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S/He by Jesse Green: oh God, it’s so HARD being cis!

S/He by Jesse Green: oh God, it’s so HARD being cis! published on 1 Comment on S/He by Jesse Green: oh God, it’s so HARD being cis!

New York magazine has a feature about families with trans children. The subhead summarizes the article's angle: "Parents of transgender children are faced with a difficult decision, and it’s one they have to make sooner than they ever imagined." In other words, when their child announces a trans identity, how do the parents respond? Do they give their child anti-puberty Lupron shots? Do they research surgery on secondary sex characteristics before 18? Do they support their child's social transition at school and elsewhere? Or do they hold back?

When you think about it, this is nothing new. Parents, children have been deviating from your expectations from the beginning of time!! This feature articulates an age-old tension that just happens to manifest around gender identity. In pretty much every case, the best resolution for this tension is for the parents to accept their children as they are, not as they wish their children to be. For our purposes, this means that parents of trans children should respect their children's trans identities and support them in their transitions to the extent that they are able [with the recognition that drugs and surgery are a) not for all, b) pants-wettingly expensive and c) of course not covered by our wonderful patchwork insurance options in this country].

Frankly, I don't care about this story. It's just another whine about how hard it is for cis people to accept trans people, with the added unequal power dynamics of the cis people being parents to the trans people, who are their kids.

Get over yourselves, cis people; you're on the losing side of history. Trans people have always existed and will continue to exist, and your hand-wringing will avail you nothing. Sit down; shut up, and accept it.

Brave again

Brave again published on 5 Comments on Brave again

I previously pronounced Pixar’s upcoming Brave as bilge. I stand by that statement, despite the awesomeness of the protagonist’s hair.

Remind me against why I’m supposed to be excited about a headstrong princess defying restrictive standards of femininity and charting her own destiny, thus proving that she’s just as good as a man? That trope just reinforces the idea that a female character with self-knowledge has to be an egregiously ass-kicking iconoclast in order to determine her own life. It’s a form of exceptionalism that dismisses the much more interesting [and common] stories of the ways that women create their own stories in more ambivalent, less flagrant fashion.

Pixar/Disney clearly thinks it’s so great for doing Brave, like they’re supposed to get feminist cookies for pushing tired stereotypes. This movie irritates me so much, and it’s not even out yet!

Makies: customizable, printed-plastic, 10″, articulated dolls!!!!!!

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Makies are the coolest thing I've seen in a long time: customizable, articulated, 10" dolls made of printed plastic. You design one online, adjusting all facial features with sliders, then choosing eyes, wig and clothes from a variety of options. They're like single-jointed BJDs, only without elastic! You can choose to leave your character digital, or you can order a plastic version of your character. The alpha session is currently open, with 20 of 100 slots left. One doll is 99 pounds including VAT [made in UK].

I would love to get one, but I don't have the money. I'd also like to wait until they have skin color options [currently only available in white] and adjustable body shapes. I hope this company succeeds and adds many more options. I've always liked online pixel doll maker programs, but have been annoyed at the lack of ability to actually have dolls made from the pixel characters. I'll be watching this company to see how it develops a little bit down the line…


Goddammit. published on 1 Comment on Goddammit.

I think I need a new compooper. After just over 3 years, my current laptop now has problems. As I discovered when trying to install Adobe PhotoShop Elements, the CD/DVD drive does not register. This would not be a very big problem, as I rarely use it, BUT THAT’S HOW I INSTALL SOFTWARE. Interestingly enough, it was working a week ago, when I tried installing Elements the first time [didn’t work — faulty copy]. I don’t know what went wrong.

Fine. Be that way, you stupid compooper. I guess I’ll be getting another one.

While I’m at it, I should also get Norton AntiVirus and a [cough] legitimate copy of Manga Studio EX 4, which, I see from Amazon, is down to ~$80.00-90.00…finally affordable! I think I’ll leave Daz Studio on this compooper, though. I haven’t touched it in months. I will be able to transfer all my documents, movies and music over easily, as I have been backing them up on a separate hard drive with some regularity.

EDIT: Also need a lap stand that cools the compooper, as I use it on my legs all the time.

EDIT 2: A possibility. …Oooh, look — it’s in stock locally! Instant gratification!

EDIT 3: Here’s where I’m doing some comparison shopping.

50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!!

50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!! published on 4 Comments on 50 Shades Freed: victory lap!!!

I finished the book…and the series! God, I thought it would never end. After the official conclusion, there is, of course, an epilogue in which Ana and Christian gambol about with their son [because the Penis of Doom always generates a first-born son] and coo about their upcoming daughter. The epilogue contains awkwardly inserted flashbacks and serves no purpose whatsoever except to hammer home that Ana and Christian live happily ever after in true love, perfect bliss and harmonious, nurturing parenthood. Yeah, I'm not going to believe that until I read transcripts of their kids' therapy sessions.

And then, after the epilogue, we get a 50 Shades of Christian section, which, I assume, is bonus material supplied for the Vintage republishing. James gives us a first-person report of Christian's first Christmas with his adoptive family, the Greys, which adds nothing to the story because we've already been inside young Christian's head in the prologue when he was telling us about his nightmares. If anything, this section tickles my gag reflex, as James writes the 5-year-old Christian without nuance, realism or complexity. It's just…baby talk for pages and pages.

Just in case you haven't had your fill of redundancy, 50 Shades Freed finally, finally, finally closes out with Meet 50 Shades, an exhaustive recap of Ana and Christian's first two meetings from Christian's point of view.

