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Posts tagged ‘oy w/the poodles already’

Diva is the New Bitch

Katherine Heigl, a pale and blonde woman with brown eyes. She is wearing a white shirt and her hair is wavy and swept up. She has one finger touched to her lips.Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood is apparently, like myself, a bit of a Katherine Heigl fangirl. I am not exactly her biggest movie fan, though I do own a couple of her Rom-Coms (on Blu-Ray AND I WILL NOT BE JUDGED FOR THAT SHUT UP!), I do appreciate her acting. Going on a slight tangent here — Izzy Stevens was my favorite Grey’s Anatomy character, and I am still catching up on what they did to her on the show (I haven’t watched U.S. TV in so long!). The ugly spiral that threw her from being a rock star who worked her way through medical school (admittedly on her beauty privilege) and survived loss after a disastrous poor decision to, as this NY Times article says, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a deer. And that was only the half of it.

It isn’t her acting that makes the great package deal of the person inside. It is her willingness to put forth her opinions. I love a woman with a mind and the insistence to let you know that she has opinions that are informed, researched, and firm. Heigl has those, and isn’t afraid to let it show.

It seems that this isn’t the way to make a name for yourself, or rather, a nice pretty name for yourself, in Hollywood or the entertainment industry. They want quiet lady leads who are going to follow the narrative, be grateful for whatever role they are handed where they trot off as tropes…perhaps as vessels off of which coke will be snorted. Or maybe they prefer disposable semen receptacles which are popular in action, epic war, revisionist history, and horror movies that are popular. These seem to be acceptable roles, and they want women eager to play them. Not someone who is going to call movies out for being a “little bit sexist“.

Katherine Heigl seems to have gotten this reputation that she is the foot-in-mouth girl. That she comes on too strong because she has opinions:

“Now I’ve got this moniker that I’m the foot-in-mouth gal, and I keep thinking, In what way? Because I said something you don’t agree with? Because I said something you don’t like? I’m just telling you my opinion. I hate the idea that I can’t be honest about how I feel about things because it’s going to piss somebody off who feels differently. That seems preposterous to me.”

I can totally relate. I’ve been told that I am too “aggressive” when it comes to my opinions, my ideas of right and wrong, whether it is the rules of order and how business is conducted in a PTO meeting or defending myself to the medical officers at the local medical building, or even in my writing.

What I don’t see is how being firm, having opinions, insisting that something be done a correct way, and in a way that is not damaging you yourself, is too aggressive, or makes you a Bitch Diva. How it means that you are getting out of hand, and how it now means that Heigl needs to go on some Apology Tour.

For me it just means that some Marine Corps Colonel is getting all apoplectic because I have the audacity to say that she isn’t the boss of me. I am a civilian and I don’t answer to rank. Only rules.

But insisting that we have the right to our voices somehow marks us.

Yet, as Melissa pointed out, it isn’t an even blanket. It seems that if you are a child rapist, you can get all the Hollywood activists who can’t be bothered to think about it to sign petitions that you should be left alone, because it wasn’t that bad. Or ya know, yelling racist things at your girlfriend after beating her up is no big deal. And throwing a phone in a fit. Huh. That’s cool. No apology tour required.

But don’t you open your pretty mouth, Katherine Heigl! We saw you kick that stuffed bunny! (Really, do you know a mother who hasn’t kicked a stuffed animal out of the way? I don’t) You are a terrible mum, and an ungrateful nobody in Hollywood (that Emmy you won says so!). Now go pay your penance!

But as the NY Times article also points out, and as Silverstein also mentions, Heigl is apparently rocking it out as a smart businesswoman who is showing herself as a force with which to be reckoned. She has produced her latest movie Life As We Know It, which had best make its way to Korea, for well under the amount that the Big Boys spent on Killers. Which was a flop. Her name is being used in sentences with names like Grace Kelly and Carole Lombard for her ability to play drama and comedy with such essence, gradation, and depth, but she is boxed in with actresses who have scarred reputations, like Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie, for being less than perfect starlets. For the record, even when those stars show that they have become incredible businesswomen (Barrymore directs and produces now, and Jolie is in about every action move staring a woman I see now…) they can not ever overcome those reputations. Drew will always be the coked out girl who was in that porno you wanked off to, right, and Angelina will always be the slut who slept with Jennifer’s husband, right? OK then.

