mari4212: Text: Divide by Cucumber Error, Please Reinstall Universe and Reboot (cucumber)
So, sometimes when I'm arguing on the book of faces I get a bit passionate. And, well, this happens. For context, the guy I was replying to was first replying with already disproved arguments about helping Syrians, then asked why they weren't just staying in their country and standing their ground. He finished by asking what would America even get out of helping them, aside from "diversity" as if he wasn't sure diversity was even a good thing for us.

I ranted a bit in response:Read more... )
mari4212: Text: When Mister Safety Catch is not on, Mister Crossbow is not your friend (crossbow)
I got annoyed with some of the comments I've been seeing about Jason Collins coming out as an openly gay athlete. More specifically, the men talking about how they're creeped out by the thought of a gay man being in the locker room with them. Especially when they simultaneously dismiss women pointing out that it's not like handling unwanted attention from men is something strange and new. I decided not to even bother engaging with this particular man, as he was handwaving away every other point everyone else in the comment thread was making in favor of talking about how this branch of gay panic was absolutely correct and should be the main point of discussion about openly gay athletes.

Instead, I'll rant here, and on my own facebook page:

You know, when I see (mostly) men freaking out about gay men being out around them, with the implication that the gay guy will not be able to control himself and not rape everyone he finds even moderately attractive, I really start to wonder about them. Because hello, you are also men who are sometimes around people you are attracted to. Are you not capable of controlling your actions? If you don't think men can handle being around people they think are hot without raping them, remind me never to be alone near you again.

If someone's comments or actions are creeping you out or feel threatening, absolutely call them out. But if you're just worried that a man is going to find you attractive when you're not into him, welcome to my half of the species, we've been dealing with that for centuries. Whine at me when you've been made to feel unsafe walking down the street in broad daylight, like I have on more than one occasion.
mari4212: "Okay, you don't just have issues.  You have the full set of collectable binders (issues)
A close friend of mine, [personal profile] reenchantress, has been blogging about gay issues and life growing up and not being straight. She's heard me give "The Rant", my name for the discussion of why we can't say that the Christian Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality, several times, and asked me if I'd be willing to type it up as a guest blog for her. This is a shortened form of the vocal rant, I've been timed at over forty-five minutes once delivering the full rant.

cut for discussions of religion, and mentions of rape in some of the biblical passages )
mari4212: Text: When Mister Safety Catch is not on, Mister Crossbow is not your friend (crossbow)
Dear Kasich and Boehner

In all likelihood, you will never read this letter. But I am one of your constituents, a person you claim to represent.

I wanted to tell you what having the liberal's idea of big government has done for my family, because you don't seem to understand how vital it has been to my family existing like it does now.

Let's start with Medicare and Medicaid, since you seem to particularly hate those programs. Yet, it's because of those programs that my family is able to stay together at all. You see, I have a sister who was born with profound disabilities. Her brain didn't form correctly in uetero, for reasons no medical science has yet been able to identify. Parts of it simply did not grow. As a result, she has cerebral palsy, profound mental retardation, and seizure disorder. Or, to put it into layman's terms for you, she has little fine motor control, she is mentally a one-year-old-child, and she has seizures on a regular basis if not controlled by proper medication.

Currently, she's on five different medications to control her seizures and minimize the side effects of the other medications. The list of medications includes one method of birth control, a hormone shot which effectively shuts down her menstrual cycle. It's absolutely a necessary medication for her, even though she will never have sex voluntarily, because without that birth control, the hormone fluctuations from her menstrual cycle interfere with her seizure medications. Before we put her on this birth control, there would be one day a month where she would have grand mal seizures every two hours.

As for her seizure medications, well, those alone are incredibly expensive. One of her seizure meds costs over 800 dollars a month. That's one medication out of five. None of the others are quite as expensive, but none of them are cheap, either. And she's been on one form or another of anti-convulsant since she was 18 months old.

Government assistance pays for most of her medications. We certainly can't afford to pay for them, even if we paid absolutely nothing in taxes and kept all of that money to pay for my sister's medications. Government assistance also helped us pay for the three times in the past two years when my sister has been hospitalized for something that results from her disabilities. Governmental assistance pays for the programming and physical therapy my sister has received her entire life. Governmental assistance paid for the modifications we needed to make to our house in order to keep my sister living in it, things like a wheelchair ramp to get her into and out of the house, or a stairlift to transfer her between the main floor and the upstairs, which is where the only bathroom in the house can be found. Governmental assistance has paid for the variety of wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers we've used to transport my sister and to let her see the world. And, when my mother is no longer able to take care of my sister in our home, it's the government funded long-term care facilities that will be providing for my sister.

