Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Can't We All Just Fucking Get Along?

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  • Islander,

    What is the standard/

    for sexuality? For gender?

    Femaleness? Maleness?

    You must start with the perceived sexuality (socially, actually,cellually.)

    And then - there is a huge lovely swamp of humans who dont fit ordinary criteria-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    There was also a bit of 'seriously? Are you nuts?'

    I'll need to come back to this - my eyes glazed over in self-defense after the first few sentences of tosh

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I think I read somewhere she never has two male characters talking in a scene where there isn't a lady present, because she didn't have any experience on how they behave in such circumstances.

    It is oft-repeated, and I think 95% true. A friend in grad school was adamant that there are a couple of blokes-only scenes, but I'm buggered if I can remember which they were. Nothing for it but to read all the books again, I guess, in order. Off to the briar patch with me...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    I've not watched Firefly (I know, I know, I am getting there) but i read that essay anyway.

    And let me respond with a quote from Buffy: "Your logic does not resemble our earth logic."

    Right, now to cleanse my palate with the speech. Oh Joss. I heart you.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    (The meat of the speech starts about two minutes in. The point where I always start crying is about 6:30)

    I believe it is at 6:27, to be precise. Love.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Having revisited the loathesome Whedon-hating drivel, can I say how grateful I am for lesbian separatism.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Just went back and read the comments. I'm genuinely astonished at how much praise was expressed for something so irrational, offensive, hateful and casually demeaning.

    From all the mentions of very mildly critical posts that were deleted, and from that the author herself says, I get the impression she just removed most comments in that thread - anybody who wasn't supportive was booted out of the discussion without leaving a trace. That will skew things somewhat.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I should clarify it's the separate-ness I'm grateful for

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Well, thanks to the wonderful literary archaeology of Persephone Books (http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/ ), there's a wonderful body of book by women who lived through both World Wars

    Fantastic books, and yet another example of how women's cultural production (or cultural production about women) has been undervalued. All of these books are worth reading, and some are absolute classics - it's hard to understand how they were allowed to go out of print. Thank goodness for the tireless literary archaeology of gentle feminist Nicola Beauman!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I should clarify it's the separate-ness I'm grateful for

    Oh, I'm grateful for lesbians too. Some of my best friends, etc.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • icehawk,

    But then you see "Firefly must be sexist because it doesn't pass the Bechdel test"

    I love Firefly. And it's great that it's got some competent female characters with real roles. It's a vast step forward beyond much complete dross on TV. But it's sexist.

    "less sexist than most" - sure. But still sexist.

    Your 4 female characters are: the little-sister-victim-being-taken-care-of-by-big-brother; the follower who does whatever mr-cap'n-tightpants says; the whore; and the anti-social engineer whose character arc is that she's serious, seriously in lurv with Simon.

    Decisions? They get made by Mr Cap'n, sir. Or by the preacher. Or by Simon. Or by Jayne (I didn't say *good* decisions). The wimminfolk in Firefly aren't the leaders or deciders, the power dynamic just doesn't work that way.

    I'm sorry Emma, but just because we really, really like it doesn't make it "not sexist".

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 49 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    the little-sister-victim-being-taken-care-of-by-big-brother

    misreading the power of that character for starters

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Or by Jayne (I didn't say *good* decisions).

    'Aint it interesting, though, that the only person Jayne is thoroughly intimidated by is "the whore"? And to be quite honest, the discourse around Inara is a quite fascinating (and disturbing) Rorschach blot for the sections of science fiction fandom who just can't handle assertive female sexuality that isn't totally constrained by their concept of "appropriate female behaviour". (Please compare and contrast with Kara Thrace and 'Caprica' Six on BSG.)

    And here's your essay assignment for the week: Does an author necessarily endorse every offensive or plain fucking stupid thing their characters say?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Nope. Loved Strange Days, me.

    Colour me mildly surprised.

    WRT to Bigelow's films, I remember reading an article somewhere that outlined how 'point break' was, for the writer, their first realisation that films could be made by women, for (to an extent) women.

