When is a Fridge Not a Fridge?


WARNING: SPOILERS FOR “MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN” FOR THE PS4

I’ve wanted to play the Spider-Man game for the PS4 basically since it came out. “It’s so pretty! And it looks so fun!” but I wavered over the price, and my fear that it would go the way of Assassins Creed 3 (me failing to perform the particular sneak/acrobatic trick that was needed enough times in a row I said “fuckit” and made someone come over and do it for me, and then never kept playing because that was not a super workable solution.) When I finally found it on sale I bought it. And it. Was. Glorious. It is my favorite adaptation of the original Peter Parker story, and is very close to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse for my favorite Spider-man adaptation, ever. It’s so good. It leaves core story elements as they are while updating aspects in a fun and interesting way (J Jonah Jameson is an Alex Jones’ Infowars style radio host and it is so perfect I almost cried). It starts after Uncle Ben dies (all Spider-Man adaptations should start after Uncle Ben dies).  It lets you change powers independently of costumes, so you don’t have to give up looking cool just so that you could use the best powers. I could literally spend an hour just swinging around New York City. Even though the collectables element of the game is slightly maddening it is also really thoughtful, with tons of Easter eggs. It handles pretty much all of the characters with depth, and gives the bad guys pathos without forgiving them for their actions. But do you know what the game did to really, truly, win me over forever?

It killed Aunt May.

….kind of a record scratch moment coming from me, right? Let me explain.

Occasionally when I’m arguing with people about the Women in Refrigerators trope, a disingenuous MRA will say something like, “What, are female characters not allowed to have bad things happen to them or be killed?”  (Click here if you’re not familiar with the trope.)  In their view, anyone who complains about “fridging” just never wants any female characters to have anything bad happen to them. And that’s not what I mean—I just want those bad things to mean something, especially to the character that it is happening to. I want the female character to be well-rounded and fully presented, and for their death or injury to have meaning beyond “the inspiration to make the hero go kick some ass.”

Aunt May’s death in this game has so. Much. Meaning.

Well first of all, Aunt May herself has so much meaning. Aunt May, in this game, has a fully realized life outside of Peter. Quick, what do any of the Aunt Mays in any of the recent adaptations do for a living? Is she retired? Does she garden? Does she volunteer for anything? Basically only the Aunt May in the most recent film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, seems to have any life outside of her nephew. The Aunt May in the game is fully fleshed out, and has a life and motivations of her own. Aunt May is a volunteer/staff member at a homeless shelter, one that she has obviously gotten Peter to spend a lot of time at as well since some of the residents know his name. She distributes supplies, talks to residents, and handles situations. She obviously loves Peter and watches over him, while allowing him to be the adult that he is in this game.

In the latter half of the game, a bio-engineered illness is sweeping the city at the same time Rikers’ entire population has been released. Even as civilization seems to be crumbling, with people too ill to do their jobs, hospitals overcrowded, and looting going amok (one of the game’s only failures is it seems to think that all people in prison are actually stereotypical baddies who will immediately start taking over neighborhoods and harassing people, and not like, going home because they’ve been in prison for 10 years for an ounce of weed), Aunt May focuses on keeping the shelter above water, making it a safe haven in the chaos. She cares for the sick who are in the shelter, and makes sure they have supplies and medicine.

And then Aunt May gets sick.

Like pretty much every battlefield nurse, she eventually succumbs to the illness she was helping to treat in others. She powers on, coughing up blood and taking a moment to realize what is happening, before steeling her spine and going back to work.

She is critically ill as Spider-Man goes into his final battle, with the aim to retrieve the antidote to the illness. Eventually he succeeds, but the stakes are high. He only has one vial of the cure; enough to cure one person, or to be used as the basis for a synthesis of enough cure for the whole city. But not both. And Aunt May doesn’t have long enough to live to later receive the synthesized cure.

Spider-Man walks into Aunt May’s room, clutching the cure. He is obviously choked up when he tells her, “You’re going to be okay, ma’am. I’ve got the cure right here.” She replies, “Take off your mask. I want to see my nephew,” revealing that she has known all along that he is Spider-Man. He tells her that he never wanted her to worry—she lets him know that she did worry, but that she is proud of him, and that Uncle Ben would be, too. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.) Obviously distraught, Peter tells her, “I don’t know what to do.” With the bemused smile of every parental figure who has figured something out before their child, she tells him, “Yes, you do.” She starts coughing, and Peter moves to put the cure into her IV line, working himself up to make the selfish but loving choice in the face of his aunt’s pain. He doesn’t. He sets the antidote aside, and the angle moves so that we can see May’s now-unconscious form, Peter kneeling at her bedside, clutching her hand and sobbing. The sound of her EKG gets louder and louder. The scene fades to black, and her EKG flatlines. And I’m crying.

(I am legit crying AGAIN from just writing this and re-watching the scene on YouTube.)

May’s death is poignant, and heartbreaking, and not fridging. Because May’s death is about May, not Peter. A villain didn’t pick on May because of Peter—May got sick doing what she was passionate about, taking care of people at the shelter. May’s sickness didn’t drive Peter to heroism or revenge—Peter was already in search of the antidote before he even knew that May was sick. May’s death wasn’t something to motivate Peter—he was already a hero, and already saving the day. The closest May’s death gets to being “about” Peter is that it serves as something as a test for Peter; but as May points out, Peter already knew the right thing to do.

 Even though the game is focused on Peter, May’s character has a full, fleshed-out arc over the course of the game. Her life and her death have meaning to the character and to the audience.

This is what Avengers: End Game thought it was doing when it killed the Black Widow. (Spoilers, it was not.)

