alixtii: Riley and Venom, from the end of season 3. (Riley/Venom)
It occurs to me that the new nomination process actually allows me to very usefully apply an adapted version of the Bechdel test in deciding what to offer, come signups: if two or more female characters don't appear among the nominated characters, I probably shouldn't offer to write it. Whereas before I would have to guess whether someone requesting The Illiad was more likely to request Achilles/Patroclus or Briseis/Chryseis, now I should be more able to figure it out based on what was nominated. (Not that there was ever any doubt in my mind concerning that particular example.) Between that and the "Women Being Awesome" freeform tag, I should be able to ensure I get to write something nicely female-centric, despite the deeply pervasive bias for male characters seen throughout the nominations.

For the record, my nominations are:
Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?
Carmen Sandiego
The Player

Illuminatus! Trilogy - Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
Miss Portinari

Tart (2001)
Heather von Strum
Cat Storm
Grace Bailey
Eloise Logan
Since the Where on Earth player will always be female to me, this year I nominated absolutely zero male characters. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority.. (Although, it's also true that the only character of color I nominated is Carmen, so it's not like my moral high ground is particularly high.)

fandoms I might offer )
alixtii: An image from the webcomic Sinfest. A female devil chases after our hero, saying "Come here and get whipped like a man!" (BDSM)
In my profile, there is (and has been for years) at the very top, a quote from Roland Barthes about Parisian striptease: "Woman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked." It is given such a prominent place because I consider it in many ways to be my philosophy of ficwriting. I try to write in that same contradictory space in which Parisian striptease took place: presenting the female character for the reader’s desiring gaze without stripping them naked of their agency so that they become desexualized--for an object has no sex.

[personal profile] aris_tgd refers to "the dominant narrative of [. . .] fetish and [. . .] kink" as being the narrative "your bodies are thing which we are entitled to": having X as kink (in the original post, disability) means using X as an object of one's pleasure. This fantasy of entitlement exists in a similar contradiction: the woman's (or POC's or disabled person's or so on) agency undermines the entitlement by making access to their bodies their choice, while violent rape undermines it from the other direction (if one were truly entitled, force would not be necessarily). It is a truism that slash, of both the m/m and f/f varieties, is (among other things) a mechanism for exploring these types of power imbalances, often for the purposes of kink, without invoking the politics of heterosexuality.

Often, then, in fic as in society, the violence or implied threat of violence is shifted away, masked, sublimated. In the fics I cite in this post, my School of Lost Souls and [personal profile] wisdomeagle's Gather Paradise, this is the case. In my fic, Fred is entitled to River's body as part of a larger claim on River's body made by the Alliance, a claim whose logical endpoint we finally are shown in the movie Serenity and The R. Tam Sessions. In Ari's fic, the violence is similarly transferred to Wolfram & Hart, the demonic law firm which employs both Lilah Morgan and Fred Burkle, the two halves of the fic's pairing, at various points in the run of Angel. The characters in both fics do not have to resort to violence in order to assert their entitlement over the bodies of others, because all of the characters are already embedded in a system which systematically undermines their agency.

It is not coincidental that in both cases this nexus of power is aligned in opposition to the moral order of the canon universe; both the Alliance and Wolfram & Hart are the "bad guys." Both Ari's fic and my own thus become fics which not only depict sexual entitlement and enact a fantasy of sexual entitlement, they are also in some sense about sexual entitlement.

On the other hand, in my Narnia AU The iPhone of Queen Susuan the systemic nexus of power which affords the male protagoniost access to and control over his sister's body is aligned with the general moral order of the canon universe. Peter is entitled to Susan's body because their god has said so. Note that while I'm taking the dynamics to an extreme not seen in the canon text, I don't think I'm essentially changing them. Instead, I'm highlighting something that is already implicit in canon.

It would seem that imaginative resistance--the term philosophers of language use for the phenomenon wherein we find ourselves unwilling or even unable to imagine fictional worlds wherein the moral order is contrary to that which we believe holds in the actual world--would cause us to recognize Aslan as being evil in ordaining such an order, and Peter (and Lucy and Susan) as complicit for cooperating with it. (That would certainly be, say, Christopher Hitchens' analysis.) Insofar as this is the case, it seems that it should function as a satire.

And yet . . . it doesn't. It's not a fic about entitlement, simply a fic which depicts entitlement, enacts a fantasy of entitlement for the pleasure of the reader. It reads like an id fantasy of discipline and submission to discipline. There is, I think, a readerly construction of author's intent--the author-function--going on here: the reader intuits (and whether she is right or wrong is irrelevant so long as she follows the established conventions of her interpretative community) that the purpose of the fic is not to critique. This involves an examination of the plausible pscyhology of a community member: while it is not plausible to assume that Dean Swift really wanted to eat babies, it is much more plausible to assume that the idea of Peter spanking Susan might get an author hot. (Then again, maybe Jonny had a baby-eating kink. Who knows?) To say that a fic is "about" X is to say that we construct the author-function as havin depicted X for the precise purpose of making a statement about it; in "The iPhone of Queen Susan," this doesn't happen.

But as I've pointed out before, the real question is not whether the reader constructs the author as advocating (or at least not advocating against) a point of view. Insofar as this is what we are worried about as authors, we are shifting the focii of attention to ourselves and away from the suffering of the oppressed--we are more worried about looking sexist or racist or ablist than in acting sexist or racist or ablist. Instead, the question we must ask is: how is the story functioning within the community of its readership? Is it normalizing harmful behaviors, reinforcing damaging stereotypes, &c? The answers to these questions will rely as much on the character(s) of the readership(s) as on the content of the story. It is a matter of ethnography rather than literary criticism as such. The way Triumph of the Will or Birth of A Nation might function when shown to a contemporary sociology or history class is very different than how either film would have functioned in its original context, for example.

I've been accused in the past of being too trusting of fandom's ability to read fics critically in terms of sexual politics. It is a point well-taken: firstly, the generalizations I made about fandom's critical capacities two years ago aren't necessarily the same as I would make today; and secondly, obviously any of our understandings of "fandom" will be severely constrained, each of us having different and often strongly disparate experiences. Of course, neither is "fandom" synonymous with my readership, however. The question then becomes: how can I do my best to frame my stories in such a way trhat my own particular and unique readership receives them in the way which does the leat harm and the most good?

I think the advice that [personal profile] aris_tgd gives me in the comments to her post is probably the best solution:
I think that labeling these things as kink instead of as "how the world works" does help to change people's minds about the narrative. I mean, labeling "a man having sex with his wife even if she doesn't want to because that's what he's entitled to" as "spousal rape" instead of "how a marriage works" changes how we think about bodily autonomy and what marriage means. Labeling these as "constructed narratives for a particular kink" helps the reader realize that they are constructs.
ETA: It strikes me that it's probably important for me to point out that [personal profile] aris_tgd uses the term "label" instead of "warn" in the quote above. The distinction is important to me: what we're talking about is something an author uses to shape a reader's aesthetic experience, in the same we she uses the content of the story itself, not something which is imposed on the author regardless of what it may be she is trying to do. I'm thinking mainly in terms of AO3's tags, which a reader can also choose not to see if they don't want to be spoiled. (I have tags set not to display, for example.) I don't warn for story elements other than rape; I do, however, tag things in ways I consider to be accurate and appropriate, and I tend to be a maximalist rather than a minimalist in tagging (since even for someone who has tags set not to display, tags will still be a mechanism, via the sidebar, of finding new fic, so the more tags an author uses the more likely a reader will find her fic).
alixtii: Dinah and Barbara, hugging. (Birds of Prey)

By "usage" I mean all the times I used a fe/male character tag on a fic at A03. If I use a character in three different fics, that counts as three uses; there's no weighting for the length of the fic or the size of the role the character plays in it. There were a total of 240 uses of male character tags and 408 of female character tags. (Go here to see how many times my more popular character tags each got used. Also the breakdown by genre.) N.B. Faith still isn't being counted in these numbers, for reasons discussed in the previous archive stats post.