Insights I gained from Meet 50 Shades:

1. Christian is an asshole.

2. He has the hots for Ana.

3. Even though he has no "subconscious" or "inner goddess," Christian's interior monologue sounds exactly the same as Ana's: repetitive, shallow and unindividualized.

4. Wow, that was a pointless section.

On second thought, scratch that victory lap. Now that I'm done with the 50 Shades trilogy, I'm too exhausted to put forth more effort. I just read 514 [book 1] + 532 [book 2] + 579 [book 3] = 1625 pages of erotic romance over 9 days. It was clearly a feat of endurance for which I should get a prize [preferably in the form of well-written erotic romance]. I understand the commercial impulse behind stringing the story out over 3 books and thereby making $$$ [or, for E.L. James, £££], but oh my God…the trilogy could have been easily cut down to 400 pages by a ruthless and judicious editor without losing any of the traits that make it such a gloriously bad read.

It's victory nap time instead.

Wow, Impldoll made an attractive doll for once!

Wow, Impldoll made an attractive doll for once! published on 1 Comment on Wow, Impldoll made an attractive doll for once!

I've long cringed at the dolls issued by Impldoll. They've been producing a steady line of sculpts with bug eyes [which, in a field where big eyes are part of the Asian BJD aesthetic, is pretty hard to do!], minuscule pinched-up mouths and weird noses. Their Impl Child Joyce, an early doll, shows the too-close-together eyes, squinched mouth and, for a bonus, a very pointy chin that I've been talking about. Impl Model Mandy epitomizes the weird nose. Why is her philtrum 6 feet long?! And I have no idea what this googly-eyed monstrosity is [hint: it's an Impl Star Lauretta], but it's not coming to my party.

Imagine my surprise when they recently released Elvira. She's certainly not original or stunning, but she's very cute. I see in her the same traits that were exaggerated flaws in earlier sculpts, here and now refined into parts of a wholly conceived aesthetic program. Nice to know that their sculptors can learn from their mistakes.

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH! published on 2 Comments on 50 Shades: “Fair point well made” ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!

Of all the recycled phrases in the 50 Shades trilogy, the one that's driving me up the wall the most is "Fair point well made." Ana and Christian say this about as often as they have sex, which is up to twice a chapter. Sometimes they even say, "Fair point well made as ever."

I have never heard anyone in my life say this, especially not a 26-year-old Harvard dropout [Christian] and a 21-year-old recent college graduate [Ana]. If people under the age of 30 who have been born and raised in the US want to acknowledge someone's opinion that they disagree with, they typically use one of the following phrases:

"Yeah, but…"

"Okay, but…"


If one feels the burning need to use the word "point," one could say, "Good point."

One could also say, "You have a point."

If one feels like being particularly snotty, one could also say, "Fair point." I've never heard anyone actually use that phrase in the wild, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. I think I've probably read it in a novel somewhere.

But "Fair point well made"?! What the hell? Who even says that? Is it some sort of Britishism? If so, I've never encountered it in any of the British literature I've read before the 50 Shades trilogy. [The author lives in London, England.] It could possibly be a function of E.L. James' fallback on her own British idiom and her lazy refusal to invest in any research that would make the voices of two US citizens in their 20s realistic and believable. However, I can't really tell much about the origin and current use of this phrase, because, hilariously enough, most Google results of "fair point well made as ever" point to pages lambasting the 50 Shades trilogy for this irritating verbal hiccup.

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s continued pregnancy and gooey maternal feelings

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Oh for God's sake! Less than 2 pages after fearing for her safety because she's pregnant, Ana suddenly changes her mind (p. 413):

"…Perhaps I shouldn't tell Christian. Perhaps I…perhaps I should end this. I halt my thoughts on that dark path, alarmed at the direction they're taking. Instinctively my hand sweeps down to rest protectively over my belly. No. My little Blip. Tears spring to my eyes. What am I going to do?"

Well, because this is a romance about a fertile, heterosexual couple, they will be brainwashed by Baby Magic into abandoning their previous agreement to postpone kids. The Miracle of Reproduction will overawe them, activating their dormant, but hereditary and totally natural, parental instincts. With surprising ease and no ambivalence at all, they will quickly convert to anticipation and adoration of their little Blip. Baby Magic is overtaking Ana even in this paragraph: Automatically characterizing her thoughts of abortion as a "dark path," she "instinctively," without any thought at all, develops protective inclinations. YAY BABEEZ!

I detest this trope so very much. I've discussed before, in relation to Bones' pregnancy on her eponymous show, the trivializing, insulting and misogynist ways pregnancy is portrayed in popular media. It compresses a range of emotional, intellectual and characterological responses into a single trajectory of blissfully complaisant, essentialized and instinctive [ergo brainless] femininity. It's pretty much always a horrible derailment of character that represents a descent into utter boredom.

This can't end well either.

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

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At the end of Chapter 19, Ana discovers that she's pregnant.
Continue reading 50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

Gilbert Gottfried reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey

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As irritating and pretentious and unfunny as I find Gilbert Gottfried, I must admit that this fake commercial of him reading explicit excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey, less because of Gottfried himself and more because of the increasingly horrified expressions on the readers' faces. Needless to say, this contains explicit sexual language.

