Thursday, July 31, 2014

some readers want stories, some want sermons

There are people of all politics, from the most conservative to the most radical, who only want stories that confirm their prejudices. And there are people of all politics who know art and politics can be independent. The price for the first group is enduring simplistic art. The price for the second group is questioning their politics. I'm much happier in the second group.

Two hasty thoughts on SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy

SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy seems insightful. I only want to make two quibbles now:

1. ESR is right that there's a strong libertarian streak in f&sf, but that streak takes two forms, a left-libertarian streak and a right-libertarian streak.

2. The people who have accepted the Gamma Rabbit name are not "extreme-left". They're identitarians, the part of the bourgeois left that prefers to focus on privilege rather than poverty, on social identity rather than human liberty. So they will talk simultaneously about freedom of speech while calling for restrictions on it, and their critiques of our culture are rarely critiques of capitalism. The far right thinks anyone to its left is leftish, but on any sensible political scale, the identitarian left's politics are no more extreme than Obama's neo-liberalism.

ETA: ESR is Eric S. Raymond, a Libertarian Party member.

Related: some readers want stories, some want sermons

Monday, July 28, 2014

Malcolm X and James Balwin on Zionists, Israel, and Palestine

"Only a thousand years ago the Moors lived in Spain. Would this give the Moors of today the legal and moral right to invade the Iberian Peninsula, drive out its Spanish citizens, and then set up a new Moroccan nation ... where Spain used to be, as the European zionists have done to our Arab brothers and sisters in Palestine?" —Malcolm X

"But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’ and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years." —James Baldwin

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So you want a female character to carry a gun? Three Flashbang bra videos.

See the draw in the previous video around 4:20. In the next video, it's around 12:25.

And this one's all about the draw:

I'm sure bra holsters fall under Rule 34, but you'll have to do your own googling, because that's not my kink. I like a woman with a gun on her hip.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A very accurate essay by a woman about what men see when they look at women

You Say “Flawed”, He Says “Sexy”: What Men Really Think About Your Body | MyTinySecrets

It isn't about all men. But it's about the fundamentally good ones, which is to say, it's about 90-95% of us.

Shared partly to assure women who may be worrying too much, but also to remind feminist theorists that the male gaze is not as simple as you may think. My suspicion, after all these years of being friends with women, is that it's not fundamentally different than the female gaze.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

socialist Bible verses: on Proverbs 13:22 and the wealth of the sinner

The always-interesting Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig cited Augustine citing Proverbs 13:22 in Patristics, Property, Modernity. Here's the King James Version:
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
And here's the New International:
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.
The versions are not very different, but I want to be as clear as I possibly can when making this point: There is no right to property. The Jewish and Christian obligation is not to think in terms of acquiring wealth for ourselves, but in terms of providing for the righteous and for generations yet to come, the people who seek to tell the truth and to live in peace.

What do I think of the new black Captain America and the female Thor?

Hell, yeah!

But people shouldn't get too excited. It's comic books. The originals can and almost certainly will return. It all depends on how well they sell.

This fanboy wants the Falcon to keep his wings when he becomes Captain America. Shield and wings? Why not? If Hawkwoman can do it, Captain Falcon can do it.

My only reservation is about calling the new Thor "Thor". The comic has to keep being called "Thor" because it's about someone who has the hammer of Thor which gives the power of Thor, but Thor is a name, not a title, so I hope the female Thor is called Thora. Otherwise, it's gonna seem kinda stupid to me.

Still, this fanboy approves of change.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Universal Basic Income: Josh Martin

The Universal Basic Income: Josh Martin '14 from STOTALKS on Vimeo.

VIDEO: Josh Martin, “A Basic Answer to Welfare: The Universal Basic Income” | Basic Income News:
Lastly, he proposes his own plan for an American basic income. Rolling together the money the U.S. spends on means-tested programs (excluding Medicare and Medicaid), child tax credits, and Social Security, the U.S. could have around $2 trillion to spend on a basic income.  This budget could afford a program where all citizens 0-17 receive $2,000 per year, those 18-24 receive $4,000 per year, those 25-64 receive $6,000 per year, and those 65 and up receive $14,000 per year, effectively replacing Social Security.  This plan only costs $1.87 trillion and thus would save the U.S. $130 billion by converting to this basic income plan.

