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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers, let him go
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

You knew that wasn't the original lyrics to that rhyme, right? I was thinking about that today, about euphemisms, dog whistles, about thugs, about tigers, because the other saying about tigers is, what do you do when you have a tiger by the tail? Like America has Black people. We can't hold on to him forever. It's getting harder to ignore the hollering. This fear won't let us let him go.
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Last weekend we got a babysitter (!) and went out to see a movie (!!!) and we saw Belle, which was pretty great and could totally have been entitled Awkward Turtle, because the entire movie was basically people going “I’m sorry, I…was not told that there would be a black woman in this Merchant Ivory film. Well. This is awkward. Ah…was Helena Bonham Carter busy, or…”

What I didn’t like about the movie: the way the dude playing John Davinier delivers every single line in the last 45 minutes of the movie as though he is just barely holding back his tears of manly passion.

What I did like about the movie: So many things. Let’s start with the way it explicitly lays out Dido’s - and Elizabeth’s - double bind with regards to marriage. Remember, in Emma, Emma telling Harriet:
If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it."

"Dear me! it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!"

"I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house, as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man's eyes as I am in my father’s.”
Well holy shit, she wasn’t wrong, you know. Dido is an heiress; rich in her own right. When she marries, control of all her money and property, like literally down to the change in her pocket, passes into the hands of her husband. He could starve her, beat her, rape her if he chooses, both by law and custom. Emma, single, sees how well off she is as she is. Dido and Elizabeth see that by marrying they are literally betting their lives on a man’s character. Elizabeth must marry anyway: she has no money and no way of earning any except at the altar. But Dido’s uncle decrees that she, with her independence, must not marry; because anyone noble enough for her to marry would refuse to marry a black woman, and anyone willing to marry a black woman would be so low in rank as to disgrace her.

Thanks, Groucho, you’re a terrible matchmaker. Dido and Elizabeth also see the consequences of not marrying. Emma waves off those consequences. The well-off, elderly spinster: Emma characterizes her as
an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty. Woman's usual occupations of eye and hand and mind will be as open to me then, as they are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work. And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation that declining life can need. There will be enough for every hope and every fear; and though my attachment to none can equal that of a parent, it suits my ideas of comfort better than what is warmer and blinder.
Dido however sees clearly how her spinster aunt is always a companion (never the Doctor;) not respected, not central, though she lives in a home it is not a home of her own. It’s a powerful scene when her uncle, who genuinely loves Dido, tries to physically put that role upon her. A role of relative independence and safety. She literally runs in horror.

I must note that Emma also passes pretty lightly over enforced celibacy and sterility. If you don’t want kids, more power to you, but Dido’s white uncle decreeing that Dido could never have children, whether she would or not, is an oppression with a particularly horrible resonance and relevance for a black woman.

And, unlike Emma, though Dido has money, what she doesn’t have is friends. Only her aunt and uncle, more than a generation older. Theoretically she has rank: in reality, she has no place in society. Who would support her rank, once her aunt and powerful uncle are gone? Who would befriend and protect the anomalous black lady?

And so Belle shows us how, in a system of inescapable oppression, the degree to which you have any choices becomes the degree to which your actions make you complicit in your own oppression. Should Dido, not a slave by the merest chance, as she is starkly aware throughout the entire film, deliberately give up her legal right to personhood by marrying - no, I don’t exaggerate, see William Blackstone: “By marriage, the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended, or at least incorporated or consolidated into that of the husband…”? Or should she deliberately accept an untenable social position? And does it even make sense to talk about this rich, free black woman as occupying an untenable social position when the movie confronts you with another black woman, Mabel, whose position is never made clear? Dido’s uncle says she is paid a good wage - he also says he lives “under the family’s protection”…? Mabel’s scenes with Dido are brief but intense: are they two black women meeting in an alien country? Are they mistress and servant with an unbridgeable gulf between them? Are they a knowledgeable woman, member of a community and perhaps a family, and a castaway girl who doesn’t even know how to comb her own hair? Can Mabel help Dido? Should she? Why should she?

