Sunday, March 29, 2009

KCA Fashion Grades--Sexism even on the red carpet of a kids' award show?

Well, believe it. I enjoyed watching KCA (I couldn't watch it live since I'm a grown-up who has to work nights sometimes, so I watched the replay this morning). Anyway, I thought it was all cute and fun, like it always is, and Dwayne Johnson was a fun host. Less than twenty-four hours of it airing, however, the stars get graded on their attire, and after clicking through only the first few images, it's clear what the judges think of women. Take the quote on the first photo with Zac Efron and Venessa Hudgens:

Since Zac just got back from promoting his new film, "17 Again," in Europe, we're assuming jet lag is the reason he allowed his girlfriend out of the house in this getup.
Yeah, it's all his fault she's dressed the way he is. How dare he not assert his dominance over her person by telling her what she can and cannot wear in public?

It gets worse. The second pic is one of Hudgens alone, with this nice critique:
Did the "High School Musical" sweetheart realize she was at the Kids' Choice Awards, or did she think she was auditioning for the Pussycat Dolls?
First of all, it's a kids' award show, which means you don't have to impress stodgy adults. Maybe it's just me, but I know I wouldn't dress too fancy at an awards show known for its random sliming (here's my exuse for posting a picture of Johnny Depp--note this was not from 2009).

To even out the sexism by the fashion nazis, the Jonas Brothers are also critiqued for wearing "man scarves!" OMG NOOO!

I really got pissed when I read the comment about America Ferrara's dress:
Unfortunately, America Ferrera's pink chiffon dress made her look more like a mom than the hot young star that she is!
Really?? So, what you're telling me is that someone can't be a young hot mom? Or a young hot mom star? What this says is that once you're a mom, you become not as attractive, and since looks are all that matters in this damn society, mom's (who are apparently automatically not sexy) are not valued. This also equates being a mom with being old--there are plenty of moms who are the same age as Ferrera. And while I"m at it, what's so wrong with a woman wanting to look older? So congrats Yahoo's OMG!: you've successfully managed to be sexist and ageist in one sentence!

And while we're being ageist:
Although she's pushing 37, Cameron Diaz proved she can rock a pair of skinny shredded jeans as well as a teenager can!
There's not one mention of a male celebrity's age. In the one instance where a man's appearance makes him look older, he is praised for it:
Corbin Bleu appeared to have grown up overnight thanks to his tamed curls and trendy suit.
So, shame on you Ferrera, good for you Bleu. And I don't think it's much of a stretch to point out how when a man looks older, he's not accused of looking like a dad. Which shows you how ageism and sexism are linked. And while I'm at it, I think there's some racism in the word "tamed." There was absolutely nothing wrong with his hair before. This just goes back to how people value straight hair in POC because it equates with professionalism, controlling hair to do something it doesn't naturally do. For men, wearing your hair natural makes you immature, and though his hair is still curly, Bleu's hair is now "tamed" and so it's better (for WOC this standard of hair care is worse).

Ugh, I can't go on. Apparently even an awards show for kids is not exempt from devaluing people based on what they've chosen to wear.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pretty kitty!!!!

For those of you who don't know (and those of you who need a reminder) this is my pretty kitty, Princess (I did not name her--my stepdad did some years ago; please note he's given excessively girly names to all our pets. Examples include Lady, Cuddles, Baby, and Precious). As you can see, my Princess likes to party. This is a photo which I have named "Beer Belly." My last year of college, I snuck this pretty girl into my dorm room (despite her persistent yowling protests when carrying her into the hall to my room--somehow no one told). I couldn't bear leaving her with my parents while I was away for months at school, and I loved coming back from class seeing her happy to see me.

Funny enough, the first day I moved in (before I conditioned Princess that sitting in the window at school was not acceptable, since we both could get in trouble) the woman who cleaned our building saw her sitting there. Luckily, she was a sweet woman who loved animals (and could keep a secret) and she often sent Princess presents and came to visit her. My friends all knew that I had my Princess with me, and it actually did her some good to be in the dorm since it forced her to be more social--previously she only came to me, hiding when anyone else came into the house--unfamiliar voices frightened her. Even now she's not so skittish.

Anyway, Princess is one of my pets (the other is my turtle; more on her later) and I adore her, so I thought I would share her with others. She's quite the honest pet for me: she's cranky and will seek attention when she wants it; she eats like a piggy; sleeps where she wants; and is a bitch when she wants. She's my cute little fluffy-butt.

So, comments are welcome. She's quite the conceited girl (this is a cat that welcomes me home by rolling on the floor, stopping to see if I'm watching, then proceeds to roll again, all while I'm praising her beauty) so I'm sure she would love more compliments. While you're at it, how old would you say my Pretty is? I'm curious to find out how accurate the kitty years are.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gender and Sexuality, Identity, and Duality in China Mieville's Iron Council (Part One)

Note: Though I do not give a full summary of the novel, please be aware that some of the analysis inevitably leads to spoilers. Also, I've broken up the essay so it's easier on the eyes. Feel free to comment--however if you would like to refute any point I've made, please wait until the final posting. The artwork on the left is the best example of cover art I could find.

