Political Flavors

Saturday Night Live is Entertainment. Do Not Take Tina Fey’s Cake Sketch Seriously.

Posted in Editorials, Videos on August 18th, 2017

I’ve written before about how Saturday Night Live’s politics are maybe not as liberal as you think, in their choice to have Donald Trump host the show during the Republican primary and to blunt criticism of his racism.

I want to talk now about a sketch in which Tina Fey encourages people to eat cake instead of protesting Nazis.

Heather Heyer is dead but cake is delicious.

Saturday Night Live is what Jon Stewart insists he is: entertainment, not political commentary. However, many people, including people I respect and love look to it for analysis and catharsis. (My alternative suggestion – The Majority Report with Sam Seder. It’s funny but also provides in depth information.) If you like SNL because it’s funny, great! But if you watch it for political commentary, you need to know this: Lorne Michaels doesn’t want the show to be liberal (or conservative). He wants it to appeal to all Americans, and he’s aiming for the middle. He said so during an interview with Marc Maron in 2015.

So with that in mind, let’s think about how this cake sketch meets that standard. On one hand liberals can see themselves in Tina Fey, angry, righteous, feeling helpless. And conservatives can laugh at the paranoid liberal chick getting fat because she doesn’t like that someone challenged her PC notions. And the “middle” if there is one, can feel good about doing nothing. Because that’s what Tina Fey is saying here, she’s affirming complacency and inaction, as long as there’s some guilt mixed in, it’s ok. She’s telling people to channel their outrage into self indulgence. As entertainment, it’s funny. But as praxis, it’s terrible. Now, I’m all for self care. So here’s what I propose instead:

#NotBuyingIt 2016 – Misogynist Trolls Tell Me Kissing Is Bad

Posted in Editorials on February 8th, 2016

So I had a very successful tweet last night:

The #NotBuyingIt hashtag was started in 2012 by the Representation Project as a way to call out sexist commercials during the Superbowl. It’s since continued, growing every year. And I believe this year we have reached a threshold, because to my dismay the #NotBuying hashtag was overrun with trolls to the point where it was mostly sexist bullying and trolling rather than media criticism. I am STILL getting angry responses to the above tweet over 15 hours later. How long will people be butt hurt? Start an over/under betting pool in the comments.

I’ve been on the internet long enough to expect trolls. What I am surprised about (and maybe I shouldn’t be) is that so many people will watch this ad and think “Yes! *That’s* responsible fatherhood.” And not “I feel sorry for that girl.”

The “over protective father being played for comedy meme” is pervasive in our culture as this ad shows. And it’s incredibly sexist, perpetuating ideas of women as property and alienating teenage girls them from a healthy relationship with their own fathers and boys their own age.

What gets me is they hypocrisy of at least some of my detractors. It seems like I got two flavors – general MRA and Christian Patriarchy. The MRAs are giant hypocrites on this one. Men who sling around “incel” and “kissless virgin” as fates worse than death are excited by a commercial where a Dad constantly prevents his daughter from kissing her suitor. This seems counter productive. Unless they really do think that kissing is bad. If that’s the case, then a change of rhetoric is needed. Stop pretending a lack of intimate contact is a bad thing. Isn’t it a badge of honor that you didn’t sully some young woman with your filthy mouth?

As for the Christian Patriarchy types, I suppose that it’s exciting to see a famous comedian and a major corporation expressing their worldview on such a big platform. But they dropped the ball when they started annoying people on Twitter. No one has ever changed religions because some stranger disagreed with their tweet. Maybe take out your own ad next time. It’s what the Scientologists did.

The Signal To Noise Ratio Of Blood Flow To One’s Genitals

Posted in Editorials on December 3rd, 2015

There’s an idea floating around our cultural conversation that has too long gone unquestioned. This is one of those fallacies that is so much a part of our rhetoric that we hardly even recognize we are perpetuating it. It’s the idea that sexual arousal is inherently meaningful aside from one’s personal subjective experience or actual participation in sex with a partner. And this is not only wrong, but it can be very harmful.

If anything, we don’t have enough compassion, education or care around human sexuality. And I wish we lived in a world where we took care of ourselves and each other in that way. As we do not, I think that our ignorance is part of what lets this fallacy flourish.

Here’s what I mean. I see this on the Red Pill, but it’s in other places too. It’s the idea that a person getting sexually excited means anything else than their particular brain was stimulated and is now sending the signal “hey there goes a good person to mate with.” So when someone says they wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) because they aren’t hot and don’t want to look at someone old on TV – they are falling victim to this fallacy – that the amount of blood flowing to their junk can tell them anything meaningful about who should be president. (Insert Martin O’Daddy/Marco Rubio-oh-oh-OH joke here.)

