Category Archives: Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Undead Sexual Cliches: Harassment is an arbitrary term and accusers are anonymous

Covering two cliches about sexual harassment today. First, the complaint that, according to antifeminist Suzanne Venker, “harassment is a vague term because it’s so subjective.” This is an argument I’ve seen a lot: almost anything can be classed as harassment if a woman takes offense. It’s impossible for a man to know when he’s harassing a woman. Business owner Paula Fargo in writing about how harmful #metoo supposedly is complains cases “run the gamut from hurt feelings all the way to ‘hostile work environments'” — if there’s no physical assault we’re just dealing with a woman’s “perception you are being sexually harassed” It’s just a matter of opinion. Daphne Merkin complains about a “disturbing lack of clarity” in “sexual harassment.”

This is similar to a standard argument against prosecuting date rape: the boundary for consent is so vague and arbitrary, guys can’t tell they’re doing anything wrong. Just because a woman thinks the guy crossed a line does that make it so? But the legal boundaries aren’t that vague. Federal guidelines say harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal and physical harassment “of a sexual nature” or offensive remarks about women in general. It does not include teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents unless they become so frequent or severe it creates a “hostile or offensive work environment” or affects the victim’s career (e.g., firing them).

That’s not vague. It is partly subjective — is a given sexual advance welcome or unwelcome? — but that seems reasonable. It doesn’t mean, as Warren Farrell and others have claimed that harassment is anything a woman says it is. I’m confident that “he’s reading Mickey Spillane, a sexist author — that’s harassment!” wouldn’t fly, not that I’ve ever heard anything even remotely comparable. Admittedly some questions — is teasing is bad enough to create a hostile work environment? — could be vague and/or subjective, but that’s true of a lot of legal matters.

Were party A’s words so inflammatory they justified a physical response? Was a doctor’s error an understandable mistake or so bad as to constitute negligence?  Whether a police shooting or a stand your ground case is justified can depend on whether the shooter felt genuinely endangered or not. Was the killer acting in cold blood (first degree murder) or did they lose control and act in a rage (second degree)? So far as I know, the only place antifeminists object to subjectivity is when it comes to harassment.

Closely related are the arguments that “An equal amount of fury is directed toward actions as morally — and legally — distinct from each other as rape, harassment, rudeness, boorishness and incivility” as Lee Siegel claims. Or editor Rick MacArthur’s argument that #metoo “has had an unfortunate tendency to lump together everybody from Harvey Weinstein to the guy who looked at you funny at the lunchroom at the office cantina or who maybe sent you a suggestive message.” See, it’s so vague, any man can get into trouble!

The trouble with this argument is that nobody’s getting fired for looking at someone funny over lunch or sending a suggestive message. They are being talked about, as in the Shitty Media Men list, but that’s not the same thing. Saying (as someone in the list did) that someone sent you a creepy direct message is not getting people fired. It’s doing what women have long done, warn others in private (the list wasn’t originally meant to go public) about guys you should stay away from (“No, you don’t want a coaching session alone with Harry. Trust me.”). It may be just silly and unfair …but then again, maybe not (the link has some discussion of this). Violence predictor Gavin DeBecker has discussed that people can often pick up on Danger even if they can’t pin down why. I don’t think “looked at me funny” would be a good standard for firing anyone, but as a warning between colleagues? It might be.

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White dogs on dope!

So Sunday I was applying the hot water bottle to Plushie’s hips (they get very stiff otherwise) and he began wriggling out of my arms as if uncomfortable. I resisted, he tried climbing up over my arms and then he gave the pain whimper. Once we confirmed that yes, he was in pain, we took him to the emergency vet. This time he managed something new, pulling one of the long muscles in his side. So back on cage rest just a couple of months after last time. I’d be worried it would be non-stop but this is a separate problem from last time.

The painkillers and muscle relaxants he’s on make Plushie dopey, so he spends most of the day dozing in there. Still he gets miserable and demanding enough to distract me from work. And as TYG sleeps downstairs to be near him, just in case he has a pain attack or something, our schedule is a mess. Usually I start writing when I wake up, come down when TYG wakes, write some more (mixed in with dog care) and do my stretching, yoga and exercise later.

Happily, Plushie is improving fast so it couldn’t have been too bad an injury. This makes him needier and more demanding for Freedom!! but we’re happy about it just the same.

Wisp has been a surprisingly good trooper for all this. I have to sleep in the main bedroom with Trixie (Trixie would freak out if we left her alone) so Wisp spends her nights alone in the spare bedroom. Didn’t faze her as much as I thought. Last night she didn’t come in but that’s more because White Cat was hanging around. They seem to get along — no catfights so far — but last night Wisp seemed to be hissing and asserting her dominance a lot.

