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Cheerio [Sep. 30th, 2007|07:52 pm]
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[mood |pensivepensive]

Daniel Radcliffe, on whether he'd ever consider playing James Bond:
"It would be weird to suddenly be involved in another big franchise, but hey, it takes a big man to turn down Bond," adding, "I don't think the world's ready for a short-arse Bond."

Today, makesmewannadie  used the term "Cheerio-pissing" to describe the discussion happening in response to OTW's recent announcement. Meanwhile, cereta  posted to say that, from now on, she'd be labeling her posts "squee" to clearly indicate which Cheerios/posts she didn't want pissed on.

Both these comments make me wonder whether the usage of the term "Cheerio-pissing" isn't slipping widely from its origin to now include anything but squee, despite cereta  's attempt to define it more carefully than that. Part of what cereta  notes is that it's not simply a matter of negative vs. positive comments but is, also, a question of whether you're going to be a dissenter, outlier, or otherwise in the minority in whatever you have to say. Thus, she uses the example of a football game in which you are rooting for the "wrong" team (and thus your positive comment is negative only in the context of the given audience). In this case, your good Cheer is misplaced, as you are in enemy territory. Cheerio pissing has an element of befouling someone else's cereal/sandbox/swimming pool.

If makesmewannadie  is right and questioning (even criticizing) OTW is "Cheerio-pissing," then that points to an inherent problem with OTW--perhaps the very problem with which those accused of pissing are concerned. If those people outside the existing board and volunteer group ask questions or offer critiques, are they pissing in someone else's bowl of cereal? Who owns that particular bowl, and isn't it a problem if people like partly_bouncy  and hector_rashbaum  are considered "outsiders" to an enterprise that describes itself as serving fandom at large (including them)? Should they be considered, a priori, outsiders because they have not yet officially volunteered? Is the unspoken assumption here that one has to be on the list of volunteers in order to own the bowl and thus own the right to take a piss? Would anyone ever describe someone as pissing in their own bowl of Cheerios? Do we mind pissing only if we don't feel a sense of camraderie with the pisser? (Because, in my experience, the "squee only" rule tends to be mediated by the sense in which negative comments are acceptable not simply only in certain contexts but also only when said by certain people, with friends having more rights than strangers to define the boundaries of a given discussion).

Strangely enough, when I first heard the term, I could only think of what mothers everywhere know about Cheerios and toilets. Supposedly, sticking Cheerios in the toilet and allowing toddler boys to take aim helps to encourage them to "keep it in the bowl" and not on the seat, the floor, and possibly the ceiling. In that case, of course, pissing on Cheerios is absolutely encouraged, and is considered a rite of passage on the way to civilized (potty) behavior. The idea of pissing on Cheerios is to encourage aim--to teach proper boundaries for certain necessary behaviors.

This is, of course, not just a post about OTW, as I've been thinking about this since an earlier discussion on a completely unrelated topic in which someone invoked Godwin's Law in response to my mention of the Holocaust, and I started to think about the ways in which the phrase "Silence = Death" can become corrupted to the point where we can't even talk about death. Because of Godwin's Law, it's now virtually impossible to discuss the Holocaust online without the Law being invoked before anyone's had a chance to even test the comparison and see if there are any parallels.

Perhaps the problem is that we may well hold up democratic, open discussion as the ideal, but that notion is invariably in tension with the sense that some of us "own" the rights to things (fandom, fannish history, Jewish history, whatever that bowl of Cheerios actually is). The problem comes, I think, with the ways in which discussion is claim-making, and how often we seek to claim things which we know are too large and unwieldy for any one person or even one group of people to handle.

These are not fully formed thoughts, but the beginnings of thoughts, and I'll end with another one, which is on my mind. The name "Organization for Transformative Works" reminds me of that old problem of cultural anthropology, where the observer invariably changes the thing being observed. I wonder what fandom will look like in ten years, and what kind of transformation this attempt at "organization" will have wrought.
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Race, Pros, and Cons [Jul. 23rd, 2007|11:03 pm]
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[mood |pensivepensive]

Having just attended Close Quarters, I came back thinking about how, at the con, the mere mention of the Pros ep "Klansmen" initiated the (by now) standard disclaiming that the episode was "not canon" because it went unaired, because Lewis Collins didn't like playing a racist bastard (and of course playing a sexist bastard ex-merc who kills people didn't seem to bother him, at the time), and because Bodie being a racist somehow didn't jibe with the rest of the things we knew of him in other episodes (not counting when he referred to someone as a "spade" in another episode, or that the episode was made in 1978.)