If we look only at the number of (canonical, in the Archive tag wrangler sense of "canonical") characters of each gender (of the two genders I've written) I've written (i.e., Dawn counts only once instead of 51 times), then we get this chart:

pie chart #2 )

I've written 130 different female characters (that get their own A03 tag) and 88 male. Which means the average (mean) female character I've written appears in 3.14 (just under pi, actually) fics, and the average male character appears in 2.75. So I write 48% more female characters than male characters, and I write them 14% more often.

And here's a graph showing which POVs I used. Bar graph instead of a pie chart because some fics use more than one, or none, of these tags, so I can't rightfully show it as percentages:

bar graph )

And tenses:

another graph )
alixtii: Drusilla holding a knife to Angel's throat. Text: "Got Freud?" (Freud)
So my reaction to the big m/m meta discussions going on has been basically, "Well, I'm glad I write alongside queer female writers about queer female characters for the benefit of a queer female audience." (Part of the reason for this is that I'm in the middle of a job search, so I don't have the time or the energy for a real opinion. If anyone knows of opportunities in the Philly/South Jersey region, do tell.) Not that the position I do occupy is unproblematic, but it's sort of problematic in fairly obvious ways we can all agree upon and don't require massive amounts of discussion.

But then my fellow femslashers have spoken up and the conversation has mutated in various ways and suddenly, I have thoughts. Because obviously m/m slash and femslash are different than and similar to each other in many complicated and different ways (many of which I've discussed repeatedly before), but my impression has always been that in more or less exactly the way that m/m slash isn't actually about real-world gay men (in a way that some interlocutors have found problematic, to say the least), femslash isn't about lesbians. (Obviously, the corollary to that is that femslash is about lesbians in all the ways m/m slash is about gay men. My purpose isn't to erase queerness.)

Obviously, I am not at all remotely qualified to speak to whether femslash accurately reflects The Lesbian Experience. So this is your invitation to tell me that I'm totally wrong. This post on femslash and the lesbian experience (eta: now locked, presumably in response to accusations of biphobia, although still much discussed throughout the LJ-meta-sphere) by [ profile] freifraufischer, linked on [community profile] metafandom, clearly indicates* that there's at least one queer female femslasher who would presumably disagree with the hypothesis put forth above. And it's interesting the ways in which she frames femslash writing in ways which seem foreign to this particular het male femslasher, such as her assertion that most "unrealistic" femslash fics are evidenced by bad writing: just stop by any femslash porn battle and you'll find plenty of incredibly well-written but not-at-all-realistic ficlets. (Putting aside for the moment the question of just what realism would even look like when one is slashing a Vampire Slayer with a vampire or werewolf.)

[*ETA, now that the post in question is no longer accessible: "The higher percentage of femslash stories that reflect aspects of lesbian culture beyond the purely sexual make it an expression of the lesbian community. In so much that there are straight women, and men, who write femslash they appear more likely to make some effort towards expressing true aspects of LGBT culture, as opposed to writing pure fantasy that has little relation to gay culture." I'm deeply saddened that I can't find, floating around the internets anywhere, the quote about how any fic in which C.J. Cregg picked up Sam Carter in a bar would automatically have to be badly written.]

[ETA2: I've just come across this post, "Professional Lesbians . . . and Fanfic" which goes on at length about the sorts of unrealisticness she dislikes for not adequately living up to certain elements of the lesbian experience--the tacit assumption being, of course, that it should.]

It makes sense to me, in a more-or-less purely theoretical way (I don't think it actually is a purely theoretical way, because I have been a member of this community and one of you for many years, and at least to some degree have learned your ways, but het male privilege is all-pervasive) that may be totally wrong, that a predominately queer female body of writers writing for a predominately queer female audience about characters who are in some sense or another queer and female doesn't require them focusing on how they are representing themselves (because the people to whom they are representing themselves are themselves), or at least not how they are representing themselves in any way which requires realism. Rather that which is being represented is a set of hopes and dreams, fears and fantasies. It's not a mirror that's intended to exist without distortion; indeed, given the grim reality of so many queer female lives, it'd be the source of much pain and anguish if it were. Femslash, no less than m/m slash, is frequently a genre of escapist literature (although, of course, it doesn't have to be, and it can be in ways other than the immediately obvious).

Femslash, I thought, is primarily about female pleasure, both as medium and as message. Of course, female pleasure is no less political a goal than representation is--cue the Hélène Cixous Laugh of the Medusa song-and-dance:
We've been turned away from our bodies, shamefully taught to ignore them, to strike them with that stupid sexual modesty; we've been made victims of the old fool's game: each one will love the other sex. I'll give you your body and you'll give me mine. But who are the men who give women the body that women blindly yield to them? Why so few texts? Because so few women have as yet won back their body. Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reverse-discourse, including the one that laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word 'silence', the one that, aiming for the impossible, stops short before the word 'impossible' and writes it as 'the end.'
(In one sense, it seems self-evident that femslash lives up to this ideal in a way that m/m slash does not; on the other hand, that acknowledgment seems to have something of the "we should all become lesbians" sentiment to it which characterized second-wave feminism** at its worst.)

[**ObDisclaimer: Wave-terminology erases feminist history; feminism never stops happening.]

I keep thinking back to my meta post of two years ago, Gazes in/and/of Criticism, in which I attempt to compare the desiring elements of both the het male and queer female gazes (assuming for the moment that we're breaking with Freud and Lacan enough to even posit that a female gaze is a possible subject position to begin with, as [ profile] ithiliana notes in her post on fetishization). Of course, femslash is about much more than just a desiring gaze; it's also about agency (and the fantasy of agency) and about female characters (albeit characters who, although female, were probably written and created by het white men) being themselves (which in itself can be a radical act): women are desiring, women are desired, and women also get to do things which have little to nothing to do with desire before and after all the desiring. But I do think there is something "fetishistic," insofar as I understand that concept (linked gacked from [ profile] ithiliana), with what queer women (and people who are not queer women, like me) are doing with fictional(ized) female characters in femslash. They're (and we're) playing with them like dolls. I just don't think that's especially problematic in and of itself.

(And may I say that all the google hits for "queer female gaze" which aren't me--and I'm glad to see that I'm not at the top--all look incredibly interesting?)

Now what the implications for the m/m debate are, in which the representations of--I hesitate to say "an other," because men are the default, unmarked gender and many (if not most) of the writers of m/m slash are queer, so they clearly aren't Other in the Lacanian psychoanalytic sense--but the representations of a group of people who are not the same people as the writers or the readers, and who likewise hold an oppressed position in relation to the patriarchy--are used to replace the fantastic (meaning not realistic, but also fantastic in a psychoanalytic sense) representations of the writers/readers that we get with femslash, I don't claim to know. But I did want to write down my thoughts on the femslash discussion, say a bit about how I frame femslash as a genre, and give a chance for queer women in the femslash community/ies to tell me I'm totally wrong.

