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Archive for the ‘this is where I get angry — and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ Category

The Danger of Tools Over Solutions: On Nail Polish and Dirty Photos

September 2, 2014 1 comment

 

Lately, I’ve seen a disturbing trend – one that places blame on the victim and/or treats the symptoms of a problem, but not the problem itself. This, unfortunately, isn’t a new development. It’s commonplace. But that doesn’t make it right.

A group of college students invented a nail polish that changes color if there’s a date rape drug in a drink. Like parking under a streetlight at night to deter criminals, this is a good safety precaution. It’s another tool for someone to use in order to be safer. Not safe – safer. There are some folks that argue that this, again, places responsibility on the victim. A woman shouldn’t have to wear nail polish to deter rape from happening (deter, not prevent). There are also gender implication, here – because it presupposes that all women wear nail polish. It also overlooks the fact that men are raped, too. And, honestly, I never want to hear someone ask a rape victim, “Were you wearing your anti-rape nail polish?” Because NO. You don’t the victim how short her skirt is, how much she had to drink, or if her nail polish turned purple. It’s never the victim’s fault. Repeat after me: it’s never the victim’s fault.

 This brings me to my second example, which was that several celebrities had their phones hacked and naked photos of them were posted on the internet. They were all, to be knowledge, women. The most notable is Jennifer Lawrence. The uproar has been, “Well, she shouldn’t have taken naked photos in the first place.”

 This is blaming the victim, guys. A person (male or female) has the right to do with their body and property as he/she sees fit. Stealing from another person is a crime. In this case, the stolen item was naked photos. Would we still by blaming her if it was something different? If someone stole her car, would we ask why she owned a car in the first place? A crime is a crime.

 Here is an important takeaway from this article from the Forbes article on the subject:

 “It is not the responsibility of our female population to take “X” number of steps to lessen the chance that a member of our male population will engage in untoward conduct towards them, be it assault or street harassment.”

 It’s that simple. You don’t blame victim. You never blame the victim. So, why are we still trying to do just that? It’s a fundamental failure of our society. Several times, over the past few days, I’ve found myself arguing on Jennifer Lawrence’s behalf. I don’t know her. She doesn’t know. We’ve never had lunch. But she is a person who has been wronged, and society is saying that she is at fault. It would still be a crime if someone hacked her phone and stole her text messages. Her privacy has still been breached.

 This isn’t a case of revenge porn (which is a different kind of privacy breach altogether). An ex didn’t get pissed off and share the photos with the press. This is a total invasion of privacy. It’s not a scandal, as the Forbes article points out – it is a crime. Last time I checked, our legal system isn’t supposed to blame the victim. So, again: why are we blaming the victim?

 It’s never the victim’s fault.

 Anti-rape nail polish doesn’t solve the problem of rape – no more than a rape whistle does. Not taking naked photos doesn’t solve the phone hacking problem. We, as a society, have to stop treating symptoms and start treating the disease. Yes, a nail polish that detects date rape drugs is a potentially helpful tool – but it doesn’t keep someone from raping someone else. Yes, not taking nude photos means if your phone is hacked, they can’t be stolen – but that doesn’t make the breach of privacy (the hacking) go away. Someone can always steal something else.

 And, once more: it’s never the victim’s fault. Period.

Maybe I just don’t care if you imagine me naked.

September 5, 2013 4 comments

Here’s the thing. Yesterday, there was a blog post circulating around the interwebs. Usually, those things are a dime a dozen (which, given this economy, should tell you a hell of a lot). But this particular post stuck in my craw like bad sushi.

In case you’re interesting in raising your blood pressure, it’s here.

So, the tl; dr version is that a woman, with teenage sons, wrote a letter to teenage girls on the internet. Basically, it was a fire-and-brimstone bit of professed morality, wherein the responsibility for shielding the teenage male persuasion from bare shoulders and selfies rested on the shoulders of the female population. The thesis, generally speaking, is that it is a girl’s duty to protect the boys from themselves, by bundling up and being as unassuming as possible. Because, clearly, there’s something squicky about being proud of your femininity. Because, clearly, the male sex should have absolutely NO responsibility for themselves. Because temptation, thy name is woman. (And, you know, there’s a sexual orientation bias, here. No mention of gay or bisexuality. I suppose there’s also a ban on shellfish, then.)

Today, the internet opens up the world in a way that I only experienced in a limited manner, as a teen. It was before Facebook and Twitter, but after AOL and chat rooms. Yes, I’m old. And in other news, kids: get off my lawn. But, seriously, the internet and social media tends to pull down the communication fourth way, ripping away the limits of geography. Social media opens up new avenues. But it also opens the door to a lot of bullying, too. And that post? It feels like bullying, in a soft tone, so that maybe don’t smell the bullshit.

On that post, I call bullshit.

So, it’s been a while since I was a teenage girl. I always wore a tank top when it was hot out. And, when I was brave enough, I’d even wear a bikini on the beach or by the pool. There are family photos, somewhere, of me at a BBQ wearing a bikini with freakin’ tweetie bird on it, folks. I never considered any of these things offensive, because…they aren’t.

And yet, that post body-shames teenage girls for posting selfies of themselves in tank tops and bathing suits. Even, in one instance, in a bathing suit. LE GASP. Because, clearly, bikinis are the gateway clothing item to Satan. And, clearly, no boy will EVER see a girl on a bikini at, say, the beach or the pool. But, um, wait – the post happens to include family pictures at the beach, where they (boys) are wearing bathing suits. Um, hello pot. This is kettle. What up?

