Become a martyr for America, chiklits!
Paul Campos connects the dots. Cause none of these dumb media fuckers is willing to do it:
As I write these words, Terri Schiavo is being starved to death because she was once a chubby little girl.
Almost everyone has heard about how, 15 years ago, Schiavo's heart stopped for several minutes, causing massive brain damage that left her severely disabled.
What very few people are aware of, because it has gone largely unreported, is that Terri's heart stopped as a consequence of an eating disorder.
Terri was a chubby child, in a culture that tells children, and especially girls, that not being thin is both a disease and moral failing. And our children get the message: fully half of all 9- to 11-year-old girls either are or have been on a diet.
Terri was one of these children. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence dieting, in a desperate effort to deal with having the "wrong" kind of body. Like most dieters, her weight fluctuated a great deal, but she was unable to remain thin.
Eventually, according to evidence introduced at the trial following her collapse, she started forcing herself to vomit after meals. This, combined with a regimen of 15 glasses of iced tea per day, made her thin and "beautiful." (More than 200 articles have commented on Terri's beauty. Almost none of these mention her eating disorder).
On the night she collapsed, Terri had just eaten dinner. She went into the bathroom and forced herself to vomit. Apparently, the chemical imbalance brought on by her bulimia stopped her heart.
I find the irony of this situation deeply, deeply sickening.
I went out to lunch today, this being a Friday, and sat at a table across from two men and two women. They appeared to be work colleagues. The men were average-looking, 30ish, on the overweight side, looked like they could pass for, say, computer programmers, so I thought they were quite good-boy nice looking, but MTV would call them boring couch potatoes and Queer Eye would have a field day. They ate cups of soup and cheeseburgers and fries and talked in loud voices about work.
The women, at first glance, looked and acted much younger. Their hair was straightened, bleached. The one closest to me had that perfect bronze tan. They were both about a size four, though the tan one looked like she was aiming for a 2. They ordered salads, and spent their time waiting for those salads... talking about food.
The tan one salivated over the dessert menu, said something like, "I haven't had chocolate sauce in two years."
The other one, not so classically MTV-girlish, with more of a midwest softness to her face and complexion, said, "Don't you ever treat yourself?"
"No," Barbie said.
"Not even once?"
Barbie was little and very slender, wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt I wouldn't dare wear in public, and had just enough defined arm muscle to be considered hot.
And, the thing was, looking at Barbie, that's what I was thinking: she's the way I'm supposed to look, the way women are supposed to look. Thin, tan, straightened, dyed-blond hair, those pert features, the flawless-appearing complexion. It wasn't that she was beautiful: there was nothing behind her look to make her beautiful, no amazing wit or cute laugh or witty turn of phrase or particularly striking feature. The thing with encouraging all women to look like a certain "type" is that eventually they'll look that way, and it'll take so much time and energy to cultivate that "type" that they're not exactly going to have a lot of time for an internal spiritual journey that makes them really interesting people. Mostly, they're just going to talk a lot about diet and excercise and what they can't eat this week.
When the food came, Barbie scarfed down her salad like she was starving: and, likely, she was. Most women don't look like Barbie into their thirties without being very hungry as a result.
I had ordered a burger, no fries, coleslaw on the side, and an iced tea. I've learned to balance out my hunger: if I really want a burger, I'll eat a burger, I just won't have the crap I don't want, which is usually the fries, and that cuts the calorie count pretty neatly.
And eating that way will keep me at what I consider a reasonable size, in reasonable health, but I will never, ever, look like Barbie.
Not even if I ate salmon ceasers and started getting that dull-eyed hungry look that supermodels carry around.
But oh, God, sitting there next to Barbie, I felt so guilty for eating my cheeseburger. What must everyone think of me, scarfing down my burger for lunch? Had I no shame? I could see everyone turning to look at me, thinking, "Look at that fat girl scarfing down that cheeseburger! Grotesque! Look at that fat woman, eating! A woman, eating, in a restaurant! How revolting! Has she no respect for herself?!"
I wanted to curl up and die.
And that's what a lot of women feel like: we'd rather die than be fat. We'd die to be thin for a decade, just give me a decade of hotness! Please! Please! I'll starve! I don't care!
Careful what you wish for.
Yea. I've had nights like that.
I used to think it must be a pretty neat thing, to be thin and beautiful. And, in fact, it has its perks. You get better jobs, people treat you more respectfully, treat you like you're important.
But you know, if you're doing it the way most women are doing it, you're also going to be weaker, and stupider (try doing complex math equations while suffering from extreme hunger and fatigue caused by overexercise), and ultimately, you're risking your life for a pound of flesh, for a beauty ideal.
And today's a good day to decide if you're interested in martyring yourself for Christan America and the MTV beauty machine.