Fandom has, of late, seen a bit of a sea-change in having slightly more open discussions of race and fandom, and I hope that it means it will be one day possible to accept the idea that our canon often is mildly and even egregiously racist (just as I think we've come to admit and accept that it is often quite sexist), and that this is a Bad Thing, but no less true because it makes us uncomfortable.

I've long suspected that the question of why it's so hard for people to accept Bodie as racist is a problem, rather simply a non-issue answerable by the idea that we all see "character" and "canon" differently, and thus there is no "right" answer, end of conversation.

Because I suspect that it's not a matter of whether the answer is "right" as whether it is culturally possible--something we can even dwell on and consider rather than quickly casting aside because it is too painful, might get people's backs up, etc.

I'm not convinced it's good for us to just shrug and move on to the question of does he dress left or right, however much we might enjoy close examination of the evidence.

Because I suspect that, wrapped up in this is the problem of fans being often unable to accept themselves as racist.

There's always that sense that the nice people just aren't, and the people we love just can't be. And even maybe some of that is based in an unspoken idea that being racist is an unchangeable trait, rather than a description of a state of mind that can, with education and effort, be changed, and thus to call Bodie a racist isn't to consign him to the category of things that must be binned, but instead to move him deeper into the category of complicated characters--characters who often earn the title "love to hate" and, even more, "hate to love."

So i guess I'd like to say that I think Bodie, in canon as a whole, is a racist, and that his backstory supports "Klansmen." Bodie's also sexist (at one point offering to essentially fuck a woman out of her ideas about women's lib). He's also a very loyal friend to Doyle, is sexy as hell, is surprisingly cuddly, and is gleefully juvenile when he isn't getting the job done.

And I can accept all that and love him and believe that, as Doyle isn't as racist as Bodie (and I won't say he isn't at all, because this was 1978, and who are we kidding in assuming that any of us aren't racist even today?), there's a good chance that, over time, Bodie would come to change, and that Doyle would, quite literally, be the agent of such change.

In closing, I'd like to think that, if we take another look at "Klansmen" and Bodie and dwell even in the muck of all that makes us want to move on, we might be agents of change ourselves.
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To the Lighthouse and Beyond! [Jun. 7th, 2007|01:56 pm]
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[Current Location |work]
[mood |peacefulpeaceful]

Gakked from coffeeandink:
A really interesting discussion of gender bias and sf publishing, focusing on F&SF editor Gordan Van Gelder

It starts out a bit annoying, and there's a troll who makes it worse, but if you scroll down (or just search for the words "vagina stories" or focus on posts by K. Tempest) you'll see some really interesting discussion.

The most intriguing bit, for me, comes when Van Gelder asks Tempest, "whose stories are closer to the core of science fiction---Virginia Woolf's girl stories or Doc Smith's boy stories? Both sorts of stories have their virtues, both have their enthusiasts and their detractors, but Doc Smith's stories did more to define the science fiction genre than Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse did. (And this comment is not meant as a reflection of my taste. I've never even read much fiction by Doc Smith, and the little I tried didn't work for me."

The thing is, I love Virginia Woolf with a passion. And yet it never really occurred to me that Woolf could be a model for sci fi, because it's Just Not Done. And yet now, I find myself asking, why the hell not?
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But to imagine bringing that to sci fi--the quiet oddness of it that's almost science fiction (if the foreign landscape and the alien presence were the mind and presence of women--the Other other)...

It's inspiring.
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Being Real [May. 19th, 2007|12:15 am]
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[Current Location |home]
[mood |tiredtired]

Like many people, I'm not surprised (but still saddened) to see a bunch of guys come in and try to make money off of a largely female enterprise. But I worry because so many female fans seem so desperate for legitimacy that they may actually buy into FanLib's plan without asking enough questions.

It leaves me wishing that we, as female fans, could imagine that we give each other legitimacy (and that we can do that even without finding ways to exploit ourselves better or more efficiently than these men plan to exploit us). Why can't we believe that we're legitimate enough as is, so much so that we don't need newspapers covering us, or academics writing articles, or men selling advertisements with our stories to make us "real" writers who respect ourselves and our work and our pleasure?

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Virtual Rape and Fandom [May. 5th, 2007|08:49 pm]
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[Current Location |home]
[mood |curiouscurious]

A heads-up for any of you interested in thinking about rape and the 'net...

Wired has an article on "Virtual Rape," considering whether it's really a crime.

