Tag Archives: Feminism

The Return of Linkorama

Linkoramas are getting rarer these days mostly because I tweet most articles. But I will still be occasionally posting something more long-form.

To wit:

  • A fascinating article about how Vermeer used a camera obscura to enable his paintings. Yet another example about how people were pretty damn clever in the supposedly unenlightened past.
  • This is a couple of months late, but someone posted up Truman Capote’s christmas story. The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman reminded me of this little gem.
  • This is the second and by far the largest study yet to show that routine mammography is basically a gigantic waste of money, being just as likely to precipitate unnecessary treatment as to discover a tumor that a breast exam wouldn’t. Do you think our “evidence-based” government will embrace this? No way. They already mandated mammogram coverage when the first study showed it to be a waste.
  • I don’t know even know if this counts as mathematical malpractice. There’s no math at all. It’s just “Marijuana! RUN!”. Simply appalling reporting by the MSM.
  • This on the other hand, does count as mathematical malpractice. The gun control advocates are hyping a Missouri study that shows a rise in murder rate after a change in the gun control laws. However, in doing so they are ignoring data from 17 other states, data on all other forms of violent crime and data from Missouri that showed a steep rise in the murder rate before the laws were changed. They are picking a tiny slice of data to make a huge claim. Disgraceful. And completely expected from the gun-grabbers.
  • I love color photos from history. Just love them.
  • This is old but worth reposting: one of the biggest feminists texts out there is loaded with garbage data, easily checked facts that are completely wrong. This was a big reason I distanced myself from third-wave feminism in college: it had been taken over by crackpots who would believe any statistic as long as it was bad. In college, we were told that one in three women are raped (they aren’t) that abuse is the leading cause of admission to ER’s (it isn’t), that violence erupts very Superbowl (it doesn’t). I even had one radical tell me — with no apparent self-awareness, that murder was the second leading cause of death among women (it’s not even close). As I seem to say about everything: reality is bad enough; we don’t need to invent stuff.
  • Rocket Man Linkorama

  • A tour of ancient Rome.
  • I’ve commented enough on the Sandra Fluke business at the other site and on Twitter. But here’s one last piece on the lack of outrage when conservative women are smeared — sometimes by supposed feminists.
  • These ads for a symphony are startlingly beautiful. I love modern photography.
  • A little profile of one of the more important First Amendment defenders out there.
  • And now … the least helpful review on Amazon.
  • And 100 reasons not to go to grad school.
  • My wife says she likes to exercise every day, but I don’t believe her.
  • Bechdel 2012

    So this video is up:

    I’ve blogged about the Bechdel test before. And I think she gets to the heart of why it’s useful — not as an evaluator of a single film but of Hollywood in general. However, there is one issue I had with this and, increasing, with the Bechdel test itself. And it is based on her comments on Midnight in Paris.

    Midnight in Paris fails the Bechdel test and it really shouldn’t. There are numerous women in the story and all — the two French women Gil meets, Gertrude Stein, Inez, Adriana — are good roles with smart dialogue and an importance to the plot. That it technically fails the Bechdel test is just that — technical. That Gertrude Stein is not shown relating to her lover is not some slap in the face from Woody Allen. It’s because the movie is not about Gertrude Stein.

    And that brings me to the bigger problem with the Bechdel test. It’s less a test of sexism in Hollywood than it is of story structure. The way most stories are written is that you have a single protagonist. Everyone else is defined by their relationship to the protagonist. This is especially true in movies. Films, by necessity, must economize on characters and time. So if your protagonist is male, you will almost certainly fail the Bechdel test. Because two women interacting about something other than the protagonist would be a plot loop that a conscientious editor would almost certainly excise.

    It is notable that of the movies she cites that pass the test — The Help, Winter’s Bone and Black Swan — all three have female protagonists. If you applied an inverse Bechdel test to these films, they would fail (although almost other movies would pass easily).

    What the Bechdel test tells us is that Hollywood movies tend to still be built around a single protagonist and that this protagonist is almost always a man. That’s a fair point. As I noted in my previous post on this subject, movies that pass the test tend to be much more complete and rounded. But you could get the result a lot faster if you just counted male protagonists instead of interactions.

    So why do Hollywood movies tend to center around a single man? Several reasons. First, most writers and directors are male and so they write male protagonists. Second, many movies concern war, prison or sports — which tend to be male-dominated. Third, non-essential characters, interactions and plot elements tend to be excised for economy (which is why so many characters are childless single children). And finally, if you’re plundering the literature for plots, you’re going to encounter an ouvre dominated by lots of men and Jane Austen. Why the literature is dominated by men is a discussion for another day.

    (As limited as the Bechdel test is, the imitations are even more so. One of her commenters proposed the “LGBT” test that a movie should have two or more gay characters that interact about something other than their sexuality. This is a little silly. The Bechdel Test is useful because over half the population is female. Less than 3% are gay, so the test simply doesn’t transpose. Most movies don’t have even ten significant characters, let alone the sixty you would need to statistically have two gay characters.)

    Thursday Linkorama

    Non-political links:

  • Awesome. The navy shoots down on a drone with a laser.
  • OK, semi-political. I wish I’d had this woman as my philosophy professor when we were looking at feminist philosophy.
  • Political links:

  • Crime in Arizona, like the rest of the country, is way down … except in the district patrolled by America’s toughest sheriff. Funny that.
  • I’m forced to agree with a lot of what’s in this video. I wish our leaders would stop trying to pretend that solving global warming is an economic miracle waiting to happen. Not when things like public transportation are such boondoggles. When I hear pie in the sky talk about AGW, it indicates someone who isn’t taking the issue seriously, just using it as an excuse to prop up special interests. And, like the video, I wish global warming weren’t happening. But I can’t convince myself it’s a myth.
  • Ron Bailey links up the worst environmental disasters. You could add Chernobyl and Bhopal to the list if you wanted to get historical.
  • It is absolutely unsurprising that the NHTSA investigation essentially cleared Toyota of most wrongdoing. This is simply a repeat of the sudden acceleration incidents that happened twenty years ago. Ted Frank wades into the comments on the Toyota lawsuits. Worth reading as he is an excellent debater.
  • In the end, the Nanny Staters will press for this, taking kids out of homes that make them fat. Never mind that weight is a difficult issue to pin down (I linked last week to a school bashing the parents of a gymnast because her Bullshit Mass Index was high). Is the biggest problem we need to solve in parenting people feeding their kids too much?
  • The Enemy Within

    I’m working on a fisk of some recent utterances by Sarah Palin. But I thought I’d precede that with a short post that tacks in the opposite direction.

    There’s been a recent spate of articles attacking Palin and other conservative women as traitors to the cause of feminism. According to articles like this one in Slate, forwarded or Facebooked by many I know, these conservative women are simply the latest wave of anti-feminist feminists.

    The invocation of the word feminist at a meeting of anti-abortion women can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no real reason to consider Sarah Palin a feminist. She’s just the latest incarnation of a long and noble line of feminist anti-feminists: women who call themselves feminist but also object to the existence of the feminist movement and organize in opposition to it.

    It’s been a while since I read Catherine McKinnon, so I don’t have the background to justify my belief that this is categorical bullshit. Fortunately, Cathy Young is here to take this argument apart and give us some background on the writer, who said some truly vile things during the Duke Lacross incident. Her summary?

    The real mystery is why a publication of Slate’s stature, and its “women’s section,” Double XX, would run an article whose main purpose is to exclude dissent from feminist discourse and smear the dissenters … What happened to letting a hundred flowers bloom?

    (More from Reason on this here.)

    The reason this debate caught my eye is that a similar debate is going on in the conservative side of the political aisle, one in which I am deeply immersed. Certain politicians and certain views are being deemed “unconservative” even if they are, at their base, completely conservative. For example, I think taking global warming seriously is a very conservative position. But that has now become a litmus test. Agreement on philosophy and outlook is longer enough; agreement on dogma is required.

    Here we see the same thing. Having a philosophy of equality is not enough; agreement on a platform is required, even if that means denouncing all pro-life women (who comprise half of American women) as anti-feminist. Even though I’m opposed to Palin on cultural issues generally (and abortion specifically), I just don’t see that conflating “feminism” with “the Democratic party platform” helps anyone. It’s certainly not advancing the debate.

    The genesis of this debate is the appearance of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann on the national scene. I can certainly understand why they’re driving some people — especially liberal people, but even moderate people — around the bend. But is it not a sign of progress that female politicians can be just as crazy, stupid and full of shit as their male counterparts? Why must they be seen as some kind of anti-feminist trojan horse?

    The Bechdel Test

    I found this to be very illuminating:

    This is one of those things that is so fucking obvious that you spend a few minutes slapping yourself in the head for not thinking of it first.

    It’s difficult to assess how films do on this test off the top of my head. But after thinking about it for a while, I’m somewhat stunned at just how many films fail it. For example, of the 25 top-rated films on IMDB, going by memory:

    Three of the movies — Shawshank Redemption, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and 12 Angry Men have no significant female characters at all.

    Eight films — Stars Wars, Empire Strikes Back, the Dark Night, Casablanca, Fight Club, Once Upon a Time in the West, the Usual Suspects and Seven Samurai — have only one significant female character. Same goes, incidentally, for the Star Wars prequels. To be fair, the female characters in several of those films are strong. But they fail the test. My recollection is that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and City of God also fall into this category.

    The LOTR movies and Pulp Fiction have several women, but they do not interact.

    Goodfellas and both The Godfather films have several female character who interact. But my recall is that they only discuss the men in their lives. Raiders of the Lost Ark has a brief exchange between Marion and Sala’s wife about monkey, but I don’t think that counts. I’m not sure about The Matrix but I don’t recall a female conversation. There’s a reference to an offscreen conversation between Trinity and the Oracle. But that was about Neo.

    Only four of the top 25 films meet this test:

    Schindler’s List, despite being dominated by its male characters, has numerous scenes of Jewish women discussing the situation.

    Rear Window passes the test. Despite Hitch’s icy blonde reputation, he always had interesting female characters. Psycho fails the test, but mostly because of the way the film is structured.

    Silence of the Lambs has some interaction between Clarice and one of her friends at the academy.

    But even those four are marginal passes.

    So is this indicative of extensive sexism in Hollywood? Yes and no. One problem is that a number of those films deal with subjects — war, crime, prison — which have historically been male-dominated. Others take place in circumstances where there few women — 12 Angry Men, for example, was written when juries were usually all-male.

    In addition, IMDB’s top 25 movies among women is little different. Most of the women-favored movies are identical to the male-favored list and the new ones aren’t exactly breaking the mold. Amelie and Forest Gump I don’t recall well enough but think they fail. Gone With the Wind passes (more on that in a second). I’ve not seen American History X but doubt that it passes. To Kill a Mockingbird and Beauty and the Beast pass, I think. Up fails, as does WALL-E. So one could argue that women aren’t exactly demanding movies that pass the Bechdel test. Even the conventional “chick flick”, if I can use the term, is mostly about romance.

    However, that misses the point, in my opinion. The problem is that our movies have, for the most part, been heavily divided between “chick flicks” about romance and “guy movies” about everything else. This doesn’t have to be the case; it simply represents a blind spot in the mostly male writers, producers and directors of movies and TV. Almost all of the top 25 movies could have passed the Bechdel test if writers gave two shits about creating more than one interesting woman character. The movies that do pass the test didn’t exactly go out their way to do it. They just rounded the movies out a bit, made them fuller and more realistic.

    In the end, this trend may be less of symptom of sexism than sexism convolved with writers attempting to economize on character development. One thing I’ve noticed in movies and TV is the startling number of characters who are single children, have deceased parents or have no children of their own. This is mainly because it gets so complicated to write about real people with real families and real circles of friends. Writers also tend to write exclusively male characters since it’s so easy to write your own gender and “Gary Stu” the damned thing. (As an unpublished writer myself, I used to be that way. But I eventually started writing female characters and found them far more interesting.)

