30 May 2010

Popsicles can make the cranky go away.

So I was having this really shit day. I ran errands all afternoon in my car without A/C, and it is hotter than fuck outside, and I remember now why I HATE SUMMER, and I came back and find out my email account was hacked into. They spammed a random part of my address book and then ERASED a shitload of my emails. Why did they erase my emails? What possible good could that have done them? So now I'm cranky and hot and depressed about my email and hoping that nothing important got erased. And I still have to do laundry, which is requiring me to carry heavy loads of clothes outside in the goddamn heat, and just...ugh.

But now I'm eating the last of the popsicles that were in my freezer, and I feel better. I would kiss whoever made this recipe, seriously. So I figured I'd share it with you fine folks, so that if you have one of those days this summer, you can feel better, too.

Berry Yogurt Ice Pops

2 cups plain (sweetened or unsweetened) yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup frozen raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries (or combination thereof) (N.B. I tend to use a lot more than this, but no more than 1 cup.)

Also need:
Ice pop molds and popsicle sticks

In medium bowl, whisk yogurt and sugar to combine. In a blender, place 1 c. yogurt mixture w/frozen berries; purée until well-blended. (The recipe tells you to press this mixture through a fine mesh sieve into another medium bowl, discarding the solids. I don't have a fine mesh sieve, and I am lazier than all get-out, so I have literally never done this step, even though I make these popsicles 5-10 times every summer. If you're going to be lazy, be sure and blend like crazy. Also, it will mean you have seeds in your popsicles. I find this really only matters if you're really worried about the texture of your popsicles, in which case, stay away from raspberries. Those fuckers have a lot of seeds.) Dividing evenly, layer plain and berry yogurt mixtures in the ice pop molds. Insert popsicle sticks (or the sticks that come with your molds, if they have them) and freeze until solid, 4-5 hours or overnight. To unmold, run warm water briefly over molds to loosen.

Yummy! Now I'm going to finish my popsicle and watch Bones.

27 May 2010

This is what happens when I don't write a post for a while.

I have too much to talk about! So, more linkspam. Sorry 'bout that. But this time with more crunchy commentary!

From FWD, one of the ableist words of the day: Crazy.
Crazy is often used – even, still, by me and other feminists – to negatively describe ideas, writing, or other nouns that the speaker finds disagreeable. Conservatives are “crazy”, acts of oppression are “crazy making” , this winter’s snow is “craziness”. This usage makes a direct connection between mental disability and bad qualities of all stripes, turning disability itself into a negative descriptor. Whether it means “bad” or “evil” or “outlandish” or “illogical” or “unthinkable”, it’s turning the condition of having a disability into an all-purpose negative descriptor. When using crazy as a synonym for violent, disturbing, or wrong, it’s saying that PWMD are violent, disturbing, wrong. It’s using disability as a rhetorical weapon.
[Trigger warning for descriptions of violence against women and rape.]

Via Feministing, men who batter women overestimate how much other men abuse women.
The work is the first to document overestimation of intimate partner violence by batterers and is consistent with findings about a variety of other harmful behaviors such as substance use, gambling, and eating disorders. This line of research looks at social norms, or what is considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior in society.

“Social norms theory suggests that people act in a way that they believe is consistent with what the average person does,” adds Denise Walker, research professor of social work and co-director of the Innovative Programs Research Group.

The research looked at 124 men who were enrolled in a larger treatment intervention study for domestic violence. The men, all of whom had participated in violence against a partner in the previous 90 days, were asked to estimate the percentage of men who had ever engaged in seven forms of abuse.

These included throwing something at a partner that could hurt; pushing, grabbing, or shoving a partner; slapping or hitting; choking; beating up a partner; threatening a partner with a gun; and forcing a partner have sex when they did not want to.


In every case the men vastly overestimated the actual instances of abuse. For example, the participants on average thought 27.6 percent of men had thrown something with the intent of hurting a partner while the actual number is 11.9 percent. Similarly, they believed 23.6 percent of men had forced their partner to have sex involuntary compared to 7.9 percent in reality.
This is unsurprising, and not just because of social norms theory. Feminists have been saying for a long time (like, longer than I've been alive) that we live in a rape culture, a culture that condones and encourages violence against women. Is it really so unbelievable that men who abuse women translate misogynistic jokes as signs that other men hate women, too? Is it really so unbelievable that these men, who abuse or rape their partners, think they're normal? Why wouldn't they? Everything from offhand remarks or jokes made by other (even feminist!) men, to television shows making a joke out of stalking, to advertising campaigns (to PETA), to attempts by police, regular people, judgescampus officials, and the Catholic Church to ignore or apologize for actual rape and abuse supports their belief: rape and abuse are normal; normal men hate women. That's what rape culture does. It gives these men room to commit their crimes (knowing always that their victims, not them, will face blame, disbelief, and a lack of support) by allowing them to believe that they are normal. I was once told by some men (on the internet!) that making misogynistic jokes doesn't harm anyone because mature men know the difference between a joke and an insult, a rapist and a non-rapist. (They seemed unconcerned with the fact that they very likely know a woman who is has been sexually assaulted and might be triggered by their jokes.) And while I think it's important to leave room for humor, I don't (shockingly) think it's helpful for men to assume that they don't know any secret misogynists (say, one who phrases all their misogyny in joke-form and also private violence?) and give the impression to other men that they sort of hate women. If violence against women was, you know, RARE, this would be slightly different. But making jokes about rape or slapping women around or how women are whiny bitches who are really only good for fucking (amiright fellas?) when 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 1 million women are stalked annually and most women who experience violence do so at the hand of a partner or family member? Not okay. (Believe or not, the men on the internet did not buy my logic! Because I am a crazy overemotional bitch. But they are decent, non-misogynist men, they tell me! That means their opinion about my mental state is VALID.) "But but but!" they said, "We are decent men! Men who can joke and laugh at sexist commercials without it affecting our treatment of women [doubtful, but let's grant that this could be true of some feminist men]! It is not fair to limit our fun-having just because some men hate women! [Actually, it is. Your right to make or laugh at douchey jokes should be trumped by the right of women to exist in your vicinity without feeling uncomfortable and unsafe.] Men who perpetuate violence against women are fucked up in the head. It's not fair to compare us to them!" I agree that men who assault women are fucked up in the head. But here's the deal: I can not tell you apart. Which I know you probably find infinitely annoying. But, you tell the same jokes. You're both likely to ignore it if I'm experiencing sexism in front of your face. You're both likely to tell me to just shut up and stop being so political if I point out that the Superbowl commercials are so offensive I can't even enjoy them or that Scott Neustadter is a total douche for writing (500) Days of Summer. You act the same! That is a problem! And it is your problem! I can't tell the Nice GuysTM from the nice guys, or the rapists from the non-rapists, and it is not because my poor lady brain is not equipped with the appropriate observation skills! Do you know why the men in this study think they're normal? It's not because they are, but because you allow them to occupy the same social circles that you do! You, men on the internet who desperately cling to your right to tell offensive jokes without being labelled an asshole, don't tell them they're being assholes! And why not? Because then you would have to reevaluate your own behavior. And god no, not THAT. That is a fate worse than death.

