Will the Voice Of Authority puh-leeeeeze change?

June 13, 2009

**Warning: some slight Doctor Who spoilers, up to the end of Season Three.**

It’s only taken about four years, but I’m finally catching up with Doctor Who. In (very) general terms, the newest iteration of the classic sci-fi series is really making me happy: fast-paced, witty dialogue cavorting along, effortlessly charming the viewer into following, especially in the David Tennant years. I’m now at the end of Season 3, and in spite of some minor details, I am actually quite pleased with the treatment of gender in the show. Both Rose and Martha are intelligent individuals with quite different personalities (not just a cookie-cutter “here’s your female companion”); both are a joy to watch, in spite of the occasionally typical infatuation story lines. Riffs on Captain Jack’s ‘pansexuality’ are entertaining, well-timed, and are treated at times with just enough gravity that the humor in it turns on humanity, rather than some caricature of homosexuality.

But seriously, people. Time Lords are supposed to be* the most intelligent beings in the multiverse, with impressive talents and access to advanced technology. So why is it, in all the possibilities in all the possible worlds, that ALL of the Time Lords are white men?

The easy answer is: we live in a society in which white + male is seen as the default. One could go so far as to say they are the only people who are consistently treated as full human beings. But seriously, O Writers of Science Fiction: How is it that in imagining myriad variety to existence, this old trope keeps popping up?

The Doctor is, in many ways, the embodiment of Male Privilege. He walks into situations with absolute confidence in his ability to fix it, even when he does not know how he’ll do it, or even what the situation is. He does not identify himself to the satisfaction of those who question his authority. He completely ignores many challenges to that authority. He speaks; everyone else (eventually) listens. In one episode, The Doctor must make himself human to escape his adversary, including suppressing all consciousness of ever being a Time Lord. His character is still the same embodiment of privilege, if in a slightly more day-dreaming, less self-confident package. His human persona is a professor at a boys’ school, a position of authority over lesser (in this case, younger) beings. His position has not changed much at all, even if his species has. All his behavior is, of course, treated as Right and Good, as though we silly humans should know our betters when we see them, and when we don’t, we’re chuckled at for the buffoons we are.

Members of the Time Lords’ species have the ability to regenerate their bodies when those bodies are damaged, and those bodies are ostensibly have completely different skeletons (“new teeth”) and muscular systems (“new voice”). Everything about each regenerated Time Lord is new, except his gender and skin color. If his entire body changes, why in the world wouldn’t his skin color change too? There is likely some theoretical* reason why biological sex (and, by extension, gender) is immutable in a Time Lord, but if The Doctor is going to be consistently male and functionally heterosexual (as evidenced by the constant line of female companions), then Time Lords are clearly not unilaterally asexual or non-gendered beings. Biological sex exists; gender presentation does too. So why lack the creativity to play around with those very basic human traits? Why insist on every Doctor (and Master, don’t forget!) being Male and White?

The good Doctor has only one regeneration left, if Wikipedia is to be believed. How about something slightly different for a change? The role requires a British actor; Britain isn’t just made up of the native Gauls and Norman French anymore. How about letting the next person to play The Doctor to be of Indian or Pakistani descent, or descended from immigrants from anywhere else in the world? How about letting the Doctor be a woman for once? The Voice of Authority is virtually always the old (white) man in western social reality. Why does some of our most creative fiction have to fixate on that too?

==x-posted at The Geek Side==
*Read: bullshit


Late term abortion provider shot to death in KS

May 31, 2009

Okay, folks, this is merely a preliminary to something I will blog more extensively on when I have slightly more material to work with.

As it is, Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in the lobby of a church today on his way to worship.

He was the only late-term abortion provider in the state of Kansas, and probably for a radius of a couple hundred miles. I understand that many women came from surrounding states for Dr. Tiller’s services, and that both Dr. Tiller and his clinic were persecuted for providing these health care services to women. They were taken to court numerous times, and Dr. Tiller was just cleared two months ago of the 19 misdemeanor charges most recently brought against him.

Dr. Tiller had been shot and injured once before for providing abortion services.

And yet, no one gets shot in the U.S. for refusing women birth control. No one.

RIP, Dr. Tiller. I hope there is someone as courageous as you to fill your shoes, for the sake of all women in the American Midwest.

WTF: Sexism in Advertising

April 20, 2009

Out of fracking Nowhere:


I fail to see what this has to do with the product sold. Oh, wait. STOPPING TRAFFIC. It is necessary to have an image of a woman in bondage gear showing her ass to the camera because THAT WUD SO STOP TRAFFIC THEIR TRAFFIC CONES GET IT?!!!

Don’t worry, guys: I hate you right back.

P.S. This was a Google ad on FAILblog.

ETA: This just in: Advertisers dig a chick with NO SPINE.


ETA2: Tennessee Guerilla Women has a post up just now on misogyny in car ads. Even if all men don’t hate you, the ones in advertising certainly do.