Now, I’m not a parent, but I don’t think you have to be a parent to know a double-standard (or shaming tactics) when you see it. The blogger isn’t telling her boys to put a t-shirt on at the beach, is she? Personally, I think hiding behind the idea of a moral compass and trumped up integrity is somewhat…limiting. For one thing, there’s nothing morally bankrupt about anyone who is proud of her body. And, last time I checked, every person is entitled to his/her sexuality – but unless a girl is wearing lingerie and stilettos, I’m pretty sure her selfie isn’t an outbreak monkey of moral corruption or some sort of sly trick to tempt unsuspecting men folk. To see it that way is to hypersexualize something that isn’t necessarily sexual at all. Sure, if a guy sees me in a towel, he probably won’t forget it. But that isn’t a gateway to moral questionability. (Side-note: morals, as much as folks don’t want to admit it, are relative to each person. Your mileage may vary.) Because, speaking as a woman, if someone has a problem with my selfies, or the cut of my shirt, or the fact that I wear a bikini – that’s not my problem. It belongs to the other person. But kids/teenagers cannot always make that distinct. They take things to heart and perhaps more so if that opinion is coming from an adult.

Why are we telling our daughters that they are responsible for the actions and thoughts of boys? Why are we shaming, instead of celebrating?

Entertaining the idea that it is a burden, for a moment, why is the responsibility not being shared equally? If this is such a horrifying thing (girls wearing two-piece bathing suits etc.) for the aforementioned blogger, it seem most logical that she parent her own children – not police and berate those of others. Especially considering that the overall tone of the post is one of condescension and condemnation, which isn’t really a tone/tactic an adult should employ with teenagers – again, especially other people’s.

I’m well-aware of the fact that a person’s religion shapes his/her worldview. If you’re Christian, you might be appalled by the fact that I often take the lord’s name in vain – or that I didn’t capitalize lord just then. You might find me to be a bit morally reprehensible, because I expect to dress and speak freely. I’m kind and a good person, but if you judge me by my stripper shoes or low-cut top, doesn’t that say more about your narrow view than it does about me?

Lastly, I just want to address a small bit of contradictory information. At one point, the blogger wrote, “If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.” Overlooking the hilarity of the word try (because if it’s even a thought that you were attempting to look sexy, you’re off the island, darling. The judge and jury are jumping to conclusions, and you’re out. Think about that statement. If you make ONE supposed mistake, you’re done. That’s it. One error, and that’s it. No second chances.

Except a paragraph later, there’s this: Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down  anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.

So, wait. Which is it: mistakes are unforgivable OR quick, fix it, and all will be alright. Panic or don’t fret? Condemn or forgive?

Like I said, I’m not a parent. But I am a person. And I am a girl. I remember what it was like to be a teenager. I’ve grown since then, and I care less about what people think. I won’t be held back by the hobgoblin of a small mind (thanks for the phrasing, Emerson). I won’t let you dictate me.

And maybe I just don’t care if you imagine me naked.

…but it’s still not an invitation for you to harass me or do anything non-consensual. SO DON’T BE A FUCKING JERK. (line courtesy of C. Finlay)

Drive more — wrinkle less! Some Words on Honda’s New Lady Car

October 26, 2012 4 comments

First, they came for the pens – and I didn’t say a word. Okay, that’s a lie, because those BIC pens for girls? Total bullcrap. Just ask Ellen DeGeneres, as she kicks ass. Then they tried to put me in a BINDER, and I did not say a word. Actually, that’s not true either. Because nobody puts Baby in a Binder.

And now, there’s a GIRL CAR. And, my dear gentle uteruses, it comes in PINK. So, gather your ovaries and get yourself (accompanied, of course, by your husband or other suitable adult male chaperon.) to your nearest Honda dealership. Because, come on: what woman doesn’t want a PINK CAR?

Honda folks? This is the WORST marketing campaign since the Teleflora flowers ad, which insulted women, degraded relationships, and suggested that flowers are a kind of sexual commerce — during the Superbowl. But, ladies, who could resist the shiny pink color and the lovely pink stitching? It is like lady catnip, isn’t it? I think I’m swooning. Let’s just take a gander at all the features in this Barbie doll-esque pink miracle, shall we?

No, we only need to discuss two. It has a windshield MADE OF MAGIC. Or as close to magic as one can get, because it’s “designed to block skin-wrinkling ultraviolet rays.” But it gets BETTER, my darling menstruating divas. It also has a “ ‘Plasmacluster’ air conditioning system that Honda claims can improve a driver’s skin quality.”

My sweet mindless brethren, isn’t this divine? Drive more — wrinkle less! Forget silly things like road safety and traction control. Your skin will look FABULOUS. Isn’t that what’s always been missing from your car? Praise Buddy Christ! Let me go fix Don Draper a cocktail, okay?

…hold on a second, ok? *takes off pearls* *steps OUT of the 1950s* *tucks away birth control* WHAT THE EVER LOVING HELL? I do not need a pretty pink car, with magic air conditioning and a HEART in the pink SHE’S on its side. While I admire her greatly, my name isn’t actually JEM – for whom this car would be appropriate, because she is a cartoon.

