A Thread For Discussing Hugo Nominated Works, Without Reference To The Recent Controversy

You can find a list of this year’s Hugo finalists, along with links to online versions (for those that are available online), here.

This is a thread where spoilers are acceptable. If you want to avoid spoilers, then you’ll need to do what I’ll be doing – skimming over the discussions of works I haven’t read yet. :-)

Posted in literature | 6 Comments  

“American Reflexxx,” a short film showing mob hatred of gender ambiguity

Content warning: This short film contains extreme transmisogyny, a hostile mob, violence, and is disturbing.

The film has a style of editing that makes it difficult to watch, even apart from the content; if the editing makes it hard to watch for you, turning the volume down or off may help. (It’s subtitled.) If the content makes it hard to watch, well, then you’re a decent person.

Tom Hawking of Flaverwire summarizes the film:

“…A camera [follows] a woman as she walks through a public space, recording the reactions of the members of the public she encounters. In this case, the woman is Pierce and the space is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Pierce certainly cuts a striking figure. She’s wearing a skimpy blue dress and neon yellow heels, and most strikingly, her face is entirely covered by a reflective mask. She’s also of apparently indeterminate gender; much of the video involves passersby trying to work out if she’s a cisgender man or woman, or a trans woman, or what. (I actually have no idea what Pierce’s gender identity is, which is kind of the point.)

The results are, as one might expect, pretty depressing. People seem genuinely terrified by her — several times groups of people scatter as she walks toward them, and at one point a girl shouts, “Oh hell no, don’t walk this way!” As the film progresses, the reactions become more violent — she has water thrown on her, someone attempts to trip her, and eventually she is pushed head-first into the pavement. Notably, all the acts of violence against her are carried out by women. The film ends with a sort of survey of her body, lingering on the blood streaming from the knee she gashed open when she hit the ground.

And a statement from the creators:

American Reflexxx is a short film documenting a social experiment that took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Alli Coates filmed performance artist Signe Pierce as she strutted down a busy oceanside street in stripper garb and a reflective mask. The pair agreed not to communicate until the experiment was completed, but never anticipated the horror that would unfold in under an hour.

The result is a heart wrenching technicolor spectacle that raises questions about gender stereotypes, mob mentality, and violence in America.

A few points:

1) In the comments at Pharyngula, “Janine” comments:

Just watched the film and I am still processing it. But I will say this, while I do not dress to call attention to myself and while I never had a crowd of people howling at me like that; I have heard everything shouted in that video shouted at me at some point.

Every single one.

… the editing, the stutter shots and the slowed down version of that rape anthem is all an attempt to show the disassociation that the person was feeling. When one is being yelled at and being assaulted, one sense of time and perception becomes distorted.

2) And in the same comments, “Caitiecat” writes:

And before anyone gets all righteous about how crappy the US is, you could shoot that same video in almost any city in the world, and it’d go the same way. I’ve encountered this kind of abuse in Canada, the US, the UK, France, Hong Kong and Thailand, also known as “every country I’ve been to since transition”.

3) The mirror-mask is interesting. It serves a bunch of functions: It implicitly says “you are the subject of this film, not me,” both to the people Pierce encounters, and to the viewers watching the film. It makes Pierce more gender-ambiguous. It draws attention to Pierce. A writer at Nylon comments, “Only after the deeply unsettling climax does the crowd begin to back off — away from themselves, really, considering the mirrored mask.”

4) In the sequence with the street preacher, I can’t tell if the preacher is responding to her, or is not reacting at all to her and just screaming what he would have been screaming regardless.

5) How different would the crowd have acted if there wasn’t a woman with a camera obviously filming their actions? Maybe some of them were performing for the camera, but I’m sure some would have acted worse if they hadn’t known they were being recorded.