Quick Hit: What this femininity/masculinity thing is all about

March 18, 2009

Courtesy of Twisty Faster.

Masculinity is what phallotarians do to keep women feminized. Femininity is what women do to keep from being pathologized, criminalized, ostracized, jailed, raped, and butchered.

In case you’re wondering what all I have been / will be going on about, it’s this. See also why feminists get angry at you when you tell them “it’s not a big deal”.

The I’m Too Spent To Blog Blog-a-Round

November 27, 2008

(wherein I end up writing over 700 words about it anyways! ha!)

With eloriane being away I’ve been trying to post enough to keep this blog regularly updated. This has been challenging as not only do I work full time but I have a wicked case of writer’s block. I had started a blog about two years ago because I thought it might be a means of working through that block when my grades and livelihood were not dependent on it. Eloriane has assured me that writing gets easier with time, that sometimes I’ll just need to click “publish” and stop worrying about good writing, covering all the bases, or even just making sense! How fun for you, our readers! You get to be the victims recipients of my efforts! But this past weekend I’ve had the flu and even when I was feeling better I just felt completely writ out. I could post a comment or two, and did try to write more, but haven’t been very successful. Even the easier blog-a-rounds seemed out of reach.

Which leads me to today’s post, ahem. Yup it’s small blog-a-round! Not a fun blog-a-round but one that gives lie to some of the MRAs’ most beloved myths. What’s an MRA you ask? It stands for Men’s Rights Activist. Or, as some have referred to them, Men’s Rights Assholes. These are the guys that appear to be concerned with father’s rights (as if fathers don’t get preferential treatment in family court when they sue for custody) and men’s rights in general (as if men don’t dominate every social, political, religious and artistic institution). But what they clearly are really interested in is sticking it to their ex’s and being rape-apologists.

So for my I’m Too Spent To Blog Blog-a-Round, I’m linking to two great posts about favourite MRA myths.

First up, the irrepressible Heart has a great quote from Lundy Bancroft about the oft-repeated myth that women abuse their partners as often as men do. They don’t. The study that suggested they did did not take into account, amongst other things a) the differences between hitting first and shoving in defense, b) the differences between a small person (a woman for example) slapping a bigger person in the face and a large person shoving someone down the stairs. Not. The. Same. Thing. When women are battered they are more likely to end up in hospital, they are more likely to suffer from broken bones, they are more likely to flee their homes in fear for their lives. Bancroft describes nicely why this myth has not proven to be true, even when factoring in how many men might be ashamed to come forward about their abuse.

And men are abused too, make no mistake. And women rape too, make no mistake. It bothers me a bit to have to mention this but I really want to be completely clear. While women’s abuse of others does occur, they are very much in the minority of abusers. This does not lessen the impact of the abuse on the victim. Rape is rape is rape, no matter the sex of the perpetrator. What I’m trying to do is keep the larger picture in mind as well. As feminists we remember how the personal is political; we must remember who has power, socially, and who does what to whom. In this case, men make up 97% of the sexual abuse perpetrators according the the FBI. In this case, men make up a great majority of the domestic violence perpetrators as well. Violence, by men, against women, in particular women with whom they are having or have had sex, is epidemic. It is a huge issue and is routinely minimized in mainstream culture. I have no desire to minimize or make invisible the female abusers out there, certainly not! I just wish to keep our minds on how abuse functions on a class level, on a larger social level, not just on an individual level.

The second post I’m linking to can be found at Shakesville. Sunless Nick has a great post about the MRA-ish myth that women either routinely lie about being raped, or that accused rapists suffer more than the woman making the accusation. Here he turns things around and discusses how men who have been falsely accused would be treated by society if they were treated the same as women who make accusations of rape are.

Both are great posts. Go read.

(Be forewarned, Women’s Space is not for those still working through Feminism 101 – try to read carefully and try to see what she’s trying to say. As my feminist theory prof used to say “read it and say ‘so what?’ Then read it again”)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Jiao Long; and independence.

September 12, 2008

A commenter asked me to critique this movie, and boy am I glad I did. I saw it a long time ago, back when all movies held something new for me, and before it was hard for me to find movies where women kick ass.

There are three main women and two main men. Among the women, we have Jiao Long, teenaged ass-kicker; Yu Shi Lien, middle-aged ass-kicker; and Jade Fox, old ass-kicker. The men are Li Mu Bai, semi-retired ass-kicker in love with Yu, and Luo Xiao Hu, nomadic ass-kicker in love with Jiao. This movie kicked ass. (And now I’m done using those words. Sorry.)

The only downside was that I watched an English-dubbed version (as opposed to Mandarin with subtitles), and the words didn’t match the lip movements; this is only a problem because I am partially deaf, and I rely pretty heavily on lip-reading when dialogue is tricky. It’s not always a problem– usually it’s super-easy to guess based on the half-heard syllables I get– but when things get really interesting, I have to focus really hard to follow.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s my major complaint: sometimes, because I am partially deaf, I could not hear all the awesomeness.