Here’s the problem, people: while our sex is biologically determined, our gender is performative. A boy can like PINK, just as well as a girl. Our sex doesn’t predispose us to like certain things; society might. Society encourages certain behaviors and tastes – which is where open-minded folks usually step in and say, “Hey, wait a minute – my daughter can certainly play with GI Joe and Barbie.” Or “my son’s favorite color is purple.” Because, hey, everyone is entitled to like what he/she likes – to develop his/her own tastes. Creating products that are supposedly gender-specific is a losing game. Our gender – hell, our sexual orientation – does not determine our tastes, just like my hormones don’t interfere with my election preferences.

We are people. Some of us have a uterus. Some of us have a penis. There are a few who have both. But at the end of the day, we’re still people. We put our pants on one leg at a time (when we wear pants). We drink our coffee or our tea. We like sports. We like ballet. We like whatever we like. This is not determined by our sex.

And I’m fairly certain this ensured that I will never, ever buy a Honda. Because my uterus is offending. Oh, wait – no, I am offended.

Somewhere Between Analysis and Rant: Thoughts on Alexander Maksik’s You Deserve Nothing

April 1, 2012 2 comments

Last night (well, this morning), I finished reading Alexander Maksik’s YOU DESERVE NOTHING. Back in December, I blogged about the novel and the possible controversy surrounding it. There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that it’s a roman a clef. Or, at the very least, heavily informed by the author’s experiences (although, not by his own admission). For anyone who doesn’t know, the character of Will Silver is a teacher at an American high school in Paris who basically stumbles into an affair with a student. (The tale alternates before Silver’s perspective, Marie the purposeful Lolita, and Gilad who may have creeped me out more than Silver.)

Since I have no proof or personal knowledge of Maksik himself (despite the severe feeling of ICK that surrounded me while reading), I want to talk about the novel itself. Note: I do want to point out that the comments on my original post were VERY interesting and informative. They’re worth a read.

Will Silver is the most passive character since Charlotte Temple. In the novel, Maksik makes it clear that Silver is this hapless passive guy, who things just happen to. He doesn’t set out to seduce Marie (she seduces him). In fact, he never seems to make contact with her on his own, merely responds to her nearly obsessive barrage of messages and calls. After an encounter on a dance floor, she asks him to whisper his number to her. SHE calls him, putting her in the position of the seducer. It also is a move that serves as an attempt to foist the blame onto Marie’s character. Given the imbalance of power between a teacher and a student, a seventeen year old and a thirty-three year old man – I’m not sure, as a reader, that I buy it. Then again, I am not the biggest fan of Nabokov’s Lolita, either. (Sorry, Nadika.)

One of the most suspect parts of Will’s characterization is how well he does his job. Over and over again, he’s portrayed as a rebel teacher, one page-ripping scene away from standing on a desk and reciting “Oh, Captain, my captain.” He changes lives and his students worship him, which leads to many reviews drawing a parallel to Keating’s character in Dead Poets’ Society. Except last time I checked, Keating didn’t find himself in bed with a student. As readers, we see Will’s character constantly battling the system of oppressive instruction (he wants to challenge beliefs! The administration disagrees), refusing to compromise what he feels is an essential approach to instruction. We’re supposed to cheer when he goes up against the administration. Except, I didn’t. I felt like there was no textual evidence to support the idea that Will was a great teacher. What did he teach anyone in his classroom? No lesson came from that room; the only lesson, I think, came from his fall from grace – which was that people are rarely what they seem to be. Things just HAPPENED to Silver, like things just happened to Charlotte Temple. It was frustrating, to say the least.

In Gilad, I think, the reader is supposed to find the culmination of Silver’s influence. Gilad comes from an abusive home, with a tyrannical father – who is physically and emotionally abusive. Eventually, Gilad stands up for his mother and himself, which is the revelatory moment. Its inception is also attributed, however slyly, to Silver. Personally, I found Gilad’s obsessive, stalker-y personality to be quite creepy. I assume that this characterization was meant to be off-putting – but I believe that he’s in love with Silver, although his character asserts his attachment isn’t sexual. What else does he bring to the narrative? I don’t really know, except that he’s a witness. He is the person who puts forth the idea of what is vs what we insist it is (this is illustrated with a doodle, then a doodle with a grid over it, which is relevant during a discussion about Sartre. This is an underlying theme of the novel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the entire text is meant to serve as an example of WHAT IS. This reaffirms Will’s passive disposition, where things happen to him. Which brings us to my major qualm: the issue of agency.

Throughout the novel, it seems that Will Silver only makes TWO actual decisions (which is, amusingly, exactly what he criticizes his friend Mia for, in the beginning of the novel — her inability to act and decide; she merely suggests). One choice happens before the main events of the plot (it was to leave his wife, Isabella, and move to Paris after his parents died. It is interesting to note, however, that he cannot give a reason WHY he left her, even when pressed). The other decision is a soft choice. It’s not a demand, but it is certainly emotional manipulation and coercion. He tells Marie “that he didn’t think it was a good idea to have the baby,” while maintaining that he would “be there no matter what” (274). In the next section, told from Will’s perspective, we learn that Marie has decided to have the abortion. Clueless to the idea that she doesn’t really want to do it, he agrees – though the end result is that Marie seems to spend a lot of time comforting him. A great deal of her characterization, interesting, portrays Silver as being a ghost, “But I started to have the impression that I was making love to a ghost or a phantom or something. And more than once I felt that I could have been anyone. […] It was more a feeling, a sort of dark hum I didn’t want to listen to” (250). This small bit of dialogue again places the blame on Marie’s shoulders. She KNEW, but ignored her feelings. Basically, this is the literary equivalent of, “You knew what this was from the start.” As a reader, I found that off-putting.

