Saturday, October 8, 2016


Me, pontificating
There I am, on long gold and brown shag, all twelve or fifteen or eighteen months of me. One hand, raised - I appear to be saying something and I am certain it was important. I know I had the attention of my father, who took the picture. Who imagined for me, I am sure, an open universe where I could grow and become whatever I wanted.

It wasn't too many years later that a boy pointed at me and called me a dog. A poodle. I'd shed my long blond locks for short hair and my first eighties perm, and the playground resounded with his chants."It looks rabid!" he'd snarl. I hid inside my coat, eyes burning. It.

Later, when I started dating, it wasn't that the boys I met called me "it," but that occasionally they treated me like a thing. Sometimes, paying for dinner was an exchange for a kiss. Their needs or desires were often less about my mind or my humor, but about my waist or breasts or legs. They needed IT, not me. And this behavior continued well into adulthood, where dating became an even larger minefield.

I was lucky to marry a man raised by a strong woman who taught him about agency and equality and respect. Later, at twenty six, a sonographer said to us, "Congratulations, it's a girl" and I cried. I was scared for the culture in which she would be born, because I knew in my heart that she, too, would become "it" at some point. I knew that the outward sexism of the fifties and sixties workroom has given way to locker room talk, to conversations in men's space wherein women become a thing to be bantered about. I knew that there would be a day she'd be in a tight space or dark alley and catch her breath, fumble with her keys and wonder what sort of uninvited talk or touch she'd have to deal with.

We've armed her with agency and jujitsu. She carries herself with confidence, shoulders squared against catcalls. She knows what is okay and what is not okay. She knows how we should talk about each other and others.

And she knows that yesterday's clip of Trump speaking poorly of women in private, then stepping off a bus to charm his arm around a woman in public is only one of many pieces of evidence of how his public persona does not match his private mind. Today we are watching pundit after pundit talk about a person running to be leader of the United States needing to apologize for what he said. 

But he's said it before. He'll say it again. What he said is merely an expression of how he feels. How he feels is how the boy on the playground felt when he said to me "It looks rabid." It's how every public groper feels when they just have to reach out and touch it. It's how the wealthy man who invites a female friend but books a single room thinking it wouldn't be a big deal feels. Women are an it to be used as they will. This isn't the case for all men, but it is certainly the case for this man. How he feels is a deeply internalized part of who he is.

And it is how he feels that we should all find irreconcilable with who we are.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rey, it isn't so!

So, let me admit it: We are slowly but surely picking up a stockpile of Rey toys. It's not necessarily easy, but it's certainly not as hard as, say, finding Black Widow riding the motorcycle that fell out of the Quinjet (Captain America, Iron Man, and Mark 30 have all replaced her in various sets leading me to say bad language words). But hey, we found Rey. And if we could find Rey, couldn't anyone?

That's right, I'm raising a Honeybadger, a Sith Yoda, and a straight up, badass lady Sith. 
Sure, she's still not included in the cool 6 figure 10" toy set along with all the boys and that's not okay, but this household's collective lady rage had dulled to a quiet simmer. Because it's been easier to pick up Rey toys these days, I didn't want to believe the folks over at Sweatpants and Coffee or Hypable but the 'Star Wars' toymakers story is picking up steam. I tried to double and triple check the reliability of the sources, because there's a peculiar confirmation bias at work in my soul as I hear that toymakers intentionally excluded Rey from manufacturing because boys don't want toys with girl characters in them.

This, of course, flies in the face of the Disney/Lucas claim that they intentionally excluded Rey to avoid spoilers. To be fair, we kind of smelt it when Disney dealt it, but I've got a little message for them:
Spoiler alert: Turns out, fans can smell your bullshit from a mile away. 
Now out of my system that have I gotten childish Yoda image of mine, I'd like to talk a little about why this is important. Captain Yoda above with the devilish grin likes to play The Force Awakens. So do his sisters. They'd like to do so with a full set of action figures. Like, say, that sweet slick 6-figure set from Target, for example. But there's no Rey that size. Get a different one, folks say. Shut up. Stop whining. There are some Rey figures for sale, so you shouldn't complain.

To that I say: Uh, no. That's not how representation works.

The toys we make - and how we package them - tell a story. Narratives aren't just about the words we are saying - and a grand storyteller like Disney/Lucasfilms ought to know that. Right now, with their various individually packaged Rey figures, The Force Awakens is telling a slightly better story than, say, Disney's Avengers set (which I covered already) or Disney's missing Gamora (which I covered here), but it's still a story wherein the girl doesn't get to hang with the boys, can be cast aside, and is, inessential in the The Force Awakens toy lineup.

You can't have the movie The Force Awakens without Rey, but you're suggesting that boys just go ahead and play the movie without her. Because who wants a female action figure mucking up their important playsets?

But it gets worse, because industry insiders claim that you've actually come out and said - behind closed doors of course (heaven help you get off message in front of Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams - who create strong female characters as a matter of course) - that boys don't want to play with toys that are girls. This confirmed our suspicions. Now, not only are you telling female fans that they are inessential, you're sending that message to males as well. These playsets reach our culture's boys during their formative years. The story you are writing in your merchandise tells the future husbands, best friends, uncles, and fathers of the world that what they really need for the games of their youth - which expand to the reality of their adulthood - are playsets without girls. You are telling them that not only can women be cast aside, but that they should.

And hey, no worries, you'll do it for them.

But here's the surprise twist: Women and the men who love them are increasingly aware that such narratives are harmful to ourselves and our children, and we aren't quiet. We speak to our children and friends about the situation and are willing to use our social media and buying power to ensure that everyone can hear the story you create with your toy lines and, now, at least according to an inside source, your words.

Disney/Lucasfilm, you're storytellers. Make your story better.
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