merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)

(Note: I spent most of tonight writing a Very Serious Post for the Austin NOW blog, talking about why Social Security cuts are a feminist issue, so now I will relax by writing about fluffy pop culture.)

I detest most ‘reality’ television. But one of the few such shows I totally dig is So You Think You Can Dance. I resisted it for a few seasons, because I thought it would irritate me solely on the basis of being reality TV. But then the gay male roommate with whom I shared a flat in San Francisco while I was there for a summer seminar a few years ago introduced me to it, and I was hooked after one episode of sitting on the couch with him, eating ice cream, jovially bickering about our favorites, and forgetting to breathe as I watched all these incredible performers blend athleticism and art to create such ephemeral beauty. (I tell you what, that was some seriously fun fag hagging; we were both aware of the cliche and amused by it.)

A few reasons why SYTYCD is a fixture in my DVR:

  • I love dance. I own not just a DVD of Center Stage, but the soundtrack. For real, I am a dork for dance. SYTYCD is a delicious weekly buffet of all kinds of dancing. Woot!
  • The lighting, costuming, and makeup are freaking amazing! That’s got to be a hard job - so much to do every week, and very little time in which to do it. On rare occasions I’ll have a “…. seriously?” moment with the costumes, but overall I think they do an outstanding job.
  • There are tons of people of color on it - dancers and choreographers, sometimes judges - but it’s not relegated to the second-class status of a “black show” that advertisers think white (read: middle and upper class) people won’t watch.
  • The random drawing of partners results in many multiracial pairs, and I think it’s awesome that we’re visually normalizing that a little bit more. I still have such vivid memories of season 4 competitors Ade and Melissa’s incredibly moving contemporary piece inspired by breast cancer survivors. Yeah, that’s a big black dude and a teeny white ballerina, nobody found it strange, they both got to play complicated characters, and all the judges were crying at the end because the performance was so gorgeous and amazing. And from the same season, Joshua and Katee, a black man and a Japanese-Irish-American woman, rocking a Bollywood routine was, for me, a multiculturalism I can totally get behind: learning, sharing, beauty, and joy without cultural appropriation and with respect. Rad.
  • I think it’s so kickass that all kinds of dance are treated equally. “High culture” (read: rich people like and fund it) contemporary dance, “middlebrow” (read: commercial and hobby dancing) forms like Broadway and ballroom, and “lowbrow” (read: stuff poor people do) styles like hip-hop and Bollywood that are strongly associated with people of color, are set side-by-side. We watch them one after the other, and they’re just positioned as different styles rather than having icky race and class bullshit attached. That’s a big deal.
  • They make such a point of saying that dance is for everyone and (not wholly, but to a large extent) backing that up for real. A few episodes ago, they featured a performance by a couple from Axis Dance Company made up of a guy in a wheelchair and an able-bodied woman, and it was amazing. A loosely affiliated nonprofit, the horribly named Dizzy Feet Foundation, offers scholarships to increase access to dance education regardless of ability to pay. And this season, they have beginning, intermediate, and master-level routines for National Dance Day so more people can join in. And the beginning routine demo video has a person in a wheelchair doing it! That’s awesome.

The show is not unproblematic. The panel of judges does tend to be majority white. So even though Lil’ C annoys me, I would like to see him and Debbie Allen up there a lot more.

Also, there’s a ton of tangled-up gendered and homophobic bullshit. There is a lot of annoying rhetoric about what sort of movement is “masculine” or “feminine.” It is heteronormative; the dancers are sorted into male-female couples and an irritatingly large percentage of the dances have love story plots. Head judge Nigel Lythgoe said some dumbass things about same-sex ballroom couples a while back; GLAAD did some outreach and this got better, but still, that was crap.

And boy, do they deal weirdly with body size. The dance world is notorious for this, and SYTYCD is no exception. This season, sisters Sasha and Natalia Mallory both made it through Vegas, but thin Sasha was selected for the top 20 and bigger Natalia (she doesn’t even read as fat to me, she’s just considerably larger than all the other teeny tiny dancers) was not - and no real reason was given. It’s true that Natalia got diagnosed with diabetes in Vegas and of course that needs dealing with - but then why didn’t they just say that? It totally feels to me like the partnering issue she had in Vegas, when she was paired with a very small guy for a routine with serious lifts and, what a surprise, they had trouble, is the undiscussed elephant in the room here. This is also crap. Put her with a guy with enough leverage and strength to swing her around, and she’s lovely. I get that there are practical concerns here - several of the guys in the top 20 are quite small, and they’re randomly paired, so the partnering issue would come up again in unpredictable ways - but I just feel like they were first patronizing (“Awww, it’s so cute that you’re SO GIGANTIC but you’re still a good dancer”) and then silent because they didn’t know what to say. FEH.

So it’s not perfect. But it does have a lot of awesome subversive qualities, plus so much gorgeous dancing. My revolution totally has dancing in it.

merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
I am LOVING Eureka. A police procedural set in a town full of supernerds! Plenty of women and people of color who are portrayed as smart, capable, and complicated! It's smart and well-plotted, the time travel plot lines did not piss me off, and it has banter! Win.

Environmental racism: a long, shameful 'Merkin tradition!

Steven Tyler was an impressively arrogant, self-centered, exploitative asswipe in the '70s and he should have gone to jail at some point. Ye holy stars, that poor girl. Part of my reaction is feminist outrage, part of it is pure Southern affrontedness - she could have ruined his life by speaking up and she didn't, and then he digs up all this garbage when she's married and many times a mother and dumps it into a memoir which hits the NYT bestseller list. Yeesh. I had hoped getting sober made him less of an asswipe, but this was a continuation of his previous exploitation of her, and he still votes Republican and plays at their fundraisers, so that hope is gone.

I have serious issues with Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, but sometimes she does awesome stuff, like have her picture taken hugging a young Muslim girl and give great queer-inclusive relationship advice. Well played, madame!

This piece on white privilege in feminist organizations made me feel ill in that way that true and painful things make my stomach clench up. Ouch. Y'all, if I'm an asshole in this particular way, will you please call me out on it? Thanks.

So this story about a couple who choose not to disclose their child's sex/gender has made several appearances in my Facebook feed. I really like this story and am pleasantly surprised by how sympathetically it was written.I have things to say about this, and it gets long )
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
This comic is so well done and so depressing. I highly recommend you skip the comments unless you really enjoy trolling - although I'll admit that the exchange where a dude posted, "Feminism is a hate movement," and someone responded, "this is the most half-assed trolling i’ve seen so far. have a red bull, champ," totally cracked me up.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
- i'm totally brain-crushing on liss at shakesville today. this piece on the myths about female friendship gets a big amen from me. she breaks it down beautifully and eloquently, as always.

- tim wise at alternet offers a stunning thought experiment showing how white privilege functions in the cultural conversation about the tea party protests. highly recommended.

- chloe at feministing talks here about michael kimmel, a great male ally. for those of us who struggle to understand and talk to some of the dudes in our lives, this has some useful bits. and i'm really curious to read his book now. (as an aside, i want to find and deprogram the asshole mentioned briefly here who wouldn't let shelby knox into a UT frat party because she was "too fat." fucking seriously?)

- i have mixed feelings about stephanie herold's piece about how young feminists are awesome and mostly online. many of the young feminists she interviewed are doing some badass stuff, and that's awesome. but i kind of feel like she's saying that online feminism is What We Do nowadays, that this is the official third/fourth/wtf-ever wave way to do feminism, and i think that's reductive and short-sighted. you know i loves me some interwebs. email is great. blogging is great. twitter... is okay. online tools that allow you to email your representatives in one click are fine. but these days, it's necessary but not sufficient. for example, unless you have a compelling personal story to go with it, sending a boilerplate email to your state rep or member of congress is not very effective anymore precisely because it's trivially easy; they know that, and they value it accordingly. they've got to get an avalanche of such emails for it to make a difference, and for that to happen, you've got to be hooked in with an interest group, at least to the extent that you're on their mailing list.

saying brilliant things online is wonderful, but it's just one part of a larger struggle. it's not a substitute for voting, running for office, donating to or volunteering for pro-woman candidates, donating to or volunteering with pro-woman organizations, writing op-eds or letters to the editor, offering workshops, calling people out at your workplace or holiday dinner table, or any of the other million ways to do feminism. i don't think it is true that we're "mostly" online, but if that were the case, then frankly, i don't think we would be doing our share.

i'm sympathetic to her irritation at older feminists for clinging to their power and excluding younger women from leadership positions talking smack about how younger feminists are lazy or nonexistent or don't get it. it's really damn annoying. i have been tempted many times to write to certain big national feminist groups (hell, most of them) something like:

"hi there! i worked for your organization for free! a lot! i do a whole helluva lot of feminist work! i weave it into my everyday life, and i also do a nontrivial amount of all that formal stuff you talk about. now that i have money, i give it - to women candidates and feminist nonprofits. i go to lobby days, i track bills, i harass my friends and family to call/write/vote... i play the game exactly how you say it should be played, and you know what you haven't done? you're so busy thinking about *your movement*, you can't see that it's *ours* now, and you haven't asked me what i think or care about. if you have asked, you haven't listened or incorporated what i say, because i'm just a kid and what do i know? you haven't offered me a spot on a committee where i can make a difference, because, hey, we've already got one feminist under 40, do we need more? and while you're happy for the organization to take credit for what i accomplish, you don't listen when i say here's how we can do more and better. and on and on and on.

so hey, feminist leader who's all 'i'm kind of a big deal,' get the fuck over yourself. have you ever thought that maybe there are things YOU don't get? work on your intersectionality. listen to your younger colleagues. i have about a million more suggestions, and am available to discuss them. <3 me."

whew, check the pent-up anger there. see? i really do get why she's frustrated. but it's not okay to just be like, "i took my toys and went to the internet, so EFF YOU, ellie smeal/kim gandy/gloria feldt/dolores huerta/whomever! we younger babes will just do feminism in our little online sandbox!" that's no way to effect change. it's hard, and it sucks to feel like you're fighting your own organization/movement at the same time you're fighting everyone else. heaven knows i'm aware of this. but if we want big, structural things to change, like health care infrastructure, pay inequity, laws about violence against women, etc, we've got to use every tool at our disposal.

note that i'm not saying every feminist must take part in every kind of activism. i'm addressing this article in this way specifically because it explicitly purports to be a state-of-the-movement update. the internet is one tool in the box. but it isn't the whole box, and it can't and shouldn't be. i grant you it's kind of a swiss army knife - it works for conversations, fundraising, keeping people informed, linking up members of small groups spread over large areas (trans* folk in particular have used it to great effect), all kinds of things. but have you ever tried to use your swiss army knife screwdriver to put in or take out more than one screw? it kind of sucks, doesn't it? i bet you went and got your regular screwdriver or even a fancy battery-powered one, because you know what? there are other tools made specifically for that purpose that work better for that job. and if you're trying to dismantle the master's house, there's a big damn lot of things that need doing, and they cannot all be done with a single tool.

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merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
merielle

February 2016

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