At one point, she describes him physically as something like a walking corpse, “He looked terrible—pale and exhausted with such dark circles under his eyes. God he was thin” (287). Not only, however, does he appear physically dead, but emotionally as well. Will recalls it, “One Sunday morning we woke up and she said, ‘I love you.’ She shook her head. ‘I know you don’t love me. But I love you.’ ” (263).

But Marie recalls it in the context of death, “Will, I love you, I said and he looked like I’d told him the sky was blue. We made love afterward and maybe he was sweet to me but all I could think about was that expression and how he lay there not moving looking like he was dead.” (251)

From Will’s perspective, Marie knows that he doesn’t love her. From Marie’s perspective, she is making love to a man already dead. We, as readers, are meant to infer that she knew what she was getting in, as well as her refusal to properly assess the situation – again, lauded blame at Marie.

Of course, this all comes crashing down when someone (we never learn who) tells the administration about the affair. Will, who promised Marie to always be there, slips away quietly. In fact, it isn’t from him that she learns of his dismissal, but from her frienemy Ariel (who is repeatedly painted as the Villain, consumed by jealousy because of Marie’s relationship). From the moment of his departure from the school, Will vanishes completely. He ignores all Marie’s attempts to contact him. She practically stalks him, yet he cannot be bothered to speak to her – not even to tell her goodbye. Why? Because he left her a voicemail. Surely, after the demise of a relationship – any relationship, really, even an illicit one – a voicemail is a proper parting scene. (Note the sarcasm. That is cowardly, which is exactly what Will Silver’s character is: a ghostly man-child who has the emotional maturity of dirt. *ahem* Anger, rising.)

Consider, for a moment, the difference in perspective, regarding the voicemail. Marie conveys a brief message, “I listened to [the message] twice and then I erased it. Goodbye Marie, he said. I’m sure you’ve heard. I don’t think we’ll see each other for a while” (307). The major take away from that is goodbye. There’s nothing emotional about it. There’s no grief. No mourning. Nothing. It’s as Marie feared: he is a ghost.

From Will’s viewpoint, however, we get the supposed full account of the aforementioned voicemail. It, I suppose, is meant to tam down emotional response of the reader, “ ‘Marie, it’s me,’ I say. ‘I don’t know what’s next for you exactly but the weeks ahead will be horrible. I’m sorry that. You’re so much braver than I am. Anyway, Marie, it was coming. You knew that. So, here it is. And maybe, I don’t know, it’ll be a relief. Maybe, maybe. Please take care of yourself. We’ll see each other one day. But not for a while, I don’t think.’ (325). The full text of that voicemail sent me into a complete rage, because it served to reaffirm the idea that Marie KNEW how things were going to shake down, and she basically only has herself to blame for getting involved with a dead, ghost-man. He then, supposedly, give her the bullshit-carrot of, “We’ll always have Paris, and we’ll meet again someday.” Because nothing says, “I’m sorry I hurt you,” like withdrawing from a relationship – and leaving someone you cared about (?) holding the bag of dynamite. Will Silver goes on to pointedly NOT answer the question, when asked if he regretted his actions. This implies that Silver holds himself in a position of righteousness that suggests a special kind of hubris. “I am not to blame. This is how things are” might as well be the character’s mantra.

Marie’s justification of the ending events is both heartbreaking and alarming. At one point, Marie claims that “in the end the way he left was as good as any other. I like to think he did it for me, that he thought it was the best way” (309). As a person, I cannot abide that statement at all. No one who has had his/her heart broken would EVER utter those words. No one comes to terms like that, in the face of such a blatant lack of closure. NO ONE says, “Oh, he was just trying to protect me…by completely abandoning me.” So, I found that admission more rotten that something last scene in Denmark. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Because Marie’s perspective is told from a point further in time than the actual events. So, when as 22 year old Marie makes that statement? Supposedly, she’s had time to asset the events. The last thing she says is, “I still dream about him.” Here, I must admit that it’s plausible. Sometimes, a person gets stuck on the guy/girl who broke his/her heart the worst. Sometimes, that heartbreak reverberates through life, but I can’t reconcile the almost wistful, blameless nature of Marie. Does she still love him? Possibly. Who hasn’t harbored an emotional attachment to an asshole, far beyond a warranted time frame? But, as a reader, this characterization feels like a copout. It falls shorts of being believable.

Lastly, one must consider the title. Who, exactly, deserves nothing? The answer, according to the text itself, is everyone. Marie is left to pick up the pieces of her ruined life, alone, pining after a man who never really loved or saw her. Silver loses his job, his friends, and his reputation – and yet, we never learn what becomes of him. Everything HAPPENED to him, because of Marie. Yet, when he signs his resignation papers, he’s told he’s “free.” Interesting diction, because what is it he’s free of? Responsibility? The possible implications are alarming, because one might assert that he wouldn’t want freedom. He wouldn’t know what to do with it. When set free, Will Silver disappears completely.

All and all, the novel was well-written. It was compelling in a completely morbid way. It was, by itself, something that calls into question the idea of morality, power, responsibility, blame – and the idea that desire leads to downfall. What is truly interesting is that I did not LIKE any of the character. Silver was stuff so full of himself that one might call it self-aggrandizing cannibalism. Marie was a one-dimensional idiot who seduced a man – why? Because everyone else in the school wanted him? I never could figure it out. Then, of course, there’s Gilad whose obsessive nature gave me the heebie jeebies.

