Skip to content

Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck published on No Comments on Missed opportunities in Adam Cohen’s Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

This year, Adam Cohen came out with Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. Buck, a white, working-class Virginian, was raped by the nephew of the Dobbses, the bourgeois couple in whose house she was working. The Dobbses thus had her categorized as “feebleminded” and institutionalized in the Colony for Epileptics and the Feebleminded. There she attracted the attention of various assholes [Albert Priddy, director of the Colony, Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who drafted the Virginia law, and Harry Laughlin, veritable Nazi who served as expert witness for the prosecution] who wanted to use her as a test case to secure the constitutionality of Virginia’s recently passed eugenics law.

Like many other states at the time, Virginia was caught up in the burgeoning enthusiasm over eugenics. Ostensibly about improving the human race through selective breeding, eugenics was actually about breeding more straight, white, cis, able-bodied, rich, smart virtuous WASPs like us and keeping those defective, vicious, disabled, vacuous, non-white people out. Anyway, Virginia’s law allowed state-sponsored sterilization of people with various “mental defects.” Despite the evidence being made up entirely of unscientific, sexist, racist, ableist, classist lies, the Amherst County Supreme Court upheld it.

The assholes, however, wanted their law to be ratified by even higher authorities. Buck’s “defense” lawyer, who was so in cahoots with the opposing counsel that his picture appears in the dictionary under the definition of moral bankruptcy, appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The higher court upheld the appeal in 1925, and still the assholes carried bravely on. In 1927, Buck v. Bell went before the United States Supreme Court. The highest court in the land ruled in favor of state-sponsored rape, with a ringing endorsement coming from Chief Justice Asshole Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Three generations of imbeciles [Buck’s mother, also institutionalized at the same colony, and Buck’s daughter included, though no one had really tested Buck’s daughter’s mental abilities] are enough!”

Buck was re-institutionalized, given a nonconsensual salpingectomy, and not at all informed about the consequences of the operation. She was also deprived of the chance to form a relationship with her kid, who, for some reason, was being raised by the Dobbses, who institutionalized Buck in the first place. She was eventually released from the institution; she then worked intermittently as a household cleaner and seasonal orchard picker, married twice, apparently loved her husbands, and, when she heard about what the salpingectomy had done to her, always grieved her inability to have kids.

Laws such as the one tested in Buck v. Bell gained popularity, peaking in the late 1920s. The stock market crash of 1929 drew attention away from “mental defectives” and toward a horrendously tanking economy. It also didn’t help that the guy who served as eugenics expert witness in Buck v. Bell, Harry Laughlin, enthusiastically sucked up to the rising Nazi regime. Despite these factors and the expose of eugenics as junk science, legal eugenic sterilization persisted in the United States till at least 1983, when Oregon finally dissolved its Board of Institutionalized Bigotry Social Protection. In fact, Buck v. Bell remains “good law,” according to Cohen, and courts continue to cite it, even in this millennium, as justification for sterilization of disabled people. Indeed, the current fetishization of the genome and the rising popularity of genetic testing for disease markers both raise the unsettling possibility that the eugenics movement will pop up again.

Anyway, not only is reproductive rights a timely topic, but Buck’s story is a dramatic one, so Cohen has potent, pertinent material here. In measured, well-documented prose, he tells the story of Buck v. Bell with two chapters each on Priddy, Laughlin, Strode, and Holmes, bookended on either side by a chapter on Buck. He applies keen analysis to some aspects of the story, but totally misses other significant opportunities. Thus it’s an uneven book.

Cohen excels at his treatment of socioeconomic class, his analysis of Strode, and his takedown of Holmes. In terms of class, he is always attentive to the ways in which class pressures and expectations shape the players’ lives. He observes that the Dobbses’ push for middle-class respectability required the disposal of their working-class servant in a “colony” for the “feebleminded” when she had the audacity to be raped by the Dobbses’ nephew. He also demonstrates the influence of class in Holmes’ life; born among the socially conservative, neo-Puritan snobs of the Boston Brahmin class, he owed every single advancement in his life to the behind-the-scenes connections fostered by this good ol’ boys’ club. With details like these, Cohen ably proves that Buck v. Bell exemplified contemporary concerns about social class — in particular, the nasty poor people, with all their vices and feeble minds, becoming too numerous and steamrolling the awesome rich people, who were naturally smart and good.

Also particularly strong is Cohen’s portrayal of Strode, the lawyer who drafted the original Virginia bill and followed it all the way up to the Supreme Court. Scion of one of Virginia’s elite families and avowed Confederate sympathizer, Strode might at first glance seem to be a garden variety Southern bigot, especially with his hand in having nonconsensual sterilization enshrined as the law of the land. However, Cohen shows Strode as a complex figure, progressive in the areas of women’s rights and higher education, who probably didn’t even support eugenics at all. He purposely drafted the initial law to be as narrow and restrictive as possible, and, unlike Holmes, who wouldn’t shut up about his magnificent majority opinion, barely mentioned the whole subject of eugenics in his life afterward. Cohen makes these points not to garner sympathy for Strode, since Strode clearly chose to draft the bill and serve as prosecutor for the case, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Instead, Cohen’s portrayal of Strode’s ambivalence neatly encapsulates the country’s own ambivalence on the subject of eugenics.

Finally, Cohen does a masterful job of replacing the saintly ideal of Holmes with a more accurate picture of the man’s full character and motivations. While Holmes may be remembered for his aphorisms on free speech, Cohen argues that his upbringing as a member of the hierarchical, ancestry-obsessed, self-important Boston Brahmins largely shaped his political views. He was actually more of a pro-business, anti-civil rights conservative who regularly struck down or dissented on cases of reducing work hours for laborers or improving working conditions. He had an essentially passive, reactive view of the law, which was basically that it shouldn’t be socially activist in a way that changed policy, but that it should just execute whatever was passed until someone stepped forward to challenge it. This passive, socially disengaged perspective extended throughout his life; for example, he bragged about never reading newspapers and seemed to make a virtue of being clueless to events and trends occurring beyond the tip of his nose [except for eugenics]. Enamored with his self-concept as a brilliant, eloquent, accomplished genius, he chose to ignore the fact that his brilliance was completely untempered by compassion and social consciousness, his eloquence called into service for arrogant, venomous, mean-spirited opinions attacks, and his accomplishments largely the result of the socioeconomic class in which he was born. Cohen uses both close analysis of Holmes’ opinions and a close reading of Holmes’ private letters to effectively puncture the myth of Holmes as practically perfect. It’s very satisfying.

All this said, Cohen only tells part of the story. He fails to include material that would make his book even stronger and more convincing. His treatment of Buck, disability, and race are ultimately unsatisfying. In terms of Buck, though she has two chapters, just like all other major players, they are ultimately scant. For example, though Cohen refers to Buck’s elementary school report cards as evidence of her average mental capacity, he quotes them only once. Even more egregiously, when he has the chance to use Buck’s own words, he doesn’t take it. He uses the most direct quotes in the final chapter, describing Buck’s later years, including her efforts to have her mom de-institutionalized. Yet he also refers to Buck’s letters in general, commenting on the neat penmanship and only sporadic grammar mistakes. This leaves the impression that Buck produced a lot of firsthand documentation of her post-trial years that Cohen omitted, except for a superficial comment on Buck’s ability to hold a pen. For someone so insistent that Buck’s voice was never heard at all in these cases [beyond her statement at the initial trial “that her people” would “take care” of her, which suggests that she had no clue what was going on], Cohen certainly devalues Buck and her experiences.

My close reading of Cohen himself reveals telling details about why he silences Buck. He wants to depict her as a pathetic, innocent victim who did nothing wrong whatsoever and was totally betrayed by mean, rich men. To this end, he is obsessed with the adjective “helpless,” one of his most-used descriptors for Buck. Indeed, Buck was helpless before the straight, white, rich, cis, WASPy men who used their privilege to rape her, but she also had agency in other areas of her life. I understand that this book focuses more narrowly on the Buck v. Bell case, but Cohen’s exaggeration of Buck’s supposed helplessness turns her into a bit player in her own life.

Cohen not only fails Buck personally, but he also fails in his portrayal of eugenics in general by inadequately addressing the ableism and racism at work in its rise. Yes, I am aware that Cohen is telling the story of a white woman, Buck, who has no intellectual or physical disabilities. That doesn’t excuse, however, his omission of the ableist and racist implications of eugenics, as well as the ableist and racist purposes to which the United States put eugenics laws.

Beyond being a way for rich people to try to literally cut poor people out of existence, sterilization — and indeed the whole eugenics movement — was also against people with mental and physical disabilities. Cohen gestures toward this when he follows the history of sterilization laws, in which blind, deaf, and or “crippled” people were sometimes included as eligible populations. For the most part, though, he strenuously avoids a disability rights analysis. For example, his preoccupation with arguing that Buck wasn’t “feebleminded” seems particularly wrong-headed. Her mental capacity is important insofar as all the pro-eugenics people flat out lied in their claims that she, her mom, and her daughter had intellectual disabilities. But even if Buck and her family members were intellectually disabled, re-raping her via salpingectomy would be morally repugnant as a breach of her right to bodily integrity. Again, Cohen alludes to such ableist violations when quoting some anti-eugenics rulings, but he doesn’t face the infantilization and objectification of disabled people head-on. He seems more interested in stoking reader outrage by harping on Buck’s average intelligence, the implication being that institutionalization and forced sterilization of a person without disabilities is worse than the same fate for a disabled person. I smell ableism — and not just in the historical record, but in the historiography itself.

