Category Archives: Media

Porn Studies Hits Newstands

Well, not newsstands so much, since academic journals rarely find shelfspace next to Newsweek or Cosmo. Wait, does Newsweek still exist? I can’t keep it straight anymore which of the old school pubs have folded.

Porn Studies is a new academic journal about porn [NSFW if having "porn" spelled out in giant letters on your screen is NSFW]. It’s mindblowing that such a thing didn’t exist until now, right? Porn is soooooo fascinating! This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the new journal and why I think we need more porn-talk, not less.

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The ethics of porn-making and porn-consuming have been front and center lately when the “real” identity of porn star Belle Knox was revealed by a fellow student at Duke. She’s done a pretty solid job of reclaiming the momentum of the story by speaking out about feminism, privacy, misogyny, and double-standards, though she’s also been put through the ringer of woman-hating bullshit that we put women through when they speak things that make us uncomfortable.

If you are a porn-consumer (and most people are), then you should be thinking critically about how your porn is made, who stars in it, who profits from it, and what compromises are made along the way. I’m not saying you should stop watching (I won’t), but you should start asking why we hold only the woman on screen accountable for the content, and not her porn-consuming classmates who enjoy it, or the porn-producers behind the camera who make it.

Related Post: Why we need more sex on TV

Related Post: Why is oral sex so frequently uni-directional?

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Happy 80th Gloria!

Gloria Steinem turned 80 today and is still killing it all over town. Gail Collins wrote a particularly excellent birthday card at the New York Times, but I also committed my thoughts on Gloria to paper (er…screen? We have got to get some new idioms) for Role/Reboot.

Screenshot_3_25_14_12_23_PM-2I was recently talking to my mom about how segmented the “movements” are these days. Where are the great thinkers? She said, Where are the great leaders pushing us forward to be better? The Martins? The Glorias? She’s right, I think, that there really aren’t singular “public faces” to movements anymore. Maybe Sheryl Sandberg comes the closest, but even her momentum and appeal is limited to certain demographic wedges. Individuals become flash points, like Sandra Fluke, or Trayvon Martin, but their influence doesn’t sustain over decades.

The way we consume media has become so fractured and specific that for one person to try to galvanize a large swath of the public is rarely feasible anymore. We’ll change the channel to one of the 900 others, or close the browser and open a new one. There are pockets now, specific strains of ism or anti-ism, that we choose subscribe to based on our politics and affiliations. When Tina Fey skewered Jezebel on 30 Rock, which side did you fall on? When Ta-Nehisi Coates berates the President, who do you think is right?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we have these sub-affiliations, I think it’s just an indication of how fucking complicated these issues are. I just finished Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revoltabout the 1970 sex discrimination lawsuit at Newsweek. In the recollections of some of the participants was a certain reluctance to admit that, actually, they hadn’t wanted the jobs they were suing for. Most of them certainly did (and  they all deserved the opportunity to compete for them), but some felt that the movement was so all-encompassing that to opt-out or question any part of it was to undermine it. They didn’t want to jeopardize the group to protect themselves, even though their interests didn’t always line up 100%.

It was an interesting angle that I wasn’t expecting Povich to address. It’s not all rah-rah. One person or committee or caucus can never speak for everyone, so the goal has to be about creating options, not dictating how we utilize them.

Related Post: Raunch humor and feminism.

Related Post: When celebrities talk about feminism, the good, bad, and ugly.

 

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Update: He Died.

Yesterday, when I wrote this, Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, was still alive.

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Related Post: More hateful stuff from Rush Limbaugh

Related Post: An atheist and a Christian walk into a skype call. 

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An Atheist and a Christian Walk Into a Skype Call

An atheist and a Christian walk into a skype call…

Sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke OR a super fun conversation between two very different people with very different experiences. My friend Jonalyn and I spent some time a few weeks back discussing the separation of church and state, gay marriage, tolerance vs. acceptance vs. celebration, and many other fun things in a….shall we say… wandering conversation for video series Emerald City

For those of you paying attention, we did this once before and discussed what kinds of sex count as real sex, intimacy, and “stewarding virginity” which is just the greatest phrase ever.