And within that article, there's a link to another article that is, I think, even more interesting, as it looks closely at the issue of consent:

Somehow, I think this has a tangential relationship to the question of posting warnings on rapefic, and perhaps to the techey subject of rapefic as a fannish and nonfannish genre of erotica (and here I'll note that I've always argued rape fantasy's appeal lies in way that women are both in control of their RL bodies and can let go within the fantasy without suffering the losses that giving up control involves in RL). What I wonder, though, is what happens when we read someone else's rape fantasy--a fantasy authored by a slash writer, for example. Is it riskier because, though you may stop reading at any time, you're also giving up control to the author to lead you through her fantasies (which may violate some of your own boundaries)?

Thoughts on this?
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Aliens of Color, and other problems of fandom [Apr. 7th, 2007|11:57 pm]
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[Current Location |home]
[mood |tiredtired]

On Race and Teaching Writing:
I've been reading and reading and reading the recent threads on racism in fandom, and, though any of you may well say differently, I tend to think of myself as someone who's working on her own racism thing (as opposed to actually being non-racist), and who thinks about it. A lot. Both in fandom and in daily life, including every day at work when I'm at work fully aware that I'm charged with homogenizing a diverse group of student writers in the standards of Academic English (which, hello, is one helluva a racially charged thing, if you hadn't noticed, and one I question even as I'm doing it, because there are all sorts of arguments about it, not the least of which is that as long as Whites hold to (White) Standard English as superior, we're living on the privilege of not having to learn it in order to get ahead. While at the same time, many of us who teach realize that as long as we don't have the power to change the standard, we need to do everything we can to demystify it so as to allow as many students of color access to the corridors of power as possible. And if you've never heard any of these arguments, June Jordon's essay about teaching Willie Jordan lays it out, though having taught the essay to a bunch of privileged white kids at NYU, perhaps not clearly enough if you're entirely clueless, but that's another rant entirely, I think).

As a Slash Writer:
Back to fandom... with all of this talk about WFans not writing CoC, or doing so badly, my first thought was, "Wow, I've never written any African American characters" and then I remembered that I had written Bug/Nigel (eight stories, plus the unfinished ones on my HD), and then I thought, wait, hold off on the self-congratulatory moment at that inventory, and then I thought, is there something about Bug's being Indian that makes it easier to approach writing him? I'm not sure....

I do think that there's a certain cultural distance at work--in that Bug's dealing not just with plain old American racism as a CoC, but also the whole colonial history of England in India and his family's experience of that... and maybe that distance makes it easier to approach him as a writer. Then again, from the first, Bug's explicitly referenced his experience with racist White Americans who see him as just another PoC, so it's not as if canon itself asks (or wants) to work the pretense of color-blindness or let fans get away with not seeing.

I don't know that in writing him, I ever thought to myself, "I don't know how to write him" because he's Indian. In some respect, I just did what I could to project what I knew about what it felt like to be abject, outside, fighting against quick-judgments people make based on your appearance, and having to prove yourself every time you walk in a room. As a fat woman, and as a woman whose nose will never be cutely upturned, I feel some of that, and, as far as my family history goes, large portions of my family were killed by the Nazis, and I heard from my grandmother stories of being shut out of jobs, school, etc. because she was Jewish in Germany, so... knowing that history was a part of my growing up, just as having this body was a part of my growing up.

Meanwhile, I wonder if my comfort level with writing Bug is due, in part, to the way that the show explicitly shows him confronting racism, so that I never really have to think too hard about his relationship to and perceptions of race the way I might on shows where the canon sidesteps the issue, by pretending it doesn't exist, or by mapping him as an "alien" character.

Aliens of Color and SGA:
And speaking of AoC, I cannot imagine why nobody seems to notice that Ronon has dark skin. I mean, sure, he's an alien, but since when haven't White people in the current day taken their own racist selves overseas? Is it just impossible to imagine that many of the White people coming to Atlantis would, in seeing Ronon, see not an alien but a big, black man of the sort that might've made them cross to the other side of the street on a dark night? Is it impossible to imagine that any of the White people on Atlantis might see Teyla as sexually available, not simply because she's got the bare midriff, but because she's visibly "other"? Really, I find it hard to believe that all those White scientists don't think about race all the time--don't notice whether the natives of a given planet look like them or not, and act accordingly. I have a hard time imagining that, sitting down for dinner in the caf, the scientists and military aren't sitting at somewhat racially segregated tables, and I can't help wondering whether Ronon, on coming to Atlantis, might see the people who look more like him (those who didn't go out the airlock already) as more like him--as possible allies.

Anyway, this is rambling, and me just saying that I've spent some of the time reading the recent SGA thing with clenched fists, sometimes feeling vaguely nauseous, and often feeling somewhat hopeless about whether fandom will ever get to the place where we can talk about race without talking about why we need to talk about race.

