Open Yuletide Letter

Dear Author, First and foremost, thank you thank you thank you for volunteering to write for me. I will try to give you sparks for ideas, but I’m a pretty easy cookie to please, so if you had a fic you really wanted to write that doesn’t quite fit with any of my suggestions, please write the fic you wanted to write. That tends to work out better for everyone in the end.

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Truly Outrageous!

 Last night I dreamed I was a space rock star. I had a sleek, silver space shuttle and a lovable group of misfits that I collected to make up my band. There was an androgynous J-Pop star, a German Death-Metal lady (they had a romance sub-plot), an android made of glowing blue nanobots who was trying to understand the connection between math, music, and love (guess who I had a romance sub-plot with), an adorable Latina urchin girl who was an undocumented immigrant – lots of hijinks around sneaking her aboard my shuttle, because once she was on the shuttle, it was considered inter-galactic space-space, and she couldn’t be deported. Rounding out the group was my shady agent/manager, who knew how to get awesome stuff done on the cheap. He was either Kenyan or Nigerian. That confusion was a plot point for some reason, but I can’t recall what the reason was.

We flew around a lot in my spiffy shuttle, though I was not a very good pilot. We caused a lot of chaos that seemed to be a problem at first, but it ended up improving people’s days — like when I crash-flew my shuttle through the space-port, which caused it to close down and give everyone a much-needed day off.

I don’t recall that my space rock band ever got around to playing any music. And I have no clue why my brain decided to dream in the genre of Saturday Morning Cartoon.

Orange is the New Holy Crap This Is Amazing!

I spent a chunk of last night and all my morning lie-in-bed time trying to compose my recommendation for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. I finally gave up because the more enthusiastic I am about something, the more I lose any ability for persuasive language and just want to pound my ‘this is fucking awesome’ into other people’s skulls.

Language. What’s up with that? Where’s my telepathic rail gun?

So I just want to say… Orange is the New Black. Fucking amazing. Ignore the horrible trailers. They are horrible. The actual show is brilliant in so many ways that it renders me as incoherent as if I was trying to describe all the elephant parts at once. It tackles race, class, gender, and queer issues. It explores over a dozen complicated character arcs and interweaves them brilliantly.

At its core, it breaks down the false categories of criminal and not-criminal in a way that effectively critiques our entire notion of criminality (in kind of a Black Helicopters way that doesn’t flinch from looking at how terrible and inevitable and yet internally-logical the process of criminalization is. Blythe could totally write for this show). At one point late in the season, one of the (newer) guards tells an inmate that the only difference between them is that the inmate got caught. Nobody in the show is entirely horrible, and nobody in the show is entirely noble. the show manages to lay bare the flaws in our current system of incarceration in a way that doesn’t come across as just liberal hand-wringing.

But most importantly, the show manages to do something I don’t think I’ve ever seen a major media product pull off (or even attempt), and I think a large part of the success of the characters and the critique comes down to this: it uses a female gaze.

Only one of the actresses fits the Hollywood standard (the main character, which is a deliberate choice that I’ll get to in a moment). The rest are all shapes, all sizes, all ages. And because of the way they are stripped down and put in the same khaki-and-grey shapeless clothes, the audience is forced to look at them as subjects rather than objects. We follow these characters through (pretty complex) arcs, and by just a few episodes in, every one of them is sexy as fuck because we’re invited to encounter them as compelling, fully-rounded subjects rather than as objects that fail to meet the standards of the male gaze.

Watching this show was like my first time at WisCon.

The only hard point I had in watching this show was the main character. For several episodes, I felt like they failed with her, that she was the result of some studio exec’s opinion that we needed a pretty, blonde white woman to serve as our entry into the world of the show.

I was wrong. Stick with her. Her character arc is such a surprise, and so worth it by the time you get to the end of the first season.

So… yeah. That’s my spoiler-free, probably completely unpersuasive pitch for why everyone needs to watch this show, and why it should win all the Emmys ever handed out, and why it can teach us all a lot about writing complex, compelling characters.

Cheers!

Alyc

Victim-Blaming and the Presumption of Innocence

A caveat: I am a strong believer in the necessity of the presumption of innocence. However, I have recently witnessed first-hand how in some cases, the presumption of innocence spurs a criminalization of the victim. This needs to stop.

