Friday, May 18, 2012

The Problem With Female Werewolves

Of all the creatures in Urban Fantasy, it seems that werewolves more than any other are intrinsically masculine. Female monsters are often much rarer  - and often problematic at that - but female werewolves in particular seem to be an extra rarity.

In many ways a werewolf is the utter opposite of how we view womanhood, especially white womanhood. In many European traditions (and, we have to remember, the shapeshifter tradition is a broad one) the werewolf is an uncontrolled, hairy, animalistic creature. Something utterly unrestrained, something that is unleashed, something aggressive and violent. In short - everything a woman “should not be”. A woman should be restrained, delicate, gentle, always in control and most certainly not hairy! This unrestrained, unrefined, uncontrolled aggressiveness (and hairiness) is the very antithesis of pedestal womanhood.

When we do see female werewolves they usually have difficulties above and beyond what is experienced by other werewolves. They have extra angst, or extra problems or some other issue dealing with their werewolfdom.

Unfortunately the few times we do see female werewolves they are clearly less rational than their male counterparts. It is only when the text in question has only a male werewolf that the werewolf is allowed to become unglued, and subject to call of the moon.  The degree to which they are affected by the curse of lycanthropy, is directly related to the position of the moon. In some texts, the waxing gibbous is enough to cause significant change to their behavior pattern.  Oddly enough, regardless of the position of the moon, the female werewolf is generally effected by the curse. Her reason for a loss of control, has nothing to do with the moon, which I found odd because menstruation is often referred to as moon time. 

Debbie Pelt of True Blood, is clearly out of control and when you cast this against her would be boyfriend Alcide, there is a clear difference.  With the exception of the full moon, Alcide is always in control; he is extremely rationale.  Alcide possess all of the qualities needed in a pack leader.  Debbie on the other hand is violent, a drug addict [note: vampire blood; known as V is her drug of choice], jealous, and vindictive.  Many of her problems are at first blamed on her drug addiction; however, at the end of last season, Pelt was sober and once again her jealousy and rage flared.

Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series brings us one of the few female protagonist werewolves out there and certainly another werewolf who struggles extremely with what it means to be a werewolf. Despite being part of the Pack - a lofty status among werewolves - she has extreme trouble integrating with the pack. In fact the whole plot of Bitten revolves around her leaving the the Pack and moving to Toronto -- to try and flee not just them -- but being a werewolf entirely. She seeks a normal, human life regardless of how dangerous or impossible that is. She’s certainly not the only werewolf to leave the Pack - but they have left the pack because of objections to the Pack itself - Pack politics, Pack restrictions, Pack personalities - not being a werewolf. The whole world of the series is set up to make her an oddity because she is the only female werewolf - female werewolves are not supposed to exist, they’re never born and don’t usually survive the bite. And we see that same impossibility of her existence as a werewolf in Broken, where she has constant doubts over whether she can actually have children because she can’t imagine a werewolf being able to be pregnant or carry children. Being a werewolf and being a woman is a constant impossibility that plagues Elena’s life - whether her own doubts and trouble integrating or by making her a bauble or novelty to possess.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Rape Survivor Speaks

A while back, I wrote a piece about learning that a good friend of mind had been raped.  Today, I would like to present you with her victim impact statement, which she was not allowed to give in court, as well as some background in the case.  The name of her rapist has been redacted for legal purposes.  Please read what she has to say.

Lesley Benson has a BA in Sociology (criminology strain) from Brock University. She is currently working on a manuscript for a book and earning a certificate in Criminal Psychology and Behaviour. Lesley resides in St. Catharines, ON with her husband and two children.

The person who assaulted me plead guilty to simple assault, Friday, April 20, 2012 and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and, counseling, as per his appointed probation officer.

I was not permitted to read my victim impact statement at the hearing because there were parts of my statement which did not comply with the official guidelines attached to victim impact statements. Oddly enough, the impact statement I submitted was me attempting to censor myself, so that I could fit their prescribed mold. Apparently, I didn't do a good enough job. :)

Since I didn't get to read my statement, I thought I would share it here. I have chosen to share the original statement with you, the one that I wrote be for I discovered the numerous guidelines that had been imposed upon me. This was never submitted to anyone. Please see attachment below.

