This is what happens when shit gets unreal

Twerking-Class Girl

If you haven’t heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance on the Video Music Awards last night, congratulations and apologies. Congratulations for staying out of the mess which is popular culture and mainstream media. Apologies, because I just spoiled that for you.

I’ve got a mixed opinion of Buzzfeed, but this list provided a pretty good overview of the hot mess which was Miley’s performance. Completists can find the entire performance here on Mashable, and it doesn’t make a lot more sense in context, either. She looks like someone who’s trying too hard to be edgy, sexy, and naughty, in hopes someone will forget she was ever a virginal Disney princess and cash cow.

Wonder why that is.

While the entire internet, including mainstream media sites which theoretically carry important world news, all run around in circles and shout about the risque content of the performance, I keep wondering, Is this really what we’re most concerned about in this dance routine? Slut shaming? That’s all we’ve got? That’s our biggest problem. Because I can think of a few other ones we might want to consider.

  • Our entertainment culture all but requires artists to escalate bad behaviors for marketability. What Miley Cyrus did was the same thing artists have done forever. Put on a controversial show, get some attention, and that will sell. Lest we point a finger solely at the music business, television does this as well. Throw a dart at a programming guide (use Nerf if your guide is on the television or computer monitor), and it’s almost guaranteed to hit a “reality” program. These don’t drum up viewers with people who behave in an acceptable manner.
  • Miley used a black person as a stage prop. Two white, privileged entertainers (if you want to call either her or Robin Thicke that) pranced around on stage, surrounded entirely by black backup dancers made up as toys. At one point, Miley sashayed up to a woman who almost had “stereotype” flashing over her head in neon, and motorboated her ass. Whether or not this was intended as racism, it had every appearance of it.
  • A young woman is having a public meltdown and people are more concerned with her ass in short shorts. Age 20 is damned awkward. Almost everyone goes through a period of trying to find themself, or discovering adult sexuality, or what have you. Most of us have the luxury of doing it in private, without hordes of screaming pundits staring at our every move with a finger on a camera shutter. Child stars don’t get that luxury. Her behavior, and her choices, all remind me of a defiant kid who’s acting out without really thinking of the consequences.
  • What did the Cylon Bear have to do with anything? Or any of the bears, really? Bored, dancing bears stomping around on a stage? What?

But maybe the most important question we should ask is…

Why is this news?

I’m more confused about that than the dancing bears.


Rebecca Watson and the Can of Worms

Several days ago, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick fame posted a video blog about a conversation she had with a man in an elevator. Shortly after, big chunks of the internet exploded into righteous indignation. It was like opening one of those prank cans of peanuts, only instead of a snake on a spring, it was a big, writhing pile of wiggly worms.

Or maybe the spring-snake was a trouser snake. Some of the opinions on the matter seem to think all penises are ready to spring into action given a moment’s notice.

To summarize, Ms. Watson was speaking in Ireland about sexism in the atheist community. A man followed her out of the bar at four in the morning and into an elevator. He said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” Her blogged response to this…

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and — don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

She’s got a point. Following someone to an elevator so you can ask them out is not the way to make them feel comfortable. Doesn’t matter what his intentions were. It was really stupid. No one, man or woman, should go back to a stranger’s hotel room. This is a great way to wake up in a bathtub full of ice, short a kidney and all dignity.

Her response isn’t my issue with this. She was reasonable, realistic, and polite. No blanket blame of men, no hating, nothing. The community’s response, though… Here’s a little sampling. From a Salon article

Surely not all of the men who reacted angrily to Watson’s video are woman-hating sociopaths. It’s probably the case that many were indirectly responding to past personal rejections that made them feel confused and wounded. I’ve known kind, decent men who express supreme frustration over how unclear women can be. Resentment builds up and some become hypersensitive to any female complaint about being hit on.

From PLoS

Therein lies the problem. Many men who don’t think of themselves as misogynists have a blind spot: they become obtuse about women’s feelings that might conflict with their own desires. The rancor they’re directing at Rebecca now suggests they don’t like being called on that flaw.

