The Sexist

The Morning After: Manfiction and Mandles Edition

* On Tiger Beatdown, The Rejectionist writes about attempting to evade misogyny by adopting acceptably "masculine" interests. (This tactic works for both men and women!) Namely: Drinking too much, and reading "manfiction":

When I was younger I did that thing that some of us ladies do, the thing of working very hard to be The Girl Who Was Cool Enough to Hang Out With the Boys. Being that girl was an exhausting job, fraught with peril; it involved drinking a whole bunch, not talking much, constantly making sure the boys knew how much more down I was than other girls, and carrying around at all times one of the following three novels: All the Pretty Horses ,On the Road, or Junky (even at the highest pinnacle of my internalized misogyny, I never made it through Henry Miller). It was an unforgivable sign of weakness to read books about (let alone by) women, who sat around in kitchens popping out babies, harping on their menfolk, and doing the dishes. Women were boring! They were gross! Passive! Or just plain mean! They didn’t think much! They couldn’t possibly do exciting things, like drive cars across the country or drive spaceships to the moon, kiss girls, duke it out with their fathers in a sudden eruption of years’ worth of Repressed Sentiment, pursue villains craftily, or survive the streets of turn-of-the-century London as cunning and wily orphans. A professed affinity for Manfiction was a central tenet of this precarious Cool Girl identity; a Cool Girl was always ready to support the literary analysis presented by the dudes, even after consuming a fifth of bourbon at three in the morning.

* Hysteria! introduces us to man candles, or as I like to call them, "mandles." One of them is "fart" scented:

There’s not much analysis to be had here, other than to point out that anytime a company or marketing department attempts to define “masculinity” via something like a scented candle, hilarious results ensue.  Some of the candles come in scents that you’d pretty much expect – baseball, football, golf course.  Oh, and of course “fart.”  Because no man is leading a complete life if he isn’t entirely surrounded by fart jokes.  Then, of course, there are the strange selection of apparently manly food items: pot roast, pizza, popcorn (?), bacon.  They can be paired with manly drinks, which consist solely of “cup o’ joe” and beer.

What really gets me, though, are the weird concept scents that they create once they run out of obvious objects that seem “masculine.”  The line offers not only a “garage” scent (which smells of oil and rubber) and a “fishing dock” scent (which we do not carry, thankfully), but also a candle called, simply, “FREEDOM.”  Apparently, Freedom smells like cinnamon and candle wax.  Who knew?

* In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments concerning the right of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals"

A sampling of the signs carried at [Iraq veteran Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's] 2006 funeral at St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster, Md., included "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," "Semper Fi Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Priests Rape Boys." The demonstrators abided by the law and stayed away from the funeral itself.

* Dr. George Tiller was murdered one year ago yesterday.

* Bitch Magazine writes on the recent barroom assault of Kat Stacks, a woman known for kissing-and-telling about sleeping with celebrities. Apparently, Stacks made some unkind comments about rapper Bow Wow; in retaliation, a man hit Stacks and demanded an apology on Bow Wow's behalf in a videotaped assault. Bitch's Andrea Plaid is wondering where the feminist outcry is:

When I read about the assault on Twitter, I found only one group who passionately spoke out against the men who perpetrated the violence against Stacks and those (men and women) who defended the assailants: mostly black feminist-minded people—and it was mostly black women at that. . . .  Everyone else was deafeningly silent. . . . Kat Stacks’ assault evoked no reaction from any other group of people. If all the feminist rhetoric about violence against women—that we should stand up and speak out wherever we see it—is true, then the violence committed against Kat Stacks is indeed a feminist issue and, honestly, I’d half-expected a bigger outcry from other people down with ending such violence.

However, it is such selective victim-choosing that cements the cynicism of feminism really being about and for certain people.

Photo via marek.krzystkiewicz, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • kza

    The person who acted different in order to fit in seems like a real winner. It sounds like they totally didn't overcompensate.

  • Katie

    I'd never HEARD of Kat Stacks' assault, honestly. Maybe that's part of the problem with the lack of outcry? I guess I just get uncomfortable with what the author is trying to say (that white feminists don't care about this assault because it involves black people...?). Though I'm sure that could be/is true for some people, it could also be a problem of media coverage (which, truthfully, could have a racial element to it as well).

  • kza

    I don't even know who Kat Stacks is. How could I be outraged?

  • Katie

    @kza: I think it's pretty easy to get outraged on behalf of people you don't know. I'm just saying it's hard to get outraged about something you didn't know about.

  • Jeff

    I can relate to the difficulty of writing female characters as related in the "manfiction" blog post.

    As a struggling novelist, it's hard to get a legitimate woman/girl's viewpoint, me being a man and all. It's hard to write anything that doesn't sound like a dated stereotype (pie-baking homemaker) or some sort of tired, boring subversion of it (man-bashing tough grrl.) You don't want the former because you'll get eviscerated by blog posts such as this, and you don't want the latter because it's tired and cliche.

    That doesn't mean it's impossible to do, it's just hard for most authors to grasp.

  • …done

    I could understand that you haven't heard of Kat Stacks; however, Andrea's point should not be ignored because of that.

    But the deafening silence is not just limited to her. It extends to black women, black LGBT and truthfully, non-white members of these groups as well. Media coverage is extemely racially biased (missing white woman syndrome is one example). My concern is that your first instinct is to take umbrage and get defensive ( I guess I just get uncomfortable with what the author is trying to say (that white feminists don’t care about this assault because it involves black people…?). Though I’m sure that could be/is true for some people)instead of getting educated. Andrea's post is bursting with the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and violence but you skipped right over that. This is why many of us feel that white feminism doesn't have anything to do with us.