(And while we're on the subject of female characters: less than eight hours until "Epitaph Two"!)
alixtii: Codex at her computer, from the first episode of "The Guild." (Felicia/Vi/Codex)
The other day I made a comment on Twitter (after much counting of characters to make everything fit):
Bit disturbed by implications of man needing to sweep in & make things better, but guess @feliciaday's awesome makes up for it. #theguild
And just today she blogged:
An interesting comment was made on Twitter, about everything being made “ok” because a man came back and took over. I certainly didn’t mean that at ALL. The fact is, Codex is not a good leader. She will never be a good leader, especially in the time frame of 6 days in this season. That is how people ACTUALLY are. She’s BETTER than she was at the beginning, but to think that she realistically could take on the mantle of Guild Leader (and REPLACE Vork which I didn’t want her to do) against the Anarchists was such a stretch for me, and a direction I didn’t want to go in with the script. So, Vork comes back, after his big journey, and puts the Guild back together. Codex will get her moment, don’t worry.
Now my main reaction to this is to mentally jump up and down in excitement that Felicia Day spent a whole paragraph in her blog responding to a criticism I made. (I went backwards through the hashtag and I'm assuming it's me she's responding to there.)

As an obligatory response to what she wrote, I suppose I should say that of course I didn't think for a moment (nor do I think anyone else could) that Felicia Day intentionally meant to say anything anti-feminist. I think her cred in that area is pretty much unassailable, but at the same time her intent doesn't negate the possible moral of the episode I read in it. This is basic Anti-Oppression 101 to anyone on my flist, but somehow I feel need to reiterate anyway. I don't think Felicia Day is any more sexist than anyone else; I do think this particular episode she wrote and produced (and starred in) does replicate sexist messages already present in our culture in a disturbing way.

But again, I think the more important point is that she wrote and produced it, period. When I say Felicia's awesome makes up for it, I don't mean I'm willing to look past the flaws because I like her a lot. I mean that the fact that the episode exists at all, a product of the entrepeneurship of her and her co-producer Kim Evey, is an inherently feminist act.

As I've said before, the problem with our culture isn't that stories like S3 Ep10 exist.

embedded video for context )

The problem is all the other stories which don't exist, or at least don't get to be heard.

The problem is a lack of pluralism: stories which focus on (white, heterosexual, cisgendered, etc.) men's problems and men's victories keep on pushing out other media. I think the only solution to this problem is a two-pronged approach: one, producers of media need to think more deeply about the stories they're telling. But this can only go so far; if all the producers are men, chances are the stories they're going to be interested in telling just aren't going to capture the whole of human experience no matter how much feminism they try to inject in. Sometimes even a Joss Whedon is going to want to tell a story like Dr. Horrible where cut for spoilers? ). I think we need to respect that.

That's where prong two comes in: making sure people other than cisgendered heterosexual abled white males get a chance to tell their stories. And this is why Felicia Day's story (her life story, not Season 3 Episode 10) is so important. She managed to carve out a space for herself outside the already existing system where she could tell the stories she wanted to tell, where she could exist as a powerful woman to create, write, produce, and star in the webseries we know and love, to find a way to support her project (in season one, on donations; for seasons two and three, by being sponsored by Microsoft and Sprint) without giving up the rights to her project or creative control. She is a pioneer and an inspiration to others.

(And which is not to elide the fact that Felicia is privileged in so many other ways, of course: she's white, straight [so far as anyone knows], abled [for now at least], brilliant, [so incredibly] beautiful, university-educated, and comes from a background where she was encouraged to use her talents from an early age).

The Guild is not a perfect feminist work. In addition to the issue with S3 Ep10 I already mentioned, it has some real successes alongside some real failures in its treatment(s) of race, class, and able-ness. Felicia Day, as deeply awesome as she may be, is still only human. But I don't think any work is a perfect feminist work: the future I envision is one in which all types of works, each one of them deeply flawed in its own way, get brought to the table, not just a certain kind, so they can all end up critiquing, complementing, and supplementing each other. And I think The Guild, taken as a whole, brings us closer to that future.
alixtii: River and Kaylee. Text: "Problematizing desire." (theory)
So, I'm talking to my ex-girlfriend about Robert Jensen's Gettining Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, and I had a thought which is rather ill-formed and I'm not sure what to make of it.

It seems to me there is something almost inevitably heteronormative inherent in Dworkinist constructions of masculinity. (Re-visioned masculinity, I mean, so: reconstructions.) That they provide a chance to step outside one's maleness without actually having to examine one's heterosexuality in any real detail. This seems rather counterintuitive on one level (Dworkin was a lesbian, John Stoltenberg was a gay man, and apparently Jensen himself isn't straight either), but seems right to me on another that I can't articulate. Anybody have any thoughts? Able to help me theorize this out? Is it just that they're so deeply seeped in a 1970's-style second-wave aesthetic? Is it a result of positioning this reconceptualization as a primarily feminist move--which is to say making the moral criterion an essentially gynocentric one? (How strange is it to consider gynocentrism a potentially bad thing?) Or is it even that any constructive project is by its nature opposed to the very project of critical, and thus queer, theory? It is arguably implicitly futurist, and it'd be hard to argue that what is being done is (liberal) activism (whose job is to build) as opposed to (radical) theory (whose job is to critique). How much is any of this a problem? And how much of this is a problem inherent in Dworkinism itself as opposed to incidental to it?

ETA: Jensen discusses the move to abolish masculinity versus the move to redefine it, arguing for, as would I, the former. This puts forward a possibility: any attempt to reconstruct masculinity is essentially an attempt to keep it intact, to re-inscribe separate gender roles, and since all sexism is ultimately heterosexist (and vice versa), this is heteronormative. I don't think this is the whole story, though--especially since the premise of my original question assumed the project was being (or at least, could be) heteronormative while still being feminist (which would presumably be to say, not sexist).

It does raise the question, though: the two male feminists I know of who think that masculinity is something worthy of being discussed (instead of simply stipulating it as undesirable and then getting on with the feminist projects of radical critique and liberal activism) are both Dworkinists. Is this significant?
alixtii: Mary Magdalene washing the face of Jesus of Nazareth, from the film production of Jesus Christ Superstar. (religion)

Adapted from this LibraryThing thread.

I happen to think the moral strictures, at least, of the Bible are on the whole pretty darn clear, as opposed to being, you know, valent, whether multi, poly, bi (not that there’s anything wrong with it), tri, or any other variation on same: Do not murder, do not have sex with someone else’s spouse, lay off of worshipping big wooden statues, don’t lie with beasts, and don’t lie (if you’re a male) with other males (especially if they’re angels and especially if it’s non-consensual).

In one sense, I agree with this, in that I'm distrustful of the project which claims we can apply a conservative hermeneutic to Scripture and still get liberal conclusions--the What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality project, where it seems to be conceded that the Bible could condemn homosexuality, but it's a contingent fact that it doesn't. Whew! What a relief. [On the flist, I know that [ profile] hermionesviolin is a big proponent of this view. Sorry, Elizabeth. --ed.]

But I'm not sure that "clear" and "multivalent" are actually mutually exclusive. It seems to me possible that a certain reading could be clear and at the same time God could be using it to say or do something completely different than the "clear" reading suggests. If one finds evolving revelation problematic, then the fact that God seemingly eschews being clear could be problematic. But since my faith commitments (which are fairly orthodox in this respect at least) don't lead me to do so, the problem disappears.

It seems to me "clear" and "multivalent" measure different things; the former measures plausibility (which I think the religionist by virtue of being a religionist has already abandoned [another point I think Elizabeth would disagree with me on--ed.]) and the latter possibility (which is the space in which religion thrives).

