Writer, Editor, Designer

Posts tagged sexism

I’m not interested in a literary fiction versus genre argument, because that argument is basically dead and lovingly illustrated by Edan Lepucki: literary fiction is a genre with its own rules and conventions just like any other genre. The overly-long title and adultery are litfic’s version of the YA love-triangle and chosen-one narrative.

But what I do want to do is use this example to talk about cis straight white guyness. For a long time, genre was genre and literary fiction was literature. It was the sort of neutral category. Hell, it basically is. Go to a bookstore. There’s the literature section, which takes up much of the store, and mystery and scifi and whatnot have their own little sections. But it’s changing. Surely but slowly, those lines are blurring and good. And all the better that we continue to define literary fiction as its own genre.

The problem that’s been bouncing around my head lately is how that’s a great analogy for what’s going on with social justice movements and discussions of privilege. For a long, long time now, we’ve had the privilege of our society treating us a neutral, as normal. Cis, straight, white, maleness is the literary fiction of culture. We’re just literature. Everyone else has been relegated to the sides of the store.

But now, people are actually starting to have conversations (and really, have been having these conversations for a long ass time, but some of us are just finally starting to listen) about the privilege we get from not being “genre.” Just as Lepucki outlined the conventions of litfic, the conventions of cis, straight, white, maleness are starting to be defined, outlined, discussed. And so far, the results have not been pretty.

Sure, there’s been some good rib-tickles, like Stuff White People Like, and we laugh. HAHA, I *do* like camping and Moleskines! But when men as a group are discussed, suddenly we have #notallmen belittling women’s lived experiences. We get GamerGaters doxxing and sending death and rape threats to women gamers, developers, and journalists. When discussing the very real danger black people face just leaving their houses, white people have to hedge the criticism of institutional racism with #alllivesmatter.

purpose (1)There’s a part in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions where Kilgore Trout goes into the bathroom and someone has written on the stall door, “What is the purpose of life?” And Trout writes underneath, “To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator if the Universe, you fool.” Which has always invoked to me that I should be mindful about what I’m telling the Creator of the Universe. Because we are defining ourselves and the kind of world we live in every day with every decision. Every word, every action, every stupid, insensitive tweet, defines the Universe and tells the next humans in line what kind of a culture we have here.

So when I see cis people being shitty to the non-cis or gamer dudes threatening women, or white people shitting on black people for daring to speak out about how our culture has been shitting on them, I can’t help but think, “What the fuck are you doing? What are you telling the Universe?” Really? At a time when being white, being straight, being a man, is finally being defined in and of itself, and not generally accepted as neutral or normal, this, THIS is how you’re choosing to define yourself?

Listen up: we are not neutral anymore. We don’t get the best placement in the bookstore anymore. We’re sharing with genre now, and it’s about goddamn time. We were never special except by our own often violent insistence. Culture is renovating, redefining and we can help or we can see what’s left when all is said and done. Because if we don’t start defining ourselves now, in a positive way, in a way that doesn’t reinforce the imbalanced status quo, we’ll be left with the scraps.

So If you don’t want “white” to be synonymous with “racist” then do something to stop racism and stop making excuses for it. If you don’t want “male” to be synonymous with “sexism” then stop being sexist and stop making excuses for sexism. If you don’t want “straight” to be synonymous with “homophobic”. . . then start sharing your shelf space.

I’m finding myself irrationally angry about this second season of True Detective. (I’m sure there’s a True Defective or Trule(ly Bad) Detective pun lurking around here.) I absolutely adored the first season. Lovecraftian craziness plus esoteric philosophy, plus Cary Fukunaga’s beautiful cinematography? Yes, please!

But, as Velcoro might say, “This season can buttchug a hoarde of termites.”

I defended the first-season accusations of sexism because there seemed to be this overarching critique of masculinity and the possession/ownership of female bodies throughout the show. Sure, the female characters were wives or prostitutes, but there were conversations about how men try to control female bodies, and critiques of the men trying to control them. It was subtle and clever and poignant.

I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in Nic Pizzolatto.

But this season? Absolute failure. All the women are only defined by their men, be it whores or mothers. Even Bezzerides was introduced to us through sex (an unspoken kink so weird she freaked out her partner) and ends up a mother in the end. In between, she inhabited every bad detective/masculinity stereotype: hard-drinking, gambling, emotionally-unavailable. It was such poor character development that I wouldn’t be surprised that her character was male until two days before they began filming. And worse, in the first episode, her dad tells us that her entire personality is a reactionary construction against him. She’s literally not even herself. She’s anti-dad, laden with masculine clchés and then after she traumabonds, she gets turned into a mom.

A friend shared my thoughts and was insulted that she didn’t “get” how “feminist” this season was. If this season had been set in 1950, sure, it’s feminist because we let the women out of the domestic sphere. But in 2015? Every woman shouldn’t be defined by their desire (or lack there of) for sex or ability to make babies, which is ultimately what Pizzolatto did to his season two female characters. His female characters were essentially prostitutes or moms with nagging-wife syndrome.


Jesus, Nic, you didn’t kill me, but I am fucking wounded.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the quality of a show drop off so drastically in a single season. Pizzolatto managed to shoehorn every detective cliché in this season while keeping to the douchy stereotypes of poor writing. The plot was ridiculous and convoluted. They killed the gay guy while the two straight guys sent their women-folk off to safety while they died their pointless man-deaths. Human beings behaved in ways no human beings behave. It was a nightmare with brief moments of interest. I hope to see a supercut of this season. Could probably edit this monstrosity of saddest bars in the world with overly long how-sad-am-I-alcoholism closeups and helicopter tracking shots down to a solid two hours and even that couldn’t save this show from some of the dialog Vince Vaughn must have lost a bet to have to read.

I don’t even know what to say. I feel like I had a really fantastic first date dinner with Nic Pizzolatto and when we got back to his place, he bragged about how he stiffed the waitress on the tip. Everything from the first season I thought was a clever examination of masculinity and sexism was a lie? A fluke? Was Pizzolatto just @GuyInYourMFA all along?

Shit, Nic, give me a call. I will help you with this. Step one: no one says “filth.” Step two: women are more than the potential uses of their genitals. Step three: Profit.

Sure, I’ll watch season three, if Pizzolatto gets one, but it will be like my approach to most of season two: patiently waiting for it to subvert my expectations, but ultimately, watching only out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. That, and plain trainwreck rubbernecking.

Man, I need a drink.