Recently on the Red Pill, a guy dismissed Philippa Rice, best selling illustrator and author as:

a low value woman’s musing about being the queen of a loser

I wanted to respond that she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank, but I didn’t. Because according to this guy, her creative or financial success mean nothing if she can’t give him a boner. She has no other value as a human being.

It goes the other way too, an attractive person is seen as being capable regardless of their qualifications. Tons of dudes said they’d vote for Sarah Palin for this reason, as if being attractive means she would be a good leader. Note to those dudes: voting for a person is not an effective way to get that person to sleep with you.

It’s not just manosphere misogynists that do this either. I was giggling over Rachel Bloom’s “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” when I sent it to my podcast co-host Karen. She said, “I don’t want to police her sexual choices or her celebration of her sexual choices but wanting to fuck somebody is not a compliment. It doesn’t compliment them for their accomplishments.” And as much as I still like that song, she’s right. Maybe we should lay off the “That person is such an awesome writer/artist/scientist that I want to have sex with them” proclamations. They add nothing to the conversation aside from an acceptable way to say “Hey everyone my genitals are pleasantly engorged right now!”

And this can get really gross really quickly. I’m disturbed by David Tennant fans trying to change the meaning of Jessica Jones from a revenge fantasy to one about unrequited love. If any given person wants to fuck Kilgrave, brilliant, enjoy your mind control fantasy. But that does not mean that the other characters in the show should feel the same way! Any given fan’s personal pants feelings about David Tennant do not and should not have any impact on the plot of the show. Those feelings of lust don’t make Kilgrave not a rapist – which is why I will judge you if you ship Kilgrave and Jessica.

It’s hard to know how big of a leap there is from defending fictional rapists because the actor who plays them is hot to defending actual rapists because you think the accused person is hot. And it happens all the time. “James Deen [/other famous actor/athlete] can’t be guilty because I personally would have wanted it, ergo she must have wanted it.” As I said, really disgusting, really fast.

In an ideal world, everyone would be healthy and fulfilled in their sexuality. But we need to stop giving that delightful rush of hormones an intrinsic meaning other than “Ooh. I think I’d like some sex now.” It’s meaningful in discerning one’s own sexual desires but says nothing about anyone or anything else.

If you like this post, you might also like:
The Projection of Hate – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rolling Stone and Right Wing Sex Panic
Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser

American Politics Is Eating Itself

Posted in Editorials on November 9th, 2015

Last week, Deport Racism PAC offered a $5,000 prize to anyone who would interrupt Saturday Night Live and call Donald Trump a racist. And so the show got out in front of it. Sonia Saraiya wrote in a review of Donald Trump hosting SNL:

This was most on display in the opening monologue, when a man heckled Trump, yelling “You’re a racist!” It was a plant—Larry David, who had been in the cold open, reprising his role as Bernie Sanders—but the punchline, if there was one, went nowhere. Trump was unflappable, because he knew the heckle was coming, and David’s “character” immediately admitted he’d taken cash to yell at Trump. In a few moments of adroit comic shuffling, the show introduced racism, let Trump defuse it, and then revealed it as insincere. That’s a set of actions with profound commentary for what it means to allege racism in this media climate; naturally, then, no performers of color were on stage. To include them would have meant underscoring how messed-up the bit was, and “Saturday Night Live” was not interested in critical thinking last night.

Rumors are circulating that Deport Racism PAC is linked to the Hillary Clinton campaign, but as the Daily Dot explains, all we really know is that the PAC was founded by a Clinton supporter.

But the PAC’s link to Clinton is irrelevant when you consider Saraiya’s critique. Larry David legitimized Donald Trump. His “joke” was that we all know Trump isn’t really a racist. C’mon you guys it’s just internet crazies and angry Latin@s saying that.

And in response, Deport Racism PAC has said that they’re giving the money to Larry David.

Irony is dead.

In declaring Larry David the “winner” they either don’t get the “joke,” are pretending not to, or don’t care. I’m leaning towards the latter. Which should make it very hard for anyone to take them seriously as a legitimate anti-racist organization in the future. So in this weekend’s showdown between a xenophobic megalomaniac and a nominally anti-racist PAC, the winner was Lorne Michaels. He played this whole thing expertly, as he should, having been in television for so long.

