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  • (13)

    Gunslinger Girl is the type of anime where little girls are used to fulfill the desired of men. What do the men want? The men who "condition" them (i.e., brainwash) are assassins. That's right people. Little girls brainwashed into becoming assassins. What a way to train those females! Train them while they're young so they won't rebel; that way, they'll do exactly what they're told.

    The girls are, for the most part, completely loyal to their "brothers". The girls and their brothers are called a fratelo. In Italian, fratelo means siblings. Siblings are the furthest things from the truth. The truth of the story is that these girls are being exploited by men.

    The girls are exploited, but they are also epitomized as heroines. They display courageous acts of loyalty to their fratelos and their fellow cyborg sisters. In this regard, the cyborg-girl-assassins are revered if they are loyal. Triela is the only cyborg who shows emotional rebellion among the other cyborgs. According to the storyline, Triela was the least brainwashed of the girls. The girls who were brainwashed the most are the most loyal.

  • (12)

    Reading all the Valentine blogs yesterday left me thinking about relationships and expectations. I confess I fall into the events-create-expectations camp, and actually like that there are holidays to celebrate this and that. Sometimes the "meaning" of the holiday can get lost in the heavy advertising and crass marketing that attempt to establish implicit or explicit standards of behavior, but I do not feel that my holiday has to be defined by DeBeers or Ghirardelli.

    In other words, he doesn't have to give me diamonds, but if he doesn't show at least some recognition of our love on the day that ostensibly celebrates it, then he's in the dog house as far as I'm concerned. It could me something as simple as coffee in bed or wanting to go out to dinner or renting an interesting movie or anything where we're making a point of being together on this day, the day that, for whatever reasons, we've set aside to honor love and romance.

    It's one of the nice things about our culture, I feel. Yes, at times I want to be angry at the whole mass-merchandizing phenomenon St. Valentine's Day has become. But really, compared to other holidays that honor and/or celebrate births and deaths and historical moments, it's some kind of wonderful that we can pause and celebrate one of the things that make life worth living.

    Love.

    Let's talk about dating.

    In the past day there's been a little call and response between Amanda and Hugo, and some commenters, too, over the ever-hot topic of who should approach whom and when and how and what does it all mean and what does that say about our culture and the role of women ... and all that tripe that feeds the self-help book industry and many a women's studies academic career. Okay, I'm sounding off a bit strident. But this is a blog. I'm allowed, aren't I?

    Why would I not approach a man in whom I have interest? To me, it's a matter that goes to the root of the common expectations that the man is to be the pursuer, the woman the pursued. To me, it seems that these expectations arise out of (what I see as) the reality that most men want to be the pursuers, they want to be in charge. Not only that, they are more likely to appreciate and value whatever may come of an encouter if they've worked at it. In my experience, men aren't all that interested in having unexpected things pop into their lives. They like to go after their lives with purpose. (Well, of course I'm not speaking for the slackers and losers and schlubs.)

    I confess that a lot of my attitude comes from romantic notions of courtship. I'm most charmed by stories of how a man sees a woman and says, "I'm going to marry her," and then months or years later, he does. Is she a trophy to be had, like a moose head to be put up on the wall, fodder for gloating anecdotes shared with fellow hunters over Scotch and cigars? No. Marriage today is her choice, too, and if she agrees to marry him, it tells me that he made a real effort to make clear to hear that she is important to him and that sharing their lives could be quite wonderful. One would hope there's love involved, and I'm not one to say that, because they've fallen into historically traditional roles of the seeker and the sought, she has somehow been rendered senseless and unable to determine the value, or lack thereof, in a proposal of marriage.

    Are we defined by our expectations?

    There's an old saying: A man chases a woman until she catches him. I think it could work the other way around, too, but I'm not sure I could trust a man who would manipulate me against social expectations in order to catch me. Maybe that's why I'm reluctant to chase a man. What happens if I succeed? Could I really believe that he really wants me? Could I be sure I haven't ended up being his convenient fuck buddy while he continues to hold out for the damsel he finds attractive and appealing enough to chase?

    Amanda says:

    It's a weird sort of feminist guilt to look back and realize that I let men initiate pretty much all dates, relationships, whatever. I mean, on an individual level, each one is not really a big deal. My current boyfriend and I met because I bitched out some dick who was hassling some random girls I was standing beside and myself at a show. Those girls turned out to be friends of my boyfriend's and so they pushed him into asking me out. As shit just sort of happens like that, it's hard to really frame it terms of 50/50 or anything like that. But looking at my whole romantic history, it becomes clear that I never really directly approached a man pretty much ever.

