Tag Archives: feminism

Yes, I just watched all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-TV-Series

I finally got around to watching every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and these are my feelz.

1) Why did I ever think this show was going to be scary? Except for Hush. Hush was terrifying.

2) SMG is a goddess.

3) Spike me!

4) Idk that Joss Whedon deserves any feminist/progressive merit badges for this one…

I decided to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I liked Firefly (yes I’m one of THOSE people) and because the blogosphere can’t seem to shut up about Joss Whedon and whether or not he’s a feminist and because it’s consistently referred to as one of the most influential sci-fi/fantasy shows of recent times.  Watching it made me feel simultaneously excited and disappointed. I LOVED how much ass Buffy was kicking, and SUPER LOVED Willow in all her ways and shapes and forms, but there were also moments where I felt like annoying sitcom gender tropes were being trotted out for an easy laugh, not to mention several not-so-insignificant race fails that made me want to bang my head against the wall (head banging was in in the 90s, right?). Even harder for me to watch, even as I was shipping, was the Buffy-Spike relationship- it sort of felt like “but he had no soul” was the new “but he wasn’t himself bc drugs/alcohol/rage” re: rape attempts. This plus the enormous rape fail that was Dollhouse (look, I enjoyed it but we all have to admit that it was total shit on rape) does not make me feel like throwing Joss Whedon a big ol’ feminist parade.

Does Buffy deserve the hype? I think so- although as the boyf pointed out to me it has definitely profited from the Netflix-fueled nostalgia bump. It’s campy and it knows it (much like Sleepy Hollow these days), but also manages to grapple with issues like grief, death, immortality, and loneliness, and to do it over time. I appreciated that the problems that the characters were facing didn’t magically resolve themselves in each episode and that there were actually long-term consequences for their actions. I think the concept of Buffy as an uber-progressive show doesn’t weather well, especially given its conspicuous lack of diversity and tendency to make people of color into mystical tribal beings.

Exhibit A: The First Slayer

first slayer

Not pictured: Mystical Inca Mummy Princess, Mystical Warrior Companion, and Mystical Angry Native American.

That being said, Buffy showcased a diverse (but not racially) range of female characters who had their own lives and livelihoods, who loved or didn’t love, who were strong, who were insecure, who were snarky, who were naive, who wore high heels, who wore ratty jeans, and sometimes all of those things at once. It’s kind of sad that this is a huge achievement, but it is still hard to find TV shows or movies or even books where there are a lot of women characters who are distinguishable from one another. And really, those shows didn’t exist until fairly recently (ALL HAIL QUEEN SHONDA). If you poke around in the 90s and early 2000s you can find some really well-developed teen female characters on TV- Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life come to mind, but those girls still sort of orbit around the men in their lives. Buffy pulled men into her orbit. She filled her inner circle with men AND women, and those men and women had relationships with her and with each other that weren’t all about sex. And in a society that still doubts that men and women can be friends, that’s pretty radical.

Grade: B+ for Buffy + Spike, no matter what SMG says.

1 Comment

Filed under Gender, Race

Racism, Sexism, and Prepositions, or The Chaos Arrows Theory of Oppression

When we talk about racism or sexism, we often use the construction “x is racist against y” or “y is sexist towards x” (genetic pun mostly intentional). We add a preposition to the verb phrase “is racist” or “is sexist” in order to clarify who or what is being discriminated against. By doing this, we give “is racist” or “is sexist” a directional component. Racism and sexism are going from one place to another; they originate in one location and travel to a different one.

We typically assume that racism and sexism travel certain paths, that is, from whites to minorities or from men to women, hence, the existence of phrases like “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism.” Racism and sexism become weapons launched from one camp into the massed forces of another. Direction begins to imply intent.

It doesn’t really work that way.

In real life, racism and sexism look less like x—–>y and more like this stock photo that popped up when I google image searched “chaos arrows,” except that this stock photo isn’t the frat boy at the CEOS and Office Hoes party who will someday write your 78%-of-what-your-male-coworker-makes paycheck WOMP WOMP WOMP.

Issues with the directional model of racism and sexism:

1) In this model, every time you use the words racist and/or sexist, you’re implying that an attack has occurred.

2) Instances of racism and sexism therefore look like attacks.

3) As such, instances of racism and sexism are intentional and obvious.

4) Racism and sexism, as attacks, must be directed from one group towards another group. You can’t attack yourself.

It may seem obvious that the statements listed above are, among other things, dead wrong, but unfortunately, this black-and-white (harrdeeharrharr) conception of what racism and sexism are seems to be popular, if not predominant, among the denizens of this earth, particularly those denizens who coined the terms “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism.”

Racism and sexism are not bullets, they’re an enveloping fog of tear gas that you can’t dodge, that you can’t outrun, that clouds everyone’s eyes and judgment, and yeah, that affects some people more severely than others, but regardless is screwing with everybody. Only, it’s been around for so long that some people don’t even know it’s there anymore, and some people think that since it’s always been there, it should stay there, and some people are rolling around on the ground choking, but half of the other people can’t see them, and the other half of the other people think they’re faking, and basically racism and sexism suck, so yeah.

The Tear Gas/Stock Photo Chaos Arrows Theory of Race/Gender Oppression:

1) Racism and sexism are friggin EVERYWHERE. Sometimes the arrows go x–>y, sometimes y–>x, sometimes you throw them straight up in the air and they come back down and splatter all over you and your friends and goshdarnit, you just ruined Becky’s favorite shirt, douchebag.

2) That’s right, folks, you can be racist/sexist against your own race or gender. Men are sexist against men alllll the time (some of these behaviors overlap with homophobia) and women are sexist against women alllll the time. Asians can be racist against Asians, blacks against blacks, and so on and so forth.

3) You can also send racist/sexist tear gas farts towards your friends, family, romantic partners, and/or favorite articulate black politician. JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE SOMEONE DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF FARTING ON THEM.

4) Sometimes when you’re standing in a huge fog of racist tear gas you do something to fan more racist tear gas into someone’s eyes, and maybe you didn’t mean to do it, but you still did it and now some guy is choking on his own mucus, thanks. Translation: you can be racist or sexist without intending to do so, but the fact that you didn’t mean to doesn’t make it ok. 90% of the time (in my experience) racist people are not sitting around thinking “I’m going to say something racist” when they’re saying something racist.

5) Sometimes the chaos arrows are INVISIBLE  because there is SO MUCH TEAR GAS (I am mixing metaphors, deal with it). Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

6) Because racist/sexist tear gas is a gas, it’s kind of hard to contain/kind of impossible to get rid of on your own, but you can wear a gas mask, and you can get your friends to wear a gas mask, and maybe if enough people start wearing gas masks enough people will be able to see and breathe that they’ll be able to build some sort of huge anti-racist/sexist tear gas vacuum and suck it all out of the sky or something. So like, talk about shit. And call people on their tear gas farts, because maybe they don’t know they’re doing it and you can give them some Privilege-Pepto or maybe they do know they’re doing it, in which case you can ostracize them because no one wants to be friends with someone who farts on other people on purpose. That’s just not cool, man.

5 Comments

Filed under Gender, Race

The thoughts that go through my head when you tell me that I should “be careful” around a guy.

1) Trapper-keeper SHUT

2) What does that even mean?

3) I’m assuming that you mean that he’s too sexually aggressive.

4) I’m assuming that this means that you’ve seen him be too sexually aggressive.

5) Did you do anything when you saw him be too sexually aggressive?

6) What happened to that girl?

7) How many times have you seen him be too sexually aggressive?

8) What happened to those girls?

9) Do you tell all the girls this, or just your friends?

10) Do you watch him at parties to make sure that he’s not too sexually aggressive?

11) Why is it my responsibility to be careful around him instead of his responsibility to not be sexually aggressive?

12) Would you help me if he was being too aggressive, or would you assume that since you warned me, our encounter must be consensual?

13) Have you ever said anything to him?

7 Comments

Filed under Gender, Life, Sexuality

Boy Meets Girl, Boy Creeps on Girl, Boy Asks Girl If He is Being Creepy, Girl Does What?

I realize that the answer to this question may seem incredibly simple, and in theory, it is. In practice, it can be much more complicated.

Let me walk you through a scenario or two:

1) You’re in a bar with your friends. A guy comes up to your table and starts talking. No one is interested in him, but you’re nice people, so you engage in enough small talk not to be rude, but you try to let the conversation die after a few minutes. The guy is freaking Lazarus and keeps resurrecting himself. It’s been twenty minutes, and he’s still circling the table despite your best efforts to put out an uninterested vibe. You’ve pointedly hinted at boyfriends. You’ve avoided eye contact. And yet, he parks himself dangerously close to your personal zone. He says, “Am I awkward? I’m sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable. I don’t want to be a creep.” And you say….

2) Your next-door neighbor seems like a nice, nerdy kind of guy. You’re friendly and say hi when you run into him in the hall. No big deal. But then, you start to realize that he might be interested in you. He sends you texts for no reason and keeps trying to get you to hang out with him alone. You ignore the texts and/or decline politely, but he doesn’t stop. You start to avoid him. Then, out of the blue, he sends you an explicit text asking you to have sex with him. You are shocked and incredibly uncomfortable. You say no. He apologizes and says “I just can’t help thinking these things when you’re around. I’m sorry I’m such a creep.” And you say….

The instinct for many women who are put into the above situations is to say something along the lines of “Oh no, you’re not a creep,” because that is how nice people respond when someone puts him/herself down. Most people don’t enjoy saying negative things about other people (at least to their faces) and most people are trained to graciously accept apologies. It also is generally a terrible idea to offend someone who has six inches and forty pounds on you. And so, the creep manipulates his target into “forgiving” him, thus giving him license to stick around and creep even further. This is dumb. This sucks. This shouldn’t happen.

So, what do you say?

For starters, tell the truth. “I am uncomfortable with the way you are acting,” “I do not want to continue talking to you,” and, “Yes, you are a creep,” are all perfectly acceptable things to tell people when a) they are making you uncomfortable b) you don’t want to talk to them and c) they are being creeps. You don’t have to go into detail or make derogatory remarks, but if someone says to you “Am I being creepy?” this indicates a level of self-awareness about the creepiness of his/her own behavior that deserves an honest answer. The creeper is literally asking you to call him a creep. So do it. It might not feel good, but it’s better than sanctioning inappropriate behavior.

And if you can’t tell the truth, lie. “I have a boyfriend and I’m not interested in meeting anyone else,” is a stand-by, as is the fake engagement ring often worn by single female travelers.

A note on this: It SUCKS that sometimes you have to rely on men (imagined or not) to get rid of creepers for you. It feels anything but empowering. It is ridiculous that you, a fully formed human being with rights and agency and all that, letting someone know that you are NOT interested or, you know, not expressing interest in having sex with someone is not enough to keep said someone from harassing you. But, if you are in a situation in which you are threatened or potentially in danger (your next-door neighbor, does, after all, live right next door), it may make more sense for you to lie.

Lastly, look out for your safety, especially in ongoing situations such as harassment by a neighbor, classmate, or acquaintance. Make sure that you’re not the only one who knows what’s going on, and if you directly rejecting a creeper isn’t enough to make the creeping stop, don’t hesitate to get a third party involved.

And, very lastly, to everyone in this situation who is not a) the one being creeped upon or b) the creeper: Be sympathetic. Be helpful. Do not dismiss a friend’s concerns as oversensitivity. Do not tell someone that he should be flattered by the attention. Do not tell someone that she is responsible for what has happened because she’s too friendly or flirty or pretty or whatever. Be a not-douchebag.

To the creeper: STOP CREEPING. Stop looking for compliance and look for enthusiasm. No means no isn’t always enough- the better rule of thumb is YES MEANS YES. If someone is avoiding eye contact, stepping away from you on the dance floor, giving one-word answers/not responding to your questions, and generally not acting interested in anything you have to say, GTFO. You don’t want to make conversation and/or love with someone who doesn’t like you–you’re better than that.

P.S. I realize that this post is heteronormative/assumes that the creeper is male (there is a lot more to write on this particular subject, but I’m not doing it right now). Please feel free to replace pronouns wherever necessary in order to relate to your personal situation- I wrote based on the experiences of myself and my friends. 

3 Comments

Filed under Gender, Life, Sexuality

On Hanna Rosin’s “Boys on the Side,” or Why Hanna Rosin is not the second coming of Feminist Jesus

Hanna Rosin wrote a piece in the Atlantic on how hook-up culture isn’t victimizing women, but rather is perpetuated by them. Jezebel and Slate gave it good press. I’m giving it a mixed review.

Rosin’s piece makes women who hook up sound, quite frankly, like privileged, self serving assholes. The whole first page reads like something out of “I am Charlotte Simmons”–God forbid women laugh at a dumb photo of someone giving a snowman a blowjob. My 6th grade class was equally as ribald. Among other things, Rosin writes that women who perpetuate hook-up culture are “cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind.” Of course, as the piece progresses, those other things that Rosin writes become more positive and praise-worthy, but there’s still something about the whole shebang that sticks in my craw.

Maybe it’s that Rosin is writing this as a preview to a book called The End of Men: And the Rise of Women (which sounds like the perfect Christmas present for your resident Men’s Rights Advocate’s entitlement complex). Maybe it’s that the words “I’m focusing on my career instead of my relationships” sound more callous on the page than coming out my friends’ mouths. I think it’s mostly that I resent that in order for people to make sense of unrepressed women’s sexuality, they have to make women into capital-M Masculine Men. And more than that, I resent that we accept without evaluation that male sexuality is ravenous and indiscriminate, and therefore the shift from traditional dating to hookups doesn’t need to be studied as a change in men. I am not at all trying to say that hookup culture is evil/immoral/terrible/whatever, but it does seem unfair and somewhat insulting that people assume that all men must be totally into it (or prefer it to being in a relationship) because BOOBZ and HORMONEZ and REAL MEN ALWAYS WANT IT.

Anyways, Rosin’s piece is worth a read, but I don’t know that it does much for feminism….I’m glad someone is out there trying to convince the world that women having sex doesnotequal the apocalypse, but it would be nice if women having sex = relatable human beings instead of that sexy-scary girl with short hair and a black pantsuit who intermittently steals Kathryn Heigl/Reese Witherspoon/insert romantic comedy heroine here’s boyfriend.

1 Comment

Filed under Gender, Sexuality