Category Archives: Undead sexist cliches

Still whirling

So I’ve spent the past week visiting friends back in Ft. Walton Beach where I used to live. Now I’m home in the frigid, snow-covered wasteland we call Durham. Even so, I’m glad to be back, but I’m not focused enough to post about my trip yet. So, some political links!

The FCC authorizes a couple of cities to launch their own broadband network despite state laws against it (and complaints from dissenting commissioners that this destroys capitalism!). It’s a ruling of limited effect, though, as other cities covered by the laws will have to petition the FCC for permission. Still, better than the alternative.

•The FCC has also signed off on net neutrality, though there are some questions about what the final rule will look like. Consumerist looks at the fallout.
•Morgan Stanley has settled a Justice Department investigation into whether the bank sold securities backed by unsound mortgages. A number of right-wingers have insisted that the fault lies in the federal government forcing banks to issue mortgages to poor non-white people who can’t afford to pay them off. But shit like securitizing the mortgages clearly has nothing to do with anything but banks’ yen for profit.

•Yet another right-winger mansplains how feminism is all about sex, and that’s bad. Oh, and also pathetic. Plus every woman who complains about sexism in videogames is fat.

•Privacy rights advocates call for an investigation into Samsung’s smart TVs and their voice recognition technology.

•Cereal sales are generally down, and Kellogg in particularly has lost its luster. Though I’ve seen enough companies written off, then recover, not to count Battle Creek out yet.

•Go, Denver! The article describes students walking out of school in protest of proposed new standards that would focus history classes on such topics as ““promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” (OK, the last one sounds fine). No wonder one Fox news host thinks we should have no public schools at all.

•A Nevada lawmaker explains cancer is a fungus so kill it with fungicide and flush it out of your body!

•Idaho State Rep. Christie Perry says parents should have the right to take their children to faith healers and deny them conventional medical treatment. And if it’s a choice of conventional treatment or death, well, everyone dies eventually so what does it matter? And forcing parents to save their kids is an attack on Christianity. Unless they’re fetuses, apparently, because Perry is also pro-life, er at least that’s how she defines herself. If I were cynical I’d suggest it’s less any standard related to life and more to “what do right-wing Christians think parents should be allowed to do.”

•Meanwhile, Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman wants a bill that identifies unmarried parenthood as a cause of child abuse.

•So if a job applicant wears a hijab or a turban (for example) but doesn’t specify it’s for religious reasons, can the company reject them for violating the dress code? The Supreme Court discusses.

•Slacktivist once again discusses the problem of assuming that hardliners in a religion represent the purest, truest manifestation of the faith (links to early discussions in the post).

•Chicago police have maintained a black site where they can interrogate prisoners without reporting the arrest, notifying anyone or letting the prisoner contact a lawyer.

•Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker asserts that as he can stare down protesters opposed to his policies, he’d be the kind of commander-in-chief who could take down ISIS.

•The NCAA’s no-compensation rules for college athletes impose a burden other students don’t have (a music student can sell records or perform for pay, forinstance).

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Undead sexist cliches: Prosecuting rape is an attack on men

This cliche is truly a very, very old chestnut—that making rape charges is a tool women use to destroy innocent men. And therefore getting aggressive about rape prosecution puts innocent men through hell.

I’m not sure who first said “rape is an easy charge to make but a hard one to prove” but that was the staple view for years. A woman would make up rape charges because the man didn’t call the next day. Or because he broke up with her and she wanted to get even. Or because she was asking for it, he provided it and then the slut changed her mind. I remember a case from the 1980s where the lawyer for the rapist professed outrage over a verdict that a woman could actually go up to a man’s apartment, make out and then choose not to have sex—how was it unreasonable for the guy to make her have sex?

From some TV shows and movie I remember back in the 1970s, people apparently thought it was plausible that a woman would threaten to make rape accusations when there was no sex involved: to force someone to give them money, to discredit an obnoxious official, to force a detective to back off from asking them questions. The reality that rape was more likely to leave the woman discredited and slut-shamed was never touched on.