6) The people we see physically attacking Pierce are all women or girls, apart from the guy who paws her right at the start of the video. One girl attacks Pierce three escalating times – first trying to slap her when running by (“I missed!”), then throwing water on her, then trying to trip her. But we can hear at least one man (and maybe multiple men) being warned not to attack her by their friends (“Don’t get arrested for her, man”).

7) “Goblinman,” in Pharyngula’s comments, had an interesting theory as to why the men in the crowd didn’t get violent:

I don’t think the women in the crowd were actually responding more negatively than the men. I think the men were holding back. It means something different, culturally-speaking, when men attack compared to when women attack (especially if we’re talking about a mob mentality). Women attacking someone doesn’t seem as “serious”: Men are “supposed” to be fighters. If the men had started attacking the person in the mask it would have been nearly the equivalent of someone drawing a weapon. It would have escalated things to a much more violent level.

8) A fun fluff-piece about the home of the film’s creators: PAPERMAG Galleries: Inside the Hot Pink Barbie Bungalow of Artists, “Cyberfeminists” and Real-Life Couple Signe Pierce and Alli Coates.

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 13 Comments  

The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts – The Washington Post

This series of graphs, maps, and charts from the The Washington Post illustrates some fascinating information about the world’s languages. It’s not surprising that English is the most studied language in the world:

But I did find this chart illustrating how many countries a given language is spoken in to be worth thinking more deeply about:

The reach of English is due, of course, first to British colonialism and imperialism and, second, to the dominance of the United States, but it’s interesting to set English’s reach in comparison to these other languages next to the numbers of people who speak each language:

Just putting these numbers up against each other, of course, doesn’t tell us very much, but it does provide an interesting starting point for thinking about how the politics of language shape the world we live in.

Posted in Whatever | 2 Comments  

On Hugos and the No-Award Option

The rules don't explicitly forbid it!

The rules don’t explicitly forbid it!

Winning the Hugo requires winning a two-stage process of voting. First a work is one of five winners of the nomination stage, and then one of those five wins the final stage.

The Puppy-nominated works did not legitimately win the first round of voting; therefore it is impossible for them to legitimately win the Hugos. Therefore, I intend to vote “no award” over any slate-nominated work, including works I personally enjoyed.

Imagine a race that’s in two stages. In stage one, the athletes run an obstacle course, each in their own lane, leaping over hurdles. The athletes who make it through the obstacle course fastest then compete in a footrace to determine the winner.

The Puppies noticed that there’s no rule explicitly forbidding spectators knocking down hurdles, and so they knocked down the hurdles in their favorite athlete’s lanes. And of course, those athletes ran the obstacle course the fastest.

Now we’re at the start line of the second stage. And now the puppies are telling me that how these athletes ended up reaching the second stage of the race doesn’t matter.

With all due respect, ARE YOU FRAKKING KIDDING ME?

Posted in In the news | 16 Comments  

The Follies of Gin in “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”

gin-and-other-options

So, I have been thinking about my story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” for obvious reasons. I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about that story than probably anything else I’ve ever written, which is amusing, given how short it is. On the plus side, that makes textual analysis relatively simple.

There are a lot of legitimate critiques of “Dinosaur” and I’m cool with people disliking it. I’m not cool with some other stuff that’s going on, but I don’t have a problem with people disliking it. (Which, for the record, is not limited to the puppies – the story actually has a mixed track record with “SJWs”. It was initially rejected by a market specializing in “diverse” fiction, as being too much like other queer fiction that’s been done before, and therefore not really surprising. Nick Mamatas dislikes it on aesthetic grounds, although I’m not sure if he counts as an SJW or not. Etcetera.)

Anyway, I have thinky thoughts about a lot of the story, and maybe I’ll write those down at some point. But maybe not, because internet arguments, meh.

What I wanted to address in this post is the criticism of my use of the word “gin.” The assailants in the story are described as gin-soaked.

This has been interpreted as a class marker. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to this, as some of the framing of the way it was brought up was irritating. However, that doesn’t really matter. If it’s a problem, it’s a problem.

