Right. Elliot Rodger and the Isla Vista shootings. Within hours of the story breaking, a number of friends and readers got in touch asking if I was going to write a reaction piece. After five minutes on my newsfeed and on Twitter, I was overwhelmed by exhaustion. That was my dominant emotion. Not anger, not frustration, not sorrow. Just numbing here-we-go-again exhaustion. After half an hour, I did not want to write about this. And watching the conversations pick up speed and the comments roll in – the justifications, the derails, the rationalizations, the outright defenses – made it all feel even more hopeless.
But then I spoke to my sister, who reminded me why it’s important to keep writing and that even if it feels repetitive, these things can’t be said too many times. So thanks, Lars. Also, many of these points are hers or riffing on hers.
And now, in no particular order, my thoughts:
1. There exists a sub-section of men who literally cannot sit through a discussion of structural misogyny without receiving constant and emphatic reassurance that no one is accusing them personally of being a misogynist. This is a derail and an attempt to shut down debate. Because, to quote Sometimes, it’s just a cigar:
“Suppose you disagree with women about whether rape is part of the structure of our society, used to reinforce patriarchy. Do you make that debate possible by standing on your wounded pride, and just insisting that the debate must start with a disclaimer that says you’re not a rapist? Forgive me, but that’s nothing more than narcissism.”
The conviction that you have never participated or been complicit in structural misogyny is dubious to say the least, no matter what your gender. But even if you are resolute that you, personally, have managed to transcend the system you were born and raised in and now stand as a shining beacon of gender equity outside the mire of patriarchy? Good for you, but structural misogyny still exists and we still need to have a conversation about it. If you think you have nothing to learn, go play elsewhere on the internet.
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.
Link farm! Hello! Here are some the best things I have read on the Internet in recent weeks. But first, above, one of the best things about Beyoncé dropping a fourteen track visual concept album earlier this week (no biggie) is that this amazing TED Talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is getting some much deserved extra spotlight, since Bey sampled a large section of her speech in the track “***Flawless”.
The Feminist Selfie(article) “Selfie” is the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year 2013, but is the rise of prolific self-portraiture – aided by webcams and smartphones – a feminist statement or tasteless narcissism? Can it be both? ChaosIntended makes an excellent case for the selfie as a feminist reclamation of the way women perceive and portray themselves.
What The Fluck(multimedia essay) This is a long and fascinating piece. It starts off talking about Tamara Mellon, creator of Jimmy Choo, but then expands to encompass some huge ideas… media, celebrity, public vs. private lives, corruption, politics and ultimately a call for new forms of journalism that can actually penetrate the giant financial power structures that run our world today.
My Abortion(article, content note for graphic descriptions of abortion) Brilliant journalism from Meaghan Winter at NY Magazine, reporting twenty-six abortion stories from twenty-six different women across the United States. There is no room for politics, but there is a full gamut of emotions – trauma, relief, nonchalance, fear, sadness, regret, gratitude – and some beautiful, heartbreaking moments that remind you that every single woman who has had an abortion is full and complete human being with a whole life of past choices and future prospects weighing on her decision.
I still don’t want to see Zack Snyder’s take on Wonder Woman(article) Charlie Jane Anders brilliantly articulates her (and my own) anxieties about Zack Snyder introducing Wonder Woman to the big screen and why he is not the director to catapult the world’s most iconic female superhero into the 21st century. Also, to save you reading the comments, they are full of “Wonder Woman will never work in movies because her origin is so messy and her costume is dated!” You know, as though screenwriters and directors have no creative license or agency to work around those things.
Loving your body and ending obesity (article) One of my favourite things about Emily Heist Moss is her ability and determination to find middle-ground on issues that have become so polarized that communication has all but broken down. In this article, she highlights that creating space for fat women to love themselves and promoting healthier lifestyles on a broad societal level are not opposing, or even mutually exclusive goals. And it’s not just that we can do both, it’s that we must do both if we ever want to see real change.
No Girls Allowed (visual essay) A comprehensive and aesthetically pleasing history of the rise of videogames that specifically charts the role of marketing in the evolution of the medium from family-friendly group entertainment to unrepentant boys’ club. Essential reading for anyone who still thinks companies “just make what sells!” Hint: they don’t, and marketing department don’t tailor their output to the whims of customers, but rather work hard and smart to create and control consumer demand.