Finally, the whole concept of eugenics is a racist fallacy, pitting white/Anglo-Saxon/Aryan proponents against people of other colors with other racial identities. Cohen illustrates this well in his discussion of Laughlin’s sucking up to the Nazis, who, inspired by eugenics work in the United States, expanded the racism to genocidal proportions. Strangely enough, however, Cohen leaves out the racist practices fostered by Buck v. Bell that occurred in the U.S. As Nancy Gallagher capably shows in Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State, eugenics/sterilization laws disproportionately burdened not just poor people and/or people with [real or imagined] disabilities, but also people who weren’t white. In Vermont, the Abenaki Indians were seen as the racial undesireables and so particularly pursued for sterilization, but, in other states, other populations were victimized. Lack of attention to the racial minorities in the U.S. who were persecuted gives the unfounded impression that eugenic racism only happened over there in Germany, with those evil Nazis. No, it happened here too, and it’s vital to emphasize that it happened in the U.S. — indeed, pretty much started in the U.S. — because part of Cohen’s conclusion warns that the currents of eugenics may be at an ebb right now, but could easily swell again.

P.S. Cohen’s title, Imbeciles, also really rankled me. As I mentioned earlier, Buck was never categorized as an “imbecile,” but as a “moron,” both of which were official categories back then referring to putative mental age and ability. I assume that Cohen’s title derives from Holmes’ “three generations of imbeciles” bullshit and also the fact that “morons” just doesn’t flow off the tongue like the slightly longer “imbeciles.” Still, it’s a rhetorical flourish that’s factually incorrect. Furthermore, the placement of “the Supreme Court,” a group of individuals, right after the colon transfers connotations of “imbecility,” along with contempt and negative judgment, to the justices. Thus Cohen uses the tired ableist tactic of turning a term of intellectual disability, albeit outmoded, into an insult. In conjunction with Cohen’s problematic treatment of Buck’s intelligence and his general omission of eugenics’ ableist consequences, the title exemplifies Cohen’s own problematic perspective on disability.

Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht

Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht published on No Comments on Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht

Oomph!’s music video for the song is nothing novel, and the amount of time lavished on Marta Jandova acting like she’s in a third-rate shampoo commercial is abysmal when compared to the amount of time we see Dero Goi tied to the bed. There should be at least four minutes of the latter and two seconds of the former.


That being said, I, as usual, find Goi’s scenery chewing melodrama irresistibly hilarious, especially in this video, for some reason. I think it’s probably the bodily emphasis on his attempted rejection of the Macht of Sex: flailing, pushing, lurching.

You know, main character — if you’re slam dancing in denial, you might wish to re-examine the sources of your vehemence. I’m not advocating for a capitulative landslide here, but for the realistic appraisal of your interest in the subject, as clearly your zealous attempts at repression aren’t benefitting you.


But seriously…could the imagery in this video be any duller and more trite? And could the lyrics any further epitomize Baudelaire’s favorite trope, the Misogynist DeathSex? [Sample lyric: “Du blutest nicht genug für mich / Küss mich noch ein letztes Mal.” “You’re not bleeding enough for me / Kiss me one last time.” Implication: …Before I kill you.] Snore!


And now, for an antidote, Poi Dog Pondering’s Blood and Thunder.

NDH breaks mein Herz.

NDH breaks mein Herz. published on No Comments on NDH breaks mein Herz.

With regret and nausea, I’m going to suspend the assumption that Oomph! eschews Rammstein’s metric fuckton of misogyny. I mean — they’re both in the same genre [Neue Deutsche Härte, a.k.a. NDH, “New German Hardness,” or, more metaphorically, “A Good German Bang” or possibly “Teutonic Stiffie”]. Indeed, Oomph! was even seminal enough [see what I did there? <_< ] to influence Rammstein. Also they have a 2011 album called Wahnsinns fette Beute [“Insanity’s Junk in the Trunk”], so whoop de doo; I don’t particularly want to listen to that.

I really think there’s an opportunity here for NDH about something other than Misogynist DeathSex. I’m sure it exists; maybe I just haven’t found it.

Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism

Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism published on No Comments on Wait…that was supposed to be a smart sci-fi film? or, Ex Machina and Smug White People Feminism

I have no idea where all the reviewers of Ex Machina get off, thinking that it’s some novel, philosophical, highly intelligent piece of sci-fi movie making. It’s not. The first two thirds contain the insufferable misogynist bloviation of two straight cis dudes, objectifying all the female characters in the most blatant, unoriginal, and uninteresting ways possible. I mean, seriously — one of the robots, Kiyoko, is so objectified that she has no language, thus making her the ultimate silent, submissive, docile Asian woman stereotype. The last third of the movie contains the supposedly narratively inevitable consequences of their assholery, in which the women become scary and murder the dudes. Then all the women of color either die or sacrifice themselves so that the white woman can escape to her dreams of white-collar big-city life, and it’s all so tedious and sludgy and dull…except for the hotel where it was filmed. That was pretty. But aesthetically pleasing scenery cannot compensate for raging misogyny and racism.

This enraged critique of Ex Machina owes much to Sharon Chang’s incisive analysis, which goes into much more depth.

EDIT: And here’s a perfect example of someone analyzing queer subtexts in Ex Machina and completely failing to call out the racism and sexism. Sorry, Jeffrey Bloomer. I really don’t think that a white woman reconstituting herself from the bodies of women of color is merely a moment of queer transformation that should be celebrated. It’s also a reification of an ongoing colonialist project that should be acknowledged and critiqued.

Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself music video is a gas!

Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself music video is a gas! published on No Comments on Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself music video is a gas!

In this video, Billy Idol prances around on a junky, post-apocalyptic sound stage, proclaiming how he’s all alone. As he continues posturing and sneering in a hammy, macho manner, fans [?] dressed in grey, ragged clothes scale the walls and attempt to reach him, but he zaps them all away with electricity and continues to assert that he’s dancing with himself dammit! Undaunted, the fans climb up the walls again, gather around him on the sound stage, and start seriously boogeying down. Billy Idol ends the song insisting that he’s still all by his lonesome, but the effect of this statement is diminished by the sweet moves of the fans around him.


P.S. Yes, I am also aware of the misogynist themes in this video, like the silhouette of the chained woman dancing and the man sharpening his razor in preparation for killing her.

Cool robots don’t compensate for incoherent misogyny.

Cool robots don’t compensate for incoherent misogyny. published on No Comments on Cool robots don’t compensate for incoherent misogyny.

Tears of Steel, the Blender Foundation’s 2012 crowdfunded movie short done all in Blender, stinks. According to the premise, a dude who “just wants to be awesome in space” [Horrible Line #1] breaks up with a woman because he “won’t admit that he’s freaked out by her robot hand” [Horrible Line #2].

Forty years later, this rejection leads to an infestation of misanthropic killer robots. Humans are trying to brainwash the robots with a re-enactment of a more compassionate departure of Horrible Line #1 from Horrible Line #2.

The only reason I know this is because I read a plot summary online. I sure didn’t get any of that from the flat, atonal acting or the incoherent script. All I got was that women are irrational hysterics who are going to destroy the human race, but somehow an appropriate performance of heteronormativity is going to save it.

If you’re trying to establish a reliable system of parental relations…

If you’re trying to establish a reliable system of parental relations… published on No Comments on If you’re trying to establish a reliable system of parental relations…

…Patriliny is really not the way to go. I mean, seriously. For most of human history, we could not make absolutely certain who the biological father of a particular child was. However, the fact that biological mothers very frequently bear biologically related children made it pretty apparent that a certain mother was the biological parent of a certain child. Yes, I understand that now this connection is complicated by sperm donation, egg donation, surrogate parenting, etc., etc., but, for much of human history, you could pretty much depend on a biological relationship between a kid and the person out of whose body the kid was born.


If we used matriliny instead of patriliny, our current standards of reproductive control would make no sense. We wouldn’t necessarily want to police the behavior of childbearing people, girls, and women in general. We’d probably think that their reproductive experiences were open and honest, in comparison to the hidden — and quite possibly sneaky — actions of people with sperm, boys, and men in general. In fact, I can easily envision a deep distrust and disdain for people with sperm, based mostly on the fact that the results of their reproductive experiences are not necessarily obvious. To go even further, I could conjecture that this contempt for people with sperm would probably develop from a time during which the matrilineal people believed that childbearing people just had babies spontaneously and people with sperm didn’t have anything to do with it.


That would be a reversal from our current, actual attitudes toward childbearing people and people with sperm, and don’t for a minute think it would be any sort of improvement!



Baffling fashion poses for digital content

Baffling fashion poses for digital content published on No Comments on Baffling fashion poses for digital content

When I look at promo pictures for digital content on the Daz or Renderosity sites, I have to ask myself: What the heck is up with all the women sticking their fingers in or near their mouths? The parted lips, as if their mouths have just drifted open, the partly closed and unfocused eyes, the FINGER IN THE MOUTH AARRRRRGH… I think it’s supposed to evoke blow jobs, but it all combines to create an atmosphere of awkward absentmindedness.


This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Sleepy Hollow’s back!

