Monday, May 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

Lindy West gets it, writing in The Guardian:
"But maybe what I hate the most about this election is thinking about all the goddamn writing I’m going to have to do for the next four (or, potentially, eight) years if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. Misogynist rhetoric is going to reach levels of frenzy heretofore unknown to science, and with misogynist rhetoric comes feminist outcry, and with feminist outcry comes dopey faux-confusion: 'I don’t get why this is sexist. Explain it to me. Debate with me. Help me. Convince me.' There is no sense of memory, of the fact that all of this has been explained many, many times before. Because why would they want to remember? The incessant demand that women 'debate' and defend our own humanity is a deliberate diversion meant to hobble our power – part of the mechanism of sexism itself."
And if we don't do it repeatedly and on-demand with any and every rando who shows up in our space, they claim we're scared of their intellectual prowess, we're part of a feminist hivemind, and we can neither tolerate or handle dissenting views.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Femslash Thursday: A May-December Theme

This one's from Battlestar Galatica.

Did you know that, for some people, Starbuck and President Roslin are a subtextual femslash item? (Did you also know that Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor flirt with each other on Twitter all the time and it is everything??)

But, back to Roslin and Starbuck. It's true that Roslin and Admiral Adama are endgame, but who's to say Roslin and Starbuck didn't have an affair along the way? Keeping the fleet together and defending it was quite a tumultuous endeavor, I'm sure. Who would even judge them for using certain quarters of the Colonial One for stress relief purposes? Not me.

That is to say, I'd ship it:

So say we all.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Femslash Friday: Pam and Tara

Brace yourselves for what I'm about to say, TV people.

*whispering voice* I think True Blood was at least as good as Buffy. *end whispering voice*

I mean, we can think outside the binary here and appreciate both series, right? True Blood did the vampire thing and, set in Louisiana, somewhat made it its own. Sure, Buffy had the Whedonesque witty, fast dialogue, but True Blood had dark humor, which is always going to be my weakness. Buffy's central vampires were broody, morally gray, and had... interesting facial structures. True Blood's are darker, more sexual, more violent, and honestly I think how they zip around all over the place is both scary and cool.

In the Buffyverse, magic was a metaphor for both drug abuse and lesbianism, which I somewhat found confusing. In True Blood, vampirism was a loose metaphor for homosexuality, and honestly, I thought it worked better.

Buffy had good, complicated female characters, and True Blood had .... Pam and Tara. And also other cool female characters, but seriously.... let's focus on Pam and Tara. Although, I have to admit Sookie Stackhouse always had a little bit of Bella's (Twilight) Annoying and Very Difficult Dilemma of "All of these men who are SO HOT want to be with me. My life is SO HARD! Whatever shall I do?"  (To be honest, I think the dudes would have been down for a threeway. So way to blow that opportunity, Sookie). I mean, I'm 99% lesbian, but Eric Northman and Alcide made even me feel a little sexually confused. But I digress.

The point here is Pam and Tara. Pam is .... not a nice person. Pam Quote of the Day: "I'm so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina." (We all are, Pam. We all are).  And, I think it's okay for a female character to be mean.

Tara is, on the other hand, a mostly good person who's had a lot of bad shit happen to her. Thankfully, for a time, she avoids the dead lesbian/bisexual character trope by being turned into a vampire after having been shot (TV writers: I recommend this plot twist of turning female characters if it means avoiding dead lesbian/bisexual trope scenarios. Like, no matter the genre).

In any event, the following clip is from when Tara helps rescue Pam, after she'd been captured by the anti-gay bigots anti-vampire forces.  What can I say, sometimes the bond between vampire maker and progeny is strong. And hot.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Femslash Thursday: I Like Boys...?

Okay, who remembers the movie Teen Witch (1989)?  If you haven't seen it, get yourself to Netflix stat, because it's currently available.

During a recent re-watch, I found the following scene curious. To be honest, I found many scenes of the movie curious. But, in this scene in particular, our heroine Louise is in the girls locker room at school. Poor Louise is a a bit of a nerd at this point (spoiler alert: for now, that is!) and she's in the locker room with all of the popular cheerleaders (spoiler alert: If you ever time travel and don't know when you are, one way you know you are in the 1980s is that all cheerleaders are villains).

ANYway, the action in this scene really begins when the head cheerleader confidently struts into the locker room, announces she has a rad new cheer, and then presses play on her boom box. And BAM! Let the big hair, head-banging commence. For, the cheerleaders, who of course know all of the words and dance moves to this brand new song instantly, proceed to sing a song for which approximately 90% of the lyrics are, "I like boys."

