Political links, mostly but not entirely about sexism

I don’t usually have anything positive to say about the Christian press. So it’s nice to salute Charisma magazine for reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against Christian comedian John Crist. Way better than a Christian site publishing revenge porn.

Speaking of which: “Teens aren’t committing suicide over shared pictures of themselves vomiting at parties. Politicians aren’t bothering to resign over leaked photos of themselves in blackface. It’s “revenge porn,” the sharing of sexual photos without consent, that remains a shockingly potent form of blackmail and attack — as Katie Hill just found.” And people who Google Hill aren’t looking to learn about the scandal, they’re mostly looking to see her naked.

Heard about Trump Jr. getting booed? Writer Matthew Sheffield said it’s part of a campaign to rebrand the alt.right as Christian nationalists.

Payday lenders worry a better economy would be bad for their bottom line. So they’re working to prevent Arizona raising the minimum wage.

I’ve never had much use for right-wing economists such as Robin Hanson and Bryan Caplan. But at least they haven’t fired a gun at a crowd of protesters. Echidne (an economist herself) wonders if so many economists are creepy right-wingers because those beliefs go hand-in-hand with free-market fanaticism.

A number of conservative specfic writers have objected that markets accepting stories from women, black writers or other non-WASP male groups are objectionable and exclusionist. Even though an anthology by writers named Dave obviously excludes most women, that’s apparently OK. Case in point.

Crackpot and liar Dave Daubenmire claims women get pregnant, then have abortions so they can use the body parts in Satanic rituals. Because his gullible audience are always ready to believe in Satanic babykiller lies. They always have.

Remember when Republicans thought Hilary Clinton would be the first female president — and were already plotting to impeach her.

According to abstinence-only education, if you sleep around, you are as worthless as a cup of spit or dirty chocolate. Technically this applies to anyone but as Samantha Field says (I can’t find the specific link) “boys who fail to save their pure gift of pure snow-white virginity for marriage aren’t compared to pre-chewed gum.”

Heather MacDonald pretends it’s the fight against racism that makes whites racist.

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How could you hate my protagonist? She’s so awesome!

An article on Jezebel argues that the characters movies present to us as obnoxious women are often the good guys: they’re mature and they’re dissing the hero for perfectly good reasons (The Mary Sue discusses this in relation to Breaking Bad and the narrower range of options for women to be non-nice without the audience hating them). An article elsewhere some years back made the same point about Rachel on Friends. She’s presented as a a spoiled princess out on her own, but if she stuck with Monica — an overweight, very uncool kid in her teens — there has to be more to it than that.

Having readers or viewers like characters who are supposed to be obnoxious villains is a problem for writers, though I think I see it more the other way around — characters the writers think are great and I or others find insufferable. There are a number of supervillains the writer clearly thinks are seriously awesome and I just find annoying (giving a character mind-blowing power levels does not, in itself, make them interesting). Similarly, readers often look at heroic protagonists, particularly female ones, and dismiss them as a Mary Sue.

Outside of comic-book villains, I think Wesley Crusher on Next Gen was my first encounter with the phenomenon: I didn’t mind him, but I learned that a lot of fans found him insufferable. Lots of fans (myself included) had a similar reaction to TK Danny Chase, a teenager Marv Wolfman added to the cast of Teen Titans (by then just New Titans) in the late 1980s. A teenage spy and the son of spies, Danny considered himself way more competent than the rest of the team and the scripts seemed to agree (Danny takes down two of the unstoppable Wildebeests during the Titans Hunt arc).

The worst-case scenario is where the author’s written a character who’s transgressing boundaries and the story doesn’t acknowledge it. The wizard in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted abuses the protagonist for much of the book, but it’s hand-waved away. I doubt Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang meant for readers to see Orion in their Wonder Woman run as a sexist douchebag, but that’s how he comes across. James Bond’s treatment of Patricia in Thunderball is played for laughs, but it’s creepy as hell.