Sleepy Hollow’s back! published on No Comments on Sleepy Hollow’s back!

I finally got to watch the first ep of season 2 this morning. Overall I feel a sense of relief that all significant characters introduced in the previous season remain in action.

Nicole Beharie as Abby and Tom Mison as Ichabod re-establish their easy, sympathetic chemistry. Their characters each have equal opportunity to rescue and be rescued by each other, a refreshing change from other male/female TV pairs in which the man does all the rescuing of the woman.

Jenny, Abby’s sister, has survived so far, giving Lyndie Greenwood a chance to play an important auxiliary to Abby and Ichabod. Even more unflinching and martial than Abby, Jenny contributes a satisfying level of physical ass-kicking, as well as great affection for Abby. Grounded by her relationship with her sister, Abby escapes the Exceptional Woman trope/trap.

John Cho and John Noble return to bolster the main characters with some stellar supporting performances. Cho’s sniveling, pathetic Andy, who alternates between helping and betraying Abby, decides to do the former in this episode. I hope he recurs, as I find his status as regretful servant of evil, who nevertheless performs good acts, interesting. Noble’s Horseman of War, also Ichabod and Katrina’s son [?!], lurks ominously, threatening people in the plummy tones of a classically trained actor, while picking scenery from between his teeth. I’m having a very, very hard time dissociating Noble from his 5 seasons as Walter in Fringe.

All that said, I do have some reservations. First of all, where was Captain Irving?!?!?!?! How dare you deprive us of Orlando Jones for an episode, especially right after he gave himself up to law enforcement? He’d better show up soon, along with his family too. Sleepy Hollow can’t just not show a whole third of the characters of color like that!

I particularly want to see Irving’s daughter Macey return and get some development. As a wheelchair user since getting into a car crash with her dad and then as a temporary vessel for some demon, she smacked a little too much of the Tragic Tabula Rasa Cripple last season. However, I think her brush with demonic possession could provide a chance for some character development. Maybe she could link up to the demon realm and give Abby and Ichabod some guidance therefrom? Of course, this will probably not happen.

Second of all, Katia Winter as Katrina, Ichabod’s wife, just gets the raw end of things. Despite billing Katrina as a main character, the show grievously underwrites her. For example, her fascinating past as a powerful witch who joined a coven dedicated to protecting the town — this aspect of her character dwindles over the first season as her status as pawn in the struggle between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman grows. Furthermore, where a person with more acting skills, like Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood or, heck, even Amandla Stenberg [who plays Macey], might add something to the role, Winter can’t even muster that. The stereotyped nature of her character just shows up how untalented she is. 

I eagerly await further episodes, however!

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts

Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts published on No Comments on Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts

The judge in the case against murderer Oscar Pistorius just found him not guilty of murder. As I predicted when I first heard about Steenkamp’s death, her killer got away with it because he’s a straight, cis, white, athletic superstar with the added bonus of having a disability, so, as an inspiring example of humanity overcoming wretched odds, he couldn’t possibly do something as vile as killing another human being. Ugh, the stench of white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege and ableism is nauseating.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Breaking news: Queen not as misogynist as other rock bands

Breaking news: Queen not as misogynist as other rock bands published on No Comments on Breaking news: Queen not as misogynist as other rock bands

I’m deeply saddened that I find this noteworthy, but I have to say that, in my albeit limited survey of Queen’s music, I have found remarkably little in the way of condescension, objectification and misogyny directed toward women in their songs. I’m still waiting in dread for the inevitable sexist stereotypes to crop up and drop my opinion of them, but so far they seem on a level with Men Without Hats. That is, they care less about slagging more than half the population and more about doing what they love: making music! 

Take, for example, Queen’s Killer Queen. It’s a character sketch of a rich, powerful woman who has expensive tastes and an indomitable will. After an enumeration of her expensive preferences in company and cuisine, the lyrics describe her as "Dynamite with a laser beam / Guaranteed to blow your mind / Anytime"  — i.e., she’s attractive and sexually powerful, but she doesn’t threaten, piss off or annoy the speaker. He calls her "dynamite," in the sense of "highly skilled at what she does," "sexy" and "explosively awesome." He wants her to blow his mind!

Even the verse in which she’s compared to a cat comes across as laudatory. While woman:cat similes tend to connote peevish competitiveness [cattiness] and sexual objectification [qua pussy cat], the simile here calls the woman "playful as a pussy cat."  The verse describes how she pursues the speaker avidly, then suddenly stops, "temporarily out of gas." The speaker recognizes that she’s playing a game — "all out to get you" — but doesn’t think she’s a cocktease or playing hard to get. No, he goes along, happy to play with the woman. The song ends with an acknowledgment of the woman’s irresistible effect on the speaker ["Recommended at any price"], as well as listeners ["Wanna try? / You wanna try…"]. It’s very obvious that the song Killer Queen is sung as a tribute by a dude who desires, respects and perhaps even loves a woman for traits that other people would probably deride.

…People like, for example, the Rolling Stones. The Stones’ analogue to Killer Queen would have to be Stupid Girl, in which the singer sketches a character similar to the Killer Queen. The woman in Stupid Girl dresses expensively, values material goods ["…she digs for gold"], pursues men aggressively ["…she grabs and holds"], etc. The singer even trots out a feline simile: "She purrs like a pussy cat / Then turns round and hisses back."  Heck, the Killer Queen and the Stupid Girl are probably the same person, just described from different points of view.

While the speaker in Killer Queen thinks that the woman is the best partner he’s had, the speaker in Stupid Girl absolutely loathes the woman. It’s right there in the title of the song! Finally, the comparison of the woman to "a lady-in-waiting to a virgin queen" implies that she’s close to power, but actually lacking it, really just a glorified servant. Furthermore, the virginity of the queen in the simile passes by association onto the woman, connoting sexual inexperience, coldness and inaccessibility. The speaker clearly can’t stand the fact that he desires this woman, so he projects all his hostility onto her and vilifies her for being interested in people other than himself. [Gee, I wonder why? He’s such a catch! :p ]

In my imagination, this is how the story goes: There’s a young woman — let’s say her name is Regina 😉 — born into wealth and power. She’s neither particularly good nor particularly bad, neither particularly selfish nor unselfish, just a person of average character. She really enjoys her material privileges, though. She knows that her wealth and attractiveness give her a certain license, so she exploits this in her active, assertive search for romantic and sexual partners. She always has the flashiest and latest and best and most expensive of everything, and she carefully, deliberately cultivates her status as trendsetter. She holds meetings with her staff, for example, where they go over long-range ramifications of, say, choosing vegetarianism. For another example, she has a panel of people who critique every outfit she wears, looking not only for high quality, coordination, fashionability, originality and daring, but also for rip-offs, appropriation, offensiveness, copyright infringement, etc. Regina has a reputation for being somewhat mysterious and reclusive, but this is mostly because she spends so much time analyzing every more in private before she makes it in public.

Regina’s work pays off. People wear what she wears, eat what she eats, travel where she travels, support the causes she supports, While not an actor or singer or model or fashion designer or hereditary titled person, Regina hangs out with all the coolest of all these groups, or, more precisely, they seem to hang out with her because they want her awesomeness by association. In short, she has become one of the most powerful people in the country. As a style icon, she has enormous influence to shape the most basic aspects of people’s lives, from the contents of their closets to their moral considerations. Regina shamelessly enjoys this power.

There are two people — let’s call them Freddie and Mick 😉 — who represent the divergent opinions that the public has about Regina. Freddie recognizes Regina’s achievements. He understands that people in Regina’s position are neither inherently sexy nor glamorous and that Regina has carefully crafted the role of style icon for herself. He realizes that the creation and maintenance of such a status requires a lot of time, money and energy, and he’s impressed by her ambition, acumen, intelligence and hard work. He notes that, while she does not have a traditionally defined profession, she has turned "style icon" into her own demanding, full-time job. And, of course, like many people, Freddie feels the effects of Regina’s glamour. Her quick movement through dating/bed partners just proves to him that she’s admirably lusty, playful, fun-loving, probably "dynamite" 😀 in the sack and exhausting to anyone she moves on from. He lusts after her; he has a huge crush on her; he thinks she’s amazing and really enjoys their friends with benefits hook-ups. If anything, he has a little hero worship going on that keeps him from seeing Regina as an imperfect person, like him.

On the other hand, Mick contemns Regina as an airhead heiress who does nothing and is famous for being famous. In his eyes, she wastes her fortune on trivial tokens of femininity, like clothes and cosmetics. Her assertive pursuit of sexual and romantic partners makes him think that she’s a slutty whore…and also a frigid b***h because she declined to date him after having sex one night. He hates her because she’s a woman who has the temerity to be happy without him in her life. It goes without saying that Mick is, of course, a miserable, wretched excuse for a human being. :p

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5. published on No Comments on Warehouse 13 closes with a lackluster season 5.

This truncated set of 6 eps provided no particular closure, no interesting character development and nothing particularly interesting. The overall flaccidity of the 6 eps just highlighted the show’s problematic aspects even more excruciatingly.