We've got a great example of the end result.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Become a martyr for America, chiklits!
The strange case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck...
Do you really need my commentary?
I learn something new every day.
I suppose I would take stuff posted at Tangent more seriously if they actually proofread their work. As it is, I merely choke on my coffee, as good old Dave clambers up on his pulpit yet again. If you're going to post this blather from the most inane of the back-to-old-school-SF blatherers ("When men were men and women were green!), at least edit him into some semblance of coherence:
Politcal [sic] Correctness (and in the case of the instance written about in Silverberg's column, the fallout from Political Correctness, but that's another essay), has run amuck. Now, it seems, an active imagination and artistic freedom are under siege by those on the Left who have the power to punish us for what we think, and it ain't those mean old, uneducated, bible-thumping, red-state bubbas who are to blame. It is those on the Left, often-called the Elite Left—those who believe, in their heart-of-hearts, that they know what is best for us, that we are incapable of making our own decisions..
Much as he will berate short SF writers in this column about being unable to think for themselves, which is why he - an illustrious, well-read, uber-published writer - will tell SF short story writers what to think and what to write about:
ATTENTION SF SHORT STORY WRITERS!! YOU ARE BEING BRAINWASHED BY THE LIBERAL ELITE!!!
The best part about this bit is that it comes right after his introduction, in which the author insists that he's not "left" or "right" but shares a mixture of political views.. you know, like every other person in America. He then goes on to remind us that there is, however, a Liberal Elite working at Keeping Him Down.
I want a T-shirt:
I AM THE LIBERAL ELITE! I HAVE RUN AMOK!
All of which led me to wonder if SF is going soft these days.
The same way his erection's going, apparently, which is why he's so pissed off.
One doesn't often see hard-edged political stories in short SF anymore—at least not many of them in the past twenty, twenty-five years or so.
Umm... is he part of the same genreverse I am? Wasn't there just a big story that came out extrapolating what a neo-conservative America of the future would be like? I guess that one doesn't count... being about a conservative America and all.
We'll see the occasional story dealing with gender (a very tired theme these days, as more often than not a predictable Left/liberal agenda is espoused, but not really, dispassionately explored; the agenda is so predictable as to make for comfortable reading for those in the choir, but also terribly boring as SF—or as Judy Merril had it in the '50's—Speculative Fiction. Occasionally, we'll see something by way of satire (humorous, as in Esther Friesner's "Johnny Beansprout" from the July, 2004 F&SF; or darker, as in some of Terry Bisson's or James Morrow's short work), but they are too far and few between, when taken as a percentage of the tonnage of short sf/f foisted on readers today. Most of which deals with character interaction, or the feelings of characters, or how they feel about whatever milquetoast situation lazy authors choose to put them in (yet another essay).
SF is talking too much about women and their feelings. Men, as we all know, don't have feelings. So only women write about feelings. And only women are interested in gender roles. Men are just naturally manly - unless they're James Morrow, who's an amazing writer and so is allowed to admit that men might have feelings. Though that still makes Dave uncomfortable.
Everyone knows women aren't real people anyway. They should stop writing about themselves. And stop writing about men. And men need to stop writing about gender-conflicted men, too.
Men should only write about fishing.
I'm sorry, where is that happening? Must be in the work of all those pesky non-humor-writing Women Writers. Like, who, Leguin? Show me all the softy gender-speaking young women preaching touchy-feely writing as SF. Shit knows that if we're talking about gender - you know, conceptions of being, say, human (that's female and male, you fucktard) - that we must not be writing real SF anymore, huh?
It's as if much of today's short sf has become metrosexualized, a term I'll co-opt from one coined to label the metro-sexual male.
At this point, I go into cardiac arrest and must stop reading this column. Who's in charge of Tangent?
Oh, this one's good, too:
Sometimes I have this unnerving and spine-chilling thought that too much short SF today is naught but metrosexualized SF.
Truly, spine-chilling. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
There's a dearth of imagination on any real, cutting-edge level today.
I don't think Dave reads books.
No, really, I don't. I don't think he's ever gotten past a couple of shelves at the local Borders.
Do I even need to mention that he uses "he" as the default pronoun throughout? I wonder what women readers think? Is he speaking for *all* male readers when he asks if they're scratching their male heads trying to figure out what to think about a story? I certainly get the feeling that he's only actually talking to male writers. And funny women, of course, who write funny stories about gender. That's pretty cutting edge, right?
Ballard had it 99% right. Switch his "ultra-conservative" government for "ultra-liberal" and we pretty much are living what many on the Left are preaching today. Individual rights trump everything, all the time, regardless of the effect on society as a whole. And how timely is the line about the mentally ill being left to their own devices, in light of the Terry Schiavvo case in the news. Ballard puts Nostradamus to shame.
Wow. Did you know you were living in a country run by an "ultra-liberal" government? Fooled me!
