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Posts Tagged ‘gender

“As names have power, words have power”*…

 

gender1

 

My book club was reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. In the middle of an otherwise unremarkable plot, we found a 35-page interlude about a highly attractive fairy, describing her body in minute, eye-rolling detail.

After slogging through that book, I began paying attention to similarly stereotyped descriptions of bodies in other books. Women are all soft thighs and red lips. Men, strong muscles and rough hands.

I was frustrated by this lazy writing. I want to read books that explore the full humanity of their characters, not stories that reduce both men and women to weak stereotypes of their gender.

Before getting too upset, I wanted to see if this approach to writing was as widespread as it seemed, or if I was succumbing to selective reading. Do authors really mention particular body parts more for men than for women? Are women’s bodies described using different adjectives than those attributed to men?

To do this, I selected 2,000 books spanning Pulitzer-winning classics to pulpy best-sellers, and ran them through a parser that identified sentences mentioning body parts. I then extracted the owner of the body parts and any adjectives describing them…

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It’s easy to dismiss or overlook the differences in the way men’s and women’s bodies are depicted because they can be subtle and hard to discern in one particular book—one or two extra mentions of “his bushy hair” may not register over 300 pages.

But when you zoom out and look at thousands of books, the patterns are clear…

All the details from Erin Davis (@erindataviz) in The Pudding: “The physical traits that define men & women in literature.”

(Via Walt Hickey at Numlock, who observes, “honestly, now I just want to read a book about a women who’s all knuckles and a dude who’s got rockin’ hips.”)

* Patrick Rothfuss, author of the novel that occasioned the study cited above, in a different work, The Name of the Wind

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As we lose the lens, we might send fictional birthday greetings to award-winning journalist Lois Lane; she was “born” on this date (according to the 1976 DC Comics Calendar). She has been wildly differently depicted through the years, as one can see here (among other places).

Superman27

The Golden Age Lois Lane and Superman, from the cover of Superman #27 (March–April 1944), art by Wayne Boring.

 source

 

“I don’t think that there is any such thing as an old film; you don’t say, ‘I read an old book by Flaubert,’ or ‘I saw an old play by Moliere.'”*…

 

Stop Motion

 

A reprise of a sort…

If you were going to pick just one silent era stop motion short to watch–just one!–I’d happily recommend an early work by Ladislas Starevich: The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912). Yes, you’re reading that right–from 1912! Because despite being over a century old, it showcases a timeless skill, serves as an excellent introduction to silent era stop motion, and is pretty funny, if you ask me. Plus, depending on how well you know your classic comedies, the story just might be familiar…

 

If Buster Keaton had been Russian… and had worked in stop-motion: “Thoughts On: ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ (1912)

* Alain Resnais

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As we meet the beetles, we might send grateful birthday greetings to James Arthur Baldwin; he was born on this date in 1924.  An essayist,  novelist, playwright, poet, and activist, he explored the intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in essays (as collected, for example, in Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time) and in novels (like Giovanni’s Room and If Beale Street Could Talk, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film).  His unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award–nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.

In 1965, Baldwin met William F. Buckley at the Cambridge University Union to debate the proposition before the house: “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”

Baldwin delivers his remarks slowly, somehow seeming both passionate and cool, like jazz. He is mesmerizing, as shown by the camera cutaways to the audience that sits rapt.

It almost seems unfair, a distortion, to excerpt Baldwin’s remarks because as a work of rhetoric, it surpasses even the best of Martin Luther King or JFK…

Perhaps it was brave of William F. Buckley to rise after Baldwin’s speech and take the opposite proposition, though it was likely far braver for Baldwin to accept the invitation in the first place. History has not provided a transcription of Buckley’s remarks, but in the video we can see that he scores some debaters’ points with some citations to authority and statistics. He garners laughs with a clever line or two. As compared to his 1961 editorial, Buckley’s stance is already moderating, as he never implies that blacks are savage and uncivilized as he does in that document.

In the end, the Cambridge Union Society took a vote on the proposition: “The American Dream is at the expense of the American negro.” The yays outpolled the nays 540-160.

Baldwin in a rout.

source  (see also Baldwin vs. Buckley: A Debate We Shouldn’t Need, As Important As Ever“)

 

 

“Be careful of Mankind; they do not deserve you”*…

 

The recent theatrical release of Wonder Woman briefly catapulted the question of female superhero representation into the mainstream. For some, the character is a feminist icon — even Gloria Steinem wrote about her — and many fans (though not all) felt this wasn’t just another superhero movie, but rather a pivotal moment in the portrayal of women in popular culture.

