jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
(x-posted from tumblr)

so i've been reading a bunch because my weird muscle thing makes books the most easily held form of media for me at the moment, and when I was doing a, well, honestly, semi-random above-the-waist draw from my shelves, I pulled out a book that I remembered as being id candy but i wasn't sure it was actually good, called Shadow by Anne Logston.

Shadow is a 500+ yr old elf, an extremely experienced thief, and cheerfully promiscuous. She sleeps with three different men in the first book, and also related the time she got her and her best friend Lady Donya out of a pickle with a band of highway robbers by... having an orgy with all of them, basically. Elven culture in general seems to be wired this way; most of her sexual encounters start off with her asking, "Well, aren't you going to greet me properly?" In addition, elves have sufficient difficulty conceiving that whenever an elf woman is fertile, it's tradition to grab as many elf dudes as she can find and "dance the high circle." Shadow herself was a high circle baby.

Most of the important characters in the book are women - Shadow's best friend, Donya, human warrior hero type; the mysterious assassin Blade; Celene, Donya's mother and one of the city leaders, and a magic worker who helps Shadow with some key plot points. The world is set up... not without misogyny? For instance, Shadow has to escape a rape attempt at one point, from men whose justification that "all elves are slutty" sounds a lot like real world "she was asking for it" bullshit. But it's set up so that women can take on these different societal roles - city leader, shopkeeper, assassin, guildmistress, warrior - and it's not remarkable, or unheard of. Also, it passes Bechdel like, every 5 minutes.

My conclusion upon finishing my reread was it was trashy in all the best ways, and I adored it.

I followed up by rereading another book that I recalled to be similar in terms of fantasy faux medieval setting and plot (female protagonist received a piece of jewelry that everyone and their uncle wants to kill her over; she uncovers plottiness in trying to survive and figure out WHY), The Raven Ring by Patricia C Wrede. (The other reason these books remind me of each other is another piece of id candy for me: hair. Shadow has a pile of hair on her head equal to her five centuries, which she has to keep talking people out of calling her Matriarch for, and styles of braids are likewise signifiers in Raven Ring, with Eleret asking a friend to give her a battle braid when matters escalate.)

Wrede is a better known, better recognized author than Logston (Wrede's gotten some ALA awards). She writes good prose, better prose, better dialogue I think - there are a couple of exchanges I have dogeared in my copy of this book, that I remain really fond of - but I actually came away disappointed on the feminism front. Yes, the book has a female protagonist, Eleret, but the next two characters in the line-up are male - Lord Daner, and Karvonnen the rogue - and worse, as a B-plot they're competing for her affections, and at the end of the novel she chooses one to take home with her (a fairly serious commitment, especially since she hadn't realized they were both romantically interested in her until late in the game). (Compare, Shadow gets laid a lot, but none of her partners think they're gonna go steady or whatever; one gets as far as asking if she's going to be staying long in the city where the story's set and she's like "ahahahah no i don't stick around long enough to see my human buddies get old, it's depressing." There's also, then, no competition between Shadow's partners; in the final scene, where they are sorting out what all happened and drinking together, two of them are there as her friends.)

The supplementary characters (characters whose purpose is additional info/plot propeller) in Raven Ring tend to be male more often, too. Eleret's going to claim the belongings of her dead mother from the military; the military commander is male. So is the magical Adept she seeks advice from. There's a junior magical apprentice, Prill, who is female, but she seems mostly there for flavor; there's one or two female magical experts who are mentioned but remain entirely offscreen. While Shadow passes Bechdel fairly damn often, I had to think pretty hard to come up with scenes where Raven Ring did. Do Prill and Eleret talk about anything but Lord Daner or Adept Climeral? Still not sure. Prill is basically the only positively portrayed female character besides Eleret (her mom doesn't count since she's dead). I finally recalled that Eleret does pass Bechdel with an antagonist, who wants to talk to her about the ring, and with Daner's aunt, who Eleret asks for advice regarding her card reading. Daner's aunt - all of Daner's female relations - are treated somewhat dismissively, as if they are all silly and annoying because they are feminine.

And they are traditionally feminine, in the societally prescribed roles and dresses that seem a lot more like standard fantasy medieval. Sure, Eleret can fight and would prefer to be in leggings instead of skirts, and her mother was in the army - but that's only HER people's culture, the Cilhar aren't like everyone else, the Cilhar are odd, Daner keeps getting in her way because he thinks he's protecting a helpless maiden, his sisters are aghast that she doesn't wear a fancy dress down to dinner.

so overall i found the quality YA novel to be one that elevated a female protagonist by setting her against other women, one step forward two steps back; while the trashy women's adventure book had women with women friends helping each other; and also honestly having healthier relationships with men in terms of openness and respect vs "good" men who belittled and underestimated the female protagonist and had to learn to see her true capabilities.

these were both important books to me growing up but the direct comparison astonished me.
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
Okay so.