That's just one way that the big government has provided something for my family that we could not have done on our own. Without governmental assistance, we could not have taken care of my sister. We would have had to send her to a state-run care facility to take care of her, instead of having her home with family, able to participate in the community. And the state would have ended up paying even more, taking care of her with the kind of 24-hour supervision she absolutely requires. If there had been no government assistance, and no state-run medical facilities? I don't know what would have happened to my sister. I don't think she'd have lived to be the age she is now. Because we would have been absolutely unable to provide for her without outside help.

That's not the only thing big government has given in the way of direct assistance to my family. When my parents had all of us children, my father was in grad school, living on grants, student loans, and the tiny salary he received as a TA bringing in about $500 a month, and my mother was running an in-home day care with about eight children, four of them her own, and also bringing in about $500. They were also on food stamps, to pay to feed all of us. Governmental assistance kept all of us fed when even both of my parents working wasn't enough to pay for everything.

My father now works for an environmental consulting company. They go to various different sites, preform assessments on the surrounding ground and landwater to make sure that a company hasn't caused too much pollution, and help them clean up contaminated areas up to EPA standards. Their first contract? Was cleaning up the government's Miamisburg Mound compound, after decades of military R&D being preformed on site. He has a job because of government regulations. Moreover, this generation's children will live in a less-polluted area if the government regulations are enforced and my father's company does its job well.

And he's not the only one I care about who earns their living from the government. One of my closest friends in high school has her dream job now, working for a company that contracts with NASA and the space program. She wants to get people to Mars, and she has a decent chance of it, as long as the government continues to provide for the space program.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time elaborating on the twenty thousand other things that the government provides for everyone, like safe drinking water, testing and regulations to make sure that food and drugs are safe, maintained streets and highways, clearing snow in winter, public schools, government backed loans to get through college, et cetera. Those are things that everyone needs and uses. What I've listed are just the specific ways in which the government has come through and helped my family. Ways we couldn't have done on our own, even if we had just kept all the money we pay in taxes. And yes, if it matters, everyone in this family who can, does work. And we've all paid taxes on it.

I needed the government, and it was there for me. I don't want to take that government away from the next family that needs it.
mari4212: "Okay, you don't just have issues.  You have the full set of collectable binders (issues)
For those somehow fortunate enough to have missed it, the context for this rant is this flowchart, on Jezebel, that purports to be a critique of the stereotypes female characters fall into when they are not written strongly. But when you look at the chart, and see characters like Zoe from Firefly, Ripley from Alien, Sailor Moon coded as only the adorable clutz, Nyoto Uhura coded as "Useless Girl", among others, including putting on two real life women (minority women, of course) as examples of fictional tropes, it's hard to consider it a valid critique of stereotypes. It reads more like a straightforward bashing of all female characters because they don't meet an invisible, unstated standard of what it means to be strong.

There are people out there who are already doing a fantastic job of picking apart all the ways this fails on gender and race issues. Here are a couple good links to get you started.

What I'm going to talk about for a bit here, is that weasel-word, strong. Because when it comes to bashing female characters in media, it seems to be the best excuse ever for saying you don't like any female characters. They're not strong enough. Never mind that a lot of fandom's favorite male characters are written with the exact same levels of "strength" or depth.

When I talk about a strong female character, I mean a character with goals and interests which are not just about the male characters' goals. And I mean a character with agency, who acts in some way for herself and her stated goals in the process.

So Zoe, who fought in the war against Unification because she believed it was wrong, who is loyal, but questioning, towards Mal, who loves her husband, but still lives her own life, who will go on after losses, she's a strong character.

Tuskino Usagi, the clumsy crybaby who hates fighting and isn't good at school, but who still gets up every day, who still fights to save others, the girl who is the protagonist for her series and who saves the universe with the power of love, unironically, is a strong character. As are all of her teammates and friends. The weakest character, development-wise, is her boyfriend, Mamoru.

Kathryn Janeway, the scientist turned Captain, who stands off against the Kazon and the Borg through the power of coffee, the pool shark who turns around and embroiders a blanket for the newborn Naomi Wildman, the warm compassionate woman who suffered from bouts of depression and guilt, who made some brilliant decisions, and some bone-headed mistakes, she's a strong character. Not always the most consistently written one, but still strong and engaging.

B'Elanna Torres, the woman struggling to accept all of who she was, the brilliant engineer with some raging insecurity issues, who learned how to lead on the fly, but apparently does an excellent job of it, who gradually learns how to trust others and accept herself, she's a strong character.