The movie is just a beautiful illustration of the concept of kyriarchy. Belle fences with Davinier: is she punching up because she’s a woman and he’s a man? Punching down because she’s rich and he isn’t? Punching up because she’s black and he’s white? Punching down because she’s noble and he isn’t? Punching up because she’s illegitimate and he isn’t? Punching down because he needs the job working for her uncle? The answer is irrelevant, the point is to realize that they’re all caught in so many systems of inequality and stratified oppression that trying to separate out just one and say “Let’s attack just this one!” is doomed to failure. I can’t find the citation now, but someone wrote recently about remembering that intersectionality theory is not about self-consciously tallying up which of your identities are privileged and which aren’t: it’s about addressing the way that systems of power work to reinforce each other. Twitter is making it hard to pretend that garden variety societal misogyny isn’t the fertile ground in which the Isla Vista shooter’s hatred of women grew: but also keep in mind that one thing that enraged him was that a black guy talked about having sex with a blonde girl. Does this sound familiar? That Rodger saw women only as prizes, that he thought black men were defiling what he thought of as his prizes, that he thought black men were unworthy of prizes - it’s part of the same story. The hierarchies reinforce each other, and they are murderous.

aunty dote

Jan. 1st, 2013 08:29 pm
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The trip to see Bro & GF & Niece went great. Didn't have to drive in the snow, the Junebug napped part of the way there & all the way back, enjoyed the visit. Even had a Skype conversation with my mom and all of us together, and she got to see Niece & really enjoyed it. Bro & GF have a really nice house with a big backyard, cute little town, all of that was great. Niece is adorable. Omg. She is the most beautiful baby. She is so smiley and wiggly and fun.

My heart goes out to her though. She's going to have a long hard road. They're worried about how fat she is.

She's nine weeks old.

Mr. E and I tried to mention that it's GOOD for babies to be fat because they're so small and growing so fast that one bout of illness can burn right through their reserves. I hope they took it onboard but I have a strong sense that because I am fat they think I have a lot of pro-fat propaganda and I just want everyone to be fat.

Bro and GF gave the Junebug an awesome dragon hat for Christmas, which unfortunately thanks to his enormous melon head juuuuuust fits and will clearly be outgrown in two months. That's okay, we said! We love the hat and he will wear it this winter and when he outgrows it we will send it back to you and Niece can wear it because it is awesome.

Niece can't wear a dragon hat! GF said. She's a girl!

Long, hard road ahead of that little girl. And there's so little one can do to help. Even less in my family, because thanks to my mom all of our people-interfering-in-how-you-raise-your-kids needs are already FULLY met, thanks.

Sigh. I don't know. They may be worried about how fat she is, but they're sure not starving her. She's a happy little baby, they must be treating her right. Her room is all set up and it's gorgeous. She's going to grow up with a big yard and a cat and two dogs. There is plenty that the Junebug should envy her. I'm sure we're all just doing the best we can, no matter what kind of game we talk. Right?
metaphortunate: (going to win)

Looks like it got called while we were brushing the baby's teeth and putting him to bed. Well, you know how it is. Before election: feed baby, do laundry. After election: feed baby, do laundry.

And it looks like all the pro-rape guys lost, which makes me very happy.

It did start me wondering, though. That fact that you can't say the pro-rape Republican candidate lost, you have to specify which one. Now, as you know, the GOP ran a female candidate in the last presidential election, and they got their asses handed to them. I wonder if the party made a policy decision that trying to attract the female vote, or claim to be aligned with women's interests, or whatever the fuck they were trying to do with Sarah Palin, was a fool's game, and that this year, they were going to deliberately say the hell with women's concerns, we are going to demonize women and court only the male vote.

We'll know soon if anything like that happened, because if so, there's probably a lot of frustrated Republican strategists vowing tonight to never let any candidate mention another "women's issue" again. "Fuck it! You can't be for them! You can't be against them! From now on we're just going to pretend women don't even goddamn exist!"
metaphortunate: (Default)
I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, but while I was lying around sick last weekend I enjoyed Jennifer Armintrout's sporking of same. It's funny! But man, are there a lot of people out there moaning that the writing is terrible, and no wonder they can't get published if this is what people want, and - more seriously - that isn't it terrible that women apparently find this sexy and want to fantasize about a creeper like Chedward Grullen. I do find it kind of funny that when Twilight came out it was all "what about the children" fretting about what kind of example Bella was for teenage girls and now that 50 Shades is apparently "mommy porn" the zeitgeist effortlessly shifted to fretting about, apparently, what kind of example Ana is for middle-aged moms.

About the bad writing: as @PennyRed says: "Um, hello? It's PORN." Porn doesn't have to be lapidary or groundbreakingly original. It gets popular on different terms. Bitterly announcing that 50 Shades's overwhelming popularity is a sign of the end of literacy and shows why your carefully crafted novel can't sell - i.e., it's wasted on the inferior readers of today - is pathetic. You don't see moviemakers do this. Kathryn Bigelow doesn't go around blaming The Hurt Locker's depressingly small box office on the popularity of Big Wet Asses #14. Or at least not in public.