    ***
    Henry Miller...I cringed and rolled my eyes, but nonetheless enjoyed the Tropics (esp. Capricorn). We have to be the ones who set the framework for the Cool Girl.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Jeff, as a writer, I've also struggled to write female characters, and I'm a woman, even! It's because our cultural narrative (in literature particularly) sees women as Others that are necessarily written as objects (or your "cliches") instead of actual people who are assumed to have the default human experience. Subjective human experience is for male characters.

  • Jeff

    I don't know Amanda, I've read plenty of books by female authors like the Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird that focus mostly on female characters as being people.

    I'm talking more about a male author "assuming" a female experience. There's never any way he could write a female character with any authority on the subject. He'd have to assume as best he could.

    Myself, as a 26-year-old who has never even been on a date, the only women in my life so far have been teachers and my mother. So my characters would only know how to grade papers and love unconditionally and tell me I'm amazing.

    One of the more sobering rejection letters took a manuscript where I had carefully crafted my one female character to avoid all the stereotypes and was told, point blank, by my editor to make her this stereotype (a ball-busting tough girl) because it would be more marketable.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Jeff: Of course there are! Though I'd argue that To Kill a Mockingbird focuses mostly on men being people. And somehow Harper Lee managed to write those compelling male characters without herself being a man. Amazing!

    It sounds like the two things stopping you from being able to write a compelling female character is a) lack of writing and life experience, and b) institutional sexism. Female writers experience these things also.

  • kza

    I meant if I didn't know who she was I wouldn't know she got assaulted, how would I know to be outraged?

  • Katie

    @...done: Sorry, that wasn't my intention at all - and I don't think it's fair to assume I "ignored" her point or didn't get educated...I went on to look up as much information on the assault as I could find.

    I definitely reacted defensively, but I guess that's because I tend to think of myself as someone who DOES respond to feminist issues equally regardless of race/sexual orientation/gender identity etc (or, sometimes, with MORE outrage towards those people who fall in a minority category in one way or the other, just because they are so unjustly treated/misrepresented/not represented by the media, as you noted). I was just trying to point out that we should talk about WHY nobody (or few people) heard about this story in the first place, before pointing out that white feminists probably don't care about this story because Kat Stacks is black. Like I said: unfortunately, that probably IS true for some people - but not all.

  • Katie

    And, I think it's obvious what I meant but just in case: I meant I feel more outrage not towards the actual victims, but towards those particular events/perpetrators, etc.

  • Em

    @Jeff--it's hard to find a feminine literary voice in the US because our stereotype for an author is still male--and American female writers have struggled to be taken seriously in their lifetimes. There are tons of undergraduate and graduate lit courses on this subject, and it's fairly maddening. Other first world countries (i.e. the Brits) don't seem to have this problem, but publishers and critics in the US still seem to have the attitude of "A woman? Writing?! How can THAT be relatable?" and the best complement in lit crit a female writer can get is still "I couldn't tell it was a woman writing from the text alone." Why is that? Why is it so toxic to have a female POV?

    Sad, because I think American women authors, if they found a way to voice their point of view, could be quite the powerhouse of creativity.

  • Jeff

    Well, Amanda, Harper Lee is a fantastic author. There are also scads of female authors for whom men are just love interests and not much else, just like the male authors.

    If to truly understand somebody you have to walk a mile in their shoes, that's a tall order for somebody of a completely different gender.

    I might step on a toe or two here, but have you ever seen a drag queen show, or seen a male transition to female, or simply a male transvestite? They seem to go for the most extreme feminine garments and act in an overelaborate and dramatic ways, sissy slap fights and that whole RuPaul deal. (Ironically being way more sexist than your average Hustler reader, but whatever) That's what most modern male authors are afraid of committing to paper. An inauthentic, stereotypical, cliched, drag queen of a character.

  • Katie

    To add just a small bit to the manfiction side of conversation: I'm reading "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" right now, and I have to say that I am impressed by Junot Diaz's women characters thus far. Neither dull and one-dimensional nor cliched tough grrls.

  • Emily H.

    "Have you ever seen a drag queen show, or seen a male transition to female, or simply a male transvestite? They seem to go for the most extreme feminine garments and act in an overelaborate and dramatic ways, sissy slap fights and that whole RuPaul deal." This is a stereotype based more in trans-phobia than reality. How on earth would you know all trans women are ultrafeminine & unrealistic, since ones who don't fit this stereotype aren't identifiable as transsexual to anyone who doesn't know their personal history? Many trans women are average or even pretty androgynous in their gender presentation, & have no interest in living up to a draggy ideal of what's feminine. W/R/T drag queens, their job is to entertain in character, not behave as they believe "real" women do; it's not surprising that their characters are so exaggerated.

  • Emily H.

    Anyway I would say that the challenges of representing a different gender -- or anyone who's different from you, identity-wise -- are about the same for all authors, except that throughout novel history, men have been more celebrated for creating believable female characters, because it's perceived as more a feat to penetrate the mysterious female mind. By contrast a woman who couldn't write a good male character wouldn't be taken v. seriously as a literary author. (She might have success with trashy romance novels, though.)

  • Jeff

    I disagree Emily.

    I think J.K. Rowling knows a thing or two about making compelling male characters. In fact if I'm not mistaken, the two current best-selling authors right now are J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, and both of their works are chock full of male characters that "work," or so say the critics and the market. And then you can comment on the content of the books and how the characters themselves are stereotypes (Neither rocks the gender archetype boat) and we can go round and round, but I think the point is clear.

    Also, when I was talking about drag queens and trans people, I meant it purely as the perception of the male author. He doesn't want to create his own hyper-masculine ideal of a woman and then dress it up in drag, creating a hideous man-woman monster, like the stereotype suggests.

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