Bad things can happen to female characters in media. In fact, if we want equal representation in media, bad things are bound to happen to female characters, because bad things happen to people, and women are half of all people. But those bad things should be purposeful. They should be doing something for the character and for the story. Women shouldn’t just be sexually assaulted to show how evil the bad guy is. Women shouldn’t just be kidnapped or murdered to inspire their boyfriends or fathers to go on killing sprees. Women should have lives, and character arcs, and meaning unto themselves. Like Aunt May.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is a play on Margitte’s “Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe” painting, depicting a refrigerator with the caption “Ceci N’est Pas Un Refrigerateur.”

I Know It When I See It (“It” Is Sexism)

When discussing obscenity, one Supreme Court Justice whom I am too lazy to look up right now* said that he would “know it when [he sees] it.” Like most moralistic crusades, rules against obscenity, sexuality, and sexually suggestive dress/behavior are usually left vague, opening them up to a lot of subjective interpretation. And wouldn’t you know it, that interpretation almost always winds up punishing women worse than men. Isn’t that just so weird?

Everything from school dress codes to online nipple bans tells women that literally everything about their bodies is sexual or sexualized. Female nipples? Indistinguishable from a male nipple in a closeup picture, but super sexy. A two-inch gap of skin between the end of your skirt and your knees? Super sexy. A bare shoulder? Oh baby, oh baby. A wedgie in your swimsuit? Sexy enough to disqualify you in a swim meet. (Google it, I swear to God.)

Twitch, the popular streaming platform, forbids “sexually suggestive content or activities.” And how they define that seems to be…. broad. And sexist. And subject to pressure from online harassment campaigns. Last week, streamer Quqco was suspended for three days for just such a crime for cosplaying on her stream as Chun-Li, a popular character from Street Fighter whose qipao involves a thigh-high slit. Now, again, this is cosplaying as a character from a game. A game that you can stream yourself playing on Twitch. But not, apparently, stream yourself dressing as.

Twitch’s guidelines seem to be purposefully vague. Cecilia D’Anastasio outlines this vagueness in an article:  

“Attire intended to be sexually suggestive and nudity are prohibited,” Twitch’s community guidelines read. For streams like Quqco’s, they “recommend attire appropriate for public settings, such as what you would wear on a public street, or to a mall or restaurant.”

As anyone who has ever been in public can tell you, “attire appropriate for public settings” covers a very, very large swathe of clothing. Like, all clothing. And Twitch seems to have banned just about all clothing at one time or another, at least when it is being worn (or drawn) by women. Nathan Grayson illustrates a few more recent bans that show that there is actually very little rhyme or reason to the way Twitch enforces its policies:

In addition to Quqco, several other notable streamers have received suspensions or warnings from Twitch about sexually suggestive content in the past few days. Late last week, IRL streamer Bridgett Devoue was given a three-day suspension for “sharing or engaging in sexually suggestive content or activities,” but Twitch did not elaborate any further. Over the weekend, Overwatch streamer Fareeha got hit with a warning (and a 90-day probationary period) after wearing a sports bra and baggy shorts at the gym. Also over the weekend, art streamer Saruei found herself on the wrong side of a warning for drawing “nudes,” despite the fact that her characters—while hentai-inspired and scantily clad—are clothed. Today, Twitch suspended her for three days.

Twitch has given the people it has punished very little in the way of explanation, and the victims of their vague guidelines worry about speaking against the platform for fear of further punishment or deplatforming. A few of them do point to online drama with the subreddit Livestreamfail, and YouTube or Discord channels aimed at harassing streamers, who often mass report streamers they don’t like, increasing the chances that Twitch will do something in response.

It’s my personal belief that much of Twitch’s eagerness to police women’s bodies is due to fears of retribution from FOSTA/SESTA, which would hold the platform accountable if certain vaguely or explicitly sexual content was hosted on it. But while I have empathy with this fear (because FOSTA/SESTA is garbage legislation that is actively harming women and other groups) it doesn’t excuse Twitch for its vague policies, inconsistent enforcement, gendered focus, and willingness to follow the desires of an online mob.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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*Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court, in the case Jacobelis v. Ohio, famously said “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. “

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Featured image is a screenshot of the “Chun Li vs. competitor” screen from the game Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, with the competitor as the Twitch company logo.

Revisiting an Old Topic


When we started the new site, we started off with a bang (I apologize in advance for this joke). My first piece was on gun control, and was one of the starkest, most-likely-to-piss-off-my-loved-ones posts I’d ever written. Over a year and I-don’t-even-know-how-many mass shootings later, I stand behind most of what I wrote. But I’ve also learned a lot in that time, and I would like to address my changing perspective.

I am very upfront about the fact that I am a middle-class white lady. And while I try to constantly educate myself about various issues and perspectives, I have inherent privilege that means that I overlook things. One of the things I have overlooked is the racial aspect of gun control, and the interplay between militarized police forces and unarmed civilians.

When I wrote my first post, I was legitimately not thinking about (and possibly not aware of, I can’t really remember) the way that gun control laws have historically disproportionately affected Black people, or even been passed with the express purpose of oppressing Black people and other people of color. Following the Civil War, Southern states passed “Black Codes” that ensured that Black people were unarmed. One of the first bans of open carry was signed into law by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, Patron Saint of Fox Newscasters, in response to the Black Panthers entering a Sacramento courthouse while armed. The next year, in 1968, the Gun Control Act was signed by Richard Nixon, Secret Patron Saint of Fox Newscasters. At the time, the NRA supported these laws, because White People Were Scared. (Kind of like how when the Black lawful gun owner Philando Castile was murdered by police, the NRA was suspiciously silent about the supposed natural rights of gun owners.)

