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Tag: feminism

Pussy-hat Planet

Say, did you know millions of people worldwide marched for women’s rights and against Trumpism last Saturday? (Samantha Bee had a nice summation.) I was among them. My husband was among them. My parents were among them. My mother — who isn’t quite as addicted to online media as her Gen-X daughter — wasn’t sure why the icon of the march was a simple, oddly-shaped hat, with corners that look like cat ears, typically in pink. “Hey, Julie,” she said. “What’s up with that hat?” (Note: my mom doesn’t actually talk like this) “It’s a pussy hat,” I told her. “The cat…

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Bathroom Panic Syndrome

When I was a kid, Phyllis Schlafly used bathroom panic to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made sexual equality a constitutionally protected value. The claim was that the ERA would strip women of the “right to privacy based on sex” in “public restrooms and other public facilities.” Basically, unisex, gender-neutral bathrooms. Pro-ERA supporters at the time pointed out this was a completely ridiculous interpretation of the law, that it was totally not going to happen. I believed them. But more importantly, even if the law did lead to unisex bathrooms, I didn’t know why I was…

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Spoilers and Mary Sues

I want to talk about Star Wars, but that’s dangerous for me, because I don’t want to deliver any spoilers, but apparently I don’t know what a spoiler is. I think a spoiler is “a shocking or unexpected plot twist that’s important to the story.” Gandalf dying, then coming back from the dead — those are spoilers, except they’re not, because they were in a book that was published in 1954. That’s another part of the “spoiler” definition, for me — the story has to be recent. There are things in The Force Awakens that would be spoilers now, but won’t…

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It’s a monstrous thing

And why should you obey your parents, girls? It’s good practice for obeying your husbands! — the minister’s wife, to a Sunday school class full of teenage girls, including me. When I wanted to write a novel playing around with the loup-garou legends of Cajun Louisiana, I started with what I saw as the fundamental basis for a werewolf story: your protagonist wakes up somewhere unusual, with no clothes and no idea how she got there. Maybe she appears to have eaten a duck, in spite of being a vegetarian. Now, go! For me, the ideal werewolf story also needed…

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Because I’m a creep

About a week ago, yet another violently disturbed young man killed a bunch of people for no reason. Yes, he was a misogynist of the most toxic kind, with a grandiose and visceral hatred directed at both the women who denied him his “rightful” share of their affection, and at the other men who got all the affection he felt entitled to. And yes, shortly before his murder spree, he posted a manifesto of Unabomber proportions, and a video suicide/homicide note. Both of these express a fairly clear purpose to his hatred, through a messed up nice-guy-ism so on point…

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Zombies of the patriarchy

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Here are some ridiculous things that conservative anti-feminists recently had to say about feminism:
Conservative Women Celebrate Women’s History by Criticizing Feminism.

I can’t believe how much staying power these narratives have. The anti-feminist right has been making the same claims since I was a kid.

I’ve never understood why they do it, especially the women. I sorta get why some dudes would be — patriarchalists, I guess? — since a patriarchy puts them in charge of everything, and people like power. And I get why people who were raised that way and don’t know anything else would just accept it and try to get on with their lives. But I don’t get why women who could choose to be something else, choose to be patriarchalists. What do they have to gain?

I also wonder why patriarchies and patriarchal thinking are so common. Why doesn’t it ever seem to go the other way? Matriarchies are rare, and I literally cannot think of a single toxic, oppressive example on par with the toxic patriarchies that are still depressingly plentiful.

(Some wags out there will no doubt suggest that the women’s studies department of many colleges could be regarded as a toxic matriarchy, but I think that kinda proves my point. How much power does any women’s studies department actually have?)

I see various theories floated for why patriarchy seems to be a kind of default — oh, it’s because men are stronger, or because women use too many of their resources taking care of babies. But those theories never seem to adequately explain the phenomenon. After all, it’s not like tiny, weak, single-parent men or tall, childless, ass-kicking women are automatically excluded from participation in the patriarchy.

So this is my theory: the patriarchal instinct is driven by an urge to seize control of the reproductive capacity — which necessitates diminishing the autonomy of the women who are “keepers” of that capacity. It’s a deep-down, gut-level, sub-rational primate kind of thing, which gets turned into elaborate abstract social narratives and structures. You know, because humans do that.

(It gets long and I talk about sexual assault. But there’s a gif at the end!)

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Frozen and other Disney princesses

Score! The in-flight movie was Frozen. It’s not merely a critically acclaimed and reasonably successful Disney movie, it’s a bonafide Disney phenomenon — their most financially successful animated movie so far and also incredibly popular and iconic with its target demographic of teen and pre-teen girls. What is it about this movie that resonates? Why does it work? Before I saw it for the first time, what I knew of the general storyline, and the casting of Idina Menzel as Elsa, led me to think they set out to make something with an appeal similar to Wicked (the stage musical),…

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The case for growing up and grabbing a broom

A New York Times essay attempts to make The Case for Filth: A recent, large cross-national study on the subject by an Ohio State sociologist found that “women’s housework did not decline significantly and men’s housework did not increase significantly after the mid-1980s in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.” [..] So why won’t men pick up a broom? Why won’t they organize a closet? Beats me. And, frankly, I’m DYING for a plausible answer to that question. At least one thing is becoming clear: The only possible solution to the housework discrepancy is for everyone to…

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Single ladies

Okay, okay, I couldn’t resist dissecting this very special February 14th message in the Wall Street Journal (?!?) from somebody I’ve never heard of before: Susan Patton: A Little Valentine’s Day Straight Talk: Young women in college need to smarten up and start husband-hunting. First of all — what is this deal with middle-aged women feeling the irrepressible need to give college women condescending and sexist advice? First Emily Yoffe, now Susan Patton. I’m sensing a pattern. I think it’s born of a mixture of envy, regret, and privilege. The source of the envy is obvious: college women are young, young, young,…

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Street crime

When I was eighteen and a college freshman away from home for the first time, I learned that I was supposed to be afraid to walk alone in urban areas after dark. I learned this on the phone with my mother. I was telling her about my experiences settling into college life, and we had an exchange that went something like this: Mom: You walked across campus? By yourself? At night? Me: Yeah…? Mom: You weren’t afraid? Me: Why? Mom: (pause) You could be attacked. Me: I… guess. In theory. Mom: Promise me you won’t do it again. Me: How…

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Don’t tell me to smile

Some things are weirdly predictable. A woman will write something about how much she hates being told to smile by strange men — such as [Smile, baby!] and [This morning a man told me to smile] — and the comments section will be full of guys telling her that being told to smile is no big deal and she shouldn’t dislike it so much. Nice work, random internet dudes! Not only do you want to tell me what to do with my face, you want to tell me how to feel about it when I get told what to do…

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I didn’t MAKE him for YOU!

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In The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which I saw an unconscionable number of times in my adolescence) when Frank N. Furter unveils Rocky, his artificially created superhunk, Janet says, “I don’t like a man with too many muscles.” Frank snarls back, “I didn’t MAKE him for YOU!

That little exchange always goes through my head when certain conversations come up. For example, if you follow any SF writers online, you are probably aware that there is a very big sexism controversy going on right now over the content of the SFWA bulletin. It goes like this: Step 1, put a cheesy bikini-chainmail babe on the cover. Step 2, write a condescending article about “lady” editors and writers in the field. Step 3, when people express objections to these two things, let Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg make epic fools of themselves trying to defend sexism by equating the act of expressing a contrary opinion to censorship.

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