Not, to be clear, that Ms. Armintrout does that either. She's got a sense of humor about the writing ("Chapter 8: This One Time I Fucked A Girl So Hard She Turned Into a Pirate"). But she goes on and on and ON - and she's hardly the only one - about how she cannot believe that there are women out there who talking about wanting their own Christian Grey. Because the dude's an abusive creep.

But I kind of think she's missing the active ingredient of the fantasy. 50 Shades didn't introduce the concept of abusive creeps to women at large. Twilight didn't. How many of the girls whom everyone is all worried about their reading material, have already encountered the abusive creep up close and personal in real life? The appealing aspect of 50 Shades/Twilight isn't that the hero is an abusive creep. The appeal is that in this fantasy-fulfillment fiction, the abusive creep is just misunderstood, and really means well, and only wanted the best for you all along.

Does that sound familiar? Because it's what people have been saying about Rene Welling at Readercon. Hell, it's what people always say first thing at cons and in high schools when some asshole harasses a woman. He didn't mean anything by it. Man, don't you think women want that to be true? I'm reminded of one time at Wiscon when people were making fun of the healing cock trope and [personal profile] commodorified stood up and said, gosh, you know, why would a community overwhelmingly made up of women be attracted to a fantasy where one bout of good sex would cause you to just magically get over your trauma from being raped? It's a mystery! We all shut the hell up. Why would women resonate with a fantasy where the scary dude who won't leave you alone turns out to be only scary in a thrilling way, turns out to be sexy, turns out to be rich and secretly kind and fixable under his rough exterior and perfect once he's been tamed by the power of your love and understanding?

Cause we get told and told that these creepy dudes should be forgiven, understood, worked around, given the benefit of the doubt. And yet, of course, when you were the one in the situation, you know what happened. And it's fucked up and disorienting to have the world at large telling you what you know isn't so. You end up all, am I crazy? Am I the one that's crazy? Do I really have to break my community now to deal with this? And, y'know, sometimes you do. I'm so grateful to [ profile] glvalentine for doing that. But I tell you what that is not: it's not a relaxing wank fantasy. And there's a place in life for fantasy. Sometimes you don't want to read only manifestos. And if you'd like to take a break from cognitive dissonance, and you don't fantasize about fighting; maybe sometimes you fantasize that maybe the world works the way people tell you it should, and you're neither crazy nor being lied to and manipulated ALL THE FUCKING TIME, and that if you follow the rules you'll be rewarded and safe and get love and good sex and fun. It's a lie, you know it's a lie, but it's not hurting anyone for a woman to enjoy a fiction for a while. All porn should be so harmless.
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It occurs to me that one of the annoying things about the GOP's war on women is that I miss feeling like Sheri Tepper was over the top.
metaphortunate: (Default)
Blehhhh. I have so much crap, oh my god, so many things. And all the things I own need to be cleaned or folded or restocked or wiped or sorted or hung up or mailed or filled out or run through the wash or Lord, thrown away, or sharpened or mended or mostly just moved from one place to another. They all need to be moved from one place to another. The sweaters need to be moved to the shelf in the closet so that the tights and long underwear and pyjamas can be moved to the sweater drawer so that the summer clothes can be moved to the pyjama drawer so that the electronics can be moved to the summer clothes drawer. The books need to be rearranged on the shelves. The shoes need to be moved to the shoe rack. Why can't anything be in the place that it needs to end up in? Why must it all be somewhere else?

I dreamed the other night that Mr. E and I moved to a new house and we were fighting because I wanted to throw away at least half of everything we owned. I woke up and it still kind of seems like a good idea. Imagine all the space we'd have. ♥_____♥

In reality what Mr. E and I have been fighting over for weeks on end is what to feed the baby. :(

The baby did eat though! Yesterday! He deliberately opened up his little mouth and moved his little head forward and ingested some prunes! He's done it twice! I think he likes pureed prunes! And FURTHERMORE, today he deliberately opened his mouth and took in some chile verde! He immediately spat it back out again, but that's okay - if he gets the idea that you put food IN your face before you decide whether or not you like it, that would be a huge step forward!

In other news, the Republican war on women....I can't even deal. Just wondering which state legislature is gonna be the first to pass a law requiring a woman to carry around a dead fetus in a jar for three days before she can get an abortion. Or birth control pills.
metaphortunate: (at one with the universe)
Took baby for a walk with mom. No sidewalks in mom's suburb of course, so guy in truck yelled at us for walking in the street. Two white kids with a dog greeted us in Spanish, & when I responded in Spanish, yelled "this ain't Mexico!" after us. I told them to go to hell. I want to go home. :(
metaphortunate: (Default)
I just read The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer. It's extremely funny, and the interesting thing is, the pseudoeponymous Ajax himself is an extremely funny man. Which got me thinking. There are not so many people out there writing characters who are very funny people, and I wonder why? My first thought was that it might be like the well-known problem of writing a character who is smarter than you are; but no, even very funny writers don't write very funny characters. I mean, they write characters who make you laugh; but much more rarely characters whom you would think were funny people if you met them, who do it on purpose. You laugh your ass off at Bertie Wooster's hapless drollery, but he's not doing it to get a laugh out of others. Ned's internal monologue in Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog is witty and sharp and makes the book itself funny, but there's no indication that he's ever particularly funny out loud. Nick in Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Covenant trilogy is a whiz with the one-liners - actually, so is everyone else in the first book, in very similar voices, which is a flaw in that book that basically disappeared over the rest of the series and it's so nice to see a writer do a thing like that - but you couldn't exactly call him humorous. Jamie, maybe. Jane Austen clearly could make her characters funny but she only gives the anal sex jokes to Mansfield Park's Mary so that she can later moralize about how terrible she is with the levity and all. (I'm not joking, Austen n00bs. There's a buttsex joke in Mansfield Park. Austen could work blue, she just didn't want to.) Lord Peter Wimsey, of course, is funny as hell, but Sayers cheats: more than half his jokes are quotes, as though she didn't trust herself to write them, which is ridiculous.

Of course Ajax, like a lot of Heyer's other funny heroes, has it easy, in that he has the heroine to laugh at his jokes - and be the butt of them. As always, it reminds me of that Woolf quote:
Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size...That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men... Under the spell of that illusion, I thought, looking out of the window, half the people on the pavement are striding to work. They put on their hats and coats in the morning under its agreeable rays. They start the day confident, braced, believing themselves desired at Miss Smith’s tea party; they say to themselves as they go into the room, I am the superior of half the people here, and it is thus that they speak with that self-confidence, that selfassurance, which have had such profound consequences in public life and lead to such curious notes in the margin of the private mind.
Sure it's easier to be funny when being funny is sexy, when coming off the better in the battle of wits gets you what you want. Hugo wants Anthea and Anthea wants Hugo, that is a fact. But in the way their conflict is set up - the classic way that courtship is set up - if Hugo is cleverer than Anthea, Hugo and Anthea get each other, and if Anthea is cleverer than Hugo, neither of them gets to be happy. What's Anthea's motivation to be clever, or funny, or effective, or wise, when doing it gets her punished instead of rewarded? Of course she plays to lose. Millions of years of training women to let men win; and then claim that women are bad at negotiation.
metaphortunate: (fandom)
[personal profile] thefourthvine did a recs set of Stories That Will Make You Uncomfortable And You Will Love It. And I must second the recommendation for "The Death of Narcissa Black: A Potion." Because it is amazing and terrible. And, you know, not that it resonates or anything. hahaha*sob*

The other thing I've been reading is Fearless Formula Feeder. Cause it turns out when I'm back at work I can't pump enough to feed the kid exclusively on milk. And yes, it cost me a few tears. I honestly do not think that formula is a bad thing. But I suspect there's an instinct to feed your kid and to freak out if you feel like you can't. At least until it sinks into your brain that the kid is still getting fed.

You know, though. One of the things that blogger says is a reason not to breastfeed, is that it makes the mom have to be the primary caretaker, and that it doesn't allow the other parent to bond with the baby as well. I call bullshit. You know what makes the mom be the primary caretaker? The fact that the mom is so frequently the only one who gets leave. When we brought the Junebug home from the hospital, and Mr. E and I were both on leave, I barely changed a diaper until he went back to work. I handled input, he handled output. When I was having trouble nursing: if I was nursing and crying, he was sitting next to me on the couch, holding my hand, getting me drinks, taking the baby out of the room so I could get a break and sleep for an hour. He's always been better at swaddling the Junebug and he's probably better at getting him to go to sleep. I would not be nursing today if it hadn't been for Mr. E, he was the key to making that work. My going back to work has been 1000x easier because Mr. E was actually able to split his leave and so I have left the baby home with his dad for a few weeks, which means I know he's okay as I adjust to being back at work. And so few dads have the option of being there for their families like that.


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