From ScienceBlogs, regarding how his wife was harassed for wearing low cut clothes…

That’s just how it is when you show some cleavage. If anything, she felt like it was her mistake not to wear something different, or to have altered the dress to be less revealing.

Ladies: This doesn’t happen to men. Ever. I’ve seen cartoons and stuff from the ’50s, and I’ve watched Mad Men, so I know there was a time when that happened all over the place, but honestly, I thought society had grown out of that. I simply didn’t think this happened anymore to anyone.

Guys: This happens all the frigging time. You don’t know about it, because women don’t do this to us, and we don’t do it to each other, but it’s a real thing.

This is where I call bullshit.

Recently, while working in an office filled with women, my husband and his partner found themselves treated like sides of meat. Whispers. Looks. Women asking them to come fix something underneath the desk, where the “ladies” could ogle their asses better. Women asking the two men to pick things up for them. One woman trapping my husband, who was occupied in an activity he couldn’t escape, and spewing ten minutes of innuendo about blow jobs.

Want something a little more public? How about what happened to Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in a London airport?

“I was a little scared. Something happens [inside the scans], and I came out. Then I saw these girls – they had these printouts. I looked at them. I thought they were some forms you had to fill. I said ‘give them to me’ – and you could see everything inside. So I autographed them for them,” stated Khan.

Yeah. Women don’t sexualize men at all. Never happens. That’s not what upsets me about all this, though. What upsets me most about all these screeds is this: When did men become the enemy?

Sexism is real. Women do get harassed for showing too much cleavage, for walking through the wrong part of town, for simply being female. They are often sexualized and discriminated against. Take a look at the list Emily Finke has posted of things which have happened to her:

I live in a world where I’ve had to change my work schedule because I was afraid of being alone with a coworker.

I live in a world where I have to (regularly) suddenly find some reason to go back to the lobby because I don’t want some man following me to my hotel room, or grab a random acquaintance to ride the elevator with me.

The list is worth reading. These things happen, and should never be trivialized. No one, though, seems to want to talk about what happens with men. So I’d like to.

We live in a world where even an appropriately worded and timed request, or compliment, can be seen as sexualizing a woman. Where a man protesting his or another man’s innocent intentions earns insulting psychoanalysis. We live in a world where many people seem to assume a man only looks out for what he wants, and no one else.

We live in a world where a man cannot take his child to the local playground without earning suspicious looks from hovering mothers. Where some people will first assume a man is a pedophile, not a father or uncle there to watch his child play. Heaven forbid he stands outside a school to wait for his child to get out of class.

We live in a world where a man cannot stop to help a lost child in a mall, on a street, or at a grocery store without fearing suspicion and arrest.

We live in a world where people think talking like a television announcer makes them sound serious and dramatic.

All these things happen, too. I’ve seen them. Think having a large cross-section of people believe he’s a rapist and pedophile doesn’t weigh on a man? Think having to dress unassumingly and be careful where he stands at a playground doesn’t bother him? Think knowing people are judging him because of his gender isn’t painful?

Women are the targets of attacks in far more cases than men. No denying the numbers. They have to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings in a way men don’t. It’s an ugly fact of the world, and I hope to hell it changes. As we fight toward that goal, however, we have to remember not to create more casualties. No one should have to feel slighted and afraid because of her – or his – gender.

PLoS said it very well:

The principle is: be sensitive to others’ feelings and don’t make them pointlessly uncomfortable. Simple human decency, not some special consideration that some of us should show to the rest of us.

Men aren’t the enemies. Assholes are the enemies. Pussy or cock, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.

Self-Evident Truths

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence

Signed July 4, 1776

Those words come from the Declaration of Independence, with which America hoisted a middle finger towards Britain and told them it wasn’t them, it was us, but please not to call tomorrow morning.