Celebrities have two choices: live the narrative and be perfect, or live with the labels that the tabloids put on them. This is compound for women who find their most intimate details, from their diets, beach body, how they mother, and if you are certain celebrities, speculations about your mental health. For Heigl, she apparently will always be the star who speaks her mind. I admire that. I honestly wish that everyone would get over that, because, honestly it is really refreshing. Especially when she speaks up about the way that women are treated in Hollywood.

Really, if she is a Diva, then so are many of us in Social Justice. And I guess it is just the new word of the era used to put us in our place and remind us that people are afraid of power. The power of the woman with a mind and a drive to push herself forward. The power of a woman who will assert herself. The power of a woman who will be active and not passive.

Divas we are then.

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Liar

Anthony Stewart Head, as Rupert Giles, a pale British man in a suit, holding a syringe in front of his bespectacled face.One episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that perhaps has the hardest tug on the cockles of where my heart used to be, gentle readers, is Season 3’s “Helpless”. Perhaps I am just all maudlin right now, but there is a nice knapsack full of emotions which I think are worth exploring.

One of the most important principles I hold dear is honesty. It is the guiding principle of our home. It is certainly something I expect, though have often found myself not receiving from, my family members. I have fought to always provide it, even though frequently in my younger life the ability to lie convincingly became a survival skill. Funny how the things that help you often hurt you later in life.

Often times I have found myself on the wanting end of withheld information “for my own good”. You know, that tidbit that isn’t slid to you so that you weren’t distracted from exams or to ensure that you wouldn’t come running to the bedside of a sick relative. It is a fairly regular happenstance that someone will slip up and mention when Uncle So-and So was under anesthesia and had an allergic reaction to it casually in conversation when nattering on about something else that keeps me feeling good about being far from home.

I hate having information withheld from me. I hate it more when it is from people I love.

Even worse, are the times I know something is wrong. I can feel it. Everyone I know seems to be on eggshells. Papa seems tired more so than usual and hasn’t picked up The Kid for a hug today. The air crackle with fear as thick as morning fog on Whitefish Bay. Nothing is wrong and the pancakes are burned, but suddenly my grandfather comes home with a report of a heart that has been beating completely backwards in his chest for over seventy years and needs “corrective” surgery. And I didn’t know he had a surgery at all. No one wanted me to worry or distract me from my life. I suppose I should be grateful that none of these things has ever threatened my life directly, but it did threaten my chances of knowing that I might lose people who meant a great deal in forming me into the person I have become today.

Most of all it hurts when the people who lied to you are the people you trusted with the deepest parts of you.

“Helpless” sets us up for another fun year of celebrating Buffy’s natality (here’s a hint: they always turn out exactly as planned and no one ever dies *nod nod*). Buffy is excitedly discussing with anyone who will listen about the ice show her absent father takes her to every year. He must be more absent than I have come to expect, because I don’t remember him taking her to ice shows the last two years. Wev.

Any time she becomes excited about something it seems that Buffy becomes determined to redouble her Slayer Training efforts, and she begins studying the various uses of crystals and gems with their respective properties. Part of what I love about the show is the special relationship between Buffy and Giles, the one that proves that the influence of a father (not that it is necessary) can come from a place not of blood, but of love and intention and devotion. Through his work and commitment, Buffy has come to trust Giles, possibly more than any single person we see her interact with ever, with her life. When her father fails to come through, Buffy even tries to convince him that Ice Shows aren’t as cartoon-y as everyone thins they are, hoping to get him to take the hint. (If someone were free, they’d take their daughter, or student, or their Slayer…)

Over several scenes, we see that Buffy is a little off her game. To put it in Buffy’s terms, her game has left the country. She comes to Giles, scared, asking for help in figuring out why the thing she which she always thought she wanted to happen is now happening. But even she knows that this is something for concern, because Buffy puts her life in harm’s way every day, and her powers have become a lifeline. When Giles tap dances around this, when he skirts the issue, when he seems less concerned than Buffy, who verges on tears whenever she chances her voice to talk about it, we wonder how Giles can be so calm. We know he loves Buffy like his own kin.