Given the fact that pretty much every law, from prohibitions on weed to bans of “loitering,” are disproportionately enforced against Black people, there’s very good reason to believe that gun control laws will be equally disproportionately applied. And there are studies that back this up (that I am admittedly paraphrasing from an episode of Adam Ruins Everything). “Stand your Ground” laws are often not an acceptable excuse for Black defendants.  An analysis of ten years of ATF stings focusing on gun crimes found that 91% of people arrested were people of color. Stop and frisk policies in NYC allowed cops to just assume they might find guns or drugs on Black men, and thus harass millions of citizens. Gun possession penalization also adds to our mass incarceration problem. And the fact that so many people of color are left with felony records further disadvantages communities of color when it comes to legally purchasing guns.

One of my off-the-cuff responses to someone saying that we need guns because we need the ability to overthrow a dictatorial government is to say, “Well, the government has tanks and nukes, so good luck with that insurrection.” And honestly, I still think I’m mostly right. The police forces in small towns have tanks, SWAT gear, and chemical weapons that aren’t actually allowed in upfront combat but are apparently totally cool to use on protestors. So we’re in a very different situation than that the Founders faced in the 1700s, where both the government and the rebellion had muskets that took 30 seconds to load and about a 30% chance to hit. We simply don’t have access to the same weapons and force that the government does, and it’s (in my opinion) kind of ridiculous to think that your Far Cry 5 Bunker O’ Whiteness and Guns is going to stand up against the force of even a medium-sized suburb.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s entirely fair to ask communities to disarm themselves when said militarized police are not doing the same. You’re probably not going to be able to take on a police tank with an AR-15, but you probably have a better chance of it than you would without a gun. And if you are a person of color living in a community with increased chance of police violence or civilian acts of hatred, it seems downright dangerous to ask people to disarm. I don’t necessarily think that the answer to this issue is, “Everyone keeps all their guns!” so much as it is, “Maybe we should ALL have fewer guns, including the police.

As I said earlier, I do think that a lot of the things I said in my original post still stand. I sincerely believe that domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns, and that we need to close some of the loopholes that allow people like domestic abusers (or, y’know, white nationalists) to access guns. I really don’t think that it is a good thing that we have such easy access to weapons that are meant for the battlefield. But I also think that there are a lot of different things we also need to be doing. We need to de-militarize the police, so that they are ALSO not using their guns to kill people (namely people of color and mentally ill people). We need to stop treating the NRA as if it speaks for gun owners (it doesn’t) and start treating it as if it speaks for gun manufacturers (it does.) I think we need to have serious conversations about how “open carry” laws mean it is impossible to tell a “mass shooter” from a “responsible citizen.” We need to talk about how we can prevent necessary gun laws from having a disproportionate effect on communities of color, or being used as an excuse to harass men and women of color.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone does. But I’m always trying to learn more so that the answers that I come up with are better.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is a screenshot of a tweet by Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) reading “the “A” in “USA” stands for ArmaLite.

Stop Getting Mad At The Wrong People


Look what you’ve done. I should be editing my novel. I should be making another trip to the hardware store. I should be plastering a wall. Making dinner. Reading Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant How to be an Antiracist. But here I am writing a post, because you—maybe not you specifically, but generally you—keep getting mad at the wrong people.

Imagine, for a moment, that you had to suffer through something awful. Let’s say you spent ten years “digging up” to get out of student debt.

Say you finally managed to get to a place of financial solvency. Great. Congratulations. You overcame a massive hurdle and a frustrating ordeal against the odds and at great personal sacrifice, and you should be proud of yourself.

Then someone comes along and says “let’s cancel everyone’s student debt.”

You, a hard-working success story, have two ways to respond, and the reason I’m writing this is because you keep responding the wrong way.

The right way is to say “Fantastic, now nobody will have to go through this unnecessary hardship ever again! The world is becoming a better place, and I am glad of it.”

The other way is to say “Hey! I had to go through this awful experience, you should too!” This is, to put it bluntly, asinine.

No, it isn’t fair that you had to struggle so hard for education, for something that should be a human right. But the reason it’s unfair isn’t that someone else is not going to have to struggle like you did. The reason it’s unfair is because you had to do so in the first place. Nobody should. If you’re going to be mad, be mad that it didn’t get fixed in time for you to take advantage of it. Be mad that you had to struggle. But don’t be mad that others won’t have to in the future.

Education debt isn’t the only place I’m seeing this asinine reaction. I’ve legitimately had to tell people this about healthcare in the past couple of weeks. Healthcare. Someone genuinely said to me that they worked hard so their family could have good health care, and if other people don’t have it, then they should just work hard too. Readers, many curse words were ungraciously sputtered in sheer disbelief. This genuine, bona fide asshole honestly thought that the roughly thirty million people in America who don’t have healthcare just don’t work hard enough to merit it. As though healthcare weren’t something you merit by the simple virtue of being human.

And before you start in on boomers, this mindset isn’t just limited to boomers shouting “back in my day” without realizing that in their day you could afford a house in the suburbs with a two car garage and two cars to put in it on the minimum wage. That would be one thing. But this is Gen X’ers and even older Millennials (such as my 36-year-old self, yes: we’re getting older now) who have legitimate grievances. Yes, we went through hard things. No, we shouldn’t have. NO, this does not mean you can blame the recipients of a better world for the fact that you didn’t live in that world.

I didn’t get Polio as a kid. I didn’t get Polio because I was vaccinated against Polio. It was a nice privilege I inherited because of the hard work of others. They not only invented a vaccine, but pushed for it to be given out for free. At no point would it have made sense for someone who managed to survive Polio to say “I got Polio and overcame it, why shouldn’t you have to?” Why? Because that’s bafflingly unreasonable, that’s why.

Your endurance and survival of negative things does not mean others should have to endure and survive them, too. You’re mad at the wrong people. And if you’re not going to help make the world a better place regardless of its benefit to you? Well at least do us all a favour and get the hell out of the way.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is the meme image known as “Side Eyeing Chloe.”

