I Read the Internets – 1/27/07

I found myself doing the mental equivalent of writing “iawtc” over and over as I read the internets, this week. One post that inspired a particularly strong bout of identification was Yonmei’s “Opening paragraphs build worlds and close doors“, over at Feminist SF – The Blog!:

In a single paragraph Niven built a world that pointedly excluded me from anything but the state of being observed. That I liked the story itself – it was precisely the kind of hard-SF story that I do like, the sort that opens up a window to what-it-would-be-like-if-we-could – meet aliens; travel from world to world; go find the most unusual planet in the galaxy; see lifeforms that use liquid helium for blood – just made it worse: hard-SF stories don’t need to exclude women so pointedly, so why did Niven so decide? Did he even think about it? Was the invention of a narrator who makes a point of letting you know he’s male, heterosexual, and doesn’t have much time for women, something Niven thought through, or did he just assume that’s the kind of person an action hero ought to be?

I had just finished reading Robert A. Heinlein’s Red Planet moments before I read Yonmei’s post, and the sense of iawtc was quite strong. I like a lot of Heinlein’s stories. He did some pretty awesome worldbuilding, you know? But he also wrote a lot of crap like this, taken from a speech by Doctor MacRae (who reads like one heck of a Heinlein self-insert, by the way) in the tenth chapter:

Now as I see it, this is a frontier society and any man old enough to fight is a man and must be treated as such – and any girl old enough to cook and tend babies is an adult, too.

“¦Yeah. Red Planet is full of afterthought-style mentions of “girls” (but hardly ever women, even with all of the attention paid to describing adolescent boys as men), as well as charming little turns of phrase like “the best joke since God invented women.” Somehow, I feel a little more object-than-subject after reading stuff like that! Can’t imagine why!

Next up on the iawtc list is Grace’s assessment of Mr. and Mrs. Smith at Heroine Content, wherein she points out that the Mrs. half of the couple is rather more bad-ass than the Mr. My take on the movie was quite similar, as longtime readers of Hathor may recall. And while I’m doing the happy “omg I totally said that one time, too!” dance, here’s a post by Sarah of Still Life with Soup Can about Battlestar Galactica and why she digs it more than Star Trek. Among other interesting things, Sarah writes [post since removed]:

I like that Starbuck looks like she could kick some ass. That’s one of my pet peeves about female warriors as depicted on TV and in the movies. Come on. Did you really believe River could knock out all those Reavers in Serenity?

Nope. I sure didn’t.

For those of you who can’t get enough discussion of women in sci-fi television shows, a much-linked post at Megatrouble – “Four Reasons Why Heroes Bothers Me” – will no doubt be of interest, too.

Moving away from sci-fi into the no-less-totally-bizarre world of reality television, I read this week on the internets about a new show that, apparently, is about “When Women Rule the World“:

FOX posits on some potential drama by wondering, “How will the men react? How will the women treat the men? Can women effectively rule society? Will the men learn what life is like for some women in today’s world? Will this new society be a Utopia or a hell on earth? And in the end, who will be man enough to succeed in the new social order?”

I read about this thing because of a linkpost on She’s Such a Geek, provided by Charlie Anders. Whose comment I agree with, in case you’re wondering.

So, uh, speaking of “reality,” another thing I read on the internets this week was this really kind’ve bizarre New York Times article about how HD TV is making porn – or, rather, the bodies of women in porn – too realistic. I don’t even know where to start with that. All I’m gonna say is – can we please stop calling adult women “girls”? I mean, come on! If it’s not cute when Heinlein does it, it’s definitely not cute when porn directors do it.

In rather more real reality on television, TheGirlFromMarz wrote an interesting post this week about a British television show called “Consent”:

This was public service broadcasting, shocking, infuriating and eye-opening, and I hope it has as much of an impact as A Complaint of Rape, the 1982 documentary following a rape investigation by Thames Valley police, which forced the police to change the way they treated rape victims. Consent should do for jury trials of rapists what A Complaint of Rape did for rape investigations. Because, sadly, it seems that the blame for Britain’s dismal rape conviction rate at trial can largely be placed on the jury.

Read her whole post for a very thorough review and many informative links.

Those of you who surf the feminist blogosphere will have noticed a lot of posts about Blog for Choice Day this week. I read tons, and found them all interesting, informative, and moving by turns. One that I think might be of particular interest to Hathor regulars is Ragnell’s at Written World, in which she highlights a comic which portrays a woman’s choice whether or not to have an unplanned child with a great deal of depth.

Ragnell also started a new blog this week that might be of interest to many of you – First Woman [blog since removed], which will:

follow the media coverage and public reaction to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, with comparison to how they react to the male candidates, but don’t be surprised to see discussions of how the media responds to Condeleeza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, and other prominent women in US politics.