So, why did I finish the novel? Because I wanted closure. Because I hoped for some kind of transformation. But that’s the major problem with the book: no one changes. Sure, Gilad stands up to his father, but after that, his character disappears. We, as readers, don’t get to witness his reaction to Silver’s dismissal. Perhaps if we did, we’d see how it affected his world, his self. Perhaps he, too, would’ve been shattered by Silver’s vanishing (like, say, Mia – who may be even weaker than Marie’s character. She spends the last bit of the novel CRYING). The novel was compelling in the way people gape at train wrecks. I didn’t want to see how the events unfurled, but I couldn’t look away. Is that good literature? Maybe. Is it effective? Yes. That doesn’t mean we should canonize it, either.

Has anyone else read the book? Thoughts?

An Open Letter to Michael Bay

March 20, 2012 4 comments

First, you came for the Transformers, and I did not say a word. Sure, I loved the cartoon as a kid, but I was willing to overlook a cinematic faux pas. But then Revenge of the Fallen happened. And then Dark Side of the Moon. That sound you hear? That’s my childhood WEEPING, sir.

Here’s one thing I don’t get. You take a franchise with a built-in fanbase (everyone born between 1972 and 1990, toss in a few cartoon-stragglers for good measure) and you WRECKED it. Not only that, but you took on (and maimed) Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th – two of the scariest movies from my childhood. When I saw the originals, I didn’t want to go near a bed for weeks. And if I saw a girl jumping rope, I was compelled to recite the Freddy Kruger rhyme. I never wanted to go to summer camp, either, because WHAT IF THERE WAS A HOMOCIDAL MANIAC? In short, those movies were effectively frightening.

But now, sir, you’ve come for the Turtles. Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I watched the cartoon religiously as a kid. I spent my spare time trying to master how to draw a turtle’s head. I had the action figures. I played the videogame. I wanted to BE April O’Neil. In short, I loved the Turtles, those lovable little guys who fell into some mutagen, only to transform into odd-pizza-eating, smartass superheroes trained by a wise rat-man named Splinter. Their archenemy is Shreddar, and his line, “tonight, I dine on turtle soup” is classic.

Yesterday, I read that you’re going to alter the origins of the turtles. Bye bye, green slime. Bye bye, sewer lair (I’m assuming). Bye bye MUTANT. Now, we get…Turtles from Outer Space! Instead of “tonight, I dine on turtle soup,” we’re getting, “tonight, I dine on alien!” Not quite as effective and definitely not as memorable.

I hate to point out the obvious, but that’s a totally different movie. That makes the turtles neither turtles nor mutants. You’re left with Teen Aliens. And, let’s face, that’s a tale best left for the Syfy channel, with its campy lineup of Space Monkey and Squirrelemming vs Velocishark. I’m SURE that Shannon Doherty is available, and she has just as much range as the people you generally cast (I’m looking at you, Shia).

Mr. Bay, I don’t understand you. It seems, though, that Hollywood can’t quit you – despite the fact that you keep willfully murdering sacred childhood relics. I get that it’s important to keep things fresh and new. I understand that telling a story isn’t always easy. But I’m starting to worry that you’re going to remake every movie, or show, I’ve ever loved. I can see it now.

  1. The Godmother: A Corleone Saga. Set in the future. “Leave the laser. Take the cannoli.”
  2. Gone with the Wind: The Teenage Years. We follow a Carrie Bradshaw-esque Scarlet as she fends off suitors and pines after Mr. Wilkes, whose first name we don’t know. “As God as my witness, I will never go shoeless again!”
  3. Cheers. Except this time, Sam and Diane are vampires. The patrons are zombies. And occasionally, Buffy the Vampire stops by. “Where everybody knows your name, and occasionally tries to eat you!”

Those three things? Make about as much sense as turning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into aliens. I don’t know if you’ve hit your head recently, but a concussion would explain this kind of decision. Perhaps you’re consumed by complete terror, after receiving a strongly worded demo song from Michael Bolton, in which he chronicles how you stole his hairstyle.

I don’t know what the deciding factor was, but quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I just want you to stop ripping apart the things I loved from my childhood. You know what might be a good example of what TO do? The Muppet Movie. The Muppet Movie was an updated version of the Muppets that EVERYONE loved, without bastardizing it. It stayed true to the heart and spirit of the Muppets themselves. No one decided that Kermit the Frog should now be a parquet. No one tried to fry up Ms. Piggy in order to create more tension in the storyline. And no one decided that it might be cool if they turned the Muppets into aliens.

Please, Mr. Bay, STOP. It’s one thing to be innovative and fun. It’s another thing to figuratively shit on person’s childhood memories. Plus, that’s really not polite.

Enough is enough, sir. Put the CRAZY down, and back away from the turtles.

Sincerely,

Alison, a child of the 80s

Don’t Blame the Victim: Or, Why I’m in a Complete Rage

February 13, 2012 9 comments

A little while ago, I read this article in the Huffington Post, and it made me want to strangle kittens. KITTENS, people. Poor innocent little furballs. But don’t worry – no kittens were harmed in the writing of this blog. Why? Because I’m not a kitten-strangler OR a serial killer. Moving on…

Let’s get this out in the open, ok? Rape is NEVER a victim’s fault. (Man or woman. And yes, it happens to men, too.) Rape is NEVER something someone asks for. And, lastly, if you put a woman in a room with a non-rapist? NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN. You see, there’s no causation related to mere proximity. For the sake of this post, I’m going to use the man-woman dynamic; it save me the trouble of having to write things two different ways.

Rape is not a crime of passion. Rape is not a crime of sex. It is a crime of aggression, anger, and power.