Vintage sexism: Kissing is for whores! This video is hilariously disturbing. Creepiest dad ever.

More vintage sexism: Ads I will show my stepdad next time he's nostalgic about the 1950s.

From The Sexist, why chivalry is decidedly Not a Good Thing.
Chivalry encourages a form of preemptive internalized misogyny that results in the policing of women, how they dress, where they go, how much hair they show, and whether they stand up for themselves when harassed or assaulted. In the future, the woman harassed by the firemen may dress more conservatively, or avoid standing on the street corner alone, in order to prevent her husband from ever being associated with someone who is confused for “a hooker”. A woman may choose to wear a headscarf in order to preempt any shame being brought to her husband. And a woman who is victimized by a man may not speak out, in order to avoid the chivalrous man-next-door from starting a fist-fight—or criticizing her for somehow encouraging the harassment.

Chivalry works to unfairly displace misogyny onto men. But focusing solely on that particular failure of chivalry ignores the obvious truth—that misogyny is unfair for everyone. Women, too!
From Shitty First Drafts, Why I’m Not Proud of You for Correcting Other People’s Grammar:
But when people find out I’m an English teacher, they often say, “I have a grammar question for you.” Asking someone to give you free professional advice when they are not at work and just looking to enjoy casual conversation with their dry martini is, of course, total etiquette fail. But it gets even douchier when people want to tell me all about how they go ahead and correct other people’s grammar every chance they get. This happened with my new dentist, who, while digging around in my mouth with metal objects, regaled me with stories about how he calls people out–family members, friends, patients, probably also panhandlers with poorly copyedited signs–for using adverbs incorrectly. Adverb usage: apparently one of the Big Problems Today, along with oil rigs asploding in the Gulf and poverty and such. It’s like these people are part of a Douchebag Club and think they have recognized me as one of their own. To which I have this to say: I am not. I am not, in fact, proud of you for being a dick to the people around you. Now don’t get me wrong, I am sort of a dick sometimes, but this is one area of dickery I just don’t touch. I equate it to going around at a party criticizing everyone’s food and drink selection. No one likes that guy. We edge away from him and talk about him behind his back. Like food selections at parties, speech patterns are both a function of personal taste and what’s available to us. Not only is grammar correcting just plain rude, it’s soaked in classism, regional chauvinism, and privilege.

It bothers me that some people think that this is what I do all day: copyedit my student’s documents and then take my work home with me by copyediting conversations with family and friends. That sounds joyless. And stupid. What I really do is research American literature and religion because I find it fascinating. Then I teach my students about literature and religion and try to find ways to make it fascinating for them. I also attempt to teach them to do fabulous things with words, things that are full of joy, as well as insight, nuance, and gravitas. In short, I love my job, but grammar has precious little to do with it (“it” being both my job and why I like it).
Ladysquires doesn't argue that clarity is not important, but that people who harp on grammar and spelling in everyday conversation are assholes whose concerns aren't communication so much as using their privilege to dismiss you without engaging with what you're saying. A great example of this is Arizona's newest choad move: firing teachers with foreign accents. From Amanda at Pandagon:
According to Think Progress, the man behind this project is Tom Horne, a superintendent who is running for attorney general. His reasoning in this video is specious and laughable to anyone who isn’t a full-blown racist looking for a rationalization. He claims that it’s confusing to students if a teacher pronounces “comma” like “coh-ma”. The underlying assumption is that there’s only one right way to pronounce any word in English, something that isn’t true even within the United States, much less across different accents in the English-speaking world. For instance, am I more or less American because I pronounce the pronoun “I” like “Ah” instead “Eye”? Those are actually pretty different, and yet we expect people to learn that both are acceptable. People like Horne may be able to fool some people that live far away from the Southwest with this act, but for those of us who grew up there, it’s obvious he’s full of shit. A fluent English speaker with a Spanish accent isn’t hard to understand, and they’re the ones being targeted. Whining that some people drop the ending sounds in words is particularly stupid, since that’s how pretty much everyone in the South speaks, and no one is claiming you can’t understand them.
The method used here is essentially accusing teachers with foreign accents of poor grammar. If someone's grammar, pronunciation, spelling, etc. aren't absolutely perfect, the grammar police claim, then no one can understand them! Which is, as Amanda points out, usually total bullshit. It's not about communication, but about dismissing people without having to listen to or engage with what they say.

Next post: Doctor Who! Again!

20 May 2010

Interview on Information Underground

I had an interview on the local radio station 89.1 KEOS in College Station on Sunday, with Teddy at Information Underground. As I am when no one is editing me, I am chatty and not particularly articulate. You can listen here.

Sorry I haven't posted a real post in a while. I finished the semester a week ago, but I've been decompressing. It just really sunk in a couple days ago that I've finished my first year of grad school! Awesome. Now I have a to do list a mile long, but I'll get back to writing non-linkspam posts soon!