In no particular order, the problems were:

  • Steve. The show never did this character justice. He had great potential, especially as someone with the power of discerning whether people were telling the truth, but the show never really knew what to do with him. Without a tortured past full of secrets like the other agents [or at least not enough of the past for a multi-ep exploration], Steve had no grounding, no motivation, no hook. He also never really had anything to do except for to be Claudia’s best friend, to die, to be resurrected and to keep the home fires burning while everyone else ran away on adventures. He was a thoroughly dull and objectified damsel in distress type. I feel like the writers identified him by a cluster of traits — former ATF agent, Buddhist, gay, human lie detector — and just had him mention those identities occasionally in lieu of developing an actual personality.
  • While we’re on the subject again, let’s bring up homophobia, one of the show’s perennial failings. In 6.4, Savage Seduction, Claudia and Steve investigate a frat where the brothers are using an artifact to split themselves into two parts: studiers and partiers. Claudia and Steve’s quest started promisingly with Claudia grumbling about "kids these days" [even though she was the age of the students] and Steve’s revelation that he had been part of a nerd fraternity with "book group and holiday a cappella." Then Steve got a hold of the artifact and turned into two Steves, one of which was usual Steve and the other of which was a painfully swishy stereotype. Where did that come from? Steve had never shown any indication of harboring painfully swishy stereotypes. It could have been interesting if those were his long-buried fears about what he might have to be when he found out he was gay, but nah — the show just played swishy Steve for laughs. Claudia also made a passing remark that she liked swishy Steve "a little bit more" than usual Steve, which was indicative of the show’s whole treatment of Steve’s sexuality: it was only ever developed jokingly, with reference to stereotypes, even if Steve was bringing them up to say that he differed from them. The show could not take him as a gay guy seriously and invested way too much prurient energy into his sexuality.
  • Speaking of sexuality, the show also capitulated to cultural pressures of heteronormativity. After five seasons of him being annoyed at her exactitude and her being annoyed at his immaturity, Pete and Myka realized that they loved each other. Well, that was pretty obvious. But why did they have to end up as a romantic couple? They may have loved each other and worked well together, but they were not characterologically compatible, so why did the show hook them up? Boring, boring, boring.
  • Furthermore, racism featured prominently in Warehouse 13’s final season. It was like they crammed all the racism that they hadn’t gotten to into a single truncated set of 6 eps. There were the gratuitous "g***y" references with the fortune tellers in the Ren Faire ep. There was the trash heap of "fiery Latino" stereotypes in the telenovela ep. Then, in the last ep, Leena, who was bumped off for no reason at the end of season 4, was given a flashback scene in which she foresaw her own death in the Warehouse and then, when Mrs. Frederic said that she would try to prevent it, said to her, "But it’s okay." No, you stinkin’ show — do not try to retroactively sell me on the useless death of one of the show’s two main characters of color. I won’t buy it.


This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

She did it to offend YOU personally.

She did it to offend YOU personally. published on No Comments on She did it to offend YOU personally.

Yes, fashion blogger and nitpicker extraordinaire Mary Fischer. Sarah Jessica Parker wore sandals and socks the other day just to make YOU barf. She knows that your delicate constitution can’t handle such sins against fashion, and she maliciously plotted to upset your stomach. She’s evil. So am I.

someone who won’t wear sandals WITHOUT socks

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Ravishing Rachel Life Size Sculpture from Design Toscano

Ravishing Rachel Life Size Sculpture from Design Toscano published on No Comments on Ravishing Rachel Life Size Sculpture from Design Toscano

I kind of pity the copywriters for Design Toscano. They have to make all that tacky shit sound alluring and justifiably high-priced. Look DT — you either want things like a suit of armor t.p. holder or you don’t. You’re preaching to the choir. Don’t waste your limited stock of two-bit adjectives on us.

Take, for example, a sentence from their copy for Ravishing Rachel [who’s in the Sexy Temptresses category, along with the ass-flaunting Temptress Witch Christmas Ornament]:

"Cast in quality designer resin, this large-scale, display-quality indoor sculpture transforms any home bar, entertainment area or recreation room into something truly magnificent!"

"Quality designer resin": as opposed, I guess, to all that shitty, no-name resin that floods the market these days?

"Large-scale": Isn’t that redundant, given that the title indicates that it’s "Life Size"?

"Display-quality": Seriously…why would you buy a Technicolor rendition of a very stiff, cartoony woman flashing her tits if not to display it?

"Transforms any home bar, entertainment area or recreation room": So you’re admitting that your target consumers for these are sleazy misogynist straight white cis dudes who throw around obscene sums of money in an attempt to compensate for their utter lack of redeeming traits? Superb! I’ll take 10!!!

"Truly magnficent": I don’t think that is the word you’re looking for. May I humbly suggest "alarming"?

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

“Science” “proves” “women” “like” “men” with bigger “penises.”

“Science” “proves” “women” “like” “men” with bigger “penises.” published on No Comments on “Science” “proves” “women” “like” “men” with bigger “penises.”

 NBC is covering the story! Bullshit ahoy!

I don’t have the energy to parse this right now, but I do have to say that my favorite quote is this:

…Women may be looking for orgasms, which, in turn, Mautz suggested, may serve a pair-bonding function. In the recent book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction Bullshit Topped with Bullshit with Bullshit a la Mode for Dessert (which I co-authored crapped out of my ass), Emory University neuroscientist Larry Young argues that the big human penis evolved into a tool meant to stimulate both the vagina and cervix as a way [to] trigger the release of oxytocin in a woman’s brain, activating bonding circuits. 

BONERZ = WUV. It’s science, dipsticks!

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Desperately seeking irrelevance

Desperately seeking irrelevance published on No Comments on Desperately seeking irrelevance

I conclude that Slate keeps around certain commentators [Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, William Saletan] precisely because their uninformed, reactionary blatherings piss people off. That’s the only reason I can think of. I mean, surely no one takes these clueless blowhards seriously?

This week’s bloviation comes from William "Pointless and Sententious" Saletan’s column on The Trouble with Bondage. That’s bdsm, by the way, and the article discusses the reasons why bdsm will never go mainstream.

I thought the reason was that the majority of people weren’t interested in it. But no, silly me. Saletan’s article, as near as I can figure out, goes something like this:

blah blah blah lifestyle blah blah blah voluntary pursuit of pain wtf?! ewwwwwwwww blah blah breath play is dangerous blah blah anti-feminist sickos who like rape scenes blah some people take it to extremes blah blah I have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’m just going to call bdsm "consensual domestic violence" and cash my paycheck blah blah blah lifestyle choice.

As a human being with a functioning sense of decency, I find it repulsive that Saletan trivializes intimate partner abuse by using it as a metaphor for something it has nothing to do with. Way to go, you picayune, misogynist fuckhead. I’m glad to know that you’re more interested in making false equivalencies than dealing with actual deleterious symptoms of kyriarchy.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey.

Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey. published on No Comments on Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey.

Here’s a perfect example of that bigotry in this BJD-related confession.

See Julie Serrano’s Whipping Girl for an analysis of the bullshit going on here.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

How not to write, part seven zillion and one in an infinitely extensible series

How not to write, part seven zillion and one in an infinitely extensible series published on No Comments on How not to write, part seven zillion and one in an infinitely extensible series

I picked up Eon by Alison Goodman after reading some laudatory reviews on Amazon and also being marginally intrigued by the concept, in which a young woman adopts a boy’s identity to compete for the chance to communicate with dragons and wield great magic, which is, of course, reserved for men. Of course, Eon wins the chance to communicate not just with any dragon, but with the super special awesome Mirror Dragon, the most powerful of all. Then she becomes involved in imperial politics, and eventually the fate of the emperor’s succession and the kingdom depends on her. Of course it does. :p

I did not expect this book to be quite so shitty. It really reminded me of The Diviners in that it was a textbook example of how not to tell a story.

Do you need to learn how not to write, kids? Okay, then pay attention to the following precepts, in no particular order.Continue reading How not to write, part seven zillion and one in an infinitely extensible series

WTF, U2?

WTF, U2? published on 2 Comments on WTF, U2?

You’re nice to listen to on occasion, despite your sick views of heterosexual love, but sometimes I really don’t get you. For example, in So Cruel, you sing:

Oh love, like a screaming flower
Love, dying every hour

Seriously? What does that even mean? I assume you’re talking about Bob the Angry Flower, but that really doesn’t make much sense.

…Oh. I get it. You just wanted something to rhyme with “hour,” didn’t you?


Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals?

Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals? published on 1 Comment on Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals?

Warning: Coercion, disregard for autonomy, objectification, misogyny, etc., etc., etc.

I just read about yet another one in Slate, wherein technology columnist for the New York Times David Pogue made a fake movie trailer about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then, as the Slate columnist L.V. Anderson writes,

"In case you don’t have the inclination to watch the video: He produced a five-minute movie trailer for a fake romantic comedy based on his relationship with Dugan (starring two good-looking Broadway actors in the lead roles), which he convinced a movie theater to play for Dugan (and all of their families, plus some unwitting strangers) before a feature-length film. He hid three cameras around Dugan’s seat before she sat down so that he could record her reaction. At the end of the trailer, he led her to the front of the theater, gave a short speech about how wonderful she was, and asked her to marry him."