    Are we so far gone -- have we so defined ourselves as defying tradition and embracing masculine values and behaviors -- that we must feel guilty over not having been a hunter on the romance grounds?

    Men are trained to take the risk, so if a man doesn't take the risk, you can assume that he doesn't like you. (On the other side of it, if a woman glares at you and looks away, men know to give up. Or they should.) It's pretty frustrating, because this little trick of logic has created this odd pattern where men and women become more and more equal all the time in negotiating their relationships, dicussing their sexual needs, the whole bit. And yet getting the ball rolling is still pretty much left up to men.

    The thing is, when we're single, unattached, un-hooked-up, there's a different paradigm at work. In a relationship, with mutual trust and respect and honor and even love, there can be egality. But in the jungle that is life for the single woman, demands for mutual anything run smack up against the very real risks of violence, harrassment and other behaviors. What happens if you approach a man, and it turns out he's a total dick? A man can pretty much safely withdraw from an unreceptive (or, upon closer encounter, unappealing) woman and not have to worry about dire consequences. But what happens when a woman tries to withdraw after engaging a man in flirtations repartee? Can she back away safely? What happens if the man pursues? In this screwed up culture that finds seven ways to Sunday to apologize and excuse a rapist's behavior while finding any excuse at all to trash the integrity, or at the very least reputation, of the rape victim, can a woman safely even appear to open the door of possibility to a man without, in our culture's terms, having (to a degree) implicitly ceded her right to say "no"?

    And so, in this culture of violence towards women -- something that seems to be denied by liberal and conservative men alike -- we also pay the little prices and pass on the little privileges like approaching an attractive man, and suffer the little consequences, as Amanda puts so well:

    You can't teach guys to be more reticient--that's not fair to them. But teaching girls to be forward has only limited use, and efforts in that direction will be dashed on the first guy that strings them along and they take solace in books with obnoxiously long titles about how guys are just not going to be into a sort like you, and everything goes to shit.

    From the man's perspective, Hugo (who does not seem to be at all one of those aforementioned deniers) offers his own take:

    Making the "first move" made sense to me, but that may have more to do with my personality than my gender. I am perfectly aware that many of my brothers are intensely frustrated by the "rules" that place all of the burden for initiating contact on their shoulders. For a shy man, the expectation that he must "make the first move" must seem genuinely unfair and, at times, overwhelming.

    And I do feel for those shy guys. Some are very sweet. But, as Hugo notes, they live in a culture that frames that sweetness in an overall environment containing dangers for women.

    In a world where women are far more likely to be raped and harassed than men are, teaching women to be more forward is to expose them to considerable risk. While forward men risk rejection (which hurts), forward women risk far more. Most women have abundant experience with having their friendly, non-sexual overtures misinterpreted. For some men, even a simple smile from a woman can mean sexual interest. We have to do much more to make public space safe for women before we can expect greater willingness to make the first move!

    Where I think Hugo strays into potential quicksand, however, is in asserting that the traditional roles have a sort of in-bred appeal to the respective sexes:

    Overcoming fear is difficult (perhaps all the more so for my more introverted brothers), but it is empowering and exciting to do so. Making the first move does, I think, make some guys feel more like men.

    And, at the risk of getting flamed, I think most women very much want to be wanted. Of course, we all want to be desirable -- but whether rooted in biology or culture, women's longing to be longed for is powerful stuff indeed. Though feminist theory emphasizes the importance of women's agency, of making women into the subjects of desire, I think it's important not to forget that every once in a while, being an object of someone else's longing can feel pretty damn good. [Emphasis in original]

    Yes, being an object of desire can be appealing -- but only when it's welcome. I can pretty safely say that it's not welcome when I am out jogging or grocery shopping or spending a lazy sweats day at the bookstore. It's not appealing to have to dress down so as to not draw any untoward attentions. It's not appealing to be ogled by men (and sometimes women) because I wore something sexy for my guy. It's not appealing to have my ass pinched on the subway. And it's damn well not appealing to be effectively invisible to all men unless I wrap myself up as an object of desire.

    In comments to Hugo's post, some men speak up for the pains of rejection. One even treads into pollyanna-ish views that quiet men are not dangerous so women should feel free to approach them, which to me ignores the realities of men in general -- a man doesn't have to be a "player" to be dangerous -- and the risks that women face -- from some unwanted pawing to much much worse. I really wish that shy men could understand that women tend to hold back from approaching them for a reason. So much of courtship is a matter of the man's demonstrating to the woman that he can be trusted. Break those courtship rules, and the woman is potentially left foundering in the deep end, having opened herself up to courtship without any indications at all whether there is the trustworthiness to justify it.

