Undead Sexist Cliche: Men Suffering Consequences Is Cancel Culture!

As I’ve written before, I find most freaking out about cancel culture is bullshit. For example, we’re supposed to be terribly, terribly upset that some conservatives feel the need to self-censor their speech, something black Americans and women have had to do for most of our history. It’s a variation of the line that dystopia is bad things happening to white middle-class people in the future that happen to the poor and POC now. The claims of brutal repression are either too vague to believe or just wrong.

Which brings us to a story in New York Magazine about one teenage boy, Diego: “Twenty months after he developed a crush, 18 months after he’d fallen in love, Diego, who is enormously appealing but also very canceled, boarded the bus with Jenni and Dave. They were going to the beach, and it wasn’t a big deal — except for the fact that pretty much all of Diego’s friends had dropped him, so, yeah, it was.” (the link is not direct but you can click through).

The story goes on to paint a charming, sympathetic portrait of this likable high-school kid before revealing what turned him into a non-person: at a party, Diego got drunk and showed off the nude photos his “beautiful girlfriend” had sent him. The author, Elizabeth Weil adds that “Diego really fucked up here: Everybody, including Diego, agrees on that, so please consider setting aside judgment for a moment.” After all, if you judge him, then you might think a little suffering would be good for him, and that’s not the conclusion she wants you to reach.

To my surprise, the reaction to Diego showing the photos without his girlfriend’s consent was that most of his friends decided he was a shit. Hence the cancellation. Weil seems to think he deserved dude process — he did the wrong thing, he admits it, so why should he suffer any consequences? So presumably classmates who disapprove of what he did should just suck it up and treat him like they always did. For the record, that’s all the suffering Diego endured. Although showing the photos is, I gather, illegal in his state, his girlfriend didn’t call the cops. He was able to make it to four proms senior year. Now he’s off to college.

Weil does discuss the school’s failure to deal with sexual harassment issues, which has led to female students writing names of alleged harassers/rapists on the bathroom wall. At least one of the accusers called out the wrong boy (similar names) which as one commenter at the link says would seem to make a much stronger example of cancel culture. But Weil for whatever reason decided “kid incorrectly accused of bad behavior” wouldn’t be as interesting a story as “kid whose classmates didn’t like him showing nude photos of his girlfriend without her consent.” Nor does she think Diego’s motives for showing the photo is of any interest. He was drunk, his girlfriend was beautiful, she was his first love; do we need more explanation?

Well, yes. Showing private nude photos to your friends is not a good way to show how much you love someone. But if Weil asked Diego, she doesn’t give his answer. She seems to think “the girl was beautiful” is enough of an answer. It reminds me of articles about teenage stalkers that blame the guy’s behavior on being lovesick. Um, no.

As Jessica Valenti says, sometimes it’s good to suffer if you cross a line: “Maybe if a younger generation of men grow up believing their lives could be negatively impacted—or even ruined—by sexually assaulting or harassing someone, then they’d actually stop sexually assaulting and harassing.” I make a similar point here.

For more on the misogynist whining about how punishing men for their actions is feminazi oppression, read Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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Hope when things get dark

And no, this post was not, in fact, in response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision, but a discussion about Hopepunk online.

I quoted Vaclav Havel’s line to the effect that “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” One of the other participants argued (and linked to an essay to that effect) that Hope is indeed one of the evils of the world, hence being in Pandora’s box. Hope makes us think the system can work, that there’s something to be done that will fix it. He argued that believing in the system just gets in the way of radical change; his preference in fiction is to tear everything down in an apocalypse so we can start over and build something better. The essay argued likewise that Hope just tells us everything will work out; we have to accept that it won’t, then grit our teeth and do the work anyway.

I don’t think we’re really on opposite sides. We all agree the work has to be done. I define hope as the belief that it may pay off or that if not, that doing the work still makes sense. They associate hope with not doing the work. It’s a disagreement over definitions, nothing more.