Warning: reading this may make you feel uncomfortable. Good! It should. :)

My name is Lesley. I have been sexually assaulted five times in my life. I am thirty years old. As a child I was assaulted by three different males, one adolescent, two adults, at the ages of 3, 8, and 12. All of them were to known to me. All of them were close friends of my father's. I reported one of those assaults at the age of 23 years old. I say to you, now, F., as I said to one of my abuser's then, “I am truly sorry for whatever happened to you to make you think that it was okay to treat me as if I had no soul. However, I am not the one who hurt you. I beg you, please, look inside yourself, and figure out why you do these things. Why you hurt people. People that have received you with kindness.

I do not support this plea agreement. As much as I have struggled to balance my compassion for you and your past with what you have done to me and my family, I am too troubled by the discourse today, that is the wording that you “entered my room and engaged in non-consensual “sexual” touching…” because what happened that early morning was not sex, it was rape.  Before your friend dated my cousin, he worked with an aunt of mine. I have always known this friend of yours to be a decent guy. I let you into my house because you were his longtime friend; I think you even ate dinner at my grandparents' house once, so I have heard. Even though I had only been introduced to you once, maybe twice in passing, and had barely had a conversation with you, that association with my extended family, gave me a false sense of security. You had been chatting up my single friend all night; you both seemed to be enjoying yourselves. Who was I to ask you to leave? After all we were all adults. So I went to bed. She rejected your sexual advances and so you RAPED me. I was asleep. We were partying all night. You knew I was intoxicated. I didn't even see it coming. You didn't have sex with me, you raped me. It is what it is and if this was any other crime my identification of you would be considered decent evidence. You were smart, though. You didn't leave any bruises or other physical markings. You didn't need to. You did leave your DNA, but in the end it didn't matter. The blitz attack and you're your ability to manipulate me afterwards were enough to psychologically traumatize me, in those hours afterwards, to such an extent that, devastatingly enough, I lost sight of myself for a little while…on the upside, however, long enough to convince you that you were in the clear, so that you didn't have to physically intimidate me further.

Dear Chelsea Lately, Comedy Does Not Give a Pass For Racism

Here we go again with comedians, being racist and covering their speech with comedy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mad Men: Counting Calories

I don't write about Mad Men regularly, but I watch it every week.  Any regular viewer of the show knows that Betty, played by January Jones, is a deeply unhappy woman.  This season opened revealing that Betty had gained a significant amount of weight.  I must admit that I found it compelling to watch, as Betty weighed her food and supped on dry toast and half a grapefruit.  When she saw Meaghan, Don's new wife getting changed, it was clear that she considered herself less than, after all she is older than Meaghan and heavier.

In a moment of weakness, Betty sprayed cool whip into her mouth and then quickly spit it out and rinsed out her mouth.  In this scene, we were treated to the idea of stress eating and fat symbolizing a loss of control. Much of Betty's self esteem comes from her physical appearance.  Finding a note in which Don expressed affection towards Meaghan, in a manner that he never showed her, solidified in her mind that she is less than.   In these few scenes involving Betty, we were treated to the ongoing struggle that many women today continue to face.

To be clear, Betty is truly an unsympathetic woman, but these scene were not merely a display of the problems that plagued women in the 60's.  Though most women today will have to work to earn a living, young girls are still taught that their value is based in their ability to be pretty and fit perceived norms.  To achieve this, many women will engage in harmful behaviours because being seen as attractive is one of the few social powers that women possess.  Beauty as a power is a fools game because as you age, this power declines.  It causes one to chase after youth, as though having children, or stress in one's life is the great betrayer.

If You Dance Dirty, You Might Get Sprayed With Lysol

Okay folks, this should go in the shit you cannot make up file.  Parents have long been obsessed with the way that their children dance. In pop culture, this has given rise to movies like Dirty Dancing, and Footloose.  It seems that since no one is allowed to put baby in a corner that Lysol is the next best step.

Becoming What I Hate

Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.  

I’m approaching a year on testosterone, this May. It was something of a bitter battle to start the hormones, and they have made me feel better about my body, my position, and increased how often I pass. They made me feel so much better about life, for whatever reason that was. Maybe a high of finally doing something about the dysphoria I’ve had all my life, maybe simply making my emotions less prominent. Hard to say for sure, but I know that I was (and still am) much happier on testosterone than off of it.