It’s a long document. TL;DR. (Though we ought to.) That first sentence tells us everything we need to know. Let’s have a look at it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident…
This crap should be obvious. No one should have to tell anyone this stuff.

That all men are created equal…
In this instance, “men” means “humans”. No getting huffy about gender words, because that’ll distract from the issue you really want to focus on. And that would be, everyone was created equal.

That they are endowed by their Creator…
Our Founding Fathers were Christian, but really, this is vague enough you can fit anything in. If you like, imagine this refers to God, Goddess, your mother or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

With certain unalienable rights…
This means, these rights cannot be taken away. I’m going to emphasize that. No one can take these rights away from another person. These are sacred, inviolable rights to which every homo sapien is entitled.

That among these are Life…
You know, living. Heartbeat, breathing, the works. No one has the right to take life away from someone else.

Freedom to do and to choose what goes on in the life from above.

And the pursuit of Happiness.
This means, everyone has the right to chase whatever it is which will make them happy, and give them a fulfilling life. Basket weaving. Flamenco dancing. Rollerskating while wearing rainbow socks and a Batman costume.

Holy Rollerskating Rainbow Batmans!

Photo by Joshua Trujillo, Seattle Pi

So what does all that really boil down to?

This means everyone has the right to create a life which will bring them joy. Even the people whose lifestyles you don’t care for. It means you can preach up a storm against perfidy, homosexuality, independent women and noisy proselytizers. Try to convince everyone you want these people are disgusting / wrong / noisy / stupid / whatever your preferred word. If it makes you happy, you can shout yourself blue.

But you can’t take away their right to pursue happiness as they see fit.

A religion does not give the moral ability to take away Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It means the faithful get to spread their church’s message and save souls, but when it comes to laws and legalities, they have no right to take them from others. The city, state and federal governments are not their strong arms.

Too many people get this confused. Too many people think, “My faith says this is right, therefore, I can use the government to enforce my faith’s belief.” This is a country founded on the belief all may worship as they see fit, believe as they like. All may pursue happiness. They think, “My faith defines marriage as between a man and a woman, so the government must, as well. A religious marriage is the only legal marriage.”

A couple can walk down to the records place, get a marriage license, then amble over to a Justice of the Peace and get legally married in the eyes of state and private institutions. No religious ceremony involved. No church seems to have a problem recognizing these marriages, despite God’s total lack of involvement in the process.

No one has to like it. Everyone has to shut the fuck up and deal with it. This is America. Where all men are created equal, and all have the right to pursue happiness.

It’s self-evident. No one should have to say this.

Donkey, Ass

On its best days, Hollywood makes no sense. Look at Tom Cruise. If he makes any sense to you, you may need more help than modern pharmacology can offer.

Hollywood is filled with artistes. People who brim with creative vision, their own ideas and takes on any given topic. All this percolating genius builds up on the inside of the artiste like calcium stains in a coffee pot. Eventually, all you have left are white deposits in funny patterns and a really strange taste left in anything you brew there.

All this coffee talk came from an article I read last night. Gore Verbinski, it seems, has taken on the task of remaking the Lone Ranger. With Johnny Depp cast as Tonto. Now, I grew up on the Lone Ranger. I haven’t seen an episode in years and years, but the last time I checked, Tonto was Native American. Johnny Depp – isn’t.

He is, however, a very large star, and popular like pre-sliced white bread. If you want an actor to draw in audiences, he’s one of them. We’ll gloss right over all the insulting and racially insensitive overtones of this choice. You know them, I know them, and really, since this all gets weirder, we don’t need to stop there.

Weirder, you say? I did, yes. Because…

Director Gore Verbinski is taking inspiration for the central relationship not from the dusty reels of the TV show, but from literary classic Don Quixote. In the new version, the Lone Ranger turns out to be a misguided fool and Tonto the voice of sanity, akin to Quixote’s companion, Sancho Panza.