Which is why when she is told to meditate upon a specific crystal during her studies, and we see Giles pull out a syringe to inject Buffy with some mysterious fluid while she is entranced in the flaw deep within, it is alarming indeed. Logical conclusions made through TeeVee magic tell us that he is the cause of this mojo that has afflicted Buffy. We, the viewer are let in on the deed that Giles has committed as we watch Buff struggle with what has been not only done to her, but withheld from her as well. Giles has been intentionally aloof, and now we know why.

The scenes at the Sunnydale Arms show us that, once again, our beloved Watchers’ Council is back in the action inflicting archaic testing and rites upon Buffy when they have spent most of her life “watching” from afar. When a slayer reaches her 18th birthday she is to be tested on her abilities without her…um, abilities, and they seem to feel that the best way to do this is to trick her, without giving her any clue what is happening to her. Sending a scared woman into a boarded up house with a supercharged vampire, in this case one who was turned as a patient from a psychiatric facility, and I am sure I don’t need to go into the deep issues packed up in Whedon’s decision to go that route (how it feeds a stereotype of how people with mental illness are all dangerous, how it exotifies mental hospitals and the people in them who are quite possibly and very likely not dangerous at all) so I am not going to, is rather messed up. Giving her any hint of the test before her invalidates it. And it has been done this way for centuries, so it must be the right way, nevermind, you, that it is rare for a slayer to reach her 18th birthday.

But Giles not only knew, he did this to her. And we watched with wide eyes as Buffy’s trust and autonomy were violated.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, a pale woman in a lavendar shirt and denim ovealls with blonde hair. She is in a dark room with plaster walls, covered in tiny Poloroid photos.Predictably, because this is television, like a good plot voucher, the vampire breaks free and kills one of his attendants, changing the rules up and eventually kidnapping Buffy’s mother, giving Giles the opportunity to slink out from between his rock and hard place. As honorable as it is that Giles finally fessed up to his actions, it was only after the colloquial shit hit the fan that he came clean, inciting Buffy’s ire, breaking her heart (If you touch me, I will kill you…), and imbuing her with enough righteous indignation to realize the talents she still possessed. Lest ye misunderstand: Buffy’s anger is what drove her, not Giles’ actions. Through no good deed of Giles did Buffy realize that she was still resourceful, but I believe through her own desperate inner searching. In fact, it is only after, in an odd moment of kindness, Cordelia has driven Buffy home and she realizes that her mother is gone, that she rises to the occasion.

I tell you, ex-con vamps must have a lot of cash to blow on Poloroids.

Long Episode Synopsis is Long.

Apart from the glaring truth that lying hurts and liars kind of suck (even though we all do it and we try not to), there are serious issues with violation of autonomy here, which might even me a more important rule to me than honesty, but really they are inextricably linked in many ways. The person who knows Buffy better than anyone in the whole world should have known what a clear violation of their relationship that was, how invaded her person would break that trust. In fact, he did know, and instead of fighting against protocol that he knew was wrong, he did it anyway. He allowed people detached from Buffy’s life to make calls and enforce rules upon her body, and then insist that he lie about it to her. Then, they wanted his aid in luring her into direct danger.

In the end Buffy learns the Important Lesson that she was meant to learn in that her powers are not everything and that she is clever and resourceful beyond her supernatural abilities, but, is it any wonder that Buffy’s mistrust of the Council is so vehement? And while her relationship with Giles does manage to mend, I am of a mind that it has more to do with TeeVee magic than actual good writing of the mind of a young woman whose whole world was violated to such a degree.

Pop Culture Good Idea/Bad Idea: Denna, Violent Portrayals of Sex and the Mord-Sith in Terry Goodkind’s Universe Part I

Jessica Marais as "Denna" the Mord-Sith, and Craig Horner as Richard Cypher, the Seeker in <em>Legend of the Seeker</em>. Richard is shackled and hanging from the ceiling with no shirt, sweat and blood all over him, as Denna, clad in blood-red leather and a single blonde braid holds a thin rod up against him as she leans close with a threatening look on her face. She is torturing him.Buckle on your roller skates, peeps, because this post has been a long time coming. I have watched lots of clips. I have found lots of pictures. I have been talking to people more informed than me. I have been WAITING to write this post.

I preface it with a strong trigger warning for descriptions of violence, sexually hinted violence, spoilers, and very wordy rants.