    Of course, things could be different in situations where the people know each other a bit -- like at work or at the "co-ed" softball game or in the cooking class. But if we're talking about strangers, I really feel like I can go only so far in indicating any interest in a man, lest I be seen as inviting too much of the wrong kind of attention, and perhaps get myself into real trouble. (How many men have spent three extra hours in a bookstore because they were afraid that creepy girl buying the book on taxidermy might assault them in the parking lot?)

    Amanda then responds in comments to Hugo:

    Men so rarely get to experience being openly wanted that it can often have a startling effect on them when a woman is forward. Sometimes it's downright cute to see it. But if women crave it more, it's because it's an identity issue for us. An unwanted woman in our society is still considered less than a full woman, and that weighs rather heavily on us.

    And that speaks volumes about the object of desire thing. We can't win for losing.

    Back on Amanda's post, more male commenters took issue with the notion that men are trained to appoach women -- and reading some of these comments, I realized I should revisit my assumptions about sex roles and romance upon which I rambled at the top of this post.

    Chris comments:

    I'm sure some guys much prefer to initiate. I'm also sure some guys don't. But even those like me who aren't comfortable with initiating dates et al. have to suck it up and try anyway. Because we want dates, and many of the women we want dates with are just sitting there, wanting us too, waiting for us to work up the courage.

    ...and a couple of women told of their rewarding experiences from having been the initial approachers in their various relationships. Omar adds:

    People have said this before, but it bears repeating: if a guy looks down on you for making his fucking life easier, you may not want to date him.

    Yet, in the end, none of this idealizing of the egality of romance or compassion for shy men or trumpeting the rewards of being a romantically aggressive woman gets past the real-world context in which all of this takes place. Among classmates on campus or coworkers on the job, yes, women can and should feel more free to approach men of romantic interest.

    But out there in the jungle, where I don't know mister cute guy from Adam, where my mode of dress can make for a day of life-lived-on-display-for-all-men-to-ogle-and-judge, I just do not feel safe inviting contact with men I do not know. Perhaps I've just lived in big cities too much. Perhaps my cad of a last boyfriend left me a bit more scarred than I'd like to admit. Perhaps I'm missing out on the Great Romance that will never happen because I don't bridge the gap Mister Right-But-Shy won't cross.

    Yet in the end I won't put my life in danger for the possibility of romance. Until and unless I find the love that completes me, I am complete in myself, and find joys in life in other ways. It's all I can do. It would be nice if the world were a safer place. Meanwhile, we all make our compromises and make do as best we can.

  • (12)

    Now that the ACLU and Human Rights First have filed suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, do you think maybe the Bush Administration cease its game of deny-yet-never-disavow?

    The ACLU filed similar complaints against three other senior officers: Col. Thomas Pappas, Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of prisoners mistreated at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

    The suit against Rumsfeld focuses on an order he signed on Dec. 2, 2002 which authorized new interrogation techniques for detainees in the "war on terror" being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The techniques included "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress, prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation.

    Later, when evidence became overwhelming that prisoners were being tortured, Rumsfeld turned a blind eye and allowed the mistreatment to proceed, the suit alleges.

    It will take a lot of noise to get any sort of response. The ACLU has an action page calling for a special prosecutor to look into the use of torture by the government.

    Secretary Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military and civilian officials failed to stop the torture and degrading treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo even after credible reports of abuses began to emerge in the media and in military documents. And the White House and Department of Justice schemed to remove safeguards against torture.

    The American people deserve to know the truth about what torture tactics have been employed in the past and what tactics will be used in the future. This can only be accomplished by the appointment of an outside special counsel for torture and abuse investigations and prosecutions of civilians.

    An array of already-released documents clearly show that top government officials considered and eventually ordered the removal of protections against many abusive detention and interrogation practices. It is clear that Secretary Rumsfeld personally authorized the military to abandon our nation’s historic prohibition against torture or cruel and degrading treatment -- and limited investigations in a way that blocked high-ranking civilian or military officials, including himself, from being held accountable.

    At the same time, the Department of Justice and White House were scheming ways to protect torturers and their enablers from prosecution.

    Take action! Urge Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint an outside special counsel to investigate any criminal conduct by civilians in ordering, or paving the way for, torture or abuse of prisoners.

    Contact Attorney General Alberto Gonzales here.

