What if you accidentally shoot yourself with your own gun?

The story “Man accidentally shoots himself while trying to show his girlfriend how to handle a pistol” makes me wonder again about all those arguments where people legitimize gun ownership as ‘safe’ or argue owning a gun makes one safer. The article reads:

“ALEXANDRIA, La. (Associated Press) — An Alexandria man was recovering after accidentally shooting himself while showing his girlfriend how to handle a pistol on Saturday in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant.

Police said the 21-year-old man told investigators he forgot he had just reloaded the gun, and squeezed the trigger while putting the gun into the driver’s door panel. The bullet went through his inner left thigh.

Police said the man repeatedly told investigators he was ex-military and knows how to handle a gun, and was very embarrassed by the incident.”

Now, the curious angel on my shoulder asks me why he was showing his girlfriend how to handle a pistol (and in the parking lot of a fast food station no less!)

The cynic angel pipes up that if this guy is ex-military and “knows how to handle a gun” we had better be pretty damn concerned if this is what you learn in military gun-handling 101.

The anti-patriarchal angel keeps pointing out what a hyper-masculine ass this man seems to be—he is “very embarrassed” that he shot himself in the leg (no ‘real man’ would do this, let alone a military man – what a wuss!) and NOT by the fact that he

1. had a gun in his driver’s door panel in the first place

2. is showing his girlfriend how to use it in a fast food parking lot!

This story makes me think of the old adage “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yeah, I never said adages were smart. People can kill people a whole heck of a lot faster with guns.

Sorry, but I can’t buy the pro-gun argument. Sure, there are times I have felt like a gun would serve as good ‘protection,’ as when, say, the secret police come barreling through my door pointing oozies at me because I have been found to support 911 truth and question US imperialism… Or, say when the zombie disease from 28 Days Later hits San Diego and I have to take to the streets, channeling Sarah Connor… Or, I might need a gun if some of the scarier scenarios from Prison Planet came to pass and lock down USA went into effect…

However, in any of these cases, I don’t know how much a gun would actually help. I might be able to survive a bit longer (and would likely have to kill others in the process to do so), but someone is bound to have a bigger weapon or more force and take me out sooner or later anyhow.

Now, in the case of someone breaking into my home Panic Room style, well, I only hope I could channel Jodie Foster. She is one rockin tough broad. But, as for the brand of vengeance she carries out in The Brave One, well, I don’t know if I could stomach it. Seems to me that guns (and the vengeance code they are linked to) only bring about more violence and death – and never any justice. Vengeance is not justice in my book, but a ‘you done me wrong’ selfishness that only serves to perpetuate violence (as in, for example, the ‘war on terror’).

To return the embarrassed ex-military man who shot himself in the leg – will, that’s what guns do, they shoot people. And, if you own/use one, sooner or later you very well may get shot. I’d much rather take my chances living gun free, thank you very much.

What if education wasn’t dominated by the male gaze?

The male gaze still controls the curriculum and its dissemination.

As the book Feminism in the Academy asks, “Why, in an area of human endeavor that is devoted to the exploration of new ideas has the male normative perspective been so dearly and enduringly held?”* Why, in other words, are all disciplines (except academia’s Others – Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Queer Studies, Sexuality Studies et al) still dominated by WMPs (white male professors), WWM (white western male) perspectives, and funded by CMs (corporate mongers) who give themselves and their lackey the biggest paychecks (Arnold Schwarz and Chancellor Reed, I am talking to you).

When considering the male gaze at the university level specifically, I am reminded of an event that occurred early in my teaching career. Old, white, male professor guy shared the classroom before mine and tended to let his class out late (hate to generalize – but why do so many WM prof’s feel their time is so valuable that they can forget about their student’s time or other professors waiting to get in to teach their classes?!?) Anyhow, when I could wait no longer I stepped in quietly and unobtrusively indicated his time in the room was up. He reacted badly, glaring and puffing in such a way I thought he might explode into some sort of hyper-masculine academic hulk right there in front of me. Once he calmed down, he decided to take another traditional WM (white male) stance – that of seducer. “That’s a really pretty necklace,” he said, while ogling my breasts. What the F?!? How can someone who supposedly has a brain (he is a professor) go from selfish macho classroom hog into to “Hey, you are one hottie” pick up mode so effortlessly?

