Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Trump in revolt and some other links

As you probably know, Trump refuses to commit to accepting a Clinton win. I don’t know why anyone’s surprised, because what’s the downside? At least in his fantasy, he could pull a Bush 2000 upset; if not, maybe he can harass Clinton and pay her back for beating him. And certainly those followers who celebrate Trump for fighting the non-male, non-Christian, non-white, non-straight oppressor will be happy. He has nothing to lose. As Paul Campos says, if it’s close, he’ll claim it was rigged; if it’s overwhelmingly against him, he’ll claim it was rigged. But don’t worry, only latte-drinking elites care about this stuff.

•Right-winger Wesley Pruden explains that Trump’s foul language is no big deal because men are good at foul language and women aren’t. Other right-bloggers struggle to recover from the tape. Ace of Spades applauds Trump for sticking it to the female oppressor. And unsurprisingly, Trump supporters are calling for repealing women’s suffrage—which is, of course, not a new demand on the right.

•Sen. Paul Ryan is still endorsing Trump. But he wants you to know he hardly knows the man, lives a much more moral lifestyle than Trump and didn’t even learn about the nomination until it was too late. Sounds like an alibi from a murder mystery.

•Maine’s Governor LePage explains that after Obama’s tyranny, we need Trump to free us. Matt Bevin says we may need bloodshed to protect conservative freedom, but later claimed he’s just talking about the need for a strong military.

•Trump didn’t just implode by chance. Clinton played him, and played him well.

David French babbles about football player Colin Kaepernick and how football players should be conservative because liberals hate them.

•Once again right-wingers are warning us against international Jewish bankers.

•Trump talks a lot about getting tough with other nations—but on Russia, he believes Clinton is too tough.

•Surprise! Evangelicals support Trump and they suddenly decide private moral conduct isn’t important in politicians. The Weekly Standard argues as others have done that liberals are at fault for debasing American conduct.

•The “locker-room defense” for Trump’s recent tape ignores that he wasn’t talking in a locker-room.

•Vox points out, as others have, that the fuel for Trump voters is racial resentment.

•Never troubled about making sense, Trump insists that when he said Obama founded ISIS, he meant it literally.

•Hackers turn household smart device to evil.

•A judge refuses to sign off on charges against journalist Amy Goodman for filming corporate goons assaulting protesters.

•The government says nursing homes that accept Medicare or Medicaid can’t force patients or their families into arbitration instead of court. The industry objects.

•As I’ve mentioned before, law enforcement would really like easy access to encrypted phones. Here’s a new approach: a warrant for a particular location that requires everyone there to unlock their phones on the grounds that one of those phones might have had the information the cops wanted.

•Medical testing company Theranos sold inaccurate tests to consumers. This has bad consequences for customers.

•The Moody’s credit-rating agency gave good reviews to the mortgage-backed securities that helped create the mortgage bubble. The Department of Justice is suing Moody’s, charging the ratings were knowingly skewed to ignore the securities were worth crap.

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Fighting the Patriarchy (at least in fiction) #SFWApro

As I’ve mentioned in the past (here and here), I’m disappointed when historical fantasies present me with a female protagonist whose most distinctive characteristic is not wanting to conform to gender norms. Not that this is a bad characteristic, but it’s not usually enough to impress me.

I was reminded of this again reading Breath of Earth recently. When we meet the protagonist, Isabel, she’s sitting at the college of Earth mages, frustrated because she has more power than any of them but daren’t reveal this because girl parts plus magic is forbidden. Immediately I began to lose interest. But now I’m wondering why I react that way to such characters

A big part of it is that even though fighting for equality a worthy subject, in these books its cliched. Woman vs. sexism was a staple of fiction during the 1970s as second-wave feminism grappled with the same thing in real life. And there’s no shortage of earlier examples either. That part of these stories feels like it could have been written back in the 1970s (even though other parts, like Cato’s black female mage do not); even though those attitudes are still out there, I’d like to see something different. As I said in reviewing Weighing Shadows (cover by Cortney Skinner, all rights to current holder), 21st century sexism has changed in lots of ways from what I saw when I was a teen: online harassment, men’s rights activists, the backlash from the religious right. In some way, I’d like to see that reflected in the story.


Of course we’re talking historical settings, not the present, but the challenges don’t feel particularly historical either — not the way Bettina Krahn’s romance, The Last Batchelor does.  Krahn’s book shows the kind of backbreaking labor Victorian women dealt with, and political problems of the day such as “surplus women” (i.e., more women than there were men to marry them); the challenges for the female protagonist don’t feel at all modern even though there’s a lot I imagine a present-day reader could identify with. In The Twelfth Enchantment, protagonist Lucy is completely a product of her times — she’s terrified that saving England from evil is forcing her to go against proper feminine behavior (but does so anyway, of course).