Leviticus is pretty explicit on male homosexuality: "don't do it." But as liberal apolgists are probably too prone to point out, it's in a list that also forbids wearing polyester. Is the doctrine of dispensationalism which supposedly frees us from the polyester rule something read into the Bible, or a direct exegesis of the New Testament? I don't pretend to know. Is the division between ethical and non-ethical rules that exempts the homosexuality clause from dispensationalism exegetical or eisegetical? Again, I don't know. I don't think there's a right answer. (Well, actually, I'm fond of "It's all eisegetical.")

But what I'm left with is that the Bible never says anything simply; interpretation is always required. We don't get very far before my "obvious" reading and your "obvious" reading no longer line up very well.

I don't want to deny that the "condemnation of homosexuality" reading is the most intuitive one. I don't know if this fact says more about us (and what we find intuitive) or Scripture, but to deny it would be disingenuous. All I'm trying to claim is that alternate readings are valid. Which reading we choose will say a lot about who we are as Christians, obviously.

Now, it may be that there are texts that, as modern thinking Christians, we might decide are so inherently problematic that they can't possibly be part of God's Word. I won't rule it out completely. But such a move should only be made as a last possible resort, I think; as long as there are ways to constructively re-vision our understanding of a passage, that should be the preferable route.

Scripture, as compiled under the watchful eye of Mother Church, is important because it is, not solely but nonetheless very importantly, what we as Christians draw on and look back to as part of what defines us. But this is a wrestling with God, not a list of directives. Penuel, not Sinai.

I think we need to be honest about this, and admit that our interpretations are born as much from our moral commitments (both personal and communal--and we cannot forget that Mother Church, fractured and divided as she is*, is guided by the Holy Spirit) as they are from any type of straight, direct exegesis. (These commitments are not prior to our interpretation of Scripture, but rather in constant unending dialect with it.) But I also believe that that's the only game in town.[This brings us to Alixtii's peculiar brand of meta/ethics.--ed.]

[*Yes, there's gendered language there. There's something in the gendered language which I think is particularly effective at conveying a particular (Anglo-Catholic) understanding of the composition of the Church. At the same time, all that bride of Christ stuff is so deeply problematic from a feminist viewpoint. Still at the same time, I didn't actually mention any of that bride of Christ stuff, nor would I ever (although I do refer to the Church as "His Church" upthread), just a positive feminine embodiment of a religious concept, and stripping our religious language of positive feminine embodiments of religious concepts is problematic in its own right. I still don't know how I feel about it all, except that there's part of me that feels really comfortable talking about Mother Church.--ed.]

alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
spoilers )

It doesn't pass the Bechdel test. The idea that, in the feminist utopia, every movie will be one that Alison Bechdel (or the character from her comic strip, I guess) will want to see is kind of silly. Now, the Bechdel test is really useful to me, because it does do a fairly good job of predicting which movies I would want to see and which ones I wouldn't. And it's very possible that if Dr. Horrible hadn't been written by Joss or starred Felicia, I wouldn't have felt any need to see it, just as I'd have no interest in seeing a movie about the trenches of World War II unless someone assured me it that X (insert whatever reason I might watch a movie here). To me the logic of the Bechdel test (and it's a logic I agree with--let me make it clear right now that the people who use these moments to write off the usefulness of considering the Bechdel test or the Women in Refrigerators trope in general, e.g. in some--certainly not all--of the comments here, make me much more deeply uncomfortable than those people making feminist criticisms I don't think apply to a text I enjoyed) as a political instrument (as opposed to a tool for Alison Bechdel to decide what movie to go see) is that--and I'd hope this is uncontroversial--there are a disproportionate number of films which fail the Bechdel test when compared to the movies that have at least two male characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a woman? For every Dr. Horrible, there should be a Welcome to the Hellmouth (which now that I think about it, is a good comparison; we don't really get into the POV of a character other than Buffy until later in the season). If we look at Joss, though, I think his ouvre since 1997 (by which I mean Buffy, Angel, Fray, Firefly, SerenitySugarshock, Astonishing X-Men, Runaways, and Dr. Horrible--have I missed something?) actually as a whole privileges female POVs to a much greater extent than male POVs.

The only logic that I can think of which says that no work should be produced which fails the Bechdel test and which makes sense to me is to say that since under patriarchy Bechdel-passing texts are so rare, that as a feminist it is incumbent upon Joss to produce only works which pass the text. I'm not unsympathetic to the sentiment; I do think that we can't just live our lives as if we already lived in the feminist utopia, but must sometimes go strongly (but temporarily) to the other extreme to counterbalance the evils of systemic injustice in today's world; that's what affirmative action is about. And I don't think art is excepted from that; that is, it is incumbent upon an ethical artist to write her texts in ways which may go beyond what her (patriarchally-influenced) narrative instincts might otherwise tell her for political reasons. But (and admittedly I say this from my position of privilege) when art becomes completely subject to politics, then--well, first off I think it's not just bad art but also a lousy apologetical tool. One must use the master's tools to tear down the master's house; one has to keep some of the conventional narrative structures in place while deconstructing others, or else one isn't going to be able to speak to one's audience at all. (Joss is really good at that, I think, but it does earn him a decent amount of feminist criticism.) But mostly, I think when the rallying cry becomes "You can't tell that type of story" instead of "These sorts of stories need to be told, too," then something is profoundly broken.
Why did he have to write Macbeth when he could have written As You Like It, or at least Cymbeline? This is the criticism I have the least respect for, especially since the people making always for some reason seem to bend over backwards to fire potshots at the BSG reboot (and a few other shows, I think? but mostly BSG) at the same time, complaining TV in general has gotten too dark and it's all Joss's fault, and that unhappy endings are not intrinsically better than happy ones, and anyone who thinks they are is an elitist snob, so there. Which, I mean, I love happy endings--this is the guy who just last week was absolutely bawling over the end of The Princess Diaries 2. But I also respect the worldview that Joss' narrative kinks come out of, and think it's right in a lot of ways--that the meaning of life is what we make of it, and that if nothing matters but what we do then . . . however it goes. Help me load the truck. I sort of want to kill that dragon. And at the end of the day, I'd take the inspiration and hope I take out of an episode like "Not Fade Away" over the artificial illusion offered by most happy endings anyday. Well, some days. If I'm not already in a bad mood, I guess. Artificial illusions are good too. They make me cry.

It doesn't bother me that some people don't enjoy what Joss has to say. That's fine. But that they seem to take that as license to disrespect it. . . . well, that does bother me.
alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
Well, it also not only fails the Bechdel test so badly that it not not passes it but flunks it so badly it could be sleeping with the professor and still not manage a D. Which is a function of the fact that there are only four speaking parts (at least so far) in the whole thing (and NPH, Nathan, and Felicia are all perfect for the roles)--but explaining away the individual situation is always a bingo card response.

So it comes down to me that it's all about a pattern--Whedon has a good track record on feminist issues and a lousy one on race issues. After Buffy and its (admittedly multi-faceted and contradictory and self-problematizing) messages of female empowerment, and Angel and Firefly with their wonderful female characters in their ensembles even if the protagonists are male (and Firefly/Serenity is ultimately River's story at least as much as Mal's), not to mention Astonishing and Sugarshock (which I still have not read) and Runaways (which Amazon tells me is in the mail!), it's okay to me that he's telling a story with only one female character, and one who is essentially a prize to be won at that (although Felicia plays Penny wonderfully).