Or consider My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997). In a reverse of the female characters discussed in the first paragraph, we’re supposed to see Cameron Diaz’s Kimberly as a woman who deserves Michael (Dermot Mulroney) much more than Julia Robert’s Julianne: Where Julianne’s always prioritized career over love, Kimberly’s willing to postpone college and career for marriage, and even give up her honeymoon so sports reporter Michael won’t miss covering any baseball games. This is supposed to make her the Good Girl; all I could see was an appalling doormat and a sexist script (despite AV Club’s argument the film subverts rom-com tropes).

Badass characters in comics are usually supposed to be cool anti-heroes who have no patience with your shit, won’t follow anyone else’s rules and kick butt in a way nobody else can. Wolverine when he’s written badly. Battalion, a loud-mouthed jerk in the Titans spinoff Team Titans (I think we’re supposed to be impressed than when he crosses the street he just smashes cars that get in his way, but that’s just being a jackass). Ravager, a Teen Titan who wins fights just by the sheer weight of her badassery. To me they’re all just jerks. Keith Giffen had the opposite problem with Lobo: conceived as a parody of violent psycho badasses, huge legions of fans decided he was so over the top he was absolutely awesome.

We can’t guarantee readers will have the same reaction to our characters that we do; the best we can do is hope our beta readers or editors pick up on problems. KC, the protagonist of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, is self-conscious about not looking like a classic comics superhero (shorts and t-shirt for a costume — that’s about all she can stomach in Northwest Florida’s heat). The first or second time I read the beginning of the novel to my writing group, several women said it came off more like she was self-conscious about her looks and not being pretty. I rewrote to make it clear it’s not a lack of body positivity, it’s just that she doesn’t look epic compared to say Gil Kane’s Green Lantern or Curt Swan’s Supergirl (the gap between comics and her life as the Champion is a running element of the book).

Beyond that, like so much about writing, we just have to roll the dice and hope the numbers are good.

#SFWApro. Cover by Scott McCowen, all rights remain with current holder.

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Horror, robots and war: comics cover art for Tuesday

Nothing sinister actually happening on this Grey Morrow cover, but it’s still damn creepy, I think.

Veteran art team Ross Andru and Mike Esposito did most of the covers for the Silver Age Metal Men. The first appearance of the Missile Men is eye-catching, though I think their return adds some drama.

Joe Kubert brings the kind of distinctive POV that made DC’s war-book covers so memorable.

And here’s Jerry Grandenetti applying the same principles.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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The night of the wolf, the day of the bullshit artist: links

A new book on Trump reports that Obama forced CIA agents to attend political correctness meetings. The author is ignorant of common intelligence-service terms.

Supposedly Oberlin students pitched a fit in 2015 over the cafeteria serving sushi and banh-mi because that was cultural appropriation. Like the PC meetings above, it’s not true. (as a former Obie, I find the idea of cafeteria sushi terrifying, though that’s nothing to do with the story).

The D. James Kennedy Ministeries insists that equating gays with pedophiles and similar sentiments does not make them a hate group. So they’ve sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for saying they are.

Wall Street is outraged at Elizabeth Warren!

Sexist and bigot Jesse Lee Peterson is black, but he tells neo-Nazis the civil rights movement was a mistake — black America should just have waited for whites to change and accept them.

Despite Trump’s support, right-winger Matt Bevin lost in Kentucky. So he’s claiming non-existent voter fraud to justify not conceding. And the Senate president (who unfortunately may get a say in who wins) says Bevin’s the real winner because he should get all the votes for the Libertarian candidate.

Right-wing bullshit artist Dave Daubenmire insists that right-wing Christians have a right to be tried only by a jury of right-wing Christians.

Yet another right-wing claims women can only protect their freedom by becoming baby factories for the white race! Oh, and feminism causes alcoholism.

And here we have another exciting trip to the wild lands where Trump voters roam.

Years after it helped swing the election for Trump, the NYT admits that Hilary Clinton’s email practices was a non-story.

