Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Taste So Good

Behold! Here is my brainchild, born of the deepest, darkest depths of my brain goo: "Taste So Good" by Yours Truly.

If the idea of a horror story getting together with a romance story and having some weird, demonspawn offspring sounds interesting to you, this short story just might float your boat.

By Katherine Bryant
"Taste So Good" by Katherine Bryant

Monday, November 30, 2015

Yes, They Should Have Queer Characters

Because I drabble in that whole writing thing, I belong to a couple of writing groups online. For the most part, I enjoy those communities. But as with any group of people, sometimes the shit that happens there makes me question my decision to interact with other human beings. (I know, I'm such a loveable person.) The most recent example of this happened when someone shared an article by Danika Ellis, called "Every Book Should Have Queer Characters."

Apparently, suggesting that books include queer characters provokes the same reaction that one would have to the demand that they murder a litter of puppies. The horror! The outrage! From what sick, twisted mind did this demented plot emerge??

Along with all of that indignation, the most common objection was the insistence that if a book isn't about gay sexuality or romance specifically, there's no need to have a queer character in it. Apparently, if such an identity isn't central to the plot, the mere mention that a character might be queer is a distraction, it's beside the point, it's shoehorning a gay agenda into an otherwise acceptable plot.

Obviously, this argument doesn't make any sense. We are constantly shown examples of characters being overtly straight, even if there is no romance plot or subplot, or if the story has nothing to do with sexuality. A male character might notice how attractive a woman is, female character might speak of ex boyfriends, and yet another male character might speak extensively of his carefully-cultivated, masculine appearance.

So why can't we have a man in a story admire another man's physique? Why can't we see a woman talking about her past girlfriends? Why can't we see someone pulling a shirt on over their binder? Straight and cisgendered characters are constantly given opportunities to define and express their sexualities and identities. Why is it such a stretch to think that queer characters should be afforded the same opportunities?

We can't limit queer characters to books specifically about being queer. That only reinforces the idea that straightness is default, and that queer identities are these strange other things that need to be qualified, or that don't belong in "normal" settings. Showing them in a variety of books and genres will help to normalize queer experiences and identities.

This isn't about filling quotas, as opponents to such ideas like to claim. Having a diverse cast of characters is nothing more than an honest reflection of the world in which we live. In such a world, it's backwards to demand justification for wanting more LGBTQIA (or black, or disabled, etc.) characters in a book. In such a world, we need more people asking why such characters aren't already there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Indian" Costumes and Sexy Lady Bugs

Today I'm going to throw a few videos at your face, because they perfectly demonstrate what's wrong with certain Halloween trends.

I love Halloween, and of course one of the things I love about it are the costumes. You can be literally anything. The only limit is your imagination. Yet when the options are endless, why must so many people rely on tired old racist "costumes?" Is it the cheap laugh? Do they actually think they're being clever? Culturally offensive costumes are never a good idea. For the sake of humanity, don't do it. Just don't.

And the slew of commercially available sexist, objectifying costumes is almost as bad. Why the assumption that women just want to be a "sexy" version of something? It's stupid. It's sexist. It's boring. Please give us some more interesting costumes to choose from. That'd be wonderful. Thanks.

If you want a glimpse at why dressing as a racist stereotype is offensive, or why sexist costumes are absurd, just take the time to watch these videos.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

We Are Sexist Too!

There are people who seem to have this idea that if a woman has a hand in creating something, that thing is automatically Not Sexist. But that's bullshit. Women can do everything just as well as men, right? Well, that includes misogyny. Good job, us!

You see, there's this delightful little thing called "internalized misogyny." It is when a woman holds sexist attitudes about herself and other people of her gender. Internalized misogyny rears its ugly head when one woman compares her looks to another, when she insists that women really are "crazier" than men, when she believes that women are natural caregivers, and so on.

Internalized misogyny is the reason women are capable of creating sexist media.

When the song "Blurred Lines" was still a thing people talked about, the video (and lyrics, and Robin Thicke... and everything about it, really) got a lot of flack for being sexist. Yet there was always someone who was all too eager to point out the fact that it was directed by Diane Martel, a woman. They say it as though that is the only explanation needed; because a woman directed it, it couldn't possibly be sexist.