[Corrected: KEOS is not an NPR affiliate.]

13 May 2010

Recommended Reading for 5/13

I turned in my last seminar paper today! Let the fun times begin! My brain is a little empty, so I just have some links for you today. I'll get back to writing soon.

Attention feminist geeks! The Sexist lets us know that Portal, dubbed "the most subversive game ever," is available for free until May 24th. So hurry and get it!

Also from The Sexist, the follow up post to the xkcd color survey, concerning the sex/gender question from the survey:
We debated for a long time to find a wording of the question that would be answerable unambiguously by everyone, regardless of gender identification or any other issues. In response to a friend who was suggesting we were overcomplicating things, she said, “I *refuse* to word the question in a way that doesn’t have a good, clear answer available for transsexuals, intersex people, and people who already know they have chromosomal anomalies.” I felt the same way, and at the same time I didn’t want to assume everyone remembers what the hell chromosomes are. After hours of debate, everyone was happy with this:
Do you have a Y chromosome?
Don’t Know

If unsure, select “Yes” if you are physically male and “No” if you are physically female. If you have had SRS, please respond for your sex at birth. This question is relevant to the genetics of colorblindness. 
We didn’t add a question about gender identification, in part because I wasn’t really planning to do anything with the survey data beyond basic calibration and didn’t want to hassle people with more questions, and in part because gender is really complicated. We recently programmed Bucket, the IRC chat bot in #xkcd, to allow people set their gender so he can use pronouns for them. This ended up taking hundreds of lines of code, three pages of documentation, and six different sets of pronouns and variables, just to cover all the basic ways people in the channel with different gender identifications wanted to be referred to (even without invented pronouns like “xe”, which we vetoed). And that’s just to cover the pronouns. The role of gender in society is the most complicated thing I’ve ever spent a lot of time learning about, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about quantum mechanics.
Okay, so I just realized that 3/4 of these links came from The Sexist. Anyway, Amanda outlines why Christopher Hitchens's defense of the French veil ban is, unsurprisingly, really fucking misogynistic:
In an essay condemning a cultural institution that prevents men from looking at the faces of women, Hitchens instead argues that men have an inalienable right to stare. Of course, Hitchens phrases this in gender-neutral terms—”My right to see your face is the beginning of it, as is your right to see mine”—that assumes social equivalence between the gazes of women and men. In fact, the gender-neutral approach fails to acknowledge the sexist cultural institutions that allow men to exert ownership over women’s bodies through their gaze—like street harassment and sexual objectification. When a guy passes a woman on the street and tells her to “smile, baby,” he’s asserting authority over her face, her feelings, and how she chooses to express them—or not. Those who would declare their “right” to look at women should first note the social context in which women’s faces are often examined.
Having just written an essay about the role of science and technology in our understandings about our bodies in the Victorian era, I found this article from The Guardian really interesting:
In a study at Barcelona University, men donned a virtual reality (VR) headset that allowed them to see and hear the world as a female character. When they looked down they could even see their new body and clothes.

The "body-swapping" effect was so convincing that the men's sense of self was transferred into the virtual woman, causing them to react reflexively to events in the virtual world in which they were immersed.

Men who took part in the experiment reported feeling as though they occupied the woman's body and even gasped and flinched when she was slapped by another character in the virtual world.

The study, which appears in the online science journal PLoS One, suggests that our minds have a very fluid picture of our bodies. The research is expected to shed light on the thorny neuroscientific puzzle of how our brain tells the difference between a part of our own body, and something else in the wider world.
Enjoy! I'll be back soon!

11 May 2010

Recommended Reading

I promise I will go back to real posts soon. My last seminar essay is due Thursday, so hopefully I will get back to not dying of stress this weekend. Until then, read these fine folks!

Sqbr on Disability in Speculative Fiction: Monsters, Mutants and Muggles:
Fiction reflects social attitudes, and the social attitudes to disabled people tend to suck. Disabled people are presented as scary, pathetic, exotic, demanding, laughable, etc.

But some tropes are popular/unique to SF.

It's not all bad: speculative fiction allows for powerful allegory, and can also make very interesting explorations/extrapolations of future attitudes/experiences of disability.
National Journal Magazine asks, Do "Family Values" Weaken Families? (Hint: Yes.)
Can it be? One of the oddest paradoxes of modern cultural politics may at last be resolved.

The paradox is this: Cultural conservatives revel in condemning the loose moral values and louche lifestyles of "San Francisco liberals." But if you want to find two-parent families with stable marriages and coddled kids, your best bet is to bypass Sarah Palin country and go to Nancy Pelosi territory: the liberal, bicoastal, predominantly Democratic places that cultural conservatives love to hate.
Rebecca Traister over at Salon says, Screw Happiness:
When it comes to social science and economics, women lately seem especially prone to having the contentment thermometer thrust at them, and their temperature always seems to register at "dissatisfied." A study by University of Pennsylvania economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, as well as one by Princeton economist Alan Krueger, have shown a decline in female happiness in the years since the second wave, a trend that has been cheerily used as proof of exactly how unhappy increased social, sexual, professional and economic liberation has made American women. Even those who dare make claim to general life satisfaction are told not to get too comfortable; as Marcus Buckingham, the author of "Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently" gloomily warned any aberrantly chipper chicks in a piece last year, "as women get older they get sadder."

But really, how could they not, given the aggressive messages about happiness and how they must achieve it, and unhappiness and how they must avoid it that are foisted on them from every direction, making them feel like failures if they are not warbling and grinning their way through life?


You know what I think? It's all bullshit. Not just the trend stories and the self-help stuff, but the laser focus on happiness itself. I say this as someone who has grown steadily happier as I've aged, but I think I would have said it even more emphatically earlier in my life: I'm just not sure that "happiness" is supposed to be the stable human condition, and I think it's punishing that we're constantly being pushed to achieve it.
And filed under both hilarious and interesting, xkcd published the results of a color survey, broken down by gender:
Basically, women were slightly more liberal with the modifiers, but otherwise they generally agreed (and some of the differences may be sampling noise). The results were similar across the survey—men and women tended on average to call colors the same names.

