The Mailbag 4-17-08

I’ve gotten a couple of very interesting emails recently, none of which I have time (or am likely to have time in the next few months) to address in the depth they deserve. But you guys can, in the comments!

SunlessNick writes:

A common theme of spam email is to offer penis enlargement – which is mostly just annoying, but today crossed the line into truly offensive.  The subject line was “Terrorise her with 9 massive inches.”

*Terrorise* her?

I’m being offered plastic surgery to apparently make me more terrifying to women.  Whether they really mean terror, or it’s another yet conflation of sex with violence, the only difference is the exact flavour of the sick.

No kidding. Ironically, I wrote about misogynistic spam (subject line: “Loving means ramming”) on my LiveJournal recently, in which I concluded:

Spammers are trying to sell a product. They are marketers, and some of them make very big money. Because they’re not accountable like TV or print advertisers, not constrained by the marketplace’s need to balance sales to some viewers against offending other valuable viewers, they’re free to say what they most believe the audience really wants to hear.

This is what they think men want to hear: “hurt her, and you’ll finally feel significant.”

Nialla sent this link from the Globe & Mail which talks about the uprise of both women screenwriters in Canadian TV and the – gasp – growing recognition that the female audience member has money and spends it, a fact leading business journals have been unable to press on Hollywood for over a decade:

In the last 10 years, female screenwriters in Canada have made huge strides, muscling their way onto TV screens, leaving an indelible stamp on comedy, drama, and action series across network schedules. In fact, while women used to be a distinct minority in writing rooms, their numbers are now on par with men, who typically used to be hired to write action and comedy, while women were relegated to handle emotional and romantic scenes that required that “female touch.”

But while women writers are making their mark in part by conquering territory once claimed almost exclusively by men, it hasn’t hurt, either, that Canadian networks are hungry for female viewers, especially those 25 and older, a coveted demographic for advertisers.

“We were both in our 20s, in our little black dresses, in a sea of men,” recalls the 38-year-old Chellas, laughing. “It felt strange, but there was no one else in the room like us. That’s utterly changed now. I know so many women running shows, writing television and movies. There are a huge number of exciting women’s voices out there. Now if it were only the same for female directors.”

The news is mixed, of course. Women are being brought in as writers, not directors, because the execs want shows that appeal to women, which presumes that all women think alike. Women should have been brought in because they can write. I mean, we’ll take what we can get, but Canadian women writers are still in the position of “proving” themselves to their male overlords, or else they’re all out on the street the minute female viewers become less enticing. A decline in male viewership, conversely, doesn’t threaten male screenwriting jobs. Nope, men are the default and women are still a niche. That thinking has to change before there will be lasting security for women in film and TV. And you’ll notice they still aren’t “letting” us direct.


  1. says

    I find the ad that is currently posted everywhere for The Tudors to be disturbing in a similar way to the spam you mention. The line “King takes Queen” under an intended-to-be-sensual image of Anne being strangled by Henry seems to trivialize sexual violence. I don’t know if the image is supposed to foreshadow Anne’s execution, or if it is just a misogynistic attempt to make the show seem edgy and sexy. Either way, it makes my stomach turn every time I see it. Unlike spammers, HBO does have to worry about giving offense, so I’m confused about how this image got approved in the first place.

  2. says

    Oh, I know what you mean. I think the add got approved because violence against women IS mostly trivialized.

    The dominant idea seems to be that women are equal to men now in every way feminism/the law can fix, and the inequalities we still suffer are nature’s fault, so we just have to learn to live with them. This idea is rooted in so much gender essentialist assumptions I hardly know where to begin listing them all. They mostly boil down to “men are naturally hideous, violent assholes, and women are naturally caring and nurturing.” Which begs the question if people really believe that, why don’t we put men in zoos – a controlled environment for wild animals, where they can function as nature intended without being a danger to decent folk, namely women? Since we don’t do this, I’m assuming people don’t really believe their own bullshit – it’s just astounding amounts of doublethink they don’t even realize they’re doing.

  3. Scarlett says

    I don’t know if the image is supposed to foreshadow Anne’s execution, or if it is just a misogynistic attempt to make the show seem edgy and sexy

    This is how I interpreted the point of the rape scene in The other Boleyn Girl, someone’s idea of illustrating Henry’s increasing cruelty and indifference, as someone with absolute power in general and Henry towards Anne specifically. But there are mountains of documented incidents deomstrating Henry’s cruelty (to Anne and others), they had to make up sexual violence to demonstrate it?

    Feel free to call me on it if I start blathering on about Tudor England too much, it’s a passion of mine :p

  4. SunlessNick says

    Shakespeares Sister has a post up about violent penis-spam at the moment; that makes three of us bringing it up in the space of a few weeks. I wonder if it’s becoming more common as a spam-theme.

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