Longer coverage [and the horrible video] here:

So, not only was it a public proposal, but it was a secretly recorded public proposal. She was under SURVEILLANCE. Even ickier, as Anderson points out,

"Pogue timed the filming of his faux trailer in such a way that Dugan had to say yes in the span of about two seconds, or else the trailer would stop making sense. (He’d humbly pre-recorded a jubilant celebration.) "

There…the subtext has become the text. Pogue [and, by extension, all of the other guys who engage in this public proposal crapola] expects his fiancee to agree. At the same time, with Pogue's proposal, as with others, the assent from the fiancee is actually irrelevant. As the rigid structure of Pogue's fake trailer demonstrates, it's all about the happy day of the one who proposes. The expectation of the fiancee's yes gives her no room to say anything else. The show must go on! Let's have a party, for the guy has just acquired a new accessory [=wife]!

Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism! published on 1 Comment on Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Grimm is back for a second season, and it's still incredibly stupid. The latest episode, Bad Moon Rising, follows our protagonist, police detective Nick, as he chases a gang of coyote Wesen [= therianthropes]. The gang leader kidnaps his teenaged niece, Carlie, who, along with her parents, left the pack when she was very young. The gang leader plans to rape Carlie, as is apparently customary for coyote Wesen to increase the numbers of their pack.

Continue reading Grimm: now with even MORE stupidity, misogyny, rape apologism and classism!

Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]… published on 2 Comments on Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

The default shading colors for its 3-D digital human models make the people look Caucasian. Like this:

Continue reading Poser 8 is so racist [and misogynist and anti-androgyny and anti-trans, not to mention ableist]…

Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness

Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness published on No Comments on Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness

Just finished the third book in the Sonja Blue trilogy, Paint It Black by Nancy Collins. Kinda funny how she took the title from a Rolling Stones song that was more original, memorable and deeply felt in a few verses than the entire Sonja Blue trilogy was in 3 books. Anyway, I think there was something in there about Sonja's consummation of her quest for vengeance against her vampire maker, but it was lost in an incredibly tedious string of rape, murder, murder by rape and rape by murder that was trying hard to pass for plot.

I was mostly reading the book because I was curious to see how Sonja's adopted vampire/human hybrid daughter Lethe would turn out. When Lethe went into a cocoon, popped out as a teenager after a few weeks and raped her adoptive father [Sonja's partner], then flew around the world [without a plane], raping 24 other guys, with the goal of producing some sort of master race with super psychic powers, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the complete vacuity of the whole enterprise and its venomously misanthropic, morally bankrupt imagination. It was bad because it was stupid and stupid because it was bad.

I swore an oath to myself that I wouldn't swear any more in my LJ, but I have to break that oath now because the Sonja Blue trilogy was the shittiest shit that ever shat. It's an offense to good writing, good plotting and good character development. It's an offense to all people of any sex and gender presentation, but especially women. It's an offense against anyone who believes in kindness, respect, humanity and fairness. It's an offense to originality and creativity.

I've concluded that it's not actually a trilogy. Instead, it's an actively destructive vortex of hostility. It's a testament to the sad depths of banal depravity of the human imagination. It's a diseased mutation of novels, a literary cancer born from kyriarchical nastiness. It's deeply revolting on every level — line by line, cliche by cliche, regurgitated theme by regurgitated theme — and potentially damaging. I live in the kyriarchy; I already experience multiple axes of oppression daily; I don't need the inhumane dicta of the kyriarchy concentrated and injected directly into my amygdala in the form of this trilogy.

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to read a series that hates you and enjoys doing so, I heartily recommend the Sonja Blue trilogy. You can have my copies. Take them, please. I would burn them in cleansing fire, only I don't think there's any place around here where I can do so without violating some sort of city ordinance. Barring that, I'll settle for tossing them in the Dumpster or recycling them in the vain hope that the pages might contribute usefully to society in their next life.

I don't just hate this trilogy. I reject it. I repudiate it. It represents all the vile oppressions against which I struggle every day. This trilogy is just one of my many enemies and oppressors.

I will not let it win.

The Sonja Blue trilogy by Nancy Collins: damn…this series is misogynist!

The Sonja Blue trilogy by Nancy Collins: damn…this series is misogynist! published on No Comments on The Sonja Blue trilogy by Nancy Collins: damn…this series is misogynist!

A while back, when I still lived in Massachusetts, I was housesitting overnight at someone's house. I found some cheap paperbacks by Nancy Collins there — Sunglasses After Dark and In the Blood — and read them quickly, staying up late. They followed the adventures of Sonja Blue, a reluctant vampire trying to suppress her monstrous nature, which she termed "the Other," while also taking vengeance on her maker and ridding the world of supernatural menaces along the way. Back before urban fantasy devolved into a set of cliches, this trilogy [capped by Paint It Black] entertained me and made an impression on me in the way that Sonja's vampirism was portrayed as an alien entity in her head against which she struggled.

Harboring happy memories of this trilogy, I recently got all 3 books off and settled in for a bit of fun. I quickly realized that the Sonja Blue series is a) full of cliches [not urban fantasy cliches, but cliches in general] and b) horribly misogynist.

Speaking of a), I don't even know where to start. All the characters are stock types, and they all speak exactly as expected. For example, the British pimp spews a debased version of Cockney slang ["ducks?" "guv'nor?!"] dreamt up by someone whose experience with the British idiom extends to a single viewing of Disney's Mary Poppins. The oleaginous evil dude makes a suave proposal to our male protagonist of In The Blood that's all ominous inneundo and silly euphemisms. I could go on, but I'd exhaust myself in listing the ways in which the characterization is lazy.

Speaking of b), the series doesn't come right out and hate women blatantly, but it does so in more insidious, structural ways. Sonja moves in a world where most of the people she meets are men, while the women are usually reduced to sexualized window dressing. The one exception, her main antagonist in Sunglasses After Dark, Caroline Wheele, is defined as the widow of a charismatic evangelist [she killed him] for whom, with her psychic talents, she was the power behind the throne. When Caroline dies, the spirits of her victims pull her to pieces, reducing her to an insensate object in the very way that the author reduces all female characters.

The trilogy apparently really hates sex too. Any sex scene is one of transactional exploitation, without any appreciation or emotional connection. Sexual and psychic violation forge both Sonja's and Caroline's personalities, and they go on to perpetrate the same abuses on others. Actually, now that I think about it, there's almost no sex acts in the trilogy. It's all rape, all the time. Anyone whose perspective automatically makes sex an abuse of power has a serious problem. Of course, the trilogy's hatred for sex ends up being a hatred for women, since all the women are reduced to sex objects.

Finally, Sonja herself is constructed as a misogynist character. She doesn't hate — or at least tolerates — male characters, with whom she occasionally forms mutually beneficial relationships. But she really doesn't like other women. At best, she feels comtempt for them, at worst, as with Caroline, hatred. Furthermore, Sonja is that most tedious of types, the Exceptional Woman [see my criticism of Brave for details], whose value only lies in her repudiation of her status as a woman and her embrace of pursuits and skills coded as masculine. Blah blah blah yuck.

I'm finishing this trilogy, and then I'm getting rid of it.

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

She’s passive-aggressive and he’s clueless! Perfect match!: sexism in The Muppets published on No Comments on She’s passive-aggressive and he’s clueless! Perfect match!: sexism in The Muppets

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.

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.

On what planet…

On what planet… published on 4 Comments on On what planet…

…are this man's twee, self-congratulatory, crabby, misogynist, ageist, sizeist, arrogant ramblings relevant? He seems incredibly put out by the fact that he's NOT a fashion-designing brain in a tank. We get it. You loathe people [except for yourself] and think that human physicality is revoltingly icky. Now do us a favor and keep your venomous bile to yourself.

What the hell is this poop?

What the hell is this poop? published on 1 Comment on What the hell is this poop?

Via Shakesville, this “editorial” is not only sexist, misogynist and essentialist, but it’s also completely incoherent. This is my favorite sentence, primarily because it makes no sense:

Anyone serious about thinking through the role of women in today’s civilization is doing worthless work unless they take the controversies on the right hand in hand with the unsuccessfully suppressed tensions on the opposite side of the spectrum, where disagreements far more volatile in their profundity roil respectable liberalism.

How does bilge like this even get published?? This is some of the worst writing I’ve ever come across in my life, and I’ve seen some doozies.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit. published on No Comments on Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
Continue reading Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

“I like my women better as furniture.”

“I like my women better as furniture.” published on No Comments on “I like my women better as furniture.”

How awful is this commercial? Not only does the male protagonist clearly privilege the alcohol over the woman, but he doesn’t give a care that the woman is smothered in the couch. That’s not funny.

Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires!

Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires! published on No Comments on Hooray, more misogynist, homophobic commentary on vampires!

Brian McGreevy on Vulture [for New York magazine] vomits forth a puerile lump of garbage with his opinion on popular portrayals of vampires in True Blood and the Twilight saga:

"Much has been made of the damage inflicted by the ‘male gaze’ in film, but what of the female gaze? It’s taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial. We are now left with the Castrati vampire: This is pornography for tweens, as well as a worrying reflection of our time."

Reading this screed, one can’t help but think that McGreevy is just pissed that a vampire series written by a woman has become so popular. He seems to think that the Twilight saga is wretched just because it represents a young female character’s point of view. I mean, God forbid that someone address a pillowy fantasy novel to the vast hordes of ravenous teenaged girls and young women who form the Twilight saga’s primary audience! No no, books should be written by manly men only about manly male subjects, such as Romantic vampires with really big schlongs.