But in not using satire to speak truth to power, Michaels and David reveal that the game is rigged. Trump looks good, SNL has some of the best ratings in years and Deport Racism PAC insists that they also won somehow. What’s left is a meaningless discourse that’s more about getting attention than making a coherent point or changing anything. “Both sides” are feeding off of one another like a snake eating it’s tail (an example of the tagline for my podcast about the “political ouroboros.”) And the end result is that Trump improved his reputation. After all, that liberal Larry David didn’t think he was a racist!

I truly believe that the totality of American politics is a lot more than Donald Trump. But from conversations with friends and family who aren’t glued to Twitter, cable news and alternative media the way I am most people aren’t thinking about what Paul Ryan will do as Speaker, the climate conference in Paris or the TPP. When most Americans hear “politics” they think “Donald Trump.”

President Obama and Bear Grylls, the next Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir?

Posted in Editorials on August 31st, 2015

Today’s news that President Obama will be on Running Wild with Bear Grylls has many fans excited for what promises to be fascinating television.

According to USA Today:

The president and the host will be trekking through the Alaskan wilderness. The episode, to be taped, will air on NBC later this year. It will highlight the effects of climate change in that area.

This is a great way to educate people on this important issue and it might even lead to policy changes. I’m especially hopeful because of the historical precedent.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt went on a camping trip with John Muir in Yosemite. Muir founded the Sierra Club and was one of the first American conservationists and advocates for Yosemite. Although his thin build and long beard don’t project the same image of rugged masculinity as Grylls does today, Muir was known for taking risks in the wilderness – climbing trees during windstorms so he could better understand both the tree and the power of the storm. The famous trip Roosevelt and Muir took together led to federal protections for Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove. There’s an interesting account of their journey in the Ken Burns documentary series “America’s Best Idea.”

It’s not a new idea that conservation and recreation go hand in hand. We need to protect the national parks, public space and wilderness that we have and fighting climate change is part of that.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s recent decision to allow Shell to drill in the arctic makes his conservation themed trip to Alaska seem hypocritical. But in the time he has left in his presidency, there will be other permit applications, and other decisions – like the one on the Keystone XL Pipeline – which he will have to make. Perhaps once he has seen the destruction that is taking place he will reconsider making it worse.

It would be ironic if a genre as problematic as reality television could steer us back on course to a greener planet. But as we have seen with his usage of Buzzfeed and “Between Two Ferns” to encourage young people to sign up for health insurance, President Obama is good at using new media to advance his agenda. And while the new 1560 page Clean Power Plan doesn’t easily lend themselves to a viral video, a camping trip with Bear Grylls certainly does.

Themes of Reproductive Justice In The Second Season Of Star Trek Voyager

Posted in Editorials on March 9th, 2015

Star Trek Voyager is a very feminist show. A lot of television in the 90’s took feminism for granted, and Voyager is no exception.
I think in part this stems from having so many great women characters.

The second season of Voyager is considered by many fans to be the weakest, and I’m not sure if I agree. But even if that’s true, I did notice that there was a strong theme of Reproductive Justice underscoring a few of the episodes.

It starts with Elogium. In this episode, the ship flies into the mating ground of some giant space slugs and this throws Kes into heat, many years before she expected to have to decide whether or not to have a child. Trekkie Feminist has a great review of the episode, but what stood out to me were that:

  • Janeway stated plainly that she will not institute a blanket ban on “fraternization.” If the crew wants to hook up, that’s their business
  • Janeway acknowledges that some members of her crew may have children. But again she’s not going to encourage this or discourage it. She doesn’t think this is any of her business.
  • Kes considers whether or not to have a child and concludes that just because she can, doesn’t mean that she should.

At the end of the episode we find out that Ensign Wildman is pregnant. She and her husband were trying to conceive before Voyager left the Alpha Quadrant and she has just confirmed it now. They’ve been lost in space for months, but the show glosses over this. Perhaps it’s because Wildman’s husband is Ktarian and that species has a much longer gestation period. Or maybe Ktarian sperm can live a lot longer than human sperm in fallopian tubes waiting for the right egg.

When Wildman comes to tell Captain Janeway, the tone is serious:

WILDMAN: I know this isn’t the best place to have a baby, but it’s all I have left of my husband.
JANEWAY: Well, congratulations, Ensign.

At first I wondered why they didn’t seem happier about it. But their serious tone is fitting. Being lost in a hostile area of space 70 light years away from family and a support network is not the best place to have a baby. Gushing and squeeing would not have been appropriate. The show takes this very seriously. Wildman’s baby is wanted and yet arriving under less than ideal circumstances.