“The only version of The Lone Ranger I’m interested in doing is Don Quixote told from Sancho Panza’s point of view,” Verbinski told the Los Angeles Times’s “Hero Complex” film blog last week. Suddenly it becomes a lot easier to see why Depp would take the role. “I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We’re not going to do it [straight]; everyone knows that story. I don’t want to tell that story,” the director said.

Wait, wait, wait.

Let me see if I understand this right. The only version of the Lone Ranger story Verbinski wants to do is…Don Quixote. He doesn’t want to tell the Lone Ranger story because everyone knows that story. So he wants to tell the Don Quixote story instead, because no one knows that story.

This is a little like saying you want to direct the A-Team movie. But you don’t want to tell the A-Team’s story. Instead, you want to tell the story of Henry V. Just before the Battle of Agincourt, there’s going to be a brilliant build sequence where they weld a bunch of armor into a creation which will tip the improbable battle into their favor. Then Hannibal will give a speech about Saint Crispin’s day.

And also, the part of B.A. Baracus will be played by George Clooney. He’s sure to fill the seats…

Olly Oxen

When I was a kid, we used to play Hide and Seek. The game went like this:

Someone was It. Everyone else was Not It.

The It Person would count to some pre-designated number. If playing “fair”, the person would count at the top of his lungs and at a slow, measured pace which resembled seconds. When playing “dirty”, the person would count under their breath and at a speed which would have made Billy Mays reach for more blow to keep up.

Those who were Not It would run and scatter to find the most obscure hiding place possible. Most times, they didn’t even end up going to the emergency room for having shared a spot under the shed with a black widow.

The It Person would traditionally yell, “Ready or not, here I come!” Then the hunt would start, hopefully to find the kid who ended up with the spider before the allergic reaction to the venom got too bad.

Now, sometimes, a kid couldn’t find a hiding spot before time ran out. Or perhaps they’d found two, and had trouble deciding. One could endure no greater embarrassment than to end up caught out, choosing between behind the tree or under the car. In such a situation, only one solution could provide any relief: blame the It Person.

“You didn’t yell, ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ No fair!”

I bring up this slice of childhood because I read something which reminded me of those younger, simpler times. Mayor Bloomburg of New York authorized “stings” at gun shows in Arizona to see if one could buy guns illegally there, especially those such as what were used in the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

To no one’s surprise, private investigators came back with a well-exercised Second Amendment.

The investigators bought a Glock 17 9 mm handgun without a background check and two 33-round extended magazines from private sellers. Investigators also bought a Sig Sauer Pro 9 mm handgun and a Smith & Wesson handgun from two private sellers who continued with the sales even after being told by the undercover buyers that they probably could not pass a background check.

The Arizona Attorney General was horrified, of course, and vowed to do whatever he could to bring gun shows in line with the law- No, haha, just kidding. He bleated like a goat about the entire thing.

Bloomberg’s office didn’t bother to give Arizona police any advanced notice of the plan, Attorney General Tom Horne said.

“The fact that no such notification was made indicates this so-called sting is nothing less than a public relations stunt,” Horne said.

This sounds really familiar to me. “You didn’t yell, ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ No fair!”

All right, so it was rude. I get that. Bloomburg didn’t play nice. He didn’t count out loud, he counted too fast, and he didn’t say he was coming. I hate to tell Mr. Horne, but the people looking to chlorinate the gene pool a little by shooting up a Walmart aren’t going to, either. Public relations stunt or no, it brought up a valid point.

Maybe, though, the AG in AZ is right. We need to go back to the days of our youth. We don’t need gun control laws. We need Ready or Not Laws! If everyone who wanted to maim, rape, shoot, bend, fold, spindle or mutilate another person would just yell, “Ready or not!” then there would be no problem. Everyone could find a hiding place. If we got really fancy, we could tack Olly Olly Oxenfree laws on the end where, if the shooter couldn’t find someone to hammer in a set amount of time, everyone got to come in safely. Then they’d have to file another Ready or Not Notice and try again.

In closing, I leave you with what a rational discussion about this might look like: