SSDD

I have been redirecting my mental efforts toward what has become an actual, viable career path for me. That has proven far, far less fruitful than I hoped. I need to turn back to writing, and frankly I don’t know how well that will go since I’m no good at the SEO, clickbait-headlines, algorithmic nonsense.

I turn 30 years old on Wednesday. I will have been in Virginia for five years on Thursday. I’ve been really trying, mostly successfully, not to lose it, to remember to reset benchmarks, to give myself credit for the progress I’ve made. But there was some bad news yesterday and some more today, and I’m teetering on the edge. I need to thoroughly examine where I am vs. where I want to be - and walk the fine line between self-preservation and selfishness.

A friend once told me I “don’t fuck around with excellence.” I guess that’s true, but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of messing around recently. I call this “flailing.” “Shadowboxing,” perhaps, if I want to give myself more credit.

Things are going to change, one way or another. Part of that change may be taking a break from social media. Part of it may be kicking a job search into high gear and actually trying to leave, the way I’ve been saying I would for…five years.

Anyway, thirty is going to be a year I don’t fuck around with excellence.

More to come, perhaps, in the coming months.

The Personal is Political: Speaking about media and feminism while female

I wrote professionally for the online magazine California Literary Review for four years. My piece defending Hit Girl garnered something like 90,000 views. It (and some of my others) got some nasty, threatening comments – but you can’t see them anymore since my editor wisely deleted them. When CLR closed down, I began writing for PolicyMic. My first few pieces at the publication for millenials were about Mad Men (my forte) and Game of Thrones (with which I am nerdily, happily familiar – and about which I have very strong opinions). 

Silenced: Woman with Duct Tape

See bottom of post for more. Image courtesy Reductress.

I haven’t logged on to PolicyMic in eight months (until just now) because I was left so fatigued by the number of people calling me a terrible person, telling me I should just give up, that I’m obviously not invested, nor do I know a thing about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, or media criticism in general. I was completely beaten down by the number of people who think sexism in media is plainly not worth having a conversation about. It’s just a thing, and we should just deal with it. And that was a monitored forum.

re: the hopelessness of media, and why I should stop talking about it:

Could anyone in this discussion actually come up with an entertaining story line that would attract an audience globally with high ratings that did not portray sexist views of either sex and that did not objectify beauty and muddy the gain of power?

re: my comment that the casting directors didn’t portray Brienne with the kind of hideous features about which Martin writes (the hideousness that excepts Brienne from my argument – women in the canon are measured by and utilize their fuckability):

I don’t think Gwendolyne Christie is gorgeous. [Ed. This is not about your dick, dude.] 

re: not expecting more from my television:

you shouldn’t expect period pieces to reflect something antithetical to the period.

re: why I should just shut up:

It seems like you’re just looking to complain about women’s issues for no good reason other than to complain.

Point: completely, 100% missed. I’m not saying you have no right to disagree; I was, at the time, asking that people listen and consider. And I was repeatedly shot down for speaking at all. This is not to denounce the commenters on PolicyMic, who all things considered are a thoughtful, respectful bunch. But you know, not all commenters. 

Gwendoline Christie

Totally hideous. Image courtesy With An Accent.

I’ve never been super active on Twitter, for which, in circumstances like this, I’m grateful. The #YesAllWomen hashtag that appeared last weekend in the wake of the UCSB shootings took a collective fist, thrust through my ribs, and grabbed me right in the heart bits. Then it squoze. (Yeah, makin’ up words. How I do.) Not because I want to complain about women’s issues just to complain, but that I have been these women.

Two very close friends of mine were assaulted in high school and college, resulting in permanent psychological (and physical) damage. The authorities were no help. An old friend’s parents wouldn’t let her walk across campus at night for fear she would get raped (which evinces an ignorance regarding stranger danger). Even as I knew this was logically fallible – that the likelihood of some guy jumping out of the bushes and raping her because she was “pretty” – it affected me as a vulnerable 16-year-old, placing in my developing brain an insidious fear of moving independently that I had trouble shaking. I have known practically from birth that I can’t leave a drink unattended in a bar. I have, without really thinking about it, developed a set of responses to and avoidance methods for harassment (i.e. if they’re in a car and yell obscenities, I flip them off and find the nearest crowd; if they’re next to me on the sidewalk I ignore completely – which often means getting called bitch, whore, cunt; if I’m in the underpopulated country by myself, I don’t get out of the car much). I’ve been cruelly ostracized by both men and women for refusing men and for not refusing men. I carry my keys in my knuckles when I walk alone, and I know to knee the groin and then stomp the foot for maximum pain. But hey, you’ve seen all of these things on #YesAllWomen, right?

So why is it that, when I try talking to men I know and love, men I know love and respect women, their first responses are to dismiss, to say things like, “I don’t have the energy for that” or “what the fuck does hashtag activism even mean?” “You like to wallow in this stuff” and “I have never seen these things happen, but if I did…” And maybe worst of all, to say, “not all men are like that.”

Point: completely missed

This is in response to a brilliant piece over on Pop Tortes, one that links to both Arthur Chu’s nerd call to arms around the roles of women in media (particularly geek media) and Ann Hornaday’s much-lamented piece discussing the role of women in media (particularly Judd Apatow media). Look at the differences in response to two people making exactly the same point. Just. Look. You guys, this is why my Mad Men pieces have been so like book reports, containing little other than observations about the show’s story. I am a film critic; I devoted my education to feminist criticism. I care deeply about my friends, myself, my autonomy, and my freedom to speak and write. And I’ve been unwilling to dive back into that sea because frankly, it depressed the everloving fuck out of me to be told repeatedly that I should just quit complaining. But look at what Hornaday endured; look what Zerlina Maxwell and Lindy West go through regularly. If you have a really thick skin, look what Erin Gloria Ryan witnessed as a fly on the wall for eight horrible, frightening hours in a pick-up artist forum. Speaking While Female is a dangerous prospect, emotionally and sometimes physically.

Peggy Olson tells it like it is.

Fuck yes, Peggy. Image courtesy HuffPo.

And hey, those of you who say that if you ever see this behavior, you’ll be valiant and try to stop it: THIS IS THE TIME. You see it. We are talking about it. Listen. Pay attention. Sympathize with your loved ones and don’t interrupt or speak over them. Realize that no one is accusing you, personally, of being a bad person who hates women. But realize just as the insidious fear lurking in the back of my mind as a result of my socialization is important to examine, that your own socialization is to be scrutinized and jostled and shaken up. And please realize that telling people it isn’t worth the conversation is making you part of the problem.

No, I won’t stop complaining, and no, I won’t stop Speaking While Female. I’m on hiatus right now for personal reasons. I was unable to be calm and reasoned about the UCSB shootings and #YesAllWomen earlier in the week, and this is me trying to remedy that. Anger is appropriate, and focused anger can get things done. More important than being angry, perhaps, is making sure we’re having the conversation. All of us. All the time. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.

 

P.S. I just Googled “woman with duct tape” because I’m lazy and wanted a simple, effective image on this post. You want more evidence we’ve got problems? Check it out. 

Not dead, just braindead

I’m alive, and I know it’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote. A friend said recently that nothing’s worse than having a blog and not keeping up with it – and I wholly agree. But I simply haven’t had the brainpower to write much in the last few weeks.

Work is insane. I had a really vicious panic attack last Tuesday. I studied intensely hard for, then took an expensive, nebulous, comprehensive certification exam that may mean some kind of monetary acknowledgement from my employer (which would certainly make the panic attacks more worth it, right? …right.) - and hopefully, mobility. But that’s assuming I passed, and I hate to jinx these things. I’ll hear sometime in the next week or so.

Some friends came to visit from Indiana, and that was wonderful. We saw a really big black bear from less than 40 feet away. We rock climbed. We drove to the West Virginia border to watch the Camelopardalids meteor shower at 2 a.m. We ate Indian food and watched ducklings. It was a great visit, fantastic to see old friends – and way better for my mental health than delving deeply into a TV show.

I have zero mental energy to tackle the UCSB shootings. I have very, very strong feelings on the subject, and I’m too tired and yeah, kind of afraid to be publicly strident about it because I can’t deal with the fallout right now. When tragedy strikes, it provides us an important lens through which to examine our cultural inadequacies. For all of us, both men and women, to take a close look at what’s going wrong. It also allows us to lift up the rocks and examine the scum that have been living in remote corners of the internet, advocating for treating women like objects to be won, and tell them this shit will not fly. #YesAllWomen is important, and I’ve already argued my point into the ground with people I love re: the value of focused anger, forgiveness and divinity, and actually taking an opportunity to look at what women go through all the time. I’m angry, other people are angry, and we have every right to be. I don’t feel sympathy for anyone but the victims. There’s plenty of great reading out there about mental health (which frankly I don’t think should factor into this discussion at all – he committed a hate crime), gun control, masculinity, and pervasive misogyny. You don’t need to hear it from me.

There are three episodes of Mad Men to recap, and I’ll probably write one lengthy piece next week sometime. That is, assuming I am not drowning in spreadsheets and busywork. The next month is going to be tough, and even if I hear that I’ve passed the certification exam, I won’t really be able to take a break until July. I just don’t want to sacrifice my writing to my day-to-day employment. We’ll see how it goes.

Wish me luck.

Musing on Mad Men, movies, & being a real adult

I’m studying for an exam that’ll take place on Thursday (May 15), so my recap for this week’s episode of Mad Men, “The Runaways,” will be bundled into the next week’s piece. But I wanted to write a listicle of sorts, punctuated with exclamation points! Because this week’s episode deserves some !!!.

- Betty Draper is more of a teenager than her daughter! (Also, doesn’t want to be a Stepford wife for actual.)

- A threesome is pretty much never the answer, Megan!

- “It’s a nose job, not an abortion!”

- Holy 2001: A Space Odyssey references!

- A nipple in a box! (!!!)

- “This is the Final Solution.” What you did there, I see it, Stan.

- Did pregnant Stephanie’s craving for steak remind anyone else of Rosemary’s Baby? At least Megan cooked her a medium-well done hunk of meat instead of searing a rare one.