No one asks for it. No one wearing a short skirt is “asking for it.” No one in the military is asking for it, either. That means women serving in the military enlist with the notion that the people they’re serving with aren’t rapists. Unfortunately, in Liz Trotta’s article (NO RELATION, people. NONE.), she incorrectly implies that close quarters + men and women = RAPE.

Think about that for a second. That means if you toss two people in a room for an undetermined amount of time, the end result will be rape. That assumption means two things: 1) rape is somehow unavoidable and 2) the rapist bears no responsibility.

You hear that sound? That’s my blood pressure erupting like some kind of cartoon volcano.

NO. No, no, no, no. That is the most unintelligent, uninformed, callous thing I’ve heard in a while. That demonstrates a basic lack of understanding about rape as a crime and about humanity in general. This is not Lord of the Flies, and we’re not all either the crazed mob or Piggy.

Furthermore, in the Huffington Post piece, Liz Trotta is quoted taking several jabs at “feminists” (which seems to be flung about like an insult, lately, when someone disagrees with a woman. Why?) – one of which is that women want to be “to be warriors and victims at the same time.”

Oh, sweet mother of coffee and chocolate, that is a shitstorm of cracktacular crazy. Claiming that women WANT to be victims is outrageous and appalling. No one wants to be a victim. If someone gets mugged at an ATM, do people rush to fault him/her for BEING at that ATM? Wrong place, wrong time. Wrong shoes, wrong day of the week. No? Then it’s not okay in the instance of rape.

Women should be able to feel safe in the military. A woman shouldn’t have to worry about her fellow officer abusing and assaulting her. When it happens, it’s a crime. The victim didn’t cause it. And as a woman – and a feminist – I am utterly shocked that you used the phrase “raped too much.” ONCE is too much. Like all crimes, it doesn’t have to happen. I think, perhaps, the rational solution is to remove the RAPISTS from the military. Not bash the women who are proudly trying to serve it.

No one asks to be abused. No one asks to be hurt and violated. No one.

ETA: Here’s a piece that Jezebel did on this, complete with a video of the segment where the comments were made.

ETA2: Jon Stewart is, as always, AWESOME. Watch him shatter the crapshow HERE.

It Starts with One: On Bullying and Bad Memories

December 8, 2011 9 comments

(Note: this was inspired by something my friend Blake brought to my attention this morning. You can read about it here.)

Words have power. Like all things of power, they can be used to ill or good, to hurt or help, to wound or heal. Words can be either prayers or curses – and there’s nothing neutral about them. Words have meaning suffused into them, inherently and contextually. So, it is wise to be mindful of those we choose.

This falls to me and you, as people. This falls to you, too, as a parent, teacher, librarian, or simply someone who is present. As a child, or even a teenager, it is often difficult to find the right words – but it is most important not to choose the wrong ones. The ones that inflict pain. The ones that point out shortcomings. That ones that harm. The ones that heap misery onto someone who, maybe, can’t handle it.

As a kid, I was teased fairly regularly. In middle school, I was a total dork. I didn’t wear the “right” clothing (which, at the time, included overalls. I think I made the wise choice there.). I didn’t steal wine coolers, have a boyfriend in prison, or smoke. But I wasn’t teased for that.

No, I was teased because my family had horses and my last name happened to be Trotta. Horses TROT, right? Yeah, I didn’t think it was that clever either, and I certainly couldn’t do anything to change it. I remember being neighed at daily. (Now, it reminds me of a scene from Practical Magic, which I will get a link to, later) As stupid as it was, it hurt. It bothered me. It made me feel bad about myself. It made going through the normal adolescent bullshit all the more difficult.

I didn’t wear makeup. I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair. I was not slim. By eighth grade, I’d developed dandruff (thanks, Crazy Teenage Hormone imbalance!) and I had kids in my class calling me Selsun Blue and Head and Shoulders. Beyond the sparse, “shut up,” I didn’t say anything. I just took it. I endured it. I dealt with it every day. It sounds almost silly, writing it out. Because I wasn’t physically harmed, but not all harm is physical. It’s bullying. It’s emotional abuse. Now, we have a term for it. I’m not sure that we did, then.

Thinking about those things, now, they don’t hurt as much. But I’m still surprised to find a vague sense of shame accompanying those memories. Maybe that’s just the ghost of pain. I don’t know. (The strange thing of it was that while I rarely stood up for myself, I almost always stood up for other people. Sometimes, it was disastrous; sometimes, I felt like I did some good.)

There were a lot of days where I came home from school and cried. There were a lot of days where I was simply, abjectly miserable. I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about things that I couldn’t control. I felt like someone had stamped a giant L for LOSER on my forehead. It sucked.

You know what strikes me, now? The fact that the teachers often did nothing. Oh, they heard. It was impossible not to, but they stood by and watched people pick on me. And on others. Sure, the kids were just as likely to make fun of our overweight history teacher, but he had one advantage that I didn’t: he was in a position of authority. Not having the adult in the room say a word? Well, it made what those kids did, and said, okay. It was condoning through silence. And, thinking about it today, it shouldn’t have happened.

It all seems silly now, but at the time, it sucked. (Side-note: that is when I started to write poetry. It was emo, before emo existed. Yeah, I was that cool. Also, I may have overused the word ‘alas’ a lot. But at least I know what it meant and how to use it. Shakespeare for all!) And I carried that with me, all throughout middle school. The feelings persisted even through high school, even though the comments stopped.