"This is the story I wanted to tell," is a bingo card response not because we shouldn't be telling stories like that (I mean, there are times when I think romcom formulas can be doing actual damage, but I'm not sure this one), but because it sidesteps the issue of why other stories aren't being told. The answer is always pluralism, more voices at the table, not less. Because I have a love for stories like Dr. Horrible, too, I've pretty much spent the entire time since I've gotten home work in tears, first crying through The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and then through Superman: Doomsday, so the traditional stories are able to affect me in ways that are near and dear to my heart.

Dr. Horrible is so short--about the length of a single (non-musical) episode of Buffy--and simple that I don't think there's really enough to hang a critique on. OTOH, neither does it suddenly earn him points or turn over a new leaf when he should be working to do so. Luckily for me from my position of privilege, I can roll my eyes and just groan, "Oh, Joss" at just how white the show is and go on loving the show (almost three hours until the denouement!--how will I go on after there is no more left to look forward to?)--but not everyone is so lucky.

. . .

So once the canon is closed (or at least flat-lined, if one will be treating Commentary! as canon, which I probably won't be 'cept for RPF), and the possibility of being jossed eliminated, what Dr. Horrible femslash should I work on?

[Poll #1225918]

ETA: I forgot to put Who on the list! I really want a Dr. Horrible/Torchwood crossover. I mean, like, badly.
alixtii: Riley Finn putting up the "Lesbian Alliance" banner. Text: "Not Quite a Lesbian, But Always a Femslasher." (Riley)
There's some metafandom-ed posts about Supernatural and class, and at least one flocked post on my flist thinking about it in the abstract, and it's gotten me to revisit my thoughts, because class really does color the way I view fictional characters quite deeply. Well, maybe not class per se, since I've said things like that in the past and been forced to take them back, but classed markers certainly, even as I'm still not at all sure the distinction makes any sense. (Not gender per se but gendered markers? Not race but racialized markers? What are gender, race, and class except a set of markers? Is there such a thing as class essentialism?) Education, idiolect, certain values, cultural capital--things like that--with the archetypal example being high-school student Buffy Summer's ability to make topical allusions to Arthur Miller or Samuel Beckett. (So admittedly it is a very narrow set of classed--and raced and gendered, but especially classed and raced--markers that make me interested in a fictional character.)

Now, the thing I'm still struggling with is how problematic that fact is. It seems acceptable to say "I'm not interested in watching a show about working-class characters" in a way it would never be to say "I'm not interested in watching a show about women" or "I'm not interested in watching a show about characters of color." But as a person of immense privilege, the fact that it seems acceptable may be no more than an indicator of how far I still have to go--the way that replacing "white" and "black" for "men" and "women" in a certain situation can make it much clearer how problematic it is, as in this comment to a [ profile] languagelog post:

In general, though, I would say there is clearly much more public tolerance in the US for prejudice against women and misogynistic speech than there is tolerance for racist speech. This was most clearly illustrated to me in a story a professor of mine in University told of an administrative meeting he attended where one of the speakers was discussing a vote that had taken place and in relation to that made a joke about how giving women the right to vote had been a mistake, and was met with genuine laughter. He noted, truthfully I think, that this would have been met with awkward incredulity if it were instead about African Americans or some other racial group.
Of course, the degree to which this works will depend on just how "real" one considers sexual difference to be, as evidenced by all the people who disagree with me on whether there will be gender-segregated bathrooms in the feminist utopia. (Of course, insofar as the point of gender-segregated bathrooms is to keep the other sex out, I'd argue there's something hugely heterosexist as well as sexist going on there.) (And if we look at the way racial difference went from seeming quite real to the idea being almost absurd, I don't see why the same process couldn't play out wrt gender.)

Still, it seems to be natural and unproblematic to say "it's better to be rich than to be poor" (even though what I'm really interested and invested in has nothing to do with income except insofar as hip-hop music has something to do with race or skirts have to do with gender) in a way one can't even say, say, "it's better to see than to be blind." (Not that I'd want to say the latter, mind you--I've learned better--but I think it's still intuitive for a lot of people.) And I can only doubt my privilege so much.

In the end, I suppose it comes down to the fact that while the "reality" of sexuality difference is more or less irrelevant to gender inequality (by which I mean that having a penis doesn't convey in itself any real power), and thus the semiotic power of gendered markers are able to function more or less independently of that reality, and the reality of racial difference (none at all chromosomally) is in some ways more and some ways less divorced from racial inequality, Not having a penis is only a lack once you've read Lacan. Similarly with not being white. Not having money, on the other hand--well, obviously this too is a lack which is in large part semiotic, since currency doesn't have any intrinsic value, as you can't eat or drink it--not having the stuff which money can buy to satisfy one's needs and wants, however, represents a real imbalance in power which is not present in the raced or gendered scenarios. And "classism" as a superstructural system of injustice where the rich think the poor are ignorant trash and the working-class think the upper class are pretentious twits sort of operates above this base.

Except that now I sound like some cross between a Lacanian, a classical Marxist, and a metaphysical realist (what is this "real" of which I speak?) and--perish the thought. And ultimately, this distinction does seem to be bogus. The phenomenology of women's lived experience under systemic injustice is that of a "real" lack, no more or less than the one that comes from not having money to spend. All the money in the world won't help you if your boyfriend won't let you out of the house to spend it.

alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)

In the comments of [ profile] hannahrorlove's post attacking slash goggles, [ profile] peasant_ and I somehow found ourselves in a conversation about the metaethics of radical feminism. Specifically, she asked:

If you reject relativism as uncomfortable, and you reject an exploration of belief formation as uninteresting, what has led you to believe in the near-universal radical nature of the problem?
It's true to say that I'm a radical feminist (insofar as I am one), as a result of certain important influences in my youth and childhood, in particular the influence of my mother, one of my high school English teachers, etc. (Mostly my mother.) This is true, but uninteresting. As a philosophically-interested human being, I don't just hold certain beliefs but also justify them to myself. These justifications are, of course, also causally determined and could be, if one were interested in doing so, explained in purely material terms. But I can't think of myself merely as a belief box (anybody have a cite for this concept?) into which random beliefs were merely shoved by nature, and I don't really think anybody could.

Mary Daly, in her book Gyn/Ecology, which is actually subtitled The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (and how disturbing is it that my copy--which is really my mother's old copy, has a huge picture of an axe on the cover?), which has been the deepest and most direct radical feminist influence on me in my adolescence and throughout my life, seems to avoid the question somewhat:
I would say that radical feminist metaethics is of a deeper intuitive type than "ethics." The latter, generally written from one of several (but basically the same) patriarchal perspectives, works out of hidden agendas concealed in the texture of language, buried in mythic reversals which control "logic" most powerfullly because unacknowledged.

[. . .]

There are, of course, male-authored, male-identified works which purport to deal with "metaethics." In relation to these, gynography is meta-metaethical. For while male metaethics claims to be "the study of ethical theories, as distinguished from the study of moral and ethical conduct itself," [she cites Titus and Keaton's Ethics for Today here as the source of the quote] it remains essentially male-authored and male-identified theory about theory. Moreover, it is only theory about "ethical theories"--an enterprise which promises boundless boringness. In contrast to this, Gyn/Ecology is hardly "metaethical" in the sense of masturbatory meditations by ethicists upon their own emissions. Rather, we recognize that the essential omissions if these emissions is of our own life/freedom. In the name of our life/freedom, feminist metaethics O-mits seminal omissions. (12-13)
There is much to love in these passages (remind me to re-read the entire book over the summer). But this still leaves open the question: where do radical feminist ethics come from? (Daly's next paragraph implies the answer might be the goddess Metis.)