- “I have a stomachache all the time.” :(

- Phillip Morris is back in the picture!

- “Scout’s Honor” actually makes me feel kind of sorry for Lou!

Aside from Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Revenge, and Hannibal, I’ve also started tentatively watching Don’t Trust the B*%&$ in Apt 23. So far, fun and funny. Also, I haven’t been writing about them, but I’ve seen quite a few movies in the last few weeks. More lists because it’s easy:

- Frozen: cute, but not mind-blowing. I adored The Princess and the Frog, so it isn’t just being an Old that left me with so-so feelings on Frozen. The characters are pretty static and the music felt a little jumbled. (I know, I know: blasphemy.)

- Noah: I need a re-watch. This shit was bizarre. I’m agnostic, I don’t know the Bible at all, and I saw it with two (largely) nonpracticing Mennonites, a nonpracticing Quaker, and a nonpracticing Catholic. Nobody was entirely sure what to do with it. Mostly: a waste of a brilliant cast on poor performances, but what a pretty movie. I expected more from Aronofsky, but I have a feeling it’ll grow on me.

- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: It’s a downright angry NSA allegory, and the graphics are gorgeous. Totally enjoyable and definitely better than the first.

- Grand Budapest Hotel: gorgeously curated, meticulously crafted, hilariously acted. I’m a sucker for Wes Anderson’s particular breed of quirk and this one is grotesque and odd (in that Eastern European way) on top of the usual idiosyncrasies. A winning combination.

- The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Mehh. It has some serious pacing issues, and I don’t think Andrew Garfield is as funny as he thinks he is. I’m not familiar with the books, but I know the basic mythology, and some of the changes they’re making aren’t sensible. Dane DeHaan is great, and the sound design and graphics are magnificent.

Lastly, HBO is airing The Heat right now and I thought it’d be kind of terrible, but my thoughts are as follows: Melissa McCarthy is a goddamn genius.

Send me good vibrations on Thursday, okay? I’ll need them.

Mad Men Recap: “The Monolith” (Season 7, Episode 4)

I’ve been gathering a few people to watch Game of Thrones and Mad Men each week, and it’s interesting the way other people can change your perspective. When I was writing for California Literary Review, I think my editor enjoyed my pieces because I chronicled the reactions of the audience as lovingly as I wrote about the film. After last night’s episode, my friend Chelsea said with a considering expression, “That was kind of like a sitcom episode,” and she’s right. In “The Monolith,” problems are presented, problems are fixed, and we’re back to the status quo. It was a filler episode, which is common at this point in the season. But despite its easily solvable character dilemmas, it was a truly weird one. It is Mad Men, after all. It’s 1969 and everyone’s staring into the void, looking for answers. For some, the answers may lie in technology. Others search for a more organic sense of belonging, while still others just want a damn couch that isn’t full of farts. Basically, we’re all a bunch of monkeys gazing at a monolith.

Gazing into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

Staring into the infinite. Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

In the opening scene of Sunday’s episode, we drop in on a scene in which Pete describes the various destinations of choice for an upcoming trip with Bonnie. She spots George Peyton, a ghost from Campbell’s past who worked with Trudy’s father Tom at Vicks. Remember the Vicks drama? If I recall correctly, Pete’s shameless philandering lost SCDP that account. (Don’t shit where you eat, Pete.) Pete explains to a curious Peyton that he and Trudy are getting a divorce, and that Bonnie is his real estate agent (she’s none too pleased with this informal introduction). Peyton reports that Tom Vogel, Pete’s father-in-law, had a heart attack. “Who knew he had a heart?” George chuckles. Further, Peyton’s now working for Burger Chef. You can practically see the lightbulb ding into existence over Pete’s head; the guy knows how to use his connections. Meanwhile, the two men circle around their respective lady friends, both wearing ridiculous(ly awesome) ’70s dresses with feathers and fringe.

"This agency has entered the future!" Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

“This agency has entered the future!” Photo credit Justina Mintz/AMC.

When Don comes into the office for his first official day back, he’s looking every bit the old Don Draper. His eyes are alert, his old but neat suit impeccably pressed; his hat rests in his hands. He disembarks from the elevator to discover the office has been evacuated, and rapidly. A phone dangles eerily from a secretary’s desk; he hangs it back up. On the second floor, he discovers the entire office in an impromptu meeting to announce a construction project: they’re putting in a computer. Cutler intones smugly, “This agency has entered the future.”

Unfortunately, in order to enter the future, they have to take out the Creative department lounge. Peggy mentions under her breath that Lou has no idea what he’s doing, and Lou says pragmatically that he’ll use that computer more than the lounge. Ginsberg gets a moment to shine; he feels (quite rightly) displaced. “Harry Crane took a huge dump and we’re cleaning it up,” he cries. With a maniacal glint, he asks Don to help him move the massive orange couch into the office he shares with Stan because “the other one’s full of farts!” Ginsberg climbs onto a soapbox and bellows a battle cry: “They’re trying to erase us, but they can’t erase this couch!” It’s all so very dramatic and very Michael Ginsberg. Read more