I never thought I’d be defending the virtues of the Twilight saga, a series that I find insidiously sexist and intensely problematic, but there it is. No, Mr. McGreevy, the sex of an author is not a legitimate subject for one of your irrelevant tangents about how biliously poxed with prejudice your brain happens to be. How the sex of an author informs his or her writing is indeed pertinent, but criticizing an author for being a certain sex just proves the source of the criticism [that’s you, sir] to be a bloviating bigot.

Supernatural hates women.

Supernatural hates women. published on No Comments on Supernatural hates women.

How much evidence must I draw together to prove my conclusion? Every single female character of note has been killed off by the cruelly misogynist calculus of the show, leaving a single-sex colony of gruff, bitten men to save the world, which, in the Supernatural universe, has no women in it.

The cavalier contempt with which the show dispatches its female characters really revolts me. Its most egregious murder of women occurred when the show offed its most sympathetic and universally loved female character, Ellen Harvelle, and her daughter Jo in the episode this season where Sam and Dean tried [and failed] to kill the Devil with the magic gun that never kills anything. After multiple seasons of development, during which the audience grew to like and appreciate Ellen and Jo, the two were killed gratuitously in a failed mission. They died for no greater cause or purpose besides the show’s inability to countenance a live woman. Misogyny kills, even in narrative form.

Why do I keep watching this show?

EDIT: So I hear that Supernatural has been renewed for a sixth season, which makes me wonder what sort of plot arc can come after the Biblical apocalypse. Anything after that will seem small-scale and jejune. I won’t be tuning in. Bye, Supernatural.

Down for the Count costume: stupid, sexist and an insult to all decent vampires

Down for the Count costume: stupid, sexist and an insult to all decent vampires published on 4 Comments on Down for the Count costume: stupid, sexist and an insult to all decent vampires

If you see anyone wearing this costume, flee immediately in the opposite direction, or you may be inflicted with misogynist douchebaggery. The porno-worthy pun is bad enough, but the inflatable female as accessory just puts this costume into new realms of badness.

Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

Putrid gender politics in Brimstone published on 2 Comments on Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

All righty, so I’ve been watching Brimstone. It’s a canceled show with John Glover [the awesome! also gay!] as the Devil goading on some guy with a fascinating nose. The guy is Ezekiel Stone, who went to hell for killing his wife’s rapist. Now back from hell, he has a second chance at life on earth if he can round up 113 escaped souls and shoot out their eyes, sending them back to hell. Continue reading Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!!

Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!! published on 1 Comment on Don’t let a misogynist homophobe give Obama’s inaugural invocation!!

Use this information collected here at Shakesville to let the organizers of the inaugural ball know that you too disapprove of misogynist homophobe Rev. Rick Warren’s selection to do the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. Pass along to your friends!

Here’s what I sent to Emmett Beliveau,, the CEO of the inaugural committee:

Dear Mr. Beliveau:

I am writing to express my strong displeasure with the choice of Rev. Rick Warren as the one to perform the invocation at President-Elect Obama’s inauguration.

As a woman, I find Warren’s anti-choice views misogynist. Warren’s inclusion in a prominent position at the inauguration represents hypocrisy on the part of the Obama-Biden team, who ran on a platform advocating women’s reproductive freedom.

As a queer person, I also find Warren’s homophobic behavior despicable as well. His anti-marriage “slippery slope” argument equates gay marriage with incest and rape. How can Obama, who has said on record that he supports gay civil unions, condone Warren’s bigotry by letting him give the inaugural invocation?

Warren’s narrow-minded intolerance should have no place at an event supposedly heralding positive change. Choose another speaker for the invocation, one who truly represents the liberalism, hope and open-mindedness to which the Obama/Biden team has so frequently appealed.

Oh hey sexism against Palin! aka Salon is not progressive.

Oh hey sexism against Palin! aka Salon is not progressive. published on 2 Comments on Oh hey sexism against Palin! aka Salon is not progressive.

As illustration for a dipshitty article about "Mistress Palin," the dipshits at Salon added a dipshitty Photoshop of Palin dominating a moose, which is supposed to represent the country.Continue reading Oh hey sexism against Palin! aka Salon is not progressive.

More anti-Palin sexism

More anti-Palin sexism published on No Comments on More anti-Palin sexism

Oh joy, there’s more misogynistic goodness added to my SocIm post about anti-Palin sexism, including more heinous examples contributed by commenters. There’s enough material to criticize her on, including her anti-choice, pro-guns, anti-sex-end, pro-abstinence, politically corrupt, nepotistic wheeling and dealing. One’s sex is not a point of criticism, mockery or contention. Grow up, you stupid bigots! Man, I get so exhausted at societal stupidity sometimes. 

I hate Family Guy.

I hate Family Guy. published on No Comments on I hate Family Guy.

A post at Sociological Images about the gendering of sperm and egg in popular media got me thinking. I just saw the “brave little sperm” trope on an episode of Family Guy this Monday. Stewie, the hyper-intelligent, destructive, child genius, was celebrating his first birthday. He reminisced about his life in the womb and before, when he was apparently a tiny pilot in a sperm-shaped aircraft [see YouTube clip].

Stewie’s flashback showed him piloting his sperm ship toward the egg and firing at it in a scene reminiscent of the scene in Star Wars where Luke tries to explode the Death Star. He think thinks about being sucked in and “trapped” inside the egg. The relationship between sperm and egg is shown as adversarial, the egg evil, hungry and encompassing, not unlike a vagina dentata.

Of course, this flashback occurs in the context of a cartoon in which everything is supposed to be exaggerated and humorous. However, the fact remains that the humorous exaggeration is presented with gratuitous violence and misogyny. You might argue that violence and misogyny are part of Stewie’s character, which they are, but the flashback does not develop Stewie’s violence and misogyny in a way peculiar to his personality. Instead it just recycles wholesale a tired, sexist cliche about human reproduction.

And this is just one of many reasons that I hate Family Guy.


You don’t douche? No wonder you can’t get laid.

You don’t douche? No wonder you can’t get laid. published on 4 Comments on You don’t douche? No wonder you can’t get laid.

From Duke University’s Ad*Access, a digital collection of many ads from the 20th century, comes a 1950 ad for Zonite vaginal douche. Playing directly on fears of ostracism, the ad warns that dire consequences will befall those women who do not douche: “homes broken up, few social invitations, the feeling of being shunned without knowing WHY!” Beware, ladies — heterosexual HELL will be yours unless you harass your vaginal canals with a liquid that removes the self-cleaning mucous secretions of the canal walls themselves and leaves you susceptible to infections. Your husband won’t want to have sex with you; no one will even want to talk to you; society will collapse, and it will all be YOUR FAULT.

Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork. published on No Comments on Michelle Obama Sexism Watch keeps an eye on the bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

With Barack Obama cinching the Democratic nomination for President, he and his family now suffer even more scrutiny and bullshit from those who can’t bear the thought of a black guy in the world’s most powerful office. Michelle Obama Watch, a newly instituted blog, stays on top of one form of prejudice in particular: those attacks directed at Michelle Obama and the “wee Michelles” :D, Sasha and Malia. Stay on top of the poo-flinging from all quarters with this rapidly [and tragically] expanding Web site.

P.S. Ever since developing a minor obsession with the notoriously shielded Chelsea Clinton, who moved into the White House when she was a teenager just a few years younger than me, I’ve been particularly vigilant about the mainstream media’s use of Presidential or possibly Presidential kids. I supported the Clintons’ decision to privatize Chelsea as much as possible, and I continually applaud Chelsea’s opacity and reserve in the face of the press constantly asking her stupid prying questions. I think that her parents’ attempts to create a Poo-Flinging-Free Zone around Chelsea in her childhood allowed her to develop into the tough character that she is today. Now that she is an adult and the anti-poo shields are down, she clearly has a force field of determination and composure that allows her to resist the intrusive idiocy of the mainstream media.

I see the Obamas creating the same Poo-Free Zone for Sasha and Malia. While Sasha and Malia appear with their parents at campaign events and while their dad refers to them in interviews, both Sasha’s mom and dad protect them from direct interrogation. They also do not exploit their girls as campaign symbols. I have hope that they will keep such vigilant protection around Sasha and Malia for as long as the Obamas remain in the political arena, not because the wee Michelles 😀 are delicate feminine flowers that can be shattered easily by animosity, but because they are kids who deserve a healthy environment in which to grow up. A healthy environment means one in which they can build realistic self-concepts without people constantly questioning and criticizing them.

All of this is to say that one of the recent entries in the Michelle Obama Watch especially unnerves me. It’s the entry about an artist whose exhibit, The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama, included a picture of Sasha and Malia labeled “nappy-headed hos.” It’s bigoted and stupid and racist and objectionable to launch such nasty aspersions at any member of the Obama family, but it’s especially bigoted, stupid, racist and objectionable to use these terms to describe the Obama daughters, who, as children under the age of all marks of adulthood [voting, driving, drinking, consenting], are minors without power or recourse to defend themselves from such stupidity. The artist’s statement that he wanted to “raise dialog” about “substantive things” misses the point that name-calling people who are littler than you actually kills the opportunity for civil discourse, even if you think you’re doing it ironically. Inflammatory language like “nappy-headed hos” makes you look like an insensitive douchebag who’s so out of touch with reality that he doesn’t realize the punishing power of language, especially when wielded by the powerful over the powerless.

I’m trying to think of a tag for entries that discuss “race,” ethnic background, skin color and related stereotypes, bigotry, beliefs, etc.