And now, to close the week with a little silliness! Many of you may have guessed that I have something of an appreciation for the intersection of geekiness and sweets. It is not surprising that I find Lord of the Peeps pretty hilarious. Also quite hilarious is the Brain Hurting Fanfic Pairer. Denethor/Dr. McCoy? Hah!


  1. MaggieCat says

    I have to say that the “When Women Rule the World” show sounds like a reeeeally bad idea, since it appears to be drawing from the standard reality show contestant pool. In the many, many hours I’ve spent watching reality tv I’ve noticed a trend: that while there are sometimes men that aren’t the attention seeking type who decide to do a show ‘just for fun’, women who actually are secure, intelligent, and strong don’t usually show up*. Personally I think it’s because any woman who possesses those characteristics and watches reality tv has noticed that women tend to be treated SO much worse than the men. Women are often held to a higher standard of behavior and knocked down harder for qualities that are praised in the male contestants. Also: it’s on Fox. They have much evil to atone for in the reality genre.

    (*All of this is why I’m actually in favour of shows going out actively looking for specific contestants rather than using cattle calls- it’s part of what made the last season of Survivor so interesting- when you widen your casting pool to include people who don’t think winning a contest is the be all end all of existence, have fulfilling lives outside the quest for tv fame, and are mostly free from major personality disorders you actually end up with a show that doesn’t makes you question the decency of humanity. )

  2. says

    Plus, the women who are “ruling the world” are still going to be women that were raised and acculturated in modern Western society, and the men will have the very same cultural baggage. It’s not as though they’ll be doing some kind of grand experiment in a social vacuum. I predict that the show will merely illuminate the many ways in which people can be petty and awful to one another, and that some viewers will firmly believe that that proves something about the leadership abilities of women. Blargggh.

  3. sarah says

    Thanks for the link.

    You know, I loved it in War Stories when River shot all those guys with her eyes closed. She’s a psychic, so that ought to help her as a fighter– she can see where you are/where you’re about to go and shoot you. That part made sense. It was a realistic application of her powers. But then in Serenity we see her taking down all these bad guys through hand to hand combat. I didn’t think it fit with what we knew about what made her special. That combined with the fact that the actress is so tiny… it was an eye-roll moment for me. I thought it felt like they fell back on “the usual,” to my disappointment, and I see someone else agreed!

  4. says

    I loved it in War Stories when River shot all those guys with her eyes closed. She’s a psychic, so that ought to help her as a fighter – she can see where you are/where you’re about to go and shoot you. That part made sense. It was a realistic application of her powers.

    Yes, exactly! And it was also cool. But then later it seemed like the desire for awesome overwhelmed previous character-building stuff, and that was way less cool.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    Re: Yomei’s article. The feeling of exclusion she describes is exactly what I feel every time aliens from another planet in a Trek series wax on about father-son inheritance practices, or alien couples share the husband’s last name, etc. I do not find it credible that aliens from another planet would observe the same patriarchal customs we observe, and when these customs follow me from Earth TV out into the rest of the universe, it feels like someone is telling me, “Give it up – men rule the whole universe. There’s nowhere you can go that you won’t be expected to smile pretty and ask nicely.”

    Of course, what Yomei points out is a lot less subtle than that. I don’t understand why there’s a debate about whether authors like these are misogynists. Or course they hate women, or at the very least they’re not concerned about sounding exactly like redneck types who marry women, father women, and fight for women because that’s what you do with property, not because they respect or appreciate them as humans.

    Which brings me to Consent. Jury prejudices about rape begin to make sense when you accept one rule of thumb that governs many minds in our society: women are not people, they are the property of men. When a man rapes a woman who belongs to another man, and that man hunts him down and kills him in cold blood, the jury will be far more sympathetic toward the avenging man than toward the rape victim. When the victim demonstrates that she owns herself – by engaging in a consensual sex life, for example – it no longer matters if she was raped, because no man has been wronged. Her crime is trying to own herself instead of being owned by a man. The rapist is no more guilty than someone who finds a $20 bill and spends it, having no way of tracing it to its owner.

    As for this reality show… well, when hiring of minorities was forced upon business owners a few decades ago, they employed a strategy to help defeat it: you simply hire the very worst minority candidate for the job, thus proving that “[minority] can’t do the job”. As Maggie points out, reality shows generally employ a similar strategy: hire only people who fit the stereotypes they claim the audience wants to see reflected in TV. More “proof” that no one’s as awesome as white het men.

  6. SunlessNick says

    Re Consent:

    There is a widespread feeling now among the (male) British public and right-wing media that if a woman makes a false rape accusation (translation: the accused is acquitted, or the case doesn’t come to trial for whatever reason, as opposed to those where the alleged victim is proved to be lying) she should receive the same sentence the accused would have – every rape case that doesn’t end in a conviction seems to provoke such calls – or rather, you’ve guessed it, every case where the alleged victim is female. As yet, none have been honest enough to refer to such a law as a “rapists’ charter” – also none of them have been honest enough to admit that this means they don’t believe that women should be innocent until proven guilty.

    Re Heroes:

    Nikki sounds annoying; which is a shame, because I quite like Ali Larter (who I mostly know as the sweet one from Final Destination).

    Re River:

    And [the blindfiring] was also cool. But then later it seemed like the desire for awesome overwhelmed previous character-building stuff, and that was way less cool. – Revena

    A comment I saw made about Buffy once (or more precisely, made about female ass-kickers in general while in a discussion about Buffy) was that the new “formula” says a female character can be strong so long as she doesn’t look strong. Presumably to emphasise the idea of her as a fantasy. In the case of Buffy herself, I don’t mind, as she has supernatural powers, and the disparity between them and her appearance figures into her character (and others’ reactions to her) – but River doesn’t have that – physically, she’s meant to be a normal human, and an emaciated one at that.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    Nick, there’s a huge belief in the US that now women can just yell “rape” and instantly a man goes to jail. This is… at best an extreme exaggeration, at worst an attempt to bolster our country’s “rape culture” to the point where rape will become unprosecutable.

    Yes, there have been false imprisonments with rape. There have also been false imprisonments with murder, but you don’t hear anyone suggesting people who mis-identify a killer should receive capital punishment. It’s absurd.

    Rape is a very difficult crime to prove. Only 11-16% of all cases brought end in conviction. Most instances of rape are not even reported, let alone investigated, let alone prosecuted. DNA evidence goes a long way toward preventing false identifications, and as many judges have recently demonstrated, an accuser’s claim that the sex act was non-consensual is hardly treated as iron-clad.

    The history behind this is, of course, the prosecution of victims who accused rapists… something that I notice never seemed to bother the people who are now so concerned about rapists being falsely prosecuted.

  8. says

    SunlessNick said:

    A comment I saw made about Buffy once (or more precisely, made about female ass-kickers in general while in a discussion about Buffy) was that the new “formula” says a female character can be strong so long as she doesn’t look strong. Presumably to emphasise the idea of her as a fantasy.

    Yes, I can see that. And it makes me craaaazy. Personal anecdote time! I once had major hots for a guy who was in my social circle. We did a lot of the things together that I do with all of my friends – watching movies, playing video games – and I noticed something that was very personally upsetting. Every time a slender, lovely girl on the television screen did some kick-ass action sequence stuff, he’d talk about how “totally sexy” aggressive, strong women are. And then half an hour later, he’d be all pissed off at me for doing well at a game that required aggression or strength, or, like, joking about punching someone. He said more than once, to my face, that I was too aggressive, and that he found it off-putting (I’ll clarify here that while I am very verbally assertive, and I take up space in a physical way that’s not quite in line with what the majority of women are socialized to do, I’m not anywhere near antisocial levels of physical aggression – I don’t go around getting in fights, or anything like that).

    I guess it’s only sexy when it’s an unrealistic fantasy.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve been labeled “too aggressive” for:

    — being verbally assertive, not at all aggressive
    — stating what I’m looking for rather than coyly flirting toward my goal
    — my favorite: cracking a joke before He has had a chance to show off his devastating wit
    — saying something insightful/thoughtful before He has managed to input a canned response that he read in a textbook and thought sounded smart

    I don’t run into these criticisms in L.A. much, but I do think they have been at least some of the reasons why guys have mysteriously backed away from me after initially showing much interest. I mean, gosh, don’t I realize men are entitled to a chance to prove themselves? All I need to do is stand there and look pretty, and they’ll want me (until they find something prettier, get bored, etc.)! Why do I muddle things up be demonstrating I’m a human being with a mind?

    As polite as L.A. men have learned to be, I think the majority of the ones I meet still need a woman with whom they can feel superior, heroic, special. That’s difficult with me, because even if I pretend for a while, eventually they’re going to learn that I’ve taken the responsibility to be my own hero and champion in life rather than wait for a man to come along. There have got to be men out there who appreciate that rather than get a bruised ego from it, but I don’t meet ’em.

  10. SunlessNick says

    Nick, there’s a huge belief in the US that now women can just yell “rape” and instantly a man goes to jail. – BetaCandy

    That’s also common in Britain – among the same people who cite all the non-convictions as proof that the women concerned need prison. I don’t know precisely how they expect the contradiction to go unseen.

  11. SunlessNick says

    I guess it’s only sexy when it’s an unrealistic fantasy. – Revena

    I wonder if the phenomenon is also an invitation to male viewers to take comfort in the idea that a “real man” could still put her in her place. (Not that I think Joss Whedon himself wants to make that invitation).

    I also wonder if it ties to the common trope that a woman with power is somehow its victim rather than its owner. Yes, there can be good mileage to come out of a character being victim to their power, especially in horror, but it seemes to be the default for female characters and the exception for male ones. Tiny, reedy kick-ass women might look easier to portray as having their abilities be something that happens to them.

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