Category Archives: faux gender theory

“Oh, loverboy!”

This is not a good time to be asking people for money and, um, that’s my job. Earlier this week, a woman flat-out laughed at me. I imagined her with a scotch in one hand and a gun in the other.

So I think it’s a good week to do things other than work. Like think about the fantastic Dirty Dancing, which I just saw for the first time in a theater as part of a Jezebel / Abortion Access Fund event. The screenwriter-producer Eleanor Bergstein came to encourage us all to take risks, as people and as artists, and, when we put controversial events in our commercial movies, to make them impossible to remove.

“I’m so sorry,” Lipman told the acne cream company that was willing to sponsor Dirty Dancing, as long as the illegal abortion — which, in the film, has near-tragic repercussions — was removed. “It’s the linchpin of the story. Nothing would make any sense if it were removed.” The acne cream bowed out, the film was released regardless, and it became an international success.

“Always make it the linchpin,” she instructed us. “That way you can’t cave to pressure even if part of you wants to out of fear.”

Fun facts about Dirty Dancing:

* Like Wet Hot American Summer, this is a movie about Jews that never explicitly says it’s about Jews.

* During filming, the seasons changed, so the crew had to spray-paint the leaves on the trees green.

* Jennifer Grey was 27 during filming and Patrick Swayze was 35.

* The crawling-on-the-floor dance scene was improvised

* Sarah Jessica Parker and Val Kilmer were considered for the lead roles

* It won an Oscar (Best Song)

* There are like 15 plotlines going on. That’s pretty ambitious for a movie about school kids on vacation with their family.

* Some folks don’t like this movie. (I know, right?)

* I didn’t see it all the way through until I was 27 myself because my proto-feminist high school self caught a glimpse of it on TV and was insulted by the fact that the main female character was called “Baby.” Little did I realize that that was intentional — that the film was about the infantilization of women. Her liberal, well-meaning parents named her Frances after the first woman in the cabinet but then called her Baby! What could be a better example of the mixed messages affluent white girls received in the mid-20th century? Go to college but then marry some Ivy Leaguer and be content raising his children. Read and think, but not too much or no one will want you. And so on.

* Of course, the movie is also about class, back-alley abortions, and how people in 1963 would look if they had 1980s hair and dressed like they were on their way to a Jane Fonda aerobics class. (See above re: plotlines.)

It’s too bad Eleanor Bergstein didn’t write more movies because this one really is near perfect for what it is. Why would anyone try to remake it? What could they possibly add?

Maiden America: Virgins in Film, 2010

True Grit and Black Swan have, superficially, not much in common. One is a blackly humorous Western where men shoot at each other, and at cornbread, with little provocation. The other is a ballet melodrama of the old school where most of the violence is self-inflicted.

One is literary & masterful; the other is (almost) camp.

One is funny; the other is — well, also funny. Certainly it makes its critics hilarious.

I enjoyed both to varying degrees but I recently realized that they do have a very interesting theme in common. They’re about virgins. What are virgins capable of? Can they be taken seriously, by men, as avengers? How about as artists?

In True Grit the two main male characters, played beautifully by Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges, don’t know what to make of Mattie, the 14-year-old heroine who comes to them for help in tracking down her father’s killer. She’s too old to be a child and yet she’s not fuckable either — she’s called ugly at one point, and she wears her father’s over-sized clothes. Her in-between status unsettles them. Matt Damon’s character, the blustering Texas ranger, tries to solve the problem one way or the other: he turns her over and spanks her. She refuses to react like a child. Though humiliated, she refuses to cry, and by continuing to act like an adult — albeit an unfuckable one — she earns the respect of both men.

In Black Swan, which is much sillier and more over-the-top, the question seems to be, Can a virgin make art? Does a woman need to be sexually experienced to portray depth of emotion on stage? This is funny to me since I consider ballet to be profoundly unsexy, but here it’s a real dilemma. Nina (Natalie Portman’s character) is hemmed in on one side by a mother who infantilizes her and on the other side by a creepy French ballet teacher who sticks his tongue down her throat and tells her to touch herself, or she won’t be able to dance the starring role.