The happiness has dimmed a bit. I’ve passed a bit of a point of no return, and my face is starting to look like that of a man’s now. I have stubble and a more prominent jaw. My face is less about soft curves and fleshy cheeks than angles and sharper lines. This face in the mirror is actually starting to scare me a little bit and I no longer recognize it the same way I used to. This is a contrast from a time a few months into taking testosterone where I was able to recognize my own face and body in the mirror. That boyish person was me, and I liked that. But now I am becoming someone large and hairy, someone who is more man than boy. This scares me very deeply. I have had very few good relationships with men, and the ones that have ended up working out have been with gay men. I fear men, I’m not likely to trust them, and I live in terror of being hurt by them. I have felt the terror of women around men and it does not get any less around.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We Don't Need Your Opinion On Our Rights

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

So quite often people want to tell me their opinions about various issues. They want to tell me what they think about marriage equality, or about anti-gay slurs or anti-gay discrimination, or whether religious based homophobia has an excuse for – or any number of a million damn things.

And, frankly, quite often my answer is “no, actually, you’re straight, I don’t really care what your opinion on the matter is.” Oh I rarely get the chance to say that, because most of the world strongly believes that my life and the life of other GBLT people should be open to the scrutiny, judgement and approval of the all-important-straighties. But occasionally, just occasionally, I do – and I do so with gusto and no small amount of relish, not least of which because it is a message I want desperately to shout from the top of very tall buildings except I fear I may be arrested. Or fall, because y’know, not that good with heights. Or stairs, or lifts. Actually can we make that small to medium buildings?

Anyway, I digress. The problem is, because our legal rights are still being denied and challenged and fought against for every damn inch, our rights as human beings are constantly topics for the straight world’s delectation.

In the UK we have the ongoing marriage equality debate. In fact, no, back up – we have a marriage CONSULTATION. See, part of the Tories’ grand plan to put off actually having to have a vote about this involves asking the (straight) nation what they think about (our) marriages. So we’re actually having a long going debate about the debate on whether to give us equality. Which means every news agency out there, every channel and every damn newspaper is chock full of experts (read: straight people) discussing whether or not equal rights are something gay folks deserve. Usually this involves dredging up various dusty bigots from the church (especially the right Bigoted Lord Carey – though usually in print because I don’t think he can go out in daylight). Then the opinion pieces come along with all the columnists sticking their oar in – prize for most bitter and vile will come from Melanie Philips, Chief Troll at the Daily Mail (we want to stop her, but we’re afraid of her Wing├ęd Monkeys). At some point, some wit will summon Nadine Dorries from the Nether Hell from whence she came to get some genuine political homophobic drivel. This usually follows oh-so-extremely tired snickering jokes about who has “come out” for marriage equality (I’m developing a nervous tick where I swear furiously every time someone appropriates “come out”. But it happens so often I fear I may no longer be able to communicate without profanity.)

Can We Really Celebrate Serena Williams Making the Cover of Vogue?

I am a huge fan of the no nonsense Williams sisters, so I must admit to a brief squee when I saw this image.

The Williams sisters are champions several times over.  They have had to deal with people calling them fat, men, as well as racism from both the fans of tennis and referees. To be sure all of the basis are covered they have also been subjected to a dose of sexism.  Just about anything they do is criticized, and I have no doubt it is because they have the nerve to be Black and successful. 

My squee over this image was short lived, because I know that it will be one of the few times this year that Vogue will bother to pay any attention to a WOC.  Moments like this are always a bitter reminder that WOC are still considered secondary to White women, and we most certainly are not understood as mainstream.

When It Comes to Same Sex Marriage There is no Other Side

'Gay marriage protester outside the Minnesota Senate chamber' photo (c) 2010, Fibonacci Blue - license:

As you might well imagine, I read a lot of blogs. I don't always have the time to leave a comment though. This morning I started my daily blog reading, heading to the normal liberal sites, but when I hit Jack and Jill Politics, I have to say that my lip hit the floor.  Jack and Jill normally cuts through the b.s. and gives great commentary, along with some original reporting.  I did not expect to find an article entitled, Why I Don’t Support Same Sex Marriage.  I actually had to double check to make sure I wasn't reading Bossip.

This article was written by Anson Asaka, and was originally published on hir home blog New Possibilities.