I love the Mission Impossible movies.

Look, you don't need to be with me on this, they are purest Velveeta, but I do, I love them dearly. With all sorts of varied caveats but frankly? they keep surprising me by not sucking as much as I was expecting on assorted social justice scales, and actually, that means someone involved is making an effort. Hollywood movies don't do better than average on accident.

These movies are really iffy on Bechdel. (Maybe 4 passes? I'll check when I go again tomorrow, it's possible that there's lines exchanged between the female Agent Carter and the female assassin Moreau that aren't regarding dude Hanaway. Lolnope, Carter and Moreau don't really actually talk at all, despite having screen time together, sigh. But if you toss out the subrule where the female characters have to be named, you could make an argument for MI3, where Julia is informed by a female guest that her sister has arrived, and then where she exchanges greetings with her sister before her sister is like "so you're marrying tom cruise?" And then she also tells her sister that "Mom's dying to see you." Clearly Tom Cruise is not the important part of that conversation for them.) However, there's always a female agent on the team, sometimes more than one, like in the first mission in the first Mission Impossible movie, which had Sarah Davies, Hannah Williams, and Claire Phelps. There's always at least one agent of color--Luther, who appears in all 4 films and is on team in 3 of them, is black, and Jane Carter in MI4 and Nyah Nordoff-Hall in MI2 are multiracial black/white; Zhen Lei in MI3 is multiracial Vietnamese/white.

And the primary villain is never a scary brown person or a woman. The first MI film has some problems declaring who, exactly, its villain is--I mean, you could argue for Max, since she's the criminal trying to buy the list of agent names and assignments, but they make it so hard to dislike her, when she's played by Vanessa Redgrave and helps Ethan out and everything. (And then there's the side issue about Claire which... okay, in my AU, Claire doesn't die. Also she killed Jim. Although it looked like a suicide. Murder? There was no murder here. Whatchutalkinbout. Let's just leave it like that, okay. My AU is an AU with less death, although obviously not no death. Also I saved Lindsey Farris.) But seriously. MI3 tried to fake us out with Laurence Fishburne, but no, actually, every time, the main villain is a white dude.

Right now we are at: way, way better than I ever thought they would be.

I mean, let's be real, the main character is is also a white dude, these things are unapologetic Tom Cruise vehicles, but do I watch them for Tom Cruise? I do not. (Okay, I do a little. I watch them for Tom Cruise getting the shit kicked out of him.) Fun fact about the Mission Impossible movie franchise: it basically exists because Tom Cruise fanboyed at Paramount until they let him have it. And you know, basically fund it out of his own pockets. Other fun fact: Tom Cruise loves stunts. Basically he gets cast and crew and funding together based on A LIST OF BEAUTIFUL LOCATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE WITH TALL THINGS FOR HIM TO JUMP OFF OF and then later on, sometimes as they are shooting, they write a script justifying why he needs to do so. You think I am exaggerating. I am not. Brad Bird, director of the last one, joined fairly late in preproduction, and kept bugging producer JJ Abrams for a script. After several times ducking out of it, Abrams admitted they didn't have a script, they had about six scripts, all different. There is a subplot of the film about a dude Ethan breaks out of prison that they didn't write in until they were shooting at the prison. The two set pieces they had set at the time Bird was bugging Abrams about the script were the Burj and the carpark. Oh Tom Cruise.

Back to not-Tom Cruise features of these films.

Have I mentioned how much I love Luther Stickell? Okay, so it's 1996. You're making an action thriller spy movie. Do you cast a big black dude as a) a demolitions expert b) a hand-to-hand fighter c) a hacker? It is totally against (limited, omg, Hollywood is so fucked up) type that Luther is the hacker. And, just, he's always the one to call Ethan on his bullshit. "That look in your eye is a pain in my ass, you know that, right?" So much heart for Luther.

The turning expectations on their head thing is a thing these movies do a lot. In the part that's strictly the universe, the world of Mission Impossible, that can suck, because it means they made the one carry-over character from the TV series, Jim Phelps, a traitor; in fact three of the four films revolve around someone internal to the agency fucking Ethan over (guys, guys it's not a surprise anymore, what are you dooooiiiing). HOWEVER, in terms of turning standard casting/writing/filmmaking tropes upside down, it's actually... sort of... awesome.