As some of you know, I just got off jury duty for a several-weeks-long domestic violence case. The defendant was a white, middle-aged professional male. The victim was a Chinese woman who was married to another man, but had carried on a long term relationship with the defendant. She was not a 'good' victim. She was problematic, as pretty much every woman who isn't a nun would be (and I'm thinking nuns might not get a pass, either).

The defense's argument basically boiled down to: 1. Bitches be crazy. 2. Asian bitches be doubly crazy. 3. Women just have sex with men for their money, and 4. Women make false accusations of abuse and rape all the time.

I had to sit there for three days and watch defense tear this woman apart, cast her every life choice in the worst possible light, and basically do their best to prove that she was the 'sort' of woman who deserved what she got… and the sort of woman who would self-inflict strangulation wounds and make it all up to destroy a man's life, anyways.

It was horrific. It made me reconsider whether I would want to come forward as a victim and put myself through that hell if I was ever raped or assaulted (I would, but I recognize how it would in some ways be worse than any original assault or rape, to be dissected like that). This is how women and PoC victims are often treated. If the defendant is presumed innocent, well then, the victim must be the criminal.

The case I served on went on for much longer than the judge expected, and because of pre-existing travel plans, I was dismissed on the first day of deliberations. I had to sit through that whole trial, and I couldn't even stay to render my opinion.

The rest of the jury and my alternate acquitted the defendant on all major counts, and were hung on three reduced counts (8/4 split), despite what I felt was overwhelming forensic and expert witness evidence indicating his guilt. THAT is the power of sexist and racist narratives, and that is the horrible consequences of victim-blaming.

Watching the Trayvon Martin trial with my own experiences fresh in my mind, watching the line the defense attorney was spinning… I had little doubt the jury was going to acquit Zimmerman. The same recourse to prejudicial stereotypes made it seem eerily similar to the trial I'd just sat through.

Racism and sexism are alive and well in the United States. If you think differently, get your head out of the fucking ground.

What we talk about when we talk about pockets

Originally posted by at What we talk about when we talk about pockets

Originally posted by at What we talk about when we talk about pockets
This post is about pockets, feminism, design, autonomy and common sense. Please feel free to repost or link to it if you know people who’d benefit from the discussion.

A few weeks ago trillian_stars and I were out somewhere and she asked “Oooh, can I get a cup of coffee?” and I thought “why are you asking me? You don’t need permission.” But what I discovered was that her clothes had no pockets, so she had no money with her.

Mens clothes have pockets. My swimsuits have pockets. All of them do, and it’s not unusual, because, what if you’re swimming in the ocean and you find a fist full of pirate booty in the surf? You need somewhere to put it. Men are used to carrying stuff in their pockets, you put money there, you put car keys there. With money and car keys come power and independence. You can buy stuff, you can leave. The idea of some women’s clothes not having pockets is baffling, but it’s worse than that — it’s patriarchal because it makes the assumption that women will either carry a handbag, or they’ll rely on men around them for money and keys and such things. (I noticed this also when Neil & Amanda were figuring out where her stuff had to go because she had no pockets.) Where do women carry tampons? Amanda wondered, In their boyfriend’s pockets, Neil concluded.

I then noticed that none of trillian_stars‘ running clothes had pockets. Any pockets. Which is (as they always say on “Parking Wars”) ridikulus. Who leaves the house with nothing? (It’s not a rhetorical question, I actually can’t think of anybody).

We fixed some of this by getting this runners wrist wallet from Poutfits on Etsy — it holds money, ID, keys … the sort of stuff you’d need. Plus you can wipe your nose on it. It solves the running-wear problem, but not the bigger problem.



Clickenzee to Embiggen!

The bigger problem is that people who design women’s fashions are still designing pants and jackets that have no pockets. In fact, this jacket we got last December has … no pockets. It’s not a question of lines or shape, it’s a question of autonomy.



Clickenzee to Embiggen

So I’m asking my friends who design women’s clothes to consider putting pockets in them, they can be small, they can be out of the way, they can be inside the garment, but space enough to put ID, and cash and bus tokens. And maybe a phone. (And if you can design a surreptitious tampon stash, I’m sure Neil & Amanda & a lot of other people would appreciate it as well.)


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