Category Archives: Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

This seems like a good time for a link post about abortion, does it not?

Yes, it can get worse.

Republicans have lied in the past and pretended women who get abortions won’t ever be prosecuted. Now, though? Conservative Louisiana politicians are already looking at making abortion a homicide and charging the mother. The Missouri legislature was looking at a bill that would criminalize aborting ectopic pregnancies, even though the fetus can’t be saved. The sponsor, Brian Seitz objects the bill wouldn’t affect ectopic abortions because they’re legal — but then what was the point of the ban?

My guess is that he does want to criminalize them — it’s not like this would be unique — but backed off when the opposition got intense. Of course, even laws which don’t flat out ban treating them can intimidate doctors — is it a life-threatening emergency yet, or not?

Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt thinks forcing teenage rape victims to bear their rapist’s baby is a personal growth opportunity. Again, this is a standard-issue right-wing viewpoint. So are lies about ob/gyn science and abortion.

The son of an ob/gyn who performed abortions says the media and medical professionals trying to pacify forced-birthers hasn’t worked out well.

Adoption is not the miracle solution to replacing abortion.

If abortion is illegal we’ll see more doctors reporting patients to the cops, even when not required.

Neither is Republican Senator Susan Collins saying she’s really, really upset that judges she voted to appoint didn’t tell the truth about their abortion views. It’s her MO in most awkward political situations — wring her hands and then do absolutely nothing. Other Republicans are focusing their outrage on whoever leaked the draft.

Alito’s draft opinion says gosh, his reasoning doesn’t apply to any rights or prior decisions but Roe, but the same logic could easily apply to rights of gay marriage, birth control and interracial marriage. LGM thinks gay marriage is the only one immediately at risk but I think the poster underestimates right-wing hostility to sexually active women. Though Republican pundits such as Megan McArdle are very loud that it’ll never happen.

But it can get better. Stopping medical abortions will be a lot tougher than surgical procedures. Voting pro-choice Dems into office or keeping them in office can help protect our rights (the Activate America campaign I’m working on now has that goal).

Some abortion providers in blue states are looking at other ways to help. Connecticut just passed a bill refusing to accept the various “sue a provider even out of state” laws red states are passing. More like this, please.

For more on the misogynist reasoning and lies of the forced-birth movement, 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.

Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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Unsurprisingly but disastrously, the Supreme Court has ended Roe.

It’s  a leaked draft but it appears it’s the real deal. LGM has initial analysis of what it means. For example, that the legal reasoning would also count against the right to birth control, gay marriage or interracial marriage.

I have nothing deep to say about this yet, other than that this has never been primarily about the rights of the fetus. It’s much more about how much the religious right hates women having sex without risk of pregnancy. After all, only men are supposed to enjoy sex before marriage. And because they tell themselves women never need life-saving abortions. The worst of them don’t see women as having any rights, any more than aquariums.

And beyond that, some Republicans simply can’t see the world through anyone else’s eyes. If an abortion ban isn’t a problem for them (they’re male, past childbearing age, they can afford to get one discreetly) it doesn’t concern them.

I think the analysis in Undead Sexist Cliches of abortion rights is still sound, even though it’s now out of date.  The Kindle version is listed separately. It’s also available from multiple other ebook retailers.

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The misogynist lies Republicans tell themselves (and us)

So Oklahoma has joined so many other Republican-controlled states in passing a no-rape exception anti-abortion bill. Then Kentucky came out with one even worse: it requires abortion providers submit a number of forms that don’t exist yet. Until the state provides the forms, providing an abortion even in a life-saving situation would be illegal, so the clinics are shuttered until then.

This means any woman who needs an abortion to save her life will die if she isn’t able to get out of state. But they don’t care. Hell, in Georgia they considered a bill in 2012 that would force women to carry dead babies to term.

And as I’ve mentioned before, if a rape victim has to bear the pregnancy to term, that’s going to cost her. Ob/gyn bills can add up even if she doesn’t insurance. It’s necessary for the health of both the mother and the fetus. You’d think those Republicans, oh so concerned about the fetus’s well-being, would cover the costs; after all, the woman’s being coerced into a pregnancy against her will. But again, nope.

Much like the Shirley Exception, forced-birthers tell us lies to hand-wave away that they’re monsters. They tell themselves the same lies for the same reason. That abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life, which is a lie. That rape doesn’t get women pregnant, which is another lie.