The Democratic Party and economic privilege vs identity privilege

At Facebook, John Halle posted:
Neoliberalism wins again: 
"The Pew survey points up the emergence of a cohort of younger voters who are loyal to the Democratic Party, but much less focused on economic redistribution than on issues of personal and sexual autonomy." 
and so does the plutocracy 
"Corporate America faces a divided Democratic Party, vulnerable to the kind of lobbying pressures that the business elite specializes in. Under this scenario, Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce will enjoy increased leverage in the policy-making arenas of Congress and the executive branch despite – or even because – of Democratic political success." 
The Coming Democratic Schism -

Monday, July 14, 2014

Power Girl vs. the Slut-shamers of Skiffydom: on cosplay and feminist pulchriphobia

My first love had large breasts. Barbara was rich—her parents lived on the Riviera with at least three servants—and breast size often has class implications and always has fashion implications. In the early '70s, fashionable rich women did not have large breasts. Barbara got comments about her breasts from men and women, which made her extremely self-conscious. The hardest part for her was the disapproval of her mother, a small-breasted woman who had been a model as well as an athlete. Barbara wore loose tops and slouched, which only made her mother criticize her posture and sloppy clothes.

Now, Barbara's breasts were not gigantic. They were Playboy in the 1960s large. If she had been middle class, and especially if she had been poor, she might very well have been proud of them. She might have modeled for Playboy—she looked remarkably like Barbi Benton, a Playboy model who was popular when I was fifteen.

To be a perfect daughter and to become innocuously attractive rather than conspicuously attractive, Barbara had breast reduction surgery. Among the risks were losing sensitivity and the ability to breastfeed. When she told me that, I cried, which I say as a man who was brought up believing men should not cry, so, to this day, I very, very rarely give way to tears. But a woman who I loved hated her body so much that she was willing to accept those risks in the hope of ending her torment.

The surgery did what she hoped. Aesthetically, I can't say I preferred her larger or her smaller breasts—I've always been more of a leg and butt man. She seemed to be happier, so I was happy for her, but I've always been sorry that she felt she had to change something that was fine in order to escape the attention of petty, petty people.

Which, I suspect, is the oddest introduction ever to a discussion of Power Girl.

On DC Comics' primary Earth, Superman's cousin is Supergirl, who modeled herself after him. But on the parallel Earth called Earth 2, his cousin chose to make her own identity, so she named herself Power Girl and wore a costume with different colors. Most notably, Superman has a logo, and Power Girl has none.

What she has where a logo might be has many names, including boob window. It's an ancient fashion choice, as noted at Main/Cleavage Window - Television Tropes & Idioms. The subset of feminist fans who believe women should not expose their bodies hate Power Girl's costume. But many cosplayers love it. There are two reasons:

Purely visually, it's a great costume. It's simple and striking. DC periodically tries to update it, but the updates are either too busy or too boring, and the character reverts to her classic red, white, and blue with bare legs and a boob window.

For large breasted women, Power Girl's costume is empowering. I'm not sure when I first noticed that many large-breasted women enjoy cleavage, but I especially noticed it at Renaissance Festivals and the Single Action Shooting Society.


So when Io9 took on the subject in a couple of posts, I took part in the comments. At What's The Most Embarrassing Superhero Costume Ever Designed?, I said in response to someone's complaint about Power Girl's high heels, "If you can fly, your heels can be anything you want them to be."

At Why Must Dudes Ruin Perfectly Good Superheroine and Action Franchises with Their Requests for Diversity?, I said:
Mocking Power Girl's costume always makes me wonder: Aren't you slut-shaming the cosplayers who choose that costume?
Someone said Power Girl's costume is seen as "attention seeking", so I shared a video by Ardella, a cosplayer who has played Power Girl:

When DoILookLikeCharlieBrown?! asked "What does wearing a revealing costume have to do with being a slut?", I replied:
Women who are slut-shamed are often shamed for wearing revealing clothes. Wikipedia's definition includes "Some examples of circumstances where women are "slut-shamed" include: violating accepted dress codes by dressing in sexually provocative ways..." People who tell women to dress conservatively to avoid being raped are often accused of slut-shaming, and I think the charge is valid. We all should be free to dress as we please.
DoILookLikeCharlieBrown?! suggested, "it is possible to critique clothes without slut-shaming."