Nyoto Uhura, the character who could have been so much more had the networks and producers allowed it, still sat there every day doing her job competently. She had interests in music and art, pursued her career, and in the books and later movies got more and more of a chance to shine. In the new movie, it's overshadowed by the other, action-oriented, crowning moments of awesome, but she pulls off some fantastic bits of translation on the go with no problems. Anyone who's ever tried to learn more than one language can tell you how hard that can be, and she does it with grace.

Marguerite Krux, from The Lost World, a woman who doesn't know anything about where she came from, who wants so much to know who she is. Who doesn't hesitate to lie or seduce someone to achieve her goals, who spends most of the first two seasons of the show getting used to the idea that people might help her with no hidden agenda. Who is a hero, even when she keeps it secret. She's a strong character, even as a character they added in just to make it not be all a bunch of guys.

Joan Girardi, from Joan of Arcadia, who has enough going on in her life without adding "talks to God" to her resume. She's occasionally thoughtless and self-obsessed, she'd far prefer to just be a normal popular girl, but she grows so much, and she keeps trying when it's hard. She's a strong character.

And there's dozens more I could be listing, like Kate, Ziva, and Abby from NCIS, Susan Ivonova and Delenn from Babylon 5, 95% of the female characters in Harry Potter that get more than one line, Kaylee, Inara, and River from Firefly, Buffy, Willow, Tara, Dawn, Anya and Joyce from Buffy, and so on and so forth down the line.

So you know what, makers of that flowchart?

Fuck you, she's awesome. They all are.
mari4212: Text: When Mister Safety Catch is not on, Mister Crossbow is not your friend (crossbow)
By now, I imagine that a large chunk of my flist has seen the latest bit of race-fail, in the form of [personal profile] asteroidbuckle's J2 story set in Haiti, immediately post earthquake. If not, I first suggest you go to bossymarmalade's excerpts post here, and then to [personal profile] amazonziti's link list here.

Read more... )
mari4212: calla lily against a black background (Default)
Note of warning: this is coming partially out of reading a few too many discussion posts/fic requests that paint Ziva as this queen high bitch of the universe. Parts of it are semi-coherent arguments against the assumptions the people bashing her have, and parts of this are my own attempts to understand a fairly complex female character on a show that does a decent job writing strong female characters.

One of the most important things for me, when it comes to understanding Ziva as a character, is understanding how much she's been shaped by her early relationships with those she's loved.

That seems like a bit of a no-duh for understanding almost any character/person when we know their background, so let me expand a bit. To the best of my knowledge, having admittedly missed several episodes from seasons 4-6, Ziva has mentioned or had other people mention for her, four people whom she has loved. Her father, Ari, her sister Tali, and a Muslim boy she mentions was her best friend as a child. Not much, if at all, is mentioned about her mother or any other family member.

So, of those four major loved ones, what's happened with them? Two, her father and her half-brother, have betrayed and used her for their own purposes. And the other two were taken from her in semi-random attacks. The major themes of her relationships prior to NCIS, therefore, are betrayal and loss. Her assumptions about the world, and thereby her defense mechanisms, focus on the concept that the people she cares about will either betray her or die in a way that she can't prevent or control.

Now add in the fact that she seems to have been trained with the idea that the mission is of utmost importance, above personal safety, morality, or potential cost, and with the concept that she cannot rely upon anyone else, that she must be completely self-sufficient.

When you put those two facts together, and add in Ziva's underlying personality, what you get is many things, among which is a very fascinating character, massive issues, and really good tv drama moments. What you don't get is someone who has a clue what to do in a team dynamic. It is literally completely out of her scope of reference to trust that the person beside her has her back now, and will have her back two weeks from now and beyond.

What you get is someone who has learned not to trust easily, who has learned that the people she counts on will leave her or betray her.

Ziva spends the majority of the third season of NCIS expecting the others on the team to not back her up, and expecting the others to fail her. In "Frame Up" and "Probie", she's the one most likely to assume that Tony and McGee messed up. "Under Covers" startles her when Tony makes sure she can get out ahead of his own safety, as she's well aware that Ari wouldn't have done the same for her. "Jeopardy" shows her going on her instincts here as well. As soon as she is called into question, she assumes that no one will believe her or back her up, and that she will get the blame regardless of what happened. Gibbs standing by her, Ducky and McGee trying to reassure her, these are new things to her.