A certain amount of philosophical pragmatism, a la Richard Rorty, enters into the discussion for me at this point. I think I've indicated before that I'm not sure what it would mean to assert that "the nature of the problem is radical and near universal" as some type of meaningful, propositional claim. How would one go about falsifying such a claim?

What I would argue is that the claim does not and cannot have a truth value. Instead, it is useful to conceive of the problem as being radical and near universal, while making no ontological claim--because pragmatism in general eschews ontology.

The questions raised by this answer are obvious: useful to whom? and according to what standard of usefulness? I don't see anything obviously wrong in ethicizing epistemology and metaphysics (well, I could see someone arguing it was contradictory to the self-evident nature of truth, but that's rather begging the question) (and theology goes here as well; this was an important point as I working on feminist meta/theology in undergrad), but certainly we need to have some account of feminist ethics in place?

I can see three possible responses (and this part of the discussion is familiar to me, because I explained this part point-to-point to my London roommate in a hostel bar in Austria in 2004). The first is existential commitment, which is basically to refuse to answer the question. Now there are some things that existential commitment is good for, not least of all acting as a stopgap explanation as one works out a more detailed metaethic. "This is where I stand; I can do no other" is a principled position I can respect, but it ideally shouldn't take the place of critical dialectic and self-exploration.

Now obviously someone working from a position of existential commitment can make normative claims; there's nothing stopping them, after all. But they can't quite give an account of why other people should take them seriously, so they're only useful in modifying the behavior of other people who share those commitments. This strikes me as a rather weak and silly sort of radical feminism (but perhaps describes the traditional, "real" radfeminists of the 70s quite well!).

The second option would be some sort of foundationalism. But as you note, foundationalism isn't really compatible with the core premise of radical feminism, that systemic injustice runs all the way down. (Although nowadays I would probably want to hedge on it a little and say something like it might run all the way down, and if it doesn't it still runs down pretty darn deep.) To locate supposedly "feminist" ethics in reason, language, or culture would be to merely reinscribe masculinist domination.

When I was in undergrad, it seemed to me the process was simple: you let feminist ethicists do their thing, and then we feminist metaphysicians and theologians would apply the results to metaphysics, epistemology, and theology. (Aesthetics always seemed to fit very uncomfortably into this system.) The idea of deriving ethics from religion still sort of gives me hives, but it's obvious that the system as I was thinking of it just isn't tenable: it throws way too much burden on the feminist ethicists. Standpoint theory has too many implicit metaphysical and epistemological assumptions to be able to do what it does and be logically prior to those disciplines. Appointing ethics as queen of the science isn't ultimately a meaningful change, any more than demoting metaphysics and putting epistemology in its place, or doing the same with philosophy of language, had been. As long as the sciences have a queen, we have a problem.

Ultimately, then, I think the only workable option is a dialectical one. Reason (and I'll use that as a lump term for metaphysics/epistemology/theology) and ethics always have to be in dialectic to each other, with neither (or, in another sense, both) being logically prior to the other. (So, gritting my teeth, I have to accept that it is sometimes acceptable to turn to Scripture in order to learn about ethics--but this turn to Scripture will always-already be informed by a certain ethicism.) The limits of liberal democratism are built into itself and reveal themselves in history, so that there is a sort of imperative built within reason, language, and culture themselves for it to progress into radical feminism.

Nota Bene

Mar. 27th, 2008 03:08 pm
alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
Pointing out someone (individual or group) is acting entitled is not a reasonable criticism.

To make a reasonable criticism, one must demonstrate they're not actually entitled to act that way.

A step discussions of soi-disant "entitlement cultures" (whether in fandom or the United States or planet Earth or the 21st century or wherever) seldom take.
alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
Liberal feminism provides for us a measure of just how far we have come.

Radical feminism provides for us a measure of just how far we have left to go.

Both measures are equally important, and losing track of either can be dangerous.

I do believe:
  • That racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, etc. are systemic, subtly and ubiquitously embedded in our society in places both obvious and invisible, and about as deeply as one can get, in our language(s) (and in our unconsciouses which are structured like a language), in a superstructure which I alternately may call "patriarchy" or "systemic injustice." Remember the word radical comes from a word meaning "root": systemic injustice infects society at its very foundations.
  • Thus, that most if not all economies, governments, cultural forms, languages, etc. do in some way flow from this patriarchal root.
  • That racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and many but possibly not all other forms of systemic injustice are, if not quite equiprimordial, at least so deeply interconnected that it's never quite clear where one starts and the others end. This is a change in position from my teens when I saw all other forms of injustice as symptoms of sexism in a very second-wave sort of way.
  • As a corollary, that it is extremely unlikely that racism could exist in a truly non-sexist society (since there is a sense in which racism is always-already inherently misogynistic), and vice versa. It's even harder to imagine sexism existing in a non-heterosexist society or vice versa. This doesn't mean that once we stop sexism, racism will magically fix itself so much as that we won't be able to stop sexism until we've cleaned up our act on race issues as well. On the same pattern, stopping sexism won't heal the ozone layer, but I have no doubt that the anti-environmentalist urge which impels us to harm the Earth in first place is linked in some way to and motivated by misogyny.
  • That the various brands of privilege--white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, cisgendered privilege, etc.--exist even as they are so often invisible and taken for granted.
  • That while men are the beneficiaries of male privilege and have certain responsibilities as a result of that, they cannot be "blamed" for patriarchy in any unproblematic way. Indeed, that the urge to blame is itself a patriarchal logic.
  • That talk of reverse sexism or other "reverse discriminations" ignores the systemic character of real sexism, racism, etc.
  • That male and female are not essential categories but instead the complex interaction of self-identification, behavior, and social interpellation; that the division into male and female is ultimately the result of patriarchal logics.
  • That traditionally female values, behaviors, and spheres have been artificially devalued by systemic injustice and need to be reclaimed.
  • That being anti-sex (and this includes the passive-agressive "sacralization" of sexuality sometimes found in some religious traditions) is always-already being anti-female and misogynistic.
  • That pornography and sex work, while prone to abuse, are not inherently evil, and to view them as such can be misogynistic.
  • That there are radically liberatory possibilities in female writing and female pleasure. (Cf. pretty much any French feminist.)
  • That there is value in female safe spaces.
  • That in a fallen world "pretty good" sometimes has to be good enough; heterosexual sex (or, for that matter, homosexual sex) as practiced by most couples may not be immune to patriarchy or be radically egalitarian and consensual but that's hardly a reason to abstain so long as one is giving it the college try. That even problematic instances of autonomy must be encouraged and celebrated from within the patriarchy, and that to erase this trace of autonomy is to be cooperative with the patriarchal logic.
  • That one must use the master's tools to take down the master's house; i.e. patriarchy can only be dismantled from within, and it is possible to use its structures (e.g., "Christianity" or "the romantic comedy genre") against it. This will always necessarily require temporary compromises and cooptations, but can result in demonstrable improvements in both the short- and long-term (at least using the liberal feminist measuring stick). But there is no other choice: il n'y a pas de hors-texte.
  • That government legislation is a sometimes necessary but rarely if ever sufficient remedy to systemic injustice.
  • That the works of mercy needed to improve the lives of women under patriarchy are important as well as the social action needed to end it. (Cf."the two feet of justice" in Catholic social teaching.)
  • Silencing the voices of women and other members of other oppressed groups is never a good thing.
I have, in the past, referred to this complex of positions as "radical feminism," and may well do so again in the future.

