Earlier this year, I read an essay called Shining a Light on Cutoff Culture. It’s almost four thousand words long and before I was halfway through, my shoulders were drawn up around my ears and my head was vibrating with ill-defined rage. Fortunately, Captain Awkward chose to tackle it on her blog and helped me pinpoint exactly why this essay made me so deeply uncomfortable. It took me a long time to sort my thoughts out on this one, but here is my letter to the man who wrote that essay.
You claim to be trying to shine on a light the dangers of cutoff culture. But here is the thing.
Most women do not live in a cutoff culture. Far from it. Let me tell you a bit about the kind of culture women live in when it comes to dating, relationships and sex. Your essay extrapolated from an example from your own personal experience, so I’ll give you one from mine:
Hi pals! It’s been a while since I’ve updated, because things were very crazy at work, and then I was on holidays, and then I had roughly seven draft posts kind of halfway ready to go and just got paralysed and overwhelmed and decided I needed to lie down because blogging that’s just how it goes. Anyway. Here are some recent and not-so-recent articles I found equally entertaining and enlightening in the past month!
Patriarchy in action: the New York Times rewrites history Reclusive Leftist neatly busts open the myth that women have never invented anything or contributed to scientific advancement, then smashes it with a sledgehammar and throws the shards of patriarchal bullshit into the roaring furnace of common fucking sense.
Georgia Salpa, Catholic Guilt and Ireland’s Weird Misogyny The awesome Roisin Kiberd examines Ireland’s specific brand of “kitsch misogyny” as it manifests in Irish Models (not to be confused with models who happen to be Irish) “who occupy an uneasy cultural space between nation’s sweethearts and national joke.”
No one is paying for my birth control but me A lot of people in the US are wringing their hands over employers having to “pay for birth control” for their slutty slutty female employees. That is to say, a lot of people in the US don’t seem to understand how their own incredibly fucked up health insurance system works.
All lead actors in The Gods of Egypt will be white because of course they will. But it doesn’t matter! Because race doesn’t matter! As long as all the main characters are white! This article is also a pretty good rundown of some of the more egregious cases of whitewashing in Hollywood’s recent history.
Manfeels Park is a webcomic that finds comments from real “hurt and confused men with Very Important Things To Explain”… and turns them into conversations between Jane Austen characters. And why yes, it is my new favourite thing on the Internet ever, in case you had to ask.
How to be PoliteAn entertaining and thoughtful personal essay on the “stubborn power of politeness”. As someone who is usually quite polite, but occasionally not polite AT ALL – and as a woman, which means my bog-standard politeness is often interpreted as a) a sign that I am a doormat or b) an invitation to touch my leg – it gave me a lot to think about.
In other news, here’s a small sample of the some of the Internet I have been enjoying this week!
Dissent Unheard Of – Ashe Dryden unpacks some of the techniques typically used to silence people who speak up to promote and protect diversity. Focused on the tech sector, but applicable pretty much anywhere.
Why we should give free money to everyone – Turns out the best way to spend money on the poor might be to give money to the poor. Unconvinced? Read this great article by Rutger Bregman of Decorrespondent about consistent success of basic income experiments.
My Breakup with Exercise – This personal account from Leah of Talkin’ Reckless is a really good reminder that everything in moderation – including exercise – is the best way to live a sustainable healthy and happy life.
We’re not here for your inspiration – A reminder from Stella Young that disabled people don’t exist to put your problems in perspective, nor to illustrate your cloying motivational posters. Most of them are just trying to get through the day, just like their able-bodied counterparts, and no matter what Scott Hamilton says, they don’t owe you a good attitude.
These Female “Privileges” Suck – It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a good takedown, and this one from Sophieologie is a particularly satisfying annihilation of Thought Catalog’s latest puerile listicle. Sidenote: does anyone else feel sad that the once-useful concept of privilege is now deployed solely for the purpose of mudslinging, by people who have no idea what it actually means?
Your Map is Racist – Q. When is a map racist? A. When Greenland is as big as Africa and the equator has mysteriously shifted downwards so we can see more of Europe.
On Colbert and White Racial Satire: We Don’t Need It – In the wake of the #CancelColbert tweetstorm, Mia McKenzie cuts through the bullshit (as usual) and asks: what exactly white racial satire is doing for people of colour, and is it really more helpful than harmful?
RELAXING: AN INTENSIVE STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE – “You probably think of relaxation as an unattainable dream, if not just a myth altogether. Adhere to this guide with precision and get ready to experience the most rigorous relaxation of your life!”