Despite all that, it was a productive week. I redid the introduction, which I’ll be reading to the writers’ group next week, plus the Invasion chapter and got several other chapters rough drafted. I watched some X-Files and did some research reading.

I finally read my editor’s critique of the golem article. There’s a couple of books she wants me to add to the piece, and a little more commentary in spots (how well did the different stories work?). It’ll be easier to deliver by deadline (end of next month) than I feared.

I also got a couple of chapters final-rpoofed on Undead Sexist Cliches; happily it’s still requiring only light copy-editing. I hope that keeps up. I have an appointment for early October to talk to a cover designer a friend recommended. I’ve also begun work on the book blurb.

There were, surprisingly, no new Leafs this week. I’m guessing it’s the end of the fiscal year and things’ll be back to normal next month. While this is a hit to my bottom line, the timing is great for extra work on Alien Visitors. I’ll be putting in more of that tomorrow, while TYG’s free to sit downstairs with Plush and Trixie.

One more month and I’ll have both books and the golem story done, barring disasters. I like that thought. Oh, and one of my Philosophy and Fairytales collections sold on Smashwords. I like that too! Thanks, whoever you were!

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TYG and I weren’t planning to become a two-cat family

But we’ve had “White Cat” (placeholder name) irregularly sniffing around our house for a couple of months now. More recently she’s been sniffing and mewing plaintively for food, so we fed her. Happily she likes a brand of soft food I bought for Wisp much more than Wisp does.

Wisp, surprisingly, is quite chill with her. None of the aggressive territorial defense I’ve seen with other cats. I don’t know what the difference is. She’s nowhere near as skittish as Wisp. She runs away from us if we get too close, but it took Wisp a year before she’d let me come as close as White Cat does here.She’s definitely been a house pet, probably more recently than Wisp was when we met her. White Cat also seems a lot less comfortable surviving on her own. Did someone just decide to dump her? We’ll never know.

We have an appointment at the feral/stray cat clinic Sept. 26  for spay/neuter and general checkup. Hopefully our new acquaintance will show up the night before and get trapped (we have the trap cage already). Where we go from there, who knows? We aren’t looking for more pets, but as the saying goes, you cannot leave the work unfinished.

Speaking of work, I did get some of that done too. I squeezed in seven Leaf articles at the start of the week, then for whatever reason the flow stopped. The timing is convenient as that meant more work on Alien Visitors; that said, it probably means lower than usual income for the month. I did sell another copy of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast and made $24 in royalties on my film books for the past six months, but that won’t pay the bills. Which isn’t to say I’m unhappy — it’s a real kick that 20 years after it came out, Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan still sells a few copies a year.

Work on Alien Visitors is going well but it takes much more time than I anticipate. Given my looming deadline, that makes me a little uneasy, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, it’s doable. I did some scheduling today to make sure of that. I want to make sure I write some of it every day — not that this is more efficient but I noticed at the start of the week, when I’d done nothing but watch movies and write Leafs, I slept very poorly. Stress does that.

I also proofed the introduction and first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and I’m pleased. My previous editing was good enough I only had one section where I needed to make major changes. So I think I’m still on track for an end of October release.

All in all, not a bad week.

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Despite a moment of panic, this week went well

So after my crown went in Wednesday, I celebrated by having a meal of crunchy granola … and felt a grinding sensation, not from my crown but the cap on the other side. And when I checked with my tongue, I found it was missing. So I called the dentist … and it turned out I was imagining it. No gap that wasn’t there before. Everything’s fine. It still feels funny, but I’m confident my dentist is more objective than I am.

Leaf articles didn’t start back up until the end of the week so I put in a lot of time on Alien Visitors. I have three chapters and the introduction in good, though rough shape; barring disaster, it is actually doable by deadline. I do have to start ordering posters and photos as illustrations though — I’ve left that too long. My original plan was to buy them a couple each month; it won’t be easy to absorb now, but it’ll be manageable. I watched fewer movies than planned, but I’m still on track there, too.

I also started on the final proof of Undead Sexist Cliches and began to think about marketing, promotion, book blurbs (trigger warnings will be a must — some of this stuff I’m critiquing is creepy as shit).

Less than a couple of months and both books will be done. Then it’s back to fiction at last.

And now, time to put up the computer and relax. Have fun, y’all.