China Miéville’s Iron Council is a novel set in the fictional world of Bas-Lag, as were its predecessors Perdido Street Station and The Scar. Like Perdido Street Station, Iron Council is set in New Crobuzon—a thriving city on the continent filled with the all the usual characteristics of city-hood: industry, government, class dissension, political upheaval, errant media, growing concerns of war, and a dissatisfied working class.

Iron Council takes place at the peak of the political dissent at the edge of revolution, and Miéville immerses us in this seemingly sudden revolution until the middle of the novel, where we are then taken to the origins of this revolution. This middle story, labeled anamnesis, or flash-back, is young Judah’s journey, allowing the reader to see (in present tense) the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad Trust (TRT) and its subsequent destruction when the Iron Council is formed after the railroad workers revolt and steal the train from the TRT.

The novel does not have one hero, in the sense that there’s a bad thing happening and the Chosen One needs to stop the bad thing. There are several key characters that influence the events in the novel, and (true to Miéville form) the reader is presented with more than one possible goal—part of the realness of the novel, since there are different people with different motives, and there are certain events that are beyond people’s control. There’s also this pervading awareness of “history in the making,” in that the characters all know that their actions are important.

Iron Council’s various themes present certain ideas about gender and sexuality in the novel, playing into a larger reality of a false world. There’s this pervading duality within the novel, pertaining to identity in its various forms; identity as it relates to abstract ideas, objects and people.

Part I: Gender and Sexuality

Iron Council presents us with an array of characters, and thus provides some perspective on sexuality and gender. As in reality, sexuality is on an individualized spectrum.

Cutter, who is in love (?) with Judah, or at the very least desires him more than just physically, seems to identify as homosexual—only being attracted to and having sexual encounters with men. Quite often Cutter reflects on this sexuality with an almost contemptuous pride:

He would not go into bawdy houses, would not rent some man’s arse. Not anymore. He only rarely visited warrens by the docks where those sailors who did not just make do at sea, but preferred it that way, would tout for men.

Instead he might perhaps once in a rare while push past crowds into certain inns with half-hidden entrances, thin rooms, thin bars and lots of smoke, older men watching each newcomer eagerly, men in groups laughing raucous as hell and others sitting alone and not looking up, and what women were there were men, dollyboys, or were Remades who had once been men and whose in-between status was a peccadillo to some (126).

He even refers to himself as an “arsefucker” but at the same time considers that term to be a “complex affectation,” admitting that that term is not completely honest (128).

At times his sexuality is treated (by others) as an embarrassment. While journeying to find the Iron Council, Cutter tries to sleep with Judah, but Judah does not indulge him, and so Cutter turns to Susullil, a wineherd (one who herds beasts that grow grapes for wine) who joins them after the militia destroys his home. Several times Cutter sleeps with Susullil, and these encounters are awkward:

Susullil liked to kiss, and did it with a novice’s enthusiasm. But he would only use his hands. He reacted to Cutter’s insistent tonguing descent with distaste. Cutter tried to present his arse, and when the nomad finally understood he laughed with sincere hilarity, waking the others who pretended to sleep (128-29).

Cutter’s sexual encounters seem almost depressing as his desires are consistently not met. While Judah gives his (unwanted) approval of the temporary relationship between Cutter and Susullil, the other two people in the party, Elsie and Pomeroy, who consistently engage in heterosexual fucking, are the only ones who seem embarrassed by Cutter’s encounters (please note that all fucking happens in close proximity to the rest of the group as they travel). After Cutter’s sexuality becomes apparent, “Elsie and Pomeroy were shy with Cutter, now” (128) and in the mornings, they “gathered the camp without speaking or meeting Cutter’s eye” (125).

Conversely, Judah does not reflect on his own sexuality at all; sometimes he has sex with men, sometimes with women. It is obvious he cares for Cutter, though not in the way that Cutter wishes, and he loves Ann-Hari, though she does not seem to care for him as deeply as he does for her. Sexuality, for Judah, seems to be a matter of circumstance on an individual level. As Cutter reflects about Judah, “When Judah did it, sex was not sex any more than anger was anger or cooking was cooking. His actions were never what they were, but were mediated always through otherworldly righteousness” (128). It is almost as if he views sex as a gift to someone else, not a personal release.

