Today I Learned...

Putting the edible back in credibility

(no subject)
I was looking over a series of decisions I made over the last 3-6 months and saw a series of decisions I really liked. I hadn't labeled them as related them as related before, and that is part of the feeling of satisfaction: each situation got to be its own thing, and overall added up to be good for me and say good things about me. This is a really neat feeling.

For bonus points: I acted well, but not optimally. And that was okay. My choices cost me slightly more time or energy than the optimal choice, but nothing was irrevocably ruined.

Review: the concept of bluetooth headphones
I got these because the headphone jack on my phone broke, and I wasn't going to not listen to something during my 45 minute bus commute. But actually their biggest utility has come from home usage. It is nice to be able to listen to audiobooks while walking around the house cleaning without wearing pockets, by which I mean pants. It lets me listen to music easily while wearing a pocketless skirt. It is extra nice to be able to charge the phone while you listen. So overall, I am a fan.

Caveats: check the battery life against your usage pattern before you buy, and make sure it uses a standard charger. My first pair used a proprietary set and that made it a much bigger pain to keep charged.

G-ddamnit Disney
5 or 10 years ago I heard someone complain about people who complained about the villain in Aladdin being Arab, which was stupid because everyone in the movie was Arab. Several years later I learned that actual complaint was that, in a movie where everyone is Arab, the villain looks a lot more ethnically Arab and has some elements in common with racist caricature (darker skin, bigger nose), which is considerably more valid. Disney seemed to have genuinely learned from the experience, realized that it couldn't apply the same processes to non-white characters as they did to white ones., and started doing community outreach for potentially sensitive movies.

Which is why it is so very disappointing they made the exact same mistake in Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. The good genie is played by Peter Gadiot, who is of Dutch and Mexican descent and is extremely pretty. Jafar is played by Naveen Andrews, who is of Indian descent, has much darker skin and a much bigger nose than Gadiot, and is looking considerably less attractive he was in Lost (where he played an Iraqi).

I'm only three episodes in. Here's hoping the pretty one ends up being secretly evil.

It's pretty well established that, on average, men compete harder than their baselines in tournament style competitions, and women compete less than their baseline (unless they believe they have a very good chance of winning, in which case the effect disappears. I don't see how anyone reads that and decides that men are the ones to emulate). This rings very true for me personally. I'm very sensitive to the effort:reward ratio, and given a good chance I will expend a bunch of energy to no purpose, I walk away.

Last month I judged a middle school video game competition. Of 30 contestants, only one won anything official. But all of the children, regardless of talent level, got practice talking to strange adults, which was the real purpose of the competition. Now I am wondering how many incidentals to tournament play I never received because my effort:reward calculation only included the official prize. Behavior changes may be afoot.

My impression of House Season 7
House: We can't date, I'm too screwed up and I won't change.
Cuddy: I love you exactly as you are. You don't have to change.
Cuddy: Those things you've always done? Totally unacceptable now that we're dating.
Martha: I'm the love child of Scrappy Doo and a Mary Sue.

Review: Lollipop Chainsaw
This is pretty much an aesthetic with some gameplay attached. It is perfect for playing while listening to an audiotape two days after oral surgery.* The Zero Punctuation review was pretty spot on.

I played this game despite knowing the gameplay would be meh because I'd heard rumblings of secret feminist messaging and I wanted to have an informed opinion.

First, there is no denying the game is objectifying as hell. But people commenting on that in a derogatory or entitled way are portrayed as assholes. I found that argument unconvincing when applied to Sucker Punch because it was so subtle, but Lollipop Chainsaw literally has a villain attacking the protagonist with misogynistic slurs (starts ~6:30 in the video below).

Juliet's enjoyment of sex is treated as a good thing and shockingly nonperformative, given that the game opens with

In the piece I linked to, Jim Sterling talked about objectification and victim blaming as it applied to Nick, Juliet's boyfriend who was recently lost his body. After playing the game: yes, the elements he refers to are there, and yes, that's a valid interpretation. I missed most of them because I skipped half the cut scenes and my audiobook blocked a lot of the in game dialogue. You could view that as mission failure on my part, but I think it's a failure on the game's part to hold my interest. Ultimately, I could see this game aiding in convincing an on-the-fence sexist that slut shaming was bad because it was getting between him and tits, but not that victim blaming or objectification was bad. It's a mark above Tomb Raider but not an antidote to it.

*Not code for "while high on painkillers," although I'm sure if narcotics worked on me this would be the perfect game to play while on them.

I find all of the actions described in ferret's post on not forcing your partner to ask every time they want something very positive and healthy, but the characterization of doing his part to manage his partner's happiness extremely problematic. No one is responsible for anyone's happiness but their own.*

I think a healthier framing for the same actions is: your partner is responsibility for their own happiness. If you want to stay in your life, it's your responsibility to make them happier with you than without you.

*And to a certain extent their children and other dependents.

More Race and Comedy
Comedian Leslie Jones said some very controversial things on SNL last week. You can view the clip here for now, when Hulu inevitably takes it down google "Leslie Jones first SNL Weekend Update."

I strongly believe that comedy needs to be evaluated in context and you should watch the whole clip. I originally wrote this to guilt you, the 3 friends who read this, into watching the whole clip rather than just the reading the excerpt, but I accidentally guilted myself into watch the entire episode of SNL to make sure there wasn't any context that would make me look like an idiot. As it turns out, there was, in the first 30 seconds.

Before we get to that, let me tell you the joke. People voted Lupita Nyong'o, a black woman, one of the most beautiful people of the year. Nyong'o is a bigger deviation from classic mainstream beauty standards than previous Officially Hot black women like Halle Berry or Tyra Banks, but hews much closer than Leslie Jones. Jone's joke is that during slavery she would have been the desirable one, because she's so large and strong.