I Don’t Have a New Article, but I’m Thinking About Some



So I haven’t been writing posts very steadily lately. Yeah… sorry about that. I thought the summer would mean that I finally had the mental and emotional energy to do more, and that… well that kind of didn’t happen. But not writing doesn’t mean not thinking, and I have a whole lot of ideas running around on articles I’d like to write. So this week’s post is a reminder to myself of the things I have ideas for. And who knows—if you all like some of these ideas and peer pressure me, I might actually write one of them. (I mean it worked for “Old Town Road.”)

  • Marianne Williamson. There is just… a lot going on there. A lot.
  • My Complicated Feelings on the Disney/Sony fight over Spider-Man
  • Songs that seem to sexualize a girl or woman’s low self-confidence and the fact that she’s not aware of her own value. (“She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” “Treasure,” “Little Things,” etc.)
  • A frequent companion to those types of songs I call the Nice Guy Song, about how a guy (or occasionally a girl) would TOTALLY be a better partner than the person the object of their affections is currently with. (“Girl All the Bad Guys Want,” “Flavor of the Weak,” “You Belong With Me,” etc.)
  • The harmful effects of “Chosen One” rhetoric in media.
  • Holy Shit, Literally All of My Favorite Things Growing Up Involved Child Soldiers.
  • The Spider-Man game for the PS4 (This one is actually likely to happen, I made Richard make me An Art for it and everything)
  • A renewed take on my gun control post
  • Ellements of Film posts on Avengers: Endgame or Amazon’s The Boys

I can’t promise returns on any of these (except maybe the Spider-Man game one, I opened a file and everything). But I promise I haven’t forgotten my beloved Feminist Fridays, and I hope you all haven’t either.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image depicts a fencepost with the text “Technically this is a post.” The original photograph is titled “The fading fencepost,” was taken by DeckerEgo, and is licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

“Old Town Road” Makes Me Happy, and Country Music is Kinda Racist

If you ask someone what music they listen to, there is a not-insignificant chance that they will answer, “I listen to everything but country and rap.” Which, as this article discusses, is really a lot about class. What people are saying is, “I dislike the two genres of music most associated with lower-caste economic states.”

But ironically, even though country and rap are so closely linked by this common economic distaste, they are separated, currently, by one large thing: race. Country is associated with white people, and rap is associated with Black people. And while the last twenty years or so have seen a large increase of white rappers of both the fairly legit variety (Eminem) and the wtf wangsta variety (What even IS Riff Raff?) country has been slower to allow any variety into its ranks. They have…. Well they have Darius Rucker, honestly. And probably a couple of other artists who I don’t know well enough to name because they haven’t been embraced enough to make it to the popular consciousness. (Also Cowboy Troy was once a thing, but we’re gonna get to him in a minute, too). And this is despite the fact that the most stereotypically country instrument, the banjo, is based on an African instrument and was originally created in the US by Africans.

This racial divide is not an accident. In the 1920s, music marketers were making decisions about how, exactly, to market music. More specifically, they were trying to decide if the blues-influenced music that was becoming popular should all stay in one genre, or if it should be split—on racial lines. So we gained “hillbilly records” and “race records.” Hillbilly music was for white people, and as it slowly morphed into the country music we know today, it pretty much stayed that way.

Along the way, it did a lot of cultural work (along with various forms of fiction and racially-biased historical accounts) to make us think that country music, and the west, were always lily-white. When really, the West probably looked a lot more like the reboot Magnificent Seven than the original (on the set of which, famously, everyone had diarrhea). Even the word “cowboy” is likely a linguistic evolution from a Bad Word for Black people working with cattle. Cowboys of color have existed since the 1500s, when Spanish settlements first started to turn the southern and western United States into “cattle country.” In what we somewhat consider “peak cowboy time,” the late 1800s, as many as a quarter of all cowboys were Black. One of the first famous rodeo stars, Bill Pickett, was a Black man whose parents had been slaves.

But now we’re slowly taking history—and country—back. Enter the “Yeehaw Agenda,” and the true focus of this piece, “Old Town Road.”

Recently country aesthetics have been coming into style in non-country spaces, with Lady Gaga, Kesha, and Beyoncé all delving into the country spectrum. Fashion models also started diving into the look more, until last year the actual “Yeehaw Agenda” celebrating Black fashion and music that incorporates country style really took off. Cardi B wore possibly the greatest cowgirl outfit ever made. And then came “Old Town Road.”

“Old Town Road” and its story are such an amazing amalgamation of different cultural forces. Imagine me trying to say all of this in one breath, just because I love putting the entire thing together: Lil Nas X, whose rap name nods to multiple rappers that came before him, rose to prominence with his country trap single “Old Town Road.” The song is less than two minutes long, and samples the instrumental Nine Inch Nails song “34 Ghosts V.” Its original music video is just footage from Read Dead Redemption 2, and a lot of the lyrics combine the trope in country music of listing country-esque signifiers and the rap/hip-hop trope of bragging about wealth by discussing objects that you own. It grew incredibly popular on the social media app TikTok (I beg you not to make me explain TikTok to you…if you’re really interested, listen to this podcast) and was reaching the early teens on the Billboard country charts before it was removed for “not [embracing] enough elements of today’s country music.” Billy Ray Cyrus (you know, Miley Cyrus’s dad) then swooped in (Lil Nas X tweeted that he would like Cyrus on the song the day after the original was released, and Cyrus had shown support for Lil Nas X after the Billboard removal and said they were fellow outlaws) and released a remix of the song with Lil Nas X. The song charted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing Billy Ray Cyrus’ career-defining hit, “Achy Breaky Heart,” which had only reached #4 back in 1992. The two released another remix with Diplo, and a music video featuring Chris Rock that subtly jabs at the entire controversy. “Old Town Road” has spent 18 weeks on the Hot 100 chart, 15 of them at number 1, and is still in the number 1 slot, currently beating out chart heavyweights like the Jonas Brothers, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Taylor Swift. Then Wrangler announced a partnership with Lil Nas X, which caused a lot of white people to lose their goddamn minds because they are Definitely Not Racist. THEN on the last day of Pride Month Lil Nas X came out as gay and told everyone he “deadass thought I made it obvious” because he put a majestic rainbow skyscraper on his latest EP cover.