A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3]

A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3] published on 1 Comment on A few thoughts about 50 Shades Freed [book 3]

I'm almost halfway through 50 Shades Freed, book 3 of the 50 Shades trilogy, by E.L. James. Forthwith, some random remarks:

1) Remember how I objected to Ana's sudden promotion from executive assistant to editor at the end of 50 Shades Darker, saying that it made no sense and that Christian should have been behind it? Well, he was. Okay, fine. I still don't think she's remotely qualified to be an editor, though.

2) Ana and Christian have a big fight about Ana wanting to keep her surname. This fight occurs about a month after they get married. Apparently they just forgot to address the subject before they got married; they must have been too busy "quirking" and "pouting" and saying, "Fair point well made." Seriously, people? You just neglect a subject that affianced couples notoriously have strong views on? You couldn't even be bothered to ask each other your preferences?

3) Speaking of fights, I'm way more interested in all of Ana and Christian's arguments than their sex scenes. In fact, after the first sex scene, I've been skipping them all and paying close attention to their disagreements instead. It's like Conflict Porn!

4) There's a notable amount of alcohol consumption in this trilogy. Before dinner? Have a drink. During dinner? Have a drink. After dinner? Have a drink. After sex? Have a drink. Hectic, worrisome day? Have a drink. Angry at your spouse? Have a drink. Nervous? Have a drink. Since they have sex, eat dinner, feel worried and get angry with each other frequently, Ana and Christian drink copiously. I'm waiting for someone to either get drunk and do something really stupid or to develop alcoholism. Or both.

Allen’s Law of Censorship

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The probability that a book will be challenged, banned and/or censored increases exponentially as the book approaches mega-bestseller status.

As a corollary, if a book or series hits mega-bestseller status, somebody somewhere will challenge, ban and/or censor it for one "reason" or another.

Libraries around the country are currently throwing fits about the 50 Shades trilogy. So infuriating. Censorship is wrong. I don't care if you disagree with the views stated in the trilogy. I don't care if you think it's pornographic. I expect my public library to offer reading opportunities, rather than remove them. Public services have no right to selectively and arbitrarily limit reading material like this just because someone somewhere thinks it's icky. "Ewww!" is not a valid argument against anything, from marriage equality to 50 Shades of Grey.

SHUT UP, Cassandra Clare!

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Cassandra Clare writes popular YA fantasy series. I have no problem with that; in fact, I enjoy them as mind candy. I really wish she would stop quoting British literature, though. In the Infernal Devices series, a quotation from some British novel or poetry begins every single chapter for no apparent reason. Furthermore, the characters spew poetry at inopportune intervals too. Why? Why? Why?

This incessant quoting serves no purpose. The pre-chapter quotes relate, sometimes in very strained, tangential ways, to the events in the chapter, but that's it. The characters' useless quotations do nothing to further the reader's understanding of the story or the characters, unless your understanding is furthered by knowing that the protagonist likes books. There's no thematic, sustained, interesting, clever or relevant treatment of the quotes or the works they're from. They don't do anything except waste space. At best, they prove the author's prowess in Googling public domain works of literature. Must be some sort of self-congratulatory textual porn for English majors whose intellectual achievements peaked with their close reading of Dickens' Great Expectations [snore] during their sophomore year at a small New England liberal arts college.

As an English major from a small New England liberal arts college [ask me about my close reading of Emily Dickinson!], I'm real impressed. :p

She’s passive-aggressive and he’s clueless! Perfect match!: sexism in The Muppets

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We watched The Muppets last night. It was a pretty cute movie, with most of the humor at no one's expense, but I was continually bothered by the rampant sexism on display in the plot between the 2 human leads, Gary [Jason Segel] and Mary [Amy Adams].

Gary and Mary have been dating for 10 years, but they don't even live together. They're not engaged either. Mary wishes that Gary would propose to her, but he does not. In fact, their 10th anniversary trip to Los Angeles ends up including Gary's Muppet "brother," Walter, in spite of Mary's obvious displeasure. Gary constantly privileges adventures with Walter over adventures with Mary, who acquiesces by trying to put on a brave face. When Gary forgets his 10th anniversary dinner with Mary, Mary goes back home, leaving a note that addresses the source of her upset only obliquely: "Are you a man or a Muppet?" Gary follows Mary back home and proposes to her. She says yes, blah blah blah, whoop de doo.

This entire plot could have been avoided if Gary and Mary had just had one single solitary stinkin' conversation about their expectations and desires. On a deeper level, it also would have been a much shorter movie if Mary hadn't been trapped by expectations about feminine passivity. If she loved Gary so much and wanted to marry him, why didn't she propose to him years ago? Why does she suffer Gary's callous, clueless behavior in silence, without speaking up for herself? Why is Mary such a spineless, retrograde drip? Why is Gary such an inattentive, uncommunicative clod? Does anyone really think this relationship is going to work out?

My favorite character was '80's Robot.

50 Shades: Ana’s dream job

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The plot with Ana and her sleazy boss winds up this way: The sleazeball harasses Ana, so Christian has him fired. Somehow, after only having been an executive assistant for a week, Ana gets the sleazeball's job, becoming head editor at Seattle Independent Press! Amazingly enough, Christian has nothing to do with her sudden promotion.

THAT MAKES NO SENSE. Why would the press stick Ana in the position of a seasoned executive? Even if her sleazeball boss has praised her work, she has no track record at the company, so why should anyone trust her? She also has zero related experience, her job during college having been cashiering at a hardware store. From what little we know, she's conscientious as an assistant, and, uh, she likes to read British literature. That's not enough to recommend her. As much as I object to Christian's abusive, control freaky behavior, if he had gotten Anna the sleazeball's job, that would have made been much more logical and believable, narratively speaking. E.L. James really doesn't know how to write.