  • (12)

    Pic:

    Caption:
    This is what hate looks like

    Pic description:
    Ryan Dobson, son of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is a on a roll these days. "Chrsitian Rap" artist, author, evangelical heart-throb and all around hip dude, the younger Dobson is quite the renaissance man. In fact, Dobson has written a new book, just in time to take full advantage of pre-Rapture shopping season. "Be Intolerant" is the title of this soon to be classic primer on hate and it is clearly aimed at the rather vacuous minds of hip, young, evangelical dudes and chicks everwhere.
    The book's thesis attmpts to make the spiritual case for intolerance as a spiritual precept.The author supports his dubious assertion with the usual out of context and non sequitur scriptural references. Of course, being a "Chrsitian Rap" artist, Ryan is especially well equipped to convey the message of the Republikan Christ's intolerance and judgement to today's youth in their own language.
    With a bleached out "do", skateboard in hand and some really cool, "black dude" outfits, one can just imagine swarms of nubile little white, evangelical chicks ripping up their abstinence pledges in the front row of one of Dobson's "rap" concerts.
    Before I continue on with the subject at hand, I have to get something off my chest and it just won't wait for a later post. You see, if there is one thing about evangelical Chrsitianity that really pisses me off it is the way they attempt to slither into the main body of youth culture and insert the name of Jesus in places where it just doesn't belong. It's bad enough that I have to endure the agony of seeing my country's good name dragged through the mud and trampled on by half-witted miscreants and moral pygmies. Oh, and let's not forget the Jehovah's Witnesses' fetish for littering my front porch every month with their "come to Jesus" comic books. All of this I can deal with, but please, do NOT mess with my music! And while I'm on this little tirade, I have to say how much it irks me when I see the prefix "Christian" attached to various company names like, for example, "Christian" Contracting" or, maybe "Christian" Cleaning" or the like. But what about "Christian Pest Control?" How about a "Chrsitian Car Wash" or a yummy "Christian Burrito?" This obnoxious trend leads me to wonder what will happen when other religions want to get in on the action. Will I be relegated to having my car serviced at a "Greek Orthodox Oil and Lube?" Perhaps my legs will look silky smooth in a new pair of Hassidic Hose? Well, I think I've vented enough for now at your expense. Sorry. I'll get back on topic, I promise.
    Ryan Dobson is but a symptom of the malignancy that underlies the new tone of belligerance from the religious right. The idea that gays, Muslims and women who won't shave their legs for Jesus can be bullied with impunity by Christians (and should be) is a pathetic testament to our collosal backslide on civil rights in general over the past several years.
    This mealy mouthed idiot with his ridiculous,"Boyz2Men" haircut is the future of evangelical Christianity, such as it is. The fact that he slithered out from underneath his plush,Orange County rock to advocate for de facto persecution of sexual minorities is a telltale sign that we are now on terra nova, culturally speaking. Does anybody else out there sense the violent undertones in the new rhetoric?
    When it's all said and done, however, I have to confess that
    there are just a couple of things I haven't quite figured out about Ryan Dobson, like the reason for his bitter hatred of gay people? I also can't help but wonder why this 30'ish, good looking young man with such a flair for fashion lives alone, happily single in a county that just happens to be home to one of the highest concentrations of gay men in the country?

  • (12)

    After a tip from Pennywit, who had trouble visiting our humble pages from Panera Bread, I went to take a look at a website "content filtering service" that apparently has rated mediagirl.org as:

    Category 1 - Violence/Hate/Racism

    Isn't that interesting? I wonder, what does it take to get that rating? Not much, apparently -- especially since this site advocates no violence, and only speaks of it in terms of violent crime and violent wars, really has not addressed anything about racism, except for its pernicious persistence in our society, and has expressed hate only for hate.

    Is this one new facet we'll see of "a better internet"? Helpful services that will wash the web of content that is uncomfortable for the masters?

    But don't feel left out! You too can play the game! Find out your favorite website's rating and share it here!

    Sorry, I already spoiled the fun for:

    media girl gets a clue

    Typical of me, I'm so behind the times, I was just oblivious of others who got the jolly pleasure of having their website censored.

    • Conservative Eric of Classical Values got in on the fun by early February of last year. (I assume he's a conservative, as he immediately checked Instapundit's blogroll and found some 50+ sites, from left and right, were blocked by SonicWall. If I have mischaracterized Eric, my apologies.)
    • Halleyscomet found not only his personal site was blocked, but financial pages of his company's website labeled as pornography. (No comment.)
    • Technology site Walking Paper was branded as occult.
    • Pipilo discovered that SonicWall was blocking all Buzznet sites.
      I asked one of the Panera employees about it and he said that it's a "Christian company" and they don't put up with things like swimsuits on the Internet. Oh my god. Are these people crazy? Are they worshipping the same God I know? Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I wonder if the employee really knows what he's talking about. It can't be true. I know the "Christian Right" sometimes goes a little overboard, but this is ridiculous.
    • Scott Hagaman learned that Ektopos is "occult," too.
    • RandomActOfKindness got a pornography rating. "Well, the ducks are naked I guess."
    • Apparently vegetarianism is deemed too offensive as well: the Veg Blog was blocked.
    • Chris Pirillo offers this:
      I've got readers out there who wanna see my disgusting pictures of hangnails and zits, and you're blocking them because you believe (and I quote) that this site contains "Adult/Mature Content." Uh huh. Well, then... might as well make it all official and post naked pictures of your CEO and lead programmers, eh?