    Specifically, they referred to the scene at the beginning where Keanu rolls around in the rain and mud in a tight t-shirt, the camera lovingly caressing his every contour in the slowest of slo-mo.

    Okay, it was on the girlwithaonetrackmind blog. Which I only visited to see what all the fuss was about, and not for vicarious pervy thrills. Yes, really.

    So make of that what you will.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Specifically, they referred to the scene at the beginning where Keanu rolls around in the rain and mud in a tight t-shirt, the camera lovingly caressing his every contour in the slowest of slo-mo.

    Ah, but what do you make of male-directed films such as the Die Hard series? The first one in particular is all about luxuriating in the toned, aching body of Bruce W. I suppose you could call it homoerotic, but it seems simpler to just call it erotic.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I was impressed by Point Break - thought it was very under-rated at the time. Didn't pay much attention to the camera caressing either Keanu or Patrick Swayze, though like any 'surfing' movie it's entirely possible.

    Strange Days I found a bit disjointed, but again it's been a while.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I'm sorry Emma, but just because we really, really like it doesn't make it "not sexist".

    Alright, alright, I'll bite. Bear in mind I like Bond movies and Raymond Chandler, so I don't need to believe the things I like aren't sexist just 'cause.

    Decisions? They get made by Mr Cap'n, sir. Or by the preacher. Or by Simon. Or by Jayne (I didn't say *good* decisions). The wimminfolk in Firefly aren't the leaders or deciders, the power dynamic just doesn't work that way.

    Yeah, I mean, remember that time Mal and Wash got taken prisoner, and Zoe decided she was going to make all the decisions? And everyone thought that was such a bad idea that Simon shot her full of drugs, she face-planted in the deck and then Jayne took over, made the decisions and planned the ransom and rescue?

    Oh no wait. I have that backwards. In Mal's absense, his clear second, right-hand man and ex brother in arms took over - Zoe.

    Actually, that entire episode - War Stories - can be seen as gender inversion. Two male characters get taken prisoner. They spend that entire time talking about the woman they're "competing' for, while that woman plans and sets in motion their rescue.

    You can do that with Wash and Zoe's entire relationship if you want. She's stronger than him in every way, and less emotional. He's the one who gets anxious, jealous, and cannot shut up. When they're interrogated by the Alliance, she refuses to talk about Wash, but Wash, again, won't shut up.

    Or by the preacher.

    When?

    Or by Jayne (I didn't say *good* decisions)

    Jayne certainly gives Mal 'chain of command' headaches, but the only time I remember him making an actual decision, it's to betray River and Simon. It's a decision he takes for himself, not the crew.

    Meanwhile, Inara operates outside the chain of command the entire time.

    the follower who does whatever mr-cap'n-tightpants says

    You're kidding me, right? That's your actual entire reading of Zoe's character?

    the whore

    And now you're just baiting me. Inana is the character with the highest social standing by a mile. She has enormous social power and we see her wield it. The only person who shows her disrespect is Mal, who spends almost his entire interaction with her pulling her pigtails because he's in love with her. And Mal's mistreatment of Inara makes him look like a dick, not her. (Analysing Inara's character, like Book's, is a little problematic because there was obviously stuff about their previous lives that we didn't know, back-story mysteries that never came out.)

    The whole 'in order to not be sexist the person in charge must be a woman' thing leads to, well, Voyager. And it might just be me, but if you stood Janeway and Zoe next to each other and said, "Which is the strongest female character?", I think it's Zoe, her loyalty to Mal notwithstanding. She's not loyal to him because he's male.

    If you look at Joss's cannon, I think it's clear that he's perfectly capable of writing a character like Mal that's female. (Thought as a flaw I will say, not capable of making Mal female and leaving Inara as the love interest.) I strongly suspect the character of Mal was at least partly shaped by being written for Nathan Fillion, as Jayne was written to Find a Use for Adam Baldwin. There's nothing in the Firefly universe that says a woman can't be a soldier, can't make plans, can't be a wise-cracking devious bastard (Saffron).