50 Shades: Ana’s “inner goddess” and class warfare

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I got about halfway through 50 Shades Darker [book 2 in the 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James] last night. It picks up several days after the end of the first book, when Ana and Christian break up, for reasons that I'm not quite clear on. When Christian proposes that they try again with a non-kinky, completely vanilla relationship [hah hah hah!], they're off and running [or, rather, bonking]. There's something of a plot in there too, involving Ana's new job at Seattle Independent Press, Christian's ex-domme, one of Christian's emotionally labile ex-subs, Christian's secret past, et hoc genus omne.

I'd like to talk about Ana's "inner goddess." Introduced toward the end of book 1, she appears in pretty much every other paragraph, usually in counterpoint to Ana's "subconscious." Like Ana's "subconscious," the "inner goddess" is personified, apparently as a multi-talented Olympic athlete, given her acrobatic performances of joy whenever Ana thinks about getting kinky. Beyond that, she serves no useful function; she's just a convenient image for James to use in describing Ana's lust. So, if the "subconscious" and the "inner goddess" do nothing to advance Ana's character development or the plot, why does James insert them on every damn page?! Characters in one's head can be interesting, compelling and revelatory if done with care, purpose and depth, but these are just useless, stupid and annoying.

On another note, I'm fascinated by the tensions of class warfare as exhibited by Ana and Christian. Ana seems to have grown up [from what I can tell — she doesn't have much history] in a middle-class family; as a college student, she had little spare money [hence driving the same beat-up car for three years], and she currently earns an entry-level publishing salary [which, let me tell you, is diddly squat] in her first post-college job. At this point, I'd call her lower middle-class, aspiring to higher, and rather anxious about money.

Meanwhile, Christian has millions, maybe billions. For the first few years of his life, he grew up in poverty, but, since adoption at the age of 4, he has been surrounded by ostentatious, fabulous wealth. He uses money casually and confidently, without anxiety about it at all.

Ana and Christian clash on financial matters. Christian spends exorbitant amounts on gifts for Ana, including a set of first-edition Tess of the d'Urbervilles, a laptop, a Blackberry, an Audi, an iPad, diamond jewelry and a Saab. He doesn't understand that this makes Ana, who earns much less, feel unworthy, subordinate, bought off and kept. He explains that he wants to "give [her] everything," that this is "how [he is]" and that this is "part of [his] world." Nope, he just wants to make her his objectified possession, as evidenced by the fact that he buys the publishing company Ana works for [ostensibly because he's jealous that Ana's boss shows interest in her, which is a great reason for a takeover]. He uses his socioeconomic privilege to control Ana's communication [laptop, Blackberry, iPad], transportation [Audi, Saab] and occupation [Seattle Independent Press]. It's like the 1% overruling the 99%, but with bonus secret childhood trauma!

50 Shades: insidious stereotyping

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After mulling for a few days, I've determined some of the most problematic assumptions underlying 50 Shades of Grey. As I've discussed, it is about a young woman, Ana, who embarks on a submissive, bdsm relationship with the dominant and slightly older Christian.
Continue reading 50 Shades: insidious stereotyping

50 Shades: the Twilight connection

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Yes, folks, just in case you were curious, E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy started off as Twilight fanfic. It starred Edward and Bella in a bdsm relationship, and it was entitled Masters of the Universe. No word if Skeletor and He-Man were involved. I doubt it. That would have been interesting, and if it's anything these books aren't, it's interesting.

Ableist child murderer gets only 9 years

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This week has been a particularly enraging week. The NYT reports that Angela Norman "gets 9 years in teen's malnutrition death." Norman's daughter, Makayla, died at the age of 14, weighing 28 pounds, suffering bed sores and other signs of ill health. Makayla had cerebral palsy.

This was not a "malnutrition death." Norman murdered her disabled daughter by abusing her, neglecting her and starving her to death.

Ugh, I don't even know what to say any more.

Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy

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I've been reading Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Remarkable Journey of Siamese [sic] Twins from Slavery to the Courts of Europe, by Joanne Martell. It's a biography of conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy, who were born into slavery in North Carolina in 1851. Owned/Managed by a variety of people during their lifetimes, they toured with sideshows in both the U.S. and Great Britain as singers and dancers. They died in 1912.

Continue reading Racism and dehumanization in a biography of Millie and Christine McKoy

50 Shades: what is this relationship based on?

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As far as I can tell, Ana and Christian's relationship in 50 Shades of Grey is based on the following:

1. Their mutual sexual attraction.

2. Christian's abusive need to control his partners.

3. Ana's delusion that she can somehow change Christian.

They don't really understand each other; they don't communicate well, and yet they love each other. Since they've known each other only several weeks as book 1 ends, I opine that they are feeling infatuation, but not love.

Even if they are in love, they don't seem to like each other. By that, I mean that they don't enjoy each other's company, unless they're having sex. I do not have high hopes for this relationship being satisfying for both partners for any length of time.

50 Shades: done!

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Just finished book 1. The ending is abrupt, resolving nothing. I suspect that E.L. James initially wrote a single, much shorter story that was then strung out into a trilogy upon acquisition by an actual publishing house. God forbid we ever have a single novel that tells a complete story. Everything comes in threes these days. It's an extremely irritating privileging of capitalism over story.