In the episode Deadlock, Wildman gives birth, and there is a complication:

EMH: Push!
KES: Don’t forget to breathe, Samantha. Deep regular breaths. That’s it.
EMH: Cervical dilation is at ten point two centimeters. Prostaglandin levels are normal. Push, Ensign.
WILDMAN: You push, damn it! I’m sick of pushing!
EMH: I know you’re fatigued. Try to focus on your breathing. Remember the exercises we did. When you feel a contraction, bear down.
WILDMAN: Oh! Oh, what was that?
EMH: What’s wrong?
WILDMAN: A pain in my abdomen. It’s different. Sharp. Oh, God!
EMH: The baby has shifted position, and its exo-cranial ridges have lodged in the uterine wall. This is a rare complication, but it’s been known to happen in human Ktarian pregnancies.
KES: Can we reposition the baby?
EMH: No. Its spinal column is too fragile. I don’t want to risk nerve damage. If we don’t deliver the baby now, its ridges could perforate the uterus and cause internal bleeding. Kes, prepare for a foetal transport.
EMH: I’ve locked onto the baby’s coordinates. We’re ready to begin. Initiating umbilical separation. Energizing.
EMH: Congratulations, Ensign. It’s a girl.
WILDMAN: Is she all right?
EMH: The transport caused a slight hemocythemic imbalance, but we’ll stabilise her cell membranes with osmotic pressure therapy.

Although there was a risk to the baby (she born with something like decompression sickness) the Doctor and Kes did not think twice about saving Wildman’s life. She was in danger of dying and they saved her. Immediately. Without question.

When I was a teenager I probably watched this episode at least three or four times, and I never noticed this. But now I know that we live in a climate where for many, saving a pregnant woman’s life at any risk to the fetus is taboo. Governments in places like Ireland and El Salvador force women to die on the table for their babies. Religion lauds these tragedies as beatific. Those who dissent are condemned. As recently as 2011, the United States was considering a bill that would free hospitals from any liability if their religious refusal to treat a pregnant woman resulted in her death. But on Voyager, this was never even considered to be an option. Not for a millisecond.

Finally there is the matter of Seska’s assault on Chakotay. She tells him that while he was being held hostage by the Kazon, she took a sample of his DNA while he was unconscious and impregnated herself with it. When the baby is born she sends a message saying that she and the baby are in danger. This is clearly a trap. Janeway and Chakotay know this. Janeway tells Chakotay that it is his decision whether or not they decide to attempt a rescue. In his review of this episode, Jammer says,

If you guessed that Chakotay decides to go after his son, you win today’s prize. Still, despite the tough-to-judge arguments early in the show regarding whether it would be wise to indulge in such an emotional response over a child that was born under such manipulated circumstances, the bottom line is that it is downright foolhardy for Janeway to divert the course of the Voyager into what is the heart of Kazon territory and what may very likely be Seska’s latest snare attempt. Just how many times has Seska duped the Voyager crew in the past?

But this is only true if you consider that Janeway’s only objective is military success. It’s not. She frequently places the heath and welfare of her crew, and the existence of other civilizations above their goal of getting home or winning battles. Even though she’s his superior officer, Janeway does not want to stop Chakotay from rescuing his son and having his chance at fatherhood – even though it might put them all at risk. When you include Chakotay’s rights as a parent her calculus makes more sense.

It’s clear that for Captain Janeway, the reproductive rights of her crew are a priority. One more reason why Star Trek is a utopian vision of the future.

I just wrote a thousand words about reproductive justice in the context of a television season that aired twenty years ago. But I’m also doing something for the cause of reproductive justice today. For the third year, I’m participating in the National Network of Abortion Funds Bowl-a-thon. Abortion funds are local, grassroots groups that work tirelessly to help low-income and disadvantaged people who want an abortion and do not have enough money to pay for it. I’m bowling because I believe that everyone should have access to the abortions they need, regardless of how much money they have. Click to follow the link and find out more. Please donate if you can.

Seven Seasons Of Questions About Odo

Posted in Editorials on February 2nd, 2015

Adam and I have recently finished watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9. It’s a really good show. Perhaps the best one. As Zack Handlen of the AV Club explains so well, it’s strength is in how it deconstructs the premise and tropes of the two previous series:

Cracks in the facade have been showing for a while now, though. DS9 hasn’t given up the dream of the unity, but it has addressed the way the base metals of the individual often react in ways no one can predict. It used to be that just wanting to be friends was enough; now, though, there are conflicting allegiances, religions, philosophies. Communication helps, but it’s not a cure all, and situations arise in which there is no real right answer—in which the most two sides can hope to achieve is an uneasy compromise until the next great crisis. There’s no definitive protagonist on DS9, no single hero like Picard of TNG or the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trifecta of TOS. Sisko may get top billing, but he’s first among equals. All viewpoints are welcome, all are treated with equal respect.