And what is the work? For some reason I’m thinking of a quote from Goethe: “How can you come to know yourself? Never by thinking, always by doing. Try to do your duty and you’ll know right away what you amount to. And what is your duty? Whatever the day calls for.” Donating to political candidates and Planned Parenthood are definitely called for. Voting and encouraging people to vote. More than that, but I’m not sure what.

While I don’t want to think about how long the slog will be to get America back into being a decent country, this op-ed on Kavanaugh’s appointment makes a good point about the early 20th century efforts against Jim Crow: “All of these men and women were on the side of justice and lost. None of these people, who fought for full and equal public access as free citizens on trains and streetcars, stopped fighting. None abandoned what they knew was right. They all tried again. Most would not live to see things made right, but they continued.” And it was made right, and now Republicans are working to make it un-right. I hope it can be turned around in my lifetime, but if not, it’s still worth fighting.

Camestros Felapton points out that the “metric of success in the short term for resisting is not victories but the additional cost in time and effort and political capital that those in power need to spend to achieve anything. Resistance is friction, inertia and obstacles.”

An article at Daily Beast from the post-Kavanaugh period discusses Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus and finding merit in a futile struggle (unlike the essayist mentioned above, he doesn’t equate that to giving up on hope): “There is hope that arises in and of itself from the decision to wake, the decision to work, the decision to write, the decision to speak. With our hands pressed to the clay of duty— a citizen’s duty to shape their country, to fight back against the ways it errs, and to create small increments of justice through that work—we strain against the weight together and it lessens.

If the mass of the rock seems impossible, if its surface is pitted and scarred, there are other hands to press against its weight. And so hope is a cairn we build together, and it marks a path to the world we wish to see.”

And last but not least, Paul Campos reminds us that the present is still better than the past.

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Thoughts on third-season Star Trek (OS)

So last year while I was tackling The Aliens Are Here, Netflix lost streaming rights to Star Trek. As I didn’t want to pay to watch the third season I bided my time until I could rent the DVDs from Durham Library and finish the series in three weeks (I have about two weeks to go). I’d have preferred weekly viewing — there’s a lot of bad episodes this season — but I’d sooner save the money.

The series is a far cry from S1. There’s nothing I’d consider classic or really good. That said, it’s better than I expected. I’ll get into more detail when I finish the season but I wanted to take today and look at two famous episodes, one better than I remembered and one worse.

“Plato’s Stepchildren” is best known for having the first interracial kiss on TV. The Enterprise arrives on a planet ruled by psionic immortals whose past visits to Earth exposed them to Greek philosophy. They’ve modeled themselves on Plato’s ideal society, except that Parmen (Liam Sullivan), the leader, is a brutal tyrant. He smugly proclaims a society that grants authority based on mind-power is ideal — which has totally nothing to do with his having the strongest mind, no sirree!At the bottom of the hierarchy is Alexander, a dwarf played by Michael Dunn, the great Dr. Loveless of Wild, Wild West. Alexander has no psi-power, he lacks the physical perfection of the other Platonians, so he assumes they look down on him as an inferior. It’s only when they start torturing Kirk, Spock and McCoy that Alexander realizes it’s not him — they’re bullies who’ll push around anyone they can dominate.

The episode isn’t great. They spend far too much time on the Platonians tormenting the Enterprise crew, using their tremendous TK power to manipulate them like puppets (the interracial kiss is one example of that). But Dunn’s performance makes up for much of that. So does Sullivan, who does a fine job playing an arrogant, entitled prick. Despite it’s footnote status in TV history, I hadn’t thought much of this episode, but the acting redeems it some.

“Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” is another famous one, routinely brought up when clueless people complain about Star Trek getting all political and woke and shit. This episode shows the Trek-verse was always political, but that doesn’t make it good.