And sadly, none of this has made me want to watch SGA again, or get into the fandom.

And on the home front:
My folks have been staying with us this week, and my father brought Nigel and Ellie a copy of Peter Pan on DVD. Nigel had already seen it at his other grandparents' house, and we'd talked to him a bit about it. And Ellie has a cute 11" Peter Pan doll I found at a thrift store. I've always liked the doll, but I never intended to buy the movie. Now, we have it here and my husband was watching it this morning with the kids, and discovered that Disney never cut out the really horrible racist stuff, as I imagined they would, and so he told my folks that the kids wouldn't be watching it again until they were old enough not to internalize it. My father seems to think that it's all about what the parents think, and that if your folks aren't racist, you won't be. And yet I can't help but think that my mother is racist, or at the very least, unthoughtful about race, and neither of my parents were even offended by the "red man" song. Of course, the diplomatic thing would've been for Peter to not say anything to the folks, and to just confiscate it after they left and explain why. But I keep thinking that there are times when "diplomatic" just means being silent, and complicit, and that's not what I want Nigel to learn.

Nigel asked Peter, "But why is it wrong if the Native Americans were singing the song too?" My husband had to point out to him that  the Native Americans in the film were drawings made my White Americans, and the voices were White Americans grunting along in the song, and the book was written by a White guy, and Disney was White, and basically, what we have here is a case of black-face, though that's not a reference Nigel would understand.

And I keep thinking that it's hard enough to be a fan dealing with racism, or a teacher dealing with it, or even a person, but I'm also a mom dealing with it, trying to navigate Nigel through a world where people still cheerfully sing, "What makes the red man red?"
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Name-dropping and Inclusive Meta [Apr. 4th, 2007|12:55 pm]
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[Current Location |work]
[mood |awake]

I just spent a whole hour tutoring a woman in abnormal psychology, just going over her notes with her. I don't know why I agreed. I'm the WC supervisor, after all. But I kind of think psych is interesting, and I know more than she does about it, and I have some teaching skills, so what the hey. It was a nice break, anyway. And it seems connected to my thinking lately about how we bridge the gap as tutors between ourselves and our own knowledge base and the knowledge of our students, and how that relates to fandom.

I've been reading metafandom   with interest, but I keep coming back to noticing that, while I can read it and I've done all the relevant reading, it's not as fun as it used to be for me. I've somehow gotten impatient with high theory in ways I didn't used to be. I dislike the way that shorthand reference to Lacan and Derrida, et al can and does keep some very smart people I know from feeling they can join the conversation, even when the core ideas themselves are totally accessible, and even when the conversation may be taking place in their own LJ--in response to their own insights.

I think that part of this feeling is that I'm a writing teacher by career now and by disposition, and so I'm interested in expanding the conversation to allow in those who haven't been a part of academic conversation, and I wonder if there's a value in the shorthand name-dropping when it excludes. Granted, it makes things quicker, but at what cost?

I'm not talking about intentional exclusion, but about the unintentional kind that comes from enacting your meta-criticism in a language that signals to the world your graduate level education--that pretty much signals to the reader that they do or do not belong to the community of people you're interested in speaking to about this. And I recognize that even using the word "enacting" is a form of this exclusive language. At times, it's just a reflection of my vocabulary--entirely unthinking. But, more and more, I'm thinking that it's worth thinking about, and trying to adjust.

I'm not saying that it's important to "dumb down" anything, but I wonder whether we don't sometimes elevate things that aren't, in the end, so difficult to understand, and whether we reference names rather than creating more accessible analogies or metaphors because it's easier to name-drop. I suspect when we don't adjust our discourse we end up missing out on the contributions of people who may have a smaller academic-critical vocabulary but who have a clever mind and a desire to talk to us, and to join in the conversation rather than watching it from the sidelines as we perform our metacrit.

And I'm thinking of this because sometimes, I get to the end of a long day of teaching and tutoring and training and writing, and I'm just too damned tired to put in the effort to show off what I know--I'm too tired to want to perform my graduate education. And yet, to the extent that some of that comes naturally (so much so that I have to work to suppress it to engage with my tutors and students), even when I'm tired, I'm trying to adjust.

And in fandom, I just want to talk to people about ideas, and to do so in a way that feels at least somewhat inclusive.

Feminist theory, at one point, got to the point where it was so filled with academic lingo that it was often completely unreadable to any but those in the ivory tower. And at that point, I think it's sophistication came at the cost of being connected to the lives of women. Instead of calls to action and consciousness raising, there were calls to theory and the pursuit of tenure, and I just... get tired of that, I think.