      Interestingly, the Google Ads on that page pitch censoring programs to block pornography.

    The wall against free speech

    The filtering is also apparently used for political purposes, as noted in this From Now On article about censoring school district content for teachers:

    The practice of unfairly blocking teachers (and students) from reading politically oriented materials came to this author's attention when a teacher from a school district in California e-mailed complaining about her district's filtering of an FNO Press journal and Web site criticizing NCLB (http://nochildleft.com).

    The district and its filtering company allowed teachers to access and read the highly partisan marketing efforts and advocacy on behalf of NCLB issued by the outgoing Secretary of Education but blocked the reading of materials critical of NCLB. Even though the Department had been caught paying a journalist to promote its agendas and even though the Department has a very large PR budget advocating NCLB to parents, teachers and others through Web sites and press releases, the district and the filtering company, SonicWALL left the Department's blatant advocacy unfettered while blocking criticism of "No Child Left."

    and notes:

    SonicWALL invents the list of blocked sites. They decide who gets filtered. They do not explain their criteria and do not reveal which sites are blocked. Most clients could not thoughtfully select which sites to block if SonicWALL does not tell them. The default setting for blocking sites is determined by the company and the school district electing this filter is complicit.

    Is that bread or a gag in your mouth?

    In a comment on metrofreefi.com, Chuck Remmell reports that Panera blocks what it wants:

    Do a search on "Panera SonicWALL" and you will find many people who have experienced Panera's site-blocking. It is because of this unnecessary censorship that I no longer go to Panera.

    Below that, Greg Thomas comments:

    Hello, I am a former Field Systems IT employee at Panera. Panera is a publicly held company, so there is no political agenda behind political site blocking. The reason they block POTENTIALLY questionable sites is because Panera is a family institution. The last thing any cafe manager wants is to deal with someone watching porn in the cafe. Yes, I know there are other ways to do that, but at least Panera makes an attempt to not provide another means to do so. Panera's free WiFi is unlike any other in the US, and is the largest free WiFi network in the world. It is provided via a Savvis network and is also one of the most reliable. It may block certain sites, but it is provided free. You want unfiltered access? Go pay for it.

    Aside from the ridiculous notion that a publicly held company cannot have a political agenda -- I mean, what are all those lobbyists doing in Washington, anyway? -- he has a point, which is:

    Whatcha gonna do abbowdit?!

    The thing is, what's being censored are internet sites not owned by Panera being viewed on privately owned laptops people have with them. Or, as Tinfoil + Raccoon puts it:

    Why in the world would a Panera, or any business that offers WiFi to individuals who are using their own machines, filter content in such a broad manner? A google search of panera sonicwall will reveal lots more grumblers. In fairness, WiFi is free at Panera--maybe they need to add employees who can make baguettes and configure crummy filtering software.

    Censored where?

    The Google hits on SonicWall also led to the Wikipedia entry on 'censorware':

    Groups like The Censorware Project begun reverse-engineering the censorware software and decrypting the blacklists to figure out what kind of sites the software blocked. They discovered that such tools routinely block sites that are clearly outside what they claim to block, while also failing to block what they claim to.

    The SonicWall page says:

    At the core of SonicWALL CFS is a revolutionary content rating and caching architecture that rates and filters millions of URLs, IP addresses and Websites. When a network user makes a request, SonicWALL CFS checks the URL or Web site against its immense database. A rating is returned and permission is then granted or denied based on established access policies. Ratings for acceptable Web sites and URLs are cached within the SonicWALL appliance, enabling instantaneous compliance.

    How that rating happens, they don't say. Their ratings categories page describes mediagirl.org's rating category as:

    Anti-social websites that advocate or provide instructions for causing physical harm to people or property through use of weapons, explosives, pranks, or other types of violence.

    and

    Sites that advocate hostility or aggression toward an individual or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality, ethnic origin, or other involuntary characteristics; sites which denigrate others on the basis of those characteristics or justify inequality on the basis of those characteristics; sites which purports to use scientific or other commonly accredited methods to justify said aggression, hostility or denigration.

    Where they're getting this impression, I don't know. Perhaps a little troll whispered in their ear?

  • (12)

    I tuned into HBO's new series, Rome, hoping that it might fill the void in my TV viewing that the recently-ended Six Feet Under left. I was hopeful for this new series, but I soon turned off, long before I switched off.