Then there are the lies about rape victims, most notably that they’re all they’re lying sluts, or that if the rape happened, she was asking for it (to be fair these lies extend way beyond the Republican Party). So why should they give her a free ride through her pregnancy when she’s either lying or brought it on herself? Hell, the slut should be grateful — God’s given her a baby. It would be a slap in God’s face to refuse the precious present (my detailed rejection of this view is at the link).

These let them pretend that they’re good people and not malicious misogynist shits. But it’s a pretense and nothing more.

I go into forced-birth bullshit in more detail in 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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What a difference a year makes!

My birthday 2021 was, I wrote, “meh,” starting with having had almost no sleep. I woke up this morning refreshed. Last year we didn’t do anything much because of the pandemic; this year we’re boosted, covid’s dying down (yes, I’m aware a new variant is on the horizon) and we’re going to have fun.

It’s a sign of the changes that last weekend was well, strange. No, not because of an eclipse, that photo’s from the lunar one in December. But TYG and I were actually social, in person, for the first time in ages. A friend of ours was in town so she came over to meet the dogs and then go out to dinner. Sunday I went to my friend and fellow writer Allegra Gullino‘s birthday party (TYG had to work). I ate, chatted with Allegra and a bunch of our fellow writers and had a terrific time.

It’s also been, looking back, a good year. I didn’t get much fiction done but I finished The Aliens Are Here, finished Undead Sexist Cliches (and I hand-sold one to my friend), and finished the golem article I was working on (looking back a year ago, it’s striking how much golem-fiction I was reading). Now I’m looking at a year with lots of time to write fiction.

And of course I have TYG — my personal happy ever after — and the pups, and the cats. I know none of this is forever because nothing is (and lord knows what Republicans will do to this country before I die) but life is better right now than I ever imagined it would be at 64.

Happy birthday to me.

#SFWApro.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: The Legend of Og and Thog

One of the rationalizations for men and women having fixed, separate roles is that our gender differences evovled in the Paleolithic. Society has changed radically but our genes haven’t had a chance to catch up; like it or not, men and women still respond to impulses and mating drives laid down in the stone age. It may not be fair, but it’s scientific fact, so sorry feminists.

Actually no. This is what evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk describes as a paleofantasy, an explanation of gender differences based not on science but on speculation and guesswork about what our ancestors were like? And the basis of that guesswork, of course, is what we’re like today (or what people think we’re like) because obviously that must be how our ancestors lived. The late science writer Stephen Jay Gould calls this kind of science-based mythology a “just so story.” To give one example of how it works — only it doesn’t work — consider two Paleolithic cavemen, Og and Thog.

Og is monogamous. He takes a mate and stays with her until one of them dies. Thog is a lech who sleeps with a different woman every week. In three years, the odds are that Og will have at most three children; Thog, by contrast, could easily have more than a hundred; as he doesn’t let any one woman tie him down, he’s never held back by the responsibilities of raising the children he sires.

The result is that Thog passes on his promiscuity genes to probably 50 boys or more. As his sons have the same genetic edge, the gene inevitably spreads through all men.

The women, though? No matter how much they sleep around, they rarely spread their genes to more than one kid a year. Promiscuity works against them because what they need isn’t sex but a man who can help raise their children to adulthood. Faithfulness and a willingness to cook and provide sex are their best shot at landing a man, though they have to fight against the male promiscuity gene. The end result is the world we see today: women try to get love and support, men try to get sex. Women want to stay home and care for their bundle of genes, men want to go out and screw. You can’t expect men to be faithful naturally, or to help care for the kids. Sorry ladies, it may be unfair but it’s just how things are.

None of this holds up (I have detailed footnotes in the book for all this stuff; you can find a lot of it here). For starters, Og and Thog and their mates will spread their genes to their daughters as well as their sons; some women will acquire Thog’s promiscuous instincts, some boys will inherit the maternal domestic genes. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the relevant genes are completely sex-linked. As we don’t even know the genes exist, this is a very large assumption.

Does the hypothesis really capture the way men and women are? It’s certainly a popular, accepted stereotype of relationships, one I’ve heard repeated in dating advice books dozens of times (and The Flintstones, of course, presented those stereotypes as truly being Stone Age stuff. But very few men engage in Thog levels of promiscuity; as a group, human males are way, way more involved in child care than most animal species. This makes sense; passing on your genes won’t do any good unless your kids grow up healthy and desirable enough to reproduce themselves too.

