“Ok, Boomer”

Let’s talk about “Ok, Boomer,” the Zoomer craze sweeping the nation, inspiring delight in Millennials and seemingly incandescent rage in Boomers everywhere.

So a couple of things to start us out:

Class and financial inequality are the main causes of the problems that “Ok, Boomer” is a response to. “Ok, Boomer” is mostly about class.

But “Ok, Boomer” is not not about age.

The main issue is class and inequality, but to pretend that age plays no part in the discourse would be disingenuous, in the same way that trying to talk about class without talking about gender or race would be disingenuous (intersectionality is important, because it’s 2019, friends). A poor white man and a poor black woman have very different experiences of the world, and their poverty means very different things in terms of the way they navigate the world and the way the world responds to them.

A good portion of what I was going to say in this post is made effectively unnecessary by this Facebook post by Kelly Jean and Matt Hershberger, which I will provide in full here because I know none of y’all ever click on my links:

1) “Okay, Boomer” is directed not at a particular generation, but at a class structure and the people who defend it, who are often members of the Baby Boomer generation.

(2) The Boomer mindset is one that offers unsolicited or bad advice to younger people that is based on an economic context that has not been in place for over four decades. The new economic context, in which “work hard and pay off your loans” or “just find a job with healthcare” are absurd things to say, was, in fact, largely built by the Baby Boomer generation.

(3) This bad advice is often uttered condescendingly or dismissively to struggling Millennials or Gen Z “Zoomers,” who do not appreciate it.

(4) For a long time, the only argument a Millennial or Zoomer could offer in response was a long explanation as to why that’s not how it works anymore. This response, usually heartfelt and born of frustration, almost always was ignored, because:

a) the Millennial/Zoomer economic struggles are a direct result of popular Boomer policies, and the only policy programs that could serve as a corrective to these policies would be the center-left wealth redistribution programs that are popular in the modern Democratic Socialist movement,

b) Boomers grew up in a Cold War context which made the vague menace of “socialism” the existential, atom-bomb-is-coming enemy for most of their lives. This childhood fear has been effectively weaponized by the right, who declares any social program to be indistinguishable from Stalinist purges, and

c) The arguing parties are, usually, children and their parents (or older family members), meaning that the arguments will almost always be tinged with parent/child power dynamics, which means they get easily derailed because the child doesn’t feel seen by the parent and the parent doesn’t feel appreciated by the child.

(5) “Okay, Boomer,” is the first retaliatory response to the bad advice given by Boomers that is effectively the same in both content and form. It is reductive, dismissive, condescending, and designed to end conversation rather than start it. Boomers — particularly the leftists who have actually been fighting the current economic context since the 60’s and 70’s — could recognize in “Okay, Boomer,” the same spirit their own bards adopted. For 60’s Boomers, Dylan:

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get outta’ the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'”

And for 70’s Boomers, Bowie:

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through.”

In conclusion, “Okay, Boomer” is a (slightly more concise than usual) iteration of the type of dialectical weapon that always appears in intergenerational warfare. Disclaimer: Academic criticism of or minor quibbles with this thesis will be responded to with “Okay, Boomer.”

See? Maybe I didn’t even need to write this post. Anyway.

The Boomer/Class differentiation is kind of like the thing you learn in school about squares and rectangles: not all Boomers are wealthy and powerful, but (almost) all of the wealthy and powerful are Boomers. And then we run into the “not all men” defense. No, not all Boomers. But enough Boomers that the discourse becomes necessary to have, and it is not necessarily a personal attack on you. As Richard says, “Of course it’s not all Boomers, but if you’re going to center yourself in a conversation about privilege by telling us so, it’s definitely about you.” It’s also important to note that one of the reasons the Venn diagram between Boomers and Wealthy Assholes is so close to a circle is that a lot of the poor Boomers have died or become otherwise removed from public discourse. We’ve lost countless Boomers to poverty, to HIV/AIDS, to mass incarceration, to unaddressed health issues, etc. Most of the Boomers that are left are the wealthy elites by process of literal elimination.

The obvious retort a lot of “Ok, Boomer” respondents have is to this is to tell Millennials to stop getting upset about critiques against Millennials, and to a certain extent, yeah, fair. But (and this may be my Millennial bias showing) I think that there is actually a distinction between the Millennial: Applebee’s Assassin figure and the stereotypical wealthy Boomer that “Ok, Boomer” addresses. That Millennial Assassin doesn’t actually exist (or if they do, many of the things they are accused of are not actually their fault), whereas the condescending, wealthy Boomer does.