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A man, a plan, a canal — only no canal and not really a plan

(For those who don’t know, the title comes from the palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama.”).

So last month I just threw up my hands and stopped my usual efforts to make a monthly to-do list. Due to Wisp coming in every morning, the stuff I do early (meditate, voice exercises) hasn’t been getting done. And my writing to-dos are pretty basic: 1)Finish Alien Visitors by the end of October; 2)finish my article on golems by the same date; 3)finish Undead Sexist Cliches, ditto. So why worry beyond mapping out my work for the week?

Now that we’ve moved out of August and into September, I’m finding that a little uncomfortable. I like the structure my monthly to-do list gives me, even if I don’t handle more than half of the list. So I’ll probably bite the bullet and resume for October. I’m already trying to reinstitute some of my morning activities into my day somewhere. It’s just difficult, as I get caught up in writing or I suddenly have to take care of the dogs. I love them, but they are not helpful to achieving a meditative state.

This week I had no Leaf articles so it was almost all Alien Visitors, and it went well. I rewrote the introduction into a reasonably polished state, then rewrote the Invasion chapter as well. Having something finished enough I can say “Yeah, I’ll get this book done” is very satisfying. And that despite some extra dog care, including an unplanned vet trip — nothing serious, just Trixie needed a checkup for a sore foot. She’s now in the cone of shame to stop her chewing on it.

Oh, and I updated one of my old posts — about the Bronze Age Freedom Fighters series — and posted it at Atomic Junkshop.

I also made a start on adding a few final notes to Undead Sexist Cliches — items I bookmarked that were worthy of adding, some information from Jesus and John Wayne. I’d meant to start revising my golem piece as well, but the vet visit took up too much time. I’d thought I could get some research reading done but Trixie, who’s usually into wandering around sniffing everything, insisted on sitting on my lap and getting stroked. So she got her wish, of course.

Wisp has still been coming on at night on a regular basis. This morning she came in mid-morning, which hasn’t happened in a while. I suspect she’ll be spending more time indoors as the weather drops. Hopefully she’ll go back to snoozing while she’s in — it’s much easier to get work done that way. There’s a white cat that’s been sniffing around our house lately, but Wisp doesn’t seem compelled to establish her turf and drive the stranger off. If the new cat comes regularly enough, we’ll schedule a spay/neuter at the local clinic, then trap it. We don’t see it consistently enough yet.

Fall has definitely started. Temperatures were relatively mild earlier this week (I emphasize “relatively”) and this morning it was almost chilly enough to require more than shorts and a T-shirt. It’s quite welcome.

For this weekend, I anticipate cooking, reading and as usual watching Alien Visitor films. If the weather stays nice, maybe bicycling as well.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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The fruit of a poisonous tree

According to the book of Matthew, “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” So judging by the last chapter of JESUS AND JOHN WAYNE: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the fruit of right-wing Christian complementarianism shows the doctrine is ultimately vile.

Du Mez shows that gender was a major problem for 20th century evangelical Christians. All this church talk about being nice, being good, being compassionate, not solving problems with violence — it’s so damn unmanly! This was not a unique problem — mainstream America worried about a decline in masculinity too — but it’s one American evangelical churches have been grappling with for a long time.

The solution was to hold up John Wayne as a role model for the kind of manly men American Christians should be, and to emphasize female submission  — God made men to be the boss, women should submit, stay home and pop out Christian babies. In a kind of bizarro-intersectionality this became wrapped up with other things conservative evangelicals cared about, such as fighting communism and keeping black American down. Strong families would help us hold the line against Communism. Keeping women in gilded cages was held up in glowing contrast to Communism which gave lip service to women’s equality. Because evangelicals had developed their own media ecosystem and sales channels, books and radio programs spread these ideas through their community. Some, such as Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman, broke through into the mainstream.

As Beth Allison Barr has written, this led to evangelicals disregarding or ignoring all the parts of the Bible that made this inconvenient, like the references to Junia (female apostle) and Phoebe (deacon) as they don’t fit the right-wing view  that women having authority over men, or teaching to them is against the Bible. As feminism became a mainstream stance, the right-wing response was to cling more fiercely to their views, insisting absolute female subordination was a Biblical stance. They also began insisting that Jesus was not in any way, shape or form a nice, gentle man — he was a total badass! He didn’t want his followers turning the the cheek, he wanted them to bust heads and take names!

