Friday, July 16, 2010

I feel so ashamed...

...but Bravo's Work of Art makes me want to blog about reality TV again. But! It's hard, because as ready to "take sides" as I feel (the fact that one "side", as I see it, includes Ryan, Mark and Erik - the macho, egotistical, often vaguely homophobic, transphobic and misogynist dudes who hate on the hot girl everyone's desperately trying to treat like a dummy despite her current climb and the one non-normative-ish male who gets called a "pussy" for having insomnia and, I don't know, wearing sweaters and mumbling? is making it so easy.), I know this is a show and they edit this shit to death in order to create drama, and beyond that, this is probably not how this people would actually treat each other if left to their own devices (i.e. not in a contest, not on television, not on edge all the time).

Jaclyn made this point with a great blog post about how unnecessary Erik's exit was, if it weren't for producers messing with him.

They also edited out scenes of Jaclyn doing math, but left in the scene of Erik claiming she brought everyone snacks. A real mystery, what they're trying to do there...

Ok. Forget the drama this past episode (and the way it carried into twitter, which is why I included Mark on that list of people I'm jumping to side against). I want to talk about my problem with this show in general.


WHERE ARE THE QUEERS, BRAVO? Do you forget why I and an enormous portion of your audience started watching you in the first place? Of course you have. You're a soulless reality machine now. After Queer Eye ran out of juice and Project Runway ran out on you, it's all housewives and fashionistas and straight, straight, straight people who want to do violence to each other. You're so far from home. Kathy Griffin is all you have left, and you can only absorb the residual queer off of her. Bravo, if Work of Art gets another season: QUEERS. And don't you DARE Zulema them out this time. I'm still pissed about that.

Seriously. The most shocking thing about the "shock art" episode was how shockingly fucking heteronormative Ryan has to be to think dressing up like a "tranny hooker in bondage" is innovative and outrageous, instead of casting him as an immature bigot totally devoid of an original thought.

I am OVERWHELMED but how straight this show is. I can't think of an artist I know who isn't queer! Art and queerness go hand in hand. But if any of Work of Art's artists are queer, the subject has been avoided. Forget this evil editing bullshit, next time, just. hire. queers. We make good television.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Valuing Fat

I really loved this post over at FWD/Forward (if you haven't checked them out: do! They put out a steady stream of awesome). I thought of it today in my biology class. We weren't about disability or mental health, but about fat.

My professor was listing things that are good about fat. Which is great! Fat is not intrinsically bad! In fact, we need it!

But during the talk about what is good about fat, she used the phrase "Unfortunately, women have more body fat than men". Women have more of this thing I'm trying to tell you that your body needs: unfortunately.

She directly followed that sentence with: "That's why if you go to Sea World, for example, the pearl divers you see are female." Which, is, cool! This is a thing women can do better than men because they're fat! This is a situation in which we must reframe what we value! This is a context in which something that we usually see as a burden, is a gift! SO COOL.

If only you hadn't completely defeated that point in your previous sentence.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Christopher Street Boys Are Badass

I'm all about the idea that if we "accept" differences without valuing them, it's not really progress. (i.e. I'm for women's rights - they just have to act like men because girly feminine stuff is sissy and weak and frivolous. I'm for gay rights - I want gay people to get married because a marriage is the only kind of relationship that should have protections and rights. And so on.)

Naturally, I totally loved this video by Jay Smooth about the idea that anything gay = weak. When, really? Christopher Street Boys (and Girls and Otherly Gendered Folk) are badass.

Transcript below the cut (which hopefully works now!):

"Christopher Street Boy." Larry Johnson, the running back for the Chiefs, got into an argument with a fan on twitter this weekend - which is always a smart thing to do - and in the midst of this argument, Larry Johnson called this fan a fag, and then he said "Christopher Street Boy. Is what us East Coast cats call u." Christopher Street Boy. Now, Larry Johnson, I gotta ask, what is it you think Christopher Street Boy means, exactly? Because I don't think it means what you think it means. I'm guessing have a vague idea Christopher Street is associated with gay people, and in your mind gay means weak, so you thought that was a good way to insult somebody. But that's not exactly what Christopher Street Boy means. So since I am also an East Coast cat, I'm gonna try to help you out, and break down some history for you.

Christopher Street is associated with gay people, mostly because of something called the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots happened in 1969 in a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, which like most gay bars back then used to get raided by cops all the time, because cops thought it was their job to harass gay people. But on this particular night, at this particular gay bar, these particular gay people decided that they were not having it. And they went outside the bar and fought back for the first time against these cops. And they fought back so hard against these cops outside the bar? That ten cops had to run back in the bar and lock themselves inside to hide from the crowd. This gang of ten cops was hiding from the people who you call Christopher Street Boys. And then, when those cops called a whole bunch of back up, that crowd of Christopher Street Boys, and Girls, had a showdown in the street with all of that backup, that went down in history as the Stonewall Riots and gave birth to the gay rights movement. Which means, Larry Johnson, that when you call that guy a Christopher Street Boy and you think it's a clever way to call him soft and wimpy, you're actually talking about people who are famous for winning a bar fight against a GANG OF COPS. You're talking about people who started a movement by showing the world gay DOESN'T mean weak. You're talking about people, Larry Johnson, that were way tougher and more courageous than you will ever be in your life. That is who Christopher Street Boys are.