Check us out:

Related Post: Jonalyn inspired this piece about friends across the aisle

Related Post: Our past conversation on sexuality and virginity

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That Shit’s Complicated Too

I got a great comment last year from a male reader about how I was putting too much emphasis on the male orgasm as the symbol of a successful sexual outing. I was using it to illustrate why hook ups with strangers might be more satisfying for men then women, which might be one (of many) reasons that women don’t pursue casual sex as much they could.

I get your point that, for random hookups, men are more likely to ‘get off’ than women. That doesn’t take into account the fact that, for men, orgasm isn’t the only marker of a quality sexual experience, probably because it’s so easy to achieve. And honestly, myself and other men I know have come early in unsatisfying sexual experiences just to get it over with.”

I saw that Claire Dederer at the Atlantic fell into a similar trap recently when she wrote about the complexity and “messiness” of female desire. While I definitely don’t dispute the mess, I’ve come around to disputing the claim that it’s messy only for women. Messy in different ways, perhaps, but I think we do dudes a disservice if we reduce their sexual satisfaction to the act of orgasm. More on that at Role/Reboot.

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Related Post: That time I reviewed hookup app Bang with Friends

Related Post: “Women can get sex anytime they want!” and other things people say

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Thanks, Critics

This week for Role/Reboot, I’ve been thinking about why I keep writing in that community, why I’m such a “sharer” (as opposed to, say, a diary keeper). One of the things I’ve landed on is gratitude for my critics. If you read this post about blackface back in October, you’ll be familiar with this theme, but I decided to elaborate with a thank you note to my harshest critics:

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Related Post: When commenters help parse my thoughts about Beyonce

Related Post: How I feel when I write outside my wheelhouse

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10 Years Too Late: Views on Veronica (pt. 1)

veronicaYou guys, I’m finally doing it. The kickstarter funded Veronica Mars movie was the extra little push I needed to finally, ten years later, take up with that girl-detective everyone loves so much. I’m about a week behind the Vulture training schedule (and yes, this is 2014 and yes, I am a millennial content-addict, so yes, there is a training schedule to watch a now-defunct show in anticipation for its crowd-sourced feature debut). I just finished season 1 and I’m crashing hard towards the finish line, loving every minute of it.

What follows may contain some spoilers, but it ended ten years ago and I will not apologize if you are similarly behind the times as I am.
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What is Veronica Mars? It was created by author Rob Thomas, who wrote a fomative and entirely forgettable book about a struggling teen called Rats Saw God. I don’t remember anything about it except that for a brief period of time, it was very important to me.
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VM stars everyone’s favorite sloth-lover, Kristen Bell, as a 17-year-old high schooler who moonlights as a private investigator. In the first forty minute segment, we learn that Veronica’s best friend was murdered, her sheriff father ID’d the wrong guy and lost his job, her mother took off, and her boyfriend dumped her with nary a word. Oh, also, at a party she was roofied and raped but she doesn’t know by whom. It’s a lot, and the ongoing mysteries of the murder, the disappearance, the date rape, and the dumping unravel over the next 22 episodes.
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riversI just saw a picture of two rivers outside of Manaus, Brazil, that collide without intermingling for three miles. Coffee colored water runs up against milky tea and never the twain shaill mix; It is as freaky and beautiful as anything I’ve seen in a while, and that’s kind of how I feel about Veronica Mars.
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On one side of the divide is dark, heavy shit, where the stakes are high as hell. A manipulative teacher seduces a student and she ends up pregnant and ostracized. The class asshole’s father, a movie star, beats him with a belt behind closed doors. A slew of co-eds from the local university turn up dead, strangled by a guitar cord.
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On the other side, a perky blonde teen finds lost dogs for classmates, investigates falsified drug tests for athletes, and rescues the nerds from the bullies with nothing but her wits and a giant camera. All the while, she navigates the normal pitfalls of adolescence, awkward ex-boyfriends, catty girls in bathrooms, the ever-churning rumor mill, and the tension between the haves and the have-nots. It’s in that fluctuating line where  dark and light crash into each other that Veronica Mars comes out smarter, funnier, and edgier than everybody else.
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It’s a little bit Rori-Gilmore-at-Chilton meets baby-Sydney-Bristow meets Harriet-the-spy with the guest star roster of your dreams. Adam Scott, Leighton Meester, Max Greenfield, Krysten Ritter, Aaron Paul.
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I’ve got 17 days to watch about 30 more episodes, think I can do it?
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Highs and Lows of the Oscar Short Films