Another problem is that the books I’m complaining about present the gender-nonconforming woman as being a unique freak, where as Krahn actually looks at sexism as something systemic. Ditto Sorcerer to the Crown, in which the fight isn’t just for Prunella’s right to practice magic, but for women in general.

And as far as personal taste goes, I’d sooner read about a woman going off and doing something awesome than read about her being frustrated because she can’t, or isn’t supposed to (in fairness, Isabel does get to do lots of heroic stuff). Or at the least, where defying norms isn’t the most pronounced aspect of her personality, or the first quality we’re introduced to. One of my writer’s group colleagues is working on a story where the heroine doesn’t gender-conform, but I don’t feel like that’s all there is to her.

This may, of course, reflect that as a man, even a feminist man, I don’t have a dog in the hunt: maybe if I were a woman I’d connect with these characters more strongly. But I’m me, so I’ll have to go with my own reactions.


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Ann Coulter is right about something? It must be the end times!

Right-winger Ann Coulter is a bullshit artist who once claimed that every person freed through DNA evidence was guilty but gotten off by a liberal-media conspiracy (no she didn’t explain how the media pulled that off). She’s racist, sexist (she says women shouldn’t have the vote) and anti-Semitic, rejects evolution and once said that she’d be fine with Timothy McVeigh if he’d only blown up the New York Times instead of the Murrah Building. Unsurprisingly, she adores Trump, as hating immigrants is her current fixation, following on previous phases as a religious conservative and being a general failure as a decent human being (okay, she’s still doing that). For some samples of her work, check Media Matters.

So it’s rather annoying I have to agree with a recent post that no, it is not okay to call her a C-word (even though she has no problems deploying the p-word as an insult)

Which was, apparently, tossed around at a celebrity roast she attended (she was not the roastee). For the life of me, I can’t see why—this was supposed to be a humor event, but saying the word isn’t funny, just shocking. In her post, Coulter doesn’t actually object to it; the point is that if guys can use that word, why can’t Trump use the p-word (Coulter, never one to be restrained by facts, writes as if it’s only the words, not the harassment)? Besides, it’s eleven years ago, that doesn’t count!

So maybe she didn’t mind but it’s one more useful club to pretend the real issue is hypocrisy, not Trump. But that’s irrelevant. As I’ve observed before, sexism against conservative women isn’t an improvement on sexism against women in general. It shouldn’t be acceptable to hit any woman with the C-word; when it happens it’s bad for all woman and it’s unfair to the woman on the receiving end. Even when she’s Coulter.

And seriously, when your politics are as vile as hers, do we really need slurs? She’s repulsive even when described in neutral gender-free tones.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Trumpocalypse (and other political links)

Dahlia Lithwick wonders why the Trump tape where he talks about sexually harassing women seems to be such a game-changer. She concludes it’s because it makes it impossible to think Trump’s just putting on his swaggering sexism for an audience—it’s who he really is, and he’s actually worse away from an audience. Which I think is true, except some people are still denying it: Pat Robertson assures us that Trump’s talk about grabbing a woman by her private parts was just being macho. And other religious conservatives still think Trump is God’s anointed. House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’ll revoke his endorsement as there’s no political consequences for doing so. Sexual scold David French explains (once again) it’s all liberals’ fault because we debased American culture with free love! Oh, and one religious er, thinker suggests that if theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer could compromise his principles to fight the Nazis, it’s moral for Christians to vote Trump. Plus the white supremacists blame the Jews.

•The Wall Street Journal has a proposal for how to repudiate Trump with no consequences: convince him to resign right after he’s elected. That way Mike Pence becomes president without any risk of losing those sexist bigot votes in the general election (it’s the perfect Repub solution: offer the base what it wants, then get back to ignoring it). And it’s not like Mike Pence is anyone I’d want in the Oval Office, or a better president for women as far as policy. This is, after all, the party of the War on Women. And Pence thinks the solution to young girls lacking self esteem is to bomb ISIS.

•This Ruthless World points out how many Repubs backing off from Trump are referencing their spouse or daughter to say why they can’t stand disrespect — i.e., they’re concerned about someone attacking their women, not about the rights of women as independent people. I particularly liked this line: “Paul Ryan noted that women are to be ‘championed and revered.’  Which would be very flattering to me, I suppose, if I were a character in ‘Ivanhoe.'” (LGM makes the same point).

•Trump doesn’t just make shit up: he’s also quoted from a Russian disinformation campaign about Clinton. For making shit up though, you can’t do better than right-wing radio host Alex Jones, who has proclaimed Clinton is a demon who will destroy the world.