You guys. You guys. I love this. I love this so much. If you asked me to come up with the most incredible cultural mashup possible, I don’t think I could come up with this on my own. It is too magical. It is too pure. It is too amazing.

And its journey honestly hits close to home. I grew up in Wyoming, where you have to like country music at least a little bit out of self preservation. I grew up listening to, and liking, country music. I’m still quite fond of stalwarts like Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, and Shania Twain. I loved Toby Keith for a long time before I figured out what a conservative, misogynist shitheel he is. And my familiarity with country music means that I can point to one of the first moments of rap/country crossover (one that didn’t get taken off of the charts, no matter how much I wish it would have): “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”

The brainchild of Big & Rich, the song got most popular in 2004. While it probably has more rock influences than rap influences, the song is basically “In Da Club” for white people. It has a spoken word section, the phrase “singing and bling blingin’,” and a moment where they go “what, what?” The music video includes a parade, sexy lady dancers who are either cowgirls or business ladies, a college band with a horn and banjo section,  a pretty stellar band leader cameo from their token Black friend Cowboy Troy, and the Big & Rich guys showing off said bling, fur coats, and their… sex doll friend?

I really can’t explain it. But it fucking dominated the radio. It hit 11 on the country charts, was used as the theme for the World Series of Poker, was performed at the CMT awards, and was used for a Chevrolet commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.

Later that same year, Nelly and Tim McGraw released “Over and Over,” a song that I honestly could see either/both on the rap and country charts. Its stars and its musical influences obviously draw from both. The song made the Top 10 on the main Billboard charts, as well as the Top 10 of the rap charts. It… doesn’t seem to have placed on the country charts. At all.

And thus a pattern was formed—country songs created by white men that drew from rap and hip hop would play on the country charts. Country songs that actually featured Black men in addition to those elements… well it was hit or miss. (Note: the following is a non-exhaustive list, just one based on my memory as well as some cursory Google searches. I don’t get paid for this, y’all.) In 2005, Trace Adkins released “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” a song I was genuinely hoping to never have to think of again. It hit number 2 on the country charts, and went top 40 on the main and pop charts. Its video heavily features bling, whatever the white lady version of a video vixen is, a reference to Donkey Kong, and Trace Adkins saying “badonkadonk” until I taste purple. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” topped the country charts, but while the remix with Ludacris sold well, I can’t find anything about it actually charting. Apparently in 2010 Colt Ford released a song with Run DMC AND I AM JUST NOW FINDING OUT ABOUT IT. And let’s…. let’s not talk about that thing with LL Cool J and Brad Paisley. Let’s just not.

Fortunes seemed to be changing a little bit for the crossover hit. Florida Georgia Line tapped Nelly for their remix of “Cruise,” which I think I heard roughly five million times, and they performed it together at the American Music Awards in 2013. Pop singer Bebe Rexha in turn tapped Florida Georgia Line for her song “Meant to Be” in 2017, and the song was nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the Grammy’s, and I also heard it so many times. And country radio will play Taylor Swift ad infinitum, no matter how much her sound drifts from her “Teardrops on My Guitar” days.

But in the meantime… Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons,” while certainly counting (in my mind) as a country song, and earning a performance with the Dixie Chicks at the CMAs, was rejected by the Grammy Awards for the country category. So just to confirm, this is Grammy-worthy country music, but this is not.…. K.

Now, my own feelings aside about how “Daddy Lessons” is superior both as a country song, and just as a song in general (Florida Georgia Line is largely responsible for “bro country” and I Cannot Forgive Them), I think it’s a good example of the absolute goddamn arbitrariness of the guidelines by which institutions are deciding what is and isn’t country music. Am I saying that “Daddy Lessons” or “Old Town Road” sound exactly like the country music that I grew up with? Of course not. But almost nothing on the country charts today sounds like the country music that I grew up with. Genres consistently grow and change, and the acceptability of such growth and change is pretty directly tied to how well it serves the interests of power.

The aforementioned “bro country” has been a solid half decade plus of shallow, misogynistic music that glorified hot ladies, drinking tons of alcohol, partying, and the singers’ trucks. (Next time someone complains that “rap is just so misogynistic and objectifies women,” please remember that the song “Body Like a Back Road” exists, in which a woman is literally compared to a road. A road.) Bro country is pretty antithetical to the type of country I grew up with, which certainly had these elements but usually in a slightly less formulaic design and with a slightly more authentic place of origin and emotion. (See Bo Burnham’s “Country Song (Pandering)” for a fantastic takedown of bro country). “Bro country” certainly caused some division in country music circles, and is one of the main reasons I stopped listening to country music as much. But it was still on country music charts, nominated for country music awards, and played on country music stations. So what is so acceptable about bro country being included in the genre that becomes unacceptable when you look at the work of Beyoncé or Lil Nas X? (I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.)

Like I said, institutions are largely responsible for deciding what is and isn’t country music. And what they decide isn’t country music just happens to usually involve people of color. Even if you have “objective” guidelines about what makes music fit into a specific genre, those guidelines are interpreted by subjective people. And when it comes to country music, the interpreters are usually white.