Still, what I want to talk about is how mind shatteringly awesome Odo is. Deep Space Nine’s chief of security is a shape shifter in a Bajoran militia uniform. He’s far better at security than Worf ever was, and he makes the most convincing case for an all seeing all knowing police state I’ve ever heard (no, really.) He has Data’s longing for connection, Spock’s vulnerability and Worf’s torn allegiances. But still, there’s so many unanswered questions about what he can do. You could ask similar questions about Q, but he’s used sparingly. Odo is a regular cast member.

Sometimes it seems like Odo had no idea what the answers are to these questions himself!

For your discussion and consideration: the grand list of questions about Odo that Adam and I have been compiling for months:

How does he get energy? Odo doesn’t eat or drink. (Except that one time in “Facets” where he was hosting Curzon’s memories and drank Tranya.) He needs to regenerate, but where does he get the fuel for that process?

How can he change his mass? We see Odo transform into a few small things, and people pick him up with ease. How can this be?

Is there a limit on how big or small he can become? We see Laas become a giant creature that can fly through space. But can changelings get even bigger than that? Could he make himself small enough to fix problems on a molecular or atomic level? The possibilities here are endless.

Why don’t O’Brien and Dax and Bashir follow him around asking him questions all day? If generating this list of questions was a fun game as we watched the show, wouldn’t the curiosity be just torture for inquisitive scientists? Perhaps they understand that he doesn’t like being treated as a science experiment but we don’t see them even asking the occasional, respectful question.

Can he see in 360 degrees? There’s no indication that he can do this, but shouldn’t he be able to?

Are all parts of his body equally sensitive to light and/or touch? And if they are…

Does he/can he echolocate? It seems like he should be able do do this too. If not, what does he hear with?

What’s a “morphogenic matrix”? Is it like a neural net?
What does he think with?

How does he understand gender – his own and that of humanoids? Odo takes the form of a Bajoran male because the doctor who studied him was a Bajoran man. If Doctor Mora had been a woman, would Odo had taken a female form? Is there anything about him that’s inherently “male?” Does changeling reproduction require two (or more or fewer) biological sexes?

How does he understand/experience friendship/love/sex etc? Does he have a limbic system? Odo seems to easily assimilate to humanoid concepts of friendship and camaraderie. He appears to approximate heterosexual cisgendered male sexuality. But he also says that changeling relationships within The Great Link are not understandable to humanoids. How is it that he can so easily adapt to our social structures?

Odo seems to equivocate The Link with other changelings with having sex with humanoids. How similar are they really though? Is The Link an erotic experience or just pleasurable and intimate? Does it have anything to do with changeling reproduction? The way he links with himself in Children of Time and with a changeling he barely knows in Chimera is very different from the way he establishes sexual relationships with humanoids.

Can he turn himself into a machine with working parts? If so how complicated? Like maybe he could be a pair of scissors or a pulley but not a power drill or a transporter?

Does Odo have Bajoran citizenship? This is implied but it never really comes up. I think it would be interesting to know how the Bajoran government classifies him.

Can he make himself rain down Sulfur? Or can he turn into any caustic or explosive substance? Could he turn himself into a bomb that explodes and still survive? Alternately, if he was on a ship that was about to explode could he turn himself into some kind of inflammable or shock absorbing material to survive?

Does he have any way of proving his own unique identity? If another shapeshifter was pretending to be him would there be any way to tell the difference? Does he have any kind of tissue with any kind of DNA like substance that he sheds? (Like dead skin cells?)

How does the universal translator work with Odo? Does he have an implant? It makes sense that he can speak Bajoran and Cardassian, but what about other languages?

Does Odo use his bucket on The Defiant? Not as important, but I’m still curious!

In case you are going to tell us to repeat to ourselves “it’s just a show” and that we should really just relax, or to get a life, we know this is a little silly. In fact, we kind of recognize ourselves in this episode of After Hours

Michael:You guys ever think that maybe we think about movies more than the people who made the movies?
Soren: Yeah, like maybe we’re projecting? Yeah I think about that…
Michael: Right, like maybe the guys who wrote Aladdin maybe wouldn’t have if they knew a bunch of assholes were going to sit around tearing all their choices apart?
Katie: Well no matter what you make, some dickhead is going to comment on it.
Dan: I’m going to stop making things forever now, because of comments.