Before Cutter, Judah wanders after breaking from the TRT, though he is never far from the developing tracks. There are wild towns cropping up everywhere, and Judah becomes tied with a gambling man. It is revealed that “In the wilds, Judah’s duties include the sexual. He does not mind: he feels no less or more than when he is with a woman. There is a nugget of compassion in him, and he feels it growing. He feels something inchoate, some beneficence” (181). In the one instance where he does confront his sexuality, it is unclear to him, and though Judah does have sex with Ann-Hari, we know that he prefers “his own right hand or the guilty shut-eyed clutching of men on men in the hollows…to the boredom of the whores” (220).

Also see Part Two and Part Three.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Finally, some juxtaposition!

This is courtesy of Totally Looks Like. At last, we have some handy photos to point out the obvious.
Nail. Head.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's never too early to be sexist!

Unfortunately I could not embed the video in question, but you can view it here. I suspect most of you (hopefully) will have the same jaw-dropping reaction as me.

It is no secret that kids toys are highly gendered, and even shopping at a store illustrates how they're gendered: girls aisles are color-coded pink, and contain all the accoutrements of pseudo-child-rearing and homemaking, while boy aisles are blue, brown, or green (earthy colors) containing outdoorsy items, toys that are to take them out of the house and be active workers. What these gendered toys offer to children are roles which society thinks each gender should assume (and again, there's something inherently wrong with this gendering since it assumes that girls and boys fit into one of two roles, and also that there are only two genders).

There are several things wrong with this ad for Mattel's "Screature" dinosaur.

  1. Girls enjoy playing with dinosaurs too. But the active child, the one actually engaging in play with the toy is a little boy. When I was a kid, I had Barbies, and also a huge collection of plastic dinosaurs. I loved dinosaurs and animals. What this ad says to little girls is that they will get attacked by the toy, because only boys can play with it. True, the toy is strangely aggressive, but only a boy can tame it.
  2. There's a pervasive theme in this ad and others that little boys and girls don't play together. This ad, and others, seems to be saying that girls shouldn't be touching little boys' toys; in fact, they have no business being away from their little dollies. This also perpetuates the ongoing "sibling rivalry" where brothers and sisters irritate one another and fight to keep each other out of their respective rooms. Girls guard against boys with password protected journals; boys station robots by their doors. This may be shocking to a lot of douchebag ad agencies, but boys and girls can and have gotten along with one another. My little brother and I often played together--sometimes with my Barbies and dinosaurs, other days with his Hot Wheels cars, lots of times just outside (both being active).
  3. The worst most offensive part of this commercial is the girl getting squirted in the face. I don't think it's all that much of a stretch to read this as the coveted "money shot" (I will not be linking to this). The money shot is so pervasive in our culture that it has infiltrated commercials targeting children, and even t.v. shows that young people watch. I don't think it even occurred to the makers of this commercial to have a boy playing with the toy, and then have another boy get squirted for petting it in the "wrong spot." You'll notice that another boy gets squirted at later on, but not in the face. Not even close.
This sort of advertisement seeks to degrade women at a younger and younger age. I would like to ask this girl's parents why they allowed this, but I have a feeling I would just be more frustrated by the answer. This girl is probably no older than ten, and already she has been subjected to a form of degradation that has leaked from the porn-industry into the mainstream media. It is disturbing on many levels due to the girls young age and the connotations of liquid on a girl's face. Also kids watch it, and though some people will argue that kids are too young to know what a cum shot is, this message board could be shocking to you. Here's the conversation reproduced:
Re: The COCONUT scene with the PARENTS
by alexahhh (Mon Dec 15 2008 00:35:22)
Ignore this User | Report Abuse Reply

You're 12 years old and you know about cumshots?

Oy vey.

Re: The COCONUT scene with the PARENTS
by maomom (Mon Dec 15 2008 17:05:06)
Ignore this User | Report Abuse Reply

Long story...
We sometimes like to think this sort of thing is lost on children, but it isn't, which makes this sort of commercial even more repulsive since it's reinforcing sexism and the subjugation of women and girls as passive objects you can cum on.

I love this

Okay, so while I do currently hate the Kids' Choice Awards for not removing Chris Brown from their list of nominees (I mean, what a great role model for kids--you'd think that someone who thinks it's okay to beat on a woman would easily be disqualified from possibly winning an award from a show kids vote on, but I guess at some point you have to realize that idiocy knows no bounds), I can't help but profess my love of this commercial:

Dwayne Johnson and Justin Timberlake crack me up in this. I'm going to go practice my sprinkler now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another Product of our Rape Culture

I was flipping through the channels this morning, and Comedy Central was doing some behind-the-scenes thing for I Love You, Man starring Jason Segal and Paul Rudd. I'm sure by now we're all familiar with the trailer, particularly the part where Thomas Lennon's character Doug kisses Rudd's character, which is fucking hilarious right? I mean, they totally just turned a bromantic moment into a hilarious homophobic one! Awesome!