Once you start looking for virgins in 2010, you see them everywhere. The teenage daughters in The Kids Are All Right and Please Give (two of my favorite movies of the year so far) both gave earnest, moving performances; the teenage daughter in, and heroine of, Winter’s Bone, another of my favorites, was the raw force that propelled that film forward to its resolution, which is almost unwatchable, except you can’t look away. There was no vanity in any of those performances, or in those of Hailee Steinfeld or Natalie Portman. And that is pretty impressive.

More impressive: Their virtue isn’t introduced only to be overthrown, in the manner of American Pie or similar. You could argue, in a way, that — SPOILER ALERT! — Nina even dies to preserve hers. The sexuality of these young women isn’t the focus of any of the films; largely, in fact, it’s incidental, which is no small feat in Hollywood. Only Nina is really the subject of the male gaze, and it kind of — SPOILER ALERT AGAIN! — kills her. Through penetration, of course. The Freudians probably have been having a field day with that movie.

"Missouri," Meet "Cop’s Wife"

“We can have animus and not be enemies,” sayeth Jon Stewart. I can’t say I’m there yet, but it gives me something to aim for.

Carolyn Hax perfectly expresses the feeling I had at the Rally to Restore Sanity, the one I’m trying to feel again, especially after Tuesday’s results:

Missouri: Hi Carolyn,

I guess my husband and I are what the liberal East Coast would call conservative bigots. My question isn’t about that, so I won’t get into it. We are raising two kids our way, while being constantly told by the liberal media that it’s the wrong way. Sorry, but we just don’t agree, and neither do most of the people in our community.

The issue is that my husband’s job is taking him to a liberal East Coast city, and we’re now faced with the question of whether to uproot everyone and follow him there. If we go, I worry my kids will be exposed to a lot of hooey I have worked hard to keep out of their lives. If we don’t, we’re looking at at least two years’ separation during which my husband will miss the last of his daughters’ little kid years. It’s well-established around here that you can’t bubble-wrap kids, so basically I’m looking for suggestions on how to keep our values strong in our kids even if we choose to move them out east.

Carolyn Hax: You’re right to worry–we liberal East Coast dwellers have two heads, learn a secret language at Ivy League schools so we can mock real hard-working Americans, make our preschoolers watch gay porn, and scream like pod people when we see someone going to church.

The exposure-to-a-lot-of-hooey ship has already sailed, I’m afraid–you’ve bought wholesale the whole idea that there’s an “Us” and a “Them” in this country.

Here’s a little welcome brochure for you in the form of my daily life, in case you decide to tough it out in the Eastern time zone:

I’m married, and we have three little boys.

We love them, work hard to teach them manners, values, civic responsibility, respect for adults, respect for themselves.

We care about the schooling they get, the food they eat, the bedtimes they keep, the community that surrounds them, the families that take them in for play dates. We care about setting an example of strong partnership in our marriage.

We have a hard time containing our frustration when we see even the slightest glimmer of entitlement in them, even though we know intellectually that all small kids see themselves as the center of the earth. We also know that it’s up to us to teach them the value of hard work, of delayed gratification, of gratitude, of giving back as much as they take, if not more.

We also give them as much room as we can to be themselves, which means, at various times, letting them explore in stick and rocks and mud, and make play weapons, and fall off their bikes, and they’ve done target shooting and archery. (I hear a lot about attempts to “feminize” boys, and all I can say is, good luck. If it’s in them to be house kids, then they’ll gravitate that way whether they’re pushed to or not, and if it’s not in them, then they won’t. Cultural norming works better in theory than in practice.)

We encourage them to play with neighborhood kids; these neighbors include four families with their kids in faith-based schools–one believes firmly in single-sex education–and four others with kids in public schools. (My kids go private because the classes are small, much better for their temperaments.)

Have you read anything yet that makes you tremble in fear for your children?

To be fair, I’ll also say that I worship no higher power. However, I am also never in anyone’s face about that, not even when someone of faith gets into mine, which does happen. I not only respect people’s right to live as they see fit, but I also hope my kids will look to others as an example, compare other parents’ choices to ours, and choose a path based on that exploration.

Which brings me to the point I could have opened with and quit (but then I wouldn’t have been able to bring in the Pod People): If you are as assured as you suggest in the correctness–and righteousness–of the way you’ve chosen to raise your children, then there should be no reason it couldn’t withstand the challenge of other points of view. Truth likes light, doesn’t it?