Here is a (far from complete) list of things that Millennials have been accused of killing:

  • Home Ownership
  • J. Crew
  • Car Ownership
  • Home Depot
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Napkins
  • Cruises
  • Golf
  • Marriage
  • Diamonds

Now what could all these things possibly have in common? Millennials are “killing” industries because we don’t have any bloody money. Accounting for inflation, today’s minimum wage is worth roughly half of what it was in the 1970s, while the effective cost of college is almost 200% more than it was at that point. And I will literally be Too Depressed if I look up what the difference in housing costs is, so you’ll have to do that yourself. Or imagine it. Napkins are more expensive and less multi-purpose than paper towels. We can’t afford to buy property, and you don’t really need a home repair store if you can’t afford to buy a home. Marriage means combining debts and spending about $30,000 for a party, and is also hard to do when you can’t afford to leave your parents’ house. It’s difficult to buy a car when all your “extra” income is going to student loans. You can’t really go on a cruise when you have no money and don’t have a job with those wacky and rare fringe benefits like “vacation time.” Eating out, buying higher-class fast fashion, and playing a game of golf are all the types of “frivolous” expenses that we don’t have much of a budget for and that we also get yelled at for spending money on because it is “fiscally irresponsible.” And diamonds? Give me a fucking break. The best thing the economic crisis has done is make people break out of the 100-year hypnosis the De Beers company had us in and realize that compressed pieces of carbon are not actually worth three months salary. When Millennials get blamed for “killing” something, it is because the Boomers who run the economy arranged things so that these industries would die. I would happily patronize All of the Stores if I had the money to do so. I would possibly lower myself to buying napkins (especially if they are the cute ones with designs on them). I probably still wouldn’t play golf, but that’s because I hate golf. If a Boomer tells me that I need to work harder to get a “good job,” responding “Ok, Boomer” is code for, “Why did you construct an economy where that is impossible for me?”

There are two other aspects of “Ok, Boomer” that I would like to address that I don’t think the aforementioned Facebook post fully addressed. The first is the role of “Ok, Boomer” as an indictment of inaction.

Have you seen that viral picture of the elderly woman holding up a sign that tells you all the things she never bothered protesting, but then says she’s out here protesting Trump because he’s THAT bad? (I would show it here, but I can’t find it because I have great visual memory but terrible instincts towards saving images, and there are actually so many Trump protest signs that Google image search is unhelpful.) What she’s trying to get across is, “Trump is the worst president possible.” What she is accidentally getting across is, “I have been too complacent to bother protesting injustice over the last fifty years.” The world that Millennials and Gen Z are facing is literally and metaphorically on fire. And we neither set that fire, nor sat back and watched it burn. Billy Joel is lying, Boomers did it. (Again, #NotAllBoomers. Do not @ me, Boomers.) A lot of people spent a lot of their lives being politically inactive, and are just now waking up and going, “Man, maybe we should do something.” I feel guilty for not being as politically active as I could have been in the last ten years. A lot of Boomers were politically inactive for the last 50 years. (And again, don’t @ me. I’m happy for all people to join the revolution, even if it’s a bit late. We need all hands on deck, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time scolding anyone as long as they’re willing to do the work now.) Sure, some Boomers took part in Civil Rights campaigns, in various waves of feminism, and in the LGBTQ rights movement. But a lot of them didn’t. They were so convinced that they were the temporarily disenfranchised millionaires that they let unions sink, made recycling campaigns instead of holding industries accountable for emissions, and allowed the GOP to systematically take charge of nearly every state legislature. And then Millennials get accused of being disengaged.

“Ok, Boomer” is “Cool story bro.” “Ok, Boomer” is “Why do you suddenly care?” “Ok, Boomer” is “Why didn’t you make the world easier for me instead of harder?”

The other thing I want to talk about is the role of “Ok, Boomer” as a sigh of defeat. “Ok, Boomer” is a sign that the speaker has tapped out of the conversation, that they are tired of making the same arguments into the void again and again, and that they acknowledge that the person they are speaking to will never see them as an equal or change their mind on a topic. “Ok, Boomer” is the way I had to excuse myself to use the restroom last time I got into one of these arguments with someone I care about, so that I could cry silently in frustration for a couple of minutes because the person I was arguing with would never admit that systems of oppression, and not personal responsibility or entitlement, kept my friends and loved ones from making a living wage. “Ok, Boomer” is someone sighing, shaking their head, and acknowledging that you are a lost cause. Or at least that they don’t have the time and energy to keep engaging with you.