Well, this is exactly the type of male gazing that is so problematic – and so pervasive. It does not stop at “you women are so nice to look at” though – it goes onto gaze at the whole of history, the whole of the world, as if (white, wealthy, hetero) men are first – and everyone else is secondary. It teaches pre-schoolers that “boys don’t cry”, elementary school kids about the “founding fathers” and celebrating “Columbus day” (or, as I like to call it, “Hurray! Native American Genocide Day”), middle schoolers that math and science is boys stuff, high schoolers that classic literature (and classic everything else) is ruled by DWM’s (dead white males), and college students that classes focusing on anything but white men are “special.”

Virginia Woolf is the grand matriarch of the line of argument that questions the malestreaming of education. She examines in A Room of One’s Own how women have been forcibly caged into 2nd class status and how the educational system has functioned as a prime jailkeeper for women. Unfortunately, her analysis from 1929 still holds true today. Women still don’t have “a room of their own,” let alone a classroom they can get into in order to teach their “special” view of the world – a view which includes all people, not just those with white penises. (for a great blog inspired by Woolf’s notion of Shakespeare’s sister, see Shakesville!)

*from Feminism in the Academy: The Difference it Makes, Ed. Elizabeth Langland and Walter Grove, Chicago, U of Chicago P, p.5

What if we put theory into practice?

Hey, I’ve got a theory for you: men are superior to women, white skin makes one smarter, more capable, and more deserving, and being heterosexual equals normality. I’ve got no proof for this theory (in fact, much to the contrary), but let see if we can put it into practice. So, let’s suppose, theoretically, that men are superior to women. Taking this hypothesis as fact, let’s give men more privileges in society by paying them more, giving them more attention, looking the other way when they are violent, and generally slapping them on the back whenever they get one over on inferior womenfolk. Now, if we also accept that white skin theoretically equals superiority, we need to ensure those with white skin get better jobs, have more power, are represented more often and in more positive ways by the media, and (especially if they’ve got a penis too) deserve to rule the world. Let’s add heterosexuality into the mix. As anyone with any theoretical knowledge knows, heterosexuality is the bomb. It makes one desirable, normal, productive, monogamous, and a good citizen! (If you don’t believe this theory, consider all the heterosexuals that meet these characteristics such as George Bush, Ted Bundy, and Bill O’Reilly, for example)

Now, just for the fun of it, let’s put a different theory forward – let’s propose that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment and opportunity regardless of gender, body size or parts, skin color, ethnicity, cultural origin, health or (dis)ability, age, nationality, etc. I know, this theory is preposterous – but entertain it just for a moment. Now, if this theory were put into practice, we would have to accede that colonizing others for profit is wrong (gasp!), that invading other countries because you feel you are better and deserve more power is asinine (crap!), that judging others based on their skin color, their body parts and where they put them, how much money they have, the job they do, the people they choose to fornicate, or their appearance is moronic (oops!).

Putting this theory into practice would mean equal pay for equal work, that violence against other living things is wrong, that all people deserve education, love, peace, the freedom to fornicate, etc. It would indicate that human trafficking is wrong, that violence is an indication of societal (rather than individual) ills, that genocide just plain sucks, and that war is not the answer. It would suggest that all people regardless of whether or not they have a clitoris, no boobs, cellulite, fat-tastic thighs, or skin as white as fat-free organic soy milk, are equally human and deserve an equal chance on this planet.

Damn, that second theory is crazy. The first one seems a heck of a lot easier to put into practice.

What if the ‘neo’ in neo-conservative stands for ‘new evil omnipotence’?

While the neo prefix literally stands for new, it most definitely stands for a whole host of other things in the moniker “neo-conservative.” So, in Sesame Street fashion, let’s consider what the ‘n’ ‘e’ and ‘o’ in neo seem to stand for…

N is for nihilistic (as in moral principles and social obligations – what are those?), nepotistic (yeah, just a little bit of playing favorites is going on – like when you put all your PNAC buddies in charge of the government), and nitwits (standard definition applies – i.e. really stupid people). N also stands for just plain nasty.