What a mess!
The overall point of bringing up Silverberg's column, Ballard's forgotten story, and my own comments, is perhaps to strike a spark in today's short sf/f writers. Not just in a political sense of awareness, and what isn't being written about very much anymore, but more importantly not to forget the story. If you're not writing about much of anything, it doesn't matter how well "nothing" is written.
Though, in the case of this column, being well-written might have helped.
What a fucktard.
As there's no real actual good shows on "real" television - and I hate commercials, the messiness of taping stuff, and etc - and since I do so adore HBO's Carnivale, I went ahead and rented the first couple of episodes of HBO's Deadwood.
Watched the first episode last night, and thus far, I'm not terribly impressed.
We're in South Dakota in 1876 with a cast of characters trying to make their fortune in the mining "town" of Deadwood, where there's no law but who's a better draw. There's lots of literal backstabbing, lots of liquor, lots of whoring, as yet very little of the actual prospecting, but lots of dirty people trying to make a living, which I always appreciate in a show.
As yet, nobody's too classically pretty, and they're mostly dirty and occasionally threadbare, which is cool. Episode one also wins for the most times I've heard the word "cocksucker" used in an hour - I think, 26 times. I don't know how historically accurate the frequency of that particular word use is, but hey, I'll go with that one. These are gritty Western boys, they better be talking pretty dirty.
This being a Western set in a mining town, I was also cool with the fact that there wouldn't be many female characters, and those there would be wives or whores, and maybe you'd have the occasional really kick-ass prospector woman who walked into camp with 120lbs on her back and a couple Indian scalps.
That's pretty much what they did: they've got an actress named Robin Weigert playing Calamity Jane, who's our butch heroine... well, er, that is, she's played by a fresh-faced slip of a thing who'll clean up really well when they decide to fem her out and do the "look, she's really pretty!" thing instead of a character actress who has got a little spit and wisdom in her face and some bulk in her body, but she's got a good swagger and her blustering almost convinced me that some of the guys might respect her... that is, when she's not making eyes at Wild Bill Hickok or getting passed off some kid that the guys rescued... (Why the hell would you pass the kid off to Calamity Jane? Cause she's a woman? Looked like they were doing just fine carrying the kid on their own, and town wasn't very far off, but this possee of guys rescued this kid, ran into Jane, and then had her *carry the kid the rest of the way into town with them.* Weird. I think it was one of those instances where the writers reverted to stereotype. Who's to say that Jane had any more idea what to do with a kid than the guys did? )
And so, yea, there's The Gem tavern where more of the liquor and prostitutes are (in that order), and we've got an immediate subplot going on with a gun-toting woman named Tricksy who has a habit of killing her clients. Sounds promising, interesting power dynamics; might go somewhere, might just go cliche (as the episode ended, she was apparently reconciling with her master, but we'll see).
There's also a promising wife to a rich-boy wanna-be prospector guy who's getting himself swindled by all of the locals: right now, she's mostly living on sleep and laudenum, but I can already see how they could play it so her strutting dandy gets axed, and she has to step up and become her own sort of prospector: fragile flower turns to tough heroine in the face of adversity.
Hey, it could happen.
So, there's hope, but I'm not in love with the series, thus far. I'll watch another episode tonight, and see what I think.
Oh, here we go again. It's like the "Where are all the women bloggers?" debate... It. Just. Won't. Go. Away.
There is no such thing as Women's Writing. Just as there is no such thing as Left-Handed Writing, Red-Headed Writing, European Writing, Northern Hemisphere Writing, or Writing from the Planet Earth. All of these categories are so large as to be meaningless. Sadly, Women's Writing is the only one of the above repeatedly used as a stick to beat women who write. Either Women's Writing is fluffy and inconsequential, full of romps and buttocks - or Women's Writing is coarse and aggressive and the kind of muck you'd expect from an off-duty stripper in a strop - or Women's Writing is obsessed with plumbing and bleeding and bonding to whale music. Effectively, Women's Writing is whatever has most annoyed any given journalist, commentator, academic, or author in the past few books by women they've read. Sweeping generalisations must be made, insults must be slung, personal abuse is welcome and two or three days of columns and op-eds can be sustained with the merry to-and-fro.
There a couple of problems with all this bullshit "women aren't edgy writers" bullshit.
First: men, for some reason, just get to be men, but women, as individuals, are always a stand-in for Every Woman. So if you get 800 subs from men and 100 from women, and those women's stories are:
40 about women fleeing bad marriages/having midlife crises and bicycling around the world
20 about women and their families/finding marriages/having children/relationships with other people
20 about women overcoming vast personal hardship (including family trouble)
10 about women who take heroin or become prostitutes, and how neat or tragic that is
10 are about women who kick everybody's ass and rage against society like superheroes
Mostly, you'll hear people bitch: "Look at how domestic those women are! Always talking about all those domestic issues like marriage and family!"
