Tag Archives: Feminism

Men are Victimized! and How to make your Blog title Provocative

I recently watched a couple of good awful movies, which is my way of saying they are good movies but make you want to nuke the world in order to contain and purge all sadness and the possibility of sadness from said world. Not that its relevant, but this genre of movies don’t strictly come into the other genre which is good awful fine-I believe-there-is-some-good-in-the-world-I-guess-I-don’t-need-to-google-search-“how-to-build-a-nuke-in-your-backyard”-just-yet.

Examples of the latter type of movies – Schindler’s List (or Life is Beautiful. You get the pattern – basically anything involving an exorbitant number of dead bodies piled together like so much candy), Mary and Max, Up (to a certain extent). If anybody is interested, there is a certain amount of sociology, philosophy and psychology based film theory critically looking at the need for a different type of aestheticization of the world post Holocaust. Look it up if you want – Kracauer, maybe Bazin, Susan Sontag to a certain extent I think. These recommendations are pure generalizations. Don’t go quoting me on this.

Getting back on point, I saw good awful movies – Soldier’s Girl and Stuart: A Life Backwards. Soldier’s Girl is a movie about a U.S. Army soldier who falls in love with a stripper while he is training, and the ramifications of their love affair. This is a picture of the (extremely hot) girl –

Her name is Calpernia.
Her name is Calpernia.

This is a picture of the actor who plays the girl

A.K.A Thranduil from The Hobbit and Ned the Pie maker from Pushing Daisies. BAM!

So yeah, she’s a transgender woman and the movie basically looks at how ineffective the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was with regards protecting the privacy or safety of the soldiers in the U.S. Army. Maybe it is my born-out-of-cruel-experience slight misandry speaking, or my general dislike of army ethics and social conditioning, but by the end I really wanted to shoot almost every single man (by which I mean self identified man) in that movie (with some exceptions). Either for being phenomenally huge dicks sculpted out of rotten elephant shit, or for staying silent and watching (for the most part) other men be elephant shit based oversized dicks.

Next, there was Stuart: A Life Backwards which has two main attractions for the superficial viewer (a tag I hope to never outlive). This guy

You have my permission to fuck me till I die.

And this guy

Oh, Benedict.

However, the movie starts and even though you have read up so you know its going to be full of awfulness, it proceeds to get awfuller and awfuller, till you want nothing more than access to some Uranium and Plutonium and bunch of disenchanted nuclear scientists to do the calculations so we can summarily put an end to misery.

How very Ayn Rand of me.

I never thought I would ever in my life ever say or write a sentence even similar to that.

Stuart is about an alcoholic heroin-addicted homeless man named Stuart whose story is told backwards – from adulthood to childhood. And as much as we would all like to think that means you get to see something marginally nice towards the end, we all know children and humans too well. Not only does he get younger, the shitty things in his life and the psychological scars they leave get steadily worse as he gets younger. And because he is a child, we feel way worse for the way worse things happening around him.

Both of these movies are based on real life people and events, by the way.

The point is, after having watched these two movies not back-to-back but over the course of 48 hours, I felt really bad for men. Way less than how bad I felt for practically all women including me, but quite bad. Because while I wanted to kill all men, one of the most potent parts of watching men ill-treat other men is that – and I know this is going to sound awful before and possibly even after I explain fully – I can view it more objectively than when men ill-treat women in movies. By which I mean that as soon as something bad happens to a woman in a movie, especially at the hands of a man, I feel a blinding anger and sadness that feels like its coming out of my pores. Sometimes I have goosebumps with this blinding rage and anguish that makes the world a little… scratched. It feels as though someone is scratching at the walls of my world with no intention of quitting till everything I love crumbles under the incessant and determined picking of dirty, unwashed, unclipped fingernails. Which basically means I have no feeling whatsoever left over, no thought of the man in question except that he must die. And painfully.

So, not very objective. This feeling doesn’t come to me when I watch men ill-treat other men. Which may not be a good thing but I don’t think my mind handle that much sensitivity, so it is what it is.

So when I finished watching Stuart and then a day later finished watching Soldier’s Girl, I was left thinking about a conversation I had with a bunch of guyfriends about feminism. Somewhere in the middle of that hours long on and off conversation on sexual politics, comedy and normalizing, I mentioned that I often think feminism concentrates too much on women – teach girls how to be confident, teach them to defend themselves, to know when to go to the police, to want to have careers, to be what they want….

That’s great and I’m certainly not saying we should be teaching men how to defend themselves. I’m saying a big part of the world is, unfortunately or fortunately, male. And if we are willing to concede that some women may be socialized into acting in ways that are detrimental to womenkind and mankind alike in the long run, why can we not talk about the fact that there are men, many men who are socialized into a mind-set which we may find alienating, misogynistic, gender-insensitive, and unacceptable. I’m not saying we should all sit and have a chat with rapists and domestic abusers. However, shouldn’t it be part of the conversation – that change in the treatment and position of women is not a cause for women alone?

Take this scarring TED talk for instance –

Shouldn’t we as feminists be actively engaging with the fact that a lot of sexism, hetero-normative gendered behavior, as well as perceptions of stronger and weaker sex and gender are taught at a very early age to tiny boys who are given no mechanism to challenge this with? It’s not just about how they treat women, but about how they treat each other.

I’m all for teaching kids to be badasses, to fight and fight and struggle to get what they want, but teaching that is not exclusive to teaching young boys to not be kid-sized turds of human beings. I’m fairly sure its possible to be a go-getter and be a not-asshole at the same time. For fuck’s sake, Emily Bronte talked about this in fucking 1848 in The Tenant at Wildfell Hall, in which Helen Graham asks why she should not protect her boy from learning and internalizing the vagrancies and general male dickishness of the world, when she would definitely do so if she had had a daughter.

I think a serious change in perspective and goals need to happen, at least for every-day feminists or people-who-think-women-are-human-people-with-just-as-much-natural-right-to-agency-and-decision-making-capabilities-as-men if you don’t like using the word “feminist” to describe yourself. Let’s start by having proper sex education for boys. Perhaps campaigns to educate otherwise idiotic parents (I reserve the right to be judgmental about parents who decide to bring new people into the world without intending to take care of them in any and all ways) about what “naughty” “nathkhat” “spirited” “that word that Uncle Vernon used to describe Dudley” “chootiya” boys grow up to become – even bigger chootiyas who will no doubt fall behind in a fast changing world if not end up being eve-teasers and rapists.