Let's talk about MI:3, and the woman in the refrigerator.

mostly cut for augh this is painful and not for plot spoilers for a 6 yr old movie, but the plot and film ending will be thoroughly dissected )

But I think this is worth pointing out: good guy characters, all women, most of them of color, in the Mission Impossible films who got kidnapped or shot or otherwise endangered, who I really, really expected to be dead by the end of the film, who got out alive:

--Nyah Nordoff-Hall
--Julia Meade/Hunt (twice, even)
--Zhen Lei
--Jane Carter

I winced, I swore, I said I know how movies work, this will not end well, I braced myself for them to kick it, and they all survived.

Baby steps. And still.
jmtorres: Quinn from Sliders asleep with book open on his chest. Text: Sweet dreams. (book)
Hey, it's a yuletide letter. Let's start with my requests. I figure you probably only matched me on one of these, since they are all pretty damn rare (two of them aren't in the archive at all), so in case for whatever reason my prompt for what you matched me on doesn't fill you with joy, I will tell you about the other ones so you can contemplate picking up a new fandom (they're all book fandoms--reading a couple of novels shouldn't be too time-consuming should it?)

Dancing Meteorite and Stolen Law - Anne Mason
Kira Warden

my prompt details )

more about these books )

Perilous Gard - Elizabeth Marie Pope
Gwenhyfara, Kate Sutton, Cecily Heron

my prompt details )

more about this book )

Harbinger Trilogy - Diane Duane
Delde Sota

my prompt details )

more about these books )

About my requests in general:

You may have noticed, all of my requests are for female characters. I like male characters from these stories, but I don't want to see them central, I want stories about my favorite girls. I think it would be awesome if you wrote me a story that passed Bechdel, though of course that depends on who you choose to have my gals interact with--Kira on a Vallusian explorer ship is going to have a hard time passing Bechdel, I know!

Cultural differences are relevant to all of these stories--with more awareness in the science fiction, more darkness in the historical fantasy. I like the world-building of each, the development of the different cultures, and I think in any story you write me from any of these books, the culture each character comes from and how it shapes her is going to be an important part of the story. There's a richness of cultural context, of characters that come from societies, that I treasure here. Even if you end up writing a PWP for a pairing or threesome I pitched, write me the characters coming together in a way that shows who they are, how they're shaped by their backgrounds. That stuff's sexy! (Cultural baggage is sexy. Hang on, where is my twitter...)(That's... yes. I tweet to mock myself. You should know that about me. [ profile] decontextual, if you want to watch me mock myself in real time.)

While I like a variety of genres, I really feel like which fandom you write for me is going to dictate genre, so I hesitate to just be like "I like crack!" or whatever. Like, I feel like a Perilous Gard story about Gwenhyfara is necessarily going to be at least a little dark. A Dancing Meteorite/Stolen Law story... well, depending on what story, I suppose it could range! But I'd think it would be more light-hearted. And with a Harbinger story about Delde Sota, I'd want it to be funny, I'd want her sense of humor to color it, whether it's light or dark humor.

Thank you very much for writing me a story! I'm looking forward to Yuletide.
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (lady gaga)
Today one of my coworkers asked me if I'd heard about the Weird Al-Lady Gaga thing and I said, yes, I had, and I deeply regretted reading the comments on Weird Al's blog enry because it just pissed me off that his readers got homophobic and transphobic right off the bat. Then my coworker voiced the popular opinion I've seen on the internet that Lady Gaga was lying about a manager having said she said no when she hadn't seen or heard anything. Only he said Lady Gaga was a "c" who was lying.

I. don't even.

"Also misogynistic," I said. "Not really down with that."

I cannot believe he said that to me. Like, my disbelief was so enormous that I walked out of the office and didn't really think about it again until just now. I kind of want to do SOMETHING to educate him and I can't figure out actions available here would teach him the lesson that "cunt," even if you shorten it to "c," is a gendered insult and disrespectful to all women and not just the woman you're trying to insult, rather than the lesson that you shouldn't say the seven dirty words to coworkers who could complain about you. Or to you. I just.

jmtorres: Lennier from Babylon 5 about to do Minbari kung fu. Do not fuck with me.  (angry)
boing-boing just pissed me off with the use of the phrase "Tweets were twatted." Gendered insults are not acceptable, mmkay? I understand the urge to mock tweeting but doing so by saying it comes from female genitalia is unacceptable. Does anyone here have a registered account so they can leave a comment that won't be moderated into oblivion?

eta: Ugh. I registered to comment and I really need to stop looking now because I knew this but of COURSE no one can accept "I was offended. Not everybody was or will be but as a woman, I found it offensive, and I'm not the only one" as a reason to just... stop being offensive. No, it's #OFWF and were offended and somebody's wife thinks it's funny and therefore it's okay.

er so

Mar. 29th, 2011 03:51 am
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
I'm making this vid, right? And I noticed my canonical source gives me a foothold to mount any goddamn meta message I want.