Well, as if that isn't bad enough in itself, Lennon, when discussing what happens in that scene says, that it wasn't really making out with Rudd, "I kind of just rape his mouth." OMG! Now we're being homophobic, and laughing at rape! And what makes it funnier is that it's between two dudez, therefore it's a joke, not real rape. Which also perpetuates the straight male fear that if your buddy's gay, he's going to want you--maybe even rape you!

Notice the type of movies Comedy Central promotes: nothing but homophobia-misogyny-douchebaggery.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shut up Gwyneth

I came across this article today. Basically Gwyneth Paltrow is giving advice to Joaquin Phoenix regarding his recent decision to give up acting and begin a career in rap. Yes, it's quite funny, but we're all sort of used to celebrities making seemingly-insane decisions, and hey, they are entertainers, after all. Gwyneth is quoted as saying, "What advice would I give to Joaquin? Hmmm...maybe to go live in the projects for a few years to get some authenticity, maybe."

Are you fucking kidding me? Omg, where to I begin with what's wrong with this statement? This looks like a job for a list!

  1. She assumes that rappers are only from the projects--untrue. What about Eminem? He grew up in Detroit, not "the projects." Or Lil Wayne, who grew up in New Orleans (projects being associated with large--northern--cities like Chicago).
  2. She assumes that authenticity in rap lyrics can only stem from growing up in the projects, and can simply be gained by "walking in their shoes," so to speak. This is bullshit. First off, Joaquin is rich. He is white. He is privileged. Living in the projects unnecessarily will not give him whatever it is that Gwyneth refers to as "authenticity." If we were to assume for a moment that rap lyrics gain authenticity from living in the projects, Joaquin would still not gain it since he did not grow up in that environment, and even living there for a few years will not afford to him the same emotions about it that people who actually do live there experience. For him, it would just be a little vacation--there would not be this overwhelming sense of "this is where I live; anything else is above my means."
  3. She assumes that rap reflects what occurs in the projects. Rap's origins stem from a dissatisfaction with the situations for many young black men, and it was an outlet. It encompasses an array of styles that generally reflect the personal lives of the rapper, and one of its more distinctive features is the use of poetic language, that is the sounds and manipulations of words as a form of spoken poetry. Rather than advising him to listen to examples of the genre, she tells him to go to the projects.
  4. She assumes that "street-cred" will validate anything he will rap about, despite not all rappers having "street-cred," and not all rap songs are about gangstas, hos, and the projects. Shooting a gun and living in the projects will not teach you about rap music any more than playing Dungeons and Dragons will teach you to write epics like Lord of the Rings.
  5. Her use of the word "projects" bears its own racial imagery in society, and is thus condescending coming from her. Since people of color represent most of society's poor, people of color are most likely to be inhabitants of housing projects. Gwyneth (who was born in Los Angeles) also has white privilege, and she ignorantly illustrates what she thinks of rap music. Her telling Joaquin to go to the projects is essentially telling him that if he wants to make "black music" he should "live like the black man" to gain some credibility.
While I do not necessarily think Joaquin would be the best rapper, or even a mediocre one, I find Gwyneth's "advice" to be insulting to a number of people in her assumptions. For that, I recommend that she STFU.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Batman the Animated Series--a look at gender, identity, and othering (and some stuff about penises)

So, I got the complete Batman the Animated Series on DVD for xmas, and have thus become nostalgically obsessed with it. As usual, I couldn't turn my feminism off, and so I analyzed my favorite childhood cartoon.

But first, I would like to point out that what I love most about the series is that it's pretty dark for a "kids" show (though in the special features section of the DVDs, it is stated that this is not a kids show). The animation has that fifties "film noir" appearance, and is clearly influenced by the Burton Batman movies.

There are clear divisions of masculinity and femininity. There's Bruce Wayne/Batman, and in case you've been under some sort of rock, Bruce Wayne uses the Batman identity to fight crime, spurred by the death of his parents. As a millionaire playboy, he runs his company as a successful, handsome and much-desired businessman. The men respect him, and the ladies want him. As Batman, he's a nocturnal ass-kicker fighting for justice. He is smart, seemingly indestructible, and ripped.

Dick Grayson/Robin, is similarly masculine, though less-so than Batman (since apparently masculinity can be measured). Batman is the leader, and being the "boy-wonder" automatically lands you in second place in masculinity. He's a crime-fighting college boy. His masculinity is especially apparent in the two-parter episode "Robin's Reckoning," where Robin finds the man responsible for his parents' murder. He must confront his desire for revenge, and his anger at Batman attempting to protect him.

No cartoon about crime-fighting is complete without the femme fatale, and in Gotham City, there are plenty. Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Red Claw, Talia--all are sexualized curvaceous women who at some point cross Batman. They epitomize female sexuality as a weapon that makes men weak. And, while the women don't show too much skin, their costumes do not leave much of anything to the imagination, most appearing to be a second skin.

