Posts tagged: gender
When you are hurting, there will always be people who find a way to make it about themselves. If you break your wrist, they’ll complain about a sprained ankle. If you are sad, they’re sadder. If you’re asking for help, they’ll demand more attention.
Here is a fact: I was in a hospital and sobbing into my palms when a woman approached me and asked why I was making so much noise and I managed to stutter that my best friend shot himself in the head and now he was 100% certified dead and she made this little grunt and had the nerve to tell me, “Well now you made me sad.”
When you get angry, there are going to be people who ask you to shut up and sit down, and they’re not going to do it nicely. Theirs are the faces that turn bright red before you have a chance to finish your sentence. They won’t ask you to explain yourself. They’ll be mad that you’re mad and that will be their whole reason alone.
Here is a fact: I was in an alleyway a few weeks ago, stroking my friend’s back as she vomited fourteen tequila shots. “I hate men,” she wheezed as her sides heaved, “I hate all of them.”
I braided her hair so it wouldn’t get caught in the mess. I didn’t correct her and reply that she does in fact love her father and her little brother too, that there are strangers she has yet to meet that will be better for her than any of her shitty ex-boyfriends, that half of our group of friends identifies as male - I could hear each of her bruises in those words and I didn’t ask her to soften the blow when she was trying to buff them out of her skin. She doesn’t hate all men. She never did.
She had the misfortune to be overheard by a drunk guy in an ill-fitting suit, a boy trying to look like a man and leering down my dress as he stormed towards us. “Fuck you, lady,” he said, “Fuck you. Not all men are evil, you know.”
“Thanks,” I told him dryly, pulling on her hand, trying to get her inside again, “See you.”
He followed us. Wouldn’t stop shouting. How dare she get mad. How dare she was hurting. “It’s hard for me too!” he yowled after us. “With fuckers like you, how’s a guy supposed to live?”
Here’s a fact: my father is Cuban and my genes repeat his. Once one of my teachers looked at my heritage and said, “Your skin doesn’t look dirty enough to be a Mexican.”
When my cheeks grew pink and my tongue dried up, someone else in the classroom stood up. “You can’t say that,” he said, “That’s fucking racist. We could report you for that.”
Our teacher turned vicious. “You wanna fail this class? Go ahead. Report me. I was joking. It’s my word against yours. I hate kids like you. You think you’ve got all the power - you don’t. I do.”
Later that kid and I became close friends and we skipped class to do anything else and the two of us were lying on our backs staring up at the sky and as we talked about that moment, he sighed, “I hate white people.” His girlfriend is white and so is his mom. I reached out until my fingers were resting in the warmth of his palm.
He spoke up each time our teacher said something shitty. He failed the class. I stayed silent. I got the A but I wish that I didn’t.
Here is a fact: I think gender is a social construct and people that want to tell others what defines it just haven’t done their homework. I personally happen to have the luck of the draw and am the same gender as my sex, which basically just means society leaves me alone about this one particular thing.
Until I met Alex, who said he hated cis people. My throat closed up. I’m not good at confrontation. I avoided him because I didn’t want to bother him.
One day I was going on a walk and I found him behind our school, bleeding out of the side of his mouth. The only thing I really know is how to patch people up. He winced when the antibacterial cream went across his new wounds. “I hate cis people,” he said weakly.
I looked at him and pushed his hair back from his head. “I understand why you do.”
Here is a fact: anger is a secondary emotion. Anger is how people stop themselves from hurting. Anger is how people stop themselves by empathizing.
It is easy for the drunken man to be mad at my friend. If he says “Hey, fuck you, lady,” he doesn’t have to worry about what’s so wrong about men.
It’s easy for my teacher to fail the kids who speak up. If we’re just smart-ass students, it’s not his fault we fuck up.
It’s easy for me to hate Alex for labeling me as dangerous when I’ve never hurt someone a day in my life. But I’m safe in my skin and his life is at risk just by going to the bathroom. I understand why he says things like that. I finally do.
There’s a difference between the spread of hatred and the frustration of people who are hurting. The thing is, when you are broken, there will always be someone who says “I’m worse, stop talking.” There will always be people who are mad you’re trying to steal the attention. There will always be people who get mad at the same time as you do - they hate being challenged. It changes the rules.