Do I think that it’s the most productive thing to have inter-generational conflict over nicknames? No, of course not. Do I get at least a bit of schadenfreude about the same generation of people who called my generation snowflakes and protested against the need for “political correctness” that asked them not to use slurs losing their shit over getting called something they call themselves? Yes. Yes I do. I do think that inter-generational conflict is probably a distraction from the actual problem, which is our current class system and distribution of wealth. But “Ok, Boomer” didn’t rise out of a vacuum, and it isn’t totally off the mark. In order to really address the problems in our society, we do need unity. But asking for unity without acknowledging the ways your actions (or inaction) have harmed others, without acknowledging the different lived experiences of various participants, and without acknowledging your own privilege is not really asking for unity, it is asking for forgetfulness.

Signed: (Millennial) Feminist Fury

***

Featured image is a “laser text meme” of the words “ok boomer”

Sexy Halloween Costumes V: Yandy, Are You Okay?

This is my fifth solid year of writing sexy costume roundups. That is… probably not good for my psyche. And honestly, I’m starting to think it’s not good for anyone else’s psyche, either. Because while last year’s roundup made me ask the question, “Do I have Stockholm Syndrome? Am I ok?” this year’s roundup is making me ask, “Yandy, are you ok?” Because I don’t think Yandy is ok. I think they may be a victim of their own success. Because once you have made All the Things sexy… what is left? What can you do besides continue churning out mindless nothingness? What can you do to push the envelope when you have already destroyed the envelope? I mean, they didn’t even have much enthusiasm to be racist this year. (Don’t worry, they were still racist. But their heart wasn’t really in it, I don’t think.)

As usual, I’ll be embedding photos instead of linking, because I don’t need this site flagged as something that is sending Yandy traffic. Also, Yandy doesn’t deserve traffic. Yandy was sent to us to make us contemplate our sins.

First, like last year, there were a few costumes that I actually liked. Fewer costumes than last year, so I think the Stockholm Syndrome faded. But a couple.

I actually liked both of these takes on Beetlejuice (known as “Horror Honey” and “Got the Juice” respectively):

I also liked this take on “sexy Belle,” which is actually labeled “Beautiful Belle,” which means that either they’re actually working with Disney, or they’re about to get sued. (I’m leaning towards the latter; you’ll see why later.)

I also liked this take on the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, appropriately named “Punctual White Rabbit.”

And… that was about it. Not much I liked this year. (Though there was one Wednesday Addams costume that got bonus points for being named “Woman Crush Wednesday,” even though the costume itself was pretty lame.) They of course had their usual crop of racist costumes, but even those were toned down this year. There weren’t as many new racist costumes as there usually are, and they seem to mostly be recycling things they’ve already done in terms of having white women pose in “ninja” costumes and use “Egyptian” costumes as an excuse for a lot of costume jewelry. Feast your eyes on “Violent Warfare Ninja,” “Empress Divine” and “Samurai Jackie.”

But this is where “business as usual” Yandy seems to end. Because honestly, a lot of their stuff this year seems like they’re not even trying. They have some costumes that are clear allusions to pop stars. Among many others there are costumes of Madonna, Lil’ Kim, Cardi B, and Mel B from the Spice Girls, and all of them are… fine. I mean, they’re about as sexy as the original outfits were. They basically just ARE the stars’ original outfits.

As usual, Yandy seems to be trying to spoil our childhoods by going after family friendly cartoon characters. But this year, they picked… Toy Story. and Minions. And no, I never had the question, “I wonder what the aliens from the claw machine would look like if they were sexy,” but I also don’t feel like clutching my pearls. Make Woody sexy. Go ahead. His name is “Woody,” and his friend is named “Buzz,” the costumes design themselves.

As usual, there are some “ripped from the headlines” Sexy (blank object or idea) costumes, but they… aren’t really trying. Like, at all. Not even to the level of “sexy pizza rat.” There’s a “sexy Whiteclaw” called Hard Outlaw. So…. a sexy alcoholic seltzer. And the costume is… meh.

There’s a Beyond Burger costume which is just… a hamburger dress with a “plant based” flag fascinator.