    You're right about Kaylee's "plot arc", but Kaylee has other functions. Joss calls her the moral heart of Firefly: if Kaylee assesses a person or a situation, she's right. She's also resistant to the stereotype of the Woman in a Man's Job, in that she's not in the least butch. She loves engines and dresses, and I think that's important, especially when you can contrast her with a character like Zoe.

    River, though she's one of Joss's super-heroine characters, does spend an awful lot of time being helpless, being rescued. But - while River is a pretty extreme example of a flaw - I honestly don't think a Feminist Heroine has to be flawless and powerful all the time. And if she does I don't want to see it because, my gods, boring.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    You're right about Kaylee's "plot arc", but Kaylee has other functions. Joss calls her the moral heart of Firefly: if Kaylee assesses a person or a situation, she's right. She's also resistant to the stereotype of the Woman in a Man's Job, in that she's not in the least butch. She loves engines and dresses, and I think that's important, especially when you can contrast her with a character like Zoe.

    And, in a funny way, it's easy to forget that the Serenity was her ticket out of a place where her only role was to be a girlfriend or a wife, squirting out babies and taking her lumps if she got out of line. And Mal didn't take her on for eye-candy but because she knows her shit.

    (Analysing Inara's character, like Book's, is a little problematic because there was obviously stuff about their previous lives that we didn't know, back-story mysteries that never came out.)

    Indeed -- but we had hints that Inara's position on Serenity is very far from the typical way Companions operate. In one episode, it's also very strongly implied that Inara could have become head of the entire Companion Guild but decided to run in the other direction. We're never going to find out why, I guess...

    River, though she's one of Joss's super-heroine characters, does spend an awful lot of time being helpless, being rescued. But - while River is a pretty extreme example of a flaw - I honestly don't think a Feminist Heroine has to be flawless and powerful all the time. And if she does I don't want to see it because, my gods, boring.

    Indeed -- and a more interesting reading is that River and Simon Tan should be living the shiny life in the Firefly 'verse. But even the brilliant children of the political elites of the Core aren't safe from a deeply corrupt and authoritarian government that treats human beings no better than animals.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The first one in particular is all about luxuriating in the toned, aching body of Bruce W. I suppose you could call it homoerotic, but it seems simpler to just call it erotic.

    or maybe homo-erratic
    or even homo-operatic...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    Most homoerotic films of recent memory: The Transporter 1 & 2, The Covenant, 2 Fast 2 Furious.

    Not sure if The Transporter counts, since I understand that both the director and Jason Statham have stated that his character actually is gay. And then along came a new director on Transporter 3 and made him straight. Curses.

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    This thread has restored my faith that most people have dirty minds. Keep it up, and I do mean....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Just about any bishounen character. Self-explanatory.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5445 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I've been busy marking, job interviewing, housewifing, singing, getting my hair dyed and legs waxed (feck! Bad Feminist (TM) moment) so although I've been reading along, I haven't had time to comment. Being a broad church (I much prefer "broad church" to "big tent" in this case) feminist, I'm sympathetic a lot of what Jackie and Danielle and Heather and Megan and Jolisa and Hilary have had to say. I would include Emma in this list, except that she rejects the label, and applying a label to someone who has rejected that label is just rude.

    Some thoughts, nicely numbered, for academic neatness.

    1) Choice feminism.... well... it's a version of feminism, but it's a pretty thin one. I don't think lack of choice can give any particular insight in the systematic oppression of women. Although clearly, lack of choice is part of that systematic oppression, and the much greater choice available to women in the 21st century is part of rolling back that oppression. And if choice-feminism is just about saying, "Don't criticise my choices" then it's not about much. That would mean that we could never criticise anyone's choices. And that seems implausible.

    2) Which is why theory has its place. One of the things that theory can help us to do is to see how this incident and that, this way of living and that, this social structure and that, are similar, and even possibly related to each other. Without theory to draw them together, they remain isolated incidents. It's all just a dommy, just a personal matter, just a pants man. A minor example of this - the word "mansplain" which turned up recently. Every woman I sent the original article to e-mailed me back, cackling with glee, to find that her own experience was not isolated, that she wasn't the only one who had been talked at / through / over and ignored, expected to nod her silly little head in agreement. (As a follow-up, here's a piece explaining why a gender neutral term doesn't capture the point, also a piece explaining that mansplaining is not just the act of explaining while male.)