The following positions are not ones that I particularly associate with radical feminism, not even my own unique brand of such, but which I think are compatible with it and good to hold in general:
  • That dissent, discussion, and dialectic are healthy. Many objections are not stupid and showing that one can respond to them can be a powerful persuasive tool.
  • Not getting things completely wrong is almost always a useful and valuable endeavor.
Also, I like slash.
alixtii: Mary Magdalene washing the face of Jesus of Nazareth, from the film production of Jesus Christ Superstar. (religion)
This is not a post defending the Organization for Transformative Works (a fan-run pro-fanfic nonprofit organization, if you're out of the loop). The OTW should be quite thankful about that fact, because frankly the OTW doesn't want me (or, more accurately, shouldn't want me) defending them. I'm a crap apologist, because I'm an intellectual radical and I can't hide that fact to save my life, even if I'm arguing with my brother over who should do the dishes, because the reason he can't see why he should do them is totally because he's operating under a correspondence theory of truth (without knowing it) when he should be going for standpoint epistemology, or some such. A conversation about evangelical Christianity's stance on homosexuality inevitably becomes one about whether there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth. And so on.

And God help me, I hadn't even finished the first paragraph of this post and I've already invoked Sandra Harding. Other than the fact that I am male, I am in some ways exactly the sort of academic (though, truly, I'm not really, as I'm only a grad student, and a just starting one at that) that OTW's critics see lurking behind every corner of the org. So the OTW really shouldn't want me defending them.

So I'm not going to defend the OTW. I'm not even sure I want to; if you go to the original post(s?) in [ profile] astolat's journal, you'll find me there (naturally), offering up criticisms of the project from the get-go and providing my reservations. (I will say that what comforts me more than anything else is the knowledge that the new archive will be run on open-source software. The OTW's goal is not to hegemonize and never was--and if they end up deciding they can't or won't host chan, somebody else will be able to use the code to do so. Same for having underaged readers.)

Okay, I've gone on for three paragraphs about what I'm not doing, and this is the fourth. What I will do in this post is respond to certain elements of the discussion that has arisen over the Organization for Transformative works and give my perspective on a couple of issues and why I think my view is the correct one.

No one who knows me will be surprised that the main conversation with which I'm concerned is the one over the gender issue--the claim, seemingly based on a single line in its mission statement, "We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary"--that the OTW is sexist, excludes men, or cetera. Now the org has been remarkably (and to me, frustratingly) inclusive in its response to said criticism. The official part line on the "female identity" line is that it is a reference to a historically true fact which is thus ideologically neutral.

The OTW has not trotted out feminist theory and explained in those terms why its positions are correct and necessary, which you would think thy would do if the entire project is composed only of acafans (as some have claimed). Instead, it has done its best to present its mission statement in a way which would be palatable to people who hold a number of differing ideologies, even if some of those ideologies are from a certain perspective (i.e., mine) wrong. They'd make very good Episcopalians, I think.

I told you I'm a crap apologist; I can't leave it at that. Maybe the line in the mission statement is ideologically neutral, maybe it isn't. I don't think it matters, because there is a correct ideological position from which perspective the line is appropriate.

If we remember back to the major race discussions which took place a few months ago originating in the Stargate Atlantis fandom and then spreading like wildfire through my flist, we'll remember [ profile] hederahelix's eloquent advocacy of the definition of systemic injustice as the intersection of discrimination and power:
oppression is never just the action of individuals )
Sexism is a systemic superstructure of male privilege, and it exists in the world. I have been the recipient of that privilege, and fandom has helped me to understand in some small part what it feels to not have it (something for which I am eternally grateful). Resistant measures intended to combat the overarching superstructure are not sexist. Thus the OTW could be excluding men and that would be okay.

The question is not, cannot be, "Would this be just in an already just society?" Putting Supergirl in a short skirt, or giving Powergirl big breasts, would be neutral acts in an already just society: some women wear short skirts and some have big breasts, and that's okay. But we don't live in a just society, and asking what we would do then blinds us to the pattern of oppression these facts form into today. Similarly, some actions are called for today as reactionary measures which would not be appropriate in a feminist utopia. Fandom's female identity is one of these things.

That's the argument OTW doesn't want to make, because not everyone agrees with it, and which of course it doesn't have to make, because they're not excluding men. They're not catering to men, of course, and in a world of rampant male privilege that might be felt as exclusion, as [ profile] cereta documents in her post Fandom and Male Privilege. And I know firsthand what that feels like, being male, and it's not fun, especially not at first. But it's not exclusion. The OTW has male members working on its volunteer staff, serving on committees. Its mission statement states that:
While men are certainly welcome (and again, I can say this firsthand), it is simply recognize that in a world where everything else is run by men for men's purposes, this is a female space.

I believe in what Helene Cixous called the laugh of the Medusa: the radical, revisionary possibilities of a community of women writing, especially about sex. I believe that what [ profile] cupidsbow calls "amazing outpouring of female talent" in How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor has the power to change the world and is valuable from a feminist perspective. In her post Is Medusa Still Laughing?, [ profile] kbusse writes:
AUTHORity, PENis )
Some might argue that OTW shouldn't be a feminist organization. I disagree. I think that every organization should be a feminist organization, and that the OTW is not feminist enough. (This is not a defense, remember?) The Roman Catholic Church should be a feminist organization, although it sadly isn't. The Cato Institute should be a feminist organization. The only reason NAMBLA shouldn't be a feminist organization is that it probably shouldn't exist at all in the first place. There are normative ethics at work here; I am not a relativist.

If you disagree with me on this, I think you're wrong, but I love you anyway. I have had very productive discussions with people on my flist who disagree with me on the role of power in human society. And OTW may still be for you--as I've said, it is way more inclusive of differing points of view that I am, and as in one of my good moods I recognize an organization should and must be if it is going to function. Even if you disagree with the importance of privileging fandom's female identity doesn't take change the coolness of a new archive, journal, or wiki.

This sort of brings me to my second issue, which is the relationship between radical theory (e.g., my feminism) and liberal activism (An Archive of Our Own). For the people who believe that the OTW as an organization is in some ways a betrayal of the anarchic ethos of fandom, I am profoundly sympathetic. Liberalism and radicalism always tend to exist in an uneasy tension with each other, and my temperament is to be a radical. Why radicalism needs liberalism, and vice versa )

OTW as ACLU analogy )
alixtii: Summer pulling off the strap to her dress, in a very glitzy and model-y image. (River)
Literal-Minded provides (in a post from 2004) some good examples to parallel the femslash:slash relationship, in particular rooster:chicken, thumb:finger, square:rectangle, rectangle:quadrilateral, lesbian:gay (which of course is the obvious one when we're comparing to femslash:slash), and senator:congressman. (And there's an interesting meditation in the comments on whether abusers are in "abusive relationships.") [ profile] languagelog only gave me microwave:oven (whose dynamic is less perfectly parallel).

And apparently there's a name for the phenomenon: Q-based narrowing. Wikipedia explains:
In semantics, Q-based narrowing is narrowing (a reduction in a word's range of meanings) that is caused by Grice's Maxim of Quantity (see Gricean maxims). Q-based narrowing occurs when a word A is a hypernym of a word B — that is, when every instance of B is an example of A. It is then common for the use of A to imply not B. For example, consider the words finger and thumb. A thumb is a kind of finger (hence the phrase ten fingers), but the term finger is not ordinarily applied to it: someone who has hurt their thumb might technically be correct in saying "I hurt my finger", but it would be misleading; the ordinary thing to say is "I hurt my thumb."

The term Q-based narrowing is due to Yale linguist Laurence Horn.