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Femmes fatale: books read

THE MANY LIVES OF CATWOMAN: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley makes the interesting point that Catwoman has become a successful, long-running DC character despite never having had a single, iconic look the way the Joker or Penguin (or for that matter Batman) have, as witness the renditions by J. Winslow Mortimer, Carmine Infantino and Darwyn Cooke below

She’s also never had a single, consistent characterization: she’s been antihero, hero, gang boss, jewel thief, supervillain, love interest and man-hating dominatrix. It wasn’t until the Bronze Age that she became a serious love interest for Batman rather than a sexy bad girl. Nevertheless she’s immensely popular both as a character and as Batman’s lover (even during a period DC retconned out all romance between them, the Bat and the Cat wound up together in several Elseworlds.

While I knew a lot of her history, Hanley covers a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of, including tracking the long stretches she vanished from comics for one reason or another. He points out, for instance, that while the pre-Crisis Huntress was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, she sees herself entirely as Batman’s heir — her mother apparently had no influence on her at all, other than getting killed to inspire Helena to turn hero. Despite a couple of minor errors, very good.

FEMME FATALE: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari by Pat Shipman looks at how teenage Dutch girl Margaretha Zelle went to colonial Indonesia with her much older husband, then returned to Europe, divorced him (two promiscuous people with zero money-management skills proved a bad recipe for marriage) and reinvented herself as the exotic dancer Mata Hari (claiming her dances were sacred mystic temple rites let her elevate near-nudity to serious art). Unfortunately, when WW I began, Zelle became a target: traveling across Europe and having many lovers in multiple countries made it easy for French security officials to frame her as a spy; Shipman suggests a mixture of contempt for her casual affairs and the need to justify their jobs by a big score gave them an incentive to ignore her innocence and claim her evil schemes had sent 50,000 Frenchmen to their deaths! As Mata Hari is one of those figures I know of but not about, this was most interesting

Despite putting Cleopatra first in the title, CLEOPATRA AND ANTONY: Power, Love and Politics in the Ancient World by Diana Preston doesn’t focus on Egypt’s queen as much or as well as Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s Cleopatra. That said, Preston does an excellent job of putting her in context, covering the Ptolemaic dynasty’s history in Egypt, the Roman imperial ambitions and power struggles that brought first Caesar, then Antony to her door (in this era Egypt was both an agricultural and cultural superstar) and the internecine Roman power struggles that led to Octavian becoming the first Roman emperor. Dry, but satisfying.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Rom-coms based on dating-advice books: a triple feature

I know of at least a couple of others in this niche genre, such as 1970’s How to Pick Up Girls, but despite that one being available on YouTube, I didn’t have time to go for a quadruple play.

First up, HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU (2009)was based on a Sex and the City episode that got turned into an advice book based on the principle that if the guy doesn’t call/call back/propose/ask you out, the only possible reason is that he’s not really interested (speaking as a tremendously shy person, I can say that as a universal rule, this is bullshit — though in some cases, certainly it’s true) Ginnifer Goodwin (pre-Once Upon a Time) plays a woman who keeps making excuses for the men in her life (good thing she meets an Obnoxious, Irritating man who can mansplain how things work); Jennifer Aniston reluctantly accepts live-in boyfriend Ben Affleck is never going to propose; Drew Barrymore tries to figure out if guys contacting her by MySpace (wow, does that date this film now) or email are really interested; and Scarlett Johansson tries to steal Jennifer Connolly’s husband away from her.

Much as I disagree with the premise (they do acknowledge, at least a little, that men fall into the same delusion, but not how bad male “no means yes” assumptions can get), I’m also annoyed they don’t follow through on it: Goodwin turns out to be an exception to the rule, Afleck pops the question after all. The Connolly/Johansson triangle doesn’t even fit the theme because “he’s cheating on you” is not the same thing. A great cast, but a poor production. “I miss the days when everyone had just one phone number and one answering machine and one tape for messages.”