The oppression of LGBT people in America does not approach the scale and scope of the oppression of black people. Sexuality is a behavior pattern. Whether or not homosexuality is innate or learned is debatable. Unlike race, sexuality is not necessarily a visible trait. One can easily conceal one’s sexuality. However, one cannot hide being black. It is outrageous for anyone to exploit our history of suffering and pain to further their own unique and unrelated agenda.

Certainly, Martin Luther King, Jr. employed the nonviolent tactics and example of Gandhi to further the Civil Right Movement in America. Both movements shared many similarities. Both movements were fighting against racism and white supremacy. Therefore, a comparison between those two movements is more justified. Furthermore, Dr. King did not use Gandhi’s movement to morally justify the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, Dr. King relied on the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to morally inspire the movement. I wish the LGBT community would stop pimping our movement to further their cause.

In addition to love, the primary purpose of marriage and sex is reproduction of the human species. In order to sustain strong communities, we must rebuild the most basic and fundamental component of society, the traditional nuclear family. With more than half of all black children being raised in single parent households, our focus should be on rebuilding the traditional family, not jumping on the same sex marriage bandwagon.
I agree that the appropriation of the African-American experience by White GLBT people is appropriation and problematic, but that in no way means that the community is not being denied a civil right.  This is where Anson and I part ways.  The moment ze suggested that the closet is a good thing and that GLBT should and can hide, I was done.  It's bad enough that he went to the trouble of looking up bible passages to declare homosexuality a sin, but the promotion of the closet as a positive is just beyond the pale.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 7: A Man Without Honour

In Harenhal we have standard shots of grimness and cruelty. Tywin is convinced that the death of his soldier (who was going to reveal Arya’s note stealing last week) was an attack on him. Ser Gregor the Mountain, who is not a Nice Man, is doing lots of hanging and torturing assuming that the death was caused by “the Brotherhood”. And, yes I agree with Tywin, that’s a ridiculously pretentious name.

He monologues away to Arya (who is awesome) about the war and his legacy and some exposituion about the history of Harenhal while Arya contemplates stabbing him in the back. But she joins in and reveals she knows rather a lot about the history herself. Tywin pokes her that he knows she is of noble birth but she continues to dance around him – I love how these two spar.

In Kings Landing Sansa approaches the Hound, Sandor Clegane in the halls to thank him for rescuing her from last week’s riot. She objects to how harsh and hateful he is – but his comeback is good as well, he may be rough and unpleasant but his actions protected her - and he also subtly made it clear he intends to stand between her and Joffrey.

Sansa wakes to find she has had her first period. With Shae (who has clearly thrown her loyalty in with Sansa, at least against Cersei) she tries to hide evidence of it (when she has her first period she is considered old enough to marry Joffrey) and Shae threatens a servant to keep it secret – but Clegane finds out and news reaches Cersei. Cersei discusses her own pregnancies and giving borth – with the late King Robert’s indifference, and her brother Jaime’s devotion. It’s also clear that whatever illusions Cersei had about Joffrey are at very least dying. Cersei’s delusion and cynicism is painful to see and extremely well acted – how love causes her to support people even when she knows she shouldn’t (Joffrey, again) and how you shouldn’t love anyone except your children – with whom you have no choice (again, the bitterness over Joffrey).

Cersei and Tyrion have one of their pleasant little meetings and they both discuss how they can’t control Joffrey. And Cersei wonders if Joffrey is their punishment for Jaime and her’s incest (pretty much confirming it to Tyrion even after he gives her the chance to pretend Robert is his father). Tyrion comforts her with Tommen and Marcella – surprisingly sweet, gentle children. It’s the first time we’ve seen these two act as siblings with Tyrion moved by his sister’s grief.

At Robb’s camp, the Lannister messenger/prisoner returns with news that Cersei is not accepting their peace terms, unsurprisingly. They have so many prisoners they lack places to put them so Robb, in his honour (gods save us from Stark honour!) decides to put him in the same cage as Jaime Lannister. Talisa wants medical surprises and so will come with Robb to the Cragg where he is negotiating a surrender. I predict more flirting.

The visiting Lannister and Jaime reminisce with the visitor clearly hero worshipping Jaime. There’s lots of reminiscing and exposition until Jaime reveals his escape plan – which involves Visiting Lannister dying (or Jaime beating him to death). The gaoler (the son of Lord Karstark) comes in to investigate… alone and gets a chain round his neck from Jaime.