“The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” – A fascinating series of accounts from physicians and counselors who have provided abortions to anti-choice women; in some cases, women who turned up to picket the clinic the day after the procedure.
OK, Internet. New Game of Thrones just started, and I know we’re all very excited. Before the deluge of internet commentary really begins, I think this is an appropriate moment to have a chat about the relationship between fiction and history, and more specifically the relationship between the fantasy genre and the specific periods of Euro-centric history from which it tends to borrow heavily. And specifically, to answer the question: what do we mean by historical accuracy?
It’s a tale as old as the Internet. Someone writes an article about a book/film/game/ interpretative shadow-puppet musical from the fantasy genre. Some members of the audience say, “Hey, I really like this thing, but I would like it more if the women were not being sexually assaulted quite so constantly and the brown people were not costumed entirely in Generic Tribal Chic.” Then, without fail, a deeply indignant nerd type will pop his head over the parapet of the comment box and let forth his ancient war cry: “BUT HISTOOOOOOORY THEREFORE YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVAAAAAALID!!!”
It may seem like I’m overstating for effect here, but this exact exchange just happened on a recent post from Media Diversified. Shane Thomas made some excellent (and, at this stage, well-worn) points about Game of Thrones and its race problems. This attracted the attention of one intrepid commenter, who didn’t bother to read the whole post but nonetheless left a long comment – equal parts condescending and clueless – which boiled down to, “The Mongols existed at some point, therefore Game of Thrones can’t be racist.” In his response, Thomas acknowledges that he is aware that history is indeed a thing, but the fact that history is extremely racist does not give a modern TV show set in a fictional world a free pass to also be racist.
Hi everyone! The fields of the link farm have lain fallow for a while, but they shall be all the more fertile for it and a new crop of feminism shall grow strong and abundant in the furrows of this newly-ploughed metaphor.
That is to say, the draft email where I keep interesting links (Iol, what are bookmarks) has become nothing short of unwieldy, so here’s a bumper crop of stuff I read recently (or not so recently) that I found thought-provoking. All of it is articles. In no particular order:
The Twitching of Democracy Could Twitch Plays Pokémon hold the answer to reinvigorating our broken systems of democracy? I have no idea, but fortunately my friend Tadhg decided to grapple with that very question in his latest blog post.
Rage Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum Women in general, and feminists in particular, are often accused of overreacting or being excessively angry in response to relatively innocuous things. Kameron Hurley does a great job of explaining that a) seemingly isolated incidents are often “blown out of proportion” precisely because they are not isolated incidents and b) anger is actually a necessary tool for changing the status quo.
Should “potential fathers” have any say in abortion? A thorny issue, but this is why I love reading Aoife O’Riordan on reproductive rights; she brings a level on incisiveness and clarity that I would never arrive at on my own and her conclusions always center the needs of the pregnant person above all else. And as a fellow native of a country where abortion is illegal except in the most extenuating of circumstances, her insight is valuable to me on a personal and political level.
Bi-Erasure and The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank may not have identified as bisexual, but the fact that her diary was originally scrubbed of homoerotic material prior to publishing is symptomatic of a society that is still profoundly uncomfortable with fluid sexuality. Solomon Wong illustrates how this relates to modern bi-erasure and why young bi people need more mainstream narratives that acknowledge their existence.
Bros before Rogues Nicholas DiSabatino asks if the X-Men franchise – despite reams of excellent source material – is getting steadily worse at portraying women as well-rounded characters… or indeed, portraying them at all. (Hint: Yes.)
Why Marketers Fear The Female GeekDisruptive innovation is one of my favourite marketing concepts. It basically means ripping up the rule book and throwing all the data out the window in order to capture (or recapture) a brand new market through bold and original strategies. And this, argues Anjin Anhut, is exactly what videogame companies need to do if they want access to the wallets of the fifty percent of the population they’ve been systematically alienating for the past few decades.
The Night I Kissed A Rapist In this simple personal account, Jan DeVry explores her firsthand experience of discovering that a rapist can be a well-liked, charismatic man with whom you have strong chemistry.
Seeming Female: Gender in Digital Space So at this point we all know that Fake Geek Girl is largely a myth, the fever dream of an adult nerd with a subconscious desire to punish all women for that one time a hot girl ignored him at summer camp. But the always excellent Foz Meadows posits an interesting theory: what if she does exist? What if she exists and what if she is a literal invention of male gamers? “What if the respective myths of the Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are actively being perpetuated, not through the whore-user predations of evil ladies, but because a cynical, sexist subset of male geeks are using stereotypical, strawman portrayals of women to manipulate their peers?” It sounds far-fetched, but the numbers add up and the performance of gender in digital spaces is a strange and elusive beast.