Until recently, the short film portion of the Oscars was the section during which I usually went to get snacks because honestly, who cares about these unbeautiful people and their “movies” that no one has heard of. NOT THIS YEAR, FRIENDS! This year, I have actually seen the live action short films that are up for golden statuettes, and boy, do I have feelings about them.

Rather than waste time on the ones that registered only briefly, here are the first three:

1. The Voorman Problem  (aka A Few British Actors You Sort of Recognize Explore God Delusions and Make Belgium Disappear)

2. Helium (aka A Kind of Roald Dahl-esqe Story About a Dying Child and the Power of Imagination, James and the Giant Peach Meets Up)

3. Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa (Do I Have to Do Everything?) (aka 7 Minute Video Interpretation of the Ongoing Conversation ‘Can Women Have it All’?)

 So, this is where it gets juicy:

4. Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) -  My initial feelings of distaste for this Spanish short about a generic bloody conflict in a generic Africa starring generic generals and generic child soldiers has blossomed into full-fledged fury that I was subjected to it for 25 full minutes. The more I think about it, the more wrong it feels and the angrier I am that rather than condemning it for it’s “single story of Africa” we are lauding it with nominations.

The film depicts two Spanish doctors trying to get past a road barrier in the African bush somewhere (seriously, they give us no clues as to where this is supposed to be or when), when [SPOILER ALERTS: I'm going to spoil everything and I don't even care] shit hits the fan and they are kidnapped, beaten, and forced to kneel in the dirt while the local homicidal maniac of a general instructs the local child soldiers on how to be real men and murder interlopers. When the male doctor is killed, his girlfriend/wife is raped by one of the leaders before escaping during a bullet-laden blitz that kills basically everyone in the camp except her and young boy. She handcuffs herself to the kid, drags him into a truck, and drives him off to the city. Cut to that boy, a decade later, reading to a large audience of presumably-Spanish students about his experience as a conscripted soldier. His white savior stares back at him with tears in her eyes as she witnesses her good works in action. Fade to black.

I’m being kind of harsh. Maybe too harsh, but it really was that bad. Torture porn plus an uncomplicated, unexamined white savior narrative = lazy and dangerous storytelling.

avant5. Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Everything is Lost) On the other end of the spectrum from Aquel No Era Yo, I absolutely loved this French drama [SPOILER] about a mother in the last, desperate hours of planning and preparation before she leaves her abusive husband. While this could have skewed towards a general, reductionist overview of the Horror of Domestic Violence (kind of like how Aquel decided to address Horrifying Violence in Africa and How We Can Save the Children), Avant instead fleshed out the micro-universe of this particular woman, her children, and her friends. Under this super tight magnifying glass, her trauma is local and concentrated, amplifying the impact of the story far beyond the 20 minutes it was allowed.

Aquel felt like someone sat down and said, “I want to make a really dramatic, really suspensful, really terrifying, really emotional short film….hm…you know what would be uber terrifying? Watching a white doctor get raped by scary black men! And then she’ll overcome it, and oh man, the tears will be intense! Yes!”

Avant felt like the filmmakers did the reverse. They wanted to tell a very specific story of a suburban mom of two who, by all outward appearances, is living a perfectly ordinary life but secretly negotiates fear and pain every day. Turns out everyday violence can be every bit as suspensful as African warlords with big guns.