And now to rustle up books 2 and 3…

EDIT: Awesome! They're coming [hur hur hur] on Saturday. I should donate them to the local library when I'm done.

50 Shades: insight into Christian’s character

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Christian, on page 135: "I want you to become well acquainted, on first-name terms, if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I'm very attached to this."

Given the unusual lack of explanatory prose around this bit of dialogue, I think we're supposed to take this statement straight, at face value, without self-consciously mocking undertones.

Sorry, Christian. I can't take you seriously any more. Not only do you have a HUGE CLICHE for your favorite body part, but you also use the phrase "making the beast with two backs" as a synonym for "having sex." I have never heard anyone, much less a modern, 27-year-old dude from the U.S., use this phrase, Iago excepted.

James clearly has no concept of voice and how all people — and therefore characters — have unique, individual, internally consistent ways of expressing themselves.

NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera

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Earlier this week, I fired off an enraged letter to one of the authors of a NYT article about the death by suspicious fire of Lorena Escalera, a trans woman of color. The article was a vile cesspit of sexism, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, bias against sex workers, stereotypes, objectification, dehumanization, othering and probably many other forms of bigotry that I am not currently picking up on.

The NYT responded to the criticism with vacuous, unsympathetic justifications that positively reeked of unexamined privilege. GLAAD analyzed the paper's response, accurately describing many of its shortcomings. I should note that the GLAAD critique does not, however, recognize the NYT's bias against sex workers in the article about Escalera.

If the NYT really wanted to, as it claimed, "capture the personal [story]" of Escalera, why didn't it do what most writers of articles about dead people do and incorporate information from people who actually knew her? Some people among her social circle of friends, family members and fellow performers at the House of Xtravaganza would have provided comments on what they remembered her for and how much they missed her. Instead of interviewing the neighborhood ignoramuses who had no respect for Escalera as a woman or as a person, the NYT should have sought out quotes from people who saw her as she was: a fellow individual deserving respect. But no…the paper merely perpetuated multiple axes of oppression by selecting a narrative of dehumanization.

50 Shades of Grey: initial impressions

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I started 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, first in the 50 Shades trilogy, last night. The trilogy constitutes a very drawn-out romance novel with bdsm themes, starring Ana as an inexperienced college graduate and Christian as a 27-year-old CEO and millionnaire. 

Let me tell you, folks — it's a treat! And by "treat" I mean "a book in dire need of a ruthless and judicious editor." I found myself rolling my eyes up to thrice a page at some infelicity of style or bizarre authorial choice. I fear I'm going to sprain my ocular muscles by the time this book is through.

In no particular order, here are some of my observations after about the first 60-80 pages [I forget where I stopped]:

Ana has an unusual relationship with her inner monolgue, which she, in her first-person narration, inaccurately terms her "subconscious." Her "subconscious" repeatedly appears personified, tapping its foot and rolling its eyes at one of her stupid remarks, for example. This gives the unintentionally hilarious picture of a homunculus inside Ana's brain, providing MST3K-like commentary on everything she does. It's an interesting characterological device if you want to explore it, but, of course, James doesn't, so Ana's internal divide ends up revealing nothing interesting about her.

Furthermore, Ana's inner monologue sounds off indiscriminately, no matter what the needs of the story. It's almost always repetitive. For example, when Ana admires Christian's office building, she describes it as "impressive." Okay, she's impressed. We do not need to know that her internal monologue is saying, "Wow." Ana's inner voices have a reaction to every single event in the novel, mostly along the lines of, "I feel horrible for doing [insert embarrassing thing] in front of Christian." Since Ana's body language and speech, also detailed in the text, clearly demonstrate her chagrin, her thoughts add nothing to either the story or her personality. In fact, she ends up coming across as literal-minded, unanalytical and kind of stupid.

On another subject, Ana keeps tripping over her own feet and falling into Christian's arms. She should consult her primary care doctor about this. I think she might have problems with proprioception.

Speaking of Christian, he too is a very odd duck. He has the most labile emotions of any character I've met recently. His feelings change from paragraph to paragraph, as he vacillates between leering at Ana, freezing her out, then getting angry that she's not acting the way he wishes her to [which, of course, he hasn't communicated to her at all]. His actions are extremely unusual, in that most people don't cycle through emotions so rapidly. His transparent, fluctuating facial expressions suggest that he was inadequately trained in the socially acceptable methods of monitoring and expressing his emotions.

We know that Christian has some painful secret past, so it's possible that James intended his emotional instability to manifest his internal damage. However, given the way that James completely fails to recognize opportunities to psychologize her own characters, even as she's writing these opportunities into the story, I doubt that I'm supposed to be considering what historical effects led to Christian's emotional problems. More than likely, James wishes us to read Christian's instability as the seductive moodiness of a typical romance-novel alpha male.

On a related note, I see nothing but trouble for Christian in any sort of bdsm scenario. An ideal scene requires explicit, trusting communication between the participants about their roles, interests and dislikes. Christian would much rather impose his will on his partners, instead of initiating productive dialogue. He's the sort of creepy dom who would touch people sexually without their permission and probably ignore their safe words.

A particular incident between Ana and Christian set off warning bells for me about Christian's abusive traits. In one scene, Ana gets drunk for the first time and impulsively calls Christian. She has a short chat with him, at which point Christian flies off the handle and states that he is coming to pick her up. He tracks her location by using data from her cell phone call. Conveniently, Christian arrives just in time to save Ana from being raped by a "friend." Ana pukes on herself and Christian [that's what I think of him too], then faints, waking up in Christian's bed in her underwear.