I sometimes fear that fannish crit is headed (or perhaps has already gone) to that place feminism visited first--the escalation of language and heightened sense of self-importance in which tenured professionals are speaking about and for and sometimes (but only sometimes) to people without juried publication credits to go along with their fannish cred.

--These meta-thoughts brought to you from community college, where I've been thinking a lot about what a community means, and how we can democratize thinking and still value it even when it's no longer accessible only to the elite.

So here's a question for you to ponder with me, if you like. Has fandom moved from an open-enrollment system to something else, and if it has, can we (or should we, or might we) bring it back to a more democratic model? Or is it simply that the entry of masses of academics into online fandom (and I think there are more academics now than when fandom was a print culture and a con culture) has initiated something of a "tracking system"--in which we brush shoulders with those in other classes but rarely speak to them directly, nor do they speak to us, except in passing?

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Kissed [Feb. 6th, 2007|08:11 pm]
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[mood |sleepysleepy]

When I'm not so tired, I plan on putting up a more detailed analysis of Kissed, but for now, I point you to my screencap gallery from the film. Nothing too spoilery there.

Peter Outerbridge, btw, is so damned pretty he makes my eyes hurt. And in everything I've seen him, he's been very... feminine is the word I'm reaching for, though it's inexact. What I mean is that, despite the biceps his clearly (and frequently) visible male bits and bobs, there's something about him--his voice, his mannerisms--that makes me think that he really didn't need to change all that much to play Judy. In fact, what I like most about his performance as Judy was how at ease he was in Judy's skin and clothes. If something about Outerbridge is feminine, I think it's based in a lack of male posturing (or even male posture). And I think that's why I find him fascinating--that element of bi-gender--and of his ability to allow himself to appear vulnerable to a woman (in this case, Molly Parker) without the woman seeming to be a bitch or harridan or less beautiful or feminine--without it turning into a grotesque parody of gender roles designed to reinforce the "right" way.
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On Neo and Natal Vaginas and Transexual Slash [Dec. 28th, 2006|11:38 pm]
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[mood |awake]

Tonight, I watched a bit of "Transgeneration" and then went online because I was sort of curious about the, er, ins and outs of Sexual Reassignment Surgery. So I did some research and now I know how it's done and yeah, maybe it's only because I don't have a penis that it really doesn't make me flinch. Or maybe, in another life where I was good at science, I would've made a good doctor.

If you're interested, there's a whole site about SRS here. (Not work safe, because there are big old photos of post-op genitalia on it). There's information about sexual performance post-op, which was really interesting, from the perspective of someone natally female. The site is very heterocentric (can I even call it that, I wonder?) in speaking primarily about male to female transsexual people who sleep with men (with little to say about lesbians).

It was rather strange reading the reassurances that, if you're otherwise feminine in body and post-op, most male partners won't even notice it's a neovagina because they don't really look "down there." And I wanted to say that it wasn't true, but I'm not sure. Do guys really not look, in your experience? I mean, I suppose, if it's really dark like all the time. But most people's eyes do adjust to the dark.... Then again, I suppose there are all those stories of men sleeping with other men who are still genitally male, so...

So is there any slash out there in which a male character actually transitions (with hormones) and has SRS rather than magically (and usually temporarily) becoming female? Because that'd be interesting to read. Comment me links, if you know of any.

I could sort of see this in Due South, actually, because if anyone would follow through to the end, it'd be Fraser. And I could see a reasonable argument being made that he's been harboring this secret gender dysphoria which he can bring himself to name only once he's got Ray Kowalski stranded in the middle of all that snow.
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Do Slashers *Really* Overgeneralize Male Bisexuality? [Dec. 10th, 2006|02:35 pm]
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[mood |a bit defiant]

Last night, my husband was proofreading a slash story of mine, and he said, "Well, it's well written, but I don't buy the premise anymore than I usually do with slash stories." I asked him what he meant (though I suspected I already knew), and he said, "Well most slash stories seem to depend on all these men having latent homosexual desire, which doesn't seem very realistic to me." I stopped and thought about that, and I finally realized something about our differing views of male heterosexuality, and why I could not possibly convince him of the soundness of my premise in a slash story without first talking about heterosexual men as they exist in RL, and as we may think they exist.

So here goes...

Are most men heterosexual? Are most men on TV heterosexual? These seem to me to be the wrong questions to ask for a number of reasons. The better question might be, can you imagine any circumstances within which this given male character (who may well identify himself as heterosexual) might engage in a sexual act which you might classify as "gay" (because his partner in that act is male) even if he, himself, doesn't classify himself as gay either before or after engaging in that act?...Collapse )
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