I will pause here and note that in my own Christian view Jesus does say (“I come not to bring peace but the sword”) and do things (cleaning the money-changers from the temple) that are not meek and mild. But he says and does a great many things that are antithetical to the macho badass interpretation, from compassion for outcasts, sinners and the sick to emphasizing the importance of love, forgiveness and charity. Trying to fit them into a cohesive worldview is difficult  — ignoring the parts you don’t like isn’t even trying (admittedly that’s a long Christian tradition too).

So in the 21st century we end up with right-wing evangelicals loudly and gloriously enthused by waging endless war in the Middle East without any of the moral qualms past Christian generations have had about war and ethics. In most cases (some were combat veterans) they were classic chickenhawks, rooting for other men to do the fighting (women, of course had no business in the military in their eyes). And rooting for Trump as precisely the kind of macho thug they wanted to be, as well as the practical advantages of rooting for someone who’d deliver on policies they liked.

In the last chapter, Du Mez looks at the level of sexual harassment, rape and assault in complementarian churches, and this is the really poisonous fruit. Astonishingly, a number of people who preach absolute male domination and absolute female submission (including in sex — some of them are very big on wives’ obligation to have lots of sex with their husbands, even if the women don’t feel like it)) turn out to be men who exploit male domination and female submission. And many who don’t abuse or assault women themselves back other clergy or members of their own church who do. They talk a good game about how men must protect women, but when a man fails in his duty the first response is not to stop him but to make sure women stay obedient.

Which as Fred Clark says, raises the question of Matthew: if the fruit is toxic, can we trust the tree? I’m not a complementarian, but if I was, would it be possible for me to separate the teachings of Douglas Wilson or John Piper from their misogyny? Or would absorbing their writing mingle them both? And what does it say to survivors if we hold up sexual predators as wise men of god who should be listened to?

The fruit is bad. I think the tree is too.

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Among this week’s accomplishments: removing multi-legged things from the house

One reason TYG is glad to have me around is that when things with too many legs show up, she can have me remove them. Like these two:So that’s two accomplishments unlocked this week.

Writing wise it was a very good week. I wrapped up my Leaf articles for the month Sunday and Monday, then spent the rest of the week working on Alien Visitors. Well, mostly: I finished my proofing of Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches which means I’m just about done. It hasn’t sunk in yet, though.

I got a lot of writing done for Alien Visitors which has me feeling much better about the book’s progress. Still much to do — almost too much — but for the first time in a while it looks manageable. With the end of October in sight, it’s only a couple more months to work on it — rushed months, but then it’ll be done.

Wisp slept in at night the entire week, which meant she was with me every morning. Nevertheless I managed to regain part of my schedule and get all my exercising done this week, plus long walks with Trixie. Exercise is probably what I need most, so this is good.  And other than one night, she was happy to sleep until I got up, instead of waking me up for petting.

May September go this well!

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Another productive week without craziness

—So a good week, but not terribly exciting to write about. Next week I have a root canal and an unrelated doctor’s appointment so that may change.

I wrapped up my Leaf writing for July on Monday.

To my pleasant surprise I finished the last chapter and the afterword of Undead Sexist Cliches. In my head, I’m tentatively setting a publication date in early November, which allows me to think about publicity and promotion and stuff (more on this later). Of course, I have a shit-ton to do on Alien Visitors which has a firm deadline at the end of October, so I still wonder if it’s possible. But if I commit, I’ll have to deliver.

Speaking of Alien Visitors, I did a thorough rewrite on the introduction and a good second draft of the chapter on alien invaders (focus: the George Pal and Spielberg War of the Worlds). Being able to look at them and say that yes, people will actually find this interesting, is a huge booster. Much to do yet, though.

And of course, I watched movies and TV for the book. Memorably, but not pleasurably the Day the Earth Stood Still knockoff Cosmic Man (1959) –— which is still more watchable than the Keanu Reaves remake of Day. And then Atomic Submarine (1960)I suffer for my art.

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Lack of empathy, lack of logic: Warren Farrell’s “The Myth of Male Power”

The cover of Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power (uncredited art, as far as I could see) sums up his belief men are powerless in the face of a “genetic celebrity,” AKA an attractive woman. He’s wrong about that, as he is about much else.

The book isn’t all bad. As I said last week, unlike many critiques of feminism Farrell doesn’t assume old gender roles are the goal, or that they’re fixed and unchanging. He doesn’t think men are made for violence, and he believes they can be good caregivers and stay-at-home dads. He realizes shattering gender stereotypes is good for both sexes. And that prison rape is not a funny thing or a form of justice.