    "I, Claudius" it ain't...

    This program exists to stroke male egos and remind them of a time when they could be all-powerful, especially with regards to women. It will, of course, be compared to the BBC's production of Robert Graves' "I, Claudius", which casts a very long shadow, even though it aired in the U.S. on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre some 27 years ago. HBO consciously plays upon the screen-burn that "I, Claudius" left on the America's collective memory by casting British actors, which creates an air of high art and legitimacy upon the series. (Whenever Hollywood feels wanting in the acting department, it imports British actors.) HBO has positioned the "Rome" series as high entertainment - a majestic, sweeping historical series with ambitions to match, or even surpass, the much-lauded "Six Feet Under", "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood".

    But - surprisingly - Rome's extravagant, and no doubt costly, production is hindered by the very elements HBO thought would recommend it. The ability to shoot on location de-emphasizes characterization. There are many "gee-wiz, look at all this historical reality!" type shots. These are all well and good, but there had better be a well-written script to back up the pretty scenes, and in Rome's case, there isn't.

    Re-telling the same tired old Tales

    What I was particularly non-plussed about was the way women were portrayed. Yes, I know that women were very much a subordinated group in ancient Rome. Yes, I understand that any attempt at a realistic portrayal of women in Rome would reflect their oppressed status. But I didn't think that the cultural conditions of Rome warranted:

    • not one, not two, but three different naked women in one episode, all of whom were young and very skinny;
    • one woman to position herself in the "doggie" style on a bed for her much older soon-to-be husband to have sex with;
    • a long lingering shot of a woman's breast, with large erect nipple, who is about to breast-feed her baby;

    Concerning the first item: while I don't object to sex scenes, they were so obviously scripted and directed from a male point of view, that these scenes looked scripted in solely for voyeuristic purposes. And not only were they from a male point of view, catering to a male audience, but they were also tailored to modern-day tastes (gee, the women just happened to be skinny, the current ideal for women today). Moreover, in these scenes, the audience is given very little view of their bodies: the men lay on their backs in bed, surveying (as we are meant to direct our attention) the naked women moving on top. The focus is clearly on the heaving, moving bodies of the naked females.

    Concerning the second item: there's nothing inherently wrong with the "doggie style" per se, but the way in which it unfolded was coded in a particularly gross and offensive way. There was a power imbalance between the two characters (one a relatively powerless, inexperienced young women, of high birth, and a much older, much more powerful male character). And then there was the way it unfolded on-screen: we cut from some dialogue between the two very quickly to a shot of her (reluctantly) moving towards the bed, then quickly cut to her form completely naked and frozen in a passive position waiting for the male character to "happen" to her. How humiliating is that? How is that not meant to degrade her, and how are women viewers supposed to feel watching this?

    Concerning the third item: again, there's nothing wrong or offensive about showing a character breast-feeding, and it was warranted in the storyline. (Two women discuss the impending war; one is obviously very worried about the effect war will have on her baby.) But the way it was shot was obviously voyeuristic and meant to gratify hetero male eyes: a long, slow shot of her naked (rather perfect, of course!) petite breast, with the baby's head some ways away so as not to disrupt our view of her breast, and a long (not really needed) view of it before the baby's head is finally slowly brought forward to suckle. The nipple is quite erect and quite prominent (which may or may not be realistic, or may just be for erotic purposes).

    The other objection I have is the way men talk and treat women. Again - yes, I understand that Rome was a rigid and extreme patriarchy. I understand that men would've spoken in dismissive and hateful terms about women. But it's being trotted out in a way so that the viewers can get off on it. There's a lot of "Do as I say, woman!" type stuff going on, and women being mean and nasty to each other in order to curry favor with the male characters, who hold all the power. There's also some infantilization of women (one young woman yells the cliche line "I hate you!" - what a tired, trite cliche that is of an emotional and powerless woman).

    At least "I, Claudius" had the Machiavellian character of Livia, who schemed, killed, maneuvered, and manipulated. She was a formidable character and reeked much havoc, until she was sussed out in the end. In HBO's "Rome", there are no particularly good female characters.

    And why did HBO choose to commission a new series based on a historical portrayal of Rome, anyways? Out of all the story ideas they could've run with, why do a series on Rome? I propose that HBO was drawn to the Rome concept because it portrayed a time when men could be all-powerful and had much higher social status than women; when women led dull lives confined to domestic settings, when men did all the interesting things and things of importance, and when men could be ultra-masculine and brutally violent. What a comforting world for the modern-day male who may dislike the advances women have made to step into; what soothing balm "Rome" offers this male viewer, who must deal with women in the workplace and at home who demand equality and respect. What misogyny HBO still has to peddle. And what better things I have to do with my time than watch HBO's "Rome". But then, I doubt I am the target audience HBO is courting with "Rome".