There’s a costume that references the time that Popeye’s sold out of its new chicken sandwich, which… yeah, I guess is a thing that happened? I kinda remember that? Also it’s basically an altered version of the burger dress with “sold out” on the crotch.

They reference the current impeachment crisis with… a beauty pageant outfit? I don’t even understand this. It is “Miss Impeachment.” Is that… they don’t think that’s a pun, do they? And it comes with a whistle. For the whistleblower. I have to show you the ad copy for this one because it makes absolutely nothing better, but is one of the best examples of “trying desperately to make something work” I’ve seen since one of my students tried to take an exam on a book they hadn’t read:
Is that the sound of a whistle blowing? It turns out there are eyes and ears everywhere. Claiming collusion won’t get you any justice, but curves like these will get you sent down in history. Smile and wave while you reflect on your questionable acts in this exclusive Miss Impeachment costume featuring a peach, floor-length dress with halter straps, a deep V-neckline, a sexy high leg slit, a white MISS IMPEACHMENT print sash with peach decals, a rhinestone studded crown, and a silver whistle. No quid pro quo required.

Just…. what?

There’s also a college scandal reference costume, and I’ve got to be honest… I could make a better sexy college scandal costume. Like, an Aunt Becky costume but with handcuffs. That would be kinda clever, right? This… this is not clever.

There is a sexy cauliflower pizza costume and… did I miss something? Was cauliflower pizza a national talking point of some sort? I don’t remember this happening. Also, this is just obviously an attempt to reuse the “plant based” fascinator from the Beyond Burger costume. I think they just ordered too many flags and then scrambled.

There is a…. Tater Thot costume. *sighs deeply*

There is also a tariff costume, which is about the point at which I exclaimed, “You’re not even TRYING.” It is a money dress with “Tariff” stamped on it. That’s it. This is the sexy dress equivalent of Stephen King’s lamp monster.

Strangest of all, there were multiple costumes this year that were not sexy. At all. Just… straight up not sexy. They decided to go with a lot of ponchos, including one that I’m pretty sure is made up of shirts they got from Goodwill, and TWO separate scarecrow poncho costumes. Two.

There were also a rather frightening number of onesies, the best/worst of which was probably this Pumpkin Spice onesie. It looks comfortable as hell, but I’m pretty sure if you wear it to a party, you are never having sex again. Also I’m not sure how you walk in it, because it seems to take Hammer Pants drop crotch to a whole new level, where you ask yourself, “I wonder what it would feel like to shuffle around as if my pants were all the way down, only they AREN’T down?”

And then there is the Guacward Avocado costume. It’s just… it’s just an avocado. That’s it, that’s the whole concept. Not even a sexy avocado, just… like if Whole Foods was hiring someone to dress as an avocado to do some street promotions, this is what they would have you wear.

Now, for those of you who have seen some writeups of Yandy’s merchandise this year, you may feel as if I’m making two glaring omissions. But I promise you I’m not, I’m getting to them. Because even though in most years, these two costumes would win the “Why hast thou forsaken me, oh God” prize, this year I think they’re actually further evidence that Yandy has given up on life. I’m talking, of course, about the Nicest Neighbor and Happy Tree Painter costumes.

Now, do I feel a little bit worse about the world, knowing that these costumes exist and that at least one person probably bought them? Yes, of course I do. But I also feel like they’re the ultimate evidence that Yandy has pushed about as far as they can before they become a Cards Against Humanity meme. They took two of the kindest, most wholesome figures in pop culture and made them sexy. Which means they have nowhere else to go. I have heard more negative things about Mother Theresa than I have heard about either Fred Rogers or Bob Ross. There is no higher peak of outlandish, out-of-place sexiness for Yandy to climb to. We have reached Peak Sexy. (See what I did there?)

Now, because the universe hates me and doesn’t want me to have nice things, this time next year I’ll probably be drinking and muttering, “That wasn’t supposed to be a challenge.” But for this year, I’m genuinely concerned for Yandy. I mean, after spending five years mocking their costumes, I feel like I know them pretty well, and I think they might have a problem. I think they have flown too close to the sexy sun. (Why don’t they have a sexy sun costume?) I think they have become a snake eating its own tail, a victim of their own success. I think they maybe need to call someone to drive them home. Yandy, are you ok?