Perhaps have school talks to boys about seriously being kinder to each other – nothing wrong with crying, nothing wrong with “being a girl”, nothing wrong with wanting an emotional connection, nothing wrong with not having sex, nothing wrong with having consensual sex, and nothing wrong with being friends with or liking girls. Tell them it’s a sin to like boys though, because they have cooties. Or when you have guyfriends or male acquaintances who don’t seem to get what you’re saying about some gender problem, to engage and not immediately label them a misogynist and give up. Of course after you engage with them, if they seem like a misogynist, feel free to cut off their balls. They should certainly not be having or raising children.

You get the gist – we really need to civilize the not-noble savages that men are currently. Maybe a few feministy decades down the line, they can be the Pocahontas to our John Smith, except their Pocahontas wouldn’t have anything to teach our John Smith. Scratch that analogy actually. Can’t make misogynist joke now. Can’t be racist now. Too soon. Another time, perhaps.

Ok bye.

– Billy

P.S. – This was drafted and saved before 12. The only reason its delayed is because of internet connection and image loading problems. So no embarrassing fact revelation business. Feck off now. Intentional spelling.

Children’s movies and Boys and Girls and Curly haired men who know how to kiss

Well, hello. This is going to be another one of those posts. You know the ones – where I talk about movies and then I talk a little about penises. And today, I’ll be talking about Disney movies. And if you’re like me and you take Dan Brown’s literature as gospel, the two subjects go exceedingly well together. Kind of like Hot Dog and mayonnaise.

Anyway, getting to the point, I finished reading The Beautiful and Damned recently. For those of you who are uncouth, uneducated, unworthy plebeians, that’s a book written by Scott F. Fitzgerald, who also wrote The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Although surely, none of you uneducated and so on people would deign to read my illustrious, erudite, culturally high-minded blog where I talk about penises, right? Go away now. Shoo. Chop Chop.

Like he says. Shoo, morons.
Like the tall guy says. Shoo, morons.

 

Anyway, it got me thinking about Disney. Mostly because I recently watched Tangled for the nth time and then watched Frozen. Which got me thinking about Brave. We all know where this is going now, don’t we? Hairstyles. Nope.

Anyway, The Beautiful and Damned is a story about two young people who fall in love and get married, and how their privilege damns them to a life of knowing their lack and their unhappiness. Because if they weren’t privileged, spoilt, without any responsibilities or vocation and so full of expectations about what life would be for them, they may not perhaps have been subject to the peculiar kind of unhappiness they got – the kind where the seemingly reasonable expectations of young people remain unsatisfied, and because those expectations meant so much, their hearts were made irreparably broken – by each other and by themselves.

One of the early reviews of the book I read talked about how the character of Gloria Gilbert is an “original”. The beautiful and callous Gloria is driven only by one thing – to enjoy herself. And she is the kind of character that knows that her life will be presented to her on a platter as long as she is beautiful. Her moments of solitude, her likes and dislikes, her ability to enchant with the most inane of subjects simply because of her manner, her open disdain for the people she wishes to despise, is all made hers because of the charm her beauty provides. As you may imagine, she is not a particularly likeable character, but not more so than Anthony Patch, her husband. He is a whole other collection of insecurities and neuroses that try to constantly hide behind the skirts of Gloria’s beauty and popularity.

About five years ago, I would have hated reading this book. Not only are the characters so useless, they have very few redeeming qualities and Fitzgerald doesn’t really try to be particularly kind to them (probably because he was quite sure everything would end badly – quite like it did for him and his Gloria-esque wife Zelda). Who ever thought jobless, self aware socialites during prohibition married to supposedly egoistic writers would end up in a mental institution. Such is life.

Now, as much as its difficult to read at times, its worth knowing all the pitfalls your previously magical marriage will succumb to if you don’t have some temerity, some *incomprehensible French phrase meaning confidence*, some Courage of your convictions. And some general lack of selfishness. Another reason to read/ enjoy – well, it’s Fitzgerald. I have a snoot not very well hidden in my not very deep depths.

ME: Sex joke.

me:

 

Though I admit there is a certain awfulness about characters like Gloria. Or for that matter (to bring this closer home for those who don’t give two micropenises about some obscure character from some book) characters like Betty Draper from Mad Men. They seem colorless and one dimensional and utterly childish when we see them. They seem to have finished with the business of life and striving once they get married. And seeing that image is not something a normal woman enjoys – because for most of us, it is our worst nightmare to become relegated to a corner of life after we find people we want to spend all of it with.

But at the same time, I hate it when en masse people hate on poor Betty Draper. Because she, like Gloria, is not simply a figment of someone’s imagination but a representation of what life meant to a lot of women at some point of time. And as much as we can find faults in them, it is equally important to remember how much they are a product of their times. Gender is a construct certainly, but so is every aspect of life inspired by and derived from gender. Betty Draper existed with her childishness and her marital woes, and she existed because someone taught her from a fairly early age about the way things are supposed to be. And then she learned from friends about the kind of husband one should have, and the kind of life that would be ideal, and the kind of children one should raise. And her friends probably knew because of her and their parents, and then, from Disney movies. Where the all suffering, cursed, single girl is taken away from her woeful life by the ever so democratic (democratic in that they’re poor, not in that they are less than the normal standard of beauty) love of their rich, princely, handsome future husbands.