The truth was, I was a late bloomer. But I was also lucky. I was lucky that I had a family who supported me, who routinely asked how my day was, and who told me it would all be okay. I had good friends outside of school (hi, Mandy, if you’re reading this) who made me feel better and not alone. I had somewhere to run to, places to seek comfort, and other sources of happiness.

I turned out okay. I got through it. I didn’t let it ruin me like it could’ve. I was lucky, because I never got desperate enough to take my own life.

But it happens. It happened then. It happens now. And I hate it. I hate it because it doesn’t have to happen. It’s not a disease you can’t avoid. It’s not stepping out into the street and getting hit by a bus. It’s not a car accident. It’s not a stroke.

It’s someone making a poor choice. It’s someone failing to be kind. It’s someone acting like a monster. It’s someone picking on someone weaker.

It can be stopped. It can be avoided. It gets better.

All it takes is one person. One person to step up and say no. One person to say enough. One person to make the right choice, instead of the wrong one.

It starts with one.

Fourteen Ways to Piss Off the Entire Publishing Industry

November 17, 2011 9 comments
  1. Act like an entitled douchebag. This includes, but is not limited to, open letters that are, at best, open rants.
  2. Rely on personal perceptions a single part as representative of the whole. For instance, using a possibly skewed (I’m being kind) example to claim that the “industry is fucked” and you’ve been “treated like a bitch.” For one thing, one publisher isn’t the industry. For another, this is not exactly the paragon of professionalism that you want to portray to the world, as businessperson. Speaking of…
  3. Act like you know everything, while demonstrating you know very little. Being a writer is two things: being a writer and being a businessperson. You know what helps? Learning the business side and respecting it as such. You know what doesn’t help? Comparing it to a “life-raft in a sea of obscurity and toil” and then expecting people to want to work with you.
  4. Throw a tantrum, complete with irrelevant wailing last employed by a Veruca Salt when she was lobbying for an Oompa Loompa. That behavior didn’t get her where she wanted to go, did it?
  5. Complain about being paid for writing – when there are about a billion writers out there who would consider selling a kidney for the opportunity. This is not just looking a gift horse in the mouth. It’s kicking the gift horse in the face. With steel-toed cleats.
  6. Drag innocent bystanders into your nuclear meltdown. Your agent, your editor, your doorman – whomever. Do not mention them. Do not assume they are as “frustrated” as you are. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
  7. Use the phrase “slave-era” thinking. SERIOUSLY? Over the past couple of weeks, this has been shown to be a) unwise and b) really careless. It shows a lack of historical understanding and a huge dearth of diction. Pick another phrase. The English language is vast. I’m sure some other example will do.
  8. In seriousness, use the phrase, “THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.” Unless you are Ralph Waldo Emerson, that is probably not the best way to a) make yourself look sane and b) stay on point. If you and God want to hang out, that’s cool. But that isn’t exactly relevant to a discussion about the publishing industry.
  9. Throw the word ‘artist’ around like there is a single definition and temperament inherent in the both the word and occupation. That whole artist-as-delicate-sensitive-flower image? It’s partial truth in some cases, but it’s also not the way to get things done. It is also not an excuse to behave like an indignant wounded victim. (Side-note: as a writer, no one is hired to be artist. They’re hired to WRITE. Artists paint, just FYI.)
  10. Whine. Complain. Wallow. Those things aren’t attractive in any employee. As a writer, you are an employee. You are hired to produce something. Produce it. Go from there. Don’t have a spaz fit when things don’t move as quickly as you’d like, citing THE INDUSTRY as failing. Shit happens in any job. Things get derailed. Projects are delayed. When that happens, you don’t march into your boss’s office and tell her that things are fucked. That’s a one-way ticket to unemployment.
  11. Proselytize about disrespect, while disrespecting others. That is the pot calling the kettle black. It is not particularly endearing, and it does nothing to further the idea of respect.
  12. Demonstrate a lack of understanding for the industry you’re ranting about. For instance, “cancel my ass” is not a phrase commonly found in the publishing lexicon.
  13. Utter the following sentence, “Trust me on this if you can’t understand me.” Whoa. First, you want to be trusted, even though you look like you’re one step away from the starting a cult. Second, you imply that if you aren’t understood, it is somehow the OTHER person’s fault? It is, generally speaking, the burden of the writer to properly communicate. That’s like blaming a math problem for its inability to solve itself.
  14. Be insincere. That is the quickest way to make yourself look like a jackass. No one likes false apologies. It doesn’t make people trust you or want to work with you. If you act like a disgruntled teenager on a pixie stix bender, fine. But that cannot be patched up with an “I’m sorry.” Apologies only work if you mean them.

For the record, I don’t believe that “bright authors [need to] try crazy things.” I think bright authors need to a) write and b) try smart things. Crazy only works in the movies, honey.

But, forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

Misused Words, a Ridiculous Headline, and PEOPLE Magazine

November 10, 2011 13 comments

A rose by any other name would, certainly, smell as sweet. Shakespeare had that perfectly correct. However, it you call something a rose, but it’s not a rose, this could lead to confusion. Substitute, say, a llama. You can call the bloody thing a rose, but it’s not going to smell good. And it’s going to spit. I don’t think anyone at the high school prom wants a llama corsage.

Words matter. It matters how you use them or don’t use them, and if your usage is accurate. For instance, last night, I sat down to read People magazine online. I like idle ridiculous gossip and clothing as much as the next girl. Sometimes, relaxing with an article about George Clooney’s latest ex-girlfriend is a good way to spent a bubble bath (side-note: does anyone else find it creepy that Elisabetta referred to him as fatherly? Ew.)