This movie is primarily about Jiao, who is at a crossroads. She has three paths: live the high life as the governor’s daughter, but marry a boring nobleman; run off with Jade Fox, her former mentor, or with Luo, her nomad bandit lover, but never receive proper training in Wudan martial arts; or become Li’s student, but admit someone else superiority over herself.

Because really, much of this movie’s drama is driven by Jiao’s refusal to allow any one else to have power over her. When Luo robs her on the road, she chases after him and nearly fights his entire group in order to retrieve her comb. Because even though it was just a comb, he had taken it from her hand and smiled at her powerlessness, and she could not allow him to “win” like that. (Also, I think she was intrigued by him and his life — in her aggressive self-reliance, she is seeking freedom, and his life looks very free indeed.)

Now, as a feminist, I obviously think it’s laudable for a woman to fight for her right to self-determination. All people should be able to control their own lives (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness– I’m more American than I thought), and feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

However, I think Jian’s insistence on her autonomy causes a lot of the pain in this movie. Jade Fox accuses Jian of deliberately mistranslating the training manuals for her, simply so that Jian could be more skilled than her own mentor. This may or may not be true– I would also easily believe Jian’s explanation, that she hid her natural gifts so as not to hurt her mentor– but Jian’s continued resistance to Li’s mentoring surely caused everyone much heartache. She did need the training, the discipline, and Li lost his life chasing after her trying to give it to her. Jade Fox lost her life, too, in the chase, and Yu lost the love of her life, which is nearly worse, her grief was so great. And poor Luo, too, of course– he finally finds his way back to her, and she refuses him because she’s in such a muddle about her training.

Actually, looking back at it, the whole thing reminds me a lot of Thelma and Louise; she tries her hardest to refuse the world imposed upon her, but in the end her running comes to naught and she commits a transcendent suicide. It’s even a cliff both times. Is that really the only way these stories can end? Is it really Patriarchy Or Death?

I certainly hope not…but if I fling myself off a cliff someday, you’ll all know why: I’m trying to outrun the patriarchy.

(Check out my next post on this film here!)

Xena, “The Dirty Half Dozen”, and angry feminists.

August 28, 2008

Xena added four former partners-in-crime to her team (so that they totaled a half-dozen) for this season 3 episode: three men and one woman who could be called an angry feminist.

It’s not uncommon for shows to have an episode with a “feminist,” though usually these episodes enrage me, because they tend to completely miss the point of feminism, and the “happy ending” is that the feminist no longer hates men.

This episode was…okay. Glaphyra, the “feminist,” does miss the point of feminism, hating men more than
fighting for equality. And she does “reform” by the end of the episode. But it works.

For one thing, it’s not that she learns that men are wonderful and she shouldn’t be mistrustful– all she learns is that a bit of kindness and forgiveness is warranted for all people. She stops capturing men and selling them into brutal slavery as a punishment for the evils of their sex– but she’s not a patriarchy cheerleader.

For another, she’s learning her lesson from two other women who are fighting the same fight. Xena has to tell her that despite appearances, Gabrielle is the stronger one– it’s Gabrielle’s goodness that has changed Xena and caused her to reform. “Don’t make such a big deal about the patriarchy” is a hard lesson to swallow, but it’s easier when it comes from two women who spend a lot of time kicking men’s asses and saving women from the ill effects of patriarchy.

Plus, it’s heavily implied that Glaphyra has suffered pretty atrociously at men’s hands in the past, and so her anger is not irrational. It’s merely disruptive to her own peace of mind. Glaphyra isn’t who she is “just because”– she suffered, and Evil Xena brought her from her suffering and taught her to fight, and she used those skills for revenge because she couldn’t think of any other way to go. It’s not her fault– even Xena didn’t think another way was possible at the time.

Letting Glaphyra be a fully-realized person, instead of a strawfeminist, and letting the lesson be “don’t let hatred rule your life,” rather than, “the patriarchy is awesome,” went a long way towards making this episode palatable to me. There’s a small part of me that thinks it was written to reassure men who thought Xena was a little too self-reliant, but even so, feminism isn’t about hating all men for the terrible things the patriarchy encourages them to do. It’s about…well, a lot of things, but one of them is allowing women to live their lives unapologetically. Which is what Glaphyra does at the end– sure, she goes off with a man, but not because she was wrong to mistrust men– because this one has earned her trust.

Plus, unlike in every other ensemble of one-shot sidekicks, the woman wasn’t the first to die! Nor was the man with the black dreadlocks! It was the old white guy who died first! And yeah, this still left another white guy to live on happily, but I had gotten used to predicting, based on gender and ethnicity, who would die first– and I’m usually right.

All in all, a happy ending.

(for more posts on Xena, look here!)