In the third season, we also get one of the episodes she's most often criticized for, "Boxed In." (If it's been a while since you've watched this ep, or you haven't been reading the Ziva bashing metas and stories lately, it's the episode where Ziva and Tony were locked in a cargo shipping container with several million dollars in counterfeit bills, and the B plot is that Tony wasn't invited to a dinner party Ziva held for the rest of the team.) Basically, the criticism of her centers around the fact that she deliberately excluded Tony from a team event, and the episode portrays it as being something Tony is rather upset about, given his insecurities about his place on the team.) Now, if you haven't watched the episode recently, or you've read the metas/post eps since, you'd assume that she'd stabbed Tony and then jumped up and down on his wound repeatedly, by the vehemence of the vitriol aimed at her.

Point one: yeah, she was definitely in the wrong to have excluded him from a team event. She is well enough aware of her teammates characters to understand how being left out would hit him at a weak point. She knew very well she was hitting one of his triggers when she discussed it with him in the shipping container.

Point two, which most people skip over in their attacks: before they get out of the shipping container, she's apologized for her actions already. And she makes restitution by offering to cook a private dinner for him.

Watching the episode, part of it seemed like the situation snowballed. That she invited McGee and Palmer initially to thank them for helping her get settled. Abby would have been invited as an olive branch, given the friction and hostility Abby has shown towards Ziva earlier. Inviting Abby to dinner gets her on Ziva's turf, in a less tense environment, to give them a chance to get along together. And inviting Gibbs is just basic office politics. If you're inviting the team, it's basic people skills to also invite the boss along, given their work environment.

Not inviting Tony seems like it was in part, an effort on her part to control the situation and direct her effort at building relationships towards the ones she had easily in hand (McGee, Palmer, Gibbs to a certain extent) and the one she in particular wanted to work on (Abby). Tony tends to challenge her, and he makes himself the center of attention in any group, which wasn't what she was going for.

For the other part of it, there is the fact that her relationship with Tony tended to be very competitive in the third season. They enjoyed verbal sparring and scoring points off of each other. She might have been attempting to score more points in their running game, and went a bit too far. (I will note, the same thing tended to happen with Kate and Tony in earlier seasons, and still does happen occasionally with McGee and Tony. Tony tends to play these escalating games with all his teammates, but he tends to be the one to pull back right before he hits too hard, while the others will sometimes hit him pretty hard at one of his weak points. Normally? That weak point is his own insecurity about his place in the team hierarchy/professional skills.)

So, all in all, what you get in this episode is a misstep in their banter that hits too close to home for Tony, Ziva starting to twit him on it, then eventually apologizing for going too far, and making amends for her actions. She's not exactly an ax murderer here.

She's more secure, more confident in her teammates by season four, but in the first episode, when she's in trouble she doesn't rely on Tony or the rest of the team. Instead, she goes to Gibbs. Someone she holds a secret for, someone who owes her a favor. Under stress, personal stress, she reverts to her first instincts, trusts only those who have a quantifiable reason to help her. I think this is also the season that starts the pattern of anyone on a case that Ziva is interested in either dying or turning out to be the killer. Part of it is fairly standard for a crime drama, after all, there have been multiple occasions where Gibbs, Tony, or Ducky have been interested in a woman who ends up being the murderer. But the other part of it is a repetition of Ziva's life-long pattern of watching people that she cares about die or betray her trust.

And that leads into the other major criticism of Ziva that I've seen: her response to Tony's undercover fiasco. McGee blows it off as Tony being irresponsible, Gibbs is somewhat suspicious but stays out of it, but Ziva gets worried and immediately leaps to the conclusion that Tony is sick and dying. Beyond that, when Tony's car does go up in flames, Ziva is the first to assume that he has actually died, and maintains that assumption until given proof against it by Ducky.

By this point, it seems like she no longer believes that her teammates will betray her, but she does believe they will die on her.

The critique I've seen of her for this tends to focus on her being too clingy, too curious about what's going on in Tony's life, and too worked up over Tony. Which, erm, has my brain breaking a bit when I compare this critique of her to the criticism laid against her over "Boxed In." Really, at this point in the critiques, often coming from the same person in both cases, Ziva cannot win. It makes perfect sense for her character to assume the worst about Tony's health, and it fits in with her need to control things that she'd be nosy, that she'd want to know everything, even the worst prognosis, rather than be shocked by his death. Again, Ziva's major issues revolve around loss and betrayal. When she thinks she's going to lose someone she cares about, she goes into overdrive as a defensive mechanism.