Indeed, even their gimmicks are gendered: Poison Ivy is an environmentalist, fighting for plants--nature of course being a feminine symbol which she embraces. Catwoman personifies the femininity of felines, and is an avid activist for animal rights--and lives alone with her cat, Isis. Harley Quinn is the ditsy girlfriend/sidekick to the Joker, and on more than one occasion she teams up with Poison Ivy to go on a crime spree that demonstrates their power as women in a Thelma-and-Louise fashion, boasting that no man can take them, thereafter getting arrested by the token woman officer, Montoya (in "Harley and Ivy." Please also note that Montoya is the token Latina, a character added by the creators of this cartoon to "diversify" Batman's world, as stated in the special features). The second time Harley and Poison Ivy team up, they are joined by Livewire later in the series in "Girls Night Out" where they kidnap Bruce Wayne to go on a shopping spree (because even sociopathic criminals can't resist the mall if they have vaginas).

As a child, I didn't relate to Batman or Robin, and Batgirl makes her appearance so late in the series that by then I was already idolizing Catwoman and Harley. Now that I reflect on that notion, it's admittedly frightening. While Catwoman may be a criminal, she's at least doing it for the animals, and she does kick some serious ass (well, all of them do I suppose, thus linking violence and sex, yet again). The character of Harley, is a little more disturbing, or at least her portrayal is. She is the Joker's girlfriend, sidekick, lackey, punching bag. He is constantly ordering her around, and punching her--all while she smiles and refers to him as "puddin." Sure, there are a few episodes where she turns on him, leaves him--but she always comes back--not out of fear, as would make sense in that sort of situation, but out of love. Not that that's unheard of or unrealistic, but if nothing else it does make her seem stupid, or silly. Sure, he batters her, but she loves him (I wonder where we learn victim-blaming?--hintity-hint-hint).

This montage should give you some idea of the relationship between the Joker and Harley (though the song is sort of appropriate, it does get annoying; playing the video on mute gets the same idea across--I mean, you really don't need to know what the characters are saying. Also, 2 minutes 50 seconds in is particularly shocking considering this was on the WB--and we wonder why some little boys are so aggressive and grow up to think it's okay to hit women).

To contrast these "bad girls" there is of course Barbara Gordon, or Batgirl. Though she is also clad in skin-tight attire, she is not overtly sexual. She flirts, certainly, but she's a good girl--she's not waving her sexuality in any man's face, using it as a weapon, or making men weak.

I think what's also interesting about this show (and others depicting masked crime-fighters and criminals) is this idea of multiple identities. Characters generally have a primary identity and a secondary identity, i.e. Bruce Wayne as primary, Batman secondary (think Bill's lecture to Beatrice about Superman in Kill Bill Vol. 2). For the criminals, the primary identity is generally their criminal identity (not the rehabilitated-rejoining-society one, though in the Joker's case, he's got a singular identity). Others later become their primary identity, such as Two-Face, who is schizophrenic--the other personality taking over completely once he's maimed. Selena Kyle, is simultaneously Selena Kyle and Catwoman--I mean, at a certain point her identity becomes well-known once she's arrested, and thereafter her continuing to wear the Catwoman outfit on her late-night excursions is not necessary to hide her daytime identity--basically they're interchangeable. Harley Quinn's primary identity reflects the Joker's expectations of her, rather than her pre-Joker identity as Harlene Quinnzel.

Toward the end of the series, the animation style changed to merge with the new Superman adventures, changing the overall look of the cartoon. As a result, there was a significant change in the appearance of certain characters, some more drastic than others. Bruce Wayne and the other good guys gained a more smooth texture--but the bad guys (and girls) were drastically altered.
Catwoman loses her curves (and apparently her skin color, especially compared to Nightwing's a.k.a. Dick Grayson):

Poison Ivy similarly loses her color, and with this change, her appeal:

Though the women are almost sickeningly pale, and have lost quite a bit of definition, they are still sexy, still embodying the femme fatale--still kind of human. Batgirl (see photo at bottom) did not alter drastically in the new series as the "bad girls" did--she still has skin pigmentation, and unlike Catwoman's new look, she's has eyes.
The bad men, however, are a little further removed from being human.

The Scarecrow went from this:
to this:

Note that the first image is known to be a mask, since it is often removed once Batman captures the Scarecrow. The second image seems like it's actually his face--a disfigured face that isn't proven to be a mask, yet we don't have an origin for such a drastic shift. The unexplained noose around his neck conjures up its own repulsive imagery too, giving him a more horrifying appearance. This change removes him from humanity, monsterizing him.