But of those 800 subs from the guys:
300 are about men going through midlife crises and bicycling around the world (and/or dumping their wife/job/car and getting an upgrade)
200 are about men and their comraderie in war or with gangs or on sports teams (you know: "real, meaty fiction" like Hemingway would write. Stuff women aren't supposed to be writing about anyway, and if they write about it, there's something definately suspect about them and not worth listening to.
150 are about men who take drugs and how neat or tragic that is
150 are about men overcoming personal hardship (including family trouble)
Only, those final hundred are, of course, "better" than women's literary attempts at talking about personal hardship and life struggle because they're about men overcoming personal hardship, and how hard that is, and there's no pregnancy involved, unless he gets a minor character pregnant and ditches her.
And these stories, because they're written by men, aren't called "domestic" --
They're called "examinations of the human condition."
Men being stand-ins for All of Humanity.
Whereas a woman, of course, is speaking for ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE ON EARTH SINCE TIME BEGAN!!
But not, of course, for humanity. Women aren't real people. A woman doesn't know how to tell a story about the human condition, even if her main character(s) are men.
How ridiculous would it be, for me to group every male writer into a box and say, "These male writers? It's all about boys with penis envy trading in their wives for cars! How safe! How dull! How domestic! Where are all the edgy male writers? Where are the men writers who really take risks!"
Maybe it means I'm trying to find a "real" reason that I just don't like the book - but am too lazy to find it, so I blame it on the author's gender. Maybe it means I need to be a better reader.
"Women's Writing"... bah.
Most religions have a day of the dead, and today is that day for Christians. In this most secular nation, polls show few now know what Good Friday is for, this day for sorrow, for contemplating death, loss and endings.
But here the usefulness of faith ends, for it is mainly the power of the religious lobby that forces people to die in pain and indignity due to beliefs on the nature of life and death shared by very few. For 20 years now, every poll on the subject shows that 80% of people want the right to be helped to die at a time and in a way of their own choosing. But that kind of "choice" is not on the agenda. Or not yet.
Read the rest at the Guardian:
Let me introduce you to the real Charlotte Brontë. She was not a wallflower in mourning. She always wanted to be famous; she pined to be "forever known". Aged 20, she wrote boldly to the Poet Laureate Robert Southey, asking for his opinion of her talents. He replied: "You evidently possess and in no inconsiderable degree what Wordsworth calls 'the faculty of verse'." Then he chides her: "There is a danger of which I would ... warn you. The daydreams in which you habitually indulge are likely to induce a distempered state of mind. Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life and it ought not to be." Charlotte ignored Southey but Gaskell couldn't believe it. She concluded the correspondence "made her put aside, for a time, all idea of literary enterprise".
Charlotte continued in her position as a schoolteacher, which she had already held for a year. But she hated her profession and heartily despised the aggravating brats she was forced to teach. As the children at Roe Head School did their lessons, she wrote in her journal: "I had been toiling for nearly an hour. I sat sinking from irritation and weariness into a kind of lethargy. The thought came over me: am I to spend all the best part of my life in this wretched bondage, forcibly suppressing my rage at the idleness, the apathy and the hyperbolic and most asinine stupidity of these fat headed oafs and on compulsion assuming an air of kindness, patience and assiduity? Must I from day to day sit chained to this chair prisoned within these four bare walls, while the glorious summer suns are burning in heaven and the year is revolving in its richest glow and declaring at the close of every summer day the time I am losing will never come again? Just then a dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should have vomited." Note to Mrs Gaskell: Charlotte didn't want to kiss those children; she wanted to vomit on them.
Charlotte did not only feel passionate hatred for small children; she felt passionate love for men. Unlike the female eunuch created by Gaskell, she was obsessed with her sensuality. She wrote to a friend: "If you knew my thoughts; the dreams that absorb me; and the fiery imagination that at times eats me up ... you would pity and I daresay despise me." The thwarted lust of a parson's daughter? Gaskell dismisses it as "traces of despondency". In Brussels, studying to become a governess at Heger's school, the virgin became ever more lustful. She wrote obsessive letters to him, begging for his attention. "I would write a book and dedicate it to my literature master - to the only master I have ever had - to you Monsieur." Later she writes: "Day or night I find neither rest nor peace. If I sleep I have tortured dreams in which I see you always severe, always gloomy and annoyed with me. I do not seek to justify myself, I submit to every kind of reproach - all that I know - is that I cannot - that I will not resign myself to losing the friendship of my master completely - I would rather undergo the greatest physical sufferings. If my master withdraws his friendship entirely from me I will be completely without hope ... I cling on to preserving that little interest - I cling on to it as I cling on to life."