Thursday, August 2, 2012

So I was a little bit wrong in my response to the Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle

Update: I was wrong again! Or right in the first place, depending on how you want to look at it. No actual CFA permits have been denied by politicians, said politicians have simply directly and publicly expressed to CFA that they are not particularly welcome in their district. Which is much more like expressing an opinion than being discriminatory. If anyone understands the legal workings of this situation better than me, please chime in!


I admit it! In my initial reaction to the swirl of news surrounding Dan Cathy coming out of the anti-gay closet, I responded very positively to news of politicians blocking Chick-Fil-A from constructing new stores in their respective districts. I was excited at the prospect of CFA experiencing significant social consequences and potential profit loss for their hateful stance. After reading more about the situation and considering it more carefully however, I realize that I was wrong. This is a Very Bad Thing. A politician's personal views should not be used to determine what businesses get permits or are allowed to open stores in the regions those politicians represent, even if they are personal views I agree with. It sets a terrible precedent and is honestly discriminatory. I would not want anti-equality politicians blocking gay-friendly businesses from opening, and I do not get to have it both ways. My bad.

There have been other consequences of the CFA Kerfuffle that I find completely confusing, though. And rage-inducing. Let me establish a bit of background here so we can fully appreciate how ridiculous some of these reactions have been.

First, I realize that not eating at CFA is a very, very small thing. But I do it because it is a small thing that matters to me and doesn't hurt anyone. I can't boycott every company that supports causes I disagree with...either because I don't know about it, or because it isn't financially feasible for me.  In this case, I do know and I can act so that is what I choose to do. I don't think that people who eat at CFA who don't really know or care what happens to their money are bad people. We just have different priorities. But recently there have been a lot of people out there who, directly in response to Dan Cathy and his remarks that highlighted his company's investments in bigotry, are rallying behind CFA in solidarity. These are not the aforementioned customers who just aren't interested. They have learned of CFA's misdeeds and the outrage they have generated and they are choosing the wrong side.

CFA is not being bullied by people who have decided to take their business elsewhere and are speaking out about that decision. Dan Cathy's right to free speech is not being attacked when people say they don't agree with him and explain why or when they pledge not to support his business or when they report about what CFA's charitable contributions are used for. If you think that is the case, you really need to remind yourself what 'bullying' and 'free speech' actually mean.

This whole 'support Chick-Fil-A on August 1st' nonsense? All of you assholes posting pictures of yourselves eating CFA sandwiches on Twitter? What you are doing is proudly supporting an organization that you know for a goddamned fact supports bigotry, and you are doing it because the company admitted publicly to supporting bigotry! One guess what that makes you. Think real hard.

This prideful support of a company's right to dedicate millions of dollars to making a whole section of the human population miserable should be embarrassing. You should not be able to get away with demonstrating that level of callousness and selfishness publicly without being overwhelmed by condemnation from your peers. You should be dripping from the social shame regurgitated all over you by outraged passersby. Because gay people, the people who actually have to deal with the consequences of CFA's 'charitable donations'? They see you doing this. They see where your priorities lie and where their rights fall in relation to them, and placing more value on a chicken sandwich than on someone's rights as a human being is a shitty thing to do.

So while I must admit my own error in judgement in thinking that it was appropriate for politicians to be the source of social consequences for CFA's behavior, I loudly maintain that social consequences should exist and that they should be enforced by those of us who give a damn. Don't give them your money, and don't let these assholes supporting CFA get away with treating your friends and loved ones like they matter less than a chicken sandwich.

Superhero Squad is Awesome...and a Little Bit Sexist

The Boyfriend and I have recently discovered something amazing on Netflix. Superhero Squad, an animated amalgam of Marvel heroes and villains, follows the epic struggles of the titular Squaddies as they battle against Doctor Doom and his Baddies for possession of the Mcguffin of the Week. Which has so far involved such memorable moments as Fing Fang Foom sitting on top of Mole Man and farting him into unconsciousness, Loki and Thor getting into a slap fight, Wolverine as Captain Canada, the Human Torch blowing up the Baxter Building because 'Reed will just fix it like he always does', and the team being trapped inside of a quesadilla and nearly eaten by the Hulk.

Did I mention the target audience for this show is young children? There are fart jokes and booger jokes and heroes pulling pranks on each other. The characters are simplified and treated with delightful irreverence. The plots and motivations are downright silly while surprisingly entertaining. It seems that no one in the Marvel Universe is off-limits either, with cameos aplenty and many recognizable voice actors. Even Stan Lee shows up a few times to lend his voice to the Mayor of Superhero City.

I think my favorite character in the series is MODOK, Doom's head lackey, who has been re-envisioned for the series as a tiny, big-headed version of Starscream. He's always secretly hoping to overthrow, Doctor Doom I mean...and claim all of the power and respect for himself despite being completely ineffectual. Honestly, seeing classic Marvel heroes and villains portrayed in a light-hearted and irreverent manner is my favorite part of the series. Mole Man has flatulence powers. Doctor Doom has no indoor voice. The Silver Surfer is a spaced-out beach bum. It's wonderful.

The main team consists of Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Falcon and Reptil. Falcon and Reptil are minority characters while Surfer and Thor are aliens, so it's nice to see a culturally diverse team roster. There is a rather glaring lack of female characters, though. At first it seemed that Ms. Marvel would be a regular character, seeing as how she runs the SHIELD Helicarrier the Squad operates out of...but she only ever shows up to nag the Squad about cleaning the Helicarrier, even to the exclusion of world-saving. The only women who have gotten any significant screen time so far are Wasp, whom Falcon was constantly trying to protect from being squished, and Black Widow, who instantly turned the entire Squad into lovesick puppies by being female and hot.