Just in case you weren’t convinced that PETA thinks women = meat…

Just in case you weren’t convinced that PETA thinks women = meat… published on 1 Comment on Just in case you weren’t convinced that PETA thinks women = meat…

Feministing links to a recent PETA  “demonstration” outside City Hall in Memphis during Vegetarian Week. With a mostly naked man and woman splattered in red paint and wrapped in plastic wrap on an 80 degree F + day, PETA is apparently demonstrating that inhumane, degrading treatment of non-human animals may not be okay, but inhumane, degrading treatment of people is perfectly fine. Mike Brown, photog for the Commercial Appeal, who photoed the event, agrees with me on the astounding levels of hypocrisy and sadism demonstrated in PETA’s stupid, sexist tactics. Aforementioned photo is below the cut. Take the link about Mike Brown for complete context. I previously discussed objectification of women as meat here.


Great show, but…

Great show, but… published on 2 Comments on Great show, but…

If you want to see a show driven by the power of all-around masterful performances married to a strong, character-driven storyline, check out American Gothic, now available at Hulu. It is an ensemble story of sweet Southern corruption in which forces both good and evil fight for control of a young boy’s soul.

On the good side there’s recent Yankee transplant Matt Crower, played with quiet self-possession by Jake Weber, who is such a dry and gentle character in Medium, haunted by his wife and child’s death in a DWI accident he caused. There’s also Gail Emory, investigative reporter, played by Paige Turco with brooding dignity reminiscent of Yancy Butler at her best, returning to town to look into her parents’ suspicious deaths 20 years ago. The boy himself, Caleb, is played by 10-year-old Lucas Black in a startingly intense performance [I love those little, low, dark eyebrows!] that’s pretty realistic for a TV depiction of a 10-year-old boy.

On the evil side there’s schoolteacher Serena Coombes, played with sexy, slimy relish by Brenda Bakke. And there’s Lucas Buck, played by Gary Cole, who is my latest favorite actor. I first noticed him as the Boss From Hell in Office Space, Lumberg, but here, in the starring role, he really gets to show how hellish he can be. As the classic devil, Buck’s character operates on fear, doing good things for people, then asking them to pay him back, or else they meet gory demises. He also has an unnerving habit of popping up whenever someone is thinking about disobeying him. He creates a black hole of influence that it seems impossible to escape from.

The cheesy special effects and fast-motion weather hammer this point home, but Cole’s eternally genial front really makes the character work. Even when he’s threatening you, Buck does so in a gentlemanly way, which makes his cruelty even more effective and insidious. Cole plays Buck with a certain broadness that comes from his comedic experience, but he also projects such charisma and power that Buck always remains a magnetic and menacing presence. It’s a magnificent performance.

Not a perfect show, by any means, American Gothic suffers from a dearth of fully fleshed female characters. While all of the male characters have multiple dimensions, the women remain kinda flat. Gail’s the Plucky Gumshoe archetype, and Merlyn, Caleb’s dead sister, is the Pure Moral Compass archetype. Tertiary characters are also problematic. In Damned If You Don’t, for example, Carter Bowen and family do a favor for Sheriff Buck, which entails letting an escaped con into their house. Said con goes after 15-year-old Poppy Bowen. Wife Etta Bowen ends up dead. I strongly objected to the way that Poppy was portrayed not by the con, but by the SHOW itself, as a Lolita-licious sex object.

For example, she was shown performing suggestive oral maneuvers on a Popsicle while squeezed into a porch swing with the con. The way in which this scene was shot suggested that Poppy was doing a preview blowjob on some food in an attempt to seduce the con.

Camera lingers in slow-mo here on Popsicle held by ex-con.

For another example, camera panned from her feet, up her legs, to her chest and head as she slowly entered the swimming hole, objectifying her in a way that, say, Gail is never objectified.

You should see how interested the camera gets when she starts hiking up her dress so she doesn’t get it wet.

In the end of the ep, it is revealed that it’s Etta that the con is after. So the pornographication of Poppy was…what? A red herring? As far as I’m concerned, it was gratuitous and deeply disturbing because everyone was out to objectify her, from Buck, who wanted to give her a job in his office and “take her under his wing,” to the con, who was feeling her up, to the very camera angles themselves. Despite obviously having sexual exploitation as its theme, the ep refused to examine the subject and instead just cranked up Poppy’s sexiness, thus making the viewer complicit in Buck and the con’s attacks on Poppy. No irony or commentary here either — we’re just expected to agree that Poppy is a hot little slut who brought misfortune to the family by being too damn sexy.

Barska binoculars puts “the ‘king’ back in ‘stalking.'”

Barska binoculars puts “the ‘king’ back in ‘stalking.'” published on No Comments on Barska binoculars puts “the ‘king’ back in ‘stalking.'”

The two ads for Barska binoculars are part of a print trio that trivializes stalking. From Ads of the World, as noticed by Shakesville. To compound the creepiness, the supposedly female stalker is actually a guy in drag [note Adam’s apple], a move that adds extra layers of dismissal and degradation. While some commenters opine that the series is creepy [see Shakesville comments], sexist and stupid, the majority seem to think it is funny [see Ads of the World comments or that it deserves “kudos.” No, it doesn’t.

Stvpid Svedka.

Stvpid Svedka. published on 2 Comments on Stvpid Svedka.

As a follow-up to my analysis of Svedka Vodka’s stvpid ads targeted toward straight viewers, here’s an equally pathetic attempt by the same company to target gay viewers. 

According to the copy, Svedka Vodka is right up there with clipping your toenails, taking out the trash, watching paint dry, doing laundry and all those other value-neutral activities that gay men would rather be doing than having sex with women. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. Heck, I don’t even think this endorsement can reach the bell. If it does, it just bounces off like a foam ball, having made no sound on impact.

Svedka Vodka: Making useless, gratuitous, confrontational and meaningless comments about your sexuality since 2006.

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears! published on 2 Comments on Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

I got this for Copyranter, a copiously illustrated stream of snark about modern advertising. Fun fun.

Last year Svedka Vodka [?] advertised on phone booths in New York City with some transgender robots. Svedka_Grl, a cute robot, claims, “I’m a gay man trapped in the body of a fembot.” I don’t buy it. He should just be able to buy some mechanical attachments. If humans can modify bodies that they feel trapped in, why can’t robots who are made to be modified?

I will accept the trope of using the objectified female form to sell something unrelated, like alcohol, but why mention gay men? To do so puts the viewer’s mind into a series of mental contortions to figure out what exactly that means. [It means that the bot will come on strong to straight guys because it’s a “trapped gay guy.”] It may be memorable, but it’s not clever or humorous or useful. [Here’s an example of a funnier use of transgender imagery — offensive, yes, but also funny. Incidentally, why is it the vodka ads that show such penis-o-phobia?] Svedka apparently wanted to put “gay” in there to be edgy and hip, but they come across as copywriters flinging words wildly against a wall to see what will stick.


Rug…Tiger…Pants…What? published on 1 Comment on Rug…Tiger…Pants…What?

“It’s nice to have a girl around the house. Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her.

After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart! If you’d like your own doll-to-doll carpeting, hunt up a pair of these he-man Mr. Leggs slacks. Such as our new automatic wash/wear blend of 65% Dacron and 35% Rayon — incomparably wrinkle-resistant. About $12.95 at plush-carpeted stores.”

The depressingly literal illustration of the above 1970s ad copy is below.

Let’s see. Woman as uncivilized, incoherent, domineering animal? Check. Male/female relationships as conquest and dominance? Check. Woman as inherently submissive and masochistic in contrast to man as inherently dominant and sadistic? Check.  Woman as shallow and manipulated by physical appearance? Check. Man as superior? Check. Woman as object? Check. Implications of non-consensual sex with another person? Check. Implications of sex with animals? Check.

This whole ad makes me envision walking around on a floor paved with Barbies dressed in leopard print. It also makes me think of “These boots are made for walking…” It also makes me think of Pushing Up Daisies, in which the main character, who can resurrect dead things by touching them, had the misfortune to have a romantic tryst on a bearskin rug, which, of course, turned back into a bear and wrought havoc. [Exit, pursued by a bear…]

Seriously, though, this ad appears to me as a disturbingly convincing illustration of a woman’s nightmare: immobilized by headless corporate man, deflated and reduced of all strength, humiliated and objectified.

P.S. I am trying to discern the woman’s expression, but the photo is too small for me to tell. Any clues?

“If your husband finds out you haven’t been store-testing coffee…”

“If your husband finds out you haven’t been store-testing coffee…” published on 2 Comments on “If your husband finds out you haven’t been store-testing coffee…”

…Then kinky sex results??!?!?!?!? I swear that this picture looks like what happens after the very end of Secretary, when Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character puts a bug in James Spader’s character’s book [?] specifically for the purpose of provoking a BDSM scenario of “punishment” later. I say this because the scenario looks so obviously staged [notice how neatly the woman’s hair is styled], and she appears to be faking a look of distress while actually smiling. I found this ad on the community vintage_ads, which contains boundless beautiful examples of the art used to sell things.


Masculinity as fear

Masculinity as fear published on 2 Comments on Masculinity as fear

I don’t have time to go into detail about this topic, but I do think it’s interesting. As I know from personal experience, the state of being culturally construed as a woman basically boils down to fear: fear that one will be taken advantage of by those culturally construed as men. At the same time, those culturally construed as men have their own fear: fear that they will lose their power. What pathetic, anxious cowards the patriarchy makes of us all!