Signed: Feminist Fury

***

featured image is a goofy jack-o-lantern with the caption “R U OK?” superimposed. Original photo by Douglaspperkins (linked to https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/photos/4f1342a3-0683-4c98-9d4c-388c32191003), used under a CC-BY 4.0 licence.

Yes, This Matters

I was going to school in the early days of the wane of Columbus Day as a holiday. For the first few years of grade school, we got the day off. After the second grade, we suddenly stopped. Instead it became a day for teachers to trot something out about how, “in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and not much else.

In sixth grade, my teacher split the class into groups. Each group was assigned an explorer that reached North/South/Central America, and we had to put on presentations for other classes to explain why our explorer was the first to find America. The other students would then vote on who they thought was correct. (The Magellan group won, because they were the funniest and the last to go and 11-year-olds don’t have the best attention span. My group was Leif Erikson, and I will die on the hill of vikings being the first European explorers to North America. Plus I had a cool fake fur cloak. Weirdly, “the indigenous people who already lived here/discovered the place obviously first” were not a group that you could choose to be in.) The Columbus group obediently recited the same facts we had all learned throughout school: Columbus thought the world was round, but no one believed him! He was cruelly mocked in his native Italy, and it wasn’t until Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain believed in him that he had the chance to prove his theory. He took three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and after a harsh journey and mocking from even his own sailors, he discovered America! And that’s why we have Columbus Day today. This was the Truth According to the United States education system.

And then I got to the tenth grade, and my world was rocked.

My tenth grade US History teacher assigned us chapters from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States in addition to chapters from our textbook. I can still remember sitting at a table in my high school cafeteria during a free period, pressing hard on the book so that the thick text would stay open, and learning that Columbus was a genocidal fuckhead.

I learned that pretty much everyone in the world knew that the world was round in his time.

I learned that Columbus was after gold and spices, not knowledge.

I learned that Columbus was trying to find a way around the Turkish control of the land route to Asia.

I learned that Columbus was terrible at math, and if he’d actually had to sail to Asia, he would have definitely died. But he lucked out and hit the Americas instead.

I learned that Columbus was promised ten percent of his profits and rule over the lands he found.

I learned that Columbus lied to shortchange the man that actually sighted land first, so that he could receive the reward for first sighting instead.

I learned that Columbus and his followers raped, enslaved, and murdered the natives they came across.

I learned that Columbus and his men made impossible demands of the native people, demanding gold that didn’t exist, and cutting off the hands of those that failed to get the nonexistent gold. 

Like I said, my world was rocked. Somehow, in the many years of being taught every few years that all of the previous things I’d learned about history were a lie, I’d never learned about the massive lie around Columbus Day. And as I grew older, things only got worse. I learned more and more, and what I knew about Columbus grew worse and worse.

The Washington Post has an article on Columbus’ time with the Taino, and a from a contemporary account roughly ten years after Columbus first landed.

From the article,


So Columbus tried again for gold, but this time he and his men didn’t go looking for it. They ordered all Taino people 14 and older to deliver a certain amount of gold dust every three months. If they didn’t, their hands would be cut off. At this point, the Taino were refusing to grow crops, and those that didn’t bleed to death after their hands were removed began to die of famine and disease. When they fled into the mountains, they were hunted down by dogs. Many killed themselves with cassava poison.

Columbus and his men also continued to sexually abuse Taino women and girls. In 1500, Columbus wrote to an acquaintance that, “there are many dealers that go about looking for girls; those from nine to 10 are now in demand.”


And from the contemporary account by Bartolome de las Casas in 1502:


They [Spanish explorers] forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual’s head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow from their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by their feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders, shouting, ‘Wriggle, you little perisher.’

Between direct actions and smallpox, 90% of the Taino population was killed following Spanish conquest. Columbus is also indirectly responsible for the growth of the slave trade. When the original Taino and other indigenous people that he transported over to Europe and that he forced to labor on their original land proved to be too “weak” and died too quickly from mistreatment, they began to import African slaves en masse.

In short, Columbus was a monster. He’s directly or indirectly responsible for the maiming, enslavement, rape, and death of thousands and even millions of people. He was, in the words of Eddie Izzard, “a genocidal fuckhead… with bunny rabbit ears.”

Which is why I find it so goddamn confusing that efforts to replace Columbus Day (which never should have happened in the first place, and is a mix between the inventive mind of Washington Irving and a desire by Italian Americans to be a little bit less hated, aka start being considered white) with Indigenous Peoples’ Day often get met with indifference at best and hostility at worst.