The Mord-Sith in the Sword of Truth series are some of my favorite characters. They are at the same time antithetical and thematic of the philosophical bullshit that gets caked on to the poor horse that Mr. Goodkind can’t leave alone, but I can’t help but love several of them.

From gruesome beginnings that have me asking some serious questions about why someone has fantasies about torturing children (because this is NOT the only example I can come up with of him describing the torture of children) come the Mord-Sith. Stolen from villages as young D’Haran children, the soldiers of D’Hara choose the sweetest, most lovely and wonderful girls with the kindest hearts and pluck them from their families. Many of them, such as Cara, a woman who you, should you venture into either the books or the television show, become intimately familiar with, learn young the importance of not hesitating when faced with life and death decisions. Failing to thrown a knife as a young girl cost Cara her life. Literally. These girls are beaten and tortured with a weapon called an Agiel — a thin leather rod imbued with magic that makes it feel as if thunder and lightning are charging through you — until they are “broken”. They watch, helpless, as their mothers are tortured to death before them, to break them a second time. Then, they are tortured until they choose to torture and kill their own fathers; they are broken the third and final time. They are trained to endure great pain, possibly at the hands of the Lord Rahl if he chooses, by hand, Agiel, or in his bed if he chooses. The Agiel, the weapon they use causes that same pain to whomever wields it, so long as it was used to train them. They must learn to tolerate the same pain they inflict in order to use it. The Mord-Sith will finally claim their Agiel by killing their trainer. Or at least that is how Denna got hers. She was the best of them all. The most cruel. The most talented.

Tabrett Bethell as Cara, a Mord-Sith, a blonde, pale woman, administering the "breath of life" to an obscured person. The breath is depicted her as a bright spark. In the book series it is actually mouth to mouth.The Mord-Sith were created as a weapon against magic by ancient Wizards. They are non-“gifted” people (gifted being those born with magic. See my post on “giftedness” here at FWD/forward) who are able to trap magic if it used against them, then turn the user’s own magic against them, bringing great pain. They control the person and their magic until they choose to release that person. In the mean time, the Mord-Sith can make the person whom they control beg for death while inflicting upon them the most incredible horrors of pain imaginable. They are able to beat, brutalize a person, with their fists, the Agiel, or by depriving them of sleep. But death can not even claim them, because the Mord-Sith know how to give “the breath of life”, which seems to be mouth to mouth, in order to draw out the torture.

But if that wasn’t enough, Goodkind seems to have added an element of sexual edge. The Mord-Sith, first of all being the most beautiful girls in D’Hara (most of them being perfectly blonde and blue-eyed, because “pure” D’Harans are always blonde with blue eyes), many of them are repeatedly raped by Darken Rahl, or anyone whom he chooses to lend them out to as a favor. In turn, they are depicted as lashing out their torture in a way that makes it a sex act for them. Their charges are pets, and they engage in what seems to be what Goodkind imagines is the relationship in a BDSM setting.

I am no expert on such things. But I am told, thanks to lovely friends that I have, that this type of depiction is so far from the truth of what an actual BDSM setting is that it is almost laughable. Almost, if it wasn’t damaging to the trusting, caring setting that a positive BDSM relationship can be. I strongly object to the way these portrayals seem to be laid out in pop-culture. The relationship between Mord-Sith and her charge doesn’t seem to do anything to change that.

In the Sword of Truth series, as well as Legend of the Seeker, Richard Cypher is captured by Denna because he tries to use the Sword against her. She, of course, captures the magic and takes him away to be trained. In the show, we see a very tense and Made for TV sexually titillating episode where we are subjected to the beating of, the jabbing with the Agiel, the slow licking of blood off of Richard’s bruised and sweaty face. I’ve spent years watching fantasy television, such Buffy, Angel, Charmed, and my dad watch Xena back before I was extremely interested. I found the episode “Denna” extremely difficult to watch. Denna even killed Richard once just to bring him back to life and beat him more.

Denna, wiping blood from Richard's chin with a red-leather clad glove.One-third of Wizard’s First Rule is a detailed description of the torture that Richard endured for a length of time. The descriptions were graphic, like watching some kind of torture porn that I wasn’t used to, only it wasn’t like reading Kushiel’s Dart, where the protagonist is usually willing, or even if she isn’t, Jacqueline Carey has an idea of what Sadism and Masochism are about — about the trust and the safety involved. Here, it is exploited for the sake of demonstrating the evil intent of the Rahl’s who inflicted the sexual torture upon these women, driving them to be what they are, and in turn driving them to actually enjoy inflicting it upon Richard.

Of course, Denna comes to love Richard, because he is a rare person, so special that the women in the world that is constructed fall around him. But we will visit that shortly. He rose above all of that, compartmentalized his mind and eventually loved Denna enough to kill her, enabling his escape. But before this, she took him as her mate. She enjoyed the fruits of that decision at her demand with her Agiel in her teeth, and in whatever ways she saw fit. Richard never had any idea what was going to happen to him. There was no way to form trust.

I find it interesting, the creation of these characters, these women, whose lives were stolen from the, and destroyed by angry abuse, violent and sexually based at times. It turned them into brutal fighters who are not to be underestimated, which we will see in part two, when I talk about how they are awesome. It is only scratching the surface of what I believe demonstrates Goodkind’s raging contempt for women in general. All of this stuff he beats into is Not A Fantasy Series about how everyone has a right to their life, but it is definitely obvious that some lives are definitely meant to be in the service of others. (We’ll get to that in the future too!) The Mord-Sith gives me great internal conflict, giving me some of my favorite characters (I’m Lord Rahl’s favorite…) who are reasonably developed, but who are simultaneously exemplifying everything that is wrong with depictions of sexual violence, violence against women, and the way women are portrayed in pop-culture mediums.

Denna’s death, was violent, tragically sad if considered in context, and reminiscent of the way women would be scattered around Richard Cypher/Rahl in the remainder of the series: Fiercely strong because of their well-developed past. Fighters who have overcome many things that have shaped them into who they are. Flawed women who have been “awakened” by Richard and how awesomely fabulous he is, and now they throw themselves at his feel to serve and love him, or in Denna’s case, to wait patiently and nakedly while he comes to run her through with a white-hot sword. But he kisses her good-bye as well. Because only he can grant her forgiveness and compassion for what she was beaten into doing.

The complex situation surrounding the Mord-Sith is such an interesting thing to look at, and I know that there have been people champing to talk about it. I decided to break this into two parts, otherwise it was going to unwieldy. In the Part II I am going to talk about all the things I loved about the characters, how well they were developed, but also the flaws that were in how they were developed, and the obvious way they were handed off as attempts at female empowerment.

There is a ton to unpack, even in this one topic alone.

In the mean time, discuss away!

Buffy is So Whiny…

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Michelle Trachtenberg as Buffy and Dawn SummersExcept, anyone who has spent five minutes speaking to me knows that I don’t really think that at all.

And yet, I find that is a really popular opinion, and it begs the question, why that is?

Because I just don’t see the fly in the ointment logic, at least not in the sense by which people are trying to sell it to me.

Sure, I have had my fair share of “SHUT UP BUFFY” moments (*coughs* Angel Season 01 “Sanctuary” *coughs*), but I think that most of us could use a nice resounding STFU when we are behaving badly every now and again by our friends. But usually, this whole “Buffy is whiny” nonsense comes with a whole mess of evidence that would get Batman a hug and another comic book spin off. (What? Your parents were gunned down in an alley? I bet that really hurt and gave you a lot of emotional stuff to work through!)(But NOOOO! Buffy! You can’t be upset about YOUR MOM DYING!) (Or YOU DYING!)

During our recent Summer of Buffy re watch, we got to round-about Season Five, where people tend to start thinking that Buffy “just isn’t growing as a person” or that she “isn’t written well anymore”. I hear that is where the writing took a crap (I beg to differ), and that it must be because Joss was just stretched too thin with too many shows on his plate (once again, differ). I’ve also heard that it was because he let too many chicks to too much of the writing, but it didn’t seem to be any more than usual. In fact, any changes that were made seemed to be things I found favorable. We had the introduction of Glory, my favorite Big Bad of the series. We had Season 2 of Angel working hard, spinning into the deep dark recesses of Angel’s history with Darla. We saw the introduction of Jane Espenson to the mix. Production-wise, life was great! (Except that it was ALL MARTI’S FAULT!)

Buffy has been doing the dance for five years. She has been taking the strides and getting about as many kicks as she has given in the game of Life as thanks for carrying on her Duty as Chosen One. She got nice big death traps for her 16th and 18th birthdays, when most girls her age and demographic were going through regular milestones like tampons and Prom dates. She carried the lives of most of her graduating class through to adulthood and was thanked with a nifty toy surprise.

She was tricked and bossed around by a Watchers’ Council out of touch with the job she stuck her neck out for every day and yet whom expected her to continue putting herself and her family at risk to continue doing.

In Buffy’s world, life was starting to come apart at the seams. Buffy finds that she suddenly has an adolescent sister, and as added fun, that sister is a mystical key given to her to care for. That key is coveted and hunted by a timeless and greatly worshiped goddess hell-bent on using it to open a portal to a world that will suck this one into oblivion, killing her unknowing sister in the process.

Buffy’s mother also becomes ill, getting incredible headaches, and it turns out she has a brain tumor. Buffy moves home to care for her and her sister. Suddenly, she is thrown into the adult situation of answering medical questions, and insurance questions and making sure that Dawn is fed and tucked in. And also not scared that their mother is dying. Like the adult that she isn’t sure she is ready to be.

And then their mother does die.

Suddenly Buffy is the mother-figure. And the Slayer. And still protecting Dawn because the world just doesn’t stop trying to find your kid sister who is a mystical key just because you are grieving the loss of your mother while carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even her dad is in Spain with his secretary.

So who do you turn to if you are Buffy?

Your Watcher? Who just opened his magic shop?

Your boyfriend, who has become an emotional black hole after losing his superpowers? He can’t deal with your brick wall of needing to be strong for everyone else, so he becomes a risk addict, seeing out blood-sucking vampires for fun while you are mopping up your mother’s vomit. He never got over his jealousy of your vampy ex-boyfriend, so since he can’t use his words and talk about he feels, he has to be sucked on or give ultimatums. It’s now, or deep-undercover military ops.

Your friends, who are also caught up in worry about your mother, and helping you take care of your sister so you can care for your mom? Nice Guy Xander who is there to tell Buffy what she wants and badger her about every bad decision she has ever made (…you’re about to let him go because you don’t like ultimatums…)?

It seems to me, that if we had someone, say Spiderman, Batman, Wolverine…who started going through the same thing, they would have legitimate pain. Their need to always be on top of things, their need to stay strong is admirable, and when they crumble under the agony of emotional pain… well it is understood as the regular pain of being a misunderstood superhero.

But this girl?

She’s whiny.

She literally gives her life to protect the people she loves (twice); she trades hers for Dawn’s. Her friends pull her back from the dead, from a place where she was at peace after all the fighting.

But she’s whiny.

Being alive hurts her, and her friends give her shit about it, wanting her to bounce right back to happy-go-lucky life. A life where she has to take up the fight again instead of letting someone else do it. A life where the crushing world of responsibility comes crashing down on her again.

But she’s whiny.

She has to back-burner college and get a crappy minimum-wage job to take care of her sister and home, while Dawn rebels by shop-lifting, and all the while everyone is watching her as if she is going to break.

But she’s whiny.

She is shamed for seeking solace in a less-than-savory relationship with Spike, despite the fact that it seems to give her what she wants. It gives her comfort, and then it is used against her as if it should be a means to discredit her.

But she is whiny.

I find it telling the way that we are willing to hold Buffy to a different standard. She is a different sort of superhero than we are used to. She is young, and a woman, and was the longest superhero of her kind on the telly. But it just doesn’t seem that we are willing to give her the human space of emotion to hurt the way we do some of our other superheroes.

Why is that?

Race, Disability, Ms. Magazine (Again), and Mythbusting the IUD

It happens every now and again. Someone writes something really remarkable. A post or article that is so full of win that I want to give it as much attention as possible. It has a ring of truth that many people don’t want to read, especially segments (HA! Segments. By segments, I mean most of feminism.) of feminism that believe that reproductive justice is a one-size-fits-all movement and that we should all snap-to and join together, because all of our interests are equally yoked in the fight. A strike of brutal honest fact that shows that some victory has been won, historically over the backs of others.

But then I read it and I see some little segment of non-truth, some swipe that isn’t as well-done as the rest that leaves me with a sour taste and I see it as equally harmful to some.

That can be said of this almost-home-run piece by Nicole Guidotti-Hernández at Ms. Magazine’s blog. It isn’t a secret that I have my share of issues with Ms. or their blog, like their ridiculous Obama as Superman cover or the recent blog post about how all us disabled folk were a hive mind of dupes working for the anti-choice movement. The difference being that Guidotti-Hernández’ piece was actually good. Solid. The reproductive justice movement, and feminism in general, has thrived on as marginalized women have laboured, forgotten. White women, rich, well-off women marched on to vote, enjoy their new freedom, and gain rights and non-white women nursed their children, and disabled women stayed in the corners forgotten as worthless and unworthy anyway.

Nicole had me until the part where she seemed to be dissing on IUDs:

Yet, I can’t help but think of a recent visit to the gynecologist (not my usual one, but an affiliate in the practice at the University Medical Center in Tucson), at which the doctor kept insisting that I consider an IUD even though I am unmarried and have no children. As a recently tenured faculty member with a hyphenated “Latino” name, this unwavering persistence that I need an IUD–or, rather, am a good candidate for one–and therefore not needing to reproduce, suggests that reproductive racism is alive and well, even for an Ivy-league educated Chicana. It makes me wonder how many other Latinas, educated or not, are being pushed to control their reproduction with this subtle racism that is the dark underbelly of reproductive justice.

I can sympathize with her feelings of frustration here. My own heritage is full of women who were forcibly sterilized. Perhaps what she senses was happening is in fact what was going on. I don’t know. I am not one to fully discount institutional racism. I know all too well what it feels like to feel like your provider isn’t listening to you, maybe even better than she does. There is no excuse for a provider to not listen to your wishes. It still doesn’t change the rest of it. It is also entirely possible that she had a doctor who was simply trying to give her the best possible birth control option for her, and that because she hasn’t researched the IUD properly, and that she is spreading myths about it, that she was dead set against hearing that it was that: a great choice for her. Having “Native American” stamped in my medical record didn’t make obtaining my one any easier. I had insurance on my side, and even my “white” appearance, getting me more than one odd glance when what they see doesn’t match what they read. I am forgetful with pills. I am horrible with getting refills. I have all kinds of complications that interact with hormones, and more reasons than fingers for doctors to dissuade me from having more children. And yet, I have had the opposite experience. Twice.

It is also no secret how I love my IUD. How I have had to fight to get it. Why is that you ask? Why did I have to fight to get it?

Because people seem to be caught up in the days when IUDs in the U.S. were getting a bad rap for still being dangerous, and it seems that most people — women, nurses, doctors, preachers, whathaveyou — can’t be bothered to pick up the latest literature and brush up on what is so awesome about IUDs, or so safe, convenient, affordable (for a privileged sect), and practical.

Modern IUDs, available in two forms: The plastic hormonal and the copper non-hormonal (Mirena and Paraguard in the U.S.). The thing is, they are not just for married moms of three kids these days. IUDs are also great for…well, almost anyone. No longer do you have to have popped out kids in order for your cervix to be right. Some doctors still believe otherwise, and I believe that if we continue to allow people to spread myths like the above quoted passage, they will continue to turn women away from this great form of birth control. Armed with information, doctors, nurses, and even *cough* nurse midwives, will begin to see that everyone’s cervix is different and that it depends on the woman, not her status of maternity.

Being married is no longer required either. It is more important to be smart and responsible about your sexual health than to be in a marital, or even a monogamous, relationship. I think people realized a while back that being married is no longer (HA!) proof that you will be protected from STIs. Many professionals recommend a second barrier method in conjunction with an IUD, but you would have to use that with the pill, the patch, and most hormonal birth control anyway.

IUD is about the most popular form of birth control in the world. In fact, according to Guttmacher, its use in Europe outdoes the other leading three uses of contraceptive in the U.S..

Why could that be?

Well, for one, if you opt for the Paragard, or copper version, there are no side effects. Once your body adjusts — most women experience mild to “oh my stars I want to ker-smash things” cramping the first month or so — you no longer have any of the brought-on-by-hormones deals that are associated with the pill, the shot, etc. Smokers, those with high blood pressure, heart disease, and even people like myself who have medical situations that interfere with the pill, can happily use the copper IUD.

Mirena offers a low dose of hormones with the benefits of being an IUD. An extra whammy if you will. Conditions like endomitriosis are believed to be helped slightly by its use. It is also believed to help aid heavy periods and can help lighten them. It won’t set off metal detectors at airports*. Slate has a good article that focuses on the IUD.

Both are easily reversible. By “easily”, I mean “almost instantly”. I mean, were I to go in to my doctor’s office today and have my Paragard removed, The Guy and I could, in theory, conceive a child within ten minutes of the doctor leaving the exam room. Long term doesn’t mean permanent. You don’t have to wait a month (or longer) for the hormones to leave your body. Many women in Europe and Asia use the IUD as an alternative to the more permanent sterilization at the end of planning their families. The U.S. just hasn’t caught on yet.

It is also ready to use the day (THE SAME HOUR!) you have it inserted.

The start-up cost is, sadly, higher than most other forms (between $300-$500 without insurance), but the maintenance is lower. “Lower” here reads as “virtually nonexistent”. Every other form of birth control requires you to maintain. The shot and ring: Monthly. The patch: Weekly. The pill: Daily. Condoms: Every damn time (no, really, you can’t re-use them, even if you wash them!). With the IUD, you have it inserted, and then you basically ignore it for five years or ten years, depending on your device (well, you should stick some fingers in there to check for the strings once a month or so, but checking your bits out is a good idea anyway), or until you decide to have it removed, barring any complications (and I am not saying there won’t be any).

There is no month-month cost, and if you are paying $60 a month in birth control, over the 5-10 life of your IUD, it is cheaper. In reality, I know that if you can’t afford $60 a month, you likely can’t afford $300, let alone $500, but this is the reality of the economics of the device. If you have access to a women’s health clinic, like a Planned Parenthood, they may be able to help assist. More VA centers are getting into the Women’s Health arena, with closed curtains and everything, but I am not holding my breath. IUDs are usually covered by insurance, but I am not going to pretend this is always the case. I know quite a few notable exceptions to this, which is why it is important for people to realize that reproductive justice issues are a part of women’s health care.

The reason attitudes like this irritate me is because even OB/GYNs and other women’s health professionals have a hard time paying attention to the good side of IUDs. The reasons for this, I am not sure, but it makes it damned difficult for people who want or need them to get them. Some people who need them, who can not use other forms have a hell of a time getting them, and not just because of lack of availability or costs, but because doctors just simply don’t keep up with the latest information (as I recently found out for myself).

You would think that its 99% + efficacy would be a drawing factor. Sure, studies show that the pill and patch and condom also tote these, but with perfect usage. Typical usage put them at closer to … not so much. Depending on who you ask, those methods are more or less reliable if you use them well enough. The copper IUD is has a less than 1% failure rate, and the hormonal IUD a pretty close second. That is the most effective birth control after abstinence. A couple of hormonal birth controls come close, but really, it is the most reliable.

It just irks me, irks me to no end, that amidst sharing parts of a dark history that needs to be highlighted that someone would mix in myths with their, possibly justified, suspicion. Non-white women have endured a long history of forced sterilization, and messages that we shouldn’t enjoy the same freedoms with our reproductive rights. That justifies the suspicion with reproductive medical professionals. I’ve had them myself. But it doesn’t mean that every time it is going to be that way, or that things like IUDs are suggested to keep our wombs closed forever, because that just isn’t what they do, and I will not sit idly by while someone writes a mostly good article, and while it is passed around passively and highly praised (albeit, mostly deservedly). But someone needs to point out the flaw. Someone needs to point out the dangerous myth. Maybe some young woman, maybe a young Latina woman, possibly with some sort of disability or need I can’t think of, someone who doesn’t want children while she completes an education, or doesn’t want a family and doesn’t want an invasive procedure like sterilization, might read this article and think that she has no other options. And specialists will only confirm that suspicion.

I can’t have that.

For more IUD love from a non-white perspective, see Lena Chen.

More of my IUD love.

*I had the surprising experience of my IUD setting of a metal detector at the Honolulu Airport while going to drop The Kid off for an Unaccompanied Minor flight. I had no metal whatsoever on my body, no clips in my hair, and a t-shirt on. The guards were baffled, that the wand was only picking up a crackle near my abdomen. They let us through and when I came back, it was the only thing that occurred to me. They agreed that it was what must be giving them issue. We all had a good laugh, and it cheered me considerably.

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

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