Tag Archives: teens

The Invisible Woman — Sometimes Attrition Is Mindnumbingly Slow

The pieces that I did on female movie stars and attrition towards better female placement in movies keep coming back to haunt me lately. That attrition is of course too slow, as all removal of prejudices is, but at least it is understandable that the movie studios, however much we disagree with many of their choices, are the “gatekeepers” for their own projects on which they are spending millions of dollars. There is another kind of gatekeeper who works very hard against attrition, however, who has no justification at all for what they do — the self-appointed guardians of the flames of culture. These people mistakenly believe that culture exists to keep people out of it and appoint themselves the wise folk of the culture and volunteer to man the imaginary fortress doors. Of course, this is useless. They aren’t keeping anyone out of anything and they have no authority to their prejudices, but they do get to throw boiling oil and venom down on their targets and sometimes create obstacles for some of them or at least a hostile social climate. Their targets are inevitably people who are not like them.

Obviously, the really big, systemic problems in society, the big battles of attrition in the world, are far more serious and life and death power struggles than cultural battles of arts and entertainment, but the cultural battles reflect those bigger battles, contribute to them, and often require some extra attention, precisely because people often think they aren’t terribly serious. One of the most pervasive in the world of SFFH creative expressions, in all media forms, is the invisible woman. Women — and girls — have been involved in SFFH during its whole existence in human history. They are fans, scholars, organize conventions, create SFFH or help produce and promote it. And yet, despite this, there is a persistent, non-factual belief that the women are not there. Why? For the same reason the movie studios drag their heels on women in film and filmmaking — it means sharing power, credit and money with more people and having less control thereby. Of course, again, the movie studios actually have power and control over something. The culture guardians most of the time do not. (Yes, the same can be said for other groups in SFFH, such as non-whites, but we’re going to concentrate on women here for a particular reason below.)

Attrition nonetheless does its work. The women refuse to leave, and as they have more equality in general society, more openly express themselves and their roles in SFFH, no longer following rules by self-appointed guardians, no longer hiding under male pseudonyms or attributing credit to males, with young women joining them in their turn. This causes the self-appointed guardians (not always male,) to suddenly notice that some of the women are there, where they’ve been all along. These women, however, are declared rare, exceptions, and usually not particularly welcome but grudgingly over time accepted as existing and occasionally interesting. The women continue to assert themselves openly, to carry over to generations, to climb over obstacles put in their way by the self-appointed guardians. Attrition does its work and the guardians have to admit the existence of more women, so they immediately divide them into good girls and bad girls — girls we allow to do things and be with us and girls we still think are not allowed in.

The good girl and the bad girl is one of the oldest, hoariest chestnuts of attempts to control women and reduce them to objects. The madonna and the whore, Eve and Lilith, Mary and Mary Magdalene, the virgin and the femme fatale — the woman who behaves in an approved manner for women and the woman who does not. It’s a way, in culture, to attempt to keep some control and power, to keep the myth of the invisible woman going just a bit longer, to keep women there but not important. Attrition has to chip, chip, chip away at this, but it’s terribly hard to get rid of it completely because the dichotomy is far too attractive.

We were given a spectacularly awful example of this in a column for CNN’s website by Joe Peacock, a self-appointed guardian of the flame, or as John Scalzi termed it, self-appointed Speaker for the Geeks. Peacock is apparently involved with video games, and, despite the fact that women have been involved with video games from the beginning, the gaming world is certainly well behind on the attrition front compared to other SFFH media, and in fact really likes to fling the venom around when it comes to women in a desperate belief that they can keep them out. Mr. Peacock’s piece is chockful of good girl-bad girl ideology. He goes after teenage girls dressing in costume and professional models doing a job and gives them what-for, while praising good girls for recently entering a world in which they’ve actually been all along. He even divides up actresses he doesn’t know into helpful good girl and bad girl categories. Mr. Peacock has finally recognized that the invisible women are there, and unless they follow his orders exactly, he’s desperate to get them out. He even thinks up handy thought processes for them to have to establish that the teenage girls are in fact evil, which instead sort of make you wonder about Peacock’s sex life.