Trust your choices, and trust your neighbors to be human–really, I swear they will bear an uncanny resemblance to you.

As as for Us vs. Them, may I please humbly ask of you to declare with me that enough is enough is enough?

Staying ovation for Carolyn! Full points.

Then of course there’s the adorable five-year-old child whose mother allowed him to dress up as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” and defended everything from his neon wig to his go-go boots to judgmental mommies IRL and on the web in a post called “My Son is Gay.”

SPOILER ALERT: The child in question is not actually gay. The writer is employing a rhetorical device to make the point that it wouldn’t matter to her if he becomes gay at some point but that letting him dress up as a girl if he wants on a costume-oriented holiday will not affect his sexual preferences later in life. (As she puts it, brilliantly, “I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.”)

In case Mrs. Missouri is wondering, this gender-bending Halloween is brought to you by a Stay At Home Mom who calls herself “Cop’s Wife,” sends her kids to church pre-school, and lives in the Midwest. Teh gays! Teh cross-dressers! They are EVERYWHERE. If you think you can avoid their pernicious influence by staying where you are, Mrs. Missouri, you’ve got another think coming.

Missouri, meet Cop’s Wife. Bring the kids! I think you will get along smashingly, at least until / unless Mrs. Missouri does have to transplant to some godforsaken eastern urban hellhole. (“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.” —Alvy Singer)

But: breathe deeply, Ester. Abide. (“Calmer than you are.” —Walter Sobchak) I don’t need to resort to snark just because Mrs. Missouri did in her letter. Perhaps she is an open-minded person waiting to happen! After all, how Jesus Camp-y could Mrs. Missouri really be if she’s writing into my favorite (and East Coast based) advice columnist? Perhaps there is hope for her yet.

Because men hunted buffalo …

On the way to Los Angeles for a whirlwind business trip, I caught sight of this newsstand at JFK Airport. On one side, a sign says “men’s interests,” and on the other side, a sign says “women’s interests.”

What, pray tell, are men’s interests as opposed to women’s interests?

I’m so glad you asked!

On the male side of the mechitzah, we discover that dudes are into:

Smart Money
The Economist
Men’s Fitness

On the women’s side, we discover that ladies like:

O (Oprah)
Home & Garden
Health & Fitness
Family Circle

Thank God men and women both care about Fitness! Otherwise, what else would they talk about?

PS: Apparently I missed “Love Your Body Day“! I would have liked to celebrate it because all my parts, euphemistically-noted in previous blog entries and non-, are in good working order once again. Bless you, teeth (and “foot”)! I promise I’ll never take you for granted again!

On ‘Franzenfreude,’ gender, and genre

ETA: This has been cross-posted on

Having finally released three different but related books back into the wild of the Brooklyn Public Library system — Freedom, Catching Fire, and The Passage — I feel the time is right to weigh in on the literary meme of the moment, Franzenfreude, a term that, loosely defined, indicates that Jonathan Franzen represents all that is wrong with the contemporary high-brow book world.

Is that stupid? Quite! Except there’s a caveat. The phenomenon referred to by “Franzenfreude,” that the high-brow book world restricts its highest praise and most fawning attention for the works of men, is absolutely true. It just happens that Jonathan Franzen is a terrible poster boy for that problem.

Franzen writes gorgeous women. Fleshed-out, interesting, three-dimensional, vivid women, women with brains. He writes for them, too, and perhaps most importantly of all, he READS THEM. When, at a Brooklyn Book Festival panel, someone asked him what he was reading, he replied, “Edith Wharton.” To the follow-up question of what should we, his audience, be reading, he listed several books, all by female authors, including the Ms. Hempel Chronicles, of which, up to that point, I hadn’t even heard. (Then I read it. It was good!)

A friend and I cornered him after the panel to ask whether he’d realized he’d been promoting work by ladies. He blinked for a moment, then laughed and said it honestly hadn’t occurred to him.

Thus: “Franzenfreude” is the wrong label for this particular can of worms. (As a language nerd points out, it’s also stupid for other reasons.)

That said, let’s address the can of worms itself. Yes! Fiction by women is customarily and routinely dismissed by the intelligentsia in favor of fiction by men. Because why should fiction be any different than anything else? The most exalted spaces in any pantheon are reserved for men. So it has been, so it will be. This is because women can have babies, whereas men can only have egos, and also testicles, or something.

However! The less important the pantheon, the more likely it is that you can find a woman at the top of it.

The high-brow book world also dismisses almost all genre fiction. Genre fiction is where women reign supreme or, at the very least, hold their own: romance, mystery, young adult, sci fi, fantasy. Having just ingested the Hunger Games trilogy, a sci-fi YA extravaganza that took not just me but America by storm, I feel particularly drawn to this point right now.

Even in most genre fiction, there remains an idea that boys won’t read books about girls. Hence the sad-but-true fact that J.K. Rowling couldn’t publish under the name “Joanne” for fear of frightening off huge numbers of young male readers. But this to me feels wrong. Step on the NYC subway right now and look around — I guarantee you that someone on that car is reading, not Freedom, but the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. About, as you’ve perhaps heard, Lisbeth Salander, one of the most kick-ass female characters in any book of any genre. The Golden Compass books didn’t suffer for focusing on Lyra, another quite impressive young woman. Even Dan Brown’s idiot bestseller the Da Vinci Code was a FEMINIST conspiracy theory.

Best of all, perhaps, is Suzanne Collins, whose hugely popular Hunger Games books center around Katniss, who doesn’t want to get married and doesn’t understand why having leg hair is bad. Written by a lady! Starring a lady! Yet everyone’s reading them. Hopefully the next J.K. Rowling can be inspired by this and publish under her full name.

This doesn’t, of course, solve the problem of the white male taste-makers — and the sufficient numbers of female taste-makers who concur — giving all the plaudits that matter to white male authors. As Adam Gopnik, a New Yorker author I admire, put it just this year in his tribute to Salinger: “In American writing, there are three perfect books, which seem to speak to every reader and condition: ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘The Great Gatsby,’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye.'”

What Gopnik meant to say, no doubt, was, “Here are three books I really dig!” He’s hardly the first intellectual to fall into the tar pit of generalizing from his own experiences. But it’s a disturbingly prevalent trend among white male taste-makers: assuming that what they relate to and find meaning in, the rest of us must as well, AND that those books must be “the best.”

It’s bullshit, and I’m glad people are finally beginning to realize that. But leave Jonathan Franzen out of it, would you? He’s one of the good ones.

The More You Know …

PSA of the week, courtesy of my having time to kill. You’re welcome.

 Men more likely to cheat on women with bigger paychecks, study says – Like MUCH more likely: “Men who are completely economically dependent on their female partners are five times more likely to cheat than men in relationships with women who earned similar amounts.”

Thanks, CNN! I needed an excuse to hop off the career ladder and focus on my writing which, in the past six months, has netted me a total of $100.00. It does seem to me, though, that a man who is completely economically dependent on his female partner is a unicorn. Could anyone really gather enough unicorns to make a statistically-significant sample?

Mythology aside, I can’t resign myself to a happy, faithful, penurious marriage just yet, because, as we know from the Sopranos, Mad Men, and the entire history of EVERYTHING since we got down from the trees, “A man who makes significantly more money than his girlfriend or wife is also more likely to cheat.”

Hmmm, it’s wet and salty in here. Where are we again, exactly? Oh yes: we’re in a pickle. By “we,” of course, I mean ladies. We’re damned if we support a guy and damned if we are supported by him. Is there any hope in sight, CNN-cited pseudo-scientists?

“Men in relationships with women who made about 75 percent of the men’s income were the least likely to cheat.”

Well! There it is. Make exactly 3/4 of whatever your resident male rakes in and you’ll be set. Or go lez. I know which I think would be less of a hassle.

There are fun facts aplenty in this article about How Not to Die While Walking from the NYT. Don’t cross in the crosswalk, for example. Avoid “crosstown thoroughfares like 125th Street or Canal Street,” where half of all pedestrian deaths occur. (Yikes!)

You want more? Of course you do:

Do not go anywhere between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., stick to the side streets and skip Manhattan entirely. … cabs accounted for far fewer pedestrian accidents in Manhattan than privately owned vehicles. Jaywalkers, surely the city’s most numerous scofflaws, were involved in fewer collisions than their law-abiding counterparts who waited for the “walk” sign — although accidents involving jaywalkers are more likely to result in death.

And one discovery could permanently upend one of the uglier stereotypes of the motoring world: in 80 percent of city accidents that resulted in a pedestrian’s death or serious injury, a male driver was behind the wheel. (Fifty-seven percent of New York City vehicles are registered to men.)

This edition of “the More You Know” is brought to you by my latent anti-man bias, apparently. Some of my closest friends are guys, I swear!

One last tidbit: “Pedestrians would be well advised to favor sidewalks to the right of moving traffic — left-hand turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash as right-hand turns.” Left-hand turns: sinister & deadly. Got it.

By the way, feeling good about America these days? You shouldn’t be.

Lastly, this just in: Power corrupts! No word yet on “absolute power,” but I have a working hypothesis.

Being Ladylike is Overrated

Women who make shit happen and are imprinted in the Book of Life are generally not the ladylike type. The exemplary Elena Kagan — currently on track to be our next Supreme Court justice — is a Jewish New Yorker with bad hair, bland clothes, and possible lesbionic tendencies. (Carpet munching? So not lady-like.) (Though to be fair, appearing or acting sexual in any way is not very ladylike either.) For the next few days as she makes it through her confirmation hearings, however, she will put a good show: she will cross her legs at the ankles, wear skirts, smile pretty, laugh at the jokes of men, and say as little as possible.

When it’s over, she may never have to pretend again. I will be very happy for her. I am guessing that Camille Paglia will not. In the NYT this weekend (on Pride Sunday, in fact, because Gray Lady editors have a sense of humor) she laments the fact that white men and white women have fused to become a sort of androgynous, asexual unit:

[A] new pill, despite its unforeseen side effects, is necessary to cure the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country. …

In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.

Now, whose fault is it that being ladylike/gentlemanly is out and androgynous in? “[E]lite schools, with their ideological view of gender as a social construct.” She calls them feeder cells, which is super cute because as you may know that’s a label usually used for terrorists.

She goes on to explain that white folks are screwed up because our men and our women both look like boys, whereas the darker-skinned folks have a more “healthy” ideal:

[V]isually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left. … American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts. Contrast that with Latino and African-American taste, which runs toward the healthy silhouette of the bootylicious Beyoncé.

Oh my god, Camille Paglia, have you lost your cotton-picking mind? Where is the proof of any of this? First and foremost: what sexual malaise? Seems to me like Americans are doing it early and often (and outside). The subset of Americans she is pounding on here, the educated bourgeoisie, is actually the most likely to have stable marriages. Wouldn’t that probably be less true if men really did just feel like cogs in the domestic machine?

In Paglia’s world, there don’t seem to be any lesbians (mystifyingly, since she herself identifies as one). There are no folks who find gender-bending or androgyny titillating. There are, in fact, no real people at all, only figments of her imagination.

My friend Veronica put it best in a consolatory email she sent after reading the article:

Please let me express my condolences for your sexually suffocated marriage. You must just be killing Ben with your anxiety and ambition. And, my God, he probably has no idea what to do with your Venusian figure. What a shame. But, then again, I should probably question how I can be a Latina lesbian who prefers my girlfriend’s broad shoulders to Beyonce’s extra-yeasty double-rise curves.

Extra-yeasty. I myself rather fit that description, being composed almost entirely of cleavage; it is hard for me to be as ladylike as I sometimes feel pulled to be. In those moments, though, I try to relax and think of Elena Kagan, not to mention Margaret Cho, Alison Bechdel, Victoria Woodhull, Michelle Obama, and everyone else who has made the world better by simply being who they are.

So Sexual!

This article about church counselling for women who are addicted to porn goes off the rails so fast you don’t even hear the squeal. All of a sudden, the train is lying on its side, smoking, its wheels spinning pitifully in the air.

The piece begins innocently enough:

Ms. Renaud, who is taking a DVD course in sexual addiction counseling from the American Association of Christian Counselors, said she started the group and the Web site based on her own experiences. She became interested in pornography at age 10 after finding a magazine in her brother’s bathroom. After that, she said, “I wasn’t able to get enough of it.”

“At school I wanted to go home and look at it more,” she said. “Then I went online. I’d stay late at the library to look at it. Eventually I got into masturbation, phone sex, cybersex.” She also cracked the code on the family’s satellite television service, she said. “That was my life for eight years.” Then, she said, she met a Christian woman who helped her stop.

Porn can be addictive; addictions can disrupt your life. Problem, meet Solution. Great!

Then the article gets wacky:

The programs at Ms. Renaud’s group and at XXX Church diverge from secular sexual theory by treating masturbation and arousal as sins rather than elements of healthy sexuality. Emphasis is on recovering “sexual purity,” in which thoughts of sex outside marriage are illicit.

There you are, Gentle Reader, meandering through the flowering meadows of NYT prose, and out of nowhere, a great white shark bites you on the leg. That is how strange & abrupt this twist is. “Arousal” is a sin? You know that’s biological, right? As for “Thoughts of sex outside marriage,” well, yikes. If you don’t even think about it, how do you know you want it — and what “it” even is in the first place, or what kind of “it” you think you may like when the time comes?

This piece purports to be about porn addiction. What it ends up saying is that there are churches out there — whole faiths, even — that are making biological truths into religious crimes. Maybe not a significant majority of women has a problem with porn, but surely a significant majority thinks about sex. Especially since we are, you know, wired to.

It goes on:

As an adult she needed pornography to be aroused with her husband, she said. “I’m learning the correct way of intimacy and bonds,” she said of the group. “It’s learning what your spouse wants, his needs.” In her first weeks, she recalled, she struggled to avoid masturbation.

I feel awful for that woman. She was using porn with her husband. Consensually! In the context of matrimony! Why does she need to be shamed for that? Why does “the correct way” to have sex have to eliminate the aids to her desire? If she’s already married, why can’t she masturbate? Is it okay if she promises to only think of him?

Presumably porn is titillating because it is forbidden, because it seems “wrong.” It must seem even more so to people whose community norms are so extreme. Vilifying porn, even in the context of marriage — and not just porn but, as the article lists, “Masturbation, Lustful Thinking, Cutting, Feeling Useless, Dad’s Bad Choices, Self-Gratification, Self-Mutilation, Unhealthy Thoughts” — only adds to the cycle and makes those activities more enticing.

Also, part of me wonders whether there is a queer subtext to all of this. Are the women under discussion drawn to porn because they are attracted to women? I mean, of course there are lots of reasons to watch the stuff, but in my experience the men are as gross as the women are fake. Maybe the stigma against admitting an attraction towards the same gender is worse than the stigma of admitting an addiction to smut.


I just took an internet test to discover what gender my brain is. This test seemed reliable to me because a) it’s British, and b) it’s six parts.

Going in, my assumption was that my brain would be roughly 130% female because I’m told my body shape, baby-face, and negligible amounts of body hair correlate strongly with having more estrogen than a soybean field. There are other stereotypical reasons I would think so, too: I am hyper-verbal but scared of numbers; I am equally indifferent to cars and sports, unless there is a narrative to follow (or, failing that, something pretty to admire); and at times I hate myself, as female-type people are wont to do.

Speaking of which, I watched the Oscars Sunday night. The best parts of the ceremony, in order:

3) “George Clooney threw me into a pool.”

2) The Horror montage, perfectly described by David Rees: “Kill Everyone with your Chainsaw … the Dolls are Alive … Dreaming of Murder … Blood and Gore Will Cleanse Your Soul … The Baby is Satan … I break your feet … eat a rat for dinner … big-ass freaky ears and eyes … Frankenstein wants a kiss … the Headless Horseman rides again … Alfred Hitchock’s “Too Many Birds” … screaming and yelling … people staring at each other …long hallways with kids in ‘em … I see dead people … bloody monsters that you have to kiss … blood coming out of elevators … rats and mucus … mouths and teeth … AND THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS HORROR.”