That was nowhere near as coherent as I wanted it to be, but it is at least an attempt to formulate a defense of Ziva and an understanding of who she is as herself, rather than as the person setting off Tony's insecurities or whatever else she's being yelled at for this week.
mari4212: Text: Divide by Cucumber Error, Please Reinstall Universe and Reboot (cucumber)
Hey you, the creepy skeevy guy in the dark SUV,

Yeah, you, the guy who followed me and kept pulling over to try to get me to talk to you. The guy who did this four separate times, and only stopped when I turned on my heel and ran in the other direction in a spot where you couldn't turn your SUV around. Thanks for ruining my walk on the first nice day we've had in a week. Thanks for making me feel like I had to hide in the closest store so that you couldn't come up on me again by driving around some more. You creeped me out, you scared me, and you made me feel like I wasn't safe. Go away, and never pull a stunt like this again.

With much loathing,

So, my walk went from being happy and relaxing, enjoying the pleasant weather, to being ridiculously tense and frightening, all because one guy wouldn't stop following me. Especially when, with the one glance I shot at him, he looked like he was about twice my age. Seriously, what makes a guy think that it is acceptable to come after a girl like that? Once, sure, that'd be okay to do, even if this guy was already seriously pinging on my radar as a not safe person, but to do that repeatedly, when I was absolutely not acknowledging him? Just ew, scary-bad-wrong, and it put a major damper on my whole day.
mari4212: Text: Divide by Cucumber Error, Please Reinstall Universe and Reboot (cucumber)
Context is the comments being made in this post:

I've probably spent about two years now, paying active attention to issues of racism, homophobia, sexism, and other assorted isms in fandom, and trying (with varied success) to apply that out into the real world. I still consider myself a novice at a lot of this, and I probably make a lot more mistakes than I realize now.

But I've been paying attention long enough to get thoroughly used to, and sick of, a lot of the comments that come in whenever someone points out an instance or pattern of racism, homophobia, sexism, et cet. There's the denials, the 'you're overreacting's, the 'well, it's justified because of this's, the 'insert oppressed group of people does it back to the people in power, so it's fair for us to do this' arguments, and the 'my friend is insert oppressed group, and she's just fine with it, so there's nothing wrong' arguments.

And all of those arguments can and will make me froth at the mouth and rant to the nearest available person around me.

But the one that keeps driving me up a wall, and which is leading me to ranting now, is this learned helplessness argument that people keep making. It tends to go along the lines of: 'Everything I do you say is wrong, so you need to sit there and coach me through the basics of writing a character of insert oppressed group right now, and if you don't help me now, then I'm going to take my toys and leave just give up and write only white males from now on.

It ends up coming across as a form of blaming the victims. That it's their fault that a writer doesn't take the time to do research on their own before they write a character or set up a fictional world. Or that it's their fault that when they call someone out for perpetuating a negative stereotype, they're too upset to want to sit there and walk them through how to write a character or situation that doesn't hit five different hotspots at once.

You know, I really do get the confusion that hits when you first start confronting aspects of your own privilege. I know I freaked out about trying not to inadvertently cause offense or hurt someone after I started dealing with the fact that I grew up with a metric ton of unconscious privileges. I'm still freaking out about it as I write this, because yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't get it all right. But the way to respond is not to immediately demand that the person who has been hurt drop everything to teach you what to do. (There's been a lot of great posts on this topic already from a bunch of FOC, and they've covered it a lot more comprehensively than I am, with a lot more background on it than I've got.)

So what do you do? That is, if you actually do want to figure out how to do a better job in the future, and you're not just looking for an excuse to give up and not deal with the issue. Because a lot of the time, it's really obvious that people complaining about not knowing what to do don't want to learn any better, they just want to not have to deal with any of it anymore.

Well, for starters, you find resources. Multiple resources, and without focusing on the people who you have already hurt and are frustrating the hell out of. You read books written by people from within that context, you talk to people you know about their own experiences of being a part of that group. You don't let one person's views stand for the entire group, and you don't expect the entire group to be exactly the same on issues, any more than you yourself would want someone to assume that you were exactly like everyone else who is of your gender, or racial group, or religion. You read and analyze, or watch and analyze, the media and genre you're working in, and pay attention to the repeated tropes and figure out why someone might find them offensive. And you listen to what people say when they yell about something, and that gives you a lot of the negative space of what is wrong to avoid.

And then you drop your excuses and write your characters as people, and you figure out how their being a member of an oppressed group would shape them, without making everything about their character be about them being that oppressed group. And yeah, it's not easy, and yeah, I'm definitely far from perfect in my own right, but you do have to try. And if you fail, you keep on trying, with more information.

Comments and critique more than welcome, and here's hoping I didn't just put my foot halfway down my esophagus at some point in here.


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