So um.

Would anyone care to suggest favorite moments in visual media (film, tv, music video) that address:
--claiming of identity (pref female, and/or possibly queer--still arguing with self about intersectionality of this vid--protagonist)
--objectification of women (ie they--they!--are clearly identified as Other than the protagonist)(or um, if that's too commonplace--then say, a female protagonist experiences and hopefully rejects objectification? That would be SUPER AWESOME actually)

I'm contemplating using a segment of Bad Romance; that only leaves like twelve other slots. *ponder* I'm not a huge Buffy fan, but was there a pivotal moment where she laid claim to her Slayerness? Which would be, gosh, an identity and an Otherness all wrapped up in one.

Wow, I really wish I had some footage on the Young Wizards books. HOW DO I KEEP WANTING TO VID BOOKS.

/me contemplates DVD shelf. Hmm: Serenity, Mirromask, Witchblade, Tin Man, Alice....

And. hmm. Places where identity is also tied to technology would be useful to me. Off the top of my head, things I haven't seen that you folks might have a bead on good scenes from: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Battlestar Galactica. Others?

Okay, I also really want iconic imagery that would be recognizable to people outside of fannish circles.

And um. It would actually be SUPER hilarious to hit the 80s hard, as a completely different thematic element than I've examined so far... Ooooh. Labyrinth.

The floor is open. Suggestions?


Oct. 11th, 2010 03:08 am
jmtorres: Tony Stark with his hands up robot!Pepper's innards (fifthwave)
It's really, really hard to come up with requests for [community profile] festivids sign-ups without giving myself vid bunnies I really, really want to keep. I also thought it was going to be hard to come up with six requests; I think the harder thing for me is going to be coming up with a set of requests that is balanced in terms of gender if nothing else--I think there should be more vids about women, and while I don't think that this should exclude the existence of vids about men, I do think that if I only ask for vids about men I close off any possibility that I will get a vid about women; this is common sense on the face of it but something I have to rewrite my socialization to recall. If I were making a feminist statement I could draw up a list of requests that were only for vids about women, but instead I am drawing up a half-and-half list and letting fandom match-up and vidder preference fall where they may. (And the details are optional. I could still get things other than what I ask for: an uncertainty of unassignable awesomeness value.)


Sep. 1st, 2010 12:32 pm
jmtorres: (flee)
Well, that sucked.

Make-up class still does not believe in cold cream, which I swear to god is the only way to get stage make-up OFF, so I didn't take my bruise make-up off before I left class, and in fact, class encourages you to go out with your make-up on, which, the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off, because in a class that's 90% women, sending us all out with bruises and scrapes on our bodies and bragging about how previous students have successfully fooled people--well, great, let's go on and normalize the idea of violence against women some more! *headdesk*

Right, so I went home, where I still can't find my cold cream nor about half my kit, and because I didn't want to go out still looking beat up I washed off with oatmeal soap, and I am not colors anymore but my skin feels wrong and I really want some goddamn cold cream and how I wish the department would buy into COMMON KNOWLEDGE OF THE THEATRICAL WORLD and get some damn cold cream.
jmtorres: Mom cups daughter's boobs in bra shop.  Text: MOTHER! (mom)
I was probably... late teens? before it occurred to me that surnames frequently suggest ethnic or racial or at least family histories.

Probably at least one reason why this took so long to hit was that I was aware married women took their husbands' surnames, so a married woman's surname didn't say anything about her background. (This says interesting things about my presumption that married couples don't come from similar backgrounds.)

My middle name is my mother's maiden name. For many years I assumed that was totally normal, that of course you would preserve family history by giving a child both parents' surnames. I would have been about seven when I found out that wasn't so (in my culture, in others it is): I was seven when my mother was pregnant with my brother and my parents were arguing about what to name the baby. Funnily, boy name suggestions came with a first and a middle name, but girl name suggestions, we only considered the first name. So I learned that girls carry that secret matrilineal history in our middle names and boys are their father's sons. It felt like something precious, that hidden gift of a middle name.