The Helicarrier itself is like a giant, flying bachelor pad. The Squad members are constantly trashing the place, burping and making fart jokes, pranking each other and trimming their toe nails in the living room. The more I watched, the more I realized...this wasn't a show aimed at children. It was a show aimed at boys. And while I still find the show delightful, I couldn't help but be a little peeved by that realization.

You see, 'the media' has certain ideas about what boys and young men want in their entertainment. One of the most pervasive of these ideas is that males cannot relate to female leads or powerful women. You would think the huge success of cartoons like Avatar or movies like Aliens and Resident Evil or games like Metroid and Tomb Raider would have done something to dispel this myth, but it has been thoroughly demonstrated that the decision-makers in popular media are slow on the uptake and extremely hesitant to take risks with what they insist is a 'tried-and-true' formula.

So not only is it expected for young boys to only be able to relate to female characters as nagging mothers or love interests, nothing more is ever asked of them. I don't know why more men aren't outraged by how this reflects on them. Who really thinks that boys are too simple and shallow to relate to girls or like girl characters? Does anyone seriously believe that putting female characters on par with male characters will strain their little brains so much that they dislike an otherwise awesome show? Then why do we insist on sheltering boys from half the population in media aimed at them?

A single regular female character would solve just about every problem this show has, and it's not like there aren't any good ones to choose from. Besides...Falcon and Reptil? Raise your hand if you have any idea who those characters are. Ok, I see a couple hardcore fans in the back. Good for you. Now...Ms. Marvel? Wasp? The Scarlet Witch? Storm? Rogue? Black Widow? Psylocke? Emma Frost? Shadowcat? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I am loving this cartoon. It is my newest guilty pleasure and I fully intend to watch each of the 52 episodes available on Netflix Instant. But it frustrates me to no end to know that from a very early age boys are confronted with the expectation that they cannot relate to girls. That girls are only good for telling you what to do or having crushes on them, not that they are peers and equals. Popular media has created it's own self-fulfilling prophecy and is determined to maintain it, even if broadening their appeal is more likely to attract female fans than it is to alienate men.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Living Spaces

I have a living room again! Huzzah!

It's the simple things you miss, amirite? Since I moved in with The Boyfriend a few months ago, unexpectedly and in something of a rush, the two of us have been somewhat short on space. Over the weekend we finally rearranged the apartment enough that I was able to move my bed out of the living room space and into my very own room!

This is about the time when, as I am explaining this situation to my friends, they generally express shock, concern or disbelief about the fact that my bed was set up in the living room to begin with.

"Heh, like you need your own bed. Wait, you don't sleep in the same room? Why not? Are you guys doing ok? You're acting like a couple of old people who don't like each other anymore, is something wrong?"

During which I, having heard this a dozen times or so at this point, do my best not to cringe or facepalm too hard.

The Boyfriend and I have an awesome relationship. We also do not sleep in the same bed and have separate rooms...a fact to which I attribute at least some of our success as a couple. So! For the edification and benefit of my dear friends who seem to have gotten their ideas about how a couple ought to behave from romantic comedies and sitcoms, I have compiled a list of reasons you and your significant other should seriously think about giving each other a little more space.

First of all, people sleep differently. Personally, I roll around a bit while sleeping and like to have my cats in bed with me. The Boyfriend is allergic to cats and snores sometimes, plus he likes to stretch out while sleeping. Sleeping in the same bed for us is counter-productive to, you know, sleep. Seriously guys, being well-rested is incredibly important to your relationship. If you aren't getting enough sleep you will be crabby, short-tempered and you will have less energy to do fun things. Over time, you may also grow to resent your significant other for always waking you up or stealing the covers when it really isn't their fault. People can't control the way they sleep. So if you have the space, get your own damn bed.

Better yet, get your own room because people have different standards of cleanliness. When two people share the same space, whomever has the higher standard for what is acceptably clean will end up either doing more cleaning or more nagging, and both paths lead to resentment. Let me make it very clear that there is nothing inherently morally or ethically superior about having higher standards of cleanliness, but if you like things clean it stresses you out to be in a space that is dirty. Personally, if my space is a mess my options are either clean it immediately or be very uncomfortable until I do. If you don't care about mess and are sharing a space with someone who does, it still stresses you out to have to do extra work to please someone else's arbitrary standard. Having my own room means I can be exactly as clean as I care to be without enforcing those standards on someone else, and vice versa.

The extra space comes in handy too, because people like different things. I did not lose interest in crafting, costuming, writing or volunteering because I moved in with someone who does not share those interests. I still need someplace where I can shut the door, put on some loud music and make something. If I want to wake up early on Saturday morning to volunteer at the Natural History Museum, I do not want to also wake up The Boyfriend when he really just wants to sleep until noon on his day off. Neither one of our desires or lifestyles trumps the other.

And that's the real point. People in relationships are still individuals. You can love someone while not wanting to deal with their snoring or be a part of all their hobbies. Being a couple does not mean merging into a single unit. The media likes to portray relationships as an endless stream of compromises, where couples argue with each other over chores and feel obligated to participate in things they hate to make someone else happy. Yet they always resolve those differences because they are SO IN LOVE and fall asleep holding each other. FYI, no one likes having their wants and needs deemed 'less important' than someone else's and that is an extremely uncomfortable way to sleep.

I'm not saying that couples should never compromise. It is a relationship, after all. But I am not willing to compromise my ability to sleep or deal with the stress of living in a messy space because it is generally accepted that people who are in love sleep in the same room, and I wouldn't expect The Boyfriend to make that compromise either. We both want space for our things and hobbies that can be decorated and maintained however we like. Because we are individuals, not two halves of a couple.