Warren Farrell, one of the veterans of the men’s rights movement, claimed in one of his books that his totally objective research proved 90 percent of rape accusations were false, typically made up by bitter girlfriends. Of course, Farrell also believed being cock-teased and being fired were just as traumatic for a man as rape was for a woman, so it’s possible he’s biased.

While society is a lot better at thinking about and prosecuting rape than it used to be, the argument still crops up. Right-winger Mona Charren asserted once that any date-rape charge is a lie: the woman simply woke up in the morning, couldn’t deal with the fact she was now a slutty, slutty tramp, and went into denial. Or Todd Akin with his conviction that if the victim got pregnant, it wasn’t a legitimate rape. And James Taranto has complained that making an issue of sexual assault in the military is, indeed, an attack on men and male sexuality.

Which is part of the problem, that men who rape are just doing what comes naturally. That rape is, as Scott Adams put it, as natural as lions eating gazelles. So criminalizing it is totally unfair to men, because they’re just being guys. And a guy can’t be expected to think about shit like consent when he has a hard dick. And you can’t expect him to back off just because maybe the woman’s too drunk or otherwise incapacitated  to say yes. After all, she didn’t say no.

For a recent example we have this recent column by British attorney David Osborne that trying harder to prosecute rape will “have serious consequences for all red-bloodied males who are out on the rut.” After all, the reason most prosecutions fail is because the jury “did not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not consent,” which clearly proves not that juries might be biased against victims but the victims are a bunch of liars.

Osborne also finds it “distasteful and unattractive the suggestion that as the victim was blind drunk she therefore unable to give her consent to sex.” In fact, if the victim was drunk or high when the rape happened, that should be a 100 percent bullet-proof defense for her assailant. After all, “you’ve got to bear in mind that walking the streets provocatively dressed can in some circumstances be an invitation to a red blooded bloke.” And how can it be fair to punish red-blooded he-men for doing what comes naturally?

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Identity Crises of Women in Refrigerators, Part Three (#SFWApro)

(Part One and Part Two if you haven’t seen ‘em) Before she became a comics writer, Gail Simone coined the phrase “women in refrigerators” to refer to the way some female characters were killed in comics. A “woman in refrigerators” story is one where the woman is brutally murdered, often graphically, but the emphasis isn’t on her: it’s on the gigantic manpain her death causes her husband/boyfriend/father. She’s a McGuffin in someone else’s story. Her fridging is the inspiration for the hero’s grief or revenge or heroism or whatever. For example:

•Shortly after Kyle Rainer acquired his power ring, his girlfriend Alex is murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator by Major Force (the origin of the trope’s name). Ambivalent about being a Green Lantern, he has to man up and prove himself to bring Force to justice.

•Green Lantern villain Star Sapphire hacks and murders Katma Tui, ex-GL. Not because she’s an ex-GL but because of how much pain her death will inflict on Hal Jordan and John Stewart.

•Major Force (again) murders ex-GL Arisia because of the pain it’ll cause super-hero and ex-GL Guy Gardner. I don’t know it’s a particular thing with GLs, more likely just the randomness of my reading choices.

•The Joker shoots and cripples Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, not because she’s Batgirl but as part of a plot against Commissioner Gordon (although she isn’t killed, I think it qualifies).

Like most terms of criticism, there are other definitions, and different victim lists and arguments the whole concept is nonsense. But it’s my blog, so that’s how I’m defining it. And I’ve got to say, Identity Crisis’ treatment of Sue Dibney fits the concept perfectly.

identitycrisis7In the first issue, we get several pages of Ralph discussing what he feels about Sue. Sue herself, we see for a couple of pages, preparing for Ralph to get home. Then she’s dead. Identity Crisis isn’t about Sue, it’s about Ralph’s pain and the grief he and the other heroes feel. By contrast, Firestorm gets to die fighting heroically (and no, Mr. Metlzer, he doesn’t blow up if he’s cut, but that’s a minor point by comparison). Tim Drake’s father goes down fighting and we get several scenes before he dies of him and Tim interacting in the present; Mr. Drake’s there as a person, not as Tim’s memory.