James Delingpole recently wrote an article called “Why it’s not sexist to say boys should never play with dolls“. I have to ask: is it just me, or are the James Delingpoles of this world getting more and more frantic in their efforts to shove gender roles back into neat little boxes marked Male and Female?
Because to me, interrupting a group of young women during a discussion of their career plans to ask them if they want to settle down and raise a family… that sounds like the behaviour of a floundering man. Delingpole admits that he did this deliberately in part to undermine their “zappy” headmistress, and then brags about in his article as though he’s scored a point for… well, for who or what exactly is unclear. Whatever Delingpole was trying to achieve by recounting this anecdote, he succeeds admirably in coming across as smug, clueless, priggish and thoroughly out of his depth when confronted by a room of bright young women who expect to enter the world as equals to men.
“Does this make me sound like a complete sexist pig?” asks Delingpole, as though a modicum of self-awareness might make it not so.
Someone recently reminded me that this blog is supposed to be about pop culture as well as feminism and I was like CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. So have some cartoons and videogames with a healthy side of gender analysis, hand picked from the lush gardens of the Internet by an overworked intern who needs to do some yoga or something.
Above, Errant Signal breaks down the idiotic assertion that reviewers who critique videogames in a social and cultural context are failing to be “objective” or imposing their “agenda” on an otherwise apolitical medium.
On Videogame Reviews (essay) And on that note, if Errant Signal breaks down the myth of the objective reviewer, Tevis Thompson ANNIHILATES it in this brilliant essay. What starts off as a review of the much-lauded Bioshock Infinite expands into something much broader and deeper. Even if you haven’t played Bioshock Infinite (I haven’t), this is mandatory reading if you give even a cursory shit about gaming culture, or even more generally about the nature of reviewing. It’s 8000 articulate, passionate, probing words and not a single one of them is wasted. Go read. (Also, I seriously got a little misty over Saving Zelda in work the other day.)
So What If It’s Satire?(article) I’ve been reading a lot of good stuff on D.A. White recently, but particularly enjoyed this post about the nature of satire. It’s a word that gets thrown around an awful lot, and to a downright alarming degree directly after someone suggests that a piece of media might be offensive. Using videogames, comics and of course A Modest Proposal as a point of reference, White explains why “offensive” and “funny” are not actually defining features of satire as a form.
The strange prudishness of Channel 4’s Sex Box (article) I don’t fully agree with Martin Robbins’ assessment of Sex Box, but he does manage to articulate a lot of the niggling problems I had with the first episode. I think the show has potential overall, but seriously, this: “Weirder still, given the obvious focus on diversity, was that it seemed each mate had to be paired with someone who looked the same – black with black, white with white, disabled with disabled, gay with gay, old with old – as if God had told Noah to run a sex cruise.”
Why I’m Not Supporting Disney’s Frozen(article) Oh, Disney. It always seems to be one step forward, two steps back with you guys. This post by The Feminist Fangirl delves into source material for Frozen – The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, an “epic, melancholy, emotionally complex, and fantastically feminist” fairytale… and thenexplains how Disney decided to just fuck all that out the window – stripping it of all its unique elements and decimating its diverse cast of female characters – in favour of serving up another bland offering of “feisty princess surrounded by male helpers.” Sigh Disney. Just sigh.
Disney, Frozen and the (un)Importance of Prettiness (article) And as if that wasn’t disappointing enough, when it was pointed out that the character design for Frozen‘s Anna looks remarkable to Tangled‘s Rapunzel, the head animator decided to set us straight by explaining that “historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty…” Yeah. I mean, if “pretty” exclusively means “impossibly huge eyes and almost non-existent nose and mouth”, I can see why that might be a problem.
Is BMO from Adventure Time Expressive of Feminism? (video) This guy is awesome because he interprets the character of BMO (a sentient videogame console) as an embodiment of the deconstructed gender binary, and therefore expressive of the ideals of third wave feminism. He also gives a very succinct explanation of the broad differences between first, second and third wave feminism. Also, he uses uses the French language (which I am currently trying to relearn) to make a point. It would be quite difficult for me to like this video more.
Pokémorality: Black and White(article) This article is not about feminism, but is in fact a SHAMELESS PLUG. This is an essay I wrote about Pokémon Black and White, originally published on a now-defunct videogame analysis site. I found it the other day and discovered I’m surprisingly fond of it, so now I’m giving it a home on Massive Hassle.