(Until I figured out, from novels, I think, that sometimes girls have ordinary given names for middle names too. It was baffling and something of a disappointment.)
jmtorres: Faith tortures Wesley. Text; Pretty when you bleed. (blood)
I went ego-deliciousing last night and found someone had written a blog entry about fan works as transformative, listing my Dollhouse vid She Walks as feminist critique and putting me in the company of a couple of vidders whose work I love and admire. So, you know, good things! Blushy good things!

By the way: if you left me a comment on She Walks and I never answered it, I apologize. I looked at that entry and realized I never answered any of the comments. I've never been in a place where I was at peace enough with that vid to converse about it much even to the extent of thanking people for feedback. I know it's like, five months later? But thank you.

I am currently trying to beat down the urge to make a second Dollhouse vid; I don't know that I have enough anger left in me. I do have backburnered a different, more hopeful vid that was going to be the spiritual successor of She Walks without being a Dollhouse vid at all; though "more hopeful" is sort of relative, since the source is all filmic dystopias and is meant to represent modern American society. But it's to be a vid about that moment when you get out. So maybe. I hope to finish that one someday.

But the Dollhouse vid bunny that's eating my brain now is actually threatening to become a full-on Jossverse critique, evil dead lesbians and crazy broken supergirls with protective father-figures and all. The song I've bunnied on would make it pretty much a direct missive to Whedon, with the "I" and the "you" and the repeated question. My main complaint about this is damn it, this is not what I do, I refuse to be the vidder who tries to make vast sweeping statements about vast sweeping canons. I will not follow up History of Trek Fandom vid with History of Jossverse vid nor with History of Whoniverse vid nor with More Than A Century of History of Fans Asking This Question: Holmes and Watson, Doin' It or Not? vid. I have vid bunnies for all of these concepts. Goddamnit I have learned my lesson, I will not be that vidder.

The thing is, I don't know how to address some of the problems in Dollhouse without pointing out that they're repeating patterns in Whedon's work. Maybe no one will notice BECAUSE ALL THE ACTORS ARE THE SAME FOREVER AND EVER? Ahem. Not that I want to mock his casting choices either.

I want to make my points... more pointed. No more grand, sweeping vids, as much as they eat my brain. So the Sherlock Holmes vid will not be the history of everything, it will be about the cannibalization and reinterpretation of the source under female gaze WHICH IS NOT GRAND AND SWEEPING AT ALL I promise you.


eta so apparently I will be feminist critique vidder for oh, the next six billion years. Jeez. The last time I tried to make a classic slash vid it turned into a classic slash fandom vid. Hello, my name is Juls, and I have a problem with meta.
jmtorres: (slut)
One of the temps at my work this season, back from last busy season, is an old, retired guy who works seasonal jobs because he's bored, as far as I can tell. Within the first two hours he was back, he called me Girl, Honey, and Babe. I am not a manager, but I close the store, and I have been a permanent employee for four years, which makes me like five echelons higher than him. Our relationship is not close. He has no reason to think he should be able to--or should be able to get away with--calling me these things.

I couldn't make myself tell him to his face not to do it. I don't know why. I feel like I should have been able to just tell him to shove it. Five seconds after, every time, I wanted to. I did not. What I did do was bitch to my coworkers and bosses, none of whom particularly wanted to confront him either, but the store's 2IC (and highest-ranking male employee) did call the old guy into the office and tell him that in our company's work environment, Honey, Sweetie, Babe, etc were not appropriate and he needed to use his Misters and Ma'ams. I was there for this reprimand, although my boss didn't point me out as the person who had complained against him, and the office is fairly open and full of people in and out.

All in all, I am happy with that outcome. From everything I have discussed with my coworkers, I was not the only person this man was making extremely uncomfortable, I was just the only one who was willing to complain to management about it. I'm not sure everyone understood my problem, though, because I have had to listen to a couple of rationales for this guy and because the treatment I received after from regular coworkers I consider friends pissed me off.

"Oh, he's old, of course he'd call you Girl." Uh, no. I recognize age/experience as a valid social disparity but in this environment I am professionally his superior. You can argue that these equal out, and I am fine with that: he could treat me as an equal and call me by, oh, my name, maybe? I do not believe that his age is worth more than my job title. I definitely do not feel that his age and his sex are worth more than my job title because I do not believe that men should be privileged above women and I think this is goddamn relevant, because the names he was calling me made the issue very much that he was a man and I was a woman. He's made male coworkers of mine uncomfortable as well, but not using the same terms. Girl. Honey. Babe. These are belittlements to be applied to women, in assertion of male privilege.