Look, Mr. Grey — I don't care how "justified" you are [according to the story] with the assault and the puke and the sexual tension. You are stalking Ana by finding her through cell phone data. You are assaulting her by nonconsensually removing her clothes. Furthermore, you are a classic abusive personality in the first place for using her phone call as an excuse to control and confine her behavior. You really are a repulsive individual. And if you "quirk" your eyebrows or grin a "sardonic" grin one more time, I'm taking away your poetic license.

The same goes for you, Ana. If you don't stop biting your lower lip and saying "crap" and "double crap," there will be consequences.

Today’s hilarious simile

Today’s hilarious simile published on No Comments on Today’s hilarious simile

And now, for something more amusing, let's turn to John Scalzi's blog entry, "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," which begins:

I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

The entry itself goes on to analogize "straight white male" privilege as the easiest level setting in a video game. I sense some implicit Oppression Olympics going on in his analogy, so I can't recommend it unreservedly, but that opening comparison sure is hilarious.

Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Transmisogyny in the New York Times published on No Comments on Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Wow, the NYT is the gift that keeps on giving.

Lorena Escalera, 25, died in a suspicious fire in Brooklyn, NY, last weekend, and the NYT was much more interested in her body, her clothing, how sexy her neighbors thought she was, her trans identity, her occupation as a sex worker and her participation in the House of Xtravaganza performing troupe and other details not directly relevant to the case.

Pam's House Blend pointed out just a few of the problems in the coverage here.

I sent a form E-mail to one of the article's authors, Al Baker, containing the following:

Your coverage of this story is sexist, transmisogynist and generally disgusting. Your inclusion of Escalera's trans identity is irrelevant to the tragedy of her death by suspicious fire. You add insult to injury by quoting a neighbor who misgenders her. Furthermore, the details about Escalera's appearance and sex life add nothing to the story, except to reinforce the stereotype of trans women as objectified prostittutes. The dehumanization exemplified in this coverage directly contributes to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of trans and gender-variant people every year. We deserve better.

Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City

Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City published on 1 Comment on Racism towards Nepalese pedicurists in New York City

The NYT writes about Nepalese pedicurists practicing in New York City. These people, almost all women, face challenges if they move to the US. Some Nepalese women decide to go into the salon industry because licensure is affordable and relatively quick. When it comes to pedicures, however, some newly minted Nepalese salon workers balk:

Women in Nepal, especially Hindus, touch only their husbands’ or parents’ feet as a sign of respect, said Tara Niraula, an advocate of immigrants’ rights and a former administrator at the New School who was born in Nepal and is considered an expert on Nepalis in New York. To touch strangers’ feet is to show deference they have not earned, Dr. Niraula said, and to label oneself as low-class, or at least lower than the person whose feet are being handled.

A pedicure customer reacts to this cultural aversion with surprise and the following response: “You would think she was born to do this.”

Wow, how insulting. The customer's comment dismisses the salon employee's choices and hard work, not to mention the cultural differences and bigotry she endures. Instead, the economically privileged customer naturalizes a brown woman genuflecting in servitude before her by saying that the salon employee's skills seem innate. It's a subtle form of objectification that takes part of the same racist assumption that people of certain colors are just meant to be enslaved.

Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm

Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm published on No Comments on Appropriation of POC’s experience in Grimm

In the most recent ep of Grimm, Big Feet, a Wesen, or human that can change into a therianthropic form, has been killing people. Monroe, a Blutbad Vesen and friend of Nick [who is a police detective and protagonist of the show], harbors Larry, the killer Wesen, in his house. Larry is injured, but Monroe does not wish to take him to the hospital because then people will recognize him as a semi-human creature and persecute him. "I don't want crosses burning on my yard," Monroe explains to Nick.

No! Grimm does not get to appropriate the real-life terrorism experienced by African-Americans and apply it to fictional bestial characters, especially when the fictional characters are played by straight white men. The show might think that it's being clever by giving a historical resonance to the treatment of Wesen, but it's not. It's using the lived experience of thousands of people as a rhetorical gesture, a shorthand for persecution. That disrespects the violence and suffering that African-Americans have endured in real life and implicitly dismisses their lives as figments of imagination.

Thanks for Fangs for the Fantasy for alerting me to this phenomenon, which is a continuing problem for the series.

Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey…

Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey… published on No Comments on Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey…

…I ordered it, primarily because sources tell me it's based on Twilight Saga fanfic [!]. I had so much fun with the Twilight Saga [see "twilight" and "breaking dawn" tags if you really care] that I think I will at least have a little fun with 50 Shades.

Also, concerning 50 Shades of Grey, please see the related parody video by Flula: entirely ridiculous and safe for work. You're welcome.

Anti-BDSM AND misogynist!: Philip Galanes of NYT’s Social Qs

Anti-BDSM AND misogynist!: Philip Galanes of NYT’s Social Qs published on 3 Comments on Anti-BDSM AND misogynist!: Philip Galanes of NYT’s Social Qs

I read advice columns for the same reason I watch mediocre TV shows. I gain entertainment not only from the stories told, but also from the advice supplied by the columnist and, frequently, the commenters. Plus there's always the opportunity to castigate the TV show or the advice column for how good it could have been.