Related Post: On why “Strong female characters” is a useless designation.

Related Post: Your recommended viewing if, like me, you suffer immense media FOMO.

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Yoga Is for Everyone, (aka Can it, Jen Caron)

I refuse to link to Jen Caron’s terrible essay at xoJane about how tough it was for her, as a skinny white woman, to be in a yoga class with a large black woman. It’s awful on every level. You’ve probably already seen it because everyone and their mother is sharing it with hashtags like #gross and #stfu.

I love yoga. I love yoga so much I’m going to learn how to teach it so I can help other people love yoga. I think yoga is for everyone, and I think its emphasis on self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, and gratitude is lovely and inclusive and accessible to any and all type of people. That’s why it kills me when people try to ruin yoga, which Caron attempted with a racist, presumptuous, condescending post about a woman new to her studio who appeared to be struggling with the postures. I’m getting mad just thinking about it.

If you would like to read more of my thoughts on Caron, yoga, inclusiveness, etc, check out my Role/Reboot piece this week:

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Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with the way they look

Related Post: The problem with strong is the new skinny.

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“If you’re feeling attacked, it probably means you’re having your privilege challenged”

If you haven’t spent much time with the Batty Mamzelle essay “This is what I mean when I say ‘White Feminist’”, you should.  If it hasn’t entered the canon of intersectional third wave feminist texts, it’ll be inducted any day now. It is brilliant.

As a feminist who is white, I do not want to be a White Feminist, which Cate defines as follows:

“White feminism” does not mean every white woman, everywhere, who happens to identify as feminist. It also doesn’t mean that every “white feminist” identifies as white. I see “white feminism” as a specific set of single-issue, non-intersectional, superficial feminist practices. It is the feminism we understand as mainstream; the feminism obsessed with body hair, and high heels and makeup, and changing your married name. It is the feminism you probably first learned. “White feminism” is the feminism that doesn’t understand western privilege, or cultural context. It is the feminism that doesn’t consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality. 

For visual learners, she included this amazing Venn diagram, and I’ve added my notes with yellow arrows:

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I know I have flirted the line with White Feminism. I was in White Feminism territory when I posted on Facebook about blackface. I was in White Feminism territory when I failed to consider how a movement like SlutWalk may not work for women of color whose experience with hypersexualization (see #FastTailedGirls) is different than mine. And I know that, when my White Feminism tendencies come out (and if you grew up with White Feminism, were taught White Feminism, and read White Feminism, it can be hella hard to retrain yourself), I am epically embarrassed to be called out. When you are working hard to be the best ally you can be and you take a misstep (even a well-meaning one), it’s hard not to go straight for a defensive crouch. But you don’t know me. I’m not like that. I’m on your side. 

But that’s a selfish, unhelpful response. It’s not about you (me). As Cate writes “It can be very off-putting to feel attacked for a transgression that you know yourself not to be guilty of. But in the context of social justice and movement building, if you’re feeling attacked, it probably means you’re having your privilege challenged, not that you are a bad person.” All you can do is apologize, step back, analyze, and learn from it.

In a related story this week, Jeff Yang wrote for the Wall Street Journal about the selection of Ashley Wagner for the Olympic Team (4th place in the Nationals) over Mirai Nagasu (3rd). As he points out in his follow-up piece, we will likely never know for sure whether race, specifically, played a role in the selection, but it’s not unreasonable to ask the question:

My WSJ piece is focused on the idea of the “golden girl” — a term first applied to one of Olympic skating’s early superstars, Sonja Henie, and which has survived since then through the years as an appellation for a particular type of skater: Blonde, ivory-skinned, willowy, slender. The term “golden girl” is akin to the term “great white hope”: It is a racialized archetype that infuriates people when you actually call it out as a racialized archetype.

Remember guys, if you’re feeling defensive, you’re probably just having your privilege challenged.

Related Post: Pax Dickerson didn’t notice male privilege

Related Post: David Roberts at Grist explains White Liberal Dude Privilege

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