    3) Which is why I like thinking of feminism in terms of autonomy, or women as autonomous adults. Autonomy is a way of thinking about the "freedom to" that Jolisa was talking about up-thread. It includes choice, but it goes a bit further than that, and implies responsibility. And it implies that you may need various institutional structures to guarantee autonomy. Like legislation against violence and protection orders ('though it would help if these were actually enforced) and women's refuges, and sexual harassment legislation and access to education and ah.. the vote. And there ought also to be a way of respecting women's autonomous choices, like a decision to pursue a career, or a decision to stay at home to rear children and support a partner in her or his career.

    4) Having said that, a theoretical commitment to feminism, of whatever variety, isn't worth much if it's just words. So I think Hilary and Megan are right when they talk about action as well. (As an aside, I can't quite see how choice feminism alone would inform the sort action you take, Megan - it takes a fairly robust kind of feminism to be the office stroppy bitch.) The theory can inform the action, and actions and events can inform theory. I really don't see how one can exist without the other. (Also, please notice what I've done here when I say, "I think". I'm not trying to imply that I am the arbiter of rightness, nor am I saying that "It is right that..." as though is there is some ultimate truth out there to which I have access - a not so endearing trait of many of my former colleagues in Philosophy. It's my opinion, 'though I hope it's a persuasive one.)

    5) One useful thing a theory can do is to give me a yardstick by which to assess people's claims to feminism. In particular, as I said way, way, up-thread, I think that Sarah Palin is not feminist, because she shuts down women's autonomy. That's a line of reasoning that I hope is accessible to people, rather than just a lofty "You wouldn't understand because you haven't experienced it."

    6) When it comes to lippy and high heels and cleavage and whatever... well, if we work on autonomy well enough, then going with lippy and high heels and cleavage and whatever becomes that woman's choice - her body, her responsibility, and whatever she chooses does not imply anything about what another woman would choose. It's about her, as an autonomous adult. Again, I'm not interested in shutting down women's choices, even if I don't agree with them, whereas Palin does want to remove choice from women.

    7) Men as feminists. See point 4 about theory and action. Put your money where your mouth is, dudes. Also, I'm inclined to agree with Giovanni, that there's something about the experience of being female that is integral to being feminist, but seeing as I have never lived in a not-female body, I don't know. Some of Islander's comments are making me re-think that, as are Steven Crawford's. Perhaps living in a female body makes it easier to be feminist. Ask me about this again in a couple of years: I might have thought about it enough to have an opinion by then.

    8) In response to nothing in particular, but seeing as I'm rambling: I have identified as feminist since I was in my mid-teens, but my feminism became much more radical when I had children, because that was when I really started to experience the mismatch between ideals and action (that would be action informing theory), and it became much more structured when I started blogging, because the act of writing my feminism made me think about it much more carefully. I've never studied feminism or taken a women's studies paper, and only once belonged to a collective, very briefly, in my mid-twenties. Collective action just didn't do it for me. I have however, done a bit of work in the Office for Women here in South Australia.

    9) Firefly - what Emma said, 'though I'd very much like to see a strong friendship between some of the women, rather than all the relationships being to men. Having said that, there's an interesting relationship between Kaylee and Inara, 'though to me it functions more like a big sister / small child relationship than a friendship of equals. Also, I loved the scene where Jayne got the hat. I can feel a Firefly-watching binge coming on...

    10) Right then. As you were. Back to movies.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The theory can inform the action, and actions and events can inform theory. I really don't see how one can exist without the other.

    Or how theory (be it feminism or conservatism or any other) unmoderated by experience and reflection on how it works in the messy distruptive world we all have to rub along in can be anything other than soulless and ultimately destructive.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Perhaps living in a female body makes it easier to be feminist

    Now that I can accept. Seems likely, even, given the comparative numbers that even bother to make the claim that they are feminists.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

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