When I pulled up the page, my jaw fell open. Why? This headline (see if you can spot the one I’m talking about):

Right, it isn’t the one about Nancy Grace’s weighloss. That isn’t a big shocker. You do exercise, you eat right – you generally lose weight. No chocolate-coated miracle pill there.

No, I’m talking about the Baby Lisa headline, the one that describes the strange phone call as “tantalizing.” Does no one at People own a dictionary? Especially given the context of the situation (which you can read about here, if you don’t already have a background in the case). Here’s the explanation (no, too much, I’ll sum up): a baby is missing, the parents seem kind of dodgy, and one of them (the mother) was passed out drunk at the time of the baby’s disappearance.

Apparently, someone made a phone call on a cell phone that supposedly was unable to make calls. This is the mystery. It is not, as the Magazine put it, tantalizing. To use that word implies desire. It implies that something is inviting, desirable but unattainable.

Well, Vezzini, I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Because the word you’re looking for is tragic. This is not an alluring situation. It’s sad. There’s a kid missing. There’s a weird phone call. This is not a game of frakkin’ Clue. It wasn’t Colonel Mustard in the drawing room, with the candlestick.

The long story short is that there is a kid missing. I know that media, especially lately, is fed by sensationalism and hype. I know, unfortunately, that it’s not often about the STORY. It’s about spinning the story. It’s not about the facts or the people; it’s about selling an image.

I also know that People magazine isn’t the epicenter for hardcore journalism. (Honestly, who is anymore? I can’t tell.) But if you are featuring what is an actual news story, shouldn’t you have some level of decency and mindfulness? (Excluding the Inquirer and the odd assortment of things that old people read in the bathroom.)

To me, using the word tantalizing isn’t just incorrect word usage. (Although, it may be.) It is a complete disregard for a horrible situation. It made me angry. Because a kid as missing, and that sucks. Any number of other words would’ve suited that headline (perplexing, mindboggling, confusing, bizarre, suspicious, odd etc, ad infinite). Why not use one of those words?

Perhaps People should stay away for culturally relevant topics, if the Magazine cannot approach them with respect and a dictionary. I suppose that means more features on the Orange People (aka the cast of Jersey Shore). But, hey, at least I know what I’m getting when I see Snooki on the cover: nausea, boredom, and a lingering need to take a shower. Just don’t call her a rose when you do, ok?

What Cannot Be Taught Can Still Be Learned

November 7, 2011 10 comments

The past couple of weeks have been rather difficult. I spent the weekend thinking about it, when I wasn’t writing, running, or cooking. Or, what I like to call the Trifecta of Distraction.

The thought that keeps echoing in my mind is, “How dare you?”

Three words. They mean a lot. They say a lot. I’m over here, fuming. I’m ticked off, and I’m flummoxed. Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: you don’t toss in the towel when things get tough. No, that’s when you pull on your kickass boots and find an ass to kick.

There are times where life is hard. Unimaginably so. Worse the Sisyphus and his damn boulder. Worse that Tantalus and his inability to eat or drink.

Get mad. Get indignant. Get going. Certainly, don’t give up. Because you know what happens then? Well, divide nothing by nothing, times it by nothing – and you get fuck all. Yeah, that’s right: nothing.

Believe me, there are times when I do not want to get out of bed. There are times where the last thing I want to do is talk to people. There are times I cannot talk about things, simply because I don’t have the words. Or the words hurt too much, like swallowing a bomb encased in broken glass. There are other times where I feel like I can’t take two steps in any direction.

To that, I say: bugger it.

Over the past year, I have seen a lot of things. I have seen people fumble the proverbial ball worse than Ray Finkle. (Laces out!) I have seen professionals act like children. I have seen compassion and dedication burn away like fog in the midday sun. I have seen countless people who SHOULD know better prove that an education doesn’t make you a better human being – or a more qualified one. No, it just means you sat through classes and managed not to fail.

You know what school doesn’t teach people? It doesn’t teach them how to fight. How to see a person in front of you and really see them. It doesn’t teach you how to dig your heels in and say, hell no, not me – not now. It doesn’t teach you how to be strong or how to be brave. It doesn’t teach you wisdom. It teaches you facts and reasoning.

But at the end of the day, no one is looking to be held by facts of logic. No one is looking be soothed and placated by impartiality. No, we’re all looking for courage, passion, and kindness.

So many people seem to missing the last one, although it is the simplest of things.

Nothing, except life, teaches you how to look someone in the eye – and refuse to walk away. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, or who this person is. A friend, a lover, a boss, a doctor, a priest, a stranger – whatever.

Ultimately, you make that choice. You make the choice to be a coward and an asshole. You make the choice to try and snuff out the last candle of hope someone might have. You make the choice to act like a callous person, who is more worthy of Tin Man (person) status than anything else.

It is a choice, and some people choose poorly. Some people fail to see the individual, looking at only the numbers. But numbers change. And there is always hope, always another way. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone tell me – or anyone I love – otherwise.

You can be smart and capable, but still not possess enough kindness to fill a thimble. You can be technically right, but fundamentally wrong.

Don’t let anyone dictate your truth. Don’t let anyone squash your drive or your heart. And the next time someone looks at you, with a mix of pity and boredom, you have my permission to call them a coward and prove them wrong.

And when you do, I want to hear about it.

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” ― St. Francis of Assisi