I say I hate all Mondays but my sister was born on one and she’s the greatest joy I have ever known. I say I hate brown but it’s really just the word and how it turns your mouth down - the colour is my hair and my eyes and my favorite sweater. I say I hate pineapple but I still try it again every Easter, just to see if it stings less this year. It’s okay to be sad when you hear someone generalize a group you’re in. But instead of assuming they’re evil and filled with hatred, maybe ask them why they think that way - who knows, you might just end up with a new and kind friend.
“All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.” from Jonathan Harker’s journal
“No man knows, till he experiences it, what it is to feel his own lifeblood drawn away into the veins of the woman he loves.” From Dr. Seward’s diary, 10 September.
In one of the first pieces I wrote for the Cultural Gutter, I wrote about how I like that there are so many versions of Batman. And I talked about how bats come in a “cloud.” I wish I had saved that metaphor for discussing Dracula, because there are so many versions of him—and of vampires in general.
There is the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s novel, in which Stoker looks over his shoulder at Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, James Malcolm Rhymer’s Varney the Vampyre and Dr. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven.* There is the historical Wallachian Voivod, Vlad III. There is the non-legally actionable Count Orlok of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922), voted the most creepily adorable vampire by me. There is Bela Lugosi’s classic performance on stage and screen and Carlos Villarías in George Melford’s Spanish-language version filmed simultaneously with Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Paul Naschy’s Dracula wore turtlenecks and looked for love in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972) and Gary Oldman’s wore tinted glasses while doing the same in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) There is Christopher Lee’s protean count in Hammer Studios’s Dracula movies. In 1979, there were both an open-shirted Frank Langella in Dracula and a ratlike Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, The Vampyre. Marvel Comics’ Dracula has been a nemesis of Blade and Dr. Strange before moving to a castle on the moon. Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Dracula appears to bite it before returning in Dark Horse’s Buffyverse comics. And just a few weeks ago I saw poor Vlad getting over some things in What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and then came across a copy of Becky Cloonan’s illustrated Dracula (New York: Harper Design, 2012) It seemed like both a sign and a portent—as if Dracula were calling out to me across oceans of time…
Becky Cloonan is one of my favorite comic artists (and writers) and it is interesting to see her work in a solely illustrative capacity, with more time for each image. This edition of Dracula has plenty of space for her illustration, but is still a convenient size and shape for reading. Her bold, jagged lines and cool palette broken with bloody bright red and rusty brown go so well with the story. And, man, can she draw wolves. Beyond really liking her work, there is just something satisfying about a woman illustrating Dracula—especially a woman who draws sexy women, pulp horror and violence so well. Someone fetch smelling salts; Bram Stoker has collapsed, appalled, on his fainting couch. And here I thought there was no fun to be had in shocking the bourgeoisie.
I’ve Dracula read many times, but Stoker is a bit of a struggle for me. Stoker was the son of Charlotte M.B. Stoker (nee Thornley), an outspoken feminist and advocate for universal education, and his ambivalence about women, the New Woman and especially women’s sexuality comes through in the book. But I’ve been thinking about Dracula more as I see calls for vampires to be “scary again” and complaints about sexy and romantic vampires in the wake of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. (And Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire (1976) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1994) before them). Dracula himself has had a lot of forms in comics and in film and many of them have been sexy times Dracula. In fact, sexy vampires pre-date Dracula. Whatever your mileage may be on Lord Ruthven, he’s not a hideous nosferatu. (Sorry, Orlok). And before Dracula was written 1897, Sheridan Le Fanu wrote the first sexy lady Lesbian vampire story, Carmilla (1874). So the sexy times and the attractive doom has always been a part of vampire stories, even if not all vampires are sexy. (Though many of the folk complaining are probably perfectly happy with Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla).
But even if you consider sexy Dracula a bastardization of Stoker’s hairy-palmed Dracula, there are still sexy vampires in Dracula. They just happen to be ladies. In fact, female vampires outnumber male ones in Dracula: 4.5 to 1.5, or three brides, one Bloofer Lady and Mina Harker to Dracula and Renfield. Because whether you want sexy vampires or not, in Dracula, at least, vampires are a lot about women’s sexual desire and everyone’s fear of it.
In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. I thought at the time that I must be dreaming when I saw them, for, though the moonlight was behind them, they threw no shadow on the floor. They came close to me, and looked at me for some time, and then whispered together….All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. (Stoker, 2012: 48-50 )
Women lose their innocence and become sexy and sexually aggressive after encountering him. Please note Exhibits A-C from Kate Beaton’s “Hark, A Vagrant!”:
Though, in Nosferatu (1922) and Nosferatu (1979), women’s sexual desire is eliminated from the story of Dracula. And the vampire is not attractive, but the women who die to stop him are idealized beauties whose self-sacrifice is also filmed as beautiful. The vampire is destroyed ultimately by own desire as ladies patiently lie back and think of saving mankind. Which is kind of amazing, now that I think about it. Whatever is going on with ladies is so powerful that they can destroy with utter passivity and seeming obliviousness. Being beautiful because you don’t know you’re beautiful still seems to be a big thing.