If he escapes he doesn’t get far before being recaptured and Lord Karstark demands his head – to be talked into delay by Catelyn (in a masterful speech) to wait until Robb returns from accepting the Cragg’s surrender.

But anger grows through the night and Brienne says that the Karstarks or their men will try to kill Jaime before dawn – and if that happens who would fight to protect a Lannister? Catelyn goes for a dramatic confrontation with Jaime – who has wonderful points to make about the conflicting oaths a knight must swear in between insulting Brienne for being so tall and broad and insulting Catelyn for Ned’s infidelity.  Catelyn asks Brienne to give her her sword.

In Winterfell Theon wakes to discover that Bran and Rickon have escaped. He is unhappy about this – which certainly makes me happy. He is bemused that 2 disabled people (Hodor and Bran) can escape capture – which shows both Theon’s demeaning attitude towards them and how very wrong he is. So he calls up some horses and hounds to track them (what? Is he using Winterfell hounds, they’re collaborating? Or do the Iron Isles – seafarers and raiders – commonly have packs of dogs on their ships?). Theon is confident that his sister’s 500 men can hold Winterfell (and that Ned Stark apparently believed 500 men could hold Winterfell against 10,000 – so I assume the a) Ned was exaggerating and Theon didn’t realise or b) the castle has lasers or c) is actually a Transformer because there’s no other way that’s likely).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Barack Obama is NOT The First Gay President

Check out this week's cover of Newsweek.

Last week, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to state unequivocal belief of same sex marriage.  This is an absolutely historic thing for Barack Obama to do however, it simply places him on the right side of history.  I don't believe in giving people accolades for doing what is morally right.  There has been the suggestion that because he did this during an election year that he has risked the possibility of a second term in office.  Despite the loud screaming from republican troll Mitt Romney and the like, the truth is that majority of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage, and this number continues to increase. Being in favor of something when it is politically expedient to do so, should not be cast as a great risk.

I normally don't comment on U.S. politics, though I stay up to date on all the issues, but the above image really irritated me.  What Barack Obama did does not make him the gay president, anymore than Bill Clinton was the first Black president.  You don't take on the identity of a marginalized person simply be attempting to be an ally.  Now, to be clear, I'm not pulling a no homo here, I am talking about the appropriation of a marginalized identity in order to give the appearance of being liberal, inclusive and tolerant. A straight man, cannot by definition be the gay president.  He can advocate for GLBT rights and in fact should do so, but I reject this appropriation.

I have never seen Obama as a true leftist, despite the way that the American right tries to paint him as the second coming of Karl Marx.  He only appears to be left, because the right is so far out of touch with reality.  The left right continuum in the U.S. is well and truly fucked, and I believe as an outsider, it's really easy to see. 

What are your thoughts on the Newsweek Cover?

The concession of Language

Biyuti is a bakla Filipina living on stolen Algonquin land. He works to sustain and increase the biyuti of the world through decolonization and through her explorations of the intersections of race with queerness/gender. She also blogs at The Biyuti Collective and you can find her on Twitter: @JustBiyuti.    

I had an interesting discussion about language and the trans* community. One thing that I've been discussing a lot in my posts here has been the hegemonic discourse of the white trans community. How they police language very heavily and use it in ways that continuously erase and exclude PoC.

One thing I ended up saying that using english was about the only concession I was willing to make when discussing gender with white trans* people. But I will resist using their definitions and arguing in their frameworks.

The fact that my first language is english is a result of colonization. And what makes using english particularly galling, is the fact that white people wield their arbitrary language rules like a weapon. We are always, always expected to engage white people in their spaces, in their languages, and following their rules.

I cannot uncritically use language in the way that white people do and want me to simply because of how language is used as a tool of white supremacy. It always boggles my mind that trans* people can so intelligently and critically examine the ways that language can erase, silence, and dehumanize trans and/or gender variant people but so frequently fail to understand how whiteness is also encoded into the language we use.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

'Happy Mothers Day...' photo (c) 2009, Jerry - license:

This morning I woke up to french toast and an omelet, made by my boys.  Destruction burned his finger making me breakfast.  The love shining in their eyes was absolutely wonderful.  They have promised me a day without bickering as well.  Being a mom has not always been easy for me, but to see that look in my boys eyes makes it all worth it.

I wish all of the mother's out there a great day, and a huge bottle of pepto for all of the inedible breakfasts.