I asked, "Okay, help me out here: shaming women for showing cleavage is slut-shaming, except when they're wearing a Power Girl costume?"

Clearing Things Up said,
There's a difference between shaming a woman for wearing revealing clothing, and critiquing an artist for choosing to portray a character in clothing that is sexualized for it's own sake.
The women cosplaying should absolutely be allowed to make their costume and wear it without feeling uncomfortable or attacked in any way.
The original character, however, was created by a team of male artists and writers, ultimately to sell comics.
The critique is not directed at the women who like the character and choose to dress as her. It is directed at the creators and the comics industry that make the revealing clothing and unrealistic poses (to name a few of the issues) the norm.
I said,
You're erasing the women who are choosing to wear the clothes. Isn't that like a slut-shamer telling women who are being slut-shamed that it's not those women who are being shamed, it's only the people who designed their clothes?
Kovitlac said,
They didn't design the costume, ergo, mocking the original design doesn't just automatically mock them. It's the same thing with any other artist. I can make fun of how ridiculous the general design of Power Girl is, but still recognize that someone drawing her can be an excellent artist.
No one is shaming cosplayers (or traditional artists, or what-have-you) for liking the character. We're more shaming the original designer, for coming up with something so ridiculous.
I asked,
if someone says you look like a slut in a short skirt, are they only mocking the person who made the short skirt?
Kovitlac said,
We're not talking about 'a short skirt', here. We're talking about a character's entire design. And pointing out the obvious flaws in such a design (or 'mocking' it) isn't at all the same as making fun of people who wear it.
No one here, that I know of, is saying to cosplayers, "You look like a slut in that outfit," so I fail to see why you're bothering to ask me that in the first place. Regardless of how I feel about the costume itself, I'd never say that to anyone. It's not only insulting (because you know nothing about them, personally), but it's slut-shaming, which I don't do. Last I checked, having a lot of sex wasn't a crime, so why would I try to insult someone with it?
I said,
The issue with Power Girl seems to be the boob window, an ancient element of women's fashion and hardly unique to her. Otherwise, her costumes aren't more revealing than Wonder Woman's or the original Robin's or the Green Turtle's. Power Girl's invulnerable, so there's no practical reason why she shouldn't show as much skin as she wants to.
I have no idea what your favorite items of clothing are, but let's stick with short skirts: If someone mocks short skirts, aren't they also mocking the people who choose to wear them? If someone mocks a band, aren't they also mocking the people who like to listen to it? The people who don't like Power Girl's costume have a right not to, of course, just as prudes have a right not to like short skirts, but it seems to me you're either on the side of modest clothing or you think people should be able to expose whatever they want to expose. If you haven't listened to it already, I recommend the video by the cosplayer that I included earlier in this discussion. 
Kovitlac said,
Women should absolutely be able to wear what they want. Real, live women. Here, we're talking about a character (created by men) who was clearly not intended to be a beacon of power and inspiration to women, but a typical sexy, barely clothed chick for men. If a Real Live woman decided to wear something like this, fine. She's making her own choice. Power Girl is not a Real Life Woman - she's a creation, and she looks the way her creators intended her to look.
That is why making such comparisons to the real world is pointless, because Power Girl (and Wonder Woman) are not real people, who made their own choices. That isn't to say that women in comic books or video games or movies can't ever look sexy. But don't try to justify the clear difference between women in media who look like they do because they're intended for other women, and women who look the way they do because they're intended to be pleasurable for men.
I said,
Sure, she was created by men, but so was Wonder Woman. She was created to be a Kryptonian who does not model herself after a man a la Supergirl imitating Superman. She's been written by women; after I began this discussion here, I did some googling, and I found that one of her writers, Jen Van Meter, made a defense of the costume that upset people who want their female heroes fully covered.
There's also a short bit of fan comics on the subject that's nicely written by a woman: Power Girl, in Real Time | Hannah Doerge.
And to bring this back to cosplaying, cosplayers are real women who make real choices to wear costumes that some people say are slutty or too sexy.
Kovitlac said,
And Wonder Woman isn't always hailed as a beacon for inspiration, either. Some of her costumes have been nearly as ridiculous as most other women superheros. It's not being designed by men that's the problem - it's that they (most of the time) design her solely for other men - NOT for women.
No need to bring it back to cosplaying, since these are still two completely different subjects.
 I said,
But these are not different subjects. Real women are choosing to wear real costumes that you are calling ridiculous. Wonder Woman was designed by men for girls as well as men—the superhero genre has always had female readers, and sometimes the publishers tried to court them, as with Wonder Woman. Every part of her original costume was based on existing fashions.
Do you think the cosplayers who wear those costumes are mocking them? Ardella doesn't seem to be suggesting that in her video.
Kovitlac said,
Yes, they're completely different subjects. One is concerning a made-up character who looks the way a man intended her to look. The other is concerning real life people who are choosing to look a certain way, which is every bit in their power to do so.
If you don't see a difference in those two scenarios, or agree that one can dislike something without disliking those who enjoy it, then I suppose I really can't change your mind.
I said,
Hmm. You're probably right that we won't change our minds. For me, cosplayers are real life people who are choosing to look like "a made-up character who looks the way a man intended her to look", just like a real life person who chooses to wear a short skirt or a tight shirt that was designed by a man. According to Wikipedia, "The modern bikini was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946." Would you mock women for wearing bikinis because they were designed by men?
At Pundits debate Power Girl's boob window, caseyjonescaseyjones said, "It's entirely possible to create comics with fully dressed superheroines." I answered,
Sure. I'm fond of the Lois Lane Superwoman from 1947. Marvel's latest Captain Marvel has a great costume. But male superhero costumes range from Namor's speedos to Iron Man's complete coverage. Why shouldn't female superheroes have the same range of options?