I will say that I did not intend “gin” to be a class marker. My primary association with gin is hipsters. I have friends who make their own. (I pictured a college bar when I was writing the story, although I didn’t want that image—or any distinct markers–to be in the story itself.) My secondary association with gin is bathtub gin as discussed in musicals about the 1920s. My third is the inappropriate anecdote that Eliza tells about gin in My Fair Lady–which, I suppose, should have clued me into the class association.

I did not want the assailants to be marked at all, except that they were into beating people up with flimsy excuses, an activity of which I disapprove.

So: what can I do? My intent to not be classist isn’t significant. Some of my previous trespasses have been totally unintentional, such as the fact that the dwarf in “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” is easily read as an evil stereotype. (My intention was that, since the main character is evil, her judgment is unreliable.) Readers of Alas, a Blog brought that to my attention after the story had been published. I apologized but didn’t revise–it would have required substantial change, and I feel like the best way I can actually address that problem is to do a follow-up story from his perspective sometime. (Though my writing ambitions, alas, outstrip my productivity.)

However, this is where the brevity of “Dinosaur” is helpful. The change would be tiny. The story is online, which is a medium that allows for revision. People are still reading it, apparently, so revision is also potentially useful. I can’t do anything about printed copies, but I can ask the editor of Apex Magazine to switch out the word. (And leave a note in comments about having done so, which would allow people to easily trace the history.) He might decline, but I doubt he will.

So: what alcohol is unmarked? Pabst is definitely too distinct. Is Vodka too dourly Russian? Tequila too college party? Rum too, I dunno, piratey? Whisky too hardcore masculine? Wine sounds sort of melancholy poet, and beer seems Homer Simpsony. (From this list, rum seems like the most likely candidate to me.)

I don’t drink a whole lot, and when I do, I drink girly fru fru drinks because I’m a wimp. So, I don’t really know what the subcultures of alcohol are. Help me out. Sad Puppies welcome to contribute, especially since you’re the ones who spotted it.

(I assume it’s a given, but I’ll note anyway: please stay on topic and civil. That means everyone.)

Posted in Mandolin's fiction & poems | 60 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, 18 Levels Deep Edition