1) The fact that Bigelow won for Best Director and then got to win again for Best Picture. The audience understood the moment Barbara “Liberal Jewish Feminist” Streisand walked out to present the first of those awards that Bigelow was going down in history, but the second win was still a happy shock. As Dana Stevens put it,

it’s unbelievably gratifying to see a woman who does fine, small-scale work triumphing over a man who erects massive monuments to his own vanity. Bigelow’s victory makes it seem like hard work is worthwhile, because someday someone will recognize it, no matter how loudly that asshole at the center table is talking about himself.

I quibble with the idea that the Hurt Locker is “small-scale.” Um, it’s a war movie. It’s about men and guns and battle and heat and exhaustion and explosions. Did I mention men? I don’t think there is a single speaking woman in the whole thing. We’re not exactly talking about a well-mannered Jane Austen adaptation here.

I do love the fact, though, that in two speeches Bigelow got around to thanking “firemen” (!) and still didn’t slip in a reference Cameron, her ex-husband and co-front runner. Didn’t you expect her to mention him, at least? To say some cursory “thank you” for … I don’t know, something? At least I would assume that would be the gracious, self-effacing, feminine thing to do.

Back to the point: how did I fare at the gender test?

Part I was a look at spatial understanding, something about lines and angles. “If you scored 18 – 20: You have more of a male brain [emphasis added]. On average, men outperform women in this task and those with more mathematical knowledge tend to score quite high as well. In past studies, 60 per cent of the people in this range were men.”

Well, that’s a shocker! But it may be an outlier. How about Part II, which is more about objects changing position? “If you scored between 0 – 33%: You may have more of a male brain. Scientists say men tend to under perform in this task. The corpus callosum, the part of the brain that links the right and left hemispheres, is a fifth larger in women. This means women can process visual and other signals at the same time more easily than men. There is also a theory that oestrogen levels in women give them an added advantage in spatial memory.”

Sorry, test. I scored low because I was afraid to make a mistake (points were deducted for incorrect answers as well as awarded for correct ones). All of the things I guessed, however, were right. I played it safe. What’s more female than that?

Still, it was kind of exciting to be seen as male for two questions. Then the test took a turn for the physiognomical: It wanted to me actually gauge my hands, which betrayed me. My empathy & sensitivity to emotion results, which came next, were off the charts. Though I have a better-than-average appreciation for systems (for a girl), I suck at mentally rotating shapes. I must have been asleep the day they covered that in school. Oh wait! Just kidding — they never taught us how to do that. Is this one of those “innate” IQ things?

I screwed myself by knowing significantly more synonyms for given words than either men or women are supposed to know. Come on! The word for that is not “female,” it’s “dorky.”

To add insult to injury, the test insinuated that I am a lesbian by pointing out I like men with “feminine” faces. (Ha!)

And so I ultimately come in exactly as “female” as the average woman taking the test. Go skew their results, would you, please? Man, it sucks to be average.

Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t need my love

But he has it anyway:

I think it’s most worth noting that “I forgot Obama was black”–in all its iterations–is something that white people should stop saying, if only because it’s really dishonest. One way to think about this is to flip the frame. Around these parts, we’ve been known, from time to time, to chat about the NFL. We’ve also been known to chat about the intricacies of beer. If you hang around you’ll notice that there are no shortage of women in these discussions. Having read a particularly smart take on Brett Favre, or having received a good recommendations on a particular IPA, it would not be a compliment for me to say, “Wow, I forgot you were a woman.” Indeed, it would be pretty offensive.

The problems is three-fold. First, it takes my necessarily limited, and necessarily blinkered, experience with the fairer sex and builds it into a shibboleth of invented truth. Then it takes that invented truth as a fair standard by which I can measure one’s “woman-ness.” So if football and beer don’t fit into my standard, I stop seeing the person as a woman. Finally instead of admitting that my invented truth is the problem, I put the onus on the woman. Hence the claim “I forgot you were a woman,” as opposed to “I just realized my invented truth was wrong.”

Ditto for Chris Matthews. The “I forgot Obama was black” sentiment allows the speaker the comfort of accepting, even lauding, a black person without interrogating their invented truth. It allows the speaker a luxurious ignorance–you get to name people (this is what black is) even when you don’t know people. In fact, Chris Matthews didn’t forget Barack Obama was black. Chris Matthews forgot that Chris Matthews was white.

(Emphasis mine. The wisdom, however, is all his.)