E is for evil (as in squinty-eyed lying, soulless power-mongers who will do anything it takes to rule the world), enduring (as in the unfortunately enduring nature of this hellacious ideology), end-of-times (as in the crazies who believe US sovereignty is ordained and saving the environment doesn’t really matter because Armageddon is on its way – re, George W.), executioners (as in executions-are-us – and torture too), and empire (as in good old U.S.of A. not-so super plans to control the world).

O is for omnipotence (as in having way too much damn power), onanism (as in ruled by major jerk-offs), oppressive (as in, “hey, our theory is let’s oppress the whole damn world and get crazy drunk off our own power”), omnivorous (as in devouring everything, planet and all) obstinate (as in “Change? No way! Let’s conserve all the crap about our unequal world and spread the inequality around a bit more!”), omnipresent (as everywhere in the news and controlling the spin), and obstreperous (as in noisy, unruly children who keep shouting “The world is mine! It’s mine! It’s mine! I will kill you if you even think about touching it!”)

Despite these not so under-currents of the neo-con flavor, the term is waved around as just another ideological flag, just another political persuasion. Do the people that claim the neo-con’s are not that powerful have blinders on? Seems to me that all their hopes and dreams are coming true tenfold. We have a mega-wattage and ultra aggressive approach to our foreign policy right now and we are so damn big on defense that we drive our own private tanks (you know, Hummers). Our media, our government, and lots of the populace has an unwavering support for the Straussian Likud Party of Israel. We are so pro-business that we might as well be called United States of Corporations (or the United Corporations of America). And, in case you hadn’t noticed, we don’t really seem all that keen on resisting a U.S. empire in order to “keep the peace” and bring “democracy” to “threatening regimes” (things neo-con’s claim they want to do). Sounds like we are living a neo-con wet dream if you ask me.

Ah, if only the neo in neo-conservative stood for a “never ending obituary” for this disturbingly nasty, evil, omnipresent dogma…

What if women could have careers AND good sex? Camille Paglia’s ‘look’ at Sex and the City

In the “Six Ways of Looking at Carrie” in the 5/23/08 special double-orgasm issue of Entertainment Weekly that showcases Sex and the City, Camille Paglia does some supposedly feminist looking at the show.

Paglia starts with the argument that:

Sex and the City is extremely important in entertainment history because of the way it foregrounded the pro-sex feminism movement of the 1990s that I was part of. The show is the most visible result of that generational shies away from the antipornagraphy crusade that dominated in the 1970s and ‘80s.”

Over time, the show really turned into an accurate anthropological chronicle of the bittersweet dilemma faced by the modern career woman. For every big career gain she makes, there’s a trade-off in her personal life.”

Is the “women asked to be raped” and “date rape hysteria” stance of Paglia’s part of the pro-sex mantra she speaks of? (Pardon me for asking, but can’t being “pro-sex” include being anti-rape?) Does the “anti-pornography crusade” refer to the radical feminist critique of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and gender as performance of MacKinnon, Rich, and Butler (and many great others) or does Paglia, in bad-feminist-mythmaking style, simply conjure up the hellaciously misinterpreted claim of Dworkin that “all sex is rape”? And, geez, couldn’t she have picked a word other than the zealous, fanatical image inducing “crusade”?!?

It would have been nice if she had taken the chance to give voice to feminism in a national magazine in a way that is a tad more complex and a smidgen less divisive (she is – whether you agree with her brand of feminism or not – whip smart). Or, perhaps the ET editors could have rallied up a feminist not reviled by so many in what she claims is her own camp. Was no one from feministing, racialicious, or the women’s media center available? Have bell hooks, Jane Caputi, and Jackson Katz stopped doing “feminist looking”?

Instead, we have to gaze through Paglia’s view, which constructs woman as girls, second-wave feminists as old baddies, and heterosexuality as NATURAL – as in the following:

“I can see why many older, second-wave feminists were highly critical of Sex and the City in the way it showed women always obsessing about men. But guess what? Wake up, that’s the truth! Most young women are naturally interested in men.”

Girls together in groups are constantly talking about their relationships. That’s what girlfriends are for!”

