Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fatalism and Frivolity: NOLA

I just got back from NOLA a couple of weeks ago. I picked up a true crime book there called Shake the Devil Off. 

Basically it's a sad story about an Iraq war vet who returned to his home in NOLA just in time for Katrina. He wound up in a troubled relationship and eventually murdered his girlfriend, cut up her corpse, and cooked it. He then committed suicide by jumping off the roof of a 5 star hotel, alerting the police to the murder via a detailed note in his pocket.

I love true crime novels, particularly when they are well written. This book was great. The author covers off many issues through this horrible story including the futility of the Iraq war, the abysmal treatment of US vets, on to Katrina and the Bush administration's malignant neglect of the citizens of NOLA. It's not exactly sympathetic to the murderer, as the author explains it, it's his intention to explain the circumstances of the murder/suicide, but not to explain the crimes away. He does a great job.

It got me thinking about Katrina all over again, and the impact it's had on residents of New Orleans.
And about disaster capitalism in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in North Amercia as communities keep getting devastated by natural disasters. Obviously as the climate continues to warm there will be more Katrinas.

I liked the city a great deal. I'm reading another book now called The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook 
It discusses a lot of the history of the city and then goes into the practice and traditions of Voodoo in the city. In one passage a resident says that NOLA residents represent fatalism and frivolity. You totally get that when you visit.

Stop Telling Women to Smile, or, "Chronic BItchface"


THIS. I've noticed this my whole life, and I know lots of other women have too. J. Victoria writes about it brilliantly, I wonder if black women get it more aggressively? Entirely possible. I do know that the absence of a vacant smile and the presence of a book in your hand can cause quite a stir in some males' psyches.

She raises many good points. Another one for me is that I can be perfectly content and even happy, and my outward countenance is not going to change in public. I think a lot of women learn early on to set their face in a neutral or even 'angry' expression to deter unwanted attention. Sad but true, at least for me. Part of it is defensive, part of it is 'chronic bitchface'.

Either way, as J. Victoria notes, I'm not telling anyone else how to look, feel or express themselves. It is unbelievably condescending to tell women to 'smile!' constantly. What the fuck for? I will smile when I goddamn want to. It raises my hackles every time. Thankfully as I get older it seems to be happening less. Either I've mellowed (doubtful) or no one gives a shit anymore if I'm smiling or not! Hallelujah.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dunham: “Girls” sex scares men

Dunham: “Girls” sex scares men

This interview is from last month on Salon.com. I've been thinking about this since I saw the first episode of "Girls", that there is a particular flavour of joylessness to the sex as portrayed on the show. Maybe it's not fair to compare to Sex and the City (even though Dunham says they owe a huge debt to SATC for trailblazing etc), but this is one area where the comparison interests me a lot. Namely the characterization of the sex--on SATC there was a strong message of sexual autonomy and empowerment.

On Girls it just seems like a humiliating chore.

I know one show can't and shouldn't try to be all things to all people but I can't help but be a little bummed that the women on the show don't seem to be getting off at all. I read a short interview with Alison Williams (who plays Marnie) where she said that the sexual mores on the show were about youth culture; that it's an accurate portrayal that maybe older generations wouldn't relate to.

Uh, yeah.

The scenes are depressing enough without now having to worry that they're also realistic! Oy. Maybe I'm just accustomed to more rose-coloured portrayals of sexuality in my preferred TV/movie watching? I don't think I'm crazy (old, sure)--the women on the show so far seem to be getting the worst of some effed up situations. Would be nice of one of them at least had an orgasm or something......anyhoo, I'm still interested in seeing the rest of the season.

I like everything I've read about Lena Dunham; I can't help but notice that the way she writes sex for women on Girls seems the same as in her film Tiny Furniture. Just---ugh. Is it just too real for me? No, I'm not that jaded, I just wish it were a little more balanced.

In this Salon piece she says guys she's spoken too found the scenes very disturbing; moreso than women. In a way I can see that; mostly if I were a guy watching it, thinking that it was an accurate reflection of how sex is transacted in the modern age, mostly I'd just worry that the women were going to close up shop completely in protest. Anyway, as a woman, I'd like to reassure Dunham that the sex scares me too!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Slutwalk Toronto Friday May 25--more blah blah blah

Slutwalk is tomorrow evening. Originally I had lots of criticisms of it, I'm sort of coming around now. My issue isn't with the use of the word "slut"; I understand the concept of 'reclaiming' a term that's been used as a perjorative. I think that's probably a good thing. But in a way this isn't really turning the word on its ear exactly, since I guess the idea is to dress like a stereotypical 'slut' to challenge the assumptions that go along with that.
Nor is my issue the obvious one; that this march, it's messaging etc aren't necessarily that well understood by the average person who sees the march. Unless the point of it is 'we'll wear what we fucking want' in which case, yeah, I guess that message would be understood.
I read a good piece in Bitch magazine last year. They had a pro and a con side discussing the slutwalk phenomenon. I found some coverage from last fall on Racialicious.  Mainstream women's movements have always been criticized for ignoring class and race issues; obviously Slutwalk has the same issues. I don't know if POC have embraced the walk in Toronto or NYC for that matter. I do think it's interesting to consider the implications of 'taking back the word'. I understand well that to subvert of reclaim the meaning of the word 'slut' would be empowering to some women. However, that belief is from my own experience: I haven't been called a 'slut' much in my life at all. Regardless of my behaviour, this label isn't one I've had to deflect, ignore or labour with in any way. It's an academic exercise for me. But for women of colour or working class women, or ANY other women for that matter, may have a different relationship to the word. A relationship that would make them leery of taking it on for ANY reason at all.
But last week I read some more stuff online about the walk and I'm sort of coming around in a way. I do believe that any way to encourage an open narrative about sexual assault, issues of implied and overt consent to sexual attention, and victim-blaming, should be welcomed anytime in any context. 
The thing I don't like about it is it's still a discussion about women's clothes. I'm not sure that this discussion is best served by more analysis of what women wear and what messaging is implied by their sartorial choices. I think it's reductionist and it misses the point completely. This discussion should be about men; their actions, consequences for their actions; and for god's sake leave women's clothing choices out of it for once!