Archive for February 2010
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the patronizing “oh, I love you,” spoken in the tone of voice one uses to address a small child.
One girl in my study abroad program, RK, would always say it when I finished explaining my position on something: I’m going to go with “marriage” as the example here, since it was the first time she did this. “Oh, look at how cute. Fangirl is up on her soapbox, frustrated with the patriarchy.”
Yeah. I’m fucking adorable.
No, I’m not. I’m not a small child explaining why I think Santa Clause is real because he leaves me presents on Christmas that use different wrapping paper than Mommy and Daddy. I’m a real, grown-up individual (or just as grown up as her) with positions that I have put a lot of thought into, instead of accepting wholesale and unexamined from anyone. My thoughts on marriage, abortion, public education… anything, really, are carefully crafted. I care about what I believe in, and I don’t want the wool pulled over my eyes by anyone.
I gather knowledge, facts. I check the sources of those facts. I consider other, related fields and questions and ultimately I weigh the options against my own personal code of ethics (itself constantly being fine-tuned so that I can be the best feminist and ally that I can be) and arrive at a decision.
I do this mostly for myself. I like to know where I stand, and to understand why I believe what I do, why others believe what they do, and what all of that means. It’s important to me: not just the result, but the process of achieving it. (Have I mentioned lately that I’m INTJ? This might explain a lot about me.)
So when I’ve explained my (admittedly unrealistic) thoughts on why I think the institution of marriage should be abolished all together, and my (more realistic) suggestions for what to do with the broken system we have now, I would at least like the dignity of a response detailing why I am wrong. That patronizing “oh, I love you” is the most frustrating thing to hear.
I’m not telling you this because I think it makes me quirky and funny, some kind of straw feminist class clown. I’m telling you this because you asked and because it’s something I care and have thought a lot about. Please, at least do me the favor of “but marriage is a holy and sacred institution and a fundamental part of our culture!” or “you know, you’re a fucking pinko commie” or something other than amusement.
‘Cause, you know: demanding equality is hilarious. Only silly people do that.
Tonight on Twitter, my friend R posted a link to this gem (and by “gem,” I mean “piece of unadulterated asshattery.”) I mean, was the racist text really necessary? No, no it wasn’t and it never is (and if your “joke” relies on racism, or any other *ism, it’s not funny in the first place). “If you can’t see this, squint your eyes” would have been perfectly appropriate, non-racist instructions to see the hidden image. It doesn’t require taking a stand or fighting back against oppression, it just requires not being a douchebag.
This got me me thinking about Cracked.com. Some of the articles they post, like this one on 7 People Who Cheated Death, are actually really interesting. I mean, these people survived some amazing things, often because they were fucking determined not to die, but their awesomeness can and should be admired without associating their awesome escapes from death’s clutches with masculinity.
Alexis Goggins, #1 on their list, took six bullets at point blank rage… to protect her mother. She was six years old at the time. You have to admire that sort of badassery, but do we have to compliment her by saying she’s “more man than we’ll ever be”? Uh, no.
We could say “holy shit I hope I am half as cool as her when I grow up” or “she gave Death a serious ass kicking and the finger” or any of a number of other colloquial, profanity laden compliments that don’t erase her gender and replace it with the apparently more “superior” masculinity.
Girls don’t get shot six times to protect their loved ones; men do.
To hell with that.
The saddest thing is how much of the internet (and fandom as a whole) ruins the experience with extraneous asshattery. We can be loud and profane without being offensive. It involves choosing our words a little more carefully, but we can do it, and we should, because it’s the right thing to do.
(I am on a roll tonight…)
I used to think of the patriarchy as this monolith, this awesomely huge stone wall that stood between us and freedom from oppression. It was hard and tall and cold; it kept us in when we wanted to be out, and out when we wanted to be in. It told us lies about each other, and about ourselves.
Together, I believed, we chipped at this stone monolith; if it was diamond, we were pure Lonsdaleite. One of the lies the patriarchy tells us is that we are weak, and we are soft.
This is bullshit. We are human and we hurt, but we deal with that hurt and we deal with it every day. This makes us strong. It is bigger than us, but slowly, I believed, we could chip away at it, and we did and we do.
We have carved niches for ourselves, but those niches have become molds. The patriarchy has taken our own weapons and used them against us. We demanded the right to pursue sexual pleasure, and the patriarchy told us we must be sexually available (for men, and men only).
We have carved niches for ourselves, but we have often excluded each other. The patriarchy lies to us about ourselves and it lies to us about each other, because only by keeping us apart – fighting against each other struggling for our own individual freedoms in an oppressive system – instead of together against it – for everyone’s freedom in a free system – can it survive.
It is a terribly clever thing, the patriarchy. It’s weakening over time, blows struck against it have caused cracks, but it grows other defenses; allows us in at one opening and traps us, or takes away another option.
A veritable Hydra, there is no one way to kill it. Cut off one head and it grows three others. It binds us in seemingly inescapable Catch-22s, twisting everything we do into some grotesque parody of our intentions and blaming us for the pain that causes.
A vast, unchanging wall of oppression. Little by little, as we realized the truths about ourselves, we began to realize the truths about other people. If it lied to us about ourselves, surely what it told us about each other must also be lies?
So, in my naiveté, I believed that we would start listening to each other instead of it, and we have. This is what allies are. We are imperfect; still tangled in the spider’s web, we trip over ourselves, over our own privileges and oppressions, and we stumble into the paths of those who we should be working with, for ourselves, for each other.
