isn’t all I’m referring to. The little issues are what feed the big ones, such as physical abuse. What are the little—or more aptly smaller—issues? The idea that men are supposed to pay for a woman’s meal or give up their seats for them or, more seriously, are “always wrong”. This last means that in any argument by the end the man needs to find some way to prostrate himself for her forgiveness, even if she may have been in the wrong. Watch any sitcom—Scrubs is especially bad—and one will most likely see women doing horribly selfish and mean things to men and being rewarded by the end of the episode. Reverse any of the situations and the female audience would be saying that she needs to leave him and file a restraining order because he’s a controlling ass.

Besides Gender Clashes

The gender example of this argument is the easiest—and least sticky—point to make; however, this “reverse” prejudice also happens in other social issues. I prefer not to call it “reverse prejudice” because to me prejudice is prejudice, regardless of who is the victim, and other people who feel this are white people and Christians. Calling someone white in a negative way (cracker, white-ass, white trash, WASP) is still bad. It’s still hurtful. But it’s not just name-calling that falls under prejudice. I once read an article where several white firemen were suing their employer for prejudice because all the firemen took a test for promotions and only those who passed and were black got promotions. Reverse the situation and it’s wrong, but somehow it’s not when the victim is white? No, I don’t buy that. Sell it to someone else.

The Christian example is the most flabbergasting to me. They are decried as a whole—this isn’t pre-Protestant Reformation where the church is a single locus headed by one man; this is now where there are so many different flavors of Christian that one can’t count them on all their fingers and toes and three friends’ fingers and toes—as not being accepting of other people’s ways of life and for telling others how to live their lives. Being cast down as a whole is bad enough, but then the same people who accuse them of these things do them themselves by being disrespectful of Christian religion. Now, I know there are those Christians who are downright terrifying in their ability to reject, judge, and hate, but I’ve also know a lot of Christians who are very loving, accepting, and respectful of other people not of their religion. One can disagree with religious doctrines all one wants, but it is never an excuse to be mean to a person of a certain religion.

The Crux

I’ve been skirting and hinting at my main point this whole time. You can dislike a culture and religion, and the actions of some people all you want. But don’t take out that dislike on a person just because they are of that culture, religion, or group that has perpetrated immoral action. Not every white person is racist, not every religious person is against homosexuals, and not every man hits and disrespects women. It is prejudice to mistreat someone because they belong to a group you don’t like, no matter the group because in the cases I’m talking about the group is usually not something they picked. To quote Virginia Woolf, “it [is] absurd to blame any class or any sex, as a whole”—especially when that blame turns into prejudice that affects individuals. Why? Because we believe in “innocent until proven guilty”. We shouldn’t damn an entire group as guilty, but the much smaller amounts of people who are a confirmed offender of prejudice—and that includes traditional victim groups. Because we are all capable of hurting each other just as we are all capable of loving each other

 
 

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