Before I go into critiquing the NYT's most recent Social Qs, let me just say that the only advice column I can currently take seriously is Captain Awkward. She's a person with no official credentials to tell other people how to live their lives, but she, along with the trenchant commentariat, manages to provide practical, straightforward, explicit, helpful advice to the questioners. Be warned, though; she does use sexist slurs ["bitch" and "dick"], as well as ableist adjectives ["crazy"]. Despite her failings, I approve of her generally open-minded approach.

Now back to my original subject. In the most recent Social Qs, a letter writer says that her daughter's future mother-in-law loves Fifty Shades of Grey, a BDSM romance novel. "As a feminist," the writer dislikes the books and wonders how to respond when the future MIL asks the writer what she thinks of the books.

Philip Galanes, author of Social Qs, advises the following:

Engage your future in-law, mother to mother. Steer clear of judgmental terms like “offensive,” but try to get to the bottom of her excitement. Say: “I’d hate for a man to treat me or my daughter that way. What do you think the big appeal is?” She couldn’t object, and it might start an interesting conversation.

Good advice. When someone asks you your opinion of something controversial with which you disagree, you can neutrally state that you have a different view and, if you're interested, attempt to start a more general discussion and go from there. Of course, you can react in other ways [for example, "I don't really feel comfortable talking about that" is also perfectly acceptable], but this is a polite option.

I agree with the advice, but I resent the snide tone in which it's delivered. Galanes spends one paragraph of four answering the writer's question and the other three making sneery judgments about BDSM. In effect, he undermines his advice to be respectful and tolerant about things you don't know anything about by being derisive and dismissive about a subject with which he is [clearly] unfamiliar. Wow, he's really shoring up his credibility.

Besides an anti-BDSM stance, I also detect some misogyny in Galanes' response. Romance novels are predominantly read by women and, for that reason, are frequently not taken seriously, especially by male critics. Galanes' incredulity that female readers could find romance novel tropes interesting seems to subserve his distaste with Fifty Shades of Grey.

P.S. We're not even getting into the letter writer's assumption that feminism is incompatible with BDSM.

Investigating a person’s sex as part of my job!

Investigating a person’s sex as part of my job! published on 1 Comment on Investigating a person’s sex as part of my job!

I was in the very awkward position today of trying to find out the sex of a coauthor of an article for which I was sending a revision letter. I wanted to include in the letter that the doctor needed to update their financial disclosure and wanted to give instructions on how to do so.

I couldn't use third-person plural pronouns or "his/her" because the company objects to those uses. In order to avoid really awkward phrasing, I wanted to find out this person's sex so I could use the correct pronouns, and the person's name was not giving me any clues.

I eventually found information about the person's sex and completed the instructions with the correct pronouns. This situation highlighted for me the English language's need for a broadly accepted gender-neutral pronoun. Third-person plural pronouns are fine to me, if only conservative institutions would stop having grammatical fits about them.

Interestingly enough, I mostly avoid the subject of people's sex in my job because pretty much everyone we deal with is a doctor, so we just address them by that title.

Bye bye, Alcatraz. Hello, more Grimm and Once Upon a Time.

Bye bye, Alcatraz. Hello, more Grimm and Once Upon a Time. published on No Comments on Bye bye, Alcatraz. Hello, more Grimm and Once Upon a Time.

Of course Fox canceled it.


It had absolutely no character development, but it sure was entertaining.

Meanwhile, in other news, Grimm has been renewed for a second season [on NBC]. Here's hoping that the show learns how to weave its meta-plot and mythology more evenly in with the stand-alone monster-of-the-week eps. I'd also like some well-developed female regulars, but I think that's asking too much.

Also renewed for another season was Once Upon a Time [on ABC]. How long will the show be able to string out its format of developments in Storybrooke, supported by flashbacks into fairyland? How will it perpetuate forward momentum without having Emma eventually break the curse and wake all Storybrooke residents up to their original fairyland lives? How will it develop sympathetic, fully three-dimensional female characters when all it's been relying on so far are stock types? The answers to all three are "it won't," "it won't" and "it won't." Man, that show annoyed me.

No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case

No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case published on 1 Comment on No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case

John Wallek, plumbing and heating inspector for the state's Public Safety Department, faces charges of stalking a much younger woman also employed by the state. Wallek harassed the woman at work, at home and online, messaging her with E-mails and Facebook posts for about a year, even after being told to stop.

For some reason, the Freeps interviewed Wallek, who stated, "It's all kind of bizarre. I just don't believe it has gone this far."

Look, folks — it's an embodiment of rape culture! Only in a society in which women are presumed heterosexual and automatically available to all types of attention from men, only in a society in which women's consent means diddly squat because, so many times, they are presumed to have granted it merely by existing, only in such a society would a man think that his possible conviction for being a misogynist ass would be "kind of bizarre" because it's going against the unstated expectations of man-woman interaction in this society.

Jeez, how "bizarre" is it that a woman wants to be treated with egalitarian respect and decency? It's mind-boggling. It's almost like…almost like…women are people too! Imagine that.

Suddenly, I bought more books!

Suddenly, I bought more books! published on 1 Comment on Suddenly, I bought more books!

Wow, this temporary free 2-day shipping deal with my Amazon Prime test membership is really liberating me to purchase books that I have long yearned to buy, but never gotten around to. Today's purchases include two books about conjoined twins [Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton], Sex Changes: Transgender Politics and The Development of Imagination [about paracosms!].