For the love of feminism, is there anything RIGHT about her look at SATC? Women are “naturally” interested in men? Hello? Queer theory, anyone? Or, how about the fairly widespread understanding of the social construction of gender/race/sexuality? And “girls” (not women of course, because I guess it would be too old-school-second-wave to refuse female infantalization) “constantly talk about relationships”?!? What “girls” are you hanging with Camille? Perhaps you need some new “girlfriends” that understand friendship entails more than discussing heteronormative relationships (while shoe shopping and dieting, I presume).

I look forward to the release of the film next weekend– and to doing some feminist looking of my own. When I talk with my friends (who are not all girls), I will try to go beyond my “natural” interest in men and my “essential girly desire” to talk relationships – I might just, in fact, consider the film from a critical, feminist perspective that includes an examination or race, class, gender, sexuality, body image – and yes, Camille, relationships too.

What if peace was profitable?: A review of Iron Man


The film starts with Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) in full-on cool mode, swilling whiskey on the rocks and quipping “no gang signs” when a soldier holds up a peace sign. A bit later, this womanizing head of a mega-weapons corporation notes that there is no profit in peace – that it would, in effect, put him (and many others) out of work. Yet, Stark has a change of heart (quite literally) after being almost fatally wounded in a secret snuff attack by his partner and nemeses, Obidiah (played with tycoon nastiness by Jeff Bridges). With the help of Yinsen, another captor, Stark is saved and has a new heart in place – literally, a technological heart that keeps him alive, but also, more significantly, a heartfelt awakening to the realities of war and weaponry.

However, as Sarah Seltzer at RH reality check writes, “the movie seems to imply that his moral doubts kick into gear mostly because the dark-skinned baddies got their hands on his stockpile.” Or, in other words, Stark isn’t too concerned about militarization and arms dealing until the arms are in the hands of the ‘evil terrorists.’ Unfortunately, the film does nothing to trouble the ‘you’re either with us or your against us’ dichotomy. According the logic of the film, the Afghan baddies are ‘against us’ (except for Yinsen, the doctor who saves Stark and is, of course, conveniently nixed before the film is in full throttle). Moreover, as the side character from SHIELD (the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) plays a considerable role in saving Pepper Potts and Iron Man while also making the annihilation of Obidiah possible, the film suggest that the real enemies are ‘over there’ and what we really need are bigger ‘shields’ to protect us – a message with which the current administration would certainly approve. And, even though the baddie is a corporate white guy, he is not framed as bad because he makes weapons or loves wealth and power, but because he trades with the wrong people (the Middle Easterners that the film stereotypically casts as terrorist cave dwellers). This representation of ‘baddies’ using U.S. weapons for evil purposes is furthered when Khan finds the remnants of the first Iron Man suit in the desert in order to retool them for his own use. Here, good U.S. weapons (the Iron Man suit) are stolen by bad terrorists (Khan). Thus, the message is not so much anti-weapon as anti-weapons for (middle-eastern) Others.

Once back in the good ole U.S.of A. (yet another dichotomy the film fails to unpack: US good, Middle East bad) Stark, the head of a corporation at the heart of the military industrial complex, announces at a press conference that his company will no longer make weapons. Heads start spinning and stocks start dropping – just as they would in the real world if Lockheed Martin or General Electric decided to disavow making weapons. Weapons are big business – one of the biggest – and, as the film in its techno-glam super-hero style vaguely reveals, this business requires perpetual war (as well as selling weapons to as many buyers as possible- whether ‘friend’ or ‘foe’).

While its nice to think some of the pro-peace, anti-military industrial subtext will travel home with theatre goers, when I asked one of the boys that joined my kids and I at the movies what he thought the movie was trying to say about war, his enthusiastic reply was “Weapons Rule!” Unfortunately, I think this is the message that many will ultimately take away from the film – that technology rules and what we really need is “better weapons” which could rule the world in an ultra-cool way – via Iron Men! Seems like this type of weapon would in fact be Bush’s wet dream – wasn’t that the sort of look he was aiming for when he donned the flack suit and announced “Mission Accomplished”? Can’t you just see Bush all rigged up in that neato red and gold Iron Man suit, quipping “I ain’t only gonna smoke you outta your caves, I’m gonna fire blast you out!” Of course, Stark plays a much different Iron Man than Bush would – he has a heart and a brain, and really does seem to have turned against the idea that weapons are the answer – only problem is, the audience may not be able to make that turn with him when the movie makes it look so damn much like “Weapons Rule!”