17-layers-deep

  1. Comedy Duo Create An Extremely Detailed Portrait In A Portrait 18 Levels Deep – DesignTAXI.com
  2. Women of Reddit, when did you first notice that men were looking at you in a sexual way? How old were you and how did it make you feel? : AskReddit Content warning for many, many stories of adult men sexualizing girls when they are 11 or even younger.
  3. Experiment Shows Teachers View ‘Deshawns’ More Harshly Than ‘Gregs’ | Colorlines “…teachers reported higher levels of being personally troubled by the report when the student had a name like “Darnell” or “Deshawn” than when the student had a name like “Greg” or “Jake.” They were also more likely to call for harsher punishment…”
  4. Written testimony to Congress by Nancy Chi Cantalupo: “It is downright dangerous to conflate civil rights and criminal justice approaches to sexual violence and allow criminal justice responses to dominate our collective imagination regarding how to address this violence. If we did so, we would eliminate sexual violence victims’ civil rights to equality, specifically student victims’ rights to equal educational opportunity.” (PDF link.)
  5. Republicans Like Class Warfare—So Long As It’s Against Hillary Clinton | Mother Jones
  6. Appomattox: How did Ulysses S. Grant become an embarrassment of history and Robert E. Lee a role model?
  7. Man Camp I wish this were a joke, but I don’t think it is.
  8. Americans’ Spending on Dining Out Just Overtook Grocery Sales for the First Time Ever – Bloomberg Business
  9. Why We Let Prison Rape Go On – NYTimes.com
  10. New Type of Boredom Discovered, and It’s Rampant The headline sounds like a parody, but it’s not.
  11. i want to remind people that if there had been no video of michael slager executing walter scott, he would have just been another cop who got away with murder. he knew the exact story to tell, the exact evidence to plant, and delivered the exact easy bake bullshit that you hear every time they slaughter a black person. and yet you wonder why we question every death— why we never believe them when they say someone tried to take a gun. wake the fuck up! #farfromover
  12. I Posed As A Man On Twitter And Nobody Called Me Fat or Threatened To Rape Me For Once – xoJane.
  13. “Rape is good fodder for comedy”: Amy Schumer makes a case for the feminist rape joke – Salon.com
  14. Fannie’s Room: Researchers Study Online Antisocial Behavior
  15. Will Hillary Clinton be too weak on climate change?
  16. Democratic voters love marijuana legalization. Hillary Clinton doesn’t.
  17. A Miscarrying Woman Was Denied Medication Because of “Conscience”
  18. Corporations now spend more lobbying Congress than taxpayers spend funding Congress
  19. Academic Freedom versus Academic Legitimacy: The UNC Case. Amp’s comment: David has it right here. Criticism of a choice of speaker is not censorship.
  20. New York A.G. to Investigate Employers Who Keep Low-Wage Workers “On Call”
  21. As Cities Raise Their Minimum Wage, Where’s the Economic Collapse the Right Predicted?
  22. California Bill Would Require Crisis Pregnancy Centers to Discuss Abortion Options. Heh. I’m of course against this idea writ large, because free speech; however, I don’t necessarily object to this law, because it limits itself to government-licensed facilities which provide pregnancy-related services.
  23. What If MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Had Been a Facebook Post? This is a post about the ways that prisons forbid prisoners from using social media – and punish them when they do. Alarmingly, Facebook is cooperating with the prisons on this.
  24. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations.

On The Murder Of Rekia Boyd

  1. A Judge Just Let A Cop Walk After A Deadly Shooting. Legal Experts Say The Reasoning Is ‘Incredible.’ | ThinkProgress
  2. Rekia Boyd Fact Sheet
  3. RIP Rekia Boyd: November 5, 1989 – March 21, 2012 | Gradient Lair
  4. On Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray and the Cost of Police Impunity
  5. America’s big criminal justice lie: What one cop’s acquittal reveals about police violence & Rekia Boyd’s death – Salon.com
  6. We Do This for Rekia | Transformative Spaces

Puppies, puppies everywhere!

  1. “In other words, of the 16 written fiction nominees on Torgerson’s slate, 11 – more than two-thirds – had not actually been nominated by anyone in the crowd-sourced discussion from which, we are told, the slate emerged.” Amp: How very democratic and non-elitist!
  2. On screaming “We’re not VD!” while ignoring your relationship with VD — Jason Sanford
  3. Some Sad Puppy Data Analysis. The blogger, a puppy supporter (the most civil one I’ve encountered), attempts to use data to support the Sad Puppies; I debate him in the comments.
  4. Philip Sandifer: Writer: Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and his Supporters “Ultimately, that’s all Beale is doing: he’s hiding what he actually means behind a paper-thin veil so that it is communicated with deniability. (Fittingly, the usual name for this rhetorical technique, a favorite of political campaigns of all leanings, is “dogwhistling.”)” Warning: this one is very long.
  5. Why I Won’t Be A Presenter At The Hugo Awards This Year | Connie Willis. (Willis, for those who don’t know, has won 11 Hugos for her fiction, and been nominated 24 times.)
  6. Back To The Future – Of The Hugos | Barno’s Stables Another blog post where I’m debating the author in the comments.
  7. ETA: (3) Captain Christian White, supreme commander of… This parody of Puppies, written by Adam-Troy Castro, totally cracked me up. Thanks for the link, Myca!

whiteness-fairy

Posted in Link farms | 121 Comments  

Malta Just Showed Us What Our Gender Identity Laws Should Be

Babies have a reason to celebrate!

