Monthly Archives: April 2010

This Just In: Conservative Government Hates Women, No Longer Feels Like Being Subtle About It

Fuck you, Stephen Harper.

(Yes, I’m still around; I’ve just been crazy busy these last couple of weeks and haven’t had much to write about. I promise I will eventually get back to writing posts whose contents are longer than their titles.)

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Inappropriate Conversation Topics: A Cautionary Tale

You may have noticed, dear readers, that I don’t post much about my personal life. This isn’t because I don’t have a personal life; mostly it’s just because my personal life isn’t very interesting. However, when I’m not busy blogging, or researching, or getting yelled at by my boss, I sometimes hang out with people. And, believe it or not, some of those people are dudes. There’s even this one dude whom I live with, and sometimes make out with. For the most part, these dudes are not terribly receptive to my crazy feminist ideas, but they mean well, so in general we all try to avoid the topic and instead discuss more neutral things, like Vulcan biology (the biology of Vulcans). However, every once in a while, one of them will say something like this:

DUDE: Have any of you noticed that all promiscuous women seem to have mental problems?*
BRETT: No.
DUDE: Well, you have mental problems, and you used to be promiscuous.
BRETT: WTF.

Needless to say, the conversation did not last long.

Note to men who socialize with women, feminist or otherwise: don’t make a completely unfounded and sexist argument, then try to back up that argument with WELL YOU’RE CRAZY AND KIND OF SLUTTY AMIRITE? It won’t work. You will, in fact, lose all of your Sensitive Points or Progressive Points or anything else you may have had in your favour. Seriously, just don’t.

Not to mention that this dude initiated this conversation in the presence of both my live-in makeout partner and my sister, who happens to be a totally emotionally stable young woman who has not only had casual sex, but at one point had casual sex with him.

Honestly, even I know better, and I once tried to flirt with a guy by offering to show him how far I could stick my finger into my eye.**

* I am not paraphrasing. This is exactly what he said.
** Yes, this really happened. And no, it didn’t scare him off. I still don’t know why.

The Male as Male in All His Masculine Male Complexity of Manliness

Back in the day when I was an undergraduate at the U of T, I took a class called Men, Gender and Power, 1500-1800. Said class was taught by the brilliant (and no longer retired!) Dr. Barbara Todd, and it dealt with the construction and performance of masculinity in early modern Europe. Dr. Todd talked about how masculine identity has evolved over time, how it was interpreted and performed by men who had little status within early modern patriarchy – working-class men, men of colour, enslaved men, men who had sex with men – and how the range of acceptable masculinities has shifted but ultimately narrowed over time. Prior to taking this class, the word patriarchy had just been an abstraction, and not one that I took very seriously: like many young women, I thought it was something that those silly feminists made up so that they’d have an excuse to complain. By the end of those twenty-six weeks, I understood that patriarchy is far more than a straw-man argument; I had seen the way it granted some men great power, as long as they were born into the right class and as long as they severely limited their self-expression. I had observed clear examples of the often arbitrary social construction of gender, and I soon found ways to relate that to my own experiences of gender, of patriarchy and of sexism. Strangely enough, studying men had turned me into a feminist.

The fact that it took a class on masculinities to get me interested in gender is worthy (because women’s issues with gender are so frivolous, of course, whereas men’s issues are Serious Business All The Time) of a post in and of itself, but what I want to talk about here is the purpose and the value of studying men and masculinity. Dr. Todd created this course because, like many feminist scholars, she felt it was important to highlight that gender is not something exclusive to women – and that by treating it as such, we only further reinforce the whole “men are people, women are women” ideology that has kept patriarchy going for so long. Moreover, she understood that patriarchy has generally benefited a small subset of men, and wanted to examine how other men, those men who belong to marginalized groups, relate to, and are affected by, masculinity. It was a great course. As I stated earlier, it probably made me a feminist, and it probably also made me a specific kind of feminist: that is, a feminist who spends a lot of time thinking critically about masculinity and how Patriarchy Hurts Men Too. A great deal of my feminism is rooted in the belief that dismantling patriarchy and the gender binary will benefit everyone, even those who currently benefit from patriarchy itself.

This is, more or less, why I find the idea of “Male Studies” so ridiculous.

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More Thoughts on Gender, Education and Income

The relationship between the gender gap in education and the gender gap in the workforce continues to hold my attention, even after two rather long blog posts. (This may have something to do with my being an overeducated and underpaid woman myself, but I digress.) Debates over it seem to spring up every once in a while in the blogosphere, and even with all the essentialist crap and ad hominem attacks that tend to dominate the discussions (it is the internet, after all), there’s always something there that makes me want to do more research and more arguing.

One argument that’s come up a few times is that statistics relating to the income gap cannot be indicative of current trends because they factor in the entire working population; theoretically, men will always come out on top in these statistics because of the number of older people in the workforce, whose careers began in periods of much greater inequality. Therefore, statistics relating to younger workers would be much more indicative of the way in which the workforce is heading now. This tends to go hand-in-hand with the argument that, with women entering higher education at such high rates, the wage gap will eventually reverse itself and begin to favour women.

The first point is certainly valid, to some extent; I looked into income statistics by age, and it does appear that the gender gap is quite a bit narrower among workers in their 20s and 30s – for example, in 2005, Canadian women aged 25 to 29 made 85 cents for every dollar that men make1; in the US in 2008, women aged 25 to 34 made approximately 88 cents to the dollar2. This seems promising until one takes into account the class dimension – in Canada, at least, female university graduates in their mid to late twenties make 89 cents to men’s dollar; conversely, women with a registered apprenticeship or a trade certificate make 65 cents to the dollar, and women with no high school diploma make 67. So, while the gap is fairly narrow for middle-class women (and, I guess, women willing to take out massive student loans), young working-class women are still at a huge disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

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From Whitewashing to Equality Casting

Via Racialicious, a recent interview with M. Night Shyamalan shows that his racefail is not limited to the blatant whitewashing of all the characters (except the bad guys!) in his upcoming adaptation of The Last Airbender. A sample:

The great thing about anime is that it’s ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It’s intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. […]

I was without an agenda, and just letting it come to the table. Noah is a photo double from the cartoon. He is spot on. I didn’t know their backgrounds, and to me Noah had a slightly mixed quality to him. So I cast the Airbenders as all mixed-race. So when you see the monks, they are all mixed. And it kind of goes with the nomadic culture and the idea that over the years, all nationalities came together.

Now, I’m not terribly familiar with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but based on what I’ve gathered from various blogs over the past couple of months, none of this is even remotely true. For one thing, the series was created by Americans, so it’s not technically anime. And while the races of the characters may not correspond exactly to real-world ethnicities, they were deliberately portrayed as non-White, to counteract the overwhelming whiteness of most American media. The cultures portrayed were apparently also modelled on real Asian and Inuit cultures – something that has also been eliminated from the film adaptation. And finally, Mr. Shyamalan might want to take a look at the actors he has cast in these so-called “ambiguous” roles. They aren’t remotely mixed-race. They are totally, unambiguously, White.

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