"But I call you Honey all the time!" That's nice. However, you and I have known each other for a couple of years now, so you have earned some familiarity with me. Also, you are a woman, so I do not feel you are asserting male privilege when you call me Honey. Also, you are both older than me and in a higher position at our workplace than me, both of which are disparities I recognize the validity of. If you were (female,) younger than me, and, say, a mere cashier, I would probably think you were a sassy little punk if you called me Honey all the time; since you are not, it passes by me as unremarkable. Because you are female and not male, I do not feel as if you are perpetuating male privilege by calling me Honey.

So I do have informal relationships with most of the regular employees at my job. We call each other a lot of things. There's one cashier who calls me Bitch. Today she called me Honey, and when I jumped a mile, she told me I had to be expecting that today, given I had called out our sleazeball temp to management. What? No. Then my boss (female one, not male one) called me Sweetcheeks, continuing in the vein of mocking the situation. I said no, no that's not how it works, no: you should not be shaming me for calling out a harasser. If I was the only one who felt secure enough to complain formally and get the guy reprimanded, I, who couldn't make myself tell him off to his face, what kind of message do you think it sends to everyone who wasn't brave enough to say anything to anyone, for you to behave like this? If you shame people who speak up about harassment, even in jest, you make it so no on wants to speak up. You contribute to an environment of harassment, genuine, non-jesting harassment, because your actions serve to silence victims of harassment. I wasn't pissed off for myself, I was pissed off for the context and the people around me. I don't care if you're my friend, it is inappropriate to shame someone for stopping harassment, so you will not say these things to me.

I was not this eloquent at work. I wish I had been. I think I managed to get the message across, though.

jmtorres: Utena and Anthy kissing, Revolutionary Girl Utena. My prince has come. (femme)
There's a patch of my scalp that's a little tender right now, because I was bleaching the hell out of my streak (I'd let the roots get out a couple of inches) to re-dye a new shade for the wedding. I'm only using 30 peroxide, not anything rougher and tougher and salon strength, so getting my hair bleached enough to take cool colors takes a few runs--the first go gets me from dark black-brown to vibrant orange; the second to a paler orange, around where I can drop a magenta or red on it; the third bleaching gets me to a light gold that can slide under violet, though I'd probably twitch at trying to get it under blue, because blue will green out on you. (Two or three more runs gets it to proper platinum, but I don't so much do that all at once--it's just what happens with the length of the streak when I'm working on the roots.) So all told I spent a cumulative two hours with bleach in my hair tonight, and yeah, my scalp is sore.

Beauty is pain, right? /irony

(In an ideal world I would just naturally have a white streak up front like Rogue or Sam Beckett, and when I felt like dyeing it an accent color to go with my dress and my mood as I periodically do, I wouldn't have to bleach it first.)

My mother likes my streak bleached but undyed; she says I look like a marbled cake with blonde and brown hair. I did that look for a while when I first got up the gumption to bleach the streak--and it took gumption; when I told my mother on the phone, because I was away at college at the time, my lead-up made her think I'd gotten a tattoo or something permanent, because I really thought she'd disapprove like crazy. Maybe that's why I didn't finish the job with the dye, then, and yeah, it felt unfinished, the bleaching's always just to make a canvas for the color. But I really did feel that my mother wouldn't get it, would make me feel guilty about it--not for doing something non-conformist with my hair, no. For using beauty products, for falling prey to societal pressure to do things that are bad to my body to try to look pretty.

I think I'm the wannabe punk child of a wannabe hippie flower child.

Growing up, I absorbed from my mother that: make-up is a waste of time and clogs your pores and by the way, lipstick is to make your mouth look like labia; leg and pit hair is natural and women in Europe don't shave it off, so why should we; that mustache ain't going anywhere no matter what you do to it (this was probably my mother's longest hold out in the vanity department, she was bleaching her mustache long after she'd called it quits on a lot of other regular beauty work); heels will screw up your feet and back; Barbie is not a natural shape and not one to aspire to--I nearly added it's okay to be fat, but that one didn't quite stick, because my mother did pressure me to diet with her all the time. By the way, we're both still fat. I think she still tries to lose weight. Eventually I got her to leave me out of it. My stance is I don't want to work specifically to be thin; if I lose weight because I'm working my ass off, then yay, but I'm not going out of my way for it. This seems to me to be the natural extension of everything else she taught me about rejecting society's urges to prettify, tempered with an acknowledgement that all false images of what health is aside, I am actually fatter than is healthy.