Celebration time for babies!!

Malta has just become the world’s leader in intersex rights, and perhaps in trans rights as well. From Feminist Newswire:

Malta’s parliament just passed new legislation that allows self-determination of gender (with a simple process to legally change gender), and outlaws unnecessary surgery on intersex babies. This bill makes Malta the first country to ban unnecessary surgery on intersex infants. […]

“To say that this Act is a groundbreaking human rights milestone is almost an understatement,” said Paulo Corte-Real, co-chair of the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “It provides an inspirational benchmark for other European countries that need to improve their own LGBTI equality standards.”[…]

Maltese officials and medical professionals are now working to come up with guidelines to make sure all surgeries done on infants are medically necessary and not “driven by social factors without the consent of the minor.”

The law also legally mandates a vastly simplified process for legally changing one’s gender:

The new law also allows people to change their gender identity on documents by simply filing an affidavit with a notary, which ends the requirement for surgery in order to legally identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth. The process of changing one’s gender in the system, under the new bill, won’t take more than 30 days.

The devil is in the details – for instance, would non-government entities, like banks, be legally required to acknowledge this change? – but this sounds like a big step forward.

Hida Viloria, chairperson of Intersex International, is obviously pleased about this legislation, but still has some criticism:

I’ve read the policy several times, and honestly the only shortcoming with the legislation itself that the OII-USA has is that the terminology still puts the impetus on the intersex child to refuse these surgeries. It’s worded that they must be postponed until the child is old enough to consent.

I tell people: Imagine if we wrote about reparative therapies for homosexuals in that way. The similar phrase would be: Reparative electroshock therapies for homosexual youth must be postponed until those individuals are old enough to give consent. It’s easier to notice, when you think about it with a different population group that’s less stigmatized today, that the statement implies that these procedures will happen. In that way, it doesn’t entirely refute prejudiced perspectives against intersex traits and intersex people needing to be fixed in some way.

That is the one general limit of the Malta legislation. […] It says, until the child is old enough to give consent. You could have cases where the parents are pressuring the child. I would prefer something that says, unless the child requests such procedures. However, even that, how easy would it be to lie in court that, yes, the child requested this, but changed their mind later, for example.

So legislation can only do so much. But [Malta] is a fantastic victory for the community.

The entire interview is interesting, and includes Viloria discussing how Intersex politics can advance in the USA (she says the US Intersex community needs to form a closer alliance with LGBT communities).

UPDATE: Grace just pointed out this (sadly very relevant) news from Colorado this week: Transgender birth certificate bill crashes against anti-gay lobby | The Colorado Independent.

Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 2 Comments  

Men Should Call Themselves Feminists, But They Shouldn’t Start Fights About It In Other Feminists’ Spaces

cool-Patrick-Stewart-Amnesty-International-women-rights

In my opinion it’s okay for men to call themselves feminists. More than okay, I think it’s beneficial. And I call myself a feminist. Feminist men on “Alas” are welcome to call themselves feminists. In my (anecdotal) experience, most feminists welcome men calling ourselves “feminist,” as long as we’re being sincere.

BUT… There are some spaces, mostly radfem spaces, where it’s largely agreed that only women should call themselves “feminist” while men should call themselves “pro-feminist.”

For men to enter such spaces and start arguments about “can’t men be feminists” is harmful. It’s distracting from more important issues, and it confirms the stereotype among some radical feminists that men in feminist spaces insist on being the center of conversation.