It's the same story with the game "Bayonetta." The main character (and the game's namesake), Bayonetta, is still held as an example of a hyper-sexualized female video game character. Again, whenever someone tries to talk about this, there's a chorus of lonely gamergaters singing verses of "nuh-uh! Bayonetta was designed by a woman!" An added bit of humor to this scenario is the fact that none of these guys seem to remember the designer's name, nor could they be bothered to take the two seconds required to Google it. (It's Mari Shimazaki, by the way.)

100% certified Not Sexist. Yay!

If the only defense for something is that it was made/directed/written/designed by a woman, I'd like to ask this: What if it wasn't made by a woman? If a man made this thing, would it then qualify as sexist? Why? How is someone's gender the dividing line between what piece of media is sexist and what isn't?

Women are every bit as capable as men of perpetuating sexist, regressive ideas about women. This means that when a woman creates something, that thing isn't inherently devoid of sexism. This is why it is important to actually listen to discussions of whether or not something is sexist. Invoking the creator's gender in such conversations is no different than sticking your head in the sand. It's an avoidance tactic, just another excuse to not have to think about things that make you uncomfortable.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Solution to Dick Pics

I happened upon this article today, and it gave me the bestest, most brilliantest idea ever. But before I tell you about my Awesome Idea of Awesomeness +5, a little recap of the article is in order.

A woman named Louelle Denor posted the following picture on instagram, pointing out the hypocrisy that even though pictures showing menstrual blood have been banned, pictures of blood coming from any other part of a human body are a-okay.

Pic from louelle_louelle_

Naturally, this prompted a slew of threats from insecure, trilby-wearing neckbeards, because how dare they be reminded that women's bodies don't exist solely for their sexual gratification? But that's not the reason I'm writing this. The commentary on this sexist overreaction can be found on the link I posted above, and here as well. And plenty of other places, I'm sure.

No, this post is all about my Idea. Of Awesomeness. +5.

You see, this is our secret weapon. These dudebros can't be reminded of a natural function of a vagina without being thrown into a frothing frenzy, so I say we turn that immaturity to our advantage. How many women have, without their consent, been subjected to pictures of tiny, wrinkly dicks? (Answer: a fuck-ton.) They don't want to see blood that came out of a vagina? Surprise, surprise, we don't want to see pictures of their flimsy little fleshsacks, either. So the next time some loser shows off his stumpy dick, just respond with a picture of menstrual blood. If anything would deter these creeps from sending dick pics, it's the prospect of having to see vag blood in response. It's the perfect solution.

Fight dick pics with menstrual blood. Save the world. The end.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Times Square Kiss-In: Let's Celebrate Rape Culture!

Today I'm going to be a horrible feminist buzzkill.

Well, more of a horrible feminist buzzkill than usual, that is.

Yesterday was the Times Square Kiss-In, a "romantic" event in which masses of couples gather to reenact this infamous picture:

"But Kaif," you may be asking yourself, "why did you spell 'romantic' with those quotey thingies?"

Because the kiss in that picture wasn't consensual.

You see, the people in that picture didn't know each other. In fact, they hadn't even seen each other until that very moment. According to "The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II," some drunk guy named George Mendonsa grabbed the nearest woman, who happened to be Greta Zimmer, and kissed her.

Of the event, Greta has said, "And then I was grabbed. That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me." Considering her words, awkward posture, and clenched fist, the kiss was clearly unwelcome. Contrary to what we've all wanted to believe, it wasn't a romantic moment between lovers. Anyone feeling generous could call it creepy and gross. Anyone feeling honest would call it sexual assault.

And don't give me any of that "it was a different time!" nonsense. An assault is an assault no matter the era. Such an action has always been bad. The only thing that's changed is us uppity wenches have gotten better at calling out this bullshit.