We also have Victor Fries, also known as Mr. Freeze, who through an accident cannot survive unless he is in subzero temperatures. In the earlier episodes his aims are to make people as miserable as he is as revenge for the loss of his wife. Though a little extreme, his portrayal does elicit some sympathy--after all, he's human, and not without emotions.
But his new look strips him of humanity:
In the episode "Cold Comfort," we learn that Mr. Freeze's body has died, and so he must rely on a robotic body to keep what's left of him alive. Note that his face looks more like a skull than a pale visage. Not only does he not look so much like a real person, he doesn't even have a body, dependent upon machinery for life and mobility.

What is important about these changes is that it removes the characters to some degree from being human, or at the very least in creating an "other." Variations of skin-tone is one way to achieve the "othering" process; notice that the men's skin is darker than the women, as in Nightwing's compared to Catwoman or Poison Ivy. Often in other forms of animation, bad men are darker than the good men. It is also known that dehumanization is the first step in justifying hostility toward another person or group of people. There are plenty of other examples of this in other t.v. shows and cartoons. What it boils down to is that it's easier to justify Batman beating the shit out of something that doesn't really look human. What further underscores this is that they're criminals who need to be brought to justice--might as well animalize them, disfigure them into monstrosities so it isn't that Batman is brutalizing and using excessive force on people--they're monsters that society fears and locks up.

There is a long history of "othering" in racist propaganda; in a so-called "post-racial" world, there are plenty of recent examples as well.

Phallic Imagery
One of the major characteristics of this show is the overcompensating Batmobile:
This impractical design cannot possibly be that useful in a chase--particularly on those tight turns. While it is pretty impressive, one cannot deny that it's a huge penis. A huge, drivable penis.

Also, I argue that Batman's cape is also a phallic image, especially when compared to Batgirl's cape--though it could be said that hers is short so we can see her ass (to which I would argue I wouldn't mind seeing Batman's ass, but it wouldn't be so masculine if he had a short cape, would it?).
And if anyone accuses me of making a stretch on these arguments, there are quite a few "strange" things that are considered symbols for penises.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Men can only empathize with pregnant women when they've stuffed themselves with burritos

Currently, I am unable to locate any images for this new ad campaign, but I'm sure most of you will have already noticed these new ads. The first is a man in drag with a giant plastic bubble filled with nachos representing a pregnant belly, convincing his buddy that it's worth sneaking the food in since it's way cheaper--I mean, that's cool; I also enjoy cheap nachos. But then his buddy makes that comment at the end about him wearing make-up, and he's all, "Don't judge me." Can't sell nachos without being transphobic, I suppose.

Then there's the other commercial, the one where the dudez on the bus sitting next to a pregnant woman. He has, of course, stuffed himself with Taco Bell's burritos--and it's like he connects with the woman. Because having a belly full of burritos is exactly like carrying a fetus. WTF. As if that's not bad enough, there's a nice little comment of "eating for two." I'm sorry, sir--who else are you eating for?

This also perpetuates the "manly food" thing, where real men must stuff themselves silly with certain foods--never a salad (are you kidding? That would totally make a man's penis fall off!).

What really irritates me is that they're almost trivializing pregnancy--she's not carrying a child, she's just fat from eating. By creating this skewed mirror of "man eating too much" and "pregnant woman," these ads are making jokes out of pregnancy to sell some fucking nachos. Hello? You're full for a couple hours; pregnancy lasts 9 months. Yeah, it's exactly the same, douchebags.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Environments of Rock and Rap Concerts: expectations of violence versus actuality

My fiance talked me into going out with him and a few of his buddies the other night, and normally I grudgingly go since his buddies are all med students like him, and all they talk about is med school stuff (anyone that knows me knows my brain shuts down when it's bored; science never was my thing which is why I read so much). Luckily, there was beer, and that always helps when I have nothing to input into the conversation--I mean, at least seeing double is entertaining, right?

Anyway, one of the few moments I was able to interject was when I was talking to one of my fiance's friends about the music he listens to. I'm from Detroit, and I moved to Wisconsin about a year ago. I still don't know a whole lot of people, aside from work friends, and I don't seem to click with any of them, and my fiance's taste in music is...dated (I have agreed to marry a man who gets ecstatic any time a fucking power ballad is played--ugh!); so I was thrilled that his friend said he enjoyed rap music as well as rock.

He told me about how he has never been to a rap concert, however, and was interested in the difference between rock concerts and rap concerts. I actually got to see Lil Wayne perform the day after Christmas in Detroit while visiting my family, and so I told him about my experience. This conversation thus led me to write this post, as I think the two environments are vastly different, and as someone who has attended at least one of each, I would like to compare the two.