The alien Lokai (Lou Antonio) is captured trying to steal a shuttle. Then his pursuer, Bele (Frank Gorshin) shows up, demanding custody of Lokai, a revolutionary he claims has killed untold numbers of Bele’s people. Lokai replies that he’s a political refugee: Bele’s people kept his in slavery and after it ended, they were still denied full rights. Bele insists that if they didn’t gain full equality it’s because they weren’t equal.The twist: while the two men see themselves as separate races, to Kirk and Spock, having the white and black sides of their face reversed is a trivial thing. To Bele and Lokai it’s everything. When they return to their homeworld and find race wars have wiped their people out, they can’t give up — Lokai keeps running and Bele can’t stop pursuing.

Coming in the late 1960s, after increasing racial conflicts, protests and riots (the Watts riots of 1965 were still a vivid memory), the message is clear: two races fighting against each other can only bring death and destruction. We have to get past black and white to colorblindness or we’ll ravage our world like the aliens did. And besides, is there really that much difference between us?

As presented here, it’s a bad message. It reminds me of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s quote that if the elephant has its foot on the mouse’s tail, neutrality only benefits the elephant. Bele’s people did keep Lokai’s as slave; near the end, as they return to their homeworld, Bele gloats that Lokai’s race have been penned up enclaves or ghettos where they can be controlled. Watching today, I can’t but see Bele as the bad guy.

The show doesn’t seem to think so. At one point we see Lokai rabble-rousing on the lower decks by describing his people’s suffering to the crew; Spock listens with a frown but nothing comes of it. It’s meant to imply that Lokai’s just a race hustler; Kirk comments at one point that while his followers may have died, Lokai obviously didn’t (of course one could make the same point about Enterprise red shirts …). Bele gets to dine with Spock and Kirk; Lokai doesn’t.

It feels like the script is siding with the people — and there were many — who just wanted all the racial conflict to stop. And not stop by putting an end to racism, but by having those angry black people just settle down and be patient. Don’t stir up violence by asking for equality. As this Martin Luther King quote says, it’s like asking the Israelites to just keep baking bricks — stop stirring up Egypt by demanding freedom!

So not the searing commentary on then-contemporary politics it’s meant to be.

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So it’s now legal to ban abortion

As Scott Lemieux said, lots of people said SCOTUS would never reverse Roe. Republican officials didn’t really care about it. Voter mobilization came from promising to kill Roe, not from actually doing it. Anyone who claimed abortion rights were at risk was just scaremongering.

Nice political analysis, dudes. While I don’t know how many voters the many claims of this sort swayed, the claims are still dead wrong. Wewound up with enough Republican judges to end abortion rights, even if some of them had to lie to do it. The results will be considerably worse than pre-Roe. Nor, if they get the federal clout to do it, will they blink at passing a nationwide ban and ignoring all their states’ rights pretenses. Or maybe some right-wing judge declares that fetuses are people and therefore the mother has no rights.

And gay marriage and contraception are at risk, even though the Log Cabin Republicans insist gay marriage is secure. I suspect if Obergefell goes, they’ll be reassuring everyone that it’s still okay to vote Republican, it’s not like they’d make homosexuality illegal again (if they ca, they will).

It’s impressive, and a hopeful sign, that so many women I know are angry about this. Regardless of whether they’re at risk of pregnancy, the idea that any woman can be coerced to bear a child against her will has touched a nerve. A lot of nerves. As I’ve said in Undead Sexist Cliches, while I’m pro-choice and pro-women’s rights in general, I don’t have a woman’s perspective or lived experience. Seeing the furious reactions reminds me, again, that this is so.

I’m also reflecting on how the ban on abortion neatly fits like a jigsaw puzzle piece with all the other pieces of misogyny. The conviction only nymphomaniac sluts need birth control. That shotgun weddings, even to a rapist, are preferable to abortion or contraception. That wives should put out, even if they’re don’t want to (“Why do we assume that it is terribly irresponsible for a man to refuse to go to work because he is not in the mood, but a woman can — indeed, ought to — refuse sex because she is not in the mood?” — Dennis Prager).