I can see why the Times Square kiss became a pop culture icon. For the longest time, no one knew who those two people were, much less the real story behind what happened. Without knowing that story, it is a compelling photo. But we know better now. The Times Square kiss had a good run, but I say it's time to retire it as a symbol of romance and passion. Regardless of any previous attachment to that photo, I don't see how anyone could look at what is now known to be the blatant objectification of a woman and think, "yeah, I'm ok pretending that's romantic."

And because I'm such a fucking killjoy who seeks to destroy everything society holds dear, I'll go a step farther and say that we should also do away with things like that absurd kiss-in. Knowing what that picture really depicts, instead of couples getting together to kiss their sweeties, all I see is a celebration of rape culture.

(Which is a bad thing, in case you needed the clarification.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

When Average Body Types Attack

Ok. So I saw this dumbshit article, and I just had to rant about it. Because seriously. The internet can be a massive dickbag sometimes.

Here is the article in question. (If you don't want to follow the link, don't worry; I'm going to quote much of it in this post.)

Right off the bat, the title, "Fit Shaming: Healthy Video Game Characters Fattened Up for 'Realistic' Eating Disorder Campaign," gets it all wrong. Like skinny-shaming, fit-shaming isn't really a thing, at least not the way fat-shaming is. And then there's the fact that the characters are referred to as "fattened up," and that the word "realistic" is in quotes, as if their normalized bodies are somehow not normal after all. But I'll get to all of that shortly.

This sorry excuse for an article was posted in response to an article on bulimia.com called "Video Game Characters With Average Body Types."

Bulimia.com's article said:
"More often it seems video games are home to ultra-slim waistlines only.

If video game creators are going to pride themselves on accurate digital representations, then it’s time for them to get real about women.

With realism in mind, we altered some of the most beloved female video game characters with Adobe Photoshop, shaping their bodies into images that represent the average American woman’s measurements."

They used the CDC's body measurements for reference, and applied those proportions to the characters. So clearly, the way they altered these characters wasn't based on arbitrary aesthetics. The purpose of doing this was to show what a normal body type would actually look on these characters, and to highlight the fact that their original depictions are not at all typical. The results are quite stunning:

So when that other douchenozzle article says things like...
"Lara Croft would actually be a heavy set female in real life, according to an ad campaign aiming to normalize unhealthy lifestyle choices and shame fitness enthusiasts."
...I can say that she was given honest-to-goodness average proportions. You know, the kinds that are based off of actual statistics and numbers and shit. And you know what? Average is not the same as heavyset. That's why they are called different things. That's kinda the whole concept behind how words work.

And how is showing video game characters with average bodies something that will "normalize unhealthy lifestyle choices?" For one thing, there is absolutely no way that you can tell just by looking at someone what their eating and exercise habits are, or what the state of their health is. For another, not everyone wants to look like a fitness model, and that's ok because it doesn't take looking like one to be healthy.

The article also says that:
"The site claims game developers more often than not give female characters 'ultra-slim-waistlines' – you know, the kind of waistline a woman would have if she ate healthy and worked out daily, or if they were cave-exploring, vine-swinging spelunkers."

There is no way you can convince me, or any other thinking human being, that Lara Croft's impossibly skinny waist is something you'd get even if you dieted and worked out religiously. It certainly isn't the kind of physique an adventurer like her would have, either. (And let's be real, with tits like those, a back brace would be part of her usual costume.)

That particular quote also fails to consider the fact that people have different bodies. For one person, eating healthy food and exercising the recommended 30 minutes a day might be enough to make one person "fit", but for another, it might take a lot more effort than that. Not everyone has the desire to put in extra hours at a gym just to get their bodies to fit a specific standard. And you know what? That's ok. It's their life, their body, their business. But if someone does want to put all of that effort into trying to achieve an athletic build, that's great too. More power to them. They just shouldn't shame other people for not choosing to do the same.

And the nonsense continues....
"The problem with Bulimia.com's 'realistic' interpretations of women is that they’re unrealistic.
For one, speaking in purely hypothetical terms of course, most of the characters photoshopped would actually have to be fit in their supposed line of work. Jade and Sonya from Mortal Kombat would likely have the fit bodies of professional MMA fighters, such as Ronda Rousey. Imagine Lara Croft attempting to retrieve treasure from within a cave while at the same time having to look for hidden insulin injections."

Yes, Sonya would probably have a body that looks more like that of an MMA fighter, but you know what? Her original body didn't look like that of an MMA fighter either. But the point is moot anyway, because as I said before, the purpose of altering these pictures was to show these characters with average-sized bodies, not the kinds of bodies they'd have in their line of work.

And this part was just baffling:
"...the campaign claims to focus on women because 'incidence of eating disorders is markedly higher in females,' but frequently the male body is also inaccurately portrayed by developers, see God of War’s Kratos or Street Fighter’s Guile."
So they admit that the women's bodies are "inaccurately portrayed" just long enough to say, "but look! Us menz too!" There's no nonsense here about how men would look like this if they "ate healthy and worked out daily," as their own article says. Besides, no one said male characters never have unrealistic bodies in video games. It is well-known that they do, and I, as a feminist, would like to see more varied body types on male characters as well. Being a woman who has dealt with unrealistic body standards her whole life, I know how much is sucks no not have that kind of inclusivity. I want that same consideration for men.

So why did that fat-shaming fiasco piss me off so much? Bulimia.com's article sums it up:
"The perpetuation of unrealistic body imagery in the media can have decidedly negative repercussions. One could argue that the social pressures to obtain perfection are reinforced even through the depiction of video game characters. Girl gamers – especially young ones – could develop a skewed image of how the female body should look. This might mark the beginning of obsessive thoughts about their own bodies, and self-questioning as to why they don’t align with their perceived ideal. When dangerous, compulsive eating behaviors develop alongside of these negative obsessions, young women can quickly find themselves struggling with an eating disorder."
Depicting body diversity is important. When every aspect of media is flooded with images of women with proportions so unrealistic that even the thinnest models have to be photoshopped to reach them, we as a society are failing our girls and women. When these ideals are so ingrained into our minds that we think that's what a woman "should" look like, we get fatphopic idiots pointing at average sized, healthy woman and calling them fat, gross, lazy, and unhealthy. And if you cannot see why this is a problem, then you are the problem.

Before wrapping this up, I just want to reassure those of you who are screaming about how your beloved games are about to get swamped with fat chicks (as if that's somehow a bad thing). I don't think anyone intends for women in games to only have realistic, average proportions. We just want some variety. Give us some scrawny women, give us some muscular ones, give us some average and even - gasp! - fat ones. Is that really so much to ask?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fuck Yeah Furiosa

If there's one good thing MRAs have done, it's that they've inspired a lot of people to see "Mad Max: Fury Road."

Personally, I had very little interest in seeing the movie in theaters. I love a good action flick, but I assumed that Max Mad would just be more of the same old uber machismo, ridiculous fight scenes, cheesiness, and explosions I've come to expect of the genre.

And then I saw this:

I knew anything that upset those knuckledraggers so much would have to be worth seeing on the big screen. So I did. Twice. And that wasn't nearly enough.

On top of all of the ridiculous fight scenes, cheesiness, and explosions I expected (and love!), there was so much more to that movie than I could have hoped for. I know there's been a lot written about how significant this film is, about it's feminist themes, about the cast chock-full of strong, capable female characters who exist in their own right, independent of male relationships. I know that there's been a lot written about Furiosa herself. But I am compelled to say my own thing, for one reason alone: Furiosa is the character I've been waiting my entire life to see.

Sure, there have been plenty of awesome female characters before her that I've admired (like Tasha Yar or Zoƫ Washburne), but Imperator Furiosa takes the motherfuckin' cake. What makes Furiosa so amazing? Let me count the ways....

(If it isn't obvious by now, I should first mention that there are some spoilers ahead. Or as many spoilers a movie that is 95% explosions and fight scenes can have.)

On top of being the protagonist, Furiosa is not a romantic interest, and she isn't sexualized. At all. For all three of those things to exist at once is pretty damn amazing. As the movie approached the last scene, I found that I kept expecting Furiosa and Max to confess an attraction or share a romantic moment of some kind. I wasn't expecting this because it was something I wanted to see, or because I thought it was in keeping with the characters' demeanor or their dynamic. The only reason I was expecting a glimmer of romance was because that's what always happens. Too often in action films, Strong Female Character, no matter how tough and independent she is portrayed as, becomes the romantic interest for Action Dude. I'm not saying that romance has no place in an action film, only that this particular scenario is probably the tropiest trope that ever troped. This is a problem too, because continually pairing Strong Female Character with Action Dude essentially whittles her worth down to being just his prize. That the writers tried to make Strong Female Character tough and independent is just a tactic to try to mask this fact. So long story short, I love that Furiosa's worth isn't measured in how sexually or romantically desirable she is. Rather, her worth is measured in much the way I've always wanted my own worth to be measured; on her abilities and strength of character.

And she sure as hell is capable. Furiosa isn't once damseled. She is a better shot than Max, and is easily his equal in a brawl. Many times I've seen Strong Female Character presented as a badass who can, like, totally fight and stuff, only to have her taken out in a fight in no time at all. By contrast, her male counterparts beat on each other in minutes-long fight sequences taking and dishing out pain in near-equal measure. But that's not so with Strong Female Character. Sure, she may show off some flashy martial arts moves, but her confrontation is usually depressingly lackluster in comparison. The message there is, "Strong Female Character is tough, but don't worry dudebros, because Action Dudes are still tougher!" Furiosa on the other hand is a genuine badass who fights just as well as (if not better than) any of the men in the movie. She doesn't hold back, and there's no concern for making her look cool with flashy moves. Her fights are brutal in a way that makes you believe she is fighting for her life.

Most important, I think, is Furiosa's characterization. While she does have that stoic action hero thing going on, her character isn't treated as though she is somehow above emotion. She is moved to tears by the death of Angharad, and her reaction after learning of the demise of The Green Place is heartbreakingly raw and powerful. She has strong emotional reactions, and her character is allowed to show and fully experience them. More to the point, she is allowed to do so without being portrayed as weak or hysterical, or being rendered helpless. Her emotions are something that are genuine, something that drive her to succeed. They are a strength, not a weakness. Seeing that was a refreshing, beautiful thing in its own right, but is made more significant to me after seeing too many action film damsels rendered helpless by their fear or sorrow, some to the point that they have to be physically removed from immediate danger by their action film dudes (I'm looking at you, "The Darkest Hour").

"We Can Do It (Furiously)" by Hugo Hugo

So there you have it. The reasons I love Furiosa. Now excuse me while I build a monument in her honor....

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gale Force Kaif 2: The Rebloggening

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I'm prone to feminist ranting. Overall I think it's a rather charming quality, but the phrase "too much of a good thing" does exist for a reason. It used to be that I had friends with whom I could frequently discuss feminist topics, but time passed, and we became busier and adultier. Time between our rantfests got ever more distant. Nowadays it it my beau who bears the brunt of my feminist fury. We live together, so he has nowhere to hide. That poor bastard.

To his credit, he's always been very patient with me in that regard. He does this weird thing where he actually listens to me and values my opinion. Because of this, we've had many wonderful conversations about many different topics (I am able to talk about more than just feminism, on occasion). That's what I get for having a raging mangina feminist for a boyfriend, I suppose.

But regardless of how awesome my beau is, I do know that even an interesting topic can get a little tiresome after you've beaten it to death. And then drowned it, cut it in half, and then blown it the fuck up. So I mentioned to him one day that I used to have a blog where I ranted about all these fun things, and that I was thinking of starting it up again. Because, as I told him, I have so many righteous rants and feels pent up and in need of a place to unleash them.

He told me I don't hold back as much as I think I do. (Seriously, I do talk about this shit a lot.)

I laughed. "Oh sweetie," I told him, "you have no idea." (He really, really didn't have any idea.)

So here it is, Gale Force 2: The Rebloggening. A place where I can spew my feminist juices and let my little rantlings roam free!

"Gale Force Kaif" by Kate Cragoe

Gods help us all.