Your Ability to Can Even: A Defense of Internet Linguistics (article) I love language! I love the Internet! I love The Toast! I love that online spaces are generating a whole spectrum of playful new ways to express ourselves through subversive grammar, memes, GIFs and typographic peculiarities. This article, I mean I just can’t even askkewefs abtklwvrqheqhljqv wow so linguistics
Feminists are not responsible for educating men (article) I have linked to this before across my various social meedjahs, but since I’ve had this conversations several times, drunkenly, in meatspace, in recent weeks, it bears posting again here. Go forth, well-intentioned men of the world, and read. And then restrain yourself from cornering me at the Christmas party to bombard me with enlightened questions along the lines of “Why don’t women just get over it?”*
*This is an actual thing that an adult man said to me during a “rational” discussion about feminism.
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.
Right, Internet. You have driven me to it. I am going to write a post about Miley Cyrus and I have no idea how I got here.
First off: I have literally zero fucking interest in Miley Cyrus. For a long time I did not realise that Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus were the same person, then I watched most of a Hannah Montana movie once when I was drunk. I think the screaming goat version of Party in the USA is comedy gold and there is a Miley Cyrus reference in an Amanda Palmer song I like and that was literally the extent of my knowledge of her until twenty four hours ago, when I became aware that I had missed the memo on her transformation from teeny-bopping American sweetheart into the gyrating mess of latex and lolling tongue that was jamming up my newsfeed yesterday morning.
As a piece of theatre, stripped of all social and cultural context, Miley Cyrus’s appearance at the 2013 VMA’s was abysmal. Her movements looked uncomfortable and uncoordinated, her costumes did not fit her properly, her voice sounded strained, the choreography was sloppy (I am generously assuming there was choreography involved.) Then Robin Thicke made his listless entrance and the whole thing was catapulted into the realm of the truly surreal as Miley’s cavorting became even more frantic and the presence of a much older man made her look even more like a toddler doing wobbly burlesque in Mummy’s heels and lipstick. It was awful. Nobody had a good time.
I’ve been following the story of the murder of Trayvon Martin since it exploded onto my newsfeed last year. Now it has reached its awful, unjust, but sadly not surprising conclusion. Last week, a court in Florida ruled that George Zimmerman was within his rights as a citizen to shoot an unarmed black teenager, and to shoot to kill. They ruled that no one was to blame Trayvon Martin’s death, except possibly himself.
I am a white woman who grew up in a country that had a vanishingly small black population until recent years. I grew up in a country that is only now discovering its own capacity for racism. I lived in Chicago for a year, in a pre-dominantly white neighbourhood. Black people are a third of the city’s population, but I can count the times I visited or passed through black neighbourhoods on one hand. I am not Trayvon Martin. I am worlds away from Trayvon Martin. But like hundreds of other people who are not Trayvon Martin, I feel sick to my stomach over this verdict, and sicker still over the fact that there are people who continue to insist that race was not a factor in his murder.
I don’t feel qualified, eloquent or calm enough to speak to my own rage. Fortunately, the internet is full of people who are.
So this weekend saw the end of a historic Wimbledon tournament. Men’s singles champion Andy Murray made British sports history on the court and was showered with praise and glory and even a possible recommendation for knighthood.
But the crude and often violent commentary from these few (hundred) tweets are surely just an aberration, I hear you cry! It’s just the Internet, it’s just assholes trolling! No real people would ever actually suggest that Bartoli’s victory is somehow undermined by her looks!
The Box Trolls – coming in 2014 from Laika, the same studio responsible for Coraline and ParaNorman. It’s stop motion and it shows an awareness of non-traditional non-heteronormative families. I don’t know what more you could want!
So You Want To Compare Something To Slavery? – Well, I’m sure your comparison is completely measured and legitimate and not at all deeply insulting to any historically enslaved group! But maybe you should read this first, just to be sure…
A Woman’s Right To Chores – Over on Feministe, Molly Schoemann writes a light-hearted screed on strangely old-fashioned advertising for cleaning products. Come for the lols, stay for the comments full of “BUT THAT’S NOT SEXISM IT’S MARKETING IT’S NOT SEXIST IF IT SELLS.”
Word War Z, or Something Not Quite Like It – “I’m not sure why Brad Pitt bothered buying the rights to it really, because they essentially took all the things that made World War Z such a compelling and scary and fascinating read in the first place and just fucked it all in the bin.“