One counter-argument is that social codes set limits on men; given freedom and power, men will go through women like Kleenex. Certainly there are dictators and tyrants who’ve done this, ditto religious leaders. But does that prove all men are really like that, or that men who crave absolute power are like that? And if men’s real lusts are repressed by society, couldn’t the same be true of women? Women who sleep around are judged much more harshly than men; maybe it’s not surprising they’re more conservative in such matters.

Another problem is that Thog’s mating strategy isn’t that good. If Og and his wife make naked pretzels once a week, the odds of conceiving a kid are good. There’s a good chance a number of Thog’s lovers won’t conceive, which reduces the benefits of his actions. Besides didn’t our hunter/gatherer ancestors live in small bands by our standards? The chance Thog could find that many women to sleep with, or that the women of the community wouldn’t be aware of his reputation is pretty slim. And as I already pointed out, bearing lots of children isn’t an advantage if they don’t all grow up and have children too. Perhaps Og and his mate, raising a few children and watching over them, will pass on their genes to more people than feckless Thog.

I’m not claiming my alternatives are certain fact. My point is they’re every bit as plausible as the Og and Thog legend and have just as much evidence (basically none) behind them. And, I think, considerably more logic. The Og and Thog thesis assumes there’s no other plausible alternative. That just ain’t the case.

Book cover by Kemp Ward, comics cover by Steve Pugh. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: Men are Men, Women Are Women, End of Story

As I mention in the first chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches, the foundational myth most of the bullshit I write about is built on is that men and women are fundamentally different. Everyone knew and accepted this until feminism came along and claimed the two sexes were interchangeable. Feminists are challenging the truth known to all prior generations so they’re wrong, wrong, wrong! End of story.

Of course there are fundamental differences between men and women. Women get pregnant and undergo menstruation. Men can pee standing up. Men are more prone to colorblindness. But sexists see vaster, more profound differences, which conveniently explain why men run everything. Men are just evolved to be better at everything. Men are smarter. “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” Men are aggressive competitors, women are not. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Which is why I cast a dubious eye on one section of Sen. Rick Scott’s Republican agenda (which Moscow Mitch quickly rejected as a political gift to Democrats) where he declares “Men and women are biologically different, ‘male and female He created them.’ Modern technology has confirmed that abortion takes a human life. Facts are facts, the earth is round, the sun is hot, there are two genders, and abortion stops a beating heart. To say otherwise is to deny science. As a scientific statement, sure, it’s true, but with conservatives it invariably translates into “no discrimination here! Women just aren’t cut out for the military/big business/voting/STEM.” It’s okay to slut-shame women and not men.

Possibly Scott doesn’t mean any of that, but I always assume the worst of Republicans writing about gender. For example “abortion stops a beating heart” is clearly a shorthand for “no abortion.” But of course abortion doesn’t always stop a beating heart — there often isn’t one — and whether a fetus has a heart is irrelevant. Forced-birther  think its rights trump the mothers from the moment egg meets sperm, long before its heart beats so it’s nothing but cheap rhetoric.

First off, the fact “everyone knew it was so” doesn’t mean “therefore it must be true.” In relatively recent history various European peoples believed in the divine right of kings, that the Catholic Church was the only true faith, that bad air caused disease and that maggots grew naturally from rotting meat. None of which was true.

Nor does Scott saying “it’s science” prove any of his claims. Sexists love to pretend science is on their side but they simply use it to rationalize their pre-existing bias. It’s no more a valid argument than “it’s natural” when they argue for women to stay home with babies. If it’s nature that’s important, shouldn’t they want women to stop shaving their legs? Shouldn’t they be in favor of teen sex? After all, abstaining at that age (assuming a willing partner) is definitely not natural.

Obviously that section is also about cracking down on trans people and non-binary but I don’t doubt Republican misogyny is wrapped up in it too.

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Undead Sexist Cliches: why I wrote it

When my family arrived in the U.S. in 1969, second-wave feminism was just revving up. It was in the news a lot and to my tween mind it made perfect sense.