In a lot of ways we’re still working off of that same 1920s split—“race records” and “hillbilly records”—where white artists are allowed to push at the boundaries of the genre, but Black artists are not. So overall success of Lil Nas X, the multiple types of diversity he brings to the table, and the conversation he is forcing us to have about these artificial boundaries we have made makes me cackle with glee.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image is a closeup of the single cover of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, and depicts the rapper dressed as a cowboy on a horse in an old-timey colour palette, fake-aged to look like an old country album from the 1950s.

How to Get Away With Sexual Assault Without Really Trying: A Counting “Game”

It’s like Candyland, but terrible.


While reading the recent article about garbage human Max Landis and his long (and well-documented) history of domestic abuse and sexual assault, I was struck by this sentence:


“A representative for the producers of Shadow in the Cloud told The Daily Beast that they were not aware of any allegations prior to optioning the script…”


Shadow in the Cloud is a project that was meant to be Landis’s “comeback,” (and by “comeback” I mean “reacceptance into the Hollywood fold after a few allegations surfaced and after Bright was super not good”). Given the discourse around the project, I realized, “The producers are either absolute idiots or they’re deliberately obtuse.” The rumors about Landis have been an open secret for years—a cursory Google search would have brought up dozens of articles. So the producers either did exactly zero background research on their meal ticket with a strong family name (possible) or they heard some of the rumors and didn’t care because they didn’t seem substantial enough to cause problems (probable). After pondering this for a while, I had yet another realization: There is no amount of sexual assault survivors that will be “enough.” There is no number of women that will be enough to be taken seriously when it is their word against a powerful man. Five women came forward against Louis C.K. Eight women have come forward against Max Landis. Nine women came forward against Roy Moore. Twenty-three women came forward against Trump. Sixty women came forward against Bill Cosby. More than ninety women came forward against Harvey Weinstein.

In each case, the women were doubted, scorned, and gaslit along the way. And in pretty much every case, their accusations came to almost nothing. Louis C.K. lost some cred and some projects but is back on the comedy circuit, mocking Parkland survivors and the #MeToo movement. Max Landis was temporarily shunned but kept getting handed plum projects even after the first few accusations, and is only now facing any sort of serious pushback (which I promise you is gonna fade in like, five months). Roy Moore barely lost his election, and is already talking about running again. Trump is… well he’s the goddamn president, isn’t he. Bill Cosby finally faced consequences after literal decades of accusations, and he’s still out here tweeting about how he’s “America’s Dad.” Which is both “no,” and “….yeah, that’s probably sadly fitting.” Weinstein is coming to some settlements that will in no way make up for what he did, and he has a closet full of Oscars to sell on E-Bay to help him make ends meet.


There is basically no “safe” number of women who can come forward with an accusation and have it actually mean anything. For all the bellyaching about how false sexual assault accusations ruin men’s lives… well it looks like true sexual assault accusations don’t even ruin men’s lives.


So based on my years of research, I have come up with this number game/guide for how to get away with sexual assault without really trying. And I mean the last part—if all goes “well,” if you rape someone, the rest of society will make these excuses for you, and you won’t have to lift a finger, let alone address your behavior in any way.*

*Note please, please, please do not use this as an actual guide to get away with sexual assault. This is a little thing known as satire. If you have sexually assaulted anyone, please for the love of all that is holy, confess to your behavior and repair the harm you have done however possible.

  • 1 survivor steps forward: “It’s just he said/she said. How are we supposed to know what is true?”
  • 2 survivors step forward: “The second one is just a copycat, trying to get some attention after the first person came forward.”
  • 3-5 survivors step forward: “If this happened to them, why are they staying anonymous? Why won’t they stand behind what they said?”
  • 5-10 survivors step forward: “How long are we supposed to ruin his life for, when he just committed a few indiscretions?”
  • 10-20 survivors step forward: “Why are they only coming forward now? This is clearly just an attempt to cash in/ruin his reputation.”
  • 20-40 survivors step forward: “This happened so long ago, he’s a changed person/they can’t possibly be remembering correctly.”
  • 40+ survivors step forward: “Bitches be crazy.”

….that about sums it up, and I’m really depressed now. So. Cool. Thanks for that, Max Landis and terrible culture.

Signed: Feminist Fury

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Featured image depicts a close-up of the board game Candyland. It was taken by Flickr user Dave Parker and is used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 License.

It’s Not Okay To Say “It’s Okay To Be White”

Because apparently it needs to be said.

Note: I’m turning this twitter thread into a post because apparently it needs to be done. So this is mostly that, with other thoughts interspersed. You’ve been warned.

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“It’s okay to be white.” It’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard someone say or seen on a sticker or a poster or online somewhere. It’s one of those things that sounds really innocuous at first, until you realize it’s actually a white supremacist slogan. Here’s why you shouldn’t say it.

“It’s okay to be white,” as a saying, is based on the idea that white people are in some way an oppressed group. It’s like saying “all lives matter,” in that it’s not so much wrong, as deliberately missing the goddamn point. Yes, all lives matter. Sure they do. But they’re not all treated like they matter right now, which is precisely why we have to say out loud, right now, that Black lives really do matter.

“It’s okay to be white” implies that society is somehow biased against white people, that society is somehow making it not okay to be white, when in fact today, in America, in 2019, whiteness is a status marker that carries privilege and power. Yes, even if you are white and think you don’t have any power. You have the privilege of your skin colour in a country that implicitly gives whiteness the benefit of the doubt in many ways that People of Colour aren’t given.

Right now, the only thing attacking whiteness is antiracism, which is (per the name) trying to undo the systemic forces that have led to white people having massively more wealth as a group than non-white people, having more opportunities for advancement, more of the playing field automatically tipped in our favour.

The idea that antiracism oppresses white people is fantastically racist.

So, is it okay to be white? I don’t know. I don’t much care, either. I don’t think it’s a very specific question, for starters. What does “okay” even mean? Allowable? Of course it’s allowable to be white. But does being white come without responsibilities? Is that what “okay” means? Okay to live in white skin without effort?

