I think I am going to declare reading list bankruptcy. Four months is just not feasible to catch up on. This means that all of you are new and exciting to me in certain ways.|
I'm reading a lot of GK Chesterton at the moment. It's interesting and fun and lovely, but also fascinating in a way I hadn't expected: the racism.
More to the point, the part where most of the time, it's the lack of racism, given the era in which he wrote. (Note: This is not flawless, unless you're taking into account quite a bit of nuance in the writing, at certain points, and if your familiarity with a century-old dialect of English is imperfect, some of that nuance is going to burn. Plus, though it's never attributed as any kind of worthy sentiment, very occasionally certain words and phrases occur which some would deservedly find offensive and painful. The fact that Chesterton uses certain vile epithets in an ironic, "are you noticing how stupid these people are, here" sort of way doesn't mean it won't retain the capacity to hurt.)
( Possibly slightly incoherent, definitely mildly spoilery, might as well cut. )
Father Brown is also the first fictional quasi-detective I've found in fiction since Lord Peter who is actually, genuinely likable. He's not smug or superior about things, and he's not out to be right or to get into other people's business for his own sake; he cares about people, and is often called in to their personal business by reason of his being a priest.
And he's not too perfect, even in his general tendency to be nice to people and try to think the best of them and be friendly. You get lines like: "But Father Brown had to tell himself sharply that one should be in charity even with those who wax their pointed beards, who have small gloved hands, and who speak with perfectly modulated voices." Just a little reminder that thinking kindly of people is not necessarily purely a native gift, so much as an attitude one can hold deliberately.
Oh, actually, there's also the lack of sexism, in curious ways. For example, in one of the first stories I read, there's a male character who is compared, at a number of points, to an old maid, and aspects of his behaviour and personality are referred to in terms of being "feminine"...
... and these are positive attributes, of a man who, in the story, is a VC and an unquestionable, absolute hero. He's just not a glory-seeking hero. His is the heroism of: "Someone needs to do this dangerous and frightening thing. I guess that someone should be me."
He even ends up marrying the beautiful woman who features in the story.
Most of the significant characters in the stories are still men, but in an odd way, it tends to seem like the women aren't involved as much as they might be because they're not silly enough for such foolishness.
On Feminist Frequency (link goes to page with video + transcript), there's a video up on the theme of "Tropes vs Women #1: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl".|
And ooh, I have issues with it.
Firstly, there's the personal, which will generally hit first before wider considerations of social justice come in to play, I can't deny it. The issue being that while I wouldn't describe myself as anyone's dream girl, the manic pixie thing? That would be me.
To the extent that my very close friend Chas will actually laughingly say, "Such a pixie!" when I am being silly sometimes.
So when the woman presenting the piece approvingly quotes some dude called Nathan Rabin as follows:
Rabin writes, “That bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”
... that's kind of angering, because I'm sorry, but I exist in the real world, too, and what we're dealing with here is the much wider problem of female characters existing in works of fiction solely to catalyse the personal growth/journey/whatever of the usually-white male hero, which is in itself a subset of everyone who isn't a white male Hero existing in works of fiction solely to catalyse et cetera et cetera et cetera. There are a lot more Magic Negroes and characters of colour with no independent conceptual existence than Manic Pixie Dream Girls out there.
And given that this is also done to other female characters, suggesting that the only ones who are really terrible are "Manic Pixie Dream Girls" is somewhere in between really infuriatingly insulting to people like me, and offensively dismissive of everyone else who gets treated like they're only there to further the hero's personal journey.
(Bonus offensiveness: Spot the nasty ablism contained in one of the movie scenes played as an example of how hilarious Manic Pixie Dream Girls are.)
To Bitch and Feminist Frequency: Hollywood isn't the one telling me I don't exist here. You are.
Okay, so, here's the thing: I want to post about a pet peeve. However, the term I'm going to use is problematic for several members of my readership, guaranteed.|
See, the pet peeve is: women who hate feminists.
However, there's a certain amount of term-definition required for "feminists", because there are a lot of feminists who also totally suck, and who are very loud in their sucking, and can, I know, seem to be What Feminists Are.
The problem here is not feminism, the problem is them.
See, feminism, to me, is kind of a legacy term, in some ways, not exactly an accurate representation of the movement to advocate equality between the sexes, and problematic in the way it's become linked, for some people, with some seriously problematic behaviour by some feminists. Some people argue it neds to be retired, as a term, but I dislike "womanism" pretty strongly - it's heading in the wrong direction, if you ask me. Possibly I should talk more in terms of, say, anti-sexism, because my view is that the social structure we live in, with its assumptions about gender that, overall, privilege men is nonetheless deeply harmful to men as well as women.
The trouble with a lot of feminists is that they don't recognise intersectionality, and even if they do, nonetheless privilege advocacy on behalf of middle-class able-bodied cisgendered white heterosexual women, arguing that it's a distraction from the Important Issues to concentrate on issues that only affect non-white women, or disabled women, or trans women, or lesbians, etc.
Which, to me, is bullshit, because it's either for all women or it's just a substitution of oppressive hierarchies.
(I'm also irritated by so-called feminists who are anti-men in general. Individual men are not the problem.)
But a lot of women who identify as feminists identify as my kind of feminists - recognising that the other forms of oppression are important too, if only because these things feed into each other - you either take them all on or none of them, because even if you take on sexism full force, racism is going to be shoring it up even as you do so, because sexism feeds racism and racism feeds sexism.