•Trump promised that if elected, he’ll work on imprisoning Clinton. No surprise: he may talk about the email scandal (even if the FBI found nothing actionable) but many right-wingers have believed for years that the Clintons are guilty of something: drug-running, jailing political enemies, Vince Foster’s murder, the Clinton death list. So Trump, as he does so often, is telling his cultists what they want to hear. But as LGM points out at the link this is a radical departure from what the Chief Executive is supposed to do.

•Charles Pierce says in Trump, the Republican Party’s catering to white male resentment has come home to roost and “there are not sufficient roosts for all the chickens.”

•Oh, Paul Ryan also lies about his athletic performance.

•A court has declared that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s current structure (one head, can’t be removed for cause) is unconstitutional.

•Comcast has been fined $2.3 million for billing customers for services and equipment they didn’t order.

•Contractors for the U.S. government must provide paid sick leave for the employees doing government work.

•Unfortunately I doubt these new torture allegations against the CIA will shake things up any more than past ones.

•A Bahraini human rights activist is looking at 15 years in prison for speaking up.

•At least some Wells Fargo executives were aware ten years ago of bank employees setting up unwanted accounts for consumers

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Trump and Women (he’s not fond of them, just their hot bodies)

As you’ve probably heard, during last week’s presidential debate, Clinton brought up that Donald Trump called Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy” (she put on too much weight after she won!) and “Miss Housekeeping” (she’s Latina). As LGM points out, while Trump consistently denies saying the things he just said, he didn’t deny this one — in fact he took to Fox News, brought up the topic, and claimed his remarks were right: Machado was a fatty! And that’s such a big issue with Trump that managers of Trump properties had to hide staffers who weren’t sufficiently sexy when Trump visited, otherwise he’d want them fired.

I think this is a good example of what makes sexism so tough to beat (not that racism is a cakewalk, as the past couple of years have shown). As I’ve mentioned before, it’s still possible to construct a life with minimal contact with blacks or Latinos (for example) except in securely subordinate roles (though as Obama shows, it’s not as easy as it used to be). Most sexists don’t want to construct a life without women. For many men, women are essential because that’s how you prove your manhood —  Trump, for example, defines his by his supposed sexual prowess and the hotness of his women, whether his wives, mistresses, daughter or subordinate. They’re hot, he’s in charge, so he’s thereby one hell of a man.

Part of that manly superiority is his right to judge their worth, which means judging their physical assets. And women who don’t measure up are not fit to be part of the greatness that’s the Trump empire; keeping non-hot women around reflects badly on Trump and the Trump name that he merchandises so much. Similarly, although Trump has announced he’s going to go after Clinton by bringing up her husband’s infidelities, his criticism of Bill C. back in the 1990s wasn’t that he cheated, it was that the women weren’t hot enough. Which made Bill a loser, while his wife is a loser because she wasn’t hot enough to keep him interested (which I imagine is the subtext of why Trump thinks it’s a relevant attack).

And I don’t think Trump’s alone in that kind of belief. Some years back, the creator of the old Girls Gone Wild video series said that he much preferred filming women he had to talk into performing than women who liked the idea — presumably because the latter are women acting on their own agency, the first group are women he’s been able to seduce with his awesome charm.

Of course, Trump has no reason to think being a pig will hurt him. It hasn’t so far; and plenty of right-wingers are, of course supporting him, including Newt Gingrich, the Daily Caller (their take: OMG, did you know that slut Machado appeared topless in Playboy?), and Jonah Goldberg. After all, to the white male Trumpites, he’s saving them from Clinton, who will take the country away from its real owners.

Unfortunately as Trump’s unlikely to give up the national stage even if he loses, we’ll be seeing his sexist crap for a while to come.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Businesses behaving badly (and other links)

Normally local governments tax property based on “highest and best use.”In Texas, Lowe’s is arguing its stores should pay property tax as if the store were closed. Sometimes they win just because they can outspend the county on legal fees.

•A mother claims a for-profit college took out a loan in her name without her consent.

•Apparently the Texas prison system is a big business. One reason it generates huge profits is that it uses prisoners as slave labor.

•Long Island University tried to break the faculty union by locking out the unionized staff after they rejected a contract proposal (and advertising for replacements on, according to this interview). Happily the lockout failed and negotiations are back on.

•Megan McArdle defends for-profit prisons.

•A judge has fined Verizon $3,750 for leaving an elderly couple without phone service for several days. And a woman claims the company charged her for a massive excess data use she couldn’t possibly be responsible for.

•Comcast insists its data usage meter isn’t at fault, even if it billed customers for data they couldn’t have used. The company is also freaking out over an FCC proposal that would allow competition in the market for providing TV set-top boxes. Comcast and AT&T are also protesting Nashville’s decision to let Google fiber use city utility poles alongside the other providers.

•The Department of Justice is looking into Wells Fargo employees’ alleged practice of opening added accounts without customers’ permission.