*As an aside, is there any reason Pepper Potts has to wear heels so high she can barely walk? And, why the hell didn’t she ever get to gear up in a Iron Woman suit? I suggest purple and silver, with no heels.

**For great analysis of this film, see WOC PhD and Feminist Underground.

What if heroes had gray hair? A review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

F COUNT: one baby f

I must admit, I am a sucker for action films. The first Indy came out when I was 10 and spoke to my already obsessive fear of snakes as well as my love of adrenaline. I must also admit that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Indy 4 so I could take my kids, 9 and 11, to see it with me and finally experience Indy on the big screen (they have been prepped with the first three installments – and lest you critical media watchers are concerned – yes, they have been subjected to feminist analysis of the film that considers some of the more worrying sexist, racist, and xenophobic Indy elements!)

The night before Indy 4, we watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade at home, a movie filmed nearly 20 years ago with a still brown-haired Indy. Perhaps this is why the next day at the theatre, not too far into the film, my daughter asked “Why is Indy’s hair that color?” Not one for any sort of talking in films, I gave the let’s talk about it after signal and returned to my immersion in the wonderfully villainous antics Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), the ever luminous feminist (s)hero Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), and the heroic academic (yeah!) Henry Jones Jr. (Harrison Ford).

On the ride home, after declaring her love for the killer ant scenes, my daughter again asked about the hair. This got me thinking – perhaps her focus on the hair was not due to Indy looking different in the film she had watched the night before (an actor’s nightmare – aging 20 years in one night!),but due to the fact that gray is a pretty much non-existent hair color in film and television – unless, that is, you are watching a hair dye commercial (or bio-pharm hawking one of its latest medicinal wares that will “make you feel young again” with the minor side effects of chronic constipation, projectile vomiting, and mild heart attack).

Where is the gray these days? The Golden Girls are long gone and the only wonderfully gray woman I can think of at the moment is the fab therapist on HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me who’s hair, true to media form, is really more white than gray (but she does have hot sex with her gray haired lover in numerous episodes – a groundbreaking representation in itself as most media leads us to believe people don’t even live long enough to go gray, let alone still be doing the nasty once they do!) In terms of my kids’ viewing, I can’t think of a show that features gray, let alone gray-as-cool-action-hero hip. In fact, the youth rocks message is so pervasive that most kids seem to think 40 is pretty ancient, let alone Harrison’s 65.

But, what if gray characters were sprinkled in film and television with as much frequency as surgically sculpted faces? What if Superman got older-looking (instead of younger looking as in Superman Returns?) What if they finally made a Wonder Woman blockbuster with Linda Carter as the now graying (or gray) most awesome Amazon of all time?

Well, if the reactions–both pre and post–to Indy 4 were any indication, it would take some major paradigm change to embrace the gray. Ford naysayers abound, claiming things like “the years have dried him out,” as film critic David Edelstein does. As Edelstein’s review in NY Mag further complains, age just should not be something viewers have to deal with:

“The computer-generated imagery removes the intangible elements of gravity and depth of field we see in that early warehouse sequence, and the state-of-the-art effects have a way of making the ages of the actors more, not less apparent. As this elderly crew (only LaBeouf is under 56) rushes down a stone staircase to escape a CGI rock slide, you can almost hear their joints creaking.”

Even Ford concedes that “No one wants to see a hero have to pick up his cane to hit someone.” Well–why not?– I ask. What if we regularly saw gray haired (s)heroes fighting baddies with their canes, using their wisdom to trip up evil masterminds, or simply revealing that not all world saviors come in latex suits with six-packs and wrinkle free botoxed visages?