And I'm not saying you don't have a right to speak! I'm actually rooting for you to keep on tweeting. I want you to jump in that social media hole and keep digging, so that the Chiefs will finally be forced to put your crappy two-yards-per-carry ass on the bench. And then I can start using your backup on my fantasy team. That would be great for me.

But I still felt like I should pass this message on to you, because as a representative of the East Coast Cat coalition, it's my duty to let a fellow member know you were slipping on this one, and you need to tighten up.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Loving Because, Not Despite

Today is Love Your Body Day.

I've been thinking the past few days, about bodies. Bodies is a big old topic. When we talk about "loving our bodies", we're usually silently adding "...despite our weight/size". And for good reason - one source indicates that more than 50% of young women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat. It makes me wonder, of course, how many of the women included in this study were fat? How many of those fat young women indicated that they would rather be hit by a truck than be themselves?

The thing about loving our bodies is, we shouldn't be loving our bodies DESPITE of anything. We should be loving our bodies BECAUSE of everything, fat included. Nomy Lamm has written an excellent piece on this topic. Me? I don't identify as fat, because I don't think fat oppression has affected me, at least not any more so than it affects any thin person. I don't want this to seem like I think being fat is a bad thing, something I was to disassociate from, or that I think there is some magical specific weight/shape where fat ends and thin begins. I just don't think it would be right for me to call myself fat when it's not something that actually impacts my life on a day to day basis. That said, I have fat, and I do not see my fat as an inherently negative trait. I'm squishy, and I love that about myself. Kittens sleep comfortably on my belly. People of all kinds find me quite cuddly.

Fat hatred isn't the only thing that keeps us from loving our bodies, though. In my case, I spent a lot of time and energy hating on my hair. My body hair, I mean, and not just on my legs and under my arms - hair springs profusely from my neck, chest and stomach. Growing up, a lot of people told me that hair on women was unattractive. I didn't meet or even see hairy women until I was a legal adult, and by then, it was too late. I was thoroughly dependent on my (fairly ineffective) hair-ridding rituals. Even after I got the message that hairy women were real and could be successful and beautiful and awesome, a lifetime of self-hating left me a lot of insecurities. I'd say it's only in the past six months, as I've increasingly identified as gender variant, have I been able to fully embrace and display my body hair with real love and pride. While the relief and self-love have been super amazing (seriously - you may not understand the impact of this statement unless you've been paralyzed with fear at the mere thought of it, but I actually like to wear shorts in public), it strikes me, of course, that only in recognizing my gender as non-binary could I recognize my body hair as beautiful. To be a truly empowered hairy woman may elude me forever.

In my mind I see this woman, this normal woman. We know she's normal, because we see her everywhere, but she doesn't actually exist.

It's almost easier to describe what this normal woman is not than what she is, because almost everything she is becomes invisible in its ubiquity.
This normal woman is thin. We know fat women are not normal, because we don't see them, and when we do see them, they are a cautionary tale.
This normal woman is able-bodied. We know disabled women are not normal, because we don't see them, and when we do see them, they are to be pitied.
This normal woman is white. We know women of color are not normal, because we don't see them, and when we do see them, they are exotic.
This normal woman is cis and gender-conforming. We know trans and gender non-conforming women are not normal, because we don't see them, and when we do see them, they are the butt of jokes.

I'm simplifying a lot of issues here. The point is, loving your body is discouraged on many different fronts. Loving your body can not be about loving your body despite. Loving your body despite means accepting a non-reality: that this normal woman exists and everyone should/can aspire to be her. There are too many bodies whose realities can never, ever line up with kyriarchal standards of beautiful, or even of normal.

Love Your Body Day may be over by the time you read this, depending on what time zone you're in, but I encourage you to spend a little time anyway thinking about the things you have been taught to love your body despite of - the things about you that you have been told are ugly, abnormal, or just the things you have never been told are beautiful. Loving these things is a radical act.

Love everything about your body - and, I think this is crucial, also love everything about someone else's. The more we realize the vast variety of things we can love in others, the more we feel worthy of love ourselves.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

On Humankind (The Word, Not the Kind)

So, if you haven't read The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck, read it. Then seek out the follow up posts. Then you should maybe just subscribe to Shakesville, it being one of my favorite places on the internet.

Anyway. The piece got published by The Guardian, and surprise, the comments were not as supportive. I want to talk about one thing in particular that kept coming up: "humankind".

