In Which Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are Awesome

March 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

by ELENA

What happens when Daniel Craig and Judi Dench collaborate to make a public service announcement about gender inequality, which includes Craig dressing in hosiery, heels, a dress, wig, and earrings?

Chilling awesomeness happens.

Then again, Craig was the butt of a shitstorm of jokes when he was announced as the New Bond, because he wasn’t “manly” enough for the role. Evidently, being short/having sensitive skin*/not driving a stick/not caring for guns meant that he was a “wuss”. It’s great to see an actor known for playing a traditionally hyper-masculine role spend his time and energy making a great point about sexism.

And Judi Dench needs to narrate everything. All the time.

Genderqueer

July 27, 2010 § 12 Comments

by CHAD

I’ve been on vacation a lot lately, but I also have been on tumblr a lot, and a common theme I notice (even among the LGBTQ community) is what is genderqueer? Being as I am genderqueer I would like to explain what it is, in hopes of giving a better understanding.

Genderqueer is a gender, as stated in the name, and is completely dependent upon the person that defines themselves as genderqueer. Think of gender as the social construct that it is, there are “boy” clothes, “girl” clothes, “boy” toys, “girl” toys, “boy” colours, “girl” colours, and many assortments and roles that are subconsciously (or not) assigned to each gender. For those who define themselves as genderqueer, they’re a gender outside of “boy” and “girl”, they are both, neither, or a third gender that isn’t presentable in the current western system.

Being genderqueer is a way of labeling yourself as no label. Personally, I use it to say that I like things and do them because I like to, not because it’s the boy or girl thing to do. Socially speaking, there are very very few people that exclusively occupy one social gender. I use it to say I’m me, not a “boy”, and doing “girl” things doesn’t make me any less me. However, it is completely dependent on the person.

Those that are genderqueer also might have a pronoun preference, it’s rare, but still a possibility, so I’ll quickly brainwash you with English gender-neutral pronouns (pronouns that do not specify a gender)

  • Her/Him – Zir/Zem
  • S/He – Ze
  • Her/His – Zir/Zes
  • Herself/Himself – Zirself/Zemself

What ones you use (Zir/Zem) does not matter, as the idea is that they do not have gender.

If you have any questions on genderqueer I’m more than willing to take any via the comments :)

Maureen Dowd…gets it right?

June 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Oh, Maureen Dowd. I never quite know how to approach her writing. Occasionally she’s very smart and irreverent in the best way, and at those times her accomplishments as a successful, mainstream female journalist make me proud. More often, though, I accidentally read something she’s written (seriously, I never seek out this stuff) and think: What? Also: Why?

Like this: “Even as he grows arugula in the White House vegetable garden, Barack Obama never again wants to be seen as the hoity-toity guy fretting over the price of arugula at Whole Foods. That is why the president ends up sending mixed signals on food.” …By talking about the nutritional importance of fruits and veggies, and then sometimes eating a hamburger. Or something. Seriously, what? (Sweet Machine had an excellent takedown, which included the delightfully LOL-worthy line, “Seriously, why does ANYBODY mistake MoDo for a feminist, ever? Is it because she is a woman with a job?”)

Or this: “Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct that he’s practically lactating.” What. Can. This POSSIBLY Mean.

But — in true Dowd fashion — I digress.

The point is she had a fairly great piece up yesterday about a truly disgusting group of young men at Landon, “an elite private grade school and high school for boys in [a] wealthy Washington suburb.”

Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an “opening day party,” complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

…In The Washington Post, the sports columnist Sally Jenkins wrote about the swagger of young male athletes and the culture of silence that protects their thuggish locker-room behavior.

…Jean Erstling, Landon’s director of communications, said…that “Landon has an extensive ethics and character education program which includes as its key tenets respect and honesty. Civility toward women is definitely part of that education program.”

Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.

Wow! It is a surprising day when I concur with Maureen Dowd. But it has come! We are in agreement! On this one, at least.

Average people do not do terrible things of their own volition. I refuse to believe it! I am too much of an optimist. Because let me tell you something: If I believed, as our culture seems to, that men are rapacious beasts whose thirst for violence cannot be quelled, I would have given up on all of this so, so long ago. I would have given up on this blog, on daring to talk and write about sexual violence, on feminist organizing, on having the audacity to travel alone whenever and wherever I please. I would have given up on men, and I would have given up on my own freedom. But luckily, I haven’t. Because I believe that, in the majority of cases (though certainly not all), rape happens because of the intricate process of socialization that teaches boys that rape is okay, or at the very least, not a big deal. This process is part of the enormous and far-reaching tentacles of rape culture, the cultural meme that encourages and condones sexual violence against women.

Most men rape because of opportunity, because someone is vulnerable and because they’ve got an entire culture backing them up, because they haven’t been taught that it’s wrong, because they think — often correctly — that they can get away with it.

As Bernard Lefkowitz painstakingly documented in his book Our Guys, about the culture of a tight-knit New Jersey town that allowed the gang rape of a mentally retarded young woman — by her classmates and childhood friends – not only to happen, but also to be excused: “These Glen Ridge kids, they were pure gold, every mother’s dream, every father’s pride. They were not only Glen Ridge’s finest, but in their perfection they belonged to all of us.” These rapists were not anomalies. Far from it. Indeed, they were the perfect products of our misogynistic culture.

Sexual violence is not a stand-alone problem; it lies on a patriarchal continuum of all the tiny ways we wrong women, all the time, every day, at home, at work, on the street, in the doctor’s office, on the subway, in advertisements, in the classroom, in the courtroom, on the silver screen, all across the infinite internet. When the world treats women like shit, how can we expect our sons and brothers and classmates to learn that it’s not okay to treat women like shit?

Boring Books & Fierce Femininity

June 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

This post right here is inspired by Tiger Beatdown‘s recent (spectacular and spectacularly titled) series What We Read When We Don’t Read The Internet.

What I want to talk about has little to do with who’s writing a particular book, and more to do with what they write about. Because I’ve noticed that regardless of an author’s gender, if their book makes the TRAGIC AND FATAL mistake of being at least partially centered around feminine topics, it’s a literary megafail. Texts focused on women-stuff — romance, friendship, children and parenthood, gradual life processes — tend to be dismissed as soft, as less meaningful than texts focused on men-stuff — violence, foreign lands, epic journeys, dramatic showdowns.

Often these books explore issues that are socially “feminine” by focusing on female characters. A great example is Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters (1998). I first discovered this book in seventh grade, when I borrowed it from Ruth after she raved about it at a sleepover. (Yeah, we’re cute.) I loved it, but in my mind it didn’t amount to real literature. It wasn’t a book that I could reference in my English class, or talk about with my parents. It just didn’t seem important or serious enough.

People: It wasn’t even someone else, some sexist ass, who told me Summer Sisters was trashy and unworthy of critical attention. It was me! My own self! (That’s how deep patriarchy is embedded in us.) I was willing to admit that I enjoyed it, but only as an escapist beach-read — not as the complex narrative of broken friendship, shifting family dynamics, sexual awakening, and class tension that it is. I’d say to my friends, “I just read this great book! It’s kind of trashy; you can borrow it if you want. It’s a little silly. So do you want it?” instead of “I just read this great book! By Judy Blume, a feminist literary goddess. It describes so beautifully the pain and loveliness of friendships, the pain and loveliness of family, the angst and hopelessness of growing up. I really recommend it! Do you want to borrow it?”

What a mistake! I regret that time before I realized how fucking awesome this book is.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Here are some things you should know

May 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here are some values that I think are wonderful: Accountability. Respect. Honesty. Sex-positivity.

Here is a poster that I think is beautiful — literally gorgeous, literally having the power to bring tears to my eyes:

Here is an organization that is doing incredible work: Men Can Stop Rape.

Just, you know, FYI.

My Rape Schedule

May 8, 2010 § 11 Comments

Last night I walked into the subway station and pulled out my wallet just as a train was pulling in. I scrambled to swipe my MetroCard and ran into the train as the doors were closing. Settling on a seat and tucking away my wallet, I slowly noticed that the car was empty except for me and a 35-ish-year-old man a few seat blocks over.

My first thought: I should switch cars at the next station.

My next thought: But he doesn’t look dangerous. (What makes someone look dangerous?)

And then: Even if he doesn’t look dangerous, I still shouldn’t be here alone. What a terrible idea. What if something happens?

And then, as we sat in peaceful silence from station to station, I came to the best realization of all: We could sit here, alone, for days and days, and he would not rape me if he is not a rapist.

Image from Shakesville.

What a fucking revolutionary idea!

See, women are told from birth that men can’t help themselves. They just can’t resist. Girls and women are supposed to control their appetites, their body odors, their excretions, their facial expressions, their words, their sexual cravings. Men and boys? Can do whatever the fuck they want. Guys who eat as much as they like, burp, sweat, use impolite phrasing, and have sex when and how they please are neither reprimanded nor socially punished; often, in fact, they are glorified. And men who rape? Are usually just “boys being boys.”

Here’s the thing: nothing makes rape happen except a rapist. Not being drunk, not wearing “slutty” clothes, not walking home alone, not leaving your drink momentarily out of sight, not being passed out, not agreeing to some sexual acts but not others, not retracting agreement in the moment. Men are capable of resisting these opportunities to rape, because rape is not about sex, it’s not about pleasure — it is about control.

The threat of violence is a universal experience for women and queer people. It binds us together. And the organization of our lives according to a rape schedule is not easy; it takes mental effort. And it starts early — I remember being concerned about sexual assault as early as 11 years old, and planning my route to the subway accordingly. Can you imagine what we might use that brainspace for? There are so many other beautiful, fascinating and lovely thoughts that might fill the space that we are forced to reserve for violence prevention. Men do not have to negotiate the constant threat of violence in the same way as women; their minds are unburdened by how to prevent attacks — and prove that such attacks were not their own fault.

It is not too much to ask men not to rape; indeed, it is insulting to insist that they are incapable of treating people with dignity and respect.

I refuse to accept a life planned around the threat of violence. I refuse to accept that I should tailor my comings and goings to a rape schedule. And I refuse to accept that rape is anything but a violent, cold-hearted, and inescapably deliberate act.

I’m keeping my seat.

Let’s Talk About Boys

April 10, 2010 § 4 Comments

I love feminist guys. Seriously. I love them; I crush on them; I hang out with them. (Phoebe crushes too.)

Men’s relationship with feminism is, obviously and necessarily, complex. As such, I know a lot of guys who have considerable anxiety about associating themselves with feminism. Once they get past the “ew, feminism is gross and radical” phase — as we all must get past — they have to deal with issues of appropriation and marginalization. I have to negotiate similar boundaries when learning and writing about anti-racism, queer rights, disability… the list goes on. None of us are perfectly qualified to speak about everything. This is the beauty of being an ally.

So boys, do not fear! You too can be a part of the sizeable cohort of male feminists who get it. Some of my personal favorites:

  • Joel of Citizen Obie. Okay, he’s one of my real-life friends, so maybe I’m biased. But his blogging work does a wonderful job linking feminist issues with other political struggles, like environmental and racial justice. Not to mention, he works for the awesome Hard-Hatted Women.
  • Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine, who is also loved by Phoebs.
  • Michael Kimmel, professor and author of many books on masculinity including the brilliant Guyland. After I read it, I sent him an email full of praise, and he responded! Within twelve hours! Isn’t it wonderful when your feminist crushes respond?

      Thank you so much for your message. Messages like yours, from strong and uncompromising feminist women, are what give me hope that Guyland can be successfully resisted, and that young men can find support and friendship outside it. Women are constantly being advised to give up their feminism — if they want to get a date, if they want to get a job, if they want to get married, whatever. And so it is particularly inspiring for me to hear from women who will not give that up!

  • My dad.

Pick up your ax! For patriarchy-smashin’, of course.

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