And then there’s the rape scene. While there’s no skin showing, Sue’s pain and suffering is graphically dramatized in her face, her body language—and then the story forgets about her. Nothing about her healing, nothing about her at all until Jean murders her. The importance of the rape isn’t that she was raped, it was that this provoked the JLA to try reprogramming Light, which fuels much of the rest of the plot.

Sue Dibney was fridged. She deserved better.

Cover by Michael Turner, all rights with current holder.

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Identity Crises of Women in Refrigetators, Part Two (#SFWApro)

identitycrisis2Following Part One—cover by Michael Turner, rights with current holder.

I think the mindwipe plotline is what turned me off to Identity Crisis the first time I read it. Partly because it doesn’t quite fit. We have a straightforward murder mystery (who killed Sue?) and of revenge and justice, and then we have the mindwipe plot, which is not, in fact essential: if the Leaguers didn’t tamper with Dr. Light’s mind, he could still have gone after Sue, following his vow to keep punishing the JLA by hitting their loved ones.

This may have been something DC cooked up with Meltzer (it had ramifications in a lot of books) or it may have been his idea. When he wrote the JLA book a while later, he mentioned that he looked forward to taking Silver Age naivete and raising ethical questions about the heroes’ actions. And that rarely works for me. Sure, the Silver Age was naive. Heroes are good, villains are bad, you can trust the system and trust the good guys. The victories are clear, without having to employ morally questionable methods to get them.

But however impractical that may be in real life, I like the ideal. It may be unattainable in real life, but that’s the nature of ideals. And the flip side—cutting questionable deals, doing dirty work in the shadows, tampering with your friends’ minds as well as your enemies—can be just as naive. Sure it sounds very tough to talk about how we have to lower ourselves to the other side’s level, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it, blah-blah, but that can easily turn into a short-cut: we’ll do the dirty work in the shadows without really questioning whether it’s ethical, or necessary, or if there’s another alternative. Or if working in the shadows even works (the book Legacy of Ashes shows how little use the CIA’s been over the decades). As someone put it online recently, Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men, snarling that “You need me on that wall!” is a delusional thug—but to some writers, he’s a role model.

It’s one thing if Meltzer wanted to argue the morality of erasing memories when someone learns your secret identity. It’s another to suggest they’ll reprogram Dr. Light and even Batman and try to justify it. That I don’t buy. I also think Meltzer cops out a little by asserting that Batman and Superman know what went down at some level but choose not to know … why the hell would they do that? Particularly Batman?

Rereading though, another problem leapt out at me: the mystery simply doesn’t work. Meltzer’s set it up in classic fashion: Everything points in one direction, then it turns out the solution is completely different (e.g., “We thought it was one of the people he sued—but the killer is the one person he didn’t sue!”). Instead of Dr. Light, it’s Jean.

Trouble is, this only works if a)the first direction looks logical and b)the revelation of the real killer makes perfect sense. This series fails on both counts.

Meltzer emphasizes, repeatedly, how awesome Batman is. Yet somehow the world’s greatest detective misses that Sue hasn’t been flash-fried by a laser, she’s been burned by some sort of flame-thrower. No way do I believe the two effects are the same. No way do I believe Bats would miss that—or Ralph Dibney, but he’s obviously preoccupied by Sue’s death. So the whole plotline of hunting Dr. Light makes no sense at all.

And neither does the unmasking. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to indicate that Jean has gone insane (she has had mental problems before, but she was cured and Meltzer doesn’t suggest otherwise). Insanity in a set-up like this is a cheat as it saves Jean having to have a rational motive or doing anything logical like asking Ray out.

Beyond that, there’s the women-in-refrigerators angle, which I’ll get to tomorrow.

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Identity crises of women in refrigerators (#SFWApro)

identitycrisis1I was never that impressed with the miniseries Identity Crisis when it came out back in 2004-5, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Having reread it recently, I think I have it figured out (cover art by Michael Turner, all rights with current holder). And if anyone cares, full spoilers follow.