Trying to rename Columbus Day in honor of the people that he slaughtered has been labeled a volley in the “culture war.” Throwing paint on statues of Columbus has been compared to ISIS destroying cultural monuments. The people who want Columbus Day renamed have been called hysterical SJWs, cultural terrorists, and idiots.

Notably, almost all of the people slinging that mud are white.

I genuinely can’t imagine the kind of cultural trauma caused by a figure like Columbus, let alone the additional trauma of having a holiday named after him. And I also can’t imagine having people shrug off or even insult that trauma.

It isn’t hysterical to point out that Columbus was a genocidal monster unworthy of celebration. It’s history. And even though his misdeeds happened hundreds of years ago, the results of his actions are still reverberating today. And what we decide to celebrate, whether it be in the form of statues, media, or holidays, says a lot about who we are and what we value. We can’t move forward if we are still glorifying the most terrible parts of our past.

Signed: Feminist Fury

***

Featured image is a “the more you know” meme reading “Columbus was a Genocidal Fuckhead.”

Why Would You Accidentally Admit that?



Sometimes you’re reading something, and when you’re done, you stare at the screen. And then, to the room at large, but specifically to the author (who you imagine hears you somehow despite the fact that you’re miles away and have no idea who they are), you say, “Why would you tell on yourself like that? Why would you write something and then show it to God and everyone and let them know that you think this thing?

That is what I thought after reading the article “A Good Man Is Getting Even Harder to Find” by Gerard Baker for the Wall Street Journal. The crux of the article is that, because women are now 57% of college graduates at the bachelor’s degree level and 59% of graduates at the master’s degree level, they are outnumbering the educated men of the world. And since women are very much more discerning than men (according to Baker) we are choosier in picking a mate. We are apparently more picky in our judgment of attractiveness of men on dating apps, and highly value intelligence and economic achievement in our partners. Combined, this means that women will not find acceptable men to mate with and the population is going to decrease and we will not have sex and things will be very bad.

…. So. A few things.

I feel compelled to point out that, for hundreds of years, women were under-represented in universities, or even forbidden from attending universities. Women were unable to obtain certain jobs, or in some cases any job at all. And somehow, men found it within themselves to fuck us anyway. And even marry us. Granted, there were some cultural factors helping this out—things that definitely wouldn’t apply today, like a woman being considered a wasted shell of a person if she didn’t marry, and men relying on women for emotional and domestic labor, and women being seen as an extension of their male partners. (None of that would happen today, would it?) But still, we somehow managed to survive as a species for ages without both partners being seen as intellectual and economic equals.

When Baker is talking about how women are more “discerning” regarding their partners, he’s playing into a few stereotypes. The women get the “model minority” type of stereotype, where something that is supposedly making them “better” than others is still used as a way to pigeonhole and ascribe aspects to a group. Women are more “discerning,” supposedly, which means we’re going to be picky and judgmental about our partners. We’re going to, in fact, “choose” ourselves into a loveless, sexless existence, because we are just so picky. And on the other hand, men are less “choosey” (aka, they will supposedly stick it in anything) which means that they’ll sleep with anyone, and women barely even have to try.  (I mean, as long as they’re attractive. Otherwise… ugh, right?)

But underlying all of this is an assumption. One that I kinda can’t believe Baker is willing to expose: Baker thinks that men have nothing to offer women if they cannot be their equal or superior in education, money, or looks. Baker thinks that a man either has to be a scientist, a stock broker, or a smoke show in order to get a woman. And speaking as someone who has seen married couples literally ever…. No?

People are happily married in couples where the man didn’t go to college, or doesn’t make as much money, or doesn’t meet the same level of conventional attractiveness, as their female partners. Because people have more to offer than their face, their degree, and their pocketbook. Maybe a man didn’t go to college, but he is funny as hell and is super handy. Maybe a man isn’t very conventionally attractive, but he’s incredibly sensitive and supportive. Maybe a man is making less money than his spouse, but he is an absolutely incredible father. Maybe a man is a broke, unattractive dullard, but he’s fantastic at sex. There are a lot of aspects of a person that make them seem like an appropriate or attractive partner. And Baker is admitting that he either thinks men don’t have these aspects, or he thinks that they aren’t good enough or strong enough to overcome the “deficiencies” of being less educated or less wealthy than their partners.