But we also find ourselves agreeing with SimonF:

Watch enough Deep Space 9 and you will begin to generate a list of pretty fucked up questions about Odo…

And if you still doubt that I have a sense of humor about Trek, check out my Deep Space Nine memes:
It Had To Be Done
The Answer To An Age Old Question
That’s a Good Question

My Favorites of 2014

Posted in Editorials on December 31st, 2014

All the best in 2015. Here’s some of my favorite things from 2014.

Link Roundup – Some of these are long reads, and some are shorter. Here’s some posts from the year I hope you didn’t miss.
Dear America, I Saw You Naked
Popular Delusions: Sovereign Citizens
Survey: Overwhelming Majority Of U.S. Doctors Seeing Patients With Drug-Resistant Illnesses
Invisible Politics
Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior
Why Did Anti-Choice Activists Harass Unitarians in New Orleans?

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in 2014

My favorite book of 2014 is a novella published as an ebook by Atavist Books. Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor…

Sleep Donation is so engaging I couldn’t put it down. The universe is rich and easy to get lost in. A quick and very satisfying read.

Honorable Misandry Mention:
Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

My favorite new show of 2014 is Broad City on Comedy Central. I first heard Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer on the Ronna & Beverly podcast. I immediately became a fan of their hilarious web series. It was originally supposed to be on FX, but they cancelled the show and then Comedy Central Picked it up. I swear I remember articles at the time that FX didn’t know how to market a show about women to advertisers, but those links seem to have disappeared. But I’m so glad the show came to be. It’s the funniest thing on television.

Honorable Mention:
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Adam and I subscribed to HBO to watch this show. John Oliver is brilliant.

I watched every episode of Married at First Sight on the new FYI network. I liked it, but I feel kind of guilty about that. Ultimately I think the show was somewhat exploitative of the couples. But I suppose that’s the point of reality television. Here’s some thoughts from Sarah Moglia Is “Married at First Sight” a Legitimate Science Experiment?

The PinkPrint by Nicki Minaj. (More about all of my feels for Nicki Minaj here.)

Honorable Mention
Barefoot and Pregnant by the Dollyrots.


As everyone has probably already seen Guardians of the Galaxy and Birdman, and Horns disappointed me because it took out almost everything that made the book was so amazing, I’m going to recommend everyone go see Particle Fever right now.

This movie is accessible to people with all levels of scientific understanding. I’ve never taken a day of Physics in my life and I didn’t feel that lost at all. “Why do humans do science? Why do they do art? The things that are least important for our survival are the very things that make us human.”

Unitarian Universalism

I have to share these videos by some of my fellow UUs.

Here’s “Love Reaches Out” a song written about the theme of this year’s General Assembly

The Reeb Project is a movement to restore the Voting Rights Act in the United States by All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC. It’s named after Rev James Reeb a Unitarian minister who was beaten to death while protesting against segregation in Selma Alabama in 1965. This summer, The Reeb Project held a protest, and it’s the first (and possibly only) flash mob video I will share on this blog.

Other people’s Year End Posts You Should Read
It’s Been a Terrible Year for Reproductive Rights
The Frozen River: A Humanist Sermon

Political Flavors
Most popular posts on this blog this year:
Contradictions made by people insulting my husband (AKA, Misogynist Troll Insult Fails Part 2)
“That’s some training to give to girls.” The criminalization of female self defense

My favorite posts from the year:
Out, Damned Sperm! Why Everyone Is Freaked Out About Fruit Flies.
Our mockery of Fox Sports Sexism
Who Will Be The Next Republican To Endorse Andrew Cuomo?
The Untenable Incel
Red Pillers – Very Concerned about Ladies’ Fashion

Previously: My favorites of 2013

My Favorites of 2013

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Podcast Reviews, Site News on December 31st, 2013

Happy New Year everyone! Here are some of my favorite things about 2013.

Favorite BookEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. In 1889 two women writers raced around the world to see if they could beat the fictional record from the famous Jules Verne novel. This is an amazing story and Goodman writes this non-fiction book like a novel. I feel like I have a grasp on what New York and other cities felt like in the late 1800’s and although a lot is different now, in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I read Around the World in Eighty Days before I read this book so I could understand the inspiration for the trip. Like Gulliver’s Travels, many people think this is a children’s story. But it’s mainly an homage to British Imperialism. Jules Verne is to H G Wells what Stephanie Meyer is to J K Rowling.

Verne was terrible at writing women, something that is actually addressed in Eighty Days. Bly gets to meet him on her travels and Verne’s wife says she thinks his books need more women characters. And although it seems redemptive that two women took on the challenge of Verne’s male heroes, unfortunately Bly and Bisland still had many of the same racist attitudes as Verne did.