These girls are, as the kids said back then, totally 100% boy "crazy."

During this ode to boys, the girls dance with one another in a locker room, whilst wearing leotards, bath towels, and other garments in various states of dress. All of which is 100% heterosexual.

Now, Louise is the only other person in the locker room. So, an astute observer might say it's almost as if the cheerleaders are putting on a performance for her.  A performance of their heterosexuality, that is? Hmmm.

Louise, meanwhile, kind of half-assedly removes nondescript items from her locker while watching the other young women. At one point, the cheerleaders move to a different section of the locker room, and Louise follows them, discretely watching them dance with one another from behind a locker.

Which, yes, also 100% straight.  Lots of very obvious boy-liking going on in the locker room that day.

See for yourself:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Verge Piece on Comment Moderation

Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly have written a long, fascinating piece at The Verge on the history of comment moderation on the internet.

I have two items I'd like to point out (although the entire piece is highly recommended if you have time), both centering on the reality that comment moderation is, and likely must continue to be, human labor.

1) Comments and Social Media Can Cause Actual Harm

I was most struck by descriptions of the somewhat "invisible" humans who actually provide comment and content moderation behind the scenes on different platforms - filtering sometimes horrendous content from sites so that others do not see it:
"In an October 2014 Wired story, Adrian Chen documented the work of front line moderators operating in modern-day sweatshops. In Manila, Chen witnessed a secret 'army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us' Media coverage and researchers have compared their work to garbage collection, but the work they perform is critical to preserving any sense of decency and safety online, and literally saves lives — often those of children. For front-line moderators, these jobs can be crippling. Beth Medina, who runs a program called SHIFT (Supporting Heroes in Mental Health Foundational Training), which has provided resilience training to Internet Crimes Against Children teams since 2009, details the severe health costs of sustained exposure to toxic images: isolation, relational difficulties, burnout, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. 'There are inherent difficulties doing this kind of work,' Chen said, 'because the material is so traumatic.'"
I found the scenario of people being exposed to traumatic and horrible content as their job to be really sad. And, I thought of all of the more prominent feminist bloggers I know who are inundated with horrific comments, threats, images, and harassment. That content has to take a toll on people. That is, in fact, the goal of Internet Terrorists (for isn't that what they are? If we think of harassers as inflicting actual harm, or the threat of it, for political reasons?).

I think, sometimes, when we are harsh on each other as feminists, as we sometimes are - that we could do a better job of remembering the psychological toll it takes to be a feminist blogger in any sustained way. It's an easy thing to do, to drop in and give someone a virtual high five or kudos - and, because bloggers are actual humans, I think many actually appreciate it. This observation is in response to a recent commenter here who said they see "no point" in ever offering agreement to bloggers they regularly read. Which, I also think is sad and somewhat dehumanizing to the people who put human labor into writing feminist content.

Relatedly, internal critique is necessary and healthy for any movement. It's also somewhat human nature for people to be more receptive to criticism from those we have somewhat established relationships with - otherwise, it can feel like just another rando dropping in solely to disagree or cause a problem. Personally, I've begun saving my biggest helpings of contempt and critique for people I have huge, fundamental disagreements with, such as anti-feminists.

I don't see this as complacency, but compassion. I just don't like the thought of piling on and being another feminist's problem when the entire rest of the world often seems like it's explicitly anti-feminist.

2) Content that Doesn't Explicitly Violate Written Policies Can Still Cause Harm

What I have found is that even having a written moderation policy invites users to pedantically question and debate how the policy is applied. More well-intentioned people simply want to know what is and isn't allowed, of course. But, policies also invite "problem commenters" to exploit loopholes in it or otherwise take advantage of what is not said in the policy. From the article;
"Meanwhile content that may not explicitly violate rules is sometimes posted by users to perpetrate abuse or vendettas, terrorize political opponents, or out sex workers or trans people. Trolls and criminals exploit anonymity to dox, swat, extort, exploit rape, and, on some occasions, broadcast murder. Abusive men threaten spouses. Parents blackmail children. In Pakistan, the group Bytes for All — an organization that previously sued the Pakistani government for censoring YouTube videos — released three case studies showing that social media and mobile tech cause real harm to women in the country by enabling rapists to blackmail victims (who may face imprisonment after being raped), and stoke sectarian violence."
It's not that comment/content policies are worthless. But that it's probably fair to understand policies more as fluid guidelines that, by necessity, have to be adaptable in order to effectively address all situations.  I understand platform usage and commenting to be a privilege, rather than an absolute right, so I don't have as much of a problem with this idea as those who maybe feel entitled to "free speech anywhere I want it on my terms!" sorts of people.