There are things that Baker could advise men to do that would genuinely increase their chances of getting a partner: don’t send women unsolicited pictures of your genitalia on a dating app. Don’t act entitled to sex in exchange for the most basic acts of human decency. Communicate openly and genuinely with the person you are trying to connect with. All of those things are really basic, really helpful, and Baker has no interest in any of them. Because they involve actually talking to men about their behavior and suggesting social change that must be undertaken by men, instead of clutching metaphorical pearls and asking, “But what if women have become too equal?”

Baker obviously has a low opinion of women, but he also obviously has a low opinion of men. Yes, power dynamics are changing. Yes, that is changing the way the dating world works. But that doesn’t mean that men and women will never mate again—it means that some men are going to have to go beyond the general staples of masculinity to appeal to a partner. And to do that, they might even have to treat women like an actual partner and a peer.

Signed: Feminist Fury

***

Featured image is of a “Change My Mind” meme with the caption “Men Are Just Trash, Change My Mind.”

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

***

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

***

*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. “

***

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

***

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

“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

***

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.

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.

***

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.”

I Only Looked Away For a Second

A few days ago, I clicked on a campaign ad for Elizabeth Warren. The ad was inviting me to vote on what issues I considered important, and would like Warren to address. The categories were far reaching, including reproductive health, income inequality, race-based injustice, LGBTQ+ protections, income discrepancies… I kept scrolling, and kept clicking. Yes, I thought this was important. Yes, I thought that was important. Yes, I’d like a political candidate to address this issue. I scrolled through almost twenty items, clicking as I went, before I reached the end. I’d clicked on everything, and there was a box at the end to allow me to enter even more things that mattered to me. “My God,” I thought, looking back over that list. “I care about all of those things. But how can any one candidate cover all of those things, let alone cover them well? How would they even attempt to prioritize a list like that?”

That sense of being overwhelmed by how many things are going wrong, of not knowing where to focus, of not even knowing what fire to start putting out when everything is on fire, is one that I’ve known well for most of my adult life, but especially since November 2016. To a certain extent, I’ve chosen some of my priorities—this is called “Feminist Friday,” after all. Gender concerns are pretty obviously on the forefront of my mind. But good feminist practice involves incorporating many concerns, because pretty much all social justice issues intersect. Being a generally good person involves caring about many different concerns because, you know… gotta look out for your fellow humans. And animals too. And plants. And the environment in general. And… you see how it goes?

An accidental byproduct of this split attention is that some things end up being de-prioritized. Or not even de-prioritized so much as “set aside and hoping they won’t explode for two seconds.” Like when you have a pot about to boil over but there is another pot boiling over right now, so you have to hope that the first pot will keep its shit together for as long as it takes you to turn down the other burner, take it off the heat, and try to salvage something within it.

 Or even worse, the issue is one that you thought was mostly handled, but then suddenly flared up again while you were focused on something else—a new attack that you weren’t expecting. For me, that supposedly settled issue that has suddenly boiled over is reproductive rights. Namely, abortion rights.

I learned about Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood early on in my feminist arc. And both of them felt fairly far away, even though I realistically knew that the cases had affected my grandparents’ generation, my parents’ generation. Even though people liked to come to campus with large pictures of mangled fetuses. Even though I had to pay out of pocket for my birth control at the school clinic. Things were a bit unfair, sure, and things could certainly get better, but we were making forward progress! We were going to only move forward. We’d already established our rights, and there was nowhere to go but up. After all, it wasn’t like we had our rights to vote curtailed once the 19th Amendment finally passed, was it? (Ah, young!feminist Elle. So idealistic. So naïve.)

The steady rise of TRAP laws, the gradual erosion of reproductive rights, the constant pressure from anti-abortionists, the downright false beliefs that fly in the face of established medical science… they’ve been gnawing at reproductive rights since the beginning, but they have definitely gone into overdrive in the last few years. And I’ve certainly been paying attention for the last few years– a good deal of my posts on this blog and our former blog deal with reproductive rights. But I still thought that things were happening piecemeal. That enough anti-abortion legislation had been overturned that while things were getting dicey, and Handmaid’s Tale-y, public opinion was enough on our side that things would stay at the current level of bad for a little while longer– long enough for me to catch my breath and focus on things like “children being put into cages” and “the 12 year time limit on our planet as a functioning system.” And… that didn’t happen.