Still this book is a fascinating read. Every page is better than the one before it. And send these quotes to anyone who tries to justify something sexist by making an appeal to tradition. Bly and Bisland quite frequently expressed feminist sentiments.

“After the period of sex-attraction has passed, women have no power in America.” -Elizabeth Bisland

“A free American girl can accommodate herself to circumstances without the aid of a man.” -Nellie Bly

“Criticize the style of my hat or my gown, I can change them, but spare my nose, it was born on me.” -Nellie Bly

New TV ShowMaron I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I do really like Marc Maron’s show in IFC. The show brings to life all of Maron’s delicious and sardonic humor.

Podcast Host – Lindsay Beyerstein. Lindsay is a new host for the Center For Inquiry’s Point of Reason Podcast. Check out her interviews with Katherine Stewart, Paul Offit, Barry Lynn and Kathryn Joyce.

Blog PostThe Retro Husband by Ruth Fowler is my favorite blog post by anyone on the internet in 2013.

Video GameFiz: The Brewery Management Game This game is similar to the classic Lemonade Stand or newer Facebook games in that you are running a shop and have various aspects of products and personnel to manage. But it is so much more than that. There is a storyline that I got wrapped up with and very clever dialogue and plot twists. I played it through in a week, which took me about 22 hours total. Good thing I’m on vacation, it’s hard to put this game down once you start it.

Most Popular Posts at Political Flavors in 2013:
What’s Wrong With The Lingerie Football League? I didn’t know how many people search for the LFL online. I’m also quite pleased that I was linked by the Huffington Post and the French women’s magazine madmoiZelle.

For our Girls to Succeed, We Must Reign in Rakish Boys
aka “What if dress codes for boys looked like dress codes for girls?” I had fun writing this post although at times I felt that I was being incredibly creepy. I’m very glad people like it.

Best wishes for 2014!

The Federation Doesn’t Take Sexual Assault Very Seriously…

Posted in Editorials on September 30th, 2013

Adam and I have been re-watching “Star Trek:The Next Generation” and we’re in the middle of Season 4 right now. When I was a teenager, I would have told you that this was the best show on television ever. Watching it again at age 30, I am still enjoying it very much, but for the first time I can see what people don’t like about Star Trek – that it can be painfully earnest, that it’s a bit silly, that sometimes the science doesn’t make any sense. And now that I can analyze it with a feminist lens, there’s a lot to talk about.

Generally, I think they show is very good – especially for it’s time – in terms of gender roles. I know the common criticism that Troi and Beverly Crusher are the main women characters and they are also the “caretakers” but that they are people with strengths, weaknesses and personalities of their own is always clear. What does become annoying is that Troi rarely has an episode that isn’t directly related to her sexuality in some way. Dr. Crusher, on the other hand is the virginal Madonna. At this point in the series, all the other characters have gotten laid (except possibly Wesley, but he’s very young we’ve seen him dating at least three different women) but Beverly Crusher is someone’s mother, so no sex for her! I do recall a later episode where she gets lucky, but it takes quite a while to happen, something I find unrealistic for someone as smart and beautiful – and as we see from several of her “will-they-or-won’t-they” moments with Picard very interested in sex.

William Riker, I think is a very interesting character. He is extremely masculine, but he is a feminist, or at the least staunchly egalitarian. He’s big on consent, as we see in “The Vengance Factor.” Sex is not a conquest for him but an experience he shares with others. When Yuta seems unsure what she wants, he stops things right away. He’s not possessive or jealous which seems to clash with what our current idea of masculinity is right now. Riker’s relationship with Troi could be considered open or poly. They love each other but they often say they reject the idea that they “own” each other.

The one bump in this very progressive road, is the way the show handles sexual assault, or at least the threat, accusation or attempts of sexual assault which come up quite often for a show Netflix says is good for kids ages 8 and up.

Tasha Yar – The Enterprise-D’s short lived first chief of security was brash, strong and loyal. She also referred to the fact that she escaped a planet where “rape gangs” were common. Nothing is said about the fact that this is common for women in war torn places, this is pretty much “rape as character development.”

“Code of Honor” – This episode is extremely racist. But there is an additional squick factor. Tasha Yar is about to be “forced to marry” Lutan and Troi asks her about the fact that when they first met, she was attracted to him. What kind of question is that? Hey I know this guy kidnapped you and you have to fight his girlfriend to the death lest you are “forced to marry him” but you thought he was cute before this all went down, so it’s kind of your fault, right? The whole context given her past as an assault survivor makes this even worse.

