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14 September
a better website for women voters
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As a counter to the godawful voting for single gals website I posted about a few weeks ago, I offer you 50 million women count.

It's a fact-based, action-oriented site that also happens to be simple and not egregiously ugly to behold (not a thing of beauty to you CSS fiends, but hardly enough of an issue to distract you from the content).

At some point, I'll have to contemplate why we have 50 million websites about how important it is for women to vote (there are many, many more examples beyond the sucky one I mentioned and this one). Couldn't everyone just pool their resources into one really really really good website?

 

escapism
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Over my end-of-summer vacation (which now seems to be aaaages ago), I finally got round to reading Michael Chabon's Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It is, as many promised me, the sort of book that seeps into your life as you read it. I found myself referencing it as if the characters were real, the way my high school friends analogised the people in our lives with the characters in Mists of Avalon a gajillion years ago.

So it should be no surprise that I started seeing my own relationship to my own media of choice in light of the ideas in the book - thinking about my own escapism, say (escapism, for the 2 of you who haven't already read this book, is pretty tightly wrapped around the plot, the themes, the people - it is, after all, a book about a comic book about a character based on Houdini and Jewish emigrants of 30s Europe). It is interesting to find yourself splitting a day between watching FoxNews covering the RNC and terrorism and reading Hothead Paisan in bed.

I don't think I got Hothead until this year. Hothead is about little girls. What I mean is. If you're fortunate enough to be able to pop open any random media outlet and see yourself, then there's absolutely no way this comic could make sense to you. But if you've been something like a little girl seeing a million representations of what you should be and few of what you are, or something like a little girl learning what rape is, it makes sense. Like all forms of escapism, Hothead speaks to your capacity for childish fantasy but also to the horror of childhood, the amplification of the great scariness of things. You remember being seven and thinking the world would end, right?

[Brief dance break while I explain the premise of Hothead to those of you who don't know the comic. Others forge on ahead. Hothead is a homicidal lesbian terrorist. She drinks coffee, watches tv, and freaks out, ends up doing things like pulling rapists spines out their asses (and other similar grossouts) and evincing a general loathing of men. Her acorn is some combination of an internal demon and television portrayals of women, her alterego is more or less herself sans gun, and her superhero powers seem to be rage and a talent for evading law enforcement.]

Comics and videogames and all the things we know best as "escapist" media are products of their time. They answer needs for fantasy - whether to dodge reality completely or imagine beating that which attempts to beat you. Grabbing a little bit of that fantasy is, I think, good for you. I've said that before. And the Hothead comics are very much a product of early nineties recognition of homophobia and sexism. They're angry, they're media-focused. They still make sense.

No, I don't mean that it makes sense to go butchering people to establish equality and justice for all (superheroes never make sense like that). But they're still a useful escape, where all the shit we're still protesting (to borrow a phrase from a friend) gets taken out with all the violence and anger you might feel.

It's something - not the only thing, hardly, but something - we need sometimes.

 

13 September
women drivers
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How come Helen Keller couldn't drive? Because she was female.
From Kerri's WHB post last week. Why do we have a persistent stereotype of women as crap drivers, particularly considering that men are statistically (at least by insurance companies) expected to be higher risks?

Vic posed an entertaining answer, advocating reverse sexism (sorta). I think she does have a point, that the joke is left over from a time period when women did less driving (whether that's universally true or just a stereotype of its own). It makes sense that this joke might be generational.

A sexist joke of this caliber never killed anyone, but I'm with Kerri - these annoy the hell outta me. They're not only offensive, they're not funny (even worse). I prefer humor of a drier, more sarcastic tone, things based on truth. The "women can't drive" joke is no more true than the "men can't handle household stuff" joke (which gets forwarded around madly as a "share this with all the women in your lives" chain letter waaaaaay too often). Maybe I'm humorless, because I don't find any of that class of jokes very funny; my usual response is "but that's not true!". Cause it's not.

So why do jokes like this stick around? Don't know. It's possible that they're partially results of resentment, or that they're simply representative of what some people think is true. It could just be, as Vic suggested, that stupid old jokes die hard.

 

09 September
whb : sexist entertainment
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Sez Miz Roni:

This question follows me everywhere during almost every day. How does a feminist deal with the fact that sometimes she just loves the groove of an anti-feminist singer/musician? I know we all shake our groove thing to some pretty bad songs, but how do you get over this hypocritical aspect of our lives? Or are you a good feminist and stay away from anti-women/sexist lyrics? [Read the WHB responses.]

Maybe my idea of anti-woman/sexist is too narrow, because I don't think of any of the music I listen to as anti-woman. If it is, I have never noticed. It could just be my musical choices, though - because I am someone who always pays a great deal of attention to lyrics.

There is the occasional alt-country song (almost always sung by a woman, oddly) about which I'll think oh no you din't, usually in response to some bitchiness directed at another woman. I'd be curious to see Roni's own response to that question because of that - I know she's a country music fan; not just the "alternative" stuff I listen to; if the mix she sent out this spring was any indication, she runs the mainstream country gamut, and some (not all!) of that stuff is wacky with stereotype.

But mostly, my music somewhat accidentally falls in line with my politics - er, at least when the lyrics aren't so poetic they shift toward obscure.

There are exceptions. There's actually a song [Bis' "Listen Up"] that's tangentially about the songs I'm talking about - the indie boy rockers' tales of girl problems; the ones that take up the Troubadour's legacy and place women on a pedestal of mysteriousness and subtle gender stereotype, the ones that encourage a stalkeresque "if I just keep sleeping on her front porch, she'll realize she truly loves me" mentality. I like the indie rock; I like these boys, but it bothers me that their idea of respect for women is so silly, that their ideas of love are sometimes so warped-sounding. None of these boys think they're sexist, but it's still irritating. Because they're representing what the indie boys and girls who aren't in bands are thinking, too.

That subtle reinforcement of "girls do this / boys do that" in our pop culture is as destructive in some ways as the "gonna go beat up a cop and bang a ho" stuff people complain so loudly about. At least the latter you know is supposed to be fantasy. But we demand both, don't we? They wouldn't sell if we didn't want those fantasies.

Speaking of indie rock (a relevant sidebar). There's a not insignificant amount of sexism present in the indie music scene, still, and the music inevitably reflects that, even in terms of the artists you hear about from some of the ostensibly independent music media. I offset this by making music choices based on the worst, most conservative view of Affirmative Action - I pick music based on Venus and other feminist mags, and therefore know next to nothing about new guy-dominated bands. But now I'm exhausting my commentary on the actual topic and riffing on it.

Another relevant sidebar - there was a band on the Today Show some months ago. It might have been Maroon 5, and was definitely one of those pop bands masquerading as indie rockers. The lead singer (male) sported a "FEMINIST" t-shirt. Our host asked him why he was wearing said shirt; he said essentially "cause it's all about the girls". That's right. I'm a feminist because I'm all about the girls. Although in this case, very hard to assess whether it was latent sexism or simple stupidity talking.

As a final relevant sidebar, if I diverge from the music topic a bit, I do consume quite a bit of media fluff that is, if not sexist, at least not fodder for la revolution. Like, pretty much everything fictional TWOP covers, movie and television. But that's a subject for another day.

 

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