Undead sexist cliches: Everyone’s a sex object

There’s an old cliche that likes to hand-wave away visual sexism by arguing that everyone’s a sex object: women loved looking at Robert Redford/Paul Newman/Cary Grant/Johnny Depp/Heatlh Ledger/insert appropriate star of your choice, don’t they? SO how is that any different from men checking out women.

As Foz Meadows discusses in a post on fan service, the two aren’t equivalent. Anime offers harem fantasy set-ups for men and women alike, but it doesn’t visualize the men with as much skin. And the sexual display doesn’t undercut the men the way it does the women.

americanflagg1This topic came to mind when I started rereading American Flagg! recently (cover by Howard Chaykin, all rights with current holder). The book is set in a near future America where the military industrial complex  (“The Plex”)is literally trying to sell off the country, corruption is rife and a black market in pretty much everything flourishes. Reuben Flagg is a former video star, a sex fantasy for millions of women, who winds up as a cop for the Chicago-area Plex.He sets out to change things, and along the way, has sex with a lot of women.

When I first read this it was hard not to be blown away. I hadn’t seen a massively corrupt America portrayed in comics before, nor anything with this much sex (nothing X-rated, but I think it manages a soft-R). Writer/artist Howard Chaykin’s storytelling was impressive too.

Rereading, I’m less impressed. Chaykin’s art is great, but now that corruption and sex are so much less remarkable, so is the book. The story took a much longer time to get going but it’s picking up now, so I’m glad I kept reading.

But then there’s the woman. Lots of women doing the nasty with Flagg or other characters, frequently shown stripped down to their stockings and garter belts (very big in the early 21st century it turns out), bra and panties … well you get the idea.

In the last issue I read, someone brought this up in the letter column, to which the editor’s response was that Reuben. the former screen star, was just as much a sex object as any of the women. Which from the point of view of the characters is reasonable: women lust for the man who played “Mark Thrust” as much as Flagg lusts for them.

But from the reader’s viewpoint? Not so much. The women, as noted, strip down pretty much every issue to their sexy lingerie. The most i think I’ve seen a man is with his shirt off. The women are posed as eye candy pin-ups; Reuben and the other men are drawn to show they’re getting dressed after sex. The eye isn’t invited to check them out the same way.

americanflagg11As witness the image (Howard Chaykin, all rights with current holder) to the right. See my point?

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All lives matter too (political links)

A standard conservative meme is that feminists/blacks/gays say they want equality but they’re actually bigots: why aren’t feminists out there opposing discrimination against men, for instance?

This argument is a multipurpose one. It slams non-white, non-male, non-straight activists by painting them as hypocrites. It reinforces the idea that white people (or straights or men) are the real persecuted ones. And it puts a conveniently happy face on America’s past. Saying the civil rights movement was about “equality” sounds so much more digestible for some conservatives than saying it was about ending the Jim Crow segregation, job discrimination, housing discrimination, voting discrimination and sometimes violence imposed on blacks by white America. It was to rectify injustices imposed against blacks, not some vague equality. And a lot of injustice still exists.

This is the rationale for the kind of color-blindness that treats any measure protecting blacks as “special rights” and reverse discrimination. Or the bullshit I’ve heard from more than one conservative or libertarian (pundits Tibor Machan and John Leo, for instance) that back before we had affirmative action, jobs were given out according to merit. Which makes, I admit, perfect sense if you start from the assumption that white men are always superior, so naturally they beat out everyone else (Leo may believe that in fact: in one column he asserted the lack of white winners in one scholarship competition proved the awards were given out based on race—despite his assertions in other columns that statistics can’t prove discrimination by themselves).

Which ties into this post about why “black lives matter” isn’t some kind of racist statement. Black lives get short shrift (as the Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner have shown) so saying this is an issue isn’t the same as saying “nobody else’s lives matter,” it’s saying (as pointed out in the post) “black lives matter too.”

In other notes:

•Corporations that work through franchises and contractors must accept joint responsibility as employers. In other words, McDonalds can’t treat employees as employees of the individual franchise alone. More on joint responsibility.

•Of course that would be moot if we get a Republican-appointed Supreme Court judge down the road who’s willing to overturn any regulation on business.

•Obama renames Mt. McKinley into Mt. Denali, which I gather is an old Alaska name. Right-wingers freak out.

Broadcasters sue the FCC for making it harder for local governments to limit cable rates.

•A condo-owner discovers his roommate renting out the condo on Airnb.