I personally did not grow up on Disney movies. Not because my parents were incredibly aware feminists, but because we never had a lot of TV experience, but I had read all the original fairy tales as a child. My father was against Barbies though this had a lot more to do with his communist anti-American ideas rather than feminist ones. By the time my sister and I had demanded Barbies (like all our friends had) for long enough to actually get one each, we were a little below ten and eight I think. I spent a couple of solid childhood years making my Barbie (Barbies in the plural once my sister dropped hers) fall in love with and then become girlfriends with imaginary Ken. They would go to college or have jobs and houses (that were largely imagined), but the plot of their lives generally involved men (Ken). And that’s not all. Imaginary Ken was a dick (albeit without an actual dick) who practically harassed Barbie in the name of romance before she fell for his rakish charms. I’m not entirely sure where I picked up that rhetoric from except for subversively problematic and sexual Bollywood romances. For a long time, I like many pre-pubescent and pubescent girls assumed that guys being dicks was a manifestation of affection, attraction and unconditional respect for us as human beings. Now of course I know that most guys are dicks to some girls because they have small penises which they feel will be compensated if they are huge cocks to us. Tis a scientifically verifiable truth.

Like this random asshole spreading his legs around like he’s evolution’s endgame. Pffft.

 

So if I hadn’t been taught from the very beginning that I should and could earn and live for myself, perhaps I would have been happy being blissfully ignorant as my handsome husband with the stolen identity cheated on me with an inordinate number of women. Or I may have spent my life being woefully sad as I waited for my husband to get his inheritance (Gloria).

When I went to law school/ college, I was introduced to some other Disney movies – Mulan and The Frog Princess. And I did not need the inspiration at the time but it was good to know Disney made movies where the girls had more to do than get cursed and passively wait around till some handsome chappie comes along and molests them as they sleep. This got even better when I saw Penelope which is a little known film with Cristina Ricci playing the titular character who is cursed by a witch to be born with a pig snout (and little piggy ears) till one of her own accepts her. So her parents keep her away from the rest of the world and try and make her the most “accomplished” young lady, so that eventually some blue blooded rich man would eventually agree to marry her for a phenomenal dowry. Towards the end of the movie, she is about to be married to said rich dude (who is disgusted by her but has to marry her because of some publicity reasons that are too complicated to explain here) when she runs away from the altar. Her mother follows her, begging her to go back so that she can become a “whole new you”. To which Penelope replies that she doesn’t want to be a whole new version and that likes herself the way she is, breaking the curse.

This was before Tangled or Frozen, and was such a beautiful surprise. And somewhere in the movie, Penelope runs away from home and spends a few weeks discovering herself and making friends on the sly. The first thing we see her do when she leaves her parents’ house after breaking the curse is get the job she wanted – as a school teacher teaching biology, largely horticulture and plant biology. Later she makes up with the guy she likes, but while that is certainly the most romantic bit of the movie, it is not the most important part, as elucidated by its conclusion. It’s about finding your strength and own way, overcoming insecurities and fears, finding ways to be happy in spite of or because of them.

Then there was Tangled where both Rapunzel and the hot-as-motherfucking-bananas Flynn Rider save each other time and time again. Not one of them is more responsible for the other. Pixar’s Brave is a story primarily about a mother and daughter who have different opinions of what life and duty should mean. Her mother tells her it is her duty to get married to one of the haggardly princes from neighboring clans, and Merida doesn’t want to get married. The story is about how she ends up getting her lesbian way without having all the super awesome men fight between themselves over her.

And recently I watched Frozen, admittedly because I initially thought that was the movie with the cute animated guy who looks like a white haired pixie (Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians, which is what I’ll be watching next). But I was not disappointed despite the palpable lack of said cute animated boy. Frozen is about two sisters who have to deal with the fact that one of them, Elsa, is a raging Ice Queen who accidentally turns her kingdom (yes, they’re royalty) into an freezing hell-ice-scape. Her sister Anna, having missed her older sibling because of the latter’s isolation while trying to control this admittedly problematic power follows her to try and convince her to come back and make things hot again.

Done and ...
Done and …
Done. Dayyym gurrll.
…Done. Dayyym gurrll.

 

Anna was the one who made her sister lose control of her powers by arguing with her when Elsa refused to give Anna permission to marry a guy she knew for less than a day.

What is amazing about this movie is not just that it is primarily about the two sisters and how they end up helping each other, but the men in it. The man Anna wants to marry turns out, after spending more than half the movie seeming rather perfect, to be only marrying Anna to gain power of the throne. Anna stops him from murdering her sister towards the end. Another significant character is that of the Duke of Weselton who tries to use the unfortunate forever-damned-to-winter state of the kingdom to change trade agreements to his country’s benefits. Both of these men are stopped by the sisters working together. On the other hand, Kristoff and Olaf, both of whom help and support and fight alongside the women to get things done receive just rewards not just in terms of “getting the girl” but in having their own independent aspirations fulfilled.

As Colin Stokes points out in this awesome video, children’s movies need to address concerns and quests for both boys and girls, with proper, characteristic role models for both boys and girls. He speaks to the fact that movies with primary male characters tend to go about their quests by themselves, or in each other’s company, but with very little involvement with girls. And in the same way, very rarely do Disney movies provide respectful, supportive male characters who succeed because of their ability to work with each other and with strong, independent women characters. In Tangled, Penelope, Brave and Frozen, not only do the women work (often with each other) to make their own lives and/ or their kingdoms a better place, but the men who join their “team” as Stokes puts it, end up having a better deal as well.

I don’t really need inspiration from Disney movies anymore, but representation is incredibly important. And I’m glad that at least for a certain socio economic section of the population, not only are Disney movies more accessible, but that they are likely to inspire Barbie to take college seriously, get a Ph.D., have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and then work to improve herself or the world and do any number of things to make herself and other people happy.

Barbie shouldn’t have to live a complacent, sedentary life. That seven foot tall, blonde, double-breasted Amazon she male deserves more in life than just dong-less Ken.

Regards,

– Billy

P.S. – On a side note I have avoided mentioning the show I have been obsessing over recently out of respect for the topic at hand. Can you guess what it is? Can you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is kissing. I can do the hair thing. I have to get to work on perfecting the rest.
This is kissing. I can do the hair thing. I have to get to work on perfecting the rest.
He did it again!! With the neck and the scarf!!

 

Ok. Yeah. Sherlock. Yup.

– Billy

Pop Culture and Man World

I’m a tumblr person. For those who don’t know what that means, I could surpass this week’s quota for quoting (hehe. Clever.) Louis Armstrong and say “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Instead, I will try and explain, because that is just how I roll. Yo.