I'm quite curious about Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the story of Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins who were born into slavery in the US in the 1850s and became well-educated entertainers, dying in 1912. They were treated both as one person and as two. For example, their family called them Sister, but also gave them separate names. From what I recall of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, they had a joint sense of self, referring to themselves in the first-person plural. I look forward to finding more about Millie and Christine's concepts of their personhood as I read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

Conjoined twins fascinate me. In One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, Alice Dreger actually touches on two of my interests — conjoined twins and trans subjects — by discussing the case of conjoined twin boys who shared a set of genitalia. When they were separated, one boy got the penis and was raised as a boy. The other penisless boy was raised as a girl. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm eager to learn more about these twins, especially since their case addresses both non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery. [NB: Non-consensual genital change surgery rarely goes well. See David Reimer for details.]

Non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery both piss me off for the same reason. In both cases, people with abnormal bodies [either conjoined twins or people with ambiguous genitalia] are changed against their will. Guardians and/or medical professionals decide that the conjoined twins and the intersex people must be modified to find societal concepts of personhood. In the case of conjoined twins, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a single person must have a single body. In the case of intersex people, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a child's genitals must easily appear to belong to one sex or the other. So we cut them up because we have problems with them, not because they have problems with themselves. We disrespect the autonomy of such people and the self-acceptance that they show in the vast majority of the cases because we get queasy seeing two people share a body or a person possessing ambiguous genitalia. They're not wrong; they have no need to be altered; it's our narrow definitions of personhood that must be changed.

I can’t stop buying books!

I can’t stop buying books! published on No Comments on I can’t stop buying books!

Now that I have a month-long trial of Amazon Prime [free 2-day shipping!!!], I can't stop buying books. Yesterday I got Whipping Girl by Julia Serano and One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Dreger. Today I got Alison Bechdel's two memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Yum yum yum, so much to read!

Why does hypnosis go along with EFT [Emotional Freedom Technique]?

Why does hypnosis go along with EFT [Emotional Freedom Technique]? published on No Comments on Why does hypnosis go along with EFT [Emotional Freedom Technique]?

Looking on local hypnotists' Web sites, I see that several of them offer EFT services along with hypnosis. Why?

EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique, which is the theory that, by being poked in various places, people can cease bad habits, overcome negative emotions, cure sickness, etc., etc., etc.

Seriously, people?! Seriously?! Did you lose your critical faculties?

Maybe it's because they think that hypnosis is some magic panacea, instead of a nice little altered state where you can play with suggestibility and imagination.

Here come the gender police: “Dear Prudie” pisses me off yet again.

Here come the gender police: “Dear Prudie” pisses me off yet again. published on 5 Comments on Here come the gender police: “Dear Prudie” pisses me off yet again.

Recently a young woman wrote to Dear Prudie, Slate's advice columnist, saying that she is a self-described "tomboy" who dresses in casual clothes in accordance with the lax requirements of her job. Her boyfriend has been bugging her about wearing "more feminine clothes" and "makeup application lessons." He thinks her personal style makes her less employable. The letter writer wants to know what to do: "Should I change this about myself because he wants me to?"

Prudie answers by telling the letter writer a resounding YES. She advises the letter writer, "Dress for the job you want." In Prudie's view, this entails getting a personal shopper, visiting a makeup counter and reading Marie Claire and other women's magazines.

This incredibly stupid response enrages me. First of all, Prudie is collapsing two topics into one. The letter writer wants to know about how to deal with her boyfriend's campaign for her increased femmey-ness. She also mentions her boyfriend's belief that her self-presentation hurts her job prospects. Prudie rolls both topics into a single answer by focusing on the connection between the letter writer's style and her employability.

Let's separate out the two subjects: first, this "Dress for the job you want" stuff. I agree with the concept here, but I object to the execution. Members of the workforce today are expected to conform to ideals of professionalism, including adherence to an implicit or explicit dress code. Fine…follow the dress code. If you're in that aspirational phase of your career, it's always better to overdress than underdress.

However, Prudie assumes that aspirational dressing means going all femme. No, it doesn't. Less femmey work clothes for women exist, though they are few. I know because I am wearing them. 😛 Stop implying that "femme" is the only correct gender presentation for professional women, Prudie.

Second, let's deal with the letter writer's annoying boyfriend. He knows that the letter writer's gender presentation is more butchy rather than femmey, but he keeps trying to change it with a suspect justification about it affecting her employability. Basically, the letter writer's boyfriend does not accept her gender presentation, instead preferring to police it.

This is the real problem. Her boyfriend is trying to control her. Attempts at control combine with nagging to create resentment. Resentment leads to conflict and general nastiness.

Assuming good faith on the boyfriend's part, I have advice for him: He should express his preference and state his reasons once, then shut up about it and wait for a cue from the letter writer. If she wants to pursue his suggestion, fine. If she puts him off or ignores him [which it kind of sounds like she's doing], he should be perceptive enough to notice that she does not wish to pursue his suggestion, and he should keep his gender policing to himself.

I also have advice for the letter writer: She should consider the general concept of aspirational dressing, but ignore everything else Prudie says. She should pursue a change in her gender presentation only if that's what she's truly interested in, without anxiety or coercion. However, she should also know that her gender presentation is perfectly fine the way it is and that it is possible to be a butch professional woman. Either way, she should tell her boyfriend to quit with the gender policing. If he doesn't, she should get a better boyfriend, one whose head won't explode at the thought of a woman wearing a pantsuit to an interview.

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