One Step Forward, Six Steps Back

I had two feminist moments today. And, you know, this isn't a feminist blog -- I should know, I read plenty of legitimate feminist blogs -- but it is my personal blog and I am a feminist, so today you get to read about my feminist moments.

I've been watching old X-Files DVDs, borrowed from The Store -- and you all can just shut up, because that show rocks, even if it is dated now, only ten years later. But although the government conspiracy stuff clearly shows its age, in some ways it is incredibly current. I was watching a season three episode, "2Shy", when the following scene jumped out at me (no youtube video, so a transcript will have to do):

[Scully enters the morgue; local detective is already there]

Local Detective: Oh, it's you.

Scully: That's not a problem, is it?

Local Detective: No, it's just that Dr. Kramer didn't tell me that you were observing the autopsy.

Scully: I'm not observing. I'm performing it myself.

Local Detective: You're a medical doctor?

Scully: You sound surprised.

Local Detective: I don't know. I guess maybe I am.

Scully: Why?

Local Detective: It's nothing personal, Agent Scully. I'm just . . . old-fashioned in certain regards.

Scully: Old-fashioned?

Local Detective: The truth is, I question the wisdom of assigning female law-enforcement officers to certain types of cases.

Scully: Like this one?

Local Detective: Whoever killed Lauren Mackalvey has a definite attitude toward women, right? So this has to be affecting your judgment.

Scully: I appreciate your concern, Detective. But it's not necessary. All I want to do is solve this case, just like you.

Local Detective: Look, I'm not being sexist, here, I'm just being honest.

Scully: Where would you like the autopsy report sent?

Local Detective: You can fax it to my office.

So my apologies for quoting at such length, but, for serious? That's awesome. I don't remember this particular scene -- although I know I watched the episode at some point when I was a teenager -- but, for real, that's just fantastic. She doesn't engage. She doesn't get angry. She doesn't let it affect her. She just reacts, politely and firmly, to everything he says, letting him hang himself. And it's really -- almost a throwaway scene. Like I said, although I remember the fat-sucking villain of this particular ep, I don't specifically remember this or any other scene that dealt so directly with sexism. It doesn't have bearing on the plot, not really. And yet I'm so happy it's there. This is why Scully was a feminist icon, before Buffy, or Veronica Mars, or Kima, or Laura Roslin. Like any other compelling character, Scully gets into dangerous situations and must be rescued, and spends a fair amount of time rescuing Mulder from similar situations. Gillian Anderson is lauded -- rightly -- for her charisma, her acting chops, and the air of complete competence and unflappability which she imbues in Scully, and of course this sort of scene wouldn't work without that background.

But watching it, I was just so pleased that they put this scene in the show at all -- that they showed young women (like me! in my impressionable years) a role model who not only had the chops, but had the self-confidence to stand up for herself against this sort of thing, directly, publicly, out loud, on screen.

I love me my Buffy, and I love Veronica Mars, too, and the women on BSG. And in all those shows, people are confronted with sexism and deal with it intelligently and forthrightly. But it surprised and pleased me to note that for all the ways the X-Files has aged badly (and in many ways, it has) there remain some aspects that still resonate really powerfully.

Compare this to my other "feminist moment" of the day -- rather the opposite context. Now, obviously, there has been a lot of press about Hillary Clinton, and her speech, and her delegates, and all that. I find that I have nothing more to add on this topic -- clearly the coverage is overtly sexist, clearly the woman cannot win even the smallest bit of respect from her peers regardless of what she says, and clearly she is doing some amazing work in the face of those odds. But while that is all current, and supports my point, I would instead like to fight pop culture with pop culture, and note how far we haven't come by a different comparison.

It's not a secret that I have a certain amount of contempt for Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight Saga -- in which I am not alone. Oh, I've read the first few chapters of book one, and definitely flipped through parts of number four, since it sits on the counter at The Store, and all. (Hey, counterwork is boring when there's no one in the store.) Anyway, I had read enough, both of the books and of the publicity to know that a) I am not the target demographic for this book -- I am not nearly misunderstood enough and b) I am in fact so far out of the target demographic that I am actively repulsed by the concept.

Today I was talking to my old friend Algy, who also now works at a bookstore, and she was telling our group (moi, Short Stuff, and The Fable) about how she'd read the whole series. From what she said, and what I'd read myself, I am appalled. These are the lessons that the pop teen "classic" Breaking Dawn puts forth. (I know it would be much more fair and balanced to include quotations, rather than summaries. But I do not have a copy of that particular title.)