The way we view black beauty has changed. I'm single right now. But back in the slave days, I would have never been single. I'm six feet tall and I'm strong, Colin, STRONG! I mean look at me! I'm a mandingo! [...]

Back in the slave days, my love life would have been way better. Master would have hooked me up with the best brother on the plantation and every nine months I'd be in the corner having a super baby. Every nine months I'd be in the corner just popping them out. Shaq! Kobe! Lebron! [...]

I would be the number one slave draft pick. All of the plantations would want me.

On its own, the only joke this "a loud black woman is saying several things white people would be shot for saying."* But you notice she kind of randomly starts listing basketball players at the end? Not just athletes, but basketball players? The show's opening bit was about LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling yelling at his mixed-race mistress for instagraming a photo of herself with Magic Johnson, who is a famous basketball player and also black. I think Jones's monologue was a deliberate call back to that, implying that the modern NBA system has some parallels with slavery. I am well disposed to this argument: sports destroys the bodies of tens of thousands of young, mostly minority, men in exchange for making a few of them rich while the white owners become wealthy. That's a real joke. She also touches on the deeply vulnerable of how beauty standards leave her out in the cold.

Unfortunately, the joke is still not very well made. You can't count on your audience having watched Schooled and read Ta-Nehisi Coates fall out of love with football. Chris Rock's rich vs. wealthy and Louis CK'sOf Course, But Maybe are great examples of the kind of baby steps you need to walk through to explain dense, unfamiliar ideas.

Sadly, there's no excuse for her framing institutionalized rape as not only consensual, but deeply wanted. There's no subversion in its use. And on twitter she called anyone who thought she was describing rape a "fucking moron". I'm also deeply disappointed she invoked "no one would criticize a man for doing this" and "you criticizing me is the problem with black people."

In conclusion: I have no problem with any of the topics of the joke, but find this particular implementation pretty lacking. But not as lacking as viewing it out of context would make you think.

*Anyone complaining that this is unfair: The social taboo against you saying these things is a direct consequence of you being on the winning side of something much worse. So while you are technically correct, you're not going to like my suggestions for making it more fair.

The social contract
This post on Ask A Manager has bothered me for the last week. The letter writer (I'll use the pronoun he, although the letter doesn't specify), locked a co-worker on a balcony minutes before a client meeting. The co-worker escaped, physically pulled the LW out of the meeting, and threatened him with bodily harm. The LW is really upset by this and wondering what to do.

Threatening people with violence is not okay. The victim should have handled that differently. But I can come up with lots of contexts that would mitigate, although not justify, the victim's bad behavior. Maybe this was the culmination of a long line of microaggressions. Maybe he had good reason to believe reporting it to management wouldn't work. Maybe he had a phobia or PTSD. Maybe he was stressed about missing the client meeting, and the possibility the LW was deliberately cutting him out. Any or all of those could lead to threatening violence to look like a good idea.

There's very little context that could help LW. The default action is "not locking co-workers in anything, ever", and he needs to provide an affirmative defense. The full letter attempts this, and fails miserably.

So while the victim still shouldn't have threatened violence, I have no sympathy for the LW. You don't get to be mad that people failed to uphold the social contract in responding to your violation of the social contract.

Rape in Art- Game of Thrones
[Spoilers for Game of Thrones seasons 1 and 4/Song of Ice and Fire books 1 and 4]

I've long been of the opinion that what's problematic for children is not violence in movies, it's violence without consequences. In my world, showing guns firing without showing the bodies falling (as was done in the Matrix broadcast television cut) would get the more restrictive rating, because it emphasizes the badassery but not the grossness of death. When people complained about the rapes in Game of Thrones, I saw it as asking for gunfire without bullet holes. It's a violent, misogynistic world, and rape is one of the consequences of that.

Some people argue "but it has dragons, so realism cannot be a thing it aspires to." This is dumb and it should feel dumb. Speculative fiction, and to a lesser extent all fiction, is based on making some weird ass assumptions, and then drawing logical conclusions from them. Dragons are an assumption. Violence and misogyny are assumptions. Rape is a conclusion. If you would like to read a less violent book, I support your choice, but if it is going to be violent, it needs to have rape.

I'm especially bothered by people who want to have the same penetrative acts, but make them consensual. I consider Danny and Drogo's wedding night to be rape because a 13 year old sold to a warlord is not capable of giving enthusiastic consent as we define it now. Making it ugly to watch was a moral improvement over the books. I thought Jamie's rape of Cersei was artistically worthy: yes, this man risked his life to save a woman he didn't even like from being raped, but that's not going to stop him from raping a different woman when it was convenient for him. I saw it as symbolic of him being tired of being manipulated by Cersei, and is his own mind taking his power back from her very real manipulations. We the audience know it's deeply wrong to take power back in that way (and that the reason she's sexually manipulative is that the world has denied her any other form of power), but it's completely believable that Jamie doesn't, and this is the logical consequence of that.

Then this article pointed out that the other logical consequence of GoT's assumptions is men and boys being raped. Not as much as women and girls are raped, but more than zero, and certainly in places without women like the night's watch. The article came out before season 3, and Theon's prolonged torture is both a counter argument and a reinforcement- the torture is at times highly sexualized, but he's never penetrated. You could argue it's implied, but not as strongly as it is for the female rapes we've seen. And it doesn't address things like "really? we're terrified Gilly will be raped but that's never once come up as an issue for Sam himself?"

So Game of Thrones is showing gun fire, and showing the gore of bullets hitting flesh, but only for half the population. The other isn't hit, or shakes it off. That's not an okay compromise. GoT, you can either be more uncomfortable or less, but your current level is not justifiable.

You are viewing pktechgirl