Here’s what I can tell you: being the recipient of white privilege in 2019 carries with it the ethical burden of trying to use that privilege to deconstruct racism and the oppression it entails.

“Is it okay to be white?” as a question, in America in 2019, is like asking “is it okay to have undeserved power?” It’s a problem that that power has been given over in the first place, but since that’s how things are, the question then becomes “well, how are you using it?”

Here’s what I can tell you: it is NOT okay to be white and to simply accept the status quo of the privilege that whiteness carries. And I can tell you that even aside from the racist dogwhistle of it all, it is NOT okay to proudly say “it’s okay to be white” as though that were an unproblematic statement.

Live and learn, white folks. If we don’t, a whole lot of people are going to continue to get hurt.

Signed: The Remixologist.

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Featured image is an abstract white textured background, called “White Texture 004″ by Craig Leontowicz, released under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

Two Surprisingly Good Takes on Sex Work by Guys

I had this big post planned for this week, and then I was like, “Oh yeah, work and sleep are supposed to be things.” So that post didn’t happen. Instead, I had a couple YouTube videos on in the background, and in one of those neat coincidence things, two channels I really like, Some More News and Philosophy Tube, both had some interesting and pretty good videos on sex work this week. So enjoy those, while I try to get my thoughts in order for next week’s post!

Some More News. Direct Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y533teuhmL8
Philosophy Tube. Direct Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DZfUzxZ2VU

Also this post wouldn’t be complete without a link to the time we wrote about FOSTA and SESTA here on the blog.

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Featured image is a combination of the two YouTube thumbnails for the two videos. On the left, half a man sitting in a chair with the words “SEX WORK” over top, and on the right, half a man sitting in a news setting with the caption “The Anti-Sex Trafficking Law that Made Sex Trafficking Worse.”

Four Ibuprofen

Some advice for when “take four ibuprofen” is the standard of care.

So last week I talked about the recent rush for abortion bills, and since then, things have gotten worse. Like, way worse. But I think that I don’t have very much new to say on that front, besides “Fuuuuuuck.” I could talk about Alyssa Milano’s ill-advised call for a sex strike, but it honestly just makes me tired. So instead I’m going to expand on something that I briefly mentioned in my last post—IUDs. More specifically, the way that medical professionals and common discourse seem to ignore the pain and complications around IUDs.

I know that anecdotes are not evidence, but I’m egotistical enough to think that my own experience serves as a good foreground to this topic. Content warning for graphic depictions of pain and blood. Skip to the paragraph that starts with “This story is” if you don’t want to be squicked.

When I got my IUD, I had no chance of getting pregnant (unless I happened to be sexually assaulted, the fear of which was admittedly a component in my decision). I wasn’t sexually active, and “terrifying stories you hear in high school” aside, it’s not super probable to get pregnant from a toilet seat. What I did have was debilitating periods that caused extreme blood loss and a sudden, instinctive fear that at some point my access to the birth control pills that kept them somewhat at bay would be taken away—you see, I got my IUD at the end of November, 2016. I had called to make an appointment within days of the election.

I did my research—I looked up the differences between copper and hormonal implants, I looked at different brands, and I talked to many friends who’d already had an IUD put in. As with almost any medical procedure, I got a range of opinions, because my friends had a range of experiences. Some of them had terrible reactions to the IUD and got them removed. Some had a remarkably easy insertion process and raved about it. The majority of opinions, however, followed a consistent narrative: it’s going to hurt like hell, but you’re going to be glad you did it.

I was really worried about that pain. For some (possibly TMI) background, I’ve basically never had a non-traumatic OBGYN experience. My yearly exams are always painful, and I seriously considered having an endometrial ablation when I was 22 because I knew I didn’t want children and it would decrease the number of reasons I’d need an exam. (The doctor refused to perform the procedure at that point because “I might change my mind,” and that is a rant for another day.) So the stories of painful insertion procedures made me very nervous. But friends told me that there were a lot of options available to help mitigate that—things like cervical softeners and higher intensity pain medication for before or after the procedure.

So when I called to make the appointment, I asked about the pain, and the pain mitigating options, multiple times. Over and over, I was told that the best thing to do would be to take four ibuprofen before the procedure. I expressed doubt that this would be enough—for scale, four ibuprofen is what I take for a headache. My body doesn’t respond to low-dose medication in basically any form. I asked about the cervical softeners, I asked about the higher intensity pain medication—four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen. Four ibuprofen.

I took the four ibuprofen as suggested, but I asked about other options again at the appointment itself. The nurse asked if I’d taken the four ibuprofen, and I said I had. The nurse told me I’d be fine. When the doctor came in,  I asked him about it as well. Four ibuprofen. He suggested that I should take my phone out and read an article or play a game, as a lot of his patients found that a good distraction from the minor pain of the insertion.

What followed was some of the worst pain of my life. For scale, again, I’ve slammed my thumb in a 2-inch thick door, burst an eardrum, and had spinal surgery. When I talk about pain, I have a pretty big scale. And this was at the high end of the scale.

My hands were clenched, white-knuckled, around my phone. Tears were blurring my eyes. My legs were trembling as I fought the urge to clench and make things worse. The doctor seemed surprised that we were having such trouble. “When was the last time you were sexually active?” he asked. I thought back to my chart, the one he supposedly read, where I put a big zero next to the question about how many sexual partners I’d had. “I’ve never been sexually active.” I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I’ve ever said in a voice that could be legitimately called a “growl.”