It’s an astonishing bit of open sexism by a guy who quite clearly thinks he’s defending good girls and his beloved supposedly male culture that he will share with only those who are worthy. Many annoyed rebuttals have been made on the Net on bigger blogs than mine that you can check out. I particularly recommend Nick Mamatas’ pointing out that not only have women not been invisible in SFFH, but that the idea that SFFH geekery is an outcast subculture is a ridiculous myth (and his earlier geek pride essay on the damage of self-appointed guardians.) Jezebel‘s response wasn’t bad either, though it does accede a bit to the geekery wasn’t popular before and women weren’t there a lot myths.

I do actually see Peacock’s piece — and most of the responses to it — as a good sign that attrition is working in SFFH when it comes to women. If it wasn’t, Peacock would have seen no need to defend the culture he has no actual say in. He would not have bothered to couch it as a defense of women while he attacked them. But given the venom in it, it is unfortunately also a sign that attrition is going very slowly, too slowly, that backlashes against women on the Net are getting nasty, and that news sources like CNN are now so used to bashing women and their behavior as women that they thought nothing of putting this piece up and getting the controversy hits.

It’s very, very tiring to have to continually tap guys — and unfortunately also some women as well — on the shoulder and say, “we’re here, we’ve always been here and you are not actually in charge of us” over and over. Luckily, that herd of teenage girls in sexy costumes whom Peacock so despises are very good at it. They’re going to run right over the man and right past him. Because the one who is really invisible in SFFH is Peacock. Maybe one day he’ll figure that out.

Below are some related articles on this subject of invisible women (cause I happened to have them saved up):










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More Song Stylings from Briannah Donolo!

A brief cover performance of “If I Ain’t Got You” acapella style from young and talented Briannah Donolo:

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Happy New Year — May You Soar This Year

To celebrate the start of the crazy new year that is 2012, here’s a partial demo of a new, original song, Summer’s Rain, by the ridiculously talented Briannah Donolo (auditory only video.) Finish this one and put it on the up-coming album, Briannah!


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Gooshy Videos to Celebrate Official Summer

1) First up, the Minnesota Public Radio show Wits had Neil Gaiman on with host John Moe and at one point, Gaiman called up Adam Savage, co-host of the very fun science show Mythbusters, and got Savage to do his dead-on Gollum impersonation:

2) Keenan Cahill is a teenager with Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome who has become a video sensation for the comic way he lip-synchs popular songs. This has led to him doing videos with the actual music stars and others. This one, set to his pal Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night,” is fun because he’s joined by several cast members of the t.v. musical show Glee — Dianna Agron, Harry Shum, Jr., Darren Criss and Jenna Ushkowitz — clearly in a back corridor of an arena where the Glee folk are doing their summer concert tour, and they got terribly silly. My daughter is a firm Darren Criss fan, so I include it — he’s the one in the pink sunglasses:

3) Funny or Die hits it out again with a fake promo for a fake Showtime show, Dark Ages. You have to doubleclick on this one, but it’s worth it just for the “Take Me” shot. Who here wants this to be a real show?

4) And lastly, it’s the Harry Potter time of year as the movies draw to a close, and so here are two Potter comedy videos, both concerned with the school houses of Hogwarts:

Hogwarts: What House Are You?:

And the music video “Wizard Love” by Meekakitty, featuring heyhihello:

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Stick Aliens in Pretty Dresses Persist

I haven’t had to do an aliens in pretty dresses post in awhile, for which I’ve been very glad. But I guess spring is likely to bring the stick aliens out in full force as clothing advertisers continue to use a skeletal starvation victim approach in selling their wares. The latest controversy occurred in Britain, when the Prada division Miu Miu did a handbag ad with model Kasia Struss, a 5′ 10″ very slim, pale model seen sitting in a mirror:

Complaints were made about the model’s diseased appearance, and the British Advertising Standards Authority reviewed the ad re the new rules there about anorexic models. The Authority ruled that lighting, the dress and make-up made the model look overly skinny and so the ad was okay.  If you think okay is using a model who resembles a concentration camp victim with elongated limbs to sell a handbag. It does make you look at the ad, but does it really make you want to get the handbag? Or worry that she will not be able to lift it? I’m hoping that they are right and it is just airbrusing, photoshopping, special effects and 1980’s lipstick that give the model her stick alien appearance. But lighting, clothes and make-up did not give her that collarbone and shoulders that scream anorexia, so I’ve really got my fingers crossed for photoshop.

This new controversy seems to have brought up again an infamous older stick alien controversy from two years ago, involving Ralph Lauren and model Countess Filippa Hamilton. A regular model for Ralph Lauren ads, Hamilton looked like this:

At 5′ 11″ and a Size 4 U.S., there’s not a lot of meat on her, but she’s purty and clearly human. In a Ralph Lauren ad that was over photoshopped, however, she looked like this:

(Yes, her pelvis is smaller than her head.) The stick alien ad appeared, mistakenly, in advertising for a Japanese department store carrying Lauren’s line of clothing before being pulled. Apparently, the Japanese didn’t notice anything was wrong with it.  But of course in the age of the Net, the photo spread round the globe, causing Ralph Lauren to throw a brief and useless legal tantrum, and to announce that no one was supposed to see the messed up photo. Towards the end of that year, however, Ralph Lauren dumped Hamilton as one of their models. Hamilton claims this is because Ralph Lauren saw her as too fat for their clothes.

What’s disturbing about this on top of the usual disturbing  is that Ralph Lauren, two years ago, at least understood that their stick alien picture went too far and was unattractive — even if they decided that somewhere between stick alien Hamilton and human Hamilton was where they wanted to be — whereas Miu Miu thinks their ad of a model who looks as if she needs to be hospitalized is a-okay, so much so that they are willing to defend it to British regulatory agencies.  This seems to indicate that the stick alien approach is becoming more prevalent, not less as hoped.

What also seems to come out of this in my puzzlement over the logic of advertising is that it shows it’s not the advertising companies driving it and conning the companies into it or the magazines, but the companies themselves. Clearly companies like Ralph Lauren and Miu Miu think that this look is a stylish lure for their clothing ads. They presumably have demographic research on this, which would be interesting to see, as my anecdotal reaction to such images is “oh wow, that’s totally gross.” I might not mind quite as much if they didn’t have the stick alien arms all the time. Those give me the willies.

In any case, please join me in sending good wishes for Ms. Struss to survive into middle age. Isabell Caro, the model who developed anorexia and became a prominent activist about this issue in the fashion world, did not. She died this last December at the age of 28.

Even if the laws she worked for are passed in countries to prevent companies from exploiting anorexic models and exacerbating their condition, there will still be the issue of this desire to photoshop alter models and actresses into stick aliens for ads. Which is why I didn’t put a Warning: disturbing image before Ms. Caro’s picture. Because according to companies like Miu Miu/Prada, Caro’s image isn’t disturbing at all.

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Word of Mouth Goes Across All Boundaries

So it’s been a period of minor but serious and exhausting calamities in my household these past couple of weeks, so today, to celebrate having rode those out, my teenage daughter and I decided to hit the coffee shop inside the bookstore after school for baked goods.  And my daughter asked if she could buy some books while we’re there.  She knows that this is a win situation for her when out with her parents. Can I buy a game? No. Can I buy this blouse? No. Make-up? No. Can I have an iPad? Only if you win the lottery. But, can I buy a book? Ummm…

In this case, she’d been building a list, and as she pointed out, even though she has several books she’s still working on at home, it’s not like books go bad if you keep them around for awhile. So she’s trying to talk me into as many as she can manage, and she brings up this one YA book, a SF bestseller, but not something I had thought she was aware of. How did she hear of it? Well, she’s involved in this site online where lovers of SFF and pop culture from countries all over the world geek-out to their hearts content about the stuff they love, and some young folk who like things she likes recommended it to her. (They also have gotten her interested in watching Doctor Who. Luckily an Easter time marathon on t.v. is going to help us out with this.) And a video blogger she follows on YouTube recommended another book she really wants.

So I’m standing there in the store full of dead tree items, thinking, social media is causing my daughter to buy and read books. You know, the thing that is supposedly rotting her brain and causing her to be void of real and polite connections in the world. My kid is a child of her age. We had television, she has the Internet. She skypes with her classmates on school projects. She chats with a former school chum who now lives in Singapore. She is an ardent fan of a troupe of comic young actors in Chicago called Starkids who upload their stage productions to the Net.  She tells me news items in case I missed them about events on the other side of the world.

And she talks about books on the Net. She reads fan commentary on books. Columns written by authors of books. Book recommendations on sites. All mixed in with movies, t.v., comics, games, art, etc.  Word of mouth has always been the way that written fiction has principally sold and grown in awareness, along with art in general. On the Internet, word of mouth is bigger and it’s broader.

Now if I can just get her interested in gardening and putting away her laundry, we’re all set.


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Taylor Mali Speaks Truth to Power

This is a few years old, but is sadly even more relative today. Taylor Mali, a teacher and a poet, performs “What Teachers Make”:


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An Awesome Kid

On a more uplifting note, a sign that the Republican war on women will fail in the end:


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Interesting Writings for My Kid’s Sick Day

First up, The Black Static blog takes a look at women authors in horror anthologies, as well as their own publication:


Next up, best-selling author John Scalzi had an excellent essay about the carping about the National Novel Writing Month event in November:


And Scalzi has also weighed in with several entries about the James Frey book packaging debacle (just search through the blog, there’s like four of them):


YA author Maureen Johnson also did a great piece on James Frey on her blog:


On a far more positive subject, The Daily Titan did a terrific if too short interview with alums legendary SFF authors Tim Powers, James Blaylock and K.W. Jeter, the guy who brought the term steampunk to the field:


And at Haikasoru, they are getting ready to launch their edition of Japanese SF novel The Ouroboros Wave with a reprinted essay about old and new Japanese SF:


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An Awesome Kid Who is Going to Have a Tough Senior Year

Coy Sheppard, in his final year in high school in Mississippi, is a kicker on the football team and has relatives who have survived breast cancer. His grandmother, one of those survivors, gave him a pair of pink cleats to wear for football in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, just like the kind they’ve been wearing in the NFL in support of the same cause. Sheppard wore the cleats in a game and was harassed during it by the coach, Chris Peterson, who wanted him to take them off and not wear them again. Sheppard then wore the cleats to practice the next day and Peterson kicked him off the team for “insubordination” which threatened Sheppard’s ability to graduate. Sheppard apologized and promised not to wear the cleats again, but was refused. So he and his family brought about a lawsuit. The school board quickly caved and Sheppard was reinstated to the football team, dropping the lawsuit, and can now go through a last year of phys ed hell before graduating. The board rep claimed that the cleats were deemed as too much of a distraction, despite Sheppard having worn brightly colored cleats in other shades many times before, in a pathetic attempt to excuse a clear case of teacher homophobia and player abuse that the school didn’t bother to fix.

The downside of course is that with the lawsuit dropped, Peterson is probably not getting fired and will look for roundabout ways to torture Sheppard. The upside is that given the hopelessness of Mississippi courts on these sorts of issues, getting Sheppard’s graduation assured was the most important thing. And Sheppard can know that not only is his grandmother very proud of him, but that he is a better man with a better future awaiting him than Coach Peterson will ever have.



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