Why all the fuss? Well, the truth is that the comics industry has had a complicated relationship with female characters. They are often hyper-sexualizedunnecessarily brutalizedstereotyped, and used as tokens. They’re also rare. Only 26.7 percent of all DC and Marvel characters are female, and only 12 percent of mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists.

I decided to look beyond the gender ratio to see if we could learn more about how females are represented. Using characters from DC and Marvel in the ComicVine database, I analyzed naming conventions, types of superpowers, and the composition of teams to see how male and female genders are portrayed…

Amanda Shendruk dives deeply into the canon: “Analyzing the Gender Representation of 34,476 Comic Book Characters.”

For a(n encouraging) look beyond the borders of the DC-Marvel dupopoly, see also “Women in comics and the tricky art of equality.”

* Hippolyta, to her daughter Diana (Wonder Woman)

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As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884, at the Savoy Theatre in London, that composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and librettist W. S. Gilbert premiered the eighth of their fourteen comic operatic collaborations, Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant, an amusing parody of Tennyson’s “Princess.”   Though still regularly performed today, Princess Ida wasn’t considered a success in its time– at least in part because an uncommonly hot summer in 1884 kept audiences away, and shortened its run.

Hilarion, Cyril and Florian on their knees to Princess Ida, by “Bab” (W.S. Gilbert)

source

 

“It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men”*…

 

After 20 years of roaming the Americas brawling, gambling and murdering close to a dozen people, the man known as Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán had one last option. Having often turned to the church for sanctuary when waist-deep in trouble, and now facing execution, the soldier and explorer chose the nuclear option: admitting to the bishop that he was actually a woman.

Now known as Catalina de Erauso, a mesmerizing and confusing figure in Basque history, the prisoner not only avoided being executed but also got to meet the pope…

The amazing true tale at “The ruthless conquerer who cross-dressed her way to infamy.

* Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

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As we speculate on the spectrum, we might send carefully-composed birthday greetings to Mary Katherine Goddard; she was born on this date in 1738.  A Colonial printer and publisher, she published the Maryland Journal, a revolutionary periodical, throughout the Revolutionary War.  She was also the second publisher of the Declaration of Independence (considered at the time a treasonable document by the British); her copy, the Goddard Broadside, was the second printed, and the first to contain the typeset names of the signatories.

She was the first female postmaster in the U.S., heading the Baltimore Post Office from 1775 to 1789, and ran a book store and published an almanac.

 source

Happy Bloomsday!

 

“I think no question containing ‘either/or’ deserves a serious answer, and that includes the question of gender”*…

 

In the US, as in much of the world, trans people are often unable to access the healthcare they need. For many people transitioning, finding a doctor willing or able to help, let alone a clinic that offers hormonal treatment, can be costly and difficult.

Ryan Hammond, an artist and tactical biologist based in Baltimore, wants to make the process easier using genetically modified plants. He plans to engineer transgenic tobacco plants to produce gender hormones like estrogen and testosterone, allowing anyone to grow their own supplements at home.

To do this, Hammond is attempting to crowdfund $22,000, which would cover the costs of his training, lab access, and living costs for a year at Pelling Lab in Ottawa, Canada. Hammond has a background in art and has been working in a community biohacking lab in Baltimore called BUGSS, where he been exploring Synthetic Biology and learning new techniques in the field…

More at “Queer Artist Launches DIY Gender Hormone Biohacking Project” and at Open Source Gendercodes.

[image above: source]

* Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us

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As we think analog, not digital, we might spare a thought for Joshua Abraham Norton, better known as “Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico; he was buried on this date in 1880.  An immigrant from South Africa, Norton became disgruntled with what he considered the inadequacies of the legal and political structures of his adopted home.  On September 17, 1859, he took matters into his own hands and distributed letters to the various newspapers in the city, proclaiming himself “Emperor of these United States”:

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

—NORTON I, Emperor of the United States

Norton issued a number of decrees, some of them visionary (e.g., the establishment of a League of Nations, the construction of a bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland).  Ignored by the local, state, and national governments, he spent his days inspecting San Francisco’s streets in an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulettes, given to him by officers of the United States Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco.

Norton died in poverty; but a group of San Francisco businessmen, members of the Pacific Club, established a funeral fund and arranged a suitably-dignified farewell.  The Emperor’s funeral cortege was two miles long; the procession and ceremony were attended by an estimated 10-30,000 people– at a time when San Francisco had only 230,000 residents.

 source

Written by LW

January 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

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