1) It's okay to have steamy sex with your undead lover, who likes to drink blood, and following that, allow him to turn you undead as well, but only if you get married to him first.

2) Should you have sex with aforementioned undead lover-turned-husband, and you come away covered in bruises from how roughly he has handled you, that is okay too, as long as you are "in love."

3) It is your undead husband's decision, not yours, whether or not to abort the half-undead baby you are carrying.

4) Should someone approach you, and offer to let you have sex with his wife, with whom you are in love and respect on her own merits, without her prior knowledge (or, one assumes, consent), the correct response is, "Ummm... sure!"

5) Nothing is more romantic than having your undead husband chew through your own (now undead) flesh into your womb and give you a personal, bite-by-bite C-section.

Call me old-fashioned, but give me Scully any day of the week. I mean... really those two lists speak for themselves, and I should shut up, but I honestly can't believe this. I didn't have the highest standards for my entertainment when I was in my teens, for sure, but I'm really glad that what I ended up drawn to was something like The X-Files rather than like Twilight. I'm glad my mom steered me (gently) in that direction, and I'm glad my little Sis is following those steps too. It's easy to forget what a difference it makes, until days like today, when it just slaps you in the face.


Denial, it Be Shrinking

Possibly because of the drought.

No, that's a really bad pun. My denial is actually shrinking because it has now become time to actually start thinking like a real grown-up person who is moving out of the country. Over the last twenty-four hours, information about my student visa, my accommodation (read: dorm room) and my semester schedule has come pouring in.

And may I just take a break and say getting a student visa is a job and a half. I don't know if it has always been such a pain in the butt or if everyone is all freaked out about terrorists or what, but they want more paperwork and qualifications than a new job and the DMV put together. It is ridiculous. (Real, honest-to-God questions: please describe your education history, starting from the age of 11. And then they pop out and ask, "Are you a terrorist?" Who the hell answers yes to that? What the hell good is it? Plus, I need my boss to write and sign a statement saying that I actually do work there, in addition to me bringing in my salary slips. Fox Mulder thinks you are too paranoid, people.) It is a huge pain and I loathe it. Loathe, loathe, loathe, I am almost tempted to compose a sonnet about how much I loathe it, but that would be giving them too much attention and also probably they would secretly research my blog and deny me my visa out of spite.

If you are the British Consulate in the US, um, psych! Just kidding! You're my favorite office this side of the DMV! Kisses!

On the plus side, I got my first choice out of the dorms -- it be cheap, AND it have internet. Hurray! Plus, you know, laundry and kitchen and stuff. It also looks pretty ridiculously tiny, but whatever -- like I'll care what my square footage is when I'm reading my Shakespeare.

I don't have my finalized schedule ("timetable," whatever) yet, but I have found out some of the classes I'll be taking. And whee! Very, very exciting. Obviously.

Still, all this info is making the whole happy-denial thing tough. And I was totally counting on Happy Denial; now that I do not have it to fall back on I am stuck in Scared And Stressed. Scared of going back abroad, stressed about what a huge pain-in-the-ass it is to go back abroad.

Oh, England. You and your theater. Damn your siren call.


The Cliche at This Point Would Be, "Once More Into the Breach . . ."

So I'm back. I desisted from this blog for a full six months, since my life was too full and I was keeping up with people in other ways. But as I prepare to decamp once more into parts European, I figure I'd better get back in the habit.

So, in my life right now? A list! Because that takes the pressure off.

1) Why does the UK Visa application hate me so much? Listen, I so promise not to be a terrorist or do anything bad if you promise to just let me study your damn playwright in your damn country. It's a compliment! Quit asking me all these damn questions!

2) I am not-so-secretly loving the DD's latest project - Monologue Club. It's like Directing Lite. All the fun, none of the pressure; plus I get to see my IHH ducklings. Marry me, Monologue Club.

3) If anyone were to ask, no, I am not going to England for grad school. I am going to study Shakespeare somewhere removed but vaguely nearby, perhaps in the stratosphere just above everyone's heads, and I am going to come home on weekends. Yes, this is how I deal. Flat denial. Moving to another continent? Again? Me? Please!

4) But I am totally going to be taking a course called "Weapons in the Elizabethan Theater" this semester. No denial about that, no sirree Bob, because that is awesome.

5) I am hungry. Stupid hunger.