The conversations haven't gone further, and I doubt they will. The reason is that Power Girl's boob window has become a symbol for all the silly sexism in superhero comics. But many of us make a distinction between sexy and sexist, and for us, skin isn't inherently sexist. It's the approach to skin that's sexist. And cosplayers are a surprisingly good guide for the difference. This costume that the Invisible Woman was briefly stuck in?

So far as I know, it's never been cosplayed, and if it has, I'm pretty sure it was done ironically. So my suggestion is that the first time you're tempted to make fun of a costume, see what people who specialize in costumes think of it.

Related: Chain mail bikinis: context matters

Sexy halloween costumes and social justice neo-puritanism, Parts 1 & 2

"On the Depiction of Women in Games" And books, movies, comics....

Recommended: Power Girl Women's Liberator of the 1970s, Running Boog-Gag of the 2000s

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What color should your dance clothes be?

Do you care how sweaty you look?

If yes, wear black.

If no, what is wrong with you? Wear black.


ETA: That amused me, but for the sake of anyone who might be self-conscious, most dancers look great in every imaginable color. But when I dance for more than a few minutes, I sweat like crazy, and if I don't want to look like I've been dancing under my very own rain cloud, I've got to go with black or navy.

dance videos: new school doing old school

I am amused that the "old school" here is after my time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

a conversation with Samuel R. Delany about NAMBLA, sexuality, and consent

After Marion Zimmer Bradleys daughter spoke out about child abuse by Bradley and her husband, Walter Breen, a member of NAMBLA, writers as different as Vox Day and Liz Williams brought up Samuel R. Delanys comment about NAMBLA twenty years ago:
"I read the NAMBLA [Bulletin] fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I've ever found. I think before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about. What the issues they are really talking about, and deal with what's really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13." Samuel R. Delany, Queer Desires Forum, New York City, June 25, 1994.
I wrote a few posts on the subject:

Then I began to feel bad for not asking Chip Delany about this. In the 1960s, he was one of a small number of writers who made me believe fantasy and science fiction could be both great fun and great art. When he was the guest of honor at the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, he was charming and learned and pretty much everything anyone could want in a guest of honor. I cant say I know him, but I can say I like him. I believe we should be able to talk about things which are taboowhat reveals our nature is not what we say, but what we do. This is especially true of storytellers, who regularly write about things they would never do.

So I wrote Chip, which began a discussion that moved between Facebook messages and email. He has agreed to share it. What follows is a version that I lightly edited for clarity.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014