The short answer: “A love letter to the silver age” shouldn’t involve the rape and murder of a likeable Silver Age character or showing how all that Silver Age idealism is just a load of baloney.

The longer answer? Read on …

As the first issue opens, we have Elongated Man (Ralph Dibney) telling his fellow hero Firehawk about how much he loves his wife Sue. We also see Ray (The Atom) Palmer thrilled that his wife seems to be warming up to him again (she had an affair some years ago, then they divorced).  We see about two pages of Sue preparing a party for him, then she’s killed and burned to death.

The Justice League rallies round, offering support, investigating the case and trying to figure how the world-class security they have for their families could have been breached. Ralph, no slouch of a detective himself, realizes the killer was Dr. Light and recruits a team to get that long-time JLA-foe. Wally West (this was back when he was still Flash) asks for an explanation. He learns that several years earlier, Light stumbled across Sue and, frustrated by his repeated defeats at the League’s hands, raped her.

But there’s much, much more! After the League takes him down, Light gloats that it’ll be easy to find Sue again, as she and Ralph don’t have secret identities. And he’ll find all their families and do the same! A worried Ralph convinces League sorceress-in-residence Zatanna to zap Light’s mind so he can’t do this again, which has the minor effect of turning Light from a formidable foe to a moron. Green Arrow tells Wally that the League has been wiping minds for years, every time a villain discovered their identity (which is, I note, Silver Age canon, they did it quite routinely when the villain didn’t lose their memory by accident), but this was a step further …and one too far for Batman, who objected, and had to get mindwiped about his memory of it.

A terrified Light hires Deathstroke to defend him and Deathstroke improbably takes out the entire League, only to lose when they counter-attack. But then Dr. Midnight, the surgeon turned super-hero performing the autopsy, reveals that based on his examination Sue was dead before her body burned.

More attacks on the Leaguers’ loved ones take place. Someone tries to strangle Jean, which leads to Ray rushing to protect her, and then to them falling back into bed together. Tim Drake’s (Robin at the time) father is killed by Captain Boomerang’s son. Everyone draws closer to the people they care about … and then Midnight discovers tiny footprints in Sue’s brain. Like the ones Ray Palmer would make if he’d used his atom-powers to shrink down, climb into her head and stomp around some.

But it turns out it’s not Ray, it’s Jean. Desperate to win Ray back, she figured that if she stole his tech and injured Sue (the death was an accident), he’d come rushing to protect her. Of course, it’s established at the start of the series that he still loves her madly (she left him, remember?) so a dinner invitation would have worked, but no problem—she’s crazy! She’s cuckoo! Stark raving bonkers! And winds up committed to Arkham Asylum (and would later become the new Eclipso, but that’s another story).

So there’s the plot. Next up, the holes.


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Rape, maternity care, prayer breakfasts and other political links

The arc of the universe sometimes does tend toward justice, as in this story of a black woman in the 1950s who sued a racist pastor (he informed her he didn’t want blacks on “his” sidewalk) and won.

•A writer at Glen Beck’s website argues that the pill is bad for women because it violates their fundamental nature and allows men to have free sex (an old Undead Sexist Cliche). More surprisingly, Rick Santorum says if government provided birth control free, then no business wold be forced to over it by insurance. Easy to say when you’re not in a position of authority, of course, but still noteworthy.

•Some conservatives also hate the fact that insurance has to provide maternity coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As Echidne points out, one of the reasons is that non-employer based insurance (i.e., individual policies) are much less likely to offer maternity coverage. One of the arguments against mandatory coverage is that “having children is a choice” which is an odd argument since the same wing of the Republicans seems determined to give women as little choice as possible in the matter, other than saying virgin (or, as someone once joked, going down on your partner, the original oral contraceptive). Still more here.

•Obama exposes his Muslim, Christian-hating heart by mentioning the inquisition and the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast. Me, I say good for Obama (and once again, I suspect he’s thinking he has nothing to lose for the next two years). Hullabaloo adds some discussion. Alternet notes that burning people alive is hardly something ISIS came up with. Digby adds more, including some links.