I've been to quite a few rock shows, and before two years ago I would only listen to rock music. I've been to a Shinedown concert where in order to get close to the stage I had to brave the mosh pit. I'm not a very tall woman, or strong, and if it weren't for the quickness of my fiance (my then-boyfriend) I could have been seriously injured. We mostly stayed to the back of the pit, near the rails by the stairs to avoid crowd-surfers and face-punchers. Then, the crowd started getting crazy, and this big guy in front of me was suddenly shoved back. My fiance had his arms wrapped around me protectively, and he saw the man get shoved--he picked me up and dragged me out of the way. I still got hit--the man's elbow struck me right in the boob, and since I don't have much cushion there, it seriously hurt me. But it could have been worse. This was about two or three years ago at Harpos in Detroit.This last year I got to see Tantric twice in concert--once at New York New York in Chesterfield, MI, and again once I had moved to Wisconsin at the Dane County Fair. The first was a free concert, and thus the place was packed. My friends and I managed to wiggle and scream our way to the stage where I had opportunity to shake hands with band members (and even touch the chest of Hugo--something I'm still thrilled about). It was so crowded that it--thankfully--didn't allow for moshing. The outdoor fair concert, however, meant there was moshing near the stage; people shoving; throwing garbage, full water bottles, beach balls, shoes, other people--anything at hand. Tantric never struck me as a particularly angry band, and since the first concert was fine I naively assumed the second chance to see them live would also be fine. My fiance ended up shoving people out of my way, watching the crowd while I tried to enjoy my favorite band.

Until this last December, these (and other similar rock concerts) were my only concert experiences. So when I decided to take my brother and his friend to see Lil Wayne, I didn't really know what to expect. I had never heard of people moshing at rap shows. In my experience white people either stand still at concerts or beat each other senseless--there's generally no dancing. I like to dance at concerts, and so other white people generally glare at me while I'm having a good time as if I am behaving in some taboo way--I get especially nasty looks from other women who think I'm just dancing for the attention even though I'm clearly with a date and I'm only moving to the music to enjoy it since I do not like sitting still.

I went to pick up my brother the night of the concert and my grandma was in the living room, warning my brother to watch out for me, and make sure no one bothers me. I gave her a strange look and asked what she thought was going to happen. I'll point out right now that my grandmother is a racist woman who despises that I enjoy rap music, I have been known to date black men, and my brother is currently in a relationship with a black woman. I already knew what she was implying in her warning; I just wanted to hear her say it to confront her.

Basically, in her mind, I am more likely to be raped, robbed, or assaulted attending a rap concert. In this there are several prejudices at once: 1. She, like many white people, assume that only black people listen to rap music, despite there being a diverse following of the genre, and despite that not all black people listen to rap music. 2. The myth of black male hypersexuality: in her mind she harbors racist images of hypersexed black males violating the imagined purity of white women. 3. Only black men are guilty of rape. 4. Only black men commit robberies or assault. 5. Only black men carry weapons.

Sadly, all of the above is not exclusive to my grandmother--these racist misconceptions of black people are believed by people of other races, and by people of all ages. Knowing that my grandmother is full of shit, I didn't take her warning seriously. And was not at all surprised that her warning was unnecessary.

What I saw at the concert were hundreds and hundreds of people filling the Joe Louis Arena, all there to enjoy the music--and that is what they did. Everyone was on his or her feet dancing, everyone had a great time, and not one person threw garbage or hit anyone else. It was wonderful! Even in between acts when my brother, his friend, and I were walking around everyone was getting along. It was not an angry environment, which to some degree was expected because of the crowding, but even so no one was pushing. The crowd was also very diverse (which surprised my co-workers when I told them about it--mind you these were the same people who thought that me going home to Detroit would result in me being shot).

I write this because it also reminds me of an essay I wrote a while back about the lyrics in rap music, of which this will now be considered an introduction (expect a follow up in the next few days). There's this myth that while rock lyrics seem to incite white emo loners to commit suicide, rap lyrics incite masses of young black men to unite in violence. In my experience at the concerts of each of these genres, however, I would say that rock music incites masses to violence, since the form of dancing for that music involves moshing which inevitably causes injuries to people; while rap concerts are about the music and about fun--even in Lil Wayne's case, where the lyrics involve violent imagery. Yet you are more likely to find metal detectors at the doors of rap concerts as well as being more likely to be patted down or have your purse searched.

Maybe it's just me, but I would rather not be part of this sort of violent idiocy:

I'm not saying that there are never fights at rap concerts, and I acknowledge that I do not have very much experience. Fights can happen at any place for a variety of reasons and in vast crowds they're quite difficult to prevent. Certainly violence has interrupted a number of concerts, regardless of musical genre, and for reasons that don't necessarily reflect the music. What I am saying is that there's a certain expectation of how to behave at rock concerts, where people attend with the intention to engage in violence: for example, I've spoken to several people who go to rock shows and say the shows suck if they didn't get punched in the face or if they didn't get into any fights. They don't go for the music; they go to hurt themselves and others. Tell me that isn't stupid as shit.