Eventually it was done. He sat back with a cheery smile. “Whew! For a while there I thought we were going to maybe have to do this surgically.” I thought about all of the interim steps between “incredible pain” and “surgery,” steps that I had specifically asked about and been denied, and said nothing. The nurse showed me where there was a supply of pads, talked about the cramping and spotting I’d likely have for the next few days, and they left. When I stood up, I found out that they had left behind the large paper pad that had been resting underneath my groin and upper thighs for the procedure. It was soaked with blood. I carefully folded it and threw it in the biohazard bin, then got dressed, put on the pad, and went to call my friend for a ride home.

I got off pretty lightly in terms of after-procedure effects, with a day spent on the couch with my dog while I watched Netflix and felt achy with cramps before feeling fine the next day.

This story is not meant to scare anyone away from getting an IUD. In fact, as I wrote last week, I still strongly consider that anyone who can get pregnant consider getting an IUD. But I think it is important for anyone who is considering doing so to go in with eyes wide open, and to know one important thing: the doctor is probably going to be dismissive of your pain. Casey Johnston wrote a piece about the disconnect between the amount of pain IUD insertion can cause and the amount of pain relief patients are offered. (Note, I don’t totally agree with the titling of the piece, which is “If Men Had to Get IUDs, They’d Get Epidurals and a Hospital Stay,” because there are plenty of trans men who get IUDs and are also likely to get their pain discounted, but the main theme of the piece, that women and women’s pain are discounted, is spot on.) It’s honestly a bit beyond belief that a procedure with such a high propensity to cause blinding pain is not automatically performed with the option of higher dose pain medication and a local anesthetic. And this isn’t even taking into account the very serious and painful possibly side effects.

Johnston muses that one of the reasons doctors may downplay both the pain and the effects of the insertion procedure is that they don’t want to scare someone away from getting one, and I think this is likely correct to a certain extent. When the procedure is advertised as a “quick,” mostly painless event where you might just feel a “pinch,” more people are likely to look into it and sign up for it. But I honestly think that explanation covers less ground than, “medical professionals discount women’s pain.” There have been studies that show that menstrual cramps can be as painful as a heart attack, and generations of women were told to take a couple ibuprofen, put on a heating pad, and get back to work when they complained about menstrual pain. In my case, I repeatedly expressed concern over the pain to nurses and to the doctor, and was repeatedly dismissed. And in the midst of the procedure the doctor had apparently had the thought, “This is fairly difficult, should we do this surgically? Ah well, no way out but through! Tally ho!” (He may not have actually thought the words “tally ho,” but it seems an appropriate addition.)

So my advice from last week still stands—look into long-term birth control options. (Ideally, if you’re like me and you’re certain you don’t want kids, you might want to look into sterilization procedures, but you’re likely to face some of the same obstacles I did, so that one isn’t as practical of a piece of advice.) But I want to amend last week’s advice with some further advice. Sadly, this advice kind of amounts to “add obstacles to your own care in the hope that the end result will be better,” and I know that not everyone has the spoons for that. But I am deeply invested in this being as non-traumatic as possible.

1. Do your research.

There are a lot of long-term birth control options out there, including IUDs and subdermal implants. I was most interested in the former, because even more than avoiding pregnancy I wanted to avoid debilitating periods, and the subdermal implants aren’t very useful for that. While hormonal birth control in pill and ring form are also available and are viable options, the current trend towards removing contraception coverage and even trying to outlaw contraception makes me lean towards birth control options that are There To Stay for at least a few years. Find out what your different options are, find out what experiences others have had, and do your best to figure out what will be best for you.

2. Talk to the doctor personally prior to the insertion, preferably at a separate appointment.

I had never met the doctor who performed my procedure before having the procedure. This was mostly due to my brain frantically blaring at me, “DO THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE,” so I just signed up for the first available appointment with the first available doctor. In retrospect, this was a mistake—even though I should be able to trust any random doctor to have my best interests in mind…. Well, I can’t. If I had met the doctor prior to the insertion appointment, I either would have had the chance to discuss pertinent information and been sure that he understood it (I could find a lot of different languages in which to say “I have never had sex” until he understood) or, if I still didn’t feel confident that he was taking me or my concerns seriously, I could have asked for a different doctor. Once we were at the appointment and Doing The Thing, the mix between my own sense of urgency and my fear of “wasting people’s time” meant that I felt stuck.

3. Don’t be afraid to waste people’s time.

In the back of my mind, I had been hoping that there was a disconnect between what I had been told over the phone and what was going to happen at the appointment. I was hoping that when I was face-to-face with a nurse or with the doctor, that they would decide to take me seriously, take my concerns into account, and offer more pain mitigation options. That didn’t happen. And when that didn’t happen, I should have politely thanked everyone for their time and left. Given the reasons that I was getting an IUD, there was no reason that I had to continue the appointment once I was certain that my pain and my concerns were being discounted. It would have taken a leap of social awkwardness that I’m usually reluctant to pursue, but I should have left at that point.

4. Bring someone else that can help advocate for you if you need it.

Not everyone is good at interpersonal conflict, and I get that. So if you have a friend or loved one that feels comfortable doing so, let them know what your concerns are and bring them with you to the appointment. When they see you getting uncomfortable or not getting what you need from the doctor, they can help you navigate either leaving the appointment or advocating for you.

5. Don’t gaslight yourself.

You know your body. You know what “normal” and “abnormal” types of pain are for you. I was lying on that bed, crying from the pain, and still my brain was telling me, “it is supposed to hurt this badly.” In the modern age, nothing is supposed to hurt that badly, especially not a routine procedure. The world, and especially the medical establishment, is going to try to discount and minimize your pain. Don’t do their work for them, and don’t gaslight yourself.

So that’s my advice for navigating the medical system in search of long-term birth control. Now if all of this systematic disenfranchisement has given you a headache, take four ibuprofen—because that is what it is good for.

Signed: Feminist Fury.

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Featured image is of a bottle of ibuprofen on its side with four pills in front.