Friday, December 11, 2009

Blog Hiatus

Too busy right now.

Christmas, working on my dad's house etc..etc.

To those of you who still drive by...Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I probably won't post until sometime in January

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday Funnies

This first video is a creative retelling of 2nd Kings 2:23-24, in which Elisha calls down she-bears to attack 42 youths who were making fun of him.

It does have some crude/offensive language....but it had me laughing hysterically. Oh and it's a little gory too!

Sure to offend most normal people.

HT: Exploring Our Matrix

To get you into the Christmas Spirit, a lovely rendition of O' Holy Night. Truly breathtaking. Be sure to listen for the big, show-stopping ending.

Don't gush with gratitude for my pointing this out to you. You're welcome.

HT: Jim West

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sci-Fi Sexism

I just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano. It was his first published novel with a printing date of 1952. The premise of the book revolves around the mechanization of labor with a future that is primarily run by machines and has engineers and managers at the peak of societal influence and importance.

The book itself was an interesting read, not necessarily the best book I'd ever read, but compelling enough for me to finish it.

That being said, sometimes the sexism in early science fiction is so glaring that it makes it hard for me to enjoy it. It's intriguing to notice that men who attempted to envision the future with insights about scientific advancements, and the political consequences, were usually quite dull-witted as far as imagining a future in which women had anything essential to contribute to the world.

The women in Player Piano are merely props for the men of the story. They are flat characters.

Anita, the wife of Paul Proteus, the protagonist of the story, doesn't work and spends all of her time nagging Paul. Paul values her only because she is a "sexual genius".

Paul's secretary, Katharine, does nothing more than mope over her relationship with another engineer. She does nothing productive and only answers the phone.

My bone of contention isn't that Vonnegut doesn't have more female characters, it's that the female characters he has drawn are so stereo-typically caricatured that they might as well not exist. It isn't even that they are stereo-typically feminine as much as they are a particular 50's-style stereotype...of the woman in the apron making pot roast and planning dinner parties, and laying out her husband's clothes for the next day after she's brought him a cocktail.

After just a couple of chapters of this nonsense I recalled reading The Voyage of the Space Beagle, an early space opera written at about the same time as Player Piano. The story followed a spaceship exploring the galaxy as it encountered various alien species which usually were malevolent. The crew fights off each species in different ways, led by Dr. Elliot Grosvenor. At one point in the story, the author explains that there are no women on board because it is a scientific expedition and women would just be a sexual distraction.

Because everybody knows that women couldn't be scientists, or spaceship engineers, or explorers. Women are really only good for one thing--to be sexual partners for men.

Huxley's, Brave New World, has female characters which are a bit more fleshed out, but even the male characters, while discussing one of the female characters, go on about how sexually pneumatic she is.

It occurred to me that Tolstoy was more respectful of women in Anna Karenina, written between 1873-1877, than these men in the twentieth century were. While most of Tolstoy's female characters inhabited the typically feminine spheres of home and children, they were never trivialized. Their thoughts and feelings were as valid and truthful as the the thoughts and feelings of their male counterparts. He respected women as people, capable as any man of true emotion, understanding, and sentiment.

Perhaps the type of men that wrote early sci-fi were the type of men who were so interested in machines and science, that they had little time to ponder the complexity of human relationships and women. Maybe they were the early predecessors of the nerdy sci-fi geeks who spend all their time researching the Klingon language and attending Comic-Con.

Whatever the reason for their lack of insight into social advances, it's always a disappointment to read such unvarnished drivel in a genre I enjoy.

Chatty Men

Fixing up my father's house has required me to hire all kinds of workers.

Plumbers, electricians, contractors, lawn maintenance workers, tree trimmers, flooring installers.....etc.

They have all been men. They have all been ordinary, blue-collar, working class men with calloused hands, manly banter and gruff exteriors.

However..they are a very chatty bunch!

Maybe I give off the air of sister/wife/mother/generic female stand-in...but I am always surprised by the things they talk to me about while they are working and the openness with which they speak. I don't know if there's something about me that draws them out, or if the stereotype of silent, unemotional men is simply untrue.

They tell me about their divorces, about their wallets getting stolen but how it's no big deal because their credit cards are maxed out anyway and they can't make the minimum payments, about their plans for retirement, about their wives, about their health scares, about the towns that they grew up in and what brought them to Florida.

It's quite strange how completely honest and talkative they are.

Maybe it's the nature of their jobs. Not only are they practicing a trade, but they are required to constantly interact with people, going from home to home and trying to please their customers. They're probably used to the forced intimacy of working in their client's private spaces, surrounded by the tokens and photos of family life that fill most homes.

It's also been heart-warming to see how many of these guys work in close partnership with a "buddy" of some sort. Father and son, cousins, brothers, lifelong friends...they seem to come in deeply bonded pairs.

I don't know that I have noticed a correspondence in the women I know. I can't think of any common, similar working partnerships that are as prevalent among women.

I don't know what it means...but it's interesting.