“The Child” – This episode is clearly about Troi being violated by an alien force. This actually happens to her quite often, sadly, but in this case, it’s explicitly sexual, as she is impregnated without her consent. No one asks her how she feels about that, even during a senior staff meeting where people openly debate whether or not she should have an abortion – without asking for her input and talking as if she wasn’t in the room. For the record, Worf wanted to force her to abort, Data wanted to force her to give birth. Picard at least said that she had the final say in what happened, but again, no concern for the fact that she was violated.

A Matter of Perspective” – In this episode we see a series of events from three perspectives, Rikers, Manua’s – a woman who accuses him of trying to rape her and of killing her husband, and Dr. Nel Apgar, the man Riker is accused of killing. Riker claims that Manua came on to him and he rejected her. Apgar told his research assistant that Riker and Manua were both kissing enthusiastically when he walked in on them. After Riker is found innocent of murder, the fact that he was also accused of attempted rape is entirely forgotten and never mentioned again. As much as I dislike the “women lie about being raped” trope, and as infuriating as it is that the title implies that rape is just “a matter of perspective” I think it’s inconsistent with Riker’s character and with the series that he would do such a thing. Starfleet officers make mistakes, but do not commit vicious assaults. As a viewer, I am satisfied that he is innocent. However, within the universe of the show, I am uncomfortable with how easily this accusation is dismissed, especially because the Manua never recants.

Ménage à Troi” – aka Lwaxana Troi is a Big, Damn Hero. In this episode, Riker, Troi and Lwaxana are kidnapped by Ferengi, one of whom – Daimon Tog, has expressed romantic interest in Lwxanna. There’s an extremely creepy scene where Daimon Tog summons the women to his quarters naked, via transporters. Ferengi women do not wear clothing. It’s also established that Betazed culture is very body positive and rituals like marriage are frequently performed naked. Yet, Troi and Lwaxanna are acting anxious, and it’s not because they are insecure about their bodies, it’s clear they are afraid they are about to be raped. Lwaxanna offers to go willingly if Troi and Riker are set free. And then Daimon Tog attempts to “seduce” her. We see Troi grimace as she emphatically feels her mother’s disgust. But Lwaxanna manages to talk her way out of it before the assault is completed. At the end of the show, once all three captives have been rescued, The Enterprise flies off into the sunset. Apparently it’s no big deal that the Ferengi just kidnapped two Federation officers and the Ambassador from Betazed to the Federation, and that Daimon Tog assaulted and attempted to rape a Federation ambassador. Just another crazy day on the Enterprise! Especially because the show ended on a humorous note with Picard’s convincing Daimon Tog that he was Lwaxanna’s true love and would stop at nothing to get her back. Who cares that a Ferengi was about to rape her? It’s played for the lulz. Also, I totes see what you did there Star Trek! Ménage à Troi! GET IT?!

“Devil’s Due” – Nine years before Bedazzled, and twelve years before “Shortcut to Happiness” there was another knock off of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” where the Devil is actually a hot chick. Sort of. In “Devil’s Due,” a woman, Ardra appears to a planet the Enterprise is visiting and claims to be a god that the people there pledged to be slaves to upon her return 1,000 years ago. Picard is really insistent that she’s not who she says she is. It’s a crappy version of “Who Watches The Watchers.” Picard winds up having to prove his case before a court where Data is the sole judge. If he loses, he will belong to Ardra “mind, body, and soul” forever. As Ardra previously tried to seduce Picard and was rejected, we know she’s extremely keen on the body part. No one cares, at all, that someone is trying to kidnap a the Federation flagship’s Captain and make him a sex slave for life. It’s played alternately as comedy and for titillation.

“First Contact” [fourth season episode, not the movie] – Riker is injured while surveying a civilization about to test their warp drive capabilities for the first time. He is recovering in a hospital where the doctors have him quarantined and under security as they correctly suspect he is an alien. When he realizes they know he isn’t one of them, he tries to escape. A creepy chick sneaks into his hospital room and says she will help him flee in exchange for sex, and that she’s always wanted to do it with an alien. He says no repeatedly. She insists, and whines. In the next scene, Riker has escaped. This is never mentioned or addressed in any way. Like in “Devil’s Due” it’s supposed to be kind of funny and we are meant to boggle at why Riker wouldn’t want to get down with the cute geek girl, I mean, he is a ladies’ man, right? What’s the problem?

Roddenberry’s vision was that in the future, that everyone is equal regardless of gender or ethnicity would be taken for granted as a matter of fact. And the show reflects that, for the most part. But I hope even the best shows can withstand some feminist media criticism, no matter how faithful the fandom.