So there's all of that. The anti-pretty, where pretty is defined by glossy magazines and Hollywood movies. Except that on some level, I do still want to be pretty, even though I know how false all of that is. The first time I acted in a theatre show in college and the director showed us how to put on make-up, not street make-up, pancake make-up, but you know, with cheekbone shaping rouge and eyeliner to make your eyes big and dark, everything exaggerated for stage--I looked in the mirror and thought, "I'm pretty," and I hadn't known that was possible, I hadn't ever thought of myself as pretty before.

I didn't start wearing street make-up. I don't do that for everyday life. There are occasions when I'll do measures of it for performance, and I don't necessarily mean stage performance, because not all performances are the official kind. Part of my rebellion and part of my queerness is that I don't do that performance for men--the most frequent occasions are Club Vivid at Vividcon, which has an overwhelming majority of female attendees. But pretty isn't who I am on a day to day basis, and though pretty still gives me a little surge of guilty pleasure, I am content to look like what I actually look like here in real life.

Except for the hair.

Here's another thing about my hair: getting my hair braided, especially braided in some fancy, intricate way by someone else, is a guilty pleasure for me. I don't know why; braiding doesn't fall under the same stigma of pretty in most cases for me--I braided my mother's hair when I was a kid, and it's not load-the-chemicals-on alteration of self that she taught me to rail against. But there despite that sanction, I still feel like a pretty, pretty princess when someone does my hair, and feeling like a pretty, pretty princess is a guilty feeling for me. Ironically, it's an act of defiance against my (personal/familial instead of societal) norms to ask for it.

And then there's the bleach and the dye. It has been eight years since the first time I bleached my streak in; I have been inconsistent about maintaining it (see also: a couple of inches of roots) but it's been part of my self-image ever since. I guess that's an act of defiance against my personal/familial norms too, but one specifically designed to be outside the conventional definition of pretty too: unnatural colors, and just the one streak, not the whole head of hair. But it makes me hugely uncomfortable on a philosophical level that I have to buy into artificial beauty products to do it. I have this tender patch on my scalp right now, reminding me that everything my mother taught me to resist in the idea of hurting yourself to look different than you are because society thinks you should. There's a push-pull of how I want to look and how I look without alteration and how I want not to look specifically because the world says I should want to look that way. It's hard for me to sort out. I can't quite solve it; the contradiction is rooted somewhere primal in the construction of my personality.

I have a whole hell of a lot of identity tied up in my hair. The other day at work I said something about being butch, regarding my badassery at moving boxes of books--mostly in jest, because the butch/femme binary is not quite synonymous with my issues and not really how I think of myself. My boss said I'd need to cut my hair off if I wanted to look butch and my automatic answer was No. I also said that short hair is not a requirement for being butch and it's an attitude more than a look and that my boss was being reductionist and on some level I believe all of that and on some other level, that was all rationalization for that instant answer, No. No, my hair's not going anywhere. There's too much me there.

But a me I need to manipulate, to alter. Why is that? What is it about me that I need to look different from what I am?
jmtorres: Resident evil. Milla in red dress with gun. Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is, mama (big gun)
[personal profile] jmtorres: I keep wondering if I could come off as just totally crazypants if I started writing about how Gaga's Bad Romance video is a lengthy discussion of heterosexuality as a meat market.

[personal profile] grey_bard: Not that crazy pants. )

ETA: Juls again. I also wanted to link to Neutra Face,a type-setting related parody of Lady Gaga's Poker Face. I found it hilarious myself, but at least one person I've shown it to has commented "That's so wrong," or "I didn't want to see that" which is a complaint I'd like to address. Why--because it features men affecting similar (female sexual) choreography to Lady Gaga? I think it's awesome because of that. I do want to see that, and I'm not even that into guys (I tend to like them pretty, when I like them at all). I want to see sexual expression being that fluid. That those guys had fun doing that--that's awesome.
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
The official description of the Bechdel show [personal profile] niqaeli and I put together for [ profile] vividcon is:

In 1985 in the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel gave us this test to evaluate gender equality in a movie: 1) it has to have at least two women in it who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man. This vid show is about the spirit of the Bechdel Test, showcasing vids about two or more women interacting and relating with each other, in ways that don't have anything to do with men. Femslash optional.