(Yes, obviously you also do it because it's the right thing to do, but I'm trying to stay in the area of pragmatic reasoning, rather than abstract idealism.)
And when you bag on feminists, and make snotty remarks about the very idea that feminists could also be good people, then you are, in fact, not helping - if anything, you're aiding the existing power structure, aiding the Patriarchy.
The Patriarchy isn't just misogynistic, you know - the hierarchy of personal worth that it represents is also racist, classist, intolerant of anyone who isn't a cisgendered heterosexual, and hostile to anyone who doesn't conform. It also hurts men, enforcing gender norms that are bad for men.
That shit has got to go.
So where feminism is doing you wrong, okay, call it out. Demand that feminism be better. Expect more. But don't bag on the very idea that feminists could have a sense of humour, that feminists could be making a good point, that feminists could be people worth knowing. Constructive criticism, like, say, "feminism is unresponsive to the issues of non-white women, which is both racist and exclusionary," can only make feminism better, but if your ultimate point is only, "feminists are man-hating humourless ugly bulldykes with hairy legs", then shut the hell up.
Because the good lord knows, this is a subject where there's no risk of pissing anyone off, right?|
See, here's the thing.
Right-to-lifers, a body of people that no doubt includes good individiuals but is overall pretty loathsome, have a tendency to refer to their opposition in the abortion debate as "pro-abortion". I've seen people who are in that opposition get suckered into doing the same thing - I've done it myself.
My brother-out-law Chas tends to call me on it, because, as he rightly points out, I'm not pro-abortion. I am profoundly, heartfelt anti-abortion in my convictions. Looking at the terms literally, I'd say I'm also pro-life, in that I'm in favour of life, and all that.
However, I am also deeply, profoundly pro-choice in my convictions.
Abortion is bad. An abortion is a sign that something has gone wrong. It's just a matter of where that wrongness happened - whether it was the wrongness that is rape, or the wrongness that is bad sex education, or the wrongness that is a pregnancy that endangers a mother's health, or the wrongness that is a foetus so malformed as to be unviable.
Nobody wants abortions to take place - it's just that abortions can be necessary, which is why they should be safe, legal, and accessible. Including, perhaps especially, late-term abortions, because late-term abortions are not elective, not really - late-term abortions are for pregnancies that were wanted, chosen, intended to be kept, but which have become life-threatening, or which feature children who cannot live.
That's serious stuff. That's the situation where people are hurting, grieving, and perhaps gravely ill - that's a situation where things need to be as easy for them as possible, as safe as possible, as gentle on their grief as can be achieved.
If you disagree on this point, you are wrong, and I will not "respect" your "beliefs".
Second point of language: People are very careless with the word "abortion". When we talk about abortion, we're almost invariably talking about induced abortion - as opposed to spontaneous abortion, which is what you mean when you talk about "miscarriage", and the like - which, by the way, happens kind of a lot. The majority of first pregnancies result in spontaneous abortion. I'll come back to this later.
So let's consider the question of the demonised induced abortions - the ones where the woman is old enough, the foetus is viable, but the woman can't handle pregnancy and wants it terminated. If you remove any religious aspect from it, I'm not that sure what the argument against choice is. An embryo at that stage isn't a person; I'm not sure it's even alive by a sensible definition. It's incapable of anything approaching independent survival. Given that the female body will, in pregnancy, sabotage itself for the benefit of the foetus, if anything an unwelcome foetus is a parasite.
However, people bring religion into it. I'm going to speak only about Christianity here, because they're the most vocal in my cultural context, and because I am myself a Christian, and therefore can speak about Christianity with more authority and knowledge than I can about most religions.
The question depends on the point at which life begins - the point at which the potential baby goes from being "two separate cells, a sperm and an egg" to a living soul. It's the soul that matters - from a religious perspective, that which has no soul cannot be murdered.
The thing is, the question of when the soul is formed/attached/however it works is one that, strictly speaking, only God can answer. It is beyond the scope of we mere mortals.
So what did God say about this question?
Well, let's look at our only real source on the word of the Lord: the Holy Bible.
I admit, I haven't memorised the full text, but the only point I know of where this question is addressed is Genesis 2:7:
then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
If you take the Bible literally, which fundamentalists claim to do, then a living being is formed when the first breath of life is taken. Not breathing yet? Not alive. Not a soul.
I don't know that this is, in fact, the Truth of the beginning of a person's life. I can't know. I'm not God, and I don't speak for God, not really - I can say what I believe to be true about God, but that doesn't have to mean anything to anyone, especially if you don't worship my, or any, god(s). More than that, I don't want to. I have my own beliefs about my God and other gods - I feel less than obligated to explain my faith.
However, I do know that people who say that "life begins at conception" have no valid theological underpinning to this - it's just an excuse for extremism, an excuse to try and deny a woman control of her body.
And it is rooted in misogyny. It can't not be - ultimately, trying to dictate others' abortion rights is saying that you are better-equipped to make the decision than they are. It's saying that women can't be trusted to make the right choice, and should have that choice taken away from them.
Which is why they're not pro-life, they're just anti-choice. If they were pro-life, John McCain would have lost all of his support, all across America, the moment he put "health of the mother" in scare quotes and called it the extreme pro-abortion position.
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