We exist in the framework of the patriarchy and it casts a shadow over everything we do. It informs our actions, our very ideas about how to best combat it, but we are inventing our own battle plans. We are working to bake a whole new pie, so that we no longer need to hope for a small slice of the existing one just to survive and that’s why, even as we are tangled and overshadowed, I have hope.
I recently started watching the moé anime, Lucky☆Star. There is no plot; the anime is based on a four-panel comic strip of the same name, so each episode is just the four main characters having silly conversations and going about their daily lives. It passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, since it’s a show about girls talking. I think boys have been mentioned once, not including their immediate family members.
It is, actually. It’s refreshingly light hearted and I can see elements of my own high school life in there. (I like to watch it after catching up with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, to take some of the edge off of the latest cliffhanger.) What was surprising to me, and what I’m going to be writing about here, is that Lucky☆Star is for and by men. The author is male, and it’s published in a seinen/shounen magazine.
It seems strange at first, but I can relate to the appeal even if I can’t articulate it. After all, I am an avid fan of the series Hetalia, which is essentially the same concept: characters talking and getting up to silly antics, only the characters in Hetalia are mostly male (and anthropomorphisms of countries, but that’s another problem for another time). The fandom is mainly female. It’s the same idea.
I’m sure a lot could be said about why people are drawn to moé shows full of characters of the opposite gender doing cute things, but that’s not what I’m here about (this time). Instead, I’m writing about the politics of representation.
I mentioned on my personal journal that I had basically the same issue with Lucky☆Star that I have with Bayonetta and even Portal. They are all women’s worlds – with the exception of the hapless assistant in the Lucky☆Channel segment at the end of each episode (which hilariously deconstructs the kawaii/moé/genki girl trope by showing the female idol acting cranky and embittered when her lines are unscripted) – there is not a single major male character in Lucky☆Star. The girls talk about whatever is on their minds whether it be the correct way to eat certain foods, how to win a raffle prize or a UFO Catcher game, whether or not it’s better to study long before a test or cram all night before, and so on. It’s a homosocial female universe, but it’s a universe created by and for men.
When I posted about the fact this was a seinen/shounen comic, one of my friends commented that I wouldn’t have a problem with a similar story that was all male, but written by a woman. (Hetalia‘s author/artist is male.) Well, I guess not, but then again, we don’t live in a world where women have been historically granted (almost) exclusive rights to (the representation) of men’s bodies.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Lucky☆Star on it’s own. It’s a cute show that puts the emotional world of the female characters front and center. It’s all about them, and that’s cool. Still, it exists in a context, and within that context it’s part of a larger system of male control over the female image/ideal. I wonder, Lucky☆Star sell so well if the author/artist was female? (I can’t think of any moé series about girls written by women, or about boys written by men; so much for “write what you know.” Write what you feel is missing in your life, maybe?)
I don’t know much about the whole moé thing, but I’m familiar with a few series marketed towards women: Hetalia, Starry☆Sky and Miracle Train. Starry☆Sky was developed by a game team, not a single person; the others were written/directed by men.
The politics of representation are complicated. I can’t hope to sort it all out in one post, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on moé and who is represented and who does the representing.
(Title taken from the TV Tropes article; it’s an acronym for the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.)
Both Fandom Wank and Encyclopedia Dramatica (both links are NSFW and ED in particular is basically the polar opposite of a safe space) exist, more or less, to make fun of people who make fools of themselves online. Okay, that’s cool. Maybe a little schadenfreude or gossipy or whatever, but sometimes – as a fan – you have to sit back and laugh at the antics of your fandom. (Admit it: you’ve whined about people who don’t ‘ship your OTP and wondered if they’re even reading/watching the same story as you, gotten annoyed at the newbies who missed the first thousand discussions about the epileptic trees and think they’re the first one to come up with it, and there are some voice actors who should just not talk about their characters, because they’re doin’ it wrong. Remember, there was a time when you were probably not wise enough to keep this outburst in the comfort of your own journal, or a community dedicated to whining about these things.*)
So, now that we’ve established that poking fandom with a big stick can be fun, because this is fandom and we’re all here to have fun, right?, what I wanted to write about is the completely different ways these two sites go about doing what they do. For example, in a recent post in Fandom Wank, the OP made an edit/announcement that the person in question was to be referred to with masculine pronouns, as is his preference. (The person in question – thanfiction – had been known in fandom as Victoria Bitter before he transitioned.) There was some confusion, and a lot of asshattery – but here, in a community dedicated to making fun of people, the OP lays down the law: you can make fun of thanfiction for the drama he’s caused, now and in the past (and boy, has he ever caused a lot of drama), but you may not mock his gender identity.
This is awesome. Here’s a group of people who gather to make fun of other people on the internet, but they’re encouraged not to be douchebags about it.
Encyclopedia Dramatica… well, not so much. (Read at your own risk.) I happened upon an article and it came across as “my [cis/straight/abled] male privilege, let me show it to you shove it in your face!” You could probably play *ism bingo: put a marker down for each oppression you find on ED… but you have to cover the whole board, since I’m sure you can get bingo on one article alone. (I wouldn’t recommend a drinking game; you’d probably get alcohol poisoning from the first article.)
Of course, I’m sure the denizens of ED would claim that they’re just doing what f_w is doing, and I’m just being ~too sensitive~ because I don’t have a sense of humor, or something – but as f_w has shown us, you can be snarky and funny and bitter without being a douche. I’m not sure why that’s so hard for some people.
*sometimes, wank is not just whining, it’s discussing a legitimate concern; in my opinion, that’s moved out of the realm of “wankery” and into the realm of “important discussions worth having,” even when the argument gets heated