All of which makes me appreciate why it’s so tempting to just hate your enemies as monsters: it’s much simpler. It’s like seeing Mona Charen, who’s big on the buyer’s remorse rape-apologist bullshit, condemning Republicans for supporting Donald Trump and Roy Moore. It’s unsettling to realize someone I despise isn’t all bad.

That said, this book gives me plenty to despise. Farrell starts from illogical premises and then builds badly (not to mention including bad statistics and untrue statements). For example, he claims men are genetically hardwired to be women’s protectors, and women to crave protectors for mates). This is a paleofantasy, an assumption that as society is this way, it must be in our genes. Like most such assumptions, there’s no science to back it up. As philosopher Daniel Dennett once said, our ancestors often chose to live in caves but we don’t have a cave-dwelling gene.

Nevertheless, Farrell explains all kinds of things based on his assumption. Boys bully each other to test their fitness as protectors. Polygamy exists to protect women from winding up monogamously married to a poor man. Workplace gender discrimination protects married women by ensuring their husbands have fewer competitors at work. Men die in war to protect women. In Farrell’s eyes, society doesn’t oppress women, it cherishes them.

Farrell also believes our biological imperative is for man to aggressively pursue women while women keep saying no; eventually the man overwhelms her resistance and she surrenders happily, knowing she has a strong mate who’ll fight for her. In other words, no means yes. Farrell doesn’t literally say every no means yes but he comes close. He claims, for example, that sexual harassment suits mean “yes” — the woman doesn’t want him to give up pursuing her, she’s still just testing him. Besides, if women look attractive at work, obviously they’re open to hooking up (and marrying and quitting, so the boss is totally justified in firing good-looking women).

This leads into another flaw, Farrell’s complete lack of empathy for women. In writing about dating and relationships, he thinks both men and women should be willing to ask the other out, pay for dinner if they ask, etc., which is reasonable enough. But he focuses almost entirely on the male side, the pain and discomfort of being rejected by a genetic celebrity. He ignores that most women aren’t sexy, any more than men, and that the mating dance is just as agonizing for women, if not more so. As Laurie Penny says, “I was taught to fear being a whore or a loser if I answered, never mind asked myself. Sex isn’t an achievement for a young girl. It’s something we’re supposed to embody so other people can consume us, and if we fail at that, what are we even for?” Farrell seems to think the problem is women enjoying their power and making men come to them, not that society — and a fair number of men — often treat them like shit for not doing womanhood right.

And that leads into his utterly loathsome views of rape and harassment. For Farrell it’s men who suffer: men have to take the initiative in sex and relationships but if they’re not a good lover or they “initiate at the wrong time,” suddenly it’s rape! They have to ask the woman out but if she’s a coworker and she isn’t interested, bam, he’s a harasser (asking a colleague out once, assuming you’re not in authority over her, is not usually enough to cause harassment). Feminists have “taught” women to sue for date rape but nobody’s taught men to sue if women say yes, then change their mind which is just as traumatic (no, it isn’t).

Stranger rape, that’s bad, but date rapists are just dudes who “initiated badly” or weren’t good lovers. And yet as soon as they make their innocent mistake, blammo, a woman can ruin them. She feels buyer’s remorse, or she just lies — Farrell’s convinced there are huge numbers of false rape charges out there. The FBI doesn’t think so, but federal statistics are unreliable: as far as the FBI knows, we could have no false charges, or we could have 100 percent (the FBI can state as a fact we do not have 100 percent fake rape charges).

 

 

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Strangely enough, the guest puppies made me more productive, sort of

With Lily and Tito visiting, and TYG having her own stuff to deal with, I really couldn’t go anywhere last weekend other than the grocery store and the library. So I watched lots of movies for Alien Visitors. I did more of that the first couple of days this week, then settled in to writing on the book. The result was that I ended up with like nine hours of overtime. Which I still track even though I almost never run under-time. Still, knowing I’m not sitting on my butt gives me a certain peace of mind.

After the dogs left I set to work on writing the book. I did some great work on the introduction but as usual didn’t get as far as I liked. Dog care, lack of sleep, occasional errands, in short the usual distractions.

I squeezed in a bunch of Leafs the end of the week and I started the rewrite of Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches. This chapter deals with the concept of the sexual marketplace — specifically the idea women are selling sex (whether for cash, love, gifts or marriage), men are buying and that women “giving it away” undercuts the rightful order of things.

And that’s pretty much it. As I’m working on so few projects these days, these posts just get shorter and shorter. But that’s better than having some long catastrophe I have to explain, right?

For visuals, here’s a shot I took from inside the Plush One’s cage, up next to the built-in cupboard. We finally took the cage down today.

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