But where Dracula‘s women become as first languid and then terrible women who kill children, wear sexy nightgowns and come on too strong, Renfield, the only partially transformed man, becomes both murderous and strangely pliant. He is not only subject to his Master’s will, but schemingly so with the authorities of his asylum. Renfield becomes consumed with eating smaller lives so that he can become like Dracula and free himself from his subjection. Renfield isn’t appealing, but there is a strong appeal to becoming a vampire lady. They are active, rather than passive. They are predators, rather than prey. (I actually think this is a stronger theme in werewolf movies like Ginger Snaps). They get to express emotions and apparently have a lot more fun. They get better clothes. They don’t die—well, at least until Van Helsing comes around to stake them, fill their mouths with garlic and chop off their heads. (Dracula just requires a stab). But even the ladies who don’t transform, appear to Dracula’s hickeys.
And while I doubt that sympathy for vampires is new, the pervasive general sympathy and the openness of it is seems to be. Years ago, I attended an academic conference panel on depictions of evil in pop culture. It was during the height of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and a lot of the attendees were concerned that in sympathizing with vampires, the youth were unknowingly embracing evil. While evil has the best outfits and lairs, I thought even then that this was just wrong. I think after over one hundred years of world wars, genocide, and slavery, I think it’s hard for us honestly to see a force more capable of destruction than ourselves. A vampire just can’t compete. And it’s very easy to see us using justifications we have used over and over to persecute vampires: they are evil; they aren’t human; they don’t have souls. And you can’t tell me that Vampire Prosecutor doesn’t have a soul.
Lately, vampires have been getting with the program. Vampires are going corporate and that’s just scary, because nothing is more depressing than an eternity of corporate office work. In Dracula AD, 1972, Dracula oversees his Satanic business from a skyscraper office suite. In the Underworld film series, vampires have terrible, boring meetings that they must all attend for eternity. And in Daybreakers (2007), the world is pretty much exactly like it is right now except everyone will have to go to their terrible white collar jobs until the sun burns out. Lucifer help them if they ever colonize other worlds. In comics, Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory and Scott Godlewski’s Dracula: Company of Monsters (BOOM!, 2001) pits Dracula against a family-owned corporation looking to use him for his blood. Conrad Barrington wants to be immortal and he will raise Dracula from the grave to do it. This Dracula is very much a feudal lord, and that is what gives him most of his appeal and his slight edge over Conrad. Dracula has a code and he cares about his people. He was a man who chose a pact with the Devil to do the terrible things he thought needed to be done to protect his people. But still, he has committed atrocities and he will overrun the world if he can.
And in American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares (Vertigo, 2013), Scott Snyder and Dustin Nguyen’s Dracula is a dark presence who is felt more than seen as governments scramble to either contain him or weaponize him during the Cold War. Because they are so focused on their own goals, the human authorities can’t understand the threat he is. He is seemingly irrational, in human terms. He compels those in his presence to murder, controls the minds of his vampire kin, and uses a human, the very pleasant Mr. Glass from Dayton, Ohio as his voice. This Dracula is terrifying and seemingly unknowable. And he gets most of his power from staying mostly in the background we only encounter him, as we mostly do in Dracula, through others’ accounts and others’ experiences. We see his aftermath and we fear what he can do. And the thing is, we barely ever see him. He appears as a bestial shadow that reminds me of one of Cloonan’s drawings. But Dracula himself takes myriad forms. So who can say he’s not sexy, too?
Then Carol Borden laughed–such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips.
Also, make sure to read Keith’s “Vampyr: From Carmilla to Carl Dreyer” at Teleport City.Engulfed by the Shadow of Dracula “Beware that his shadow does not engulf you like a daemonic nightmare.” Of Vampyres, Terrible Phantoms and the Seven Deadly Sins…
Last month I was invited to speak at the XOXO conference & festival in Portland. I used the opportunity to talk about two forms of harassment that are commonly used to try and silence and discredit women but are not as easily identifiable as misogynist harassment: conspiracy theories and impersonation. (Note: trigger warning early on for examples of rape and death threats)
I am aware that there are some people who do not seem to like me or my blog very much. You might know that I’ve had to deal with overt threats and some pretty nasty business with being harassed online in the last year or so. While that’s bad enough, please don’t send me links to online content that involves long and drawn out conspiracy theories about me.