•It shows the arbitrariness of our government’s supposed determination to fight tyranny everywhere that while Washington worries about ISIS, it’s not moving to help Zimbabwe or investigate Saudis.

•An interview with a men’s rights activist.

•Digby points out that even extremists are voters with the right to support the candidate of their choice against an incumbent. Which is something elected officials really resent. One politician fighting for a gerrymandered district said that he’d been promised he would never have to face a serious challenge from the other party ever again; Sen. Joe Lieberman’s attorney once described an attempt to unseat the senator in the primaries as akin to terrorism. Speaking of which, an Oklahoma politician wants to ban district attorneys from prosecuting elected officials.

•A look at what happens as the 1 percent become visitors at Burning Man.

•Some Republicans still think that rape is a beautiful way for God to give women a baby.

•A politician proposed adding a Latin motto to Vermont’s English motto. OMG, some people are outraged … because they thought Latin meant Latino. Why don’t they learn to speak English? Don’t Latinos realize that when in Rome, you do as the Romans do (yes, this was an actual comment).

•Red Bull argues that a drink called Old Ox is infringing on its trademark because oxen and bulls are too much alike.

•The bad news about digitally wired cars? No protection against hackers.

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Complementarianism and other links

Conservative Christian sexists (not that the religious right or Christianity has a lock on this) that they’re not about sexism, they’re about complementarianism: Women have rights and roles and men have to respect them and vice-versa. Only as Echidne points out, that doesn’t mean any sort of equality: secular and religious conservatives alike have insisted that women’s special role is the home and not the workplace, politics or the military (or even the voting booth). Which is bad for women (or men) who don’t fit the box they’re “supposed” to belong in. Worse somewhere like Saudi Arabia where even driving is considered outside women’s sphere. I have a past post on the topic here.

And of course, women don’t get much say in what their chosen sphere should be. It’s something decided by a small coterie of men. So it’s no surprise that men end up getting the choicest cuts of the steak.

•In response to the current flap over vaccinations, Rand Paul says that since parents “own” their kids, government can’t mandate vaccinations. Of course as Digby points out at the link, that ownership is reversed when abortion is the topic and suddenly the child owns the mother and has 100 percent of the rights. Unfortunately he’s not the only politician willing to curry favor with anti-vaccination activists. As Digby says at the second link, most of the parents are probably sincerely trying to do what’s best for their kids, but there’s no excuse for the pols.

•A new theme for the anti-gay movement: Gay parents have to adopt, which rips a child away from its parents, which is wrong! And requires declaring that some women are unfit mothers, whose babies should be taken away and given to some smug gay couple. While I don’t dispute there are issues with surrogate motherhood and adoption, those are hardly because gay couples will steal straight women’s babies—they apply just as much in straight cases. So either the author (it’s not a direct link) is pulling a fast one and hoping we don’t notice or she’s generally anti-adoption (the idea Only Biological Parents Are Worthy has cropped up now and again on the right, particularly anywhere gays have legal rights to adopt).

•How to fix the transportation budget? Don’t raise gas taxes, cut funds for pedestrians and bikes so we have more for the almighty car! I’m not entirely surprised—any transportation solution that deviates from cars, cars, cars tends to freak people out. Even private walkable developments sometimes trigger outrage as if the developers had suggested the government swoop in and confiscate everyone’s vehicles. And our local paper back in Fla. used to complain whenever government suggested spending money on anything but more roads for more cars because, tourism! Development! (While nominally libertarian, the Daily News’ was always enthusiastic with government money going to development).

•After an argument, a TSA agent allegedly lies about a passenger making bomb threats, then has him arrested.

•Bud Roth, a Franklin County, Va. wedding officiant—an official county position—first informs a couple that he won’t marry them at the courthouse, only at his church. Then he refuses to marry them at all because they’re an agnostic and an atheist.

First point: You work for the state, you don’t get to deliver services based on what you think God wants. Second: Insisting they use his church (and pay for it, apparently) seems like a little small-town scam.

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