•Under new NYC rules, police who stop-and-frisk must provide a justification. Hullabaloo looks at the response from cops, some of whom (as well as some right-wingers) are shocked, simply shocked that people won’t accept their word the person they hassled was a bad guy.

•Lawyers Guns and Money suggests Donald Trump’s appeal is because he’s giving the Republican core both right-wing social stances and support for more welfare. I’m not entirely convinced, though: the argument is that regular politicians ignore social stuff in favor of economics—lowers taxes, lower regulation—but it seems to me they’ve been doing both for years now.

New Republic argues Trump is not a populist (agreed) and that he’s really the voice of “aggrieved privilege.” That would put him in the preservatist right-wing tradition discussed in Politics of Unreason, where people are driven by fear of others. In the current case, for a lot of white voters it’s (my though) less about having property or money taken than status: as white people become just one of the many minorities in this country, they become less special. “Their” country is being taken away.  As witness Obama renaming Mt. McKinley, named for a white guy, after some non-white Native crap. In one freak-out, right-winger Ben Shapiro sneers Obama will now rename the Southwest as “Aztlan” as he continues destroying “our” heritage.

And here we have right-winger Rod Dreher explaining that unlike callous liberals who never think about how much working-class whites suffer because of immigration (not just the illegal kind), Trump truly cares about their pain!

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The kind of thing that slows down work (#SFWApro)

IMG_0497So Plushie nudges me in a way that indicates he wants to walk over my legs to the other side of the couch. Instead he stops mid-crossing and settles down alongside my leg. It’s absolutely impossible to put my lap desk in its usual position with a dog in my lap (he does stretch up that far). Fortunately I’ve had practice so I simply angled—okay, simply may be an exaggeration—my desk so it rested on my left leg and didn’t press on the dogs.

I suppose I should be tougher with them, but it’s really difficult.Heck, just look at the face below—Plush is so darn cute!

IMG_0498

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New column out

About a column by Dick Cheney explaining Obama’s deal with Iran is both wimpy (appeasement! Just like Chamberlain!) and a betrayal of America’s glorious past of heroically overthrowing evil governments everywhere.

While I didn’t get into this in my own piece, it reads like something very much cobbled together to hit the Republican talking points as we move into the pre-presidential election phase. Cheney says specifically that ” Just as one president has left a path of destruction in his wake, one president can rescue us. The right person in the Oval Office can restore America’s strength and alliances, defeat our enemies, and keep us safe. It won’t be easy.” Guess what, the president who left a path of destruction wasn’t W.

The points? Let’s see:

•Iran nuclear deal is bad.

•America has to be so strong and scary that nobody in the world can possibly threaten us. And of course that doesn’t make Cheney a coward desperate for protection from the nanny security state, it makes him strong! Obama, the wuss, is the coward!

•Obama is a wimp who doesn’t support our military, doesn’t spend enough on our military and doesn’t attack enough people. This is a perennial for Repubs (Gingrich once described decorated combat veteran George McGovern (1972 Dem candidate as a wimp) whose image is based on them being the only ones who can protect America, strong, brave and fearless, in contrast to pacifist Democrats. George W. Bush, the guy who ducked the draft and blew off his national guard service was a Real Man, in contrast to combat veteran John Kerry (Bush’s opponent in ’04) who became the cowardly anti-war wimp.

I’m honestly not sure this resonates with younger voters who don’t remember Vietnam and the hawk/dove conflicts it spawned. But I know it’s a big hit with a lot of the older Repub core voters.

•America has a glorious history of promoting freedom! We must teach American children about all the great things we’ve done … and apparently none of the bad ones. Which fits in with longstanding efforts to make history classes more “patriotic.”

•Obama is totally un-American.

As I note in my column, it’s absurd that anyone’s even listening to the pro-torture vice president whose support for invading Iraq led to a disastrous war we didn’t have to fight, to destroy WMDs that didn’t exist. But as I’ve written before, there’s nothing “experts” can say that’ll make people see the emperor has no clothes. Though admittedly I wouldn’t particularly want to see Cheney with no clothes …

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So, August (#SFWApro)

Today was disorganized but ultimately productive. So the end result was I got 2/3 of my goals for August done

I put in 20 hours writing fiction, and 10,000 words on Southern Discomforts.

I submitted one short story.

I submitted my two And columns—due to last week’s mess, I got my second one in just today.

I put in 40 hours of writing each week, sometimes more.

I reworked Fiddler’s Black and I should have it ready to go next month. Ditto Impossible Takes a Little Longer.

I sent in three queries about various jobs, openings or articles. One response, but unfortunately it was for less money and more time than I thought doable.

And an assortment of small personal goals, such as training Plush Dog to use a ramp getting on and off the couch. It’s been moderately successful.

On the downside, I’d actually expected to get more queries in, including submitting a column to a new market (not an And column obviously—it’s one to a customer). And I didn’t get a complete rewrite of the Time Travel manuscript, though I did work through about two thirds of the book. Plus I watched plenty of time-travel films.

And due to Demand no longer using writers regularly I didn’t make my income goals, though I did reasonably well. And I just finished a special assignment for them which will bring in a little extra for next month.

Hmm, now that I look at the list, I did a darn sight better than I thought I had. Yay.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Time Travel Book, Writing

Comic-book collections (#SFWApro

SPIDER-MAN: The Parker Luck by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos does a good job tackling the fall out from the Superior Spider Man arc in which Doc Ock took over Peter’s body (culminating in Peter returning in Goblin Nation). Peter now has a tech company of his own, but built on tech he doesn’t understand (“Otto was the cyberneticist.”), Black Cat and Electro both want revenge for how “Spider-Man” last dealt with them, Mary Jane’s still done with him (sigh—I still scorn Joe Quesada for ending the marriage) and he has a live-in girlfriend he’s never met. While this is fun, the Black Cat’s transition to some kind of serious criminal threat didn’t work for me.Overall, though, fun, and more thought than the aftermath of these changes usually gets

DOCTOR STRANGE: A Separate Reality collects the Steve Englehart/Frank Brunner run (less than a dozen issues on Doctor Strange in the 1970s). Some memorable stories as Doctor Strange battles Shuma-Gorath, the sorcerer Sise-Neg and the witch hunter Silver Dagger, and I like the handling of magic here. Englehart wanted to take a more mystical slant than when he wrote Strange in Defenders as just a guy who points and zaps things, so this is as much about Strange’s mystical growth as his battles. I particularly like his warning to Silver Dagger that magic isn’t a gun you can just point at someone and shoot (which ties in to this post, and this one). However as the duo started working midway through the Shuma-Gorath arc, the beginning is kind of jarring, though the typical recap soliloquy fills in the backstory well.

strangetales139MARVEL MASTERWORKS: Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD collects the initial run of the SHIELD series which introduced Nick Fury’s eyepatch (the result of a degenerative wound in WW II), SHIELD, Hydra and the Hydra splinter group AIM. The stories (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby [cover by Kirby, all rights with current holder]), Jim Steranko, Roy Thomas and others) are a mixed bag: the opening arc with Hydra is impressive, the battle with Mentallo and the Fixer is OK, but the Druid and his cult much less so (also I have a long-standing objection to comics that treat druidism as some kind of generic evil cult rather than a specific faith). And I have no idea what Hydra gains by operating through multiple front conspiracies (AIM, Secret Empire and “Them!”) when it resurrects after a couple of years. The stories also seem vague on whether SHIELD is an American spy agency or an international one. Despite the kvetching, these are a lot of fun, even though they’re definitely not Marvel’s A-game. The volume also includes the Fantastic Four story that introduced war-hero Nick Fury as a present day intelligence agent.

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And two very good ones (#SFWApro)

bill-and-teds-excellent-adventure-poster-197x300 BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES (1988) is, of course, the classic time-travel comedy starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reaves as two dimwit dudes dreaming of musical stardom—only if they fail to pass history, Reaves will end up at military school in Alaska, breaking up their band Wyld Stallion. Then a mysterious stranger (George Carlin) shows up with a phone booth that can travel through time and off they go to get help from famous people of the past. Funny, well-performed, and the time paradoxes of the climax (“We should leave the keys right behind this sign.”) are handled deftly. One of the best I’ve watched. “We know that thanks to great leaders such as Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc and Socratic Method, the world is full of history.”

BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) has 27th-century Gym Teacher of Doom Joss Ackland decide to supplant the utopian future Bill and Ted bring about with one ruled by his own authoritarian philosophy, which requires sending two robots back to replaced the guys, then preach Ackland’s views instead of Wyld Stallion’s “Be excellent to each other.” This is more fantasy than the first film as the guys sneak into Heaven, beat Death at Battleship and Twister and prove at the climax they can out-paradox Ackland  (“Only the one who wins is going to go back in time after we finish this up.”). If not up to the first film, still a hoot. “They’re from medieval England … Iowa.”

(All rights to image with current holder)

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Filed under Movies, Time Travel Book