  • (12)

    from The National Vanguard

    (having trouble with my cut/paste in AOL today. They updated to crap!!)

    Rising Stars: Prussian Blue
    Announcement; Posted on: 2004-12-11 21:13:42

    The lovely and talented Gaede twins now have their own Web site...
    by Ann Hendon
    photography by Kelly Parsell

    They're smart. They're sweet. They're pretty. They're multitalented instrumentalists and singers. They're twins. They're loving sisters to the new baby in the family. They beat neocon radio talk show hosts at their own game. They're just twelve years old. They make beautiful, soaring, harmonious music together -- music with a pro-White slant. They're the daughters of National Vanguard writer and activist April Gaede. And they are the most talked-about duo in the burgeoning Euromusic scene: They are... Prussian Blue.

    Prussian Blue now have their own Web site, where eager fans can listen to a sample cut from their upcoming CD, Fragments of the Future, download pictures of the twins performing at the National Vanguard Folk the System 2004 festival and at Gathering of the Gods, order a DVD, or add an entry to their guestbook.

    National Vanguard Northeast Regional Coordinator Rich Lindstrom said of Prussian Blue:

    "Imagine the hard sell that the ADL and the SPLC will have when confronted with these angelic looking young girls who are wise to their anti-White schemes. I see an avenue opened up to family-oriented White men, women, and children that has not been opened before.

    "These gals will be breaking new ground, and will also capture the imagination of young boys and girls all across the world. The impact could be huge and their influence will encourage 'copycats' ...creating an entire genre of pro-White music. ...I'm hanging on the edge of my seat with anticipation."

    They sing songs about wanting to stay white. they were home-schooled, so consider that in your thoughts. Nice white-supremist parents.

  • (12)

    I have not been a big fan of NARAL's efforts of late. I've written of their ineptitude in hiring hack media companies to produce lame ads that seem to miss the entire point. I've not been alone.

    But really, to actually claim that NARAL and Planned Parenthood are responsible for Alito's confirmation?

    Puhleez!

    South Dakota has now passed legislation making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. It's a law perfectly timed to test the new Supreme Court now that Samuel Alito has joined their ranks. How exactly did we get to this place?

    Ask Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

    They sat back, bilked their membership like an ATM then didn't show up to fight Alito's confirmation, frolicking in their mountain of hoarded cash even as they pissed and moaned. Worse yet, afterwards they told their members to thank those in the Senate -- like Joe Lieberman -- who cast their votes to let this happen.

    Here's the problem with this logic: NARAL did not have a vote on that floor. Neither did Planned Parenthood.

    For the better part of a year now, big sport has been made by A-list bloggers to kick NARAL and blame them for everything from John Kerry's election loss to, now, Alito's confirmation. When Kos does it, you can see the crocodile tears. After all, seeing a man who avidly endorses forced-pregnancy candidates actually whine and complain about NARAL's political tactics regarding reproductive rights is like listening to a deer hunter complaining about the WWF's ineffectiveness at protecting wild game.

    But I really don't get the A-listers' front-page attacks on NARAL, an organization of limited effectiveness and little political clout.

    Jane Hamsher gets this much right:

    The conventional wisdom in Washington these days seems to be that the Democratic party will be just fine if it shifts dramatically to the right and "goes with the flow." NARAL was birthed by pioneering feminists like Betty Friedan who had fire in their bellies, but somewhere along the line they became an institutional behemoth who wanted to court the rich and the powerful more than they wanted to actually serve the cause that so many hard working Americans entrust them to do -- guard choice.

    They began endorsing Republicans like Lincoln Chafee and giving money to Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Yet when the Alito cloture vote went down -- the only meaningful vote, which could've been stopped with 40 "nay" votes from getting to the floor -- all of these people voted "aye." People like Chafee and Joe Lieberman later voted "nay" in the final vote which only required a simple majority of 51. They then ran around and huffing and puffing about this coathanger-wielding like they'd done something really brave on behalf of choice. Nobody was fooled.

    Well, nobody but Planned Parenthood....

    ...

    ...And nobody but NARAL, who said "Thank your senator for opposing Alito!" and then listed a whole slew of Senators who hadn't supported them on cloture.

    But to claim that "NARAL and Planned Parenthood Are Now the Enemies of Pro-Choice"? At worst, they're guilty of bad judgment and political ineffectiveness.