After all, if married woman can’t get contraception — and if Griswold is overturned, states could outlaw that — some women may choose to avoid sex rather than risk another baby. And while conservatives want single women to stay virgin, a lot of right wingers assume wives are obligated to put out. Not only do we have people like Prager and DC McAlister who think wives should just lie there and think of England, plenty of conservatives think marital rape is not rape. So if a woman doesn’t want to have sex and get pregnant, her wishes don’t matter, not really. In the eyes of misogynist religious conservative Douglas Wilson, man dominates; women submits, and sex can never be fun for both partners.

They also have multiple ways to rationalize away any discomfort with rape victims having to bear their rapist’s child. It’s God’s design. If it was real rape she wouldn’t be pregnant. The victim isn’t feeling traumatized, she’s feeling shame for letting some man use her as a masturbatory aid. In short, she’s a slut at best and a lying slut at worst. So no need to feel guilty about the rape victim’s trauma, or the amount she’ll have to spend on ob/gyn care — she should have just kept her legs pressed together.

These views are not unique to the right wing but conservatism, particularly the religious right, is a breeding ground for extreme misogyny. They’ll always do their best to make it worse.

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Women protagonists: some reading

After reading Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s LADY KILLER: The Library Edition I can see why Jones got the go-ahead to write and draw Catwoman. The story concerns Josie Schuller, a typical Seattle housewife and mom in 1962 — well, typical if you overlook she earns money on the side as an assassin. In the first volume of this collected edition, Josie has to carry out her jobs, keep her nosy mother-in-law from figuring out what she’s up to and thwart her employer’s decision to have her whacked. In the second, she’s engaged in similar games in the family’s new Florida hometown.

This is most enjoyable, well drawn and I really like that Josie is so matter-of-fact. She’s not unstable or working out her personal issues, she’s just a killer. I was, however, disappointed in the ending; after two volumes of Josie as protagonist, I wanted things to work out better (I’d be more understanding if V3 were on the way but I can’t find any announcements online that it is).

JOAN OF ARC: The Image of Female Heroism by Marina Warner looks at how “the only Saint who was martyred by her own church” in her own era transgressed the standards of gender (fighting and wearing man’s clothes) and nobility (conducting herself as a knight) while presenting her virginity and lack of menstruation (Warner argues there’s good reason for thinking her anorexic) as proof she was transcending rather than transgressing. Conversely, her enemies and judges sought to define her as unchaste, heretical or a witch, then later found good reason for reconsidering (the French king wanted her redeemed so her support would prove he was God’s chosen; the Church saw this as supporting their right to validate monarchs). In later eras she became variously a symbol of patriotism, peasant vigor, Rousseau-ian nature or feminism. A good study.

BE THE CHANGE: Menopausal Superheroes Book Four by Samantha Bryant has the “Liu-vian” metahumans freaking out when their powers run wild; super-strong Fuerte destroys everything he touches while Pam the Lizard Woman finds herself mutating into a more monstrous form and unable to turn back. The adversaries this time out aren’t particularly formidable but the heroes’ personal relationships — particularly Pam dealing with her Mom and step-family — are more than fun enough to make up for it.

WITCHNAPPED IN WESTERHAM: A Paranormal Investigation Bureau Novel by Dionne Lister has the Aussie photographer protagonist drawn into a world of witchcraft and paranormal investigations when a snooty British agent informs the photographer her brother, an investigator for the PIB, has been abducted. Unfortunately the cozy mystery that follows suffers from long, endless exposition explaining the magical world to the newbie so I lost interest fast.

Like that Kana Cold short I read a while back, A STUDY IN MISCHIEF by Lydia Sherrer is a prequel showing how her two series protagonists, a female librarian wizard (born with magic) and male witch (magical talismans and pacts) wound up working together for the first time. The story relies heavily on bantering dialogue but the conversations didn’t work for me at all.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jones, all rights to image with current holder.