THINK LIKE A MAN (2012) worked a little better for me as this adaptation of Steve Harvey’s how-to-land-a-man guide sticks to the basics in its ensemble’s romantic dilemmas: can a woman win a mamma’s boy away from his mom? Will the player in the group be brought to heel if his new woman withholds sex? The battle of the sexes that results is stereotypical, but more entertaining, though the product placement for Harvey’s book is about 100 times less subtle (so many people turn out to have copies, you’d think it was outselling the Bible) “She’s trying to push me towards my dreams and help me accomplish your goals — why would she do that?”

THE LONELY GUY (1984) works best of the three because it’s a)starring Steve Martin and Charles Grodin; b)it’s partly written by Neil Simon; c)the source book is a parody of the single life so it doesn’t have any message to put. Getting dumped by girlfriend Robyn Douglass leaves Martin talking to ferns, contemplating suicide, adopting dogs, trying to win over commitment-phobic Judith Ivey (“You’re all right for me — that’s why you’re all wrong for me.”)and bonding with lonely schlub Grodin. This is hit or miss (the sneezing-as-orgasms scene fell very flat for me, for instance) but overall very funny; Joyce Brothers and Merv Griffin play themselves. “I think I can say, without undue modesty, that I am an expert on dog poop!”

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Saving Daylight, Stealing Sleep

Like so many people, the switch to Daylight Savings Time messes up my body’s clock something fierce. I’d go to bed regular hours, but if I woke up around 3:30, my body would insist it was 4:30 which is too close to 5 AM to go back to sleep. So I’m a little sleep-deprived, again.

Despite which I had a productive week, making up for the mess of October. And that’s despite Plushie and Trixie insisting an hour before lunch and dinner that Daddy, it’s time to eat, it really is, why are you writing? And having to take Trixie into the vet Thursday for a sore throat. Chihuahuas are prone to collapsing trachea, and hers was acting up (it’s not fatal, but we have to take care of it). We got some drugs, she’s doing fine.

So what did I do, besides my usual quota of Leaf articles?

•I worked on my rewrite of Rabbits Indigneotem. I think my friend Cindy was right that a more upbeat ending works, but it’s still not quite right. I feel it’s close though, so I’ll keep working on it. I think something upbeat but black-humored would be ideal, but that’s tricky.

•Having gotten such a good response to the rewritten Chapter One of Impossible Takes a Little Longer from the writing group, I followed up with the next three chapters. I’d actually already made some changes on them so it didn’t take a huge amount of effort. It’ll get tougher as move forward into terra sort-of incognita.

•I continued rewriting Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I want to either finish the story by the end of the month (if it’s a short) or get 10,000 words in (if it turns into a novel). While I’m keeping the core of the original short story, which is the relationship between the four protagonists, I’ve followed my feedback and put a lot of work into fleshing out the world of people who use maps to time travel.

•I started going through the articles and blog posts I’ve bookmarked for Sexist Myths and incorporating them into the book. It’s going better than expected. I suspect I’ll have to cut some stuff when I finish this draft, because it’s getting pretty damn big.

•I went out to Hillsborough, about 30 minutes from my house, to meet with the new owners of an art gallery there. They’re looking to have someone write some press releases and articles for them; I’m sure they can’t pay what Leaf does, but it would be a fun break and a second income stream, which I haven’t had for a while — and not one that would suck up a huge amount of time, as some projects have.

I’m crunching numbers to figure out what to charge; I’ll get back to them this weekend and we’ll do a trial run article for their opening next week. Good thing I work fast.

•I sent off three short stories to different markets.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum next week despite a doctor’s appointment. It does feel good to be productive again.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Cosplay for Halloween

I’m not actually much of a cosplayer. But my mother-in-law got me a scarf in the style of Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, so I figured that would do.

I tried to capture Baker’s slightly loonie grin, but I don’t think I managed it.

Our hosts, fellow writer Allegra Gullino and her husband, appeared as Gumbies—

Writer Ada Milenkovic Brown came as Ursula.And writer/artist Sam Collins came as Capwolf.