I was prompted to the masculinity=fear equation by an excerpt from Robert Jensen’s Getting Off: Porn and the End of Masculinity, as posted on Here is the conclusion of the excerpt:

Pornography knows men’s weakness. It speaks to that weakness, softly. Pornography ends up being about men’s domination of women and about the ugly ways that men will take pleasure. But for most men, it starts with the soft voice that speaks to our deepest fear: That we aren’t man enough.

Maybe I’m just sensitive to the anxieties of masculinity because I’m writing about a guy who is firmly convinced that he is not man enough and, interestingly enough, uses porn to try to prove himself to himself.

The sad, ironic and really insulting anti-abuse ad

The sad, ironic and really insulting anti-abuse ad published on 4 Comments on The sad, ironic and really insulting anti-abuse ad

 If you really want to see an offensive ad, check out Kabayanihan’s anti-violence print ad below the cut, courtesy of AdverBox. 

The ad contains outlets labeled Wife, Partner, Soul Mate, Confidant, Spouse, Friend, Better Half, Companion, Cover Up, Concubine, Servant, Punching Bag, Vagina. A plug is in the outlet labeled Vagina. The text nearby says, “How some men think of women.” Then it says in smaller letters, “If you are a victim of abuse, please report to Hotline number 603 2143 3361 and we will help. Kabayanihan.”

Where do I begin detailing the stupid, sexist, reductionist attitudes operating in this ad? First of all, let’s start with the symbolism of plugs and outlets. While the women are represented by white outlets of pure vacuity, the man is represented by a black plug. As something that can fill up holes, a plug is an aggressive phallic object. The black color connotes that its power is a negative, dangerous one. This is actually not a bad symbol for the sort of domineering, sexually aggressive man who is assumed to be battering the female consumers of this ad.

While the man=black plug equation works well, the symbolism for women in this ad is problematic. Women are represented as white outlets. Outlets are holes that wait on the wall for something to be stuck into them, or, in other words, to be used. The symbolism of the outlet implies that women are passive, exploitable victims, even if they are held in esteem by men as Friend or Better Half. The color white also brings to mind purity, innocence and emptiness, which makes women not only actionless and limp, but also blank and lacking in substance. So, basically, according to this ad, women are full of negative connotations.

You could argue that it is only the male abuser sees women as white outlets full of negative connotations, but that’s not precisely what the ad says. Remember that the ad text states that it is showing how “some men” perceive women. “Some men” think that women are just Vaginas. But, the ad implies, there are other ways for men to perceive women, as indicated by the alternative white outlets. However, please notice how the whole grouping of outlets is NOT a subset of a wall containing a myriad of outlets including Sister, Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Cousin, Acquaintance, Role Model, Goddess, Fag Hag, Medium, Dominatrix, Object, Pest, Earth Mother, Bluestocking, Dyke, etc., etc. The whole grouping of outlets is neatly centered in the photo, arranged so that it forms a discrete, total, complete set. The ad, in effect, says that these 14 ways are the only ways in which men can perceive women. So, to get back to my topic sentence, it’s not just the male abuser’s view that women are a yawning void of quiescent, dependent boringness; it’s ALL men’s views of women. Even the perspective labeled Confidant is still, yes, a white outlet, meaning that even the more positive views of women in this ad are contaminated by the demeaning, infantilizing symbolism.

The underlying structures of this ad are bad enough, but even the surface messages are blatantly misleading, overly specific, confusing and just plain wrong. For example, the fact that there is just one plug in the Vagina outlet suggests that ONLY those men who see women as Vaginas abuse women. Also, the fact that the plug is in the Vagina outlet, denoting a sexual orifice, defines sexual abuse as the only type of abuse extant. First, men who see women as Concubines and Cover Ups and, yes, even Wives, also abuse women. Second, there are more types of abuse than just sexual abuse. Am I the only one who is revolted by the casual use of the term Punching Bag in this ad? The fact that the Punching Bag outlet does NOT have a plug in it seems to imply that men who see women as Punching Bags, that is, men who hit women, do not abuse women, since abuse, according to this ad, does not include hitting. This ad has an extremely narrow focus that seems to exclude verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, assault and other forms of abuse besides sexual, not to mention abuse of wives, friends, friends, prostitutes [Concubines], children, elders, basically any woman who is not listed among the outlets. What kind of abuse is this ad thinking of, then? The kind where a stranger attacks and rapes an unknown woman? Such cases form a statistically small percentage of abuse cases. You are much more likely to be abused by someone you know, a relative, friend or acquaintance. Nowhere does the ad accommodate this brutal reality.

Imagine the effect of this ad on the target population: a woman who has been abused. I can envision a woman whose husband jealously controls her phone calls, yells at her when she burns toast and hasn’t had sex with her in two years because he’s been having affairs. This woman is in an abusive situation, but it is quite possible that, thanks to this stupid and confusing ad, she might not call Kabayanihan to get the help that she desperately needs. The ad is clearly talking about men who sexually objectify women as Vaginas, but our hypothetical viewer doesn’t think that designation applies to her, first, because she’s obviously a Wife and, second, because her husband has not had sex with her in two years. Also, because the ad speaks of “men” in general as the perpetrators, when in reality the perp is usually a friend or relation [thus the violence could more properly be called “domestic”], the hypothetical viewer may feel she is excluded because the ad is talking about strangers, not family members. The viewer hurries to return home, where her husband throws an empty beer bottle, hitting her in the head, because she was five minutes late setting the table. And another misguided ad campaign fails to reach out to the very people it’s trying to help. In fact, you could even make a case for this ad being potentially alienating, rather than inclusive.

What’s really sickening about this whole business is that this is an ad for ANTI-abuse services. The help promised by this ad is supposed to empower women [I assume] to cope with the aftermath of abusive trauma and leave abusive situations if they are stuck in them. But instead it’s just a further depressing reminder of how limiting male conceptions of women can be, how invisible domestic violence is and how helpless many women [whether they are abused or not] feel in a world where the threat of male violence against them is almost constant.

Heineken Draught Keg robo-woman ad: sexist?

Heineken Draught Keg robo-woman ad: sexist? published on 1 Comment on Heineken Draught Keg robo-woman ad: sexist?

I’ve never commented on ads before, although I’ve always enjoyed Ms. magazine’s back page where the inflammatorily sexist ads are rounded up for my viewing pleasure. However, I was poking around online, reading about the controversy [as, for example, on the blog of Bob Garfield, columnist for Ad Age] over the Heineken draught keg TV spot … In this ad, the robot woman supposedly does a C section on herself and brings a draught keg out of her uterus.

For the record, I would like to say that I am truly torn about the ad.

Every time I try to watch it to see if it’s sexist, I am continually distracted by the sexy, mechanically lissome forms of the robotic women. I also like the techno music, even if it’s a ridiculous ditty about popping the flip top or whatever. Anyway, after repeated viewing [for research purposes!!], I opine that the sexism in the ad does not come from the keg=uterus equation because the location of said keg is nowhere near the robot woman’s uterus. It appears to be keg=small intestines. 

The sexism at work here is nothing new. It’s just your tired, old, run-of-the-mill objectification of women as inanimate objects [robots] whose sole purpose is to sacrifice their own desires so that they may cater to the tastes [for draught keg contents] of the implied male viewer. In fact, the image in the commercial of a woman emptying herself for a man while keeping a constant smile is actually a disturbing reification of many women’s experience. Socialized to abnegate themselves, women may try and try to please other people, draining themselves of energy, until they are as empty as used beer cans. While the images used here are distractingly sexy, the underlying message is a terrifying turn-off, yet another example of how Heineken’s execs underestimate their target audience [hey, hetero men, you don’t want female companionship, just a fembot-like servitor!], insult women and leave everyone feeling demoralized and worse for wear.

Or maybe it’s draught keg=abdominal cavity. In any case, as you can clearly see, it’s way too high up in her body to be the location of her uterus.

The Ur-Fairy Tale, or, Putrid Sexual Politics

The Ur-Fairy Tale, or, Putrid Sexual Politics published on 2 Comments on The Ur-Fairy Tale, or, Putrid Sexual Politics

Where can you find a girl that nurses a unicorn, a dragon that speaks like a stereotyped Chinese and an evil guy named [just in case you missed that he was evil] Coeur de Noir or Blackheart? It's all in the early draft of Legend, that overstuffed 1984 fantasy train wreck in which Tim Curry is the best thing and, shuddersomely enough, Tom Cruise without pants is NOT the worst.

The Loremistress has so obligingly given me a link to my favorite draft script of all time, that of 1984's Legend. 

"Your wish is my command. 😉 Behold the early script for Legend!

The Rampant Bicyclist"

I don't even know where to begin with this one. Besides being 400 hours long, it's also a slag heap of cliches that are so overworn that they turn into stereotypes. And the sexual politics are PUTRID. Lili, the princess, is seen as a good character only when she is a pure, innocent virgin. The appearance of her sexuality [in a fascinating transformation and rape scene with the Baron, a precursor to Darkness] coincides with her turn toward evil. The revulsion towards women as active, sexual, desiring individuals just emanates from the page.

Go read it!

Primary Sidebar