Tumblr primarily consists of nerdy obsession. Let me clarify – by nerdy obsession I mean a singular and unimpeached devotion towards certain subjects, people, things, shows, books, whatever floats your bong. So this includes sites devoted to pictures of people engaged in passionate coitus (though with tumblr these pictures have a tendency to be more graphic, HD, well lit, well shot and unprecedentedly enjoyable) to gifs of one-liners from the Ian McKellan show Vicious to gifs of people having sex to links and diagrams about science and feminism. You can like anything, you can explain your dislike for anything in an articulate manner, and practically anything goes. The only rule is that your face should automatically crumple up and your genitalia should tense up every time Benedict Cumberbatch appears on your dash, no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. And Benedict Cumberbatch will appear on your dash every two to three posts. I’m pretty sure there’s a clause against Benedict Cumberbatch bashing in the tumblr terms of agreement.

And tumblr has sort of helped me diagnose a certain… thing I have. I haven’t considered myself an introvert since I came out as a fully functional person in 10th grade. I’m not shy or rude or dismissive of people I meet. I suspect that despite my very deep and hidden discomfort in social groups I’m not familiar with, I often either leave no impression or leave a good one. However, as people get to know me more, it becomes pretty clear that I’m not entirely… nice.

I can socialize with people well enough, for a few hours. After that, I feel the need to scratch my face, wash it, chew my tongue incessantly and finally make up an excuse to leave. According to tumblr, this is a symptom of being an introvert. This, when combined with my … lack of feelings can be a bit troublesome, not really for other people, but for me.

For instance, I am often confounded and intensely uncomfortable when people seem to behave in irrational and weirdly emotional ways. Especially if they behave like that over people they just met. I don’t understand how people in my new college are able to have secrets and fights and intense discussions. How can they possibly fight over stupid things with people they just met a few month ago? The only people I fight with, or have painful discussions with, or sexually charged intense conversations with, are those I have known for at least a year. So I am confounded. Which is alright – that brings me to about Abed level of confusion.

However, when this confoundedness interacts with the previously mentioned need to be rid of human company after a few solid hours of getting-to-know-you camaraderie, it inevitable results in Evil Abed, and Sherlock.

Evil Abed in Action

Sherlock Holmes was and still remains a huge part of who I have come to accept myself as. I had read every single piece of Sherlock Homes literature before I was 14. To put it in real cheesy terms, it opened up a world to me. See, I had by that time learnt to disregard feelings unless they were productive or at the least not unproductive. If feelings got in the way of anything else in my life, including my peace of mind, I didn’t pay attention to them. This is a not oft spoken of fact about human affection – if you don’t water it, it eventually withers and dies, especially if the feelings are regarding someone who’s not a big part of your life. If they are a big part of your life, the feelings can hang around in the background, maybe even manifest itself at times, but eventually die out as well. Human feelings are beautiful but fickle. They are the opposite of cacti.

When I read Sherlock at thirteen, you can imagine my… exhilaration at knowing that there were others like me. That there are people who are stable and functional and able to have lives and friends and love without going bonkers about every crush, every emotion and every single thing that has no value in practical terms. I’m not saying I have never been a teenage girl, or never over-reacted to anything, even past eighteen. I have. But only when it seemed lie there was a logical reason for doing so.

The first time I perceived proper friendship for unemotional people was with Sherlock and Watson. I remember the Adventure of the Three Garridebs for this. Watson got shot in it and the Sherlock Holmes did this.

‘You’re not hurt, Watson? For god’s sake tell me you’re not hurt!’

It was worth a wound— it was with many wounds— to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation… His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face.

‘By the Lord it is well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.’

While a lot of people love this sort of stuff on television because it’s amusing and interesting to see a character behave out of character (which is understandable – it is amusing), I find it beautiful because I always think of it as very much in character. I like knowing that there are others like me, who don’t like telling people about our feelings till it matters. That it’s possible to be intimate with someone at times without losing our whole personality. I would hate to be addressed as “sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “a changed, more open person” just because I nearly cried once in the metro when an old friend returned my long and rambling letter with his own long and rambling letter. Ok fine, that was today. But the point is, I didn’t suddenly become less myself just because I felt something and admitted it. I refuse to be less badass just because I may in the future, fall completely head over heels in love with someone.

And I love geekdom and tumblr for this – that I can get excited about minute details in stories and movies and it would be accepted and appreciated. However, I have also noticed that geekdom doesn’t seem to be very comfortable with girls, even if we have the same neuroses and social problems and confusions as your favorite characters. And this is where we segues uncomfortably into Deep Space Fandom Feminism (you’ll get the joke or you won’t, shitheads) area.

I have started to get the feeling that guys spend way too much time with each other. I remember a term we used for groups of people who seemed to become their worst selves the more time they spent with each other – toxic groups.

I have nothing against men having sleepovers and talking about sports and touching each others muscles, drinking their ales, plundering tropic isles or whatever they do when they’re alone with each other. I do however have a problem with men who get so used to hanging out with just men that they forget that the world of women is not a separate one. That sometimes, women exist inside the little cocoon world you created for yourself, and not in another dimension which you can travel to via portal every time you need a mother’s hug or a vagina to do things with.

One of my friends had a theory once that men who live together with other men at a young age tend to be misogynistic at some level. And that especially in boy’s hostels, the rhetoric about women, including individual women they are acquainted with, is often restricted to a sexual sphere with very few exceptions. This means that there is automatically a struggle between what you think of as the rest of your life, and your life when it comes to girlfriends, friends who are girls, etc.

Consequently, as per rhetoric, Spock being friends (or more) with Kirk (who by the way is as emotionally expressive and demanding and utterly disregarding of regulations and logic as any stereotypical woman) is beautiful and amazing and a testament to human-vulcan attachment; while Spock being in love with Uhura, a woman (who on the other hand is actually very emotionally reticent, and is openly demonstrative on very few occasions, and only when it’s something that matters), is termed as improbable, unbelievable and entirely out of character. How is it that male friendship is somehow seen as the norm that is beautiful, while a healthy relationship involving a woman is somehow less believable for the current generation of nerds? And don’t even get me started on the slash fiction between the two. I have nothing against a widespread acceptance of homosexuality, but not to the exclusion of women.

One of the reasons I seriously loved A Scandal in Belgravia in Sherlock was for this reason. Yes, I really think they could have developed Adler’s character a lot more. And yes, that whole Sherlocked bit seemed way too cheesy (not because she was a woman, but because she was a person), but at no point is there a diminishing of the dynamics between her and Sherlock just because she is a woman. What I find particularly interesting and beautiful is that while Sherlock remains the eternal asexual in many ways (though there are of course doubts about that), his regard for her, as well as his willingness to go out of his way to help her is in no way diminished because she’s a woman and a possible love interest. He does the same things for her as he would do for John. Arguably, not enough time is given to her personality in order for the dynamic between the two to grow on us the way Sherlock and John’s has, but unfortunately the show is about Sherlock and Watson. Every other character cannot really be given as much time as those two (same goes for Mycroft and Lestrade).

But here’s the problem, for every Sherlock and Sheldon and Spock making their tentative steps into the social world, which for them is not divided into that of men and women; there are a bunch of friends and TV shows and video games and everyday language and rhetoric that excludes women from the presence of men categorically and purposely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if and when Sherlock and Spock and any number of geeky, smart, iconic characters seem to have an intense romantic connection or even a primary friendship with a female character, it is seen as betrayal, not by the characters, but by the writers – how could the writers “sell out” and have our awesome male character who is happy without any annoying nagging girlfriend suddenly feel attached to a girl? I would in fact further argue that this is largely based on a misplaced, and rather ignorant sense of victimization about the way the world and women treats them.

I’m tempted to say it’s probably also got something to do with anger – Spock or Sherlock or Sheldon or The Doctor was supposed to be my single bro friends. How did he get a girl? Well, honey, he got a girl because he wasn’t a dick to her and he acted like she was a person and not just something to come back to at the end of a day.

There is nothing I hate more than when people (I say people because both men and women do this) try to equate every slight problem that a guy has to go through to the systemic and ingrained prejudice, harassment and violence that women go through. It is inevitably a way to nip any mildly feminist thought at the bud. “Yes, I may be following you around and harassing you online and at work, but you don’t have to be such a bitch to me and friendzone me. You’re probably doing it cause you’re superficial and don’t think I’m handsome and you don’t understand true love.”

This was actually addressed in a movie which I have no particular feelings for – The Social Network.

Social Network 1

Social Network 2

Social Network 3

Social Network 4

Social Network 5

You know what sucks? I have seen so many tumblr posts where they just post the one gif with his face crumpling at the words “because you’re a nerd”, as though the people who are posting don’t want to even consider what the scene was actually saying – you don’t get to act like an arrogant prick, whether you’re a jock or a nerd or a porn star, and get to keep the girl. You can’t blame someone for leaving you when you’ve been a dick, and when you don’t treat the other person with kindness and consideration.

And so, even with all the signs (Ted, Scrubs, Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Sherlock, any number of other shows and movies) pointing in the right direction – hey, if you can just get up the guts to consider women as an equal part of not just society, but the world you inhabit, whether that’s geek world, pop culture world, corporate world or Disney world, you could have a more productive and romantically and sexually fulfilling life, and you’ll probably be less frustrated – geeky guys will complain about all the girls (read “whores” and “sluts”) in pop culture who distract from the awesomeness of male bonding.

Because the world of women, as mentioned previously is ventured into only for the sake of motherly comfort, emotional diarrhea that one would never admit to one’s male friends, and sex. There seems to be very little room for arguments about the relationship without accusations of “too sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “overly attached”, and there is no room for talking about anything that is the sacrosanct area of “man talk” – sports, pop culture (this is where the fake geek girl meme really gets to me), and quite awfully, politics and social situations.

It sucks because the geek guys were the ones I sort of rested my faith in mankind on…. since most other guys were very obviously dicks to begin with.

There are exceptions though – some guys in college, Wil Wheaton, the vlogbrothers, Charlie McDonnell probably….

Oh well.

Oh and embarrassing secret cause I took too long to finish writing this – I sort of really teared up in the metro yesterday because I reconnected with a friend over facebook. I found out in the metro because I have a 21st century phone now, which has email services. But yeah, I was all teary and shit. This is the downside to 21st century communication I guess.

– Billy

P.S. – I wanted to give you guys this, in honor of my finding it on the interwebs

It's Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman's ear!! Gah!!
It’s Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman’s ear!! Gah!!

Why I’m elitist and against all men in all of earth.

I know I didn’t post last week. There was a really good reason. I can’t tell you about it, but it was a legit reason for once. And once that reason was over on Friday I spent the rest of that day and Saturday curled up in my bed in the fetal position, looking for something on the internet that would distract me from desperation and fear and the awful in-between-ness of life right now. I also ate hot dogs and momos.

Embarrassing secret in lieu of said non-posting – Sometimes I look down at my boobs and stare at them for a while, simultaneously thankful, exultant and critical. I have been assured that this fascination with having boobs is not entirely abnormal. Either way, yes, I look at them and hold them a bit and wonder if I could do a Molly Ringwald lipstick trick from The Breakfast Club (I can! I just checked. With the right support, I can! Ha!). None of this is sexual. It’s just another version of nail biting, finger tapping, ear-rubbing, hair twirling. Just something you fiddle with while doing something else.

Over the last few months, I have witnessed my friends go through a lot of gender/ sex based trouble, from being ogled at unwillingly by regional news cameras to learning about the number of ways in which we put ourselves down in the workplace. What really made things awful was when a friend had to learn how to deal with stalker behavior in the workplace.

Before I get this going I want to set down the usual caveats – I do consider myself a feminist by which I mean I don’t think there’s anything wrong or right about women waxing, not waxing, crying, not crying, having sex, not having sex, charming snakes, not charming snakes, falling in love, not falling in love, not having babies, not having babies… That last is because

h
Why would anyone want this coming out of them?

Coming back on point, being the clearly militant feminist that I am, my views on this subject may be not very balanced and may in fact be highly vagina leaning.

Also, I haven’t watched Raanjhana despite Abhay Deol’s presence, so this is NOT a review. I’ll merely be talking about a certain disturbing trend in Indian cinema that I have alluded to in the past – “Love” being continuously represented as creepy with just a hint of completely cuckoo stalker behavior. And yes, I have read Shobhaa De’s views on the film, as well as the reply from the director, as well as commentary on said reply. Allow me to get a word in edgewise despite having no authority whatsoever other than a lifelong affair with movies and having a uterus.

Despite all my clever book learning and rampant elitism and intellectualism and other isms of the same nature I, like many other ism fetishists, automatically accepted what my childhood told me was irresistible – the guy in the movie who is strong and insistent and determined and grabs hold of the girl and plants one on her and convinces her that he deserves her and that she should be with him and give him a daily taint licking. 90’s Bollywood left no doubt in our minds – the thrill is in the chase. You cannot possibly do anything less than declare everlasting love or crude lust in the process of wooing a girl. And that’s fine. It’s a movie trope and definitely a more problematic one than most gender-wise, but fucked up machismo oozed out of practically everything Bollywood, so whatever.

What becomes tedious however, is the inevitability of success in all these movies. Bollywood would have you believe that this behavior will actually be appealing to a normal woman. That the girl, who angrily rejects the guy who man-handled her under the pretext of synchronized dancing while being surrounded by at least ten other men, actually turns her back to him and smiles “secretively” at the oh-so-charming antics of her secret love. That she actually likes being followed home (For lack of anything typically Bollywood popping into mind – Sarfarosh) and taken pictures of without her knowledge (Kaho Na Pyaar Hai) and basically being eye raped every time she encounters the guy (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Main Hoon Na, ). And yes, it is imagined visual rape as soon as you’re obvious enough to make her aware of your constant ogling, angelic background choir and imaginary violin playing notwithstanding.

And this chain of not-real-events replicate themselves in cyber space pretty well. Believe me, I have nothing but love for the www. It gives me books, movies, music, games… without it I would be forced to watch regularly scheduled television for entertainment. Oh and porn; I wouldn’t have porn without it. The internet is a revolutionary platform for the socially ill-practiced – your shy people, you introverts, your asocials, your high functioning sociopaths.

Ha! Sherlock!

All of us thrive on the internet.

On the other hand, introverted and shy roadside Romeos now have a platform through which they can virtually cat-call/ manhandle/ make things uncomfortable for a girl by sending messages such as “rain drops r falling on my brain and my whole heart is in love with uuuu!!!” or “sexy picture” or “I am always with u, u don’t know me” or “I called ur mobile from in ur home after I broke its lock. My love is 4ever.” Note the bad grammar – it will become relevant soon enough.

At least unlike amateur creepy photo-stalking or torso grabbing while dancing, Raanjhana’s creepy behavior seems to largely be based on wrist cutting and other forms of emotional blackmail. The former by the way, wouldn’t even kill you unless you keep the cut wrist submerged in water for at least a few hours as you wait for a slow death to come along (I know because I listened in 10th grade science and read a few detective novels). However, this does not make the “you’ll eventually get the girl to fall for you after years, nay LIFETIMES of creepery” lesson less irritating.

At the risk of sounding like I’m facetiously pacifying a simmering crowd, as far as considerations of different cultural backgrounds and socio-economic factors are concerned, I’m never one to dismiss them. I spent most of my last semester in college debating in in its favor and writing papers about it. If you hit on a girl in a club in India, she will most likely be messaging ten people her location and your description at that moment, because she’s never had a good experience with being hit on by a stranger. In other countries, nobody’d give a rat’s ass. If you talk to a guy in a mildly familiar way in some/ most small towns and villages, there will likely be an assumption that you’re interested in them. In Delhi, it probably means that she may or may not be interested but you’re going to ask her to ride on your Freudian Bullet motorbike repeatedly. In law school it means she has no feelings for you and she’d like to stop talking to you soon.

The problem with the real world, especially the real urban world, is that when boy from who cares meets girl from city, feces goes down, motherlovers. I’m not saying all guys from who cares indiscriminately fall in love and become creepy. But I am saying that under most circumstances, largely due to the kind of turdy idea of “romance” said boy is brainwashed with largely because of movies (because let’s face it, Indian parents are unlikely to talk to their children about love and/ or feelings) and other boys who watch movies, as soon as boy has a crush it becomes something intense that illicits the kind of awful poetry that Elizabeth Bennet was talking about – it’ll drive affection away like my dog drives away rats. And as soon as something intense is recognized, the boy goes on to woo the girl in ways that all sources of romantic information (movies and perhaps songs) have shown to yield positive results – hack her social networks, stalk her where you can, write aforementioned poetry (for lack of a better word), tell her about all of the above, ask her out, and when she says no, either be disproportionately disappointed or stark raving mad, bad mouth her for “leading you on”, and if you start having too many feelings, hope to exorcise her ghost by sprinkling/throwing acid on her face.

I understand that its not entirely one person’s fault that they were brought up in a culture where rejection by a girl meant gun shots (Punjab and Haryana, as I pointed out to a friend who didn’t see the problem with Rose’s fiancé angrily shooting at her and Jack in Titanic) and/or acid before one could achieve closure. It’s learned behavior, and it doesn’t mean you’re a sick individual. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s making the long suffering recipient of your badly written poetry, your e-cards, your eye-rape, your bullets and your leftover household acid, VERY uncomfortable.

Sometimes your behavior maker her too angry – about someone online stalking her and violating her privacy – to actually go about her normal life without seething; sometimes she’s uncomfortable and frankly a little scared of what your invasion of her personal space means for what little freedom she has been afforded by an already unsafe city; sometimes she’s uncomfortable and upset because even though she tried to tell her boss about how she was feeling, they told her you were from a small town and so she should probably excuse your creepiness as the behavior of a “die-hard romantic” and try to be kind and perhaps not lead you on in any way; sometimes she doesn’t like being made responsible for your feelings, sexual or otherwise; sometimes she’s uncomfortable because she didn’t want to die at the hands of an asshole with a gun; and sometimes she feels bad because she looks at the mirror and can’t see a recognizable human face anymore.

Of course, some of these uncomfortable feelings are worse than others. However, as a member of a functioning society, boy from who cares, don’t you think you should try not to make her work life or her social life or her life in general uncomfortable in any way, just because you felt something? I’m sure you have made some male friends who were born and brought up in the same culture as her. Ask them where you went wrong. And perhaps ask your employer to tell you how you can act so as to not make the workplace an uncooperative space for everyone.

And don’t give me your claptrap about small town, “pure”, “unconditional”, “unfiltered” emotions versus the “polished”, “hard headed”, “emotionless” mentality of the Big City. I don’t see people raising such a fuss in favor of small towns when a girl feels those “pure”, “unfiltered” emotions for a boy of a different caste, or when a girl tries to passionately run away with a guy in lieu of those “pure”, “unconditional” feelings, regardless of her being from a city or village. This is not about small towns being better than cities for the soul. It’s about men believing they have the right to jizz their feelings all over women, who should be so grateful for said feelings that lack of reciprocity is an insult worthy of anger or emotional blackmail or violence.

As for films, there are some instances of non-creepy devotion and/or wooing that can be an example for most young men – Jab We Met is one. He likes her but at no point does he make that her problem and he doesn’t creep her out, or emotionally blackmail at any point. Oddly enough, Faizal did a perfectly spiffing job as well in Gangs of Wasseypur, though I suspect that’s largely because that girl would have very likely bitch-smacked him all the way to the coal mines had he tried to make her uncomfortable. Wake Up Sid is another. Oh well, I guess these are largely based in urban settings.

Wait, no. There are examples in almost all 90’s cinema as well as current Bollywood, city-based or village-based, that accurately depict how most normal women would react when they’re creepily hit on by men they don’t like – it’s the villain. The villains in most Bollywood films at some point or the other creep on the heroines in highly discomforting ways. Usually, the hero steps in to save the day, and puts the villain in his place, but that’s not the point. New Informational Ad:-

“You there. Yes you, the man who regardless of where you were born and brought up, is confused by the myriad of ways in which girls will not like your moves, literal or figurative, or worse, think of you as crazy, out of balance murderer. You know asking for permission for every little thing doesn’t work. But when you send her a mail detailing the dream you had of watching her sleep and waking up to masturbate about it, she gets a friend to call you up and threaten to feed you to rats. Don’t worry. We have a revolutionary system that helps you navigate these tricky waters, and it requires no additional learning apart from the same sources you learned your current creepery from and mistook it for charm.

Next time you feel those intense feelings for a girl, and you start thinking of all the ways in which your favorite heroes from the movies got their girl, STOP. Now, think of that same movie and remember when the villain troubled the girl, and how bad she felt? Now every time you want to make the girl fall for you, or hack her social networks, or write poetry about her and send it to her two weeks after having first met her, don’t imagine yourself as the hero. Imagine yourself as the villain, and think of her friend who calls you to inform you about how and when you’ll die and where your body parts will be hidden as the hero.

You can talk to her and even mildly flirt with her, but as soon as she gives the slightest indication that she doesn’t want to hear it, you are no longer the hero. But you can avoid being the villain, and instead be some kind of side character. Telling her she’s a bitch for “leading you on” or “friend-zoning” you, or pursuing her even further, or cornering her and following her in further attempts to make her fall in love with you, makes you the villain. So does throwing acid at her, raping her or murdering her or anyone she cares about, but that should be obvious. Your villainy would give her the divine right, acquired as just compensation for eons of female suffering at the hands of assholes, to tell you to fuck off, and then to cut off your penis and make you give it a blowjob, in that order.”

Yes, I know. How very elitist and pedantic and feminist of me.

Too sleepy now.

Bye fuckers.

–          Billy

P.S. – I know this theme is not as colorful as the previous one, but at least you don’t have to strain your eyes in order to read it.

Magic, Making Out and Feminism

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on my period. [Good beginning to blog post.] Maybe it’s that my dog is also on her period (she has it worse/ better. On the one hand she’s spotting all over the house. On the other, her dog brain don’t care, bitchaas). Perhaps it’s because it arrived after more than a month’s wait (such a wait is a gift whenever it comes). Maybe I really miss some parts of college life right now what with the group chat I have with my friends seemingly dying down a bit. It could be all of the above – why I watched Practical Magic and felt nearly sentimental.

For those with hanging genitals and/or no cable TV in the early 2000’s, Practical Magic is a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock in it. They’re modern day witches coming from a long line of witches all of whom are rather kick-ass, give people chlamydia without any physical contact or even having chlamydia themselves, cast spells and nets and shit, and some of them fall in love sometimes. It’s also the movie because of which, no matter how old and wrinkly he gets, Aidan Quinn will always retain a sexual position in my mind – figuratively and literally. He’s the police chief guy in Elementary, for those of you sorry asses who don’t know. This is him.

 

Nice
Nice blue eyes but he’s a bit too normal and white for my taste under most circumstances. But man oh man was he good at slamming Sandra Bullock to the wall and making out with her. I got a tingle at that when I was 12 and I’m proud to say the tingle reaction is still strong for that scene. It tells me I haven’t lost my romantic streak.

 

This
This is a younger picture. You can sort of get what he had going for him back in the day.

 

Getting back on point, I always liked the movie. Because it had magic, pretty girls and that hot make-out session. But I watched it again, admittedly for the make-out, and I realized I like it now for additional reasons. Let’s discuss said reasons while also being feminist-y, shall we? In a fun, sexy way.

One of the new reasons to like the movie is the Bechdel test. It’s a simple three step method of identifying holistic portrayals of women in works of fiction. First, there has to be more than one named female character in the work; Second, they should at some point talk to each other; and third, they should talk to each other about something other than men. As a guy on TED put it, if someone outside of our planet tried to understand us based on our popular culture, they’d think this never happened. And surprisingly, Practical Magic passes the test quite well. And its surprising because most of the movies I like for things such as “magic”, “pretty girls” and “hot make out” usually don’t.