Not that I had any deep understanding of the issues, or of misogyny — see this old post, for instance — but treating men and women equally? Same rights for all? Who could object to that? The 1960s had gotten a start on solving all that racism stuff, now the 1970s would fix the sexism!

Yes, I was young.

IIRC, I knew one classmate in high school besides myself who supported the Equal Rights Amendment (that’s not to say there were some who didn’t want to come out and say it). No surprise; Fort Walton Beach Fla. was a very conservative community. Frustratingly, when discussing politics I couldn’t quite put into words why the ERA was important: my gut said yes, but I couldn’t explain why.

When I returned to FWB after college, it was still right-wing as shit. The letters to the editor routinely blasted working women (destroying their children’s lives!), women who get abortion (promiscuous sluts!) and women who didn’t want to accept Men Are The Boss. There were also lots of rants about how this is a Christian nation and we should pass laws based on what (the letter writer imagines) God wants. A number of right-wing syndicate columnists (Suzanne Fields, Walter Williams, Charley Reese) echoed the same points. In hindsight it’s interesting that these were within the Overton window of acceptable discourse; anti-Semitism and racism weren’t as acceptable as misogyny (though we got occasional bits of both).

In my early twenties I felt an obligation to use my skills for good; the letters page was an outlet even an unemployed writer could use to contribute to the commonweal. I started writing letters explaining why God Wants It and Women Are Inferior, however phrased, were never logically constructed arguments.

I wrote a lot of letters. Eventually the paper imposed a one-letter-a-month rule; I think I was one of the prime reasons. I’ve had a number of people tell me how much they appreciated my writing. I also know I drove a lot of right-wingers to distraction, in which I take a small, petty satisfaction. Providing a dose of left-wing reality to a right-wing community is a good thing to do. I don’t know I ever changed any minds but at least I could provide facts to anyone like me who can’t rationalize their gut instinct.

That went on for the next 30 years. Then I went to work for the Destin Log and became a regular columnist. Slightly different venue, same themes. Plus a lot of criticism of the Bush II presidency’s militarism, national security state policies and the way local Republicans treated W as God’s anointed king (a dry run for treating Trump as the messiah).

About 11 years back I was living in Durham, writing full-time and doing political writing at various outlets. Those dried up so I’d begun posting political content on this blog (regrettably a much smaller audience). In 2011 I was struck by arguments I’d encountered that men will never accomplish anything unless women stand aside and let men be the boss. What struck me was that I’d read similar claims all the way back to the early 1970s. And so my first post on Undead Sexist Cliches — stuff that lives on, no matter how many times it’s disproven — was born.

I followed it up with a post on how women should never give away the milk and how feminists ruined television. The latter is a good example of how these cliches shamble on: the stuff I cover is a precursor to the online freakouts and troll campaigns about how SJWs are ruining comics, TV, Marvel movies, Star Wars etc. by creating protagonists who aren’t white men (since writing the article I’ve also seen complaints going as far back as the bullshit).

I thought that would be it, but more undead sexist cliches kept cropping up, so I kept writing. Several years ago, the idea of compiling them all into a short, snarky (but logical) book hit me and I began work. Trouble was, I had to provide examples of the right-wing bullshit  I was writing against and there are so many … and several of the arguments required some research (evolutionary psychology stuff for instance) to refute. So it became much more detailed and footnotes, much longer. And took correspondingly long to write. It’s telling that I didn’t originally have a harassment chapter but added one after #metoo blew up big a few years ago.

And now it’s done. It hasn’t exorcised my frustration at the misogyny flowing through society (I will have many more posts on the topic I’m sure), but if it gives someone like my teenage self an understanding of why gender equality is right, then I’ve done something worth doing.

Undead Sexist Clichesis live in paperback on Amazon, with the Kindle version listed separately. It’s also available from multiple other ebook retailers.

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Perhaps this time, the impossible takes a little shorter.

As I’ve said before, my list of 2022 goals doesn’t include a lot of specifics. One of the specific goals is that I want to finish rewriting Impossible Takes a Little Longer and send it off to someone (or alternatively, have it ready to self-publish).

I’ve never managed to write anything that quickly but I think it’s doable. With Aliens Are Here and Undead Sexist Cliches done, I have no other major project (lots of little ones). And this is book that I’ve rewritten several times already so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch.