In other topics—

•A former Israeli politician says Israel is becoming increasingly divided.

•AirBnB says Santa Monica’s ban on short-term rentals violates federal and constitutional law. Curiously while it claims no responsibility for what people post on the site, it’s also setting requirements for rental-owners intended to reduce discrimination. Which is a good thing, but still seems inconsistent.

•Multiple tech companies have supported Microsoft’s lawsuit claiming customers have a right to know if the government has searched their electronic files.

•Thanks to Obamacare, fewer Americans are uninsured than ever before.

•Class action lawsuits are not an option for Uber drivers, an appeals court says.

•Fifteen years after 9/11, why are Muslims and Arabs still under suspicion? We Hunted the Mammoth says anti-Muslim vandalism and assaults are getting worse.

Lethal yellowing disease is wiping out coconut plantations.

•Right-wingers are using Hilary Clinton’s recent illness as proof she’s too sick to be president (and probably hiding worse illness!).

•Echidne looks at the sexism involved in the French burkini ban, both in the assumption women shouldn’t show skin and the pressure to do so.

•An anonymous reporter argues that we should vote Trump because the disaster will be more interesting to cover than a Clinton presidency. While this is a dreadful reason (as noted at the link) I was also struck by his argument that Trump might work out in the long run because “you just have to blow up shit to build it again.” Trouble is, I doubt in office Trump will blow up the government (the Middle East maybe). As many people have suggested, he’ll probably be happy to sign whatever right-wing bullshit the Republicans in Congress can bring to his desk. And as Echidne points out, the reporter might feel different if he thought his own shit was at risk of being blown up, rather than minorities and Muslims.

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Diversity and kidvid (#SFWApro)

On her blog, Foz Meadows looks at the anti-diversity argument that giving women/gays/minorities a leading character they can identify with is just tokenism or political correctness or unbelievable or just objectionable for some other reason. As she points out, when people argue this is somehow wrong

they forget the point of stories. We have, quite literally, an entire genre of films, books, comics, games and TV shows dedicated to showing us how normal, mediocre straight white guys – literal everymen, as proudly proclaimed in their blurbs and trailers and other forms of promotional bumpf – can rise up and save the world and the day and get the girl, even when they’ve had absolutely nothing going for them and no pertinent skills before that point. It might happen through luck or hard work, through outside help or unknown possession of a secret destiny, or sometimes a combination of all four, but it does happen, over and over and over again, with the cosmic regularity of sunset, and do you know what? Regardless of whether we love or hate or meh those individual stories, everyone who watches or reads or plays them understands, at base, that a certain degree of implausibility is the fucking point. The idea isn’t to create a hyper-real explanation as to why John Doe is suddenly the only man standing between Earth and alien annihilation, although it’s always nice when the worldbuilding rises to the occasion: the fundamental point of the everyman as hero is to make us, the everyday audience, feel as if we could be heroes, too.

And that the goal isn’t to erase the WASP straight male from leading roles nor to put out lots of crap justified by having female/black/gay/bisexual leads, but to have them in good roles — though that said, Meadows argues, it’s perfectly natural to get excited about a role even if it’s flawed because there’s still so little out there.

Her piece is good, and I recommend it, but as I was reading, I started thinking about children’s films and TV. Stranger Things and all its antecedents such as Goonies, ET, Explorers. And before them, some of Disney’s assorted (and frequently lame) kids vs. crooks films. Or the countless variations from my childhood such as Enid Blyton’s numerous stories of kid groups (The Adventurous Four, the Five Find-Outers, the Secret Seven) who exposed crooks and busted evil schemes. Or Robin, the Newsboy Legion and other young super-heroes.

starspangled7(Cover by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. All rights to current holder).

All unrealistic, because children going up against organized crime wind up dead. All written to cater to a specific demographic. Yet while people may laugh at the unrealisticness, nobody’s thrown into the frothing fits the way the all-female Ghostbusters do. We accept kids enjoy reading about themselves (even if they read older stuff too). Lots of adults enjoy stuff targeted to kids (I doubt ten year olds are buying the hardback Newsboy Legion collections).  But if the demographic targeted and focused on is “women” or “blacks” that’s something objectionable.

Is it because the kid groups tend to be mostly or entirely male and white, so the anti-diversity people can identify with the protagonists in a way that they can’t if it’s a woman or a trans character? Or that “kid stuff” has been around so long we take it for granted, while diversity feels like a searing new attack on WASP male privilege (even though the issues have been discussed since the 1970s, at least)? I suppose you could argue that “kid stuff” isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t stop a lot of adults watching Stranger Things or ET.

This isn’t a perfect analogy, but I think it’s a good start on one.


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Filed under Movies, Undead sexist cliches, Writing