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TV women battling evil: three series

In 1968, CBS introduced Wacky Races, a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon about a group of oddball drivers competing in cross-country races. In 1969, they spun off a couple of the racers into THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP, a take off on old silent cliffhangers such as The Perils of Pauline.

The premise: Penelope Pitstop (voiced by Janet Waldo), “heiress to a vast fortune” (it includes the Pitstop Department Store chain), is in constant peril from her trusted attorney, Sylvester Sneakly (Paul Lynde) in his secret identity as the Hooded Claw. As Penelope travels around the world, she finds herself in one elaborate deathtrap after another. Fortunately she has help from another Wacky Races competitor, the pint-sized gangsters of the Anthill Mob in their sentient car Chug-a-Boom.

As I wrote after watching Lost in Limehouse, I know the cliches of this kind of melodrama almost entirely from parodies like this. It’s cheerfully absurd and quite different from most of Hanna-Barbera’s output. And despite the damsel-in-distress aspect, Penelope saves herself at least as often as the Anthill Mob does. It was a pleasure to rewatch this. “Look on the bright side Pitstop — you’re the only person to die of a watery doom … in the desert!”

The sixth and final season of Supergirl has Kara and the Super-Friends coping with the Phantom Zone, Luthor’s latest scheme and Mxyzptlk’s vengeful sister (the siblings attempted to overthrow their father; he was proud of Mxy but condemned Nxy to the Zone for unfeminine behavior). While I give them credit for tackling a lot of social justice questions, they never manage to do it without being heavy-handed and the adventure side of things never came off as well as it should. However I did enjoy the huge list of cameos for the final episode, and that Kara’s happy ending doesn’t involve a relationship (not that I object to her having one, it’s just nice to see them suggest she can be happy without one). “Just because bad things happen to someone doesn’t mean they’re only destined for bad things.”

The second season of the CW’s KUNG FU worked much better for me. Nicky (Olivia Liang) and her friends are at war with ruthless businessman Russell Tan (Kee Chan) who’s gathering the components for some kind of destructive mystic ritual.  Nicky also has to deal with the realization part of her amazing skills comes from her mystic bloodline rather than training (I won’t detail the show’s mythology here) and meeting her cousin Mia (Vanessa Yao) who as the product of two bloodlines is even greater at martial arts (undercutting Nicky’s seeming status as a Chosen One). This was a really fun season; given the CW is purging a lot of series (Warner Brothers cutting costs before possibly selling the network off) I’m glad it’ll be back for S3. “Don’t feel bad — how many people can brag they’ve been shot by an evil billionaire?”

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It feels like a suety puddingy week, but I did get good stuff done.

For starters I finished my rewrite of Southern Discomfort. Next week I read the revised first chapter to the writing group, edit the synopsis, do a quick last-minute error check (were their places I left Maria’s scenes in third person?) and send it off.

I also finished some finance writing that should put some cash in my pocket, so that’s great.

And Wisp stayed in one night this week, which was nice. Here she is lying out on the deck.

And I participated in an online panel for the online Con-Tinual con created by my friend Gail Z. Martin. You can also access Con-Tinual on FB, rather than that YouTube link. Either way, the panel I was on, on female sleuths and killers, isn’t available yet, but I’ll link when it is.

And I posted a couple of Atomic Junkshop posts about DC’s Captain Action: one on the toyline and first issue, one on the remaining four issues. Feel free to check out my review of the TPB last Sunday too.

So why the suet feeling? Well, last weekend I developed an inexplicable rash which didn’t go away, so Tuesday I took time out of the day to see my doctor (who happily had some time to spare). She provided a skin cream that eliminated whatever it was so it’s mostly gone now. But that left me off-balance Tuesday. Wednesday I got up late after the Con-Tinual session Tuesday night and barely had thirty minutes before the dogs woke up and came down. That wasn’t enough time to get my head in the game.

But I did get Southern Discomfort done and it will go out next week. That was my big goal this month, so I shall celebrate accomplishing it. Go me!

#SFWApro. Cover by Kane, as is the Steve Ditko-style scene below from the origin of Action’s arch-foe, Doctor Evil!