A fairly dry definition of the Bechdel Test, in case anyone didn't know; "femslash optional" was our wry comment on what we thought most vids-that-passed-Bechdel would be about. We were thrillingly shocked to find that vidders had found and shown and celebrated female characters having an incredible range of relationships and conversations. This is a show full of vids about: friendship, family, sisterhood, mothers and daughters, adopting each other, finding your place in the world, making your place in the world, being part of something bigger than yourself, death and grief, history, identity, societal roles and how to break out of them and the extent to which that's possible--and also, kicking ass, taking names, robots, cheerleading, rocking out, and hot lesbian sex.

the playlist )

discussion questions )
jmtorres: Faith tortures Wesley. Text; Pretty when you bleed. (blood)
Vid: She Walks
Fandom: Dollhouse
Song: She Walks Over Me by Hole
Vidder: [personal profile] jmtorres
Download link (please right-click or ctrl-click to save): (23MB)

My Dollhouse vid is an angry vid.

Read more... )


May. 3rd, 2009 04:16 am
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
Watching any vids about women I can get my hands on is depressing. I have had to use to phrase "there's too much rape in this one" far far too often. WTF, fandom. WTF, Hollywood. WTF, modern society.

once more!

Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:39 am
jmtorres: animated: Amanda and Lucy from Highlander: The Raven. Kiss kiss. (kiss)
Hey, all, this is your gentle reminder that there's a mere two days left to suggest vids for Vividcon themed shows. Whether you're going to vividcon or not, you should consider throwing your vids, your best friend's vids, your favorite vids ever into the ring.

Here at the Bechdel Show, I am especially excited to hear your suggestions. I also totally want your premiering vids if you are so inclined, but even just your favorite vid ever about a couple of gal-pals is made of win.

Suggest at the form!! Leave me a comment! Email me at juliette dot torres at gmail dot com. You have the power to make our show awesome.
jmtorres: Utena and Anthy kissing, Revolutionary Girl Utena. My prince has come. (femme)
[ profile] vividcon is looking for suggestions for themed vid shows! More specifically, we, your exalted VJs, are looking for suggestions for our themed vid show, The Bechdel Test.

Here's the official blurb:

In 1985 in the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel gave us this test to evaluate gender equality in a movie: 1) it has to have at least two women in it who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man. This vid show is about the spirit of the Bechdel Test, showcasing vids about two or more women interacting and relating with each other, in ways that don't have anything to do with men. Femslash optional.

This is awesome, right? Girls, girls, girls! We are all about the ladies! We want your mother-daughter, sister-sister, student-teacher, best buds, archenemies, lesbian lovers vids!

We welcome all suggestions! We welcome vids you've seen, vids you've made, vids you are inspired to make just for us! We would really really love to see that, actually, to see people making more vids about women for this show, and for the celebration of women in fandom. What women in your fandom need your loving vidding attention? Would you, could you, premiere a vid with us?

To suggest a vid, go here:

Important dates to know:
--ETA: April 23rd date correction!/ETA: suggestions end! So run go suggest stuff now!
--June 1st: all themed show vids are due, so if you're gonna make one for us, this is when you have to turn it in!

Go! Suggest! Vid!

Your loving VJ sisters,
[personal profile] jmtorres & [personal profile] niqaeli
jmtorres: Utena and Anthy kissing, Revolutionary Girl Utena. My prince has come. (utena)
[ profile] j_crew_guy linked me to a thread containing, among other things, a theory on how the Utena movie could be interpreted as a sequel to the Utena series (rather than a retelling).

One of the other things is a discussion of Anthy, the evil witch, we hates her, precious. People talking about getting enjoyment out of the million swords of human hatred scene, and how she deserved it when Saionji hit her because she just stood there and took it, and how Saionji must have been right to do so because he was so honorable in other areas of his life.

That's what inspired the title of this post.

side note about Saionji )

To me, if you see Anthy as an evil witch, you've missed the point of the series. You've missed the revolution.

Anthy is called a witch because in the societal trap they're in, any woman who has any independence or exercises any power (ie, is not a victim or "princess") must be a witch. Anthy-the-witch and Anthy-the-victim are perceptions, based on restrictive gender roles, and the revolution is about overthrowing the rules that say that's all she could be.

Utena starts the process of subverting the gender roles by becoming a prince (actually, it could be argued that Juri is the first step of this subversion, masculinizing herself in kind of a "lesbian = man in a woman's body" way, and Utena progresses by desexualizing the definition of prince; a prince as a strong human being as opposed to a straight-man-or-a-lesbian). However, changing the rules so that a woman can be a prince (or a man could be a victim or witch, though why would they want to be?) is not enough.

The key is that Utena cannot save Anthy, and in the end Anthy saves herself. It's not enough for Utena to be a prince; she's not really saving Anthy as long as Anthy is still a princess. You have to toss out the entire paradigm: no more princesses, no more witches, no more princes, because princes are the counterpoint to princesses. If you don't victimize people, you don't need people to save them.

And that's the fucking revolution.


jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)

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