    As an example of how things could be different, you can contrast Star Trek: The Next Generation against Babylon 5. The latter had interesting female characters who frequently talked about something other than men. The former, however, danced on the blade quite a bit, never seeming to know what to do with its female characters (although it still usually passed the test). This was a principle reason why, in my opinion, B5 was the better show.

    As another example — the most successful movie of all time — Gone With the Wind — is a vast war epic that has numerous interactions with women that are not just about men (just mostly about men … Oh, Ashley!) Titanic and Avatar dominated the box office and, I think, both pass the test or at least dance on the blade.

    I’m not saying that people should rewrite movies to make sure they pass this test. If nothing else, I don’t want to watch a movie and hear my brain shriek “Bechdel scene” when some pointless all-women conversation is shoe-horned in. The Bechdel test is a thought experiment, not a recipe. Some movies and genres are simply unsuited to having multiple dynamic women characters — Lawrence of Arabia or Master and Commander, for example. “Bechdelling up” books like LOTR would be misguided and smack of tokenism.

    No, I think the lesson here is that Hollywood still has a blind spot. Not about women, but about life.

    Midweek Linkorama

  • Chili grenades? Chili grenades.
  • Stripper week continues on the blog with this story about Iceland banning the practice. This is being proclaimed as a great victory for feminism, but I don’t see that taking away women’s freedom — even if it’s the freedom to “degrade” themselves – and probably forcing them into illegal activity, is progress.
  • A fun story about the First Seder in the White House. I wonder how the Demented Right will square this with their vision of Obama as an Israel-hating Muslim.
  • Radley Balko has a point. Why doesn’t the public have a fraction of the outrage over real killings and bloodshed committed in the name of the War on Drug as they do about a brick thrown through a politician’s window?
  • Barack Obama and the Democrats kept abstinence-only education funding in the healthcare bill. Because what this country really needs to bring our healthcare bills down is a bunch of pregnant teenagers. And I thought I was snarked out on that subject.
  • You know the thing I hate about being a libertarian? Being right all the time. For the last decade, we warned that states were spending beyond their limits and creating a fiscal time bomb. We were right. Again.
  • More on the Godwinizing of the Tea Party.
  • Some legal humor from one of my favorite judges.
  • Friday Linkorama

  • The latest atrocity from Sheriff Joe. I will know people are serious about law and order when they get rid of this dangerous fruitcake.
  • Kurt Greenbaum. What a pussy.
  • Weather rock? Hey, it ain’t any dumber than color radar.
  • A fascinating article on the “men’s rights” movement. I’m having flashbacks to my college days with a feminist philosophy professor.
  • Uh, Apple? It’s tobacco, not ricin.
  • Once again, a murderous communist gets white-washed.
  • Obama’s cabinet has the lowest amount of private sector experience in history. Supposedly. I wonder about the methodology.
  • The latest Climategate non scandal.
  • Update: This is the sort of thing I deal with whenever I argue that climate change might be real.

    Chick Fight

    Katherine Mangu-Ward has the lunch of those who think Palin is an anti-feminist candidate:

    Steinem says Palin is the “wrong woman” for the VP job because her stances on creationism, global warming, gun control, stem cell research, wolf hunting, education reform and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are not the same as those of the “majority or plurality” of women, which I’m sure is true enough. But here’s where she loses me: Surely possessors of breasts can legitimately disagree about the proper method of wolf population control. Did God create the world 6,000 years ago? Hold on, let me consult my ovaries.

    Steinem also includes abortion, sex education and the Fair Pay Act in her indictment of Palin. It’s easier to construct a story in which a uniquely feminine view is relevant on these issues. But lo and behold, women are divided here as well. On abortion, for instance, a May Gallup poll found that 50% of American women are pro-choice, while 43% are pro-life — roughly the same percentages as men.

    Her opponent’s response? Those dumb broads in the surveys don’t know what pro-life means. Seriously.