Melissa McEwan uses gender-neutral language as an example at the end of a long list of little things that complicate her (and many women's) relationship with men, even and especially men they respect and love:

"My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man—the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonization of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language ('humankind')."

In the comments at The Guardian, that very last bit is brought up over. And over. And over. In order to prove Melissa is somehow overreacting, and this is the proof - she cares about this little tiny linguistic semantic nonsense. Some even say that, she makes good points, but that one? Ridiculous. Just a few examples, so you don't have to wade into the shitstorm that is, really, most comments threads:

"Has it never occured to her that she hears all this 'sexist abuse' as comments like 'use non-gendered language ('humankind')' are a red rag to a bull to pisstakers? Does she really not realise how ridiculous she actually comes across as? is there any self awareness at all?"

"Whilst I'm generally a supporter of women's movements for social and political equality, some things in this article seem a bit much. For example: please use non-gendered language ('humankind'). Why the hell does it matter if they say mankind? We're all adults here, and no-one apart from Foucault's spawn genuinely believe that slight alterations of language mean anything for women's rights."

Listen up: I'm going to start using the word "womankind", since it doesn't matter, and, come on, you know what I meant. I'm going to do this not just in friendly conversation, but in all of my classes, whenever I'm writing an article for publication, whenever I give a speech or presentation on any topic, and especially whenever I'm reading in church.
Most of my professors use "womankind", too, you know, because it's easier and, who cares? Changing it to the neutral "humankind" doesn't affect anyone and it's not going to solve anything. Politicians have picked it up, too. And clergy - priests, rabbis, imams, what have you - they have to use "womankind" a lot, and why bother changing it? It's been around forever, and it's not a big inconvenience to anyone.

Oh, and when I walk into a room to greet people of mixed genders, I'm going to say "What's up, you gals?" Then we're all going to hang out, maybe watch the NBA, or if no games are on, the MNBA. When they leave, I guess I'll hang out alone and listen to my walkwoman, or play on my gamegirl.

This exercise might have struck you as a little silly. Good. It strikes me as a little silly that flipping it this way doesn't occur to most people. And it strikes me as a little silly that a person who has heard themselves acknowledged in the language everyone around them uses since the dawn of fucking time can tell someone else that language doesn't affect them, and furthermore, that it's worth mocking someone who does feel affected.

Maybe language is a symptom of a "real" problem of male experience being considered universal and female experience being considered specialized (and therefore less valuable). Personally, I think it's more than that; I think there is an attitude and assumption built into all that language (or, that all that language was built ON), and using it perpetuates that problem. I think changing it would make a difference, because it would hopefully cause one to think about why the assumption present in that language is not ok. (Not to mention the thousands of women who would feel less stressed out by being reminded that society neglects and excludes them, for example, in church, or in the literature that we consider classic, or in speeches by their elected officials, or in a chat with their friends.)

But maybe you don't agree. In which case you have two options, as I see it: argue until you're blue in the face that changing the language fixes nothing! You're wasting your time! No one cares about this shit! Linguistics! Semantics!

Or woman up and just attempt to say "humankind" because there's no real reason not to.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Favorite Thing... Ever?

Maybe that's a tad hyperbolic, as I'm also a fan of food and oxygen and the human capacity to love.

But somewhere near the top of that list? Free documentaries on the internet. Here's a few sites dedicated specifically to this:
Snag Films
Hulu Documentaries
Logo Real Momentum GLBTQI Documentaries

But what triggered this post was actually a documentary I watched on youtube yesterday, Boy I Am. It doesn't speak to my exact experience (no single piece of media really speaks to anyone's exact experience, does it?), but a lot of the topics it addresses are topics that have been bubbling in my head as a feminist (and beyond that, a person whose work and studies and support networks all involve feminists and feminism), and as an increasingly gender non-conforming person who has always been invested in transgender inclusion and rights.

Here's part 1:

And part 2:

The rest is on youtube (you can find it, I believe in you), and I recommend viewing the whole thing. If you want to know more about the film or buy it, the film's official site is here, and you can purchase it through Women Makes Movies.

This is also one of the reasons I really truly deeply love the internet: finding people who think like you (especially in the case that "you" are marginalized or non-normative) is easy in ways generations before could not imagine.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

New (Reality) Love

I don't want to say I'm over Project Runway. But after a few seasons of on-and-off watching? It's not vital to my being. I might still comment on it - because I do still watch it - but, you know what? I've found someone else.

None of the designers, or the styles, on Project Runway have really caught my eye the way Ashley of Top Chef already has.

Of course, I might be biased by the fact that the first challenge was completely dull. Red carpet? Seriously? The place where boring = classic, and actually expressing an ounce of individuality = worst dressed list. I know we're under new management here, but usually the first challenge of Project Runway is about throwing everyone out of their comfort zone and seeing who doesn't lose their shit. Not "make a pretty dress for pretty people - that's it, ok, go!"
So, time will tell if I'm actually interested enough to write anything on this. But don't wait patiently on it.