My fiance's friend agreed that he didn't like the atmosphere of rock concerts, that he goes to enjoy the music. I told him how agitated I get at rock shows, scared that at any minute something's going to hit me, break my glasses I can't afford to replace, or hurt me severely. When I was at the rap concert, there was this overwhelming feeling of safeness--an unknown feeling at this new environment. I would easily go to another rap show, or r & b show without a second thought. I want to dance and enjoy music, not partake in a violent environment.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Racial Masculinity in Lakeview Terrace


This is a quick post about "Lakeview Terrace," starring Samuel L. Jackson. I recently rented the movie, since the preview depicted an interesting premise: black cop harasses his interracial newlywed neighbors. After viewing it, however, it has proven to be a racial masculinity contest between the black man (Jackson, as Abel) and the white man (Wilson, as Chris); the black woman, played by Kerry Washington as Lisa, serves mainly as the basis for harassment, the cause of struggle to claim masculinity from the other man.

We learn early on that Abel is a corrupt cop, using unnecessary force to unarm a man in a domestic abuse case, breaking his ribs with his own gun when the man threatens to kill himself. When the new couple moves in, it is immediately evident that he does not approve of the couple's relationship, and begins some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) things to get his point across. When he first introduces himself to Chris, for instance, Abel pretends to rob him. Later on the two of them take a walk together, whereupon Abel states that he doesn't approve of the relationship.

The harassment escalates: lights shining through windows, verbal abuse, slashed car tires. Finally, Abel hires some dude to break in and destroy the house (which leads to the hospitalization of the wife).

What struck me most while I was viewing the movie was this pervading racial-based masculinity. Abel is constantly emasculating Chris, and Chris is constantly determined to reclaim that masculinity by confronting Abel. Lisa even points out--when she was ready to go to Abel and tell him to quiet down his party so the couple could sleep--that Chris only wants to do the macho stuff when he pushes past her, insisting that he be the one to go next door.

Even Chris' wife is perceived to be more masculine than Chris, as Abel points out to his friends that Chris is married to a black woman, and the other black men laugh and warn him to "watch himself."

It isn't that Abel is challenging the interracial relationship--it's that the man is white, and he feels he must emasculate Chris because of it. And Chris responds to this.

Abel later tells Chris about how his wife died, thus explaining why Abel is so disapproving of the couple's situation: Abel's wife died in a car accident with her white boss, and what's been haunting Abel for years is why was she in the car with her white boss in the middle of the day instead of at her office, thus hinting at his wife emasculating him with a white man. Race is immediately involved--and likewise, masculinity. As if to fix this injustice, Abel seeks to destroy the relationship between Chris and Lisa, at one point sending Lisa video of Chris getting a lap dance (omitting that Abel's buddies were holding Chris down).

The movie also portrays Abel as hypermasculine, as a cop and a neighbor, and Chris or the criminals he beats, are how he maintains this hypermasculinity. The final showdown between the two of them (after Chris realizes that Abel was the one who hired the man who attacked his wife) involves Chris aiming a gun at Abel (Abel's is momentarily concealed, as the cops have shown up), and Lisa is screaming at Chris to put the gun down (I admit I was frustrated in each scene where Lisa screamed at Chris, and Chris ignored her to maintain or regain some semblance of masculinity). Chris then tricks Abel into revealing his gun by bringing up Abel's wife, reminding him of her (assumed) infidelity. Then Abel shoots Chris (asserting masculinity with a known phallic symbol), and the cops kill Abel.

This whole movie is backdropped by wildfires getting nearer and nearer to the house, and by the end of the movie the neighborhood is evacuated due to the fires. I can't help but read this as an obvious symbol for destruction, mirroring this masculine struggle between the two men and foreshadowing the death of one. Sadly, I guessed correctly that if one man died in this struggle it would be the black man.

I am interested in any thoughts on this movie, particularly from those who have also seen it. Please don't summarize what happened in the movie unless you also offer an interpretation of it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Upcoming: my butchering of Iron Council

I'm within pages of being finished with China Mieville's Iron Council and I've already got an outline for my resulting analysis of it (of course I recognize how the ending could vastly impact any analysis, which is why I haven't committed any particular ideas to paper just yet). Of course it will examine gender and gender roles, but there are other things (secret things) I plan on discussing as well.

I can already tell that it's going to be a long one. I would not waste my time or disrespect such an amazing work on an essay that doesn't fully examine (or at least come close to fully examining) the work as a whole, complete with character analysis and (my favorite) symbolism!

Thus, due to the anticipated length, prepare for at least three posts on the novel, if not more. I won't be able to tell how it will be broken up until it's complete, and I will post them in intervals though I plan on writing it all at once. For these reasons, it may be a week or more before the first part is posted, but it is my hope that my essay will open some really interesting dialogue on Mieville's novel, especially since his The City and the City will also be coming out within months.