And now everyone who was yelling at feminists for being alarmist because we kept comparing the erosion of reproductive rights to The Handmaid’s Tale are now going, “…..yeah, ok. Damn. Kinda Gilead-y over here.” Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is horrific on a level I can’t even really fathom. It could foreseeably treat any miscarriage as a potential homicide (btw, did you know that about 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage? And that even more pregnancies end in miscarriage because they happen before the woman knows she’s pregnant… which under this bill would probably still be after the point at which an abortion is illegal?) It punishes you for leaving the borders of Georgia to try and obtain an abortion. It punishes anyone who helps someone else to get an abortion. This is…. This is some “chain you to the kitchen” kinds of legislation. It clearly and explicitly sees people with wombs as incubators for children, and nothing else. You’ll notice that the law doesn’t require the institution of child support, or other protections that are afforded to children. The law considers a fetus a “child” only for the purpose of punishing women.

In previous years, I’d at least have the cold comfort of knowing that once the inevitable lawsuits over this law made it to the Supreme Court, it would be overturned. But now that we have Neil “Torquemada” Gorsuch and Brett “Devil’s Triangle” Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court… I don’t really have that confidence. In fact I have confidence in the opposite conclusion. And in a lot of ways, the damage will already be done, even if the law is overturned.

 The damage that has already been done is incalculable—clinics that have been forced to close and will never open again, policies passed at various levels that will keep people away from reproductive information at crucial times in their lives, necessary funding has been withheld, research has been set back by decades…. It makes me want to cry.

We are treading in waters that are very reminiscent of the pre-Roe v. Wade era. Because overturning Roe v. Wade is the endgame. This law was put into place in order to be challenged, because anti-life activists (not giving them the pleasure of being either “pro-life” or “anti-abortion,” at this point they are sincerely anti-life) read the signs, and decided that this was the best possible time, with the best possible state government, and the best possible Supreme Court, to get this law to work its way through the system and effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.

There are some things we can do to try and condemn Georgia lawmakers specifically for their actions—namely, encouraging major industries like film and television to stop using the state as a location, or removing tourism dollars in other ways (no Dragon Con for me). But Georgia is not the only state where this is happening. Fun fact, the pending Ohio bill requires a surgery to “save” ectopic pregnancies that doesn’t currently exist. Funner fact, the Alabama bill that is trying to overturn Roe v. Wade calls abortion worse than Hitler, Stalin, China’s “Great Leap Forward,” and the Khmer Rouge! By the time this is all done, the structural damage it leaves in its wake is going to affect the entire country.

Anyone who has the ability to get pregnant needs to decide what they going to do about that. And anyone who has the ability to get anyone else pregnant needs to figure out what they’re going to do about it as well.

On the personal level, I genuinely, strongly encourage anyone who is able to get pregnant and doesn’t want to do so to look into long-term birth control. I personally ran out and got an IUD as soon as Trump was elected, because even though I was pretty distracted from just how bad things were getting on the reproductive rights front, I could still see the writing on the wall. It’s supposed to last for another three years, aka, “hopefully past the end of Trump’s only term.” Emergency contraception like Plan B is not always readily available, and it doesn’t work well for anyone over 160 pounds.

If you’re able to get someone pregnant and don’t want to do so, strongly consider getting a vasectomy. While the process isn’t as foolproof, or as non-problematic, as people like to act it is, it’s still one of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure that unwanted pregnancies don’t happen. It also puts some weight and responsibility on the impregnator which… basically no abortion bill does. Weird. It’s like abortion bills are written by a lot of misogynists under a patriarchy.

Finally, think really hard about what role you’re willing to play in helping the people affected by this bill, and by bills like it. Are you willing to give money to organizations fighting these bills, to clinics, or to individual people needing assistance affording contraception or an abortion? Are you willing to donate your time? Are you willing to run to office? Are you willing to help smuggle people out of the state to get abortions? Are you willing to let people stay at your house, or drive someone for ten hours, or use your insurance, to try and work around various abortion restrictions? Are you willing to risk imprisonment? Are you willing to risk your medical license by performing illegal abortions? Because pretty much all of these things are going to become necessary if we want to maintain reproductive choice under these conditions.

I’m not trying to scare you—you should already be scared.

Signed: Feminist Fury

***

Featured image is of a group of actresses dressed as Handmaids filming for the Handmaid’s Tale television show. Photo: Victoria Pickering CC BY 2.0