    The enemies are the politicians who cast the deciding votes. The enemies are the activists who try to marginalize women's control over their own bodies as a "pet cause." The enemies are the political bloggers who push candidates like Casey in PA in primaries and attack (using Republican talking points) those who don't agree with them.

    Kicking NARAL may offer some short-term satisfaction, and stir up some controversy. But it won't accomplish much of anything. The problems are the politicians -- the so-called "pro-choice" Republicans who have yet to vote to protect equal rights, and the so-called Democrats who seem to love voting with the Republicans.

    "Pro-choice" doesn't count if they don't vote it.

    "Democrat" doesn't count if they don't vote it.

    That's where the problem is. And at this point, NARAL is at worst simply irrelevant.

  • (12)

    Even when passing the hat, the temptation to lash out proves to be just too much:

    You Can DONATE to Yearly Kos!

    After all, if the pro-choice single issue groups aren't going to do their jobs, we'll just have to do it for them. We will sit down with these politicians and tell them to their face how important privacy and choice are to all of us.

    We can use Yearly Kos to amplify our message beyond the convention hall.

    Oh, they must mean Planned Parenthood, who doesn't just talk the talk but walks the walk -- and provides the women's health services. Yeah, they're no good.

    Right.

    Donate.

  • (12)

    I'm sure a lot of guys would just shrug at Bush's uninvited and unwelcome attempt at massaging German Chancellor Andrea Merkel's shoulders.

    On Majikthise, Lindsay notes:

    Every woman will recognize the guy who sidles up and starts "casually" giving you a backrub without even looking at you, because he wants to preserve deniability in case you freak out. Like any practiced groper, Bush stares right past Merkel as she recoils from his touch. The play fails, but he just moves on, eyes averted, like it's her problem. ("Oh my God, there's a hysterical woman displaying inappropriate behavior! I'll just pretend I don't notice her egregious gaffe.")

    terrance on Republic of T points out that Bush has also kissed and groped men. And of course there's the smoochy relationship he has with Joe Lieberman.

    As a gay man, I’ve had my share of unwelcome gropes. (And I’ve been know to grab a groper by the wrist, turn him to face me, and ask him what he thought he was doing.) It’s not funny or flattering. At best it’s assuming a familiarity that doesn’t exist between two people. At worst it’s a way of dehumanizing someone reducing them to a body part to be groped, and it’s a way of asserting dominance; an unspoken way of saying “I can put my hands on you any time I want, and there’s not much you can do about it.”

    In comments on Republic of T, "Steve" writes:

    I gotta be honest…youre statements are mind-blowingly childish. Get a life…get a job…get something to do instead of sit on your ass all day and come up with stupid things to bitch about. Is Bush an idiot? Did he act a fool in doing what he did? The answer to both is clearly Yes. Did he have misogynist intent? Did he do it to degrade Merkel? The answer to both is No.

    You see, this is how male privilege is defended. It's the "oh he didn't mean anything by it" argument. Women are supposed to just smile when a man decides he would like to massage her or fondle her or grope her or, well, fill in the blank, fellas. "Steve" just does not get it, because he cannot see beyond his own comfort.

    "Kathy" has a great reply:

    I worked in business for many years and mostly with men in the industry I was in and I recognize this readily. I am grateful for your understanding commentary. It is so insulting. It is a way for a man who is insecure about women to put a woman in her place. If you don’t think so, imagine Bush doing this to Vladimir Putin! First, he wouldn’t have the nerve and second what do think Putin would do? This is the German chancellor for goodness sake! Are you kidding me??!!!! Bush may not be drinking but he is certainly acts like a guy in a bar who has issues with women (I have never met an anti-choice person - especially men - who didn’t have mommy issues).

    "Jeff" comes up with the most absurd apologia:

    ’ll tell you what the big deal is. It’s called phallophobia. It’s an irrational fear of male sexuality. Some man touches some woman to which she chooses to find uncomfortable and it’s time to roll out the hyperbole!

    Why the German head of state should just accept Bush's "male sexuality" -- or any woman should just accept any man's sexual expression through touching her body -- is beyond me. But hey, "Jeff" is not only blinded by his privilege, he's offended that anyone should challenge it.

    By the way, "Jeff": what you call "phallophobia" has a grounding in reality. It's called rape, harassment, molestation and violence towards women. Of course you wouldn't think it's a big deal. After all, you're not being manhandled in that way. --And if you were, I bet you'd do a lot more than shrug your shoulders, as Chancellor Merkel did.

    To me, President Bush has always been scary -- even the idea of "President Bush" was scary to me well before November 2000 -- but now he's gotten personally offensive (to Merkel) and, well, rather embarrassing for America. Can't the guy just keep his hands (and bombs) to himself?

    Via Truthdig.