If you need to understand the “what” and “why” of things like that, if you see them, just watch this video from about 9:00 on. If this looks familiar:
^ That’s because it’s the same old song and dance that happens when any woman, but especially a woman of color, engages in cultural criticism.
I am aware that there obsessive and disturbing bits of flotsam floating around how I am 1. lying about my racial identity; 2. fooling, manipulating or brainwashing people; 3. doing it all for that sweet, sweet blogging cash.
It might as well be a bingo card at this point.
If you don’t have the wherewithal to watch the video, here are two highlights:
"For these detractors, it’s easier to believe that I am a skin-bleaching, mind-controlling, video game-hating scam artist involved in a masterful long con, than it is to believe that the tide is turning in gaming, and that larger numbers of developers and fans are challenging the sexist status quo and embracing the ideas expressed in my work and the work of many other women doing the same work in cultural criticism.”
"What I’ve described to you today is not unique to me and my experience. Every day, many women voicing their opinions online deal with a similar flood of slander and defamation designed to undermine their careers, their credibility, their resolve, and their confidence.”
^^ No one is interested in doing anything about online harassment. Everything from the recent ————- debacle, to attacks on professionals like Anita Sarkeesian and/or women of color struggling to survive academia take pretty much the same exact form. And if you can’t keep in mind that people can literally say anything they want to about anyone for no reason with no consequences, then I guess I don’t know what to tell you.
Also relevant is the portion where she discusses how certain targeted misinformation is repeated over and over across social media platforms as accepted facts, and then more layers are piled on until you end up with a monstrous thing straight out of the sketchier tabloids.
But making quick and sick threats has become so easy that many say the abuse has proliferated to the point of meaninglessness, and that expressing alarm is foolish.
So women who are harassed online are expected to either get over ourselves or feel flattered in response to the threats made against us. We have the choice to keep quiet or respond “gleefully.”
So I will leave you all with this screencap of the FAQ:
Don’t, however, send me links to 10k-word count manifestos about how I am a secret Nazi medical experimenter. Thank you for reading, and have a nice day.
At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz notes: “What of Gone Girlas a parable of gender relations, one that eventually takes an ugly misogynist turn? I’ve heard these charges leveled, and they have merit. You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve seen the movie. At the same time, though, as we evaluate those complaints, we owe it to Flynn, Fincher and everyone involved to take into account what sort…
The BBC’s Steven McKenzie looks at Scotland’s influence on science fiction film and a wee bit of television. (Thanks, Matt!)
At Comics Alliance, Juliet Kahn writes about clothing and costumes in comics, getting Wonder Woman right and Marguerite Sauvage’s work in Sensation Comics #7. “The slightest hintof a damn given to the fashion featured in a comic book makes it immediately more immersive, more affecting, more resonant—because suddenly, its characters look more like real people. Suddenly, the reader has gained…
At Mostly Film, Blake Backlash writes about films “mixing of Hollywood’s Grande Dames with Grand Guignol.” “Such cinematic mixing of Grande Dames and Grand Guignol had its heyday in the second-half of the sixties, and such films are sometimes (more-or-less) affectionately known as psycho-biddy pictures. They tended to feature an actress over 50 in some sort of peril, a melodramatic plot and a…
At Daily Maverick, Rebecca Davis writes in defense of swearing and, in particular, women who swear: “I don’t think there has been a single occasion on which I have used a swearword in a tweet and not been instantly reprimanded. Almost invariably, this linguistic dressing-down has been delivered by older men whom I have never met.
The precise form the censure takes varies, but the essence is…
Andy Khouri celebrates “the Happy Hunks of Tom of Finland” at Comics Alliance. “Tom of Finland was the Jack Kirby of gay porn. Working in a section of the comics industry that most fans perhaps spend little time exploring, Tom was a masterful artist, a pioneer, and an inspiration. His work helped establish a gay aesthetic and made him a celebrated figure on the New York art scene of the 1970s.…
NPR interviews cartoonist Alison Bechdel on the occasion of her MacArthur Genius Grant. “I guess I’m proudest of just really sticking with this odd thing I loved and was good at — drawing comics about marginal people (lesbians) in a marginal format (comics). I never thought much about whether that was responsible, or respectable, or lucrative.”