So I was feeling pretty good about equality. Then I decided to calculate the ‘most masculine’ and ‘most feminine’ colors. I was looking for the color names most disproportionately popular among each group; that is, the names that the most women came up with compared to the fewest men (or vice versa).

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among women:

1.Dusty Teal
2.Blush Pink
3.Dusty Lavender
4.Butter Yellow
5.Dusky Rose

Okay, pretty flowery, certainly. Kind of an incense-bomb-set-off-in-a-Bed-Bath-&-Beyond vibe. Well, let’s take a look at the other list.

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among men:


I … that’s not my typo in #5—the only actual color in the list really is a misspelling of “beige”. And keep in mind, this is based on the number of unique people who answered the color, not the number of times they typed it. This isn’t just the effect of a couple spammers. In fact, this is after the spamfilter.

I weep for my gender.

05 May 2010

Quick hits in lieu of me procrastinating via blogging

After the Rethinking Virginity conference over at Harvard, Lori put together 10 myths about sex and virginity and debunked them. My favorite is Myth #6: There's one universal definition of sex.

Amanda at The Sexist reminds us to check our privilege when facing slurs that compare us to other, more marginalized people. 
Listen: I’m a heterosexual cisgender thin able-bodied atheist white lady. If someone attempts to insult me by using a slur that’s offensive to gays, or trans people, or a racial group, or the disabled, or fat people, or a religious group, it’s unhelpful for me to respond by saying, for example, “That’s offensive to gays, and also, I’m personally offended that you would ever compare me to a gay person.”
That means you, US Airways.

Via Shakesville, John McCain is now officially against constitutional rights. But only if you did something illegal. And you're brown.
"Obviously [Mirandizing attempted Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad] would be a serious mistake...at least until we find out as much information we have. … Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about."—Senator John McCain, arguing that an American citizen should not be read his Miranda rights, lest, I guess, he be accidentally afforded those rights. Or something.
 Melissa just isn't American enough to know that withholding rights from U.S. citizens is totally patriotic now.

And now, work to do! Seminar papers to write!

04 May 2010

Oh, last issue of Maroon Weekly! You make me so angry.

You know what is the best of all procrastination methods? Blogging! So, if you regular readers are like, "Holy shit, Courtney, are you on crack? Four posts in one weekend?" the answer is no, I am not on crack. I am avoiding paper-writing. Well, not avoiding. Just break-taking. A lot. But I am still writing things! So, neutral?

Anyway! Maroon Weekly! It is often horrifying! Let's talk about it. Last Thursday was the last of the issues this semester, and it was a doozy. Shorter Autumn Dawson: "Obama is teh worstest of all presidents! Liberals are sheeple for voting for him! Obama is un-American! Obama has done more damage than Bush! Also, Christians are totally persecuted in the U.S.!" I wish I was exaggerating. The best part is the claim that liberals are sheeple who voted for Obama without thinking. (Yes, the people who voted for McCain/Palin were thinking really hard about what that would mean for our country. Whereas liberals were just, "Oh! Black guy! I has vote?") The suggestion seems to be that Autumn doesn't understand how Obama was voted. I can tell her: by a majority. All presidents, barring electoral nonsense, are voted in by the majority of people. Does that mean all presidents (except Bush) were voted in by brainless sheeple? Is this yet another conservative claim that we should limit the vote to people who matter? (We all know what that's code for.) Autumn suggests that Obama is failing even at being liberal, and that liberals have unthinkingly gotten us into a mess that even they don't like. (You know what my liberal friends who voted for Obama and I don't like about Obama? That he isn't being liberal enough. He still hasn't made DADT a priority. He still keeps throwing women under the bus. He didn't push for single-payer hard enough. And etc.) This article was so fucking ridiculous I had a hard time reading it all the way through. I handed it to a friend, whose reaction was similar. About two paragraphs in, he handed it back to me.

And then, the "Love Connection!" Written by our favorite resident misogynist! In this edition of "Cody Lillich gives judgmental and generally terrible advice," Teri asks the "Love Doctor" how to move from an open relationship to a closed one.
Dear LC,
I’ve been in an open relationship with Tim for about 4 months. We both have really busy schedules, and we decided early on that commitment–for either of us–was impossible. So we decided we would spend time together when we could (once or twice a week), and that’s worked out fine.

I’ve never asked him if he’d been on other dates or if he’d fooled around. Although I’ve been curious. He never asked me, either. Honestly, I haven’t seen anyone else since we started the relationship. I’ve left the door open for anything, just in case something came along. But I’m so busy and focused on other things, so the time I spend with Tim is enough for me.

Last week I was joking with him about all of the other guys I’d been seeing. Just for fun, just to get a reaction, in a flirty way. Tim said, “That’s good to know. Now I don’t feel bad.” But he didn’t say it in a flirty, joking way. He was serious.

It turns out Tim has been seeing two other girls the whole time. And I don’t know why, but I feel jealous. I knew the rules when I jumped into this, but still, my heart sank when he told me. When we agreed in the beginning to not have anything serious, I was fine with the idea. But now…I actually have feelings for him and I do feel like I want him in a closed relationship. How do I go about asking him to date just me? Is it possible?

Second-Thoughts Teri
There are a lot of sensitive, thoughtful, and genuinely helpful responses that one could give to Teri's dilemma. Cody's is not one of them:
Open relationships are for porn stars, hookers and gigolos. In fact, the words “open” and “relationship” don’t make sense next to each other. It’s a paradox. It’s like saying the door is open closed. So call it what it is: promiscuous dating. You guys are just friends with benefits (and apparently he’s had more benefits than you).
Is this guy allergic to sensitivity? Could he be any more fucking judgmental? Also, is he living in a box? Tons of people have open relationships. Successful open relationships. It is not a paradox. And it is not necessarily "promiscuous dating" or "friends with benefits." There are even books written to help people navigate the different kinds of open relationships they can have. (The Ethical Slut is a good starting place.) Open relationships (or poly relationships) are not for everyone; but then, neither are monogamous ones. In short, Cody is being an ignorant asshat.
Of course you like him now and want commitment. He made you jealous, told you that you’re one of the two other hot chicks he’s been doing. But ask yourself if the feelings would be the same if you had also been fooling around with other guys?
Listen, these dating games only work when there’s no contractual terminology. The word “relationship” implies a contract, even if it’s tenuous next to the word “open.” Next time, get your terms straight from the beginning. Steer clear from labels that might bind you. Just say “Let’s date,” or “Let’s just have fun,” or “I’m not looking for anything serious right now.” But you’ll only be able to say these things if you really mean them. Make sure your skin is thick enough to deal with the possibility of a guy with multiple women. And make sure your heart is out of it.
 And, sure. You can ask him if he’d like a closed relationship with you. But good luck getting him to kick two other girls out of bed.
Actually, open relationships work best if there is "contractual terminology." The reason that Teri and Tim are having issues is because she is not talking to him honestly, and he is not talking to her honestly. The only real solution to this problem is an honest and open conversation between the two of them about what they want. And Teri needs to consider whether she would be open to a poly relationship, albeit one that is more committed than they currently have. You can care for someone (keeping "your heart" definitively in it) and still have an open relationship (which can mean a number of things).

Cody's advice is non-advice. He tells Teri to forget it, basically, because he assumes that every man is as big of an asshole as he is. Cody acts like all men care about is sex (Obviously, no self-respecting man would want to have a relationship with icky women. Gross.) and that if women don't trick men into having relationships with them, and use sex as a bargaining chip, they'll never have satisfying (as if that kind of relationship could be satisfying) relationships with men. Which is, of course, bullshit, as any person who is in a healthy, happy relationship (or who knows other people in healthy, happy relationships) knows. Some men actually like being around their female partners. Craziness, I know! But it happens! And when it happens, they might actually be willing to be in a monogamous relationship with them. Or might be willing to compromise. If Tim and Teri have something, they'll be able to have an honest conversation about what they want from their relationship, and come to an agreement about what that relationship will look like. And they'll continue to have those conversations. It's a novel idea, I know, and not quite as much fun as telling Teri that she's an idiot and kind of slut.

02 May 2010

Ladies who choose not to have babies are not broken

Confession time! I totally watch Grey's Anatomy. It is not my favorite show ever or anything, but I watch it. So, I'm going to talk about how the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy (season 6, episode 20, "Hook, Line and Sinner") made me super happy.

(This video will expire on June 4th.)

In this episode, the baby conversation between Arizona and Callie reaches a breaking point. Callie desperately wants a big family and Arizona, despite being a pediatric surgeon, doesn't want any kids. This is obviously Not a Good Thing. They've been arguing about it for a while, with Callie suggesting that Arizona is basically screwed up, and Arizona telling her that she likes her life the way it is. From the episode (about 10 seconds in):
Callie: No! It doesn't make any sense! And everybody wants a kid, and you of all people--you wear roller skates for shoes! I don't get it!
Arizona: You know what, I don't know. Maybe there's something wrong with me. (Callie scoffs.) 'Cause it's not natural. It's not womanly. Maybe I'm cold and heartless and dead inside.
Callie: No, I'm not saying that!
Arizona: Well, yeah, but a little bit, you are.
Callie: No. No. (sits on the bed with Arizona)
Callie: You know what, just humor me for one minute, okay? Close your eyes. (Arizona hesitates.) Close your eyes. (Arizona closes her eyes) Picture a baby. A warm, smushy little...baby. Wrapping its chubby little arms around your neck. And breathe in that...that intoxicating baby smell. Doesn't it just melt you?
Arizona: (Raises eyebrows) Nope. You know what melts me? Spain. The beach. You in a bikini. Me holding a sangria. (Callie scoffs some more.) Oh. Wait. What's that I hear? Oh, the baby's crying. We can't go to Spain!
Callie: A sangria? That's why I don't get a kid? I can make you a frickin' sangria.
I sort of hate Callie at this point, though I really shouldn't. They're not fighting because Callie is being unreasonable. They're fighting because they don't agree on what they want in their future, and that's a Big Fucking Deal. And while her little fantasy of smushy baby smell grosses me out a little, it's not a bad thing in itself. What is bad is that she assumes that Arizona is a fucked up person for not wanting it, too. What's bad is that she automatically deems Arizona's Spain fantasy as deficient, and shallow, and frivolous in comparison to her own. And it gets worse (about 31:15 in):
Callie: I get it. You watch parents go through horrible, unimaginable pain. Every day. And, you went through horrible and unimaginable pain when you lost your brother. And your parent's never got over it. But if we had a baby...our baby's not gonna be one of those kids in your NICU. Our baby won't be your brother. I mean, knock on wood, but--Do you know how happy our baby would be?
Arizona: I'm gonna say this once and then I'm not gonna say it again. I'm not broken. I'm not some psycho trauma. My lack of interest in having a child is not some pathology that you can pat yourself on the back for having diagnosed. I like me life. I like it the way it is. I don't want it to change! I thought I liked it with you in it. I hope I'm not wrong. (Stands up to leave)
Callie: Wait. (Grabs her arm. Arizona walks out.)
Hot damn. It's been...well, never, since I've seen a sympathetic and not-pathologized childless woman by choice on television. Women who don't want kids are usually portrayed in our culture as bad employees (because they're immature, cold, and a little crazy); selfish (either for not doing their nationalistic duty or for wanting to focus on themselves); or victims of feminism, elective abortion, and birth control. Callie's instinct in this episode (and Mark's)--to diagnose and pathologize Arizona's thought-out decision not to have children--is perfectly normal. And perfectly reprehensible. I applauded Grey's Anatomy when I watched it last night, for allowing a childfree-by-choice lady character to forcefully resist pathologization of her decision. Yay!

I'm young (23), so the reactions I get to my own decision not to have children are usually of the "Well, you'll change your mind" theme. I can't tell you how frustrating this is. Very few people I know take this decision seriously, or believe that I've spent any time at all thinking about it. (Over three years, if you're curious.) I'm starting to wonder at what age I'll finally be taken seriously about this decision. From what I've read on the internet, NEVER. So, yay about that.

Cosplay, race, ability, and gender; or, who gets to dress up as whom?

Caitie over at Shakesville started this really interesting conversation about cosplay and race (specifically for Doctor Who fans, but the comments go beyond that).*
The issue is this: there are, as ever, fascinating new characters, some of them at first glance eminently suitable for cosplay; the character around whom this discussion arose was the delicious Liz 10, HRH Elizabeth X of the UK&NI, as portrayed by the lovely and talented Sophie Okonedo.

She's a fun character, with a few great lines ("...higher alien intelligence, hair of an idiot." and "I'm the Queen, mate. Basically, I rule."), and a great easy costume to pull off: red dress, red hooded robe, boots, porcelain mask, all finished, right?

So one of my friends was a little surprised when, after mentioning how easy it would be to do, I stated that I'd never do it.
I have a feeling this will be a thing during this year of cons; Liz 10 was pretty damn awesome, and I can see how white fans, not really thinking about it, might be tempted to cosplay as her. But it would be really problematic to do so, as Caitie points out:
I don't think one can be a serious sf/f fan and not have heard about RaceFail last year, the huge explosion in fandom after some truly unfortunate and highly privileged statements by various authors and sf/f publishing industry people.

One thing it did for me was to point out to my own over-privileged eyes something I should have noticed earlier: the conspicuous lack of visibility of POC in sf/f, and a consequent lack of roles for POC [people of color] in screen-media, as well as a concomitant lack of representation of POC in fandom (or FOC [fans of color]). I make no excuses for that failure to notice: it was privilege, pure and simple.

But it's meant I've had to look a little harder at cosplay, and how easy it is for white fans to appropriate the few roles that POC have won. We all know the roles, because there are few enough of them: Dr. Who's Martha Jones and her family, or Mickey Smith (and what was with Nine's bizarre and unsettling dismissal of Mickey from the moment they met?); Toshiko of Torchwood; various Klingons of TNG and more recent vintage (generally - but not always - played by POC); Storm of the X-Men; Teal'c of Stargate; Zoe, Book, and Fanty & Mingo from Firefly; the entire cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender; and a few others (mostly unnamed because I don't watch the shows in question; I don't even watch Stargate, but I know of Teal'c just from endless commercials thereof - though I didn't know his name!).

And it occurred to me that if I want to see more FOC out to cons and events, then one of the most elementary steps toward that end would be to make sure I don't tread on any of the small number of cosplay options that should, I believe, only be open to FOC. To do otherwise is to tread perilously close to "blackface" (or yellowface or redface or whatever other nasty replacement is happening).

We in the privileged seats have many, many options open to us: by far the majority of the roles continue to be given to people who look just like us, and even then, certain directors feel the need to "whitewash" their casts for the usual Hollywood bullshit reasons: that white fandom won't go see movies built around the lives and stories of POC, that there aren't sufficient quality actors of colour. This is the spurious and racist reasoning behind the horrendous miscasting of the live action version of Avatar TLA, or of whitewashing Ged and others from a broadcast of U. K. Le Guin's Earthsea.

So no, as I told my friend, though the character is delightful and I'd adore playing her, Liz 10 (and Zoe, and Tosh, and the few others) won't be someone I'll be cosplaying in this lifetime.

I hope no Shakers need to be told why it's not an equivalent problem if FOC decide to cosplay roles originally given to white actors.
I think Caitie did a good job pointing out why it's problematic to cosplay as characters of color as a white fan, so I want to talk a little about how this conversation links to other kinds of minority cosplaying (namely, disability and gender). At the end of that passage from Caitie, she mentions that it's not the same problem for FOC to cosplay as characters originally played by white actors. My immediate reaction to that mental image (namely, a POC cosplaying as the Doctor) was, "Fuck yeah. That would be badass." Some of the comments in Caitie's post mimic my enthusiasm for minority fans cosplaying majority-played characters. Beppie, for example, pointed out that this is also an issue with disabled fans and disabled characters:
I'm thinking that there could be similar issues in play in terms of non-disabled people cos-playing characters with disabilities; though of course this is often complicated by the fact that characters with disabilities are often played by actors who do not share that disability.

And of course, this is another issue that does not work in reverse; I think it's great to see people with disabilities cosplaying characters who normally aren't portrayed as disabled. I was at Melbourne Supanova two weeks ago, and I saw a blind woman cosplaying Captain Jack; her guide dog's leash had a Torchwood logo on it and everything. This woman didn't hide her disability in order to play the character, she made it part of the character.
Caitie remarks after this that this costume sounds pretty awesome. And that seems to be a common reaction. Shortly after this, Time-Machine linked to a pretty good blog post about the new-ish trend of dressing as a femme!Doctor:
In regards to Femme Doctor Who cosplay (where a woman cosplayer recreates an existing masculine character into a feminine one) there's a really great post on it over here that dissects it pretty well. I agree with almost every bit of it (except the authors personal opinion on whether we should have a woman Doctor ever in the future). I definitely was entranced with the idea, when I'd never been interested in cosplay before. (It helps that I have the nose and the hair to REALLY pull off a femme!Four).
My reaction to the idea of a racial minority cosplaying as an originally white character (badass!) is reflected in the celebration of this Jack Harkness cosplay and the femme!Doctor trend. I think the excitement about these cosplays is related, but I'll use the femme!Doctor trend as my point of departure. In the femme!Doctor post, she argues that femme cosplay is a way for women to be feminine and Doctor Who fans. She recounts growing up as a geek, when she experienced something most geek women face: the necessity of being an honorary guy, of having to renounce femininity in order to be accepted by other (male) geeks.
But it came at the price of being an honorary guy. Their clubhouse, not yours. Their rules. Honorary guys must keep to the rules of guydom, and one of the first rules of guydom is to disavow and abjure all things girly. Cute is an epithet. [...] If you'd asked me when I was fifteen, I'd have said I didn't mind, that I was used to it, and I just kept my yap shut about the stuff I liked that they didn't. But today, I wonder about the after effects of this kind of cultural programming: I was an honorary guy until I was twenty-two, for heaven's sake. (Computer science major in college.) I didn't buy anything pink until last year--no reason, I just didn't like pink. I thought. Forswearing all things feminine just because they were feminine... well, wasn't that kind of sexist? I called myself a feminist, but aspired to masculinity because I thought it was better, in some vaguely-defined but hugely important way? Screw that. But the prohibition against anything not masculine was deeply ingrained in me, practically a reflex.
This is definitely a part of the femme!Doctor trend; female fans are taking their place in Doctor Who fandom, and they're making it clear that they are unwilling to pretend to be men to be accepted there. But there's something more going on here, and I think the reason that Nightsky doesn't see that is that she is personally against an actual female Doctor:
Nor do I think that the Doctor should regenerate into a woman: not only because there's no precedent for it in the show, but also because it implies that the Whoniverse has a dearth of kickass female characters, which isn't true.
Nightsky dismisses the idea that part of the reason that women want to dress as femme!Doctors is because they want to see themselves in the lead role, despite the fact that femme cosplay is dominated mostly by women cosplaying the Doctor (the lead role). There may be some kickass female characters in Doctor Who, but the companions are definitionally merely sidekicks to the Doctor (even the ones who stand up to him, hold their own, or even exceed him are still sidekicks). And the non-companion female badasses, like River Song, only show up every once in a while. They're not on the same level as the Doctor, if only because the show isn't about them.So I do think that fans doing femme cosplay are not only taking their place in the fandom, but in the show. Doing cosplay as a femme!Doctor (or a black Doctor, or a visibly disabled Doctor, etc.) is part necessity (as in, I am in a lady-body, so if I want to cosplay as the Doctor, he would have to be a lady-body-Doctor, like a person in a wheelchair would have to be a wheelchair-user Doctor, or a black person would have to be a black Doctor). But it's also a way for fans to see themselves in the Doctor, as the unquestioned protagonist of the show. Doctor Who fans can say all they like that DW is progressive enough in its way, but it's still dated by its insistence that the main character be a white, cis-gendered, abled British man. It reminds me of Sady Doyle's commentary about the Star Trek movie:
[J]ust imagine! [...] A crew of diverse nationalities, races, genders and points of planetary origin! In which a white, straight dude from Iowa magically ends up in charge! - and good old-fashioned lecturing ("...and now, the mostly-white crew shall visit the Planet of the Racists to show them the error of their ways"). The problem with writing about the future is that it always catches up with you, and is usually not what you expected: 1966 - the year that the original series began - is not 2009, and one of the chief problems facing JJ Abrams in his brand-new reboot of the franchise is that he has to make us buy a future world that looks so, well, dated.

I can't know how bold and challenging it felt to see a central, friendly Russian character on TV at the height of the cold war, or a central, friendly Asian character at the height of the Vietnam war (Sulu was originally written as non-specifically Asian, and later made Japanese-American - which was still quite a step, considering that Star Trek aired only 20 years after the last internment camp in the US had closed). I can't feel, on a visceral level, how many boundaries Nyota Uhura crossed simply by being there, on the bridge, let alone by kissing Kirk. Those things, to me - a woman born in 1982 - just are not shocking: we seem to have made more progress, identity-politics-wise, in the last 40 years than Star Trek predicted we would in the next few hundred years. Nope, what I notice, looking at the main crew of the Enterprise in the original TV series, is that most of them are white dudes, there are only two people of colour, there is only one woman - who has to do her job, unlike everyone else, while navigating the problematic confines of a miniskirt - and that all of them, unlike George Takei, are straight.
Doctor Who suffers a little from the Star Trek syndrome. Sure, there are women there, and POC, and they are sometimes even awesome, but the white guy is still in charge. Magically! So I find it difficult to believe that FOC cosplaying as the Doctor, or female fans cosplaying as a femme!Doctor, or disabled fans cosplaying as a disabled Doctor, aren't making up for a deficiency. And perhaps our excitement for this kind of play is the result of our recognition of this deficiency and the creativity of the fans in dealing with it. Yay fans!

A tangent: Sady's article takes me to the thing that bothers me a bit about femme cosplay: mainly, the miniskirts and the corsets. There's nothing wrong with a corset in itself--I'm going to be wearing a corset at Gally next year myself (as a steampunk TARDIS)--but there's something a little disturbing about the fact that femme!Doctor almost inevitably means high heels, short skirts, and binding clothes. Uhuru has to navigate the bridge in a miniskirt (a difficult task indeed), but I can't imagine how the Doctor could do such a thing on the bridge of the TARDIS. He already has issues flying it, in pants and with tennis shoes. (Case in point: River Song takes off her heels to fly the TARDIS in "The Time of Angels.") Johanna Mead touches on this in her essay in Chicks Dig Time Lords, "Costuming: More Productive Than Drugs, But Just as Expensive:"
Stomach sinking, I reconsidered the "Femmy Ten" costume. On the one hand, it's a silly little joke. On the other hand, I'd neatly suggested that a female Doctor would be completely useless. Have you ever tried running down a corrider in a tightly laced corset whilst wearing heels? I have (I was late for a panel) and it nearly crippled me. There's be no racing to save the day in that ensemble. All I had considered, initially, was that I look good in a corset (plus, I wanted the challenge of making one with pinstripes.) I can get away with a short skirt, and for heaven's sake, you don't wear flats with a skirt above the knee. Much, much later, I realized that, as a woman who has long ranted about fashion as a conspiracy to weaken women, I'd shot myself in the foot. (59)

*If you go over there and comment, read the first paragraph and don't be spoilery! Here, however, be as spoilery as you like.

UPDATE: For the commenters veering in the "But I totes identify with characters of color! Don't make me have to consider race when making the decision to cosplay!" direction: Stop it. I'm not discounting your identification with characters of color. But your cosplaying doesn't happen in a racism-free vacuum. Don't forget that cosplaying as characters of color problematically whitewashes those characters. And don't act like race isn't important, especially in shows where the characters of color are few and far between.

UPDATE: Because I said it so elegantly in the comment section, I'm reposting some more of my thinking about HOW FUCKING WRONG this:
What [white fans cosplaying as minority characters] does is *appropriate* characters of color as yet another fucking realm into which white people have colonized the black/brown experience. Which may turn off fans of color from cosplaying those characters, quite understandably.
You'll notice I'm all about crossplay when ladies dress up as male characters. (I don't have anything really against dudes crossplaying, as long as the series has a number of bitchin' ladies to choose from and it doesn't turn into "haha! dude in a dress! cross-dressers are hi-larious!") Just like I'm all about cosplay crossing race lines when fans of color cosplay as white characters, etc. The problem arises here when the privileged class thinks it's entitled to claim the experience and bodies of the non-privileged class. Not fucking okay. [emphasis added.]

01 May 2010

Offensive language and why I swear so much; or, blogging against disabilism day

(N.B. I had never in my life heard the word "disabilism" before today, because American activists usually use the word "ableism." Because that's the term with which I'm more comfortable, it's the one I'll use here.)

Damn. I stayed up last night writing my post about cosplay and race and Doctor Who so I would GET SOME WORK DONE today, but the blogging gods are not with me. Today is Blogging Against Disabilism day, hosted by Diary of a Goldfish. Cara's BADD post at Feministe reminded me of this post I've been writing on and off for a few months about language and swearing. They dovetail nicely, so here goes.

Regular readers (and friends in real life) know I swear. A lot. It is a thing that I do. While I am a big believer in the fact that words mean things, I am in general unconvinced by arguments that swear words are offensive. It's not usually argued that they're offensive because they mean things (although I have heard this about pussy, a word I don't use, and douche(bag), a word I do), but just because they are.* They're magic words that are offensive because we decide they're offensive, unlike words that are actually, you know, offensive. I have a theory that most swear words are the result of us despising the dirt and materiality of our lives and bodies; it's not coincidence that most of them are about bodily processes (shit, asshole, fuck, bullshit, piss, etc.). Those are the words I don't mind using, as opposed to profanity that is homophobic, racist, or ableist, or profanity that uses genitalia as an insult (cunt, dick, pussy, etc.). (Although, both of these categories can be reclaimed by the groups they demean in less problematic ways.) And it says something truly fucked up about our culture that dirt, sex, and waste are turned into magic words that can't be said. But I don't think the appropriate response to that is to not use these words at all; that makes them important and allows them to accrue more negative meaning. So I treat them like unimportant words. It's not an entirely unproblematic solution, but I have bigger problems in the language department than my inability to finish a sentence without saying "fuck." Which brings me to ableist language.

From Feministe:
Ableist language is language that is used to demean people with disabilities, or that is based on negative misconceptions about disability. Much of it is very, very deeply ingrained in our culture to the point where those of us who are unaffected by such language rarely notice it on our own. Ableist language matters for the same reason that sexist, racist, and homophobic language matters.


In some ways, I think that our community has transitioned to non-ableist language relatively well. “Retarded” and “lame” are insults I very rarely see in our comment section, anymore; when they do appear, they’re usually from new commenters or trolls. It took a period of quite a few months, a lot of speaking out by moderators and commenters alike, and undoubtedly and sadly much harm done to readers with disabilities to get to that place. But I’m happy and proud to see that we’re there, now.

But other ableist language is an issue. And while not the only offenders, the terms I want to focus on are the ones I see the most frequently appear in our comment section: “crazy,” “insane,” and other similar terms that use language commonly associated with mental illness to indicate irrationality, unbelievability, ludicrousness, hilarious ignorance, and/or immorality.

These terms are a problem. They are terms that have been used to disparage people with mental illnesses for a very long time, to discredit them, to abuse them, and to protect those who abuse them. They are terms that are continually used in this way today. They are terms that, using their broadest definitions, could be used against me — someone who has struggled with depression more on than off since about age 13, has some PTSD issues, and probably has some other unspecified anxiety disorder. They are terms that, used very narrowly, are still used against good friends, some of the greatest writers I know, and folks who, whatever and whoever else they are, are still people. (For the record, words being reclaimed and used as self-identifiers are a VERY different matter.)

They are terms that do active harm when they are brandished, even when not used directly at the person who is being harmed. They are terms that still do harm, regardless of whether or not one specifically uses them to refer to mental illness, or whether or not one personally thinks that “the word doesn’t mean that, anymore.”

They are terms that you should probably stop using, if you use them. And they’re terms that I would like to be seen as unacceptable for use here, in this space. It would make this blog safer for a lot of people, and a more welcoming, less oppressive space. That’s the kind of space I would personally like this blog to be.
The use of "crazy" and "insane" to mean dangerous and wrong are my own personal stumbling blocks, both in speech and in my writing. If you look back at my posts, I tend to use "crazy" a lot, in a way that really bothers me. It's inexcusable, and a thing I'm working on.

I also use crazy in a different way, a way I am a little ambivalent about. I'll say, for example, that it's nice to have people echo your own experiences so that you know you're not a crazy person. I've been called crazy (and hysterical and insane) a lot in my life (as have most women, particularly outspoken ones with feminist-y tendencies), so I think this is part of my response to that experience. Which doesn't make it unproblematic.

Language is a thing I worry about on this blog, and I will continue to work on that, both in posting and in the comments. And I ask the commenters here to think about how the words we use can harm others.

For other BADD blog posts, check out Diary of a Goldfish's roundup. A personal favorite is Curvature's.

*In the real world, that is. Language is a near constant discussion by feminists and feminist bloggers. However, when they talk about swearing, they usually target specific words, like bitch and cunt. The problem isn't swearing itself, but what words you use to mean what things. Saying "shit!" when you stub your toe, for example, isn't the same as calling a woman (or a man) a "bitch."