As an interviewer at Gawker said, “American culture is generally paranoid about aging” to which Harrison replied, “Well, I am here to help. What would you like me to do?” Well, Harrison, keep fighting the good anti-ageist fight and keep up your gray hair activism (Harrison claims “I resisted some early efforts, for instance, to think about coloring my hair. I said, Uh, no.” Heck, Harrison, you might even check out the GoingGrayBlog and give some cred to the joyful embrace of grayness.

I sure do wish the super-gray Indy and the fabulously plastic surgery-free Marion could throw the baddy on You Tube called “tekno dwarf” to the killer ants (as well as all the other gray naysers and ageist aficionados). Tekno dwarf posted a film review of what he calls “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Wheelchair” abounding not only with ageism, but sexism too. Lamenting that upon seeing Indy on screen “I thought he was going to keel over,” he further rants that the Irina Spalko character is “nod to the feminist movement” that is “bullshit.” “I was hoping for that Russian bitch to die,” he spews. Then, in fine misogynistic fashion, he ends his review with “Fuck you women. Go suck a dick and die.” Wow, and some people wonder if sexism still exists?!? It ain’t only on the campaign trail, people.

Of course, sexism and ageism (S&A) go hand in hand – in fact all the ugly isms hold hands in one big intertwined knot (otherwise know as the multiplicity of oppressions or intersectionality). Older women are subject to the friendship between S&A with particular vengeance – women are supposed to be young hot objects with empty minds and open legs dammit – not full fledged adults with brains, life experiences, and (the horror) bodies that age. Jessica Valenti’s new book, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, chronicles this ageist double standard with her entry #15: “He’s Distinguished, She’s Driving Miss Daisy.” Perhaps this is why all those “distinguished” (ugh) men like Sean Connery and Michael Douglas are cast with women far younger – wouldn’t want put them with a Driving Miss Daisy! Thankfully the past few years have eroded this men ripen and mature, women rot attitude with the likes of Helen Mirren, Doris Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Jane Fonda (by the way, thank you Jane for saying “cunt” on national television earlier this year– you rock!)

As for the film itself, each of the female leads is far younger than Harrison and neither, of course, has gray hair. The film is hardly feminist with a capital f, but it may deserve a baby f. Marion is back, and she ain’t no damsel in distress (even though Mutt claims she needs to be saved, she saves the rest of the crew multiple times with her mad jeep driving skills and waterfall navigation management, for example). Plus, casting a gray haired action hero of 65, female leads of 56 and 39, and a plethora of supporting characters over 55 speaks to feminism’s fight against all the ugly ism’s, including ageism.

Now, if only I could find more seasoned screen mentors for my daughter to view so that gray becomes just another hair color, rather than a sign of being “passed it.”

What if “woman” was not used as a synonym for “white woman”?

Certain words, most words, in fact, carry along all sorts of baggage with them. Words are like overstuffed suitcases. When we bandy about the hefty word ‘woman,’ most people see a Costco-variety suitcase, a ubiquitous ‘everywoman’ that, like the dark green Costco luggage at airport baggage claim, is indistinguishable from all other women. Yet, this pervasive use of ‘woman’ to represent a very particular type of woman – a white, heterosexual, middle class, manicured, polished, feminine women – is harmful to ALL women.

When a media mouthpiece says “woman” they usually mean ‘white middle class hetero woman.’ When they mean a female who is not part of this limiting normalization, they add adjectives and stir – such as Chicana, Black, Queer, Homeless, etc.

So, what should the word ‘woman’ mean? Well, channeling Freud, it seems the word should mean what the individual woman wants it to mean. It could mean “I have a vagina,” it could mean “I identify as female,” heck, it could mean “I don’t identify in any gender category but need to use the damn bathroom.” But, from a societal level, it is imperative that we who have our social justice awareness caps on use this term woman more carefully. As a case in point, why is Obama referred to as a black man while Hillary is most often referred to merely as a woman?

“Woman” should not be used to make whiteness or other categories of social privilege invisible. It should not be used as a synonym for white woman, for a heterosexual female, or for any other supposedly (ugh) ‘normal’ category. Rather, the word must carry all the heavy connotations stuffed into the very large, overstuffed suitcase of all those social positions, identities, and intersectionalities that are socially constructed as well as embodied by those who identify or are identified as women.