We agreed that the awkwardly fitting costume makes her look like Cap drawn by Rob Liefeld.

Finally Audrie Michelle appears as Ruth Vader Ginsburg.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.


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So even Harvey Weinstein isn’t as awful as Harvey Weinstein

One of the standard complaints about the #metoo movement is that it treats ordinary men, men who may have said or done something inappropriate but clearly aren’t bad people, like they were Harvey Weinstein, destroying their careers and crushing their lives. They do not, however, offer much in the way of examples, and the examples are usually wrong: an in-depth investigation by the employer gets treated as a he said/she said situation (more here). I’m beginning to think “he’s being treated like Harvey Weinstein!” means something along the lines of “he got fired, Weinstein got fired, ergo they’re treating him like Weinstein!”

Now it turns out even Weinstein, the poster boy for absolute rock bottom, has his defenders too. Weinstein recently showed up at Actors’ Hour, an event in NYC for young performers (there’s some debate whether he was invited or just showed). Comedian Kelly Bachman cracked jokes (“I didn’t know we’d have to bring our own Mace and rape whistles.”); some audience members booed. A male comic got up and mocked her. Another woman confronted Weinstein at his table, with profanity hurled on both sides (not by Weinstein but by some of his entourage); the woman was asked to leave.

So why not ask Weinstein to leave? I’s a private space and the organizers could certainly have told Weinstein he wasn’t welcome. The organizer said she protected the women by letting them have “freedom of speech” — the comics were free to mock him — but then why ask the one woman to leave?

Partly it may just be that Weinstein wasn’t actually doing anything other than being there. Admittedly with his record that’s pretty alarming but it wouldn’t surprise me if the event organizers just didn’t want any confrontations. A lot of us (myself included) tend to be confrontation averse. Though that’s not a good reason: women have good reason to scream at a guy who preys on them.

And part of it, undoubtedly, is that we seem to have a reflex to forgive sexual harassers. They’ve suffered enough by being criticized and shunned for a while; surely we should forgive and move on. As Weinstein’s spokesperson put it, he was at Actors’ Hour “trying to find some solace in his life that has been turned upside down. This scene was uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public.” Of course it ain’t an issue of due process; it’s true he hasn’t been convicted of anything, but private citizens outside the jury box are free to believe the victims. And if his life has been turned upside down — well, given the reasons, why should we feel sympathy for him? Yet somehow people do, far more than for the many women he allegedly assaulted, or whose careers he ruined for refusing him.

Similarly we have one Heather Mac Donald arguing that Placido Domingo’s alleged history of sexual assault (apparently one of those open secrets in the opera world) should be forgiven because Domingo’s that awesome. We cannot punish a singer of such caliber merely because he assaulted a bunch of nobodies! Which is not a new thought: Rebecca Traister has written about being told “That’s just Harvey being Harvey” when she heard stories about his behavior; simply being a powerful man is held up as an excuse.

Of course, we don’t know what the women whose careers Weinstein allegedly destroyed (I believe the women, but I think sticking with “alleged” covers my butt) might have accomplished without his interference. Or how good the women who left opera rather than stay around Domingo and people who supported him might have been. We’ll never know. But somehow their careers dead-ending, their lives turning upside down, isn’t as important as the suffering of powerful men.

We have a long way to go.



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Here, I think, is some great marketing

So when I read Blackout, about New York’s 1977 power outage, I though I’d follow it up by watching 1967’s Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, about the 1965 blackout (which took in a wider area, but had less looting). Too bad for me, it’s not available in any format except VHS, for about $35 (something I discussed over at Atomic Junkshop). The opening, nothing more, is on YouTube. But in the process of looking for it online, I found this copy of the poster.

I know perfectly well that no Doris Day movie is going to be as racy and sexy as this implies. Every review says the movie was an unfunny mess. But the poster still makes me want to see it. Still makes me think the film will be fun, fun, fun, and maybe a little bit naughty (never mind that picking movies on that basis has never worked well for me). So obviously they did good.

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