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Men and masculinity | 49 Comments  

Thinking about Barbara Walters’ Interview with Vili and Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau

Heidi Gutman—ABC/Getty Images

I’m giving two readings over the next few weeks, one on April 21st at the Risk of Discovery Reading Series, and the other on May 2nd as part of the New Masculinities Festival 2015. The details are below, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what these events mean to me and I’d like to share some of that with you. April is both National Poetry Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a convergence that—as you know if you’ve been reading my posts—fits well with the grant I received from the Queens Council on the Arts to complete my second book of poems, Words for What Those Men Have Done. At the April 21st reading, I will preview some of the poems from this manuscript, and the reading itself will serve as a preview of the larger, more interactive presentation that I will give on a date to be scheduled in September or October. One of my goals with this project is for there to be a conversation in my community about what it means to be a male survivor of sexual violence, and since poetry is one way for people to feel what it’s like to feel something they themselves have not experienced firsthand, I hope this reading helps to make that conversation possible.

The importance of having this conversation was brought home to me yet again by the interview Barbara Walters did this past Friday with Vili and Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau. In 1997, when she was 34 and Vili was her 13-year-old student, Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested and convicted of child rape, ultimately serving seven-and-a-half years in prison, where she gave birth to the couple’s two, now-teenaged daughters. I did not see the interview itself, but when I read the coverage it received, especially, but not only, in the pieces that appeared in the lead-up to the broadcast, I was very disturbed. Simply put, much of it seemed to use the couple’s marriage and children to normalize the rape for which Mary Kay was rightfully convicted and to present their story as an against-all-odds tale of happily-ever-after in which the only villain was the society that tried to keep them apart. To be clear, it’s not that the coverage fails to mention Mary Kay’s prison term or that she is a registered sex offender. Those are historical facts it is impossible to deny. Rather, those facts seem to be presented more as obstacles the couple had to overcome than as the legal consequences of a sexual violation, a rhetorical move that almost makes the violation itself disappear.

In Time, for example, K. C. Blumm phrases it this way:

The 53-year-old [Mary Kay] – who spent 89 months in prison for child rape as a result of her relationship with her then-student Vili Fualaau in 1996 – is looking forward to celebrating her 10th wedding anniversary with Fualaau next month and admitted that as the date approaches she’s been looking back on the events that shaped her life. (Emphasis mine.)

I cannot think of another instance in which the words rape (much less child rape) and relationship would be used almost as synonyms, as if, when Letourneau, then in her early to mid-thirties “embarked on a sexual relationship” with her barely pubescent twelve-year-old middle school student—again, that’s Blumm’s phrasing—the problem was a matter of legal definitions, not the abuse of authority and trust. The language Blumm uses, however, fits very neatly our traditional narratives of manhood and masculinity, in which a boy who is initiated into sex by an older woman is considered “lucky” to have met her. More to the point, in popular perception anyway, that “luck” precludes any claim he might make not to have wanted the experience or that he was in any way harmed by it. To be a man, in this narrative, is to embrace that kind of “luck;” to suggest it wasn’t “luck” to begin with is to suggest that its recipient is not really a man.

Vili Fualaau, of course, was not a man when the woman who is now his wife violated him; he was a child, which is why we undertstand her to have raped him by definition. I get it, though. The fact that he is no longer a child, that he chose to marry the woman who violated him, that they have been married for ten years, and that they are raising two children to boot makes it hard to know just how to talk about not only who he was when Mary Kay victimized him, but also what the consequences for him actually were. After all, in spite of whatever may have been true back then, they have made a life together now, and—in the absence of any evidence to the contrary—it really isn’t anyone’s place to suggest that this life is somehow tainted or “less than” because of their history. Nonetheless, it is telling that Vili’s struggle with alcoholism and depression—“I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” he says. “I went through a really dark time”—is also implicitly presented as an obstacle he had to overcome, not as a possible consequence of the way she violated him; and since overcoming obstacles is traditionally what men do to prove themselves, this way of presenting what he says about himself also fits the traditional narrative.