I haven't yet seen an in-depth analysis of the political implications of this phenomenon (other than ruminations on woman:man in general, a la Luce Irigaray, or Derridean deconstructions of binary thinking), but I'd like to.
alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
For the record, I am white, male, heterosexual, middle-class, American, Christian, . . .  frankly? It'd be quicker to name the ways I'm not privileged.

I say this not because it's National Coming Out Day [I notebooked this post in class and on the train yesterday--Ed.] (although I sort of do want to make a long post about how I experience my heterosexuality, and how I feel certain labels apply to me, and what it means when everyone assumes those labels apply to me already anyway, but can't think of a way to do it that wouldn't make me feel like I'm appropriating), but because it means that I have pretty much two choices: I can, in the long tradition of privileged individuals, ignore my privilege, or I can learn to deal with it. I won't claim that I've done the latter; indeed, there is no doubt in my mind there are numerous ways in which I have not. What I have done is think a lot about what is the  best way to try.

Learning to deal with it is not necessarily accepting every claim made by a traditional victim (survivor?) of injustice. It is not to automatically agree that everything which is claimed to be descriminative or unjust or whatever-ist is. That'd be intellectual suicide, and an abrogation of one's moral responsibilities to boot. It may happen that, when all is said and done, when one looks at a situation from the perspective of who one is, there will still be disagreement. That's okay.

I vote for Party X (out of two choices, does any of my flisters really doubt which that is?) because my parents vote for Party X (or Party Q when they are reasonably sure Party Y won't win, as do I) and instilled me with the values that lead me to vote that way. Most likely, if my parents voted for Party Y than I would too. Recognizing this doesn't make me want to stop voting for Party X--I still think I am right to vote for Party X, and will continue to think so until convinced otherwise--but it does make me stop and think about why I am voting for Party X, to re-examine my premises.

Similarly, what is required when a claim of injustice is made is a pause, a hesitation, an honest assessment of oneself and one motives, and above all listening with an open mind.

. . .

the part about Sapir-Whorf, which is very relevant to the above if you look at it sideways )
alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
The concept of canon whoredom requires, if not a single privileged meaning (which the authorial intent people of course have, or at least claim to have), then a set of privileged meanings which exclude a set of other meanings. One can see me working towards this in some of my earlier meta in which I try to perform a conceptual analysis of what makes something AU. Making Tara a robot doesn't make a fic AU, because we don't know she isn't, but...

...but what? If you take it far enough, there really isn't anything that can't be reconciled with canon with enough fanwanking, even if it seems like a fairly straightfoward objective claim like what was written on Buffy's tombstone (which is itself an interesting case, as the existence of Buffy's tombstone, while "clearly canon," is itself hard to reconcile with the events of "Bargaining" and is thus in need of fanwanking). The text becomes radically manipulatable, and there are no privileged meanings--which is pretty much where I am now. A Wittgensteinian response would probably be to recognize that within a group of socially positioned readers, certain meanings would emerge as more central than others, in the way that a microwave oven is less "oven"-y than a toaster oven, but would resist the notion that we could ever systematize that spectrum, since to do so would require a position outside of language. That is, to the Wittgensteinian, what is important is that it "feels right," which is I think what we go for in fanfic over and above technical accuracy. So we end up with an approach that actually privileges fanon over canon.

I do think that the impulse, which I manifested as a baby fan, to delineate a set of acceptable meanings is a gendered one, especially insofar as it seeks to ally the gendered subject with a system of Authority (sometimes a system of clearly imaginary authority--do the producers of our shows really care if we accept X as canon?) against the violator. These issues have been brought up in [ profile] fandebate, but the best example might have been that guy in [ profile] fanficrants who claimed that all the people who were writing SPN/BtVS should a) use comics canon, b) use the "right" interpretation of canon, in which Willow's level of power in comparison to that which they've seen in the Winchester's universe was X. Bargining in and telling the women how to write their stories. Not to mention how it fits into the fanboy stereotype of knowing all of the exact technical specs of the Enterprise. All the focus on facts and dates and measurements, and relatively little on character--my (previously-held) notion of canon-whoredom/AU-ness just sort of shrugged and swept that into a separate category of OOCness, which was too fuzzy to sharply delineate, and then ignored it.
alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
The book I ordered, Alice's Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture by Will "I'm Not Allowed to Say I Think Hayden Panettiere Is Hot" Brooker, has arrived. I'll tell you what I think of it when I've finished. That means, so far, I've gotten books by this guy, [ profile] henryjenkins, and [ profile] rozk, but I'm still waiting for [ profile] kbusse_blog's book to show up. Woes.


I posted fic Tuesday night, Emma and Kitty acting out one of the femslashier (and cross-gen-y) scenes from "The Snow Queen," in a way which actually fits into AXM canon. I thought my flist would eat it up. (Apparently not?)


Courtesy of [ profile] slammerkinbabe: The Roberts Court continues to prove itself activist. (N.B.: My intent is to make fun of the "activist" meme, not to endorse it. There are times when when the Court should be activist [I have a very expansive view of Constitutional rights] and times when it shouldn't. The best government isn't the government which governs least, but the one which governs best. In other words, I'm unashamedly partisan.) Actually, looking at the front page of the New York Times, "activist" doesn't really begin to cover it. God they were busy. (And conservative. Oh, so very conservative. Much more than I actually expected, really. I guess stare decisis is a thing of the past.)


Earlier today, I was confused whether it should be "Do you want Mom and me to go to the store?" or "Do you want Mom and I to go to the store?" On reflection, taking out "Mom and" makes it pretty clear that the "correct" pronoun is "me" (as one would never say "Do you want I to go to the store?") but I'm still not sure why that is the case, or what all of the pieces in that sentence are doing. Sentences that I can't diagram vex me.


The rector at my parish, who will be retiring shortly (woes!), gave me two books by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in order to clear out his own collection. I've only browsed through them, but in general I have to say I find theological works from that era absolutely fascinating, since besides a few pages of Tillich that I read and fell in love with in high school (yes, my Catholic high school had Tillich in its library) I've pretty much only read theology that was written since 1970 (mostly feminist, postmodernist, and/or liberationist theology) or else stuff like Aquinas and Augustine. The specific set of problems that a 1960's theology needed to address is similar in many ways to those of today, but alongside Beyond God the Father, Ecology & Liberation, and The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida it sort of ends up looking rather quaint, if you know what I mean. (OTOH, some parts I read and I totally go "OMG, I can't believe he just said that.")


Jun. 22nd, 2007 08:36 am
alixtii: Mal and Kaylee, from Serenity the Movie. Text: "I Love My Captain." (iluvmycaptain)
Part two of the Will Brooker and Ksenia Prasolova discussion on gender and fan studies has been posted to [ profile] fandebate (as well as Henry Jenkin's blog). This discussion is particularly interesting to me because of the following statements from Will Brooker:
For a male fan or scholar to explain his fandom of a cult text in terms of “Claire Bennet is hot!” (even jokingly) would conjure up all kinds of negative connotations and sad stereotypes of a guy in a dark room with a screen full of cheerleader pics and a floor scattered with Kleenex. But it’s not unusual for a female fan or female fan-scholar to add, perhaps lightheartedly, “and it doesn’t hurt that the main characters are totally cute guys!” or admit that she writes slash because she’s turned on by the idea of those cute guys getting it on. I wonder how it would sound if I said I wrote stories about Claire and her hot cheerleader friends romping in the locker room. I don’t think it would be celebrated as an example of resistant fan creativity.
*whistles innocently*

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