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A tale of two cats

Cat the first: Snowdrop.  While I was off on vacation, he stopped showing up for food. Or possibly, as I get up earlier than TYG, he just showed up in the wee hours, found nobody was responding to his presence, and gave up for a bit.

Either way, after five days had elapsed without his presence, we were worried. We talked about how maybe some family had found him, trapped him in their garage and stuffed him with treats, but we both assumed he was more likely in a coyote’s stomach. But Saturday morning I came down early and he was there. Very hungry and a little needier than usual, very happy to come in for breakfast.We’re happier too.

The second cat was my anniversary gift. It’s 11 years this month, which is supposed to be jewelry or steel. While I was at ConCarolinas, I bought TYG some earrings and a couple of pendant stones she can play with in her crafts room (lapis lazuli and lanzarite). As I’m not a jewelry person, she decided to make my gift non-traditional.

As a small child I’d had a stuffed cat, Stripesy (he was, yes, striped) that I’d taken everywhere with me. When I was six or seven, we were on vacation and I lost him. Or my parents decided they’d had enough of Stripesy and “lost” him for me (that’s a guess, based on nothing). Anyway, TYG found me another striped cat and gave him to me for our anniversary. So here’s Tigsie:He’s not a lookalike for Stripesy but I still find it a very sweet gift.

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How do we judge the Southern Baptist Convention on abuse?

Despite my loathing for the way so many conservative Christian churches deal with abuse issues — if they deal with the at all — I’m pleased the Southern Baptist Convention is tackling its history of turning a blind eye to abuse. As abuse survivor and attorney Rachel Denhollander says, the third-party investigation into abuse is way more than the Catholic Church has ever done. But as she says in another article, the SBC “is 10 years behind everyone else in its understanding of abuse.”

In the long run how we judge them on this depends how things play out. The SBC is in a position to change, but institutional inertia (as Denhollander notes) is a powerful thing — as the saying goes, changing a large organization is like teaching an elephant to dance. Plenty of pastors and church leaders dismissed dealing with the issue as a distraction from preaching the gospel. We have men such as Franklin Graham who (allegedly, not that I doubt the allegations) told an abuse victim that as her husband wasn’t beating her every single night she should go back to him. He also lied about Christine Blasey Ford during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, claiming Ford’s statement proves Kavanaugh stopped when she said no (he didn’t).

Even if SBC do a good job on this, it doesn’t excuse them being viciously anti gay rights or opposed to churches that ordain women. And it may be years before things play out enough to see if they’ve really changed. I think Fred Clark’s discussion of evangelicals and slavery gets close to what I’m thinking about.

First, it’s not whether I approve of the SBC that matters. It’s that if they change, that means justice and better support for future victims, and steps to reduce the number of future victims. That’s a good thing, even if the church remains otherwise horrendous.

Second, change may also require deconstructing the church’s view of women. How did their theology (which as I’ve said before is the fruit of a poisonous tree) shape their view of women who reported abuse and assault? Did their belief in purity culture and their enthusiasm for Trump shape their theology? If they identify where they went wrong, will they have the courage to reassess and change? I will be glad if they do but they have a long way to go first.

In other women-related news:

Karen Attiah wonders if America could accept a muscular She-Hulk.

Federal legislation would make it possible to sue partners who remove condoms before penetration.

Bill Cosby’s civil trial for assault has to start jury deliberations over.

Even if Republicans don’t ban contraceptives, many American women live in contraceptive deserts.

Republican states adding Medicaid benefits for new mothers does not balance out for banning abortion but it is a good thing.

Is cheerleading a sport? And why it’s significant legally if it isn’t.

Monica Hesse points out that transgender bans in sports assume all that matters is winning.

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The Octopus of Space!

Edward Swiatek gives us the cover visual to go with that title. I can’t help thinking the story was probably horrible, but at the same time the title intrigues me.And that’s the only cover I have for today, sorry

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