Which is really sad for people like me. I like girly shit like hot make-out sessions and pretty girls in movies. But for the most part while I watch movies in which they’re present in abundance, I can’t help but feel a wee bit cynical. I’m not saying I’d criticize an otherwise good movie for not passing the Bechdel test, but it’s a bit… disorienting, after you’re made aware of it the first time. You suddenly realize that you’ve very rarely seen a film which even touches upon the manner in which women think or talk, without making an utterly one dimensional, mildly misogynistic caricature out of you.

One way of putting this in perspective is with the example of Brave – which is a good movie for the most part, but not as fun(ny) as I was expecting from Pixar. One telling complaint from a viewer was that both the main characters were women and all the guys were sort of left on the sidelines and had very little to do with the plot. To which many a feminist/ woman calmly replied – “Welcome to our world, cuntface.”

I understand why this is a problem – there just aren’t enough women writers in the entertainment industries, and unfortunately this is a trend that seeps into even the newest and awesomest avenues of entertainment. The internet is barely becoming popular as a ripe field for sociological study, and usually I try to base arguments or ideas on (or off) books, movies or TV shows, or if none of them pay off, on news.

But YouTube is a new media and if there’s anything Lizzie Bennet and a recent not-more-campy-than-usual Law and Order episode I sat through proved anything, it’s that New Media cannot be ignored. Or at least it should not be if one wants to have one’s “finger on the pulse of our generation” … which let’s face it, all old people want that and Bob Dylan is one of the few references they’re likely to understand. If they don’t understand us, how could they distract us from the shit they’re up to? Wow. That was supposed to be funny but it came out in Britta Anarchist. Take that reference, old people. Ha!

ME: Stop pussyfooting. Get to the point.

Right. For the most part, I love the kind of stuff Youtube provides me with – vlogbrothers, Hoezay, ZeFrank, TheViralFever, Daily Grace, ComedyOneNetwork, Lizzie Bennet, Laci Green…. largely men. As John Green pointed out, mostly due to safety concerns and the general assholery of people on the internet, very few content creators, even on YouTube are women. Because no woman wants to be stalked (or worse) and then have to listen to people say, “See? if you hadn’t coveted and hogged all that attention on the internet, this wouldn’t have happened.” Which of course means that the content on the internet, like in Hollywood and Bollywood is largely made from the male perspective with very few relatable female characters or interactions. Which is fine, but as I said, a bit disorienting…. refer to the Brave thing.

Take for example one of the latest Viral Fever videos. I love those guys. And I don’t think sexist or misogynists at all (though from a meta comedy perspective it would be hilarious if they were) but the one about Men Who Understand Women sort of made me feel weird. For the same reason that Pyaar ka Punchnama made me want to reach into someone’s body and tug out their pancreas. Why were the girls universally illogical, irrational and manipulative? And why were the guys illogical, irrational, pathetic, desperate and unable to see the basic lack of maturity and various other flaws in these women?

I know the biggest defense guys have for this is “You’re only angry cause they’re going for the hot girls.” To which women like me, heterosexual with a ranging-on-voyeuristic appreciation for women, would say, “I will cunt-punt you, motherfucker. We don’t like it cause not only are you going for these idiots, we hate that they’re always given the character of idiots in movies just because they’re hot. A lot of smoking hot women don’t make me want to throw up. I would pay to watch men go for either of the women in Practical Magic, or for Kristen Wiig, or for either of the women in In Her Shoes, or for the women from Friends (at least they’re not one dimensional), or for Annie from Community, or for Elliot from Scrubs, or for Tina Fey in everything, or for Ann from Parks and Recreation, all of whom are very conventionally hot people….. excuse me while I go watch some man on woman porn.”

This particular ViralFever episode was really not bad. The above ire was actually directed at that turd-testicle of a movie – Pyaar ka Punchnama – I say it like Malfoy says Mudblood. The ViralFever skit was funny in parts. And I have no problems with men not understanding women and making a skit about that. I just need a little diversity in the type of women they talk about. It’s early days yet and they’ll probably (hopefully) be good at that. Or I’ll be left trying to make a show about women not understanding men when they say things like, “ey babe, I love you” half a week after having met us.

At a personal level, Practical Magic reminded me of college, especially the Midnight Margarita scene where they all dance around the table, laughing about men, magic and being labeled (mostly as witches, but also as sluts and cat-killers, etc.). It made me think of the time we threw a nineties themed party for a friend and danced to such classics as Hit Me Baby One More Time and Rock DJ. Also, did the ball-dance with imaginary partner around the pool table to Pehla Nasha, the whole motherfucking song, because what else do you do when Pehla Nasha plays? Also belted out Kiss From a Rose, I Want it That Way and Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha.

It also reminded me of the times we got together, with or without alcohol and told each other about our problems, fears, jokes, dirty thoughts and other such things. On one occasion on a train to Goa we made up a whole rap song with background vocals and human beat-box. It was called “Slut-Bag Ho”. It was a post-modern, feminist re-telling of Roxanne. Or it could have just been the product of a raging endorphin and adrenalin high.

So I guess it’s a bit sad that while normal, smart, pseudo-intellectual men have Dil Chahta Hai and Boston Legal and any number of other shit with which to reminisce about good times with, we normal, smart, pseudo-intellectual women have to scrounge till we find a few things which make us nostalgic. For people in Yotube and other internet or independent arenas who want to know how normal, flawed, smart women interact with each other, here are a few references – Leslie and Ann from Parks and Recreation, the girls in Girls to some extent, the sisters in In Her Shoes, the women in Community to some extent…. The fact that I’m finding it hard to come up with more pop culture references should really speak to this.

Oh well, off to watch some TV. We finally got Comedy Central.

All of this is obviously not as important as the fact that we may have a genocide assistant/instigator as our Big Cheese in the not so distant future. And as that whole situation plays out, I may write about something related to it, but right now, this is what I’m talking about. It has to be at least as logically relevant as lingerie mannequins that cause rape, right? And I know that was last week’s media talking point, but I don’t care. Fuck you.

Also, have started on my first John Green novel – Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Then there’ll probably be a Terry Pratchett followed by The Fault in Our Stars. Wish me luck.

 

–          Billy