I think it’s instructive to imagine how differently the media might have covered this interview if, leaving all other details of the story the same, instead of Mary Kay and Vili, we were talking about “Martin” and “Vivian.” Would the narrative have been framed the same way? I doubt it. Even for myself, when I do this thought experiment in my own head, I am struck by how much more readily available to me are the language and patterns of thought that foreground the abusive nature of my hypothetical “Martin’s” sexual contact with “Vivian.” Looked at through the lens of the traditional masculinity and manhood narrative, this makes sense. Men in that narrative are supposed to be the actors when it comes to sex, the ones who are always trying to get it, for whom “getting it” is a requirement of being who we are, and of whom my hypothetical Martin, therefore—again, within this narrative—is an example of a guy who needs to learn some self-control. The narrative, in other words, makes it easy to peg him as a perpetrator, since he’s doing what men are “supposed to be doing.” He’s just overstepping the bounds within which he’s supposed to be doing it.

Culturally, and despite what the law says, our investment in this narrative makes it hard for us to understand female perpetrators like Mary Kay Letourneau as perpetrators, perhaps especially when they abuse boys and men, which in turn can make it difficult to keep in focus the idea that what Mary Kay did to Vili when he was 12 or 13 is essentially no different from incidents of the sexual abuse of boys that everyone agrees is abuse, i.e., when there is violence or overt coercion or when, as in my case, the person trying to “initiate” me was a man. (You can read a partial telling of my story here.) Indeed, it’s worth taking a look at the website Female Sex Offenders if you’re interested in exploring this idea further. It’s crucal to remember, however, that no matter what the law says, this skewed perception of female perpetrators is not going to change until our fundamental understanding of what it means to be a man changes, until we have a narrative of manhood and masculinity that recognizes not just men’s vulnerability and uncertainty, sexual and otherwise, but also our variability—the idea that there is no single correct way to be a man.

That’s why I am very excited about participating in the New Masculinities Festival, one purpose of which is to produce new narratives masculinity and manhood. The festival will take place on May 2nd at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in Manhattan. I don’t yet have full information for the event, but here’s the promotional video for last year’s festival:

Cross-posted.

Here’s the information for the two events:

April 21st

  • Venue: QED Astoria
  • When:  6:30 – 8:30 PM (Facebook event page)
  • Where: 27-16 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105
  • Details: A writing workshop and open mic will presede my reading.

May 2nd

  • Venue: New Masculinities Festival 2015
  • When:  TBA
  • Where: Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, New York NY 10002
  • Details: More details to be announced soon.
Posted in Gender and the Body, Men and masculinity, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues | 22 Comments  

Lurid Yet Statistically Rare Stories, and, Ronald Reagan’s Cadillac Welfare Queen

Ozy writes:

“can we just all collectively rise above our animal natures and be better people and not signal boost lurid yet statistically rare stories that fuck with everyone’s availability heuristics, particularly when these stories are about the evil of the Hated Enemy”

I very, very much agree with this.

I’m not saying I’ve been perfect in this regard. Far from it. But I think Ozy is right.

This isn’t either adding to or disagreeing with what Ozy said, just an anecdote. When I was a kid, there was a lot of argument about a woman who – Ronald Reagan, then running for the Presidency, claimed – was collecting so much welfare (using 80 different fake names) that she wore furs and owned a brand-new Cadillac. Liberals, including my family, believed that Reagan made this woman up, or at most was vastly exaggerating a more mundane story.

So I was surprised to find out, a few days ago, that Reagan was understating the truth all those decades ago. (The link leads to a very long but also fascinating story.) The woman he was talking about, Linda Taylor,1 really existed, and in fact had around 150 aliases, and was not only a welfare cheat on an enormous scale but also a serial kidnapper of small children (!) and almost certainly a serial murderer (! ! !).

Which goes to support Ozy’s point, I think: This woman, while real, was an extraordinary and perhaps unique villain, and to use her in stump speeches as representative of flaws in the welfare system doesn’t truly advance anyone’s understanding of what’s wrong with welfare or how to improve it.

  1. One of her many, many names. []
Posted in Civility & norms of discourse, etc. | 44 Comments