I’ve been approaching the current draft like a NaNoNaNo project. Figure out where I’m going next and then just charge ahead writing the sucker. If I see possible problems, keep going. I know from experience that can waste a shit-ton of time — I get to the end, realize the draft is completely wrong — but it’s coming along well. A number of chunks are still usable, I just had to shift them around to meet my new plot structure. It’s tighter, tenser (I think) and less rambling.

It’s also created a raft of new problems. In my previous, more rambling plot, the Big Bad doesn’t become aware of KC until halfway through the book (she assumes he’s behind all her problems but it’s coincidence). Now he needs to be working against her much sooner, which will require some changes. I’m not sure what, though. And his biggest moments with her take place in scenes that got cut a couple of drafts ago. Writing now, I definitely need to build up his presence more.

Matt, KC’s close buddy, barely appears in the new manuscript. That’s bad because later events have no emotional punch if I don’t build up their friendship. I’m not sure where I fit him in. Or should I drop him and give his role to Rachel? She’s another friend of KC but much of her original subplot has been cut or handed off to KC’s best friend Sarah. This would give her something to do — perhaps there’s no longer enough material for two characters. Carla Jeffries, the mayor of New York, played a much larger role in the previous draft. It’s much diminished now, which is a shame. She’s a good character and I’d like to expand it when I rewrite this draft, if I can.

There’s also the problem of when KC learns things. A lot of the reveals got moved up much earlier, which has a ripple effect on how she reacts in later scenes and what the conversations cover. Twists I’d have preferred to hold off on until later now happen earlier. But I’m stuck with that unless I can think of a plausible reason for someone not to tell her.

Another problem could be that it’s only running into 60,000-plus words now. However that’s less of an issue than it used to be — there are publishers who’ll take a book that short — and it’ll probably expand in the next revision.

Still, I think the problems are fixable and that this rewrite is much stronger than what went before. We’ll see if I still think so when it’s done and I look it over.

Below, a paining by Giorgio De Chirico, one of my favorite surrealists, simply because I like his work.

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

 

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This week was pleasantly easy

Leaf articles are on a lull so I could work on my own projects. And most of those went smoothly.

I completed the 25,000 words I wanted to add to Impossible Takes a Little Longer this month, in large part because I was at a point where I could reuse a lot of older material, just in a different place in the book (I’ll be discussing this next week in more detail). I’m not entirely sure the last 5,000 words will stay in the final manuscript but I so love the telepathic dog I hated to cut him. I’m a softie on dogs, y’know? I intend to keep working on the book this month, though some of the allotted time may go to other projects.

I began work rewriting my first published story, The Adventure of the Red Leech (I discussed the reasons why here). I have one major problem, I have no idea how Holmes defeats the supernatural at the climax without telegraphing the ending in advance (e.g., if Holmes put silver bullets into a revolver, you’d know the werewolf was going to buy it). On the other hand, the mystery plot is starting to make sense, so I have hope it will all fall into place.

I got 3,500 words into the final (or almost) draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and I can see improvement already. If I can finish it this month I will be very happy.

As an experiment, I swapped Chapter Two and Chapter One of Southern Discomfort around. This has the advantage of introducing Maria up front, which makes it clear she’s the central character (albeit it’s still an ensemble cast, not a star vehicle). There’s more tension than in Chapter One, which is a lot lower key. On the downside, there’s no real hint of what’s going on and little evidence of a supernatural presence. I will give it another look next week after my thoughts have had time to jell.

I posted two articles to Atomic Junkshop. One is about the Marvel retcon known as the Siancong War. The other is about Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in WW II and why that seems so unusual today (no, not just because it would make them more than 80 if it was still canon).Less satisfyingly, I sent out three stories to various markets and got two of them back. One came with a compliment that my submission was close to several things they’d already accepted so clearly I was on the right track. Unfortunately I have nothing else that fits this particular market (sigh). And a couple of magazines I approached in hopes of getting PR for Undead Sexist Cliches didn’t respond.

Not that I don’t enjoy the creative process, but it would be really nice to have something accepted by someone. Of course Aliens Are Here is under contract, but a fiction sale would be nice. A new story rather than a reprint would be even better. Though as I barely submitted anything last year, it’s understandable I haven’t gotten any results in a while. Hopefully this year will see some improvement.

#SFWApro. Comics panels by Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holder.

 

 

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