Tag Archives: feminism

Why The Killing Joke Must Exist

The Killing Joke.  Written by Alan Moore.  Drawn by Brian Bolland.  Published by DC Comics.  Hated by many.  Loved by many more.

It’s about to be adapted into a direct to DVD animated feature for probably a PG-13 audience featuring Mark Hamill coming out of retirement (he quit voicing the Joker during the Arkham Games) to voice his iconic role as the Joker, and Kevin Conroy wants to voice the Batman!  It’s a comic fan’s wet dream.  So why are so many people up in arms against it?

The controversy over The Killing Joke has been abuzz in the background probably since its publication.  It is often cited as the best Batman story, best Joker story, and a major turning point for the classic Barbara Gordon Batgirl.  That last one is where the controversy comes in.

If you haven’t read it, please do so before finishing this article.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.

You see, the Joker escapes Arkham to prove to Batman that all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.  We also get to see a possible origin story for the Joker.  While many theories have been done and many more are still coming out, this one is the fan favorite that tops the list.  This origin story sees the Joker as a family man left widowed and childless.

To accomplish his goal, he invades the apartment of Commissioner James Gordon, where his daughter, Barbara, is over for a visit.  When the Joker rings the doorbell, Barbara answers the door.  The Joker shoots Barbara while his goons subdue James.  After James is dragged off, the Joker begins to unbutton the injured Barbara’s blouse.  It should be noted that he was wearing a camera around his neck.  Everything else that happens is implied, as we switch immediately to the next scene and don’t see Barbara again until she is visited by Batman in the hospital.  It is assumed that some form of sexual assault occurred.

As it turns out, Jim Gordon is the “sane man” that he’s trying to drive mad.  To accomplish this, Jim is beaten, stripped, humiliated, bound, walked on a leash, and sent through the Joker’s darkride which has been lined with nude pictures of Barbara lying in her own blood.

Batman comes and saves the day, Jim Gordon does not succumb, etc.  In the course of the book, Jim Gordon is expected to just shake off his trauma and in later books, he is back to business as usual.  What happens to Barbara?  That’s where things get good.

As The Killing Joke was set up in a way where it could’ve been ignored as non-canonical, DC had options.  They could have just pretended it didn’t happen (the most likely course), they could’ve dropped Barbara from the books, or they could’ve just left her as a librarian (her day job) in a wheelchair.  They went for the unexpected.  Gail Simone wrote excellent stories while consulting Dr. Andrea Letamendi which explored Barbara’s PTSD and eventually turned the wheelchair-bound Barbara into a new type of crimefighter, Oracle.

Basically DC said, what happened stuck.  Barbara was scarred and came back stronger than before.  She was no longer just a two-dimensional extension of a male legacy hero.  She was now carving out a new path for herself.

Many people laud DC and Gail Simone for the Oracle storylines in one breath, and decry The Killing Joke in the next.  Don’t they see how hypocritical that is?  You cannot have Oracle without The Killing Joke!  We all wish that tragedies didn’t happen, but they do.  And it is what we do with that tragedy that forges us.  If we are to create relateable characters, so too it must be for them.

Many cry out, “But not that!  You cannot depict sexual assualt!  That’s insensitive to the victims!”  Here’s the funny thing about that: to date, not one person raising that cry that I have heard has come out as a rape victim.  Also, during Twitter’s #changethecover controversy, many rape victims came out in SUPPORT of The Killing Joke.  One such survivor is Piper Steed, who was very publicly vocal and open in #changethecover about her own rape experience, the recovery, her PTSD, and how The Killing Joke HELPED HER COPE.  Note: she cited The Killing Joke.  While the subsequent Oracle storyline was instrumental, it was The Killing Joke that she credited with helping her.  It was one of her prized possessions that she regretted having to leave behind when she moved, it was one of her favorite gifts she recieved, she wanted to buy the sadly cancelled variant cover homage to it, and she is stoked about the upcoming adaptation.

There should be NO trauma that is off the table for a writer to use.  If we do not depict the adversity, how then can we depict the triumph over it?  Every story is built on some form of conflict.  Characters are defined by how much they overcome.  Who wants to limit the strength of a character?  By limiting the obstacles depicted, one limits how much the character’s strength can be built, tested, and/or displayed.

“But you can’t display that kind thing against women!”  Yeah, you can.  Not only that, but such stories MUST exist if for no other reason than it has helped many real women deal with similar problems.  It is a tool for depicting strong women and empowering them later.  Besides, are we to gloss over what happened to Jim Gordon in the story?  Or Jason Todd in A Death In The Family?  “But they had agency!  That’s different!”  I’ve yet to encounter anyone who can explain to me the “agency” that those two male characters had and Barbara didn’t.  And no, male does not automatically equal “agency”.

There are many classic, powerful stories out there that depict the worst this world has to offer.  They are also the stepping stones by which the best the world has to offer can be presented.  For the very best that this world has to offer is not in the good times, or the dull times, it is in the darkest of moments that the best shines through.  That is why we cannot limit what kinds of violence, or difficulties, or means, or charater types, or ANYTHING else a writer may use!  Sure, we could conceiveably limit the offensive material, if we could all agree on what’s offensive.  But the moment we do, we remove not only the extremities of putrid crap that can be written, but the best that can be written as well.  Any experience that has been had, and any experience never had that can be dreamt, all of these MUST be able to be depicted in ANY medium.  You never know who could benefit.

You never know who could be rescued from their depths.


The Strongest Person I Know

The strongest person I know is a small woman who comes up to my chin.  Strange, right?

But her strength has been proven over and over again through experiences that have broken others.  Just go through the list that she has shared publicly in the past year.

-She comes from divorced parents

-1/3 Cherokee, but pale as a sheet in Louisiana, she has had guns pointed at her for being white in the wrong neighborhoods.

-She was raped at sixteen

-As a result, she has been diagnosed with PTSD

-She moved to Ohio, taking only what she could pack as carry-on.

-She has been stalked, harassed, and is currently pressing charges against someone who attempted to assualt her.

-She is a freelance designer who is on foodstamps, when Job and Family isn’t making errors on her case (being on stamps myself, let me tell you, this happens all the time)

-She is a recent college grad whose degree may be held because of problems with financial aid.\

-She is a single mother

Not only has she survived all of this and more, she has thrived.

Now, she faces an overwhelming amount of problems.  Normally, she just discounts her commissions to obtain more paid work, but that isn’t going to cut it this time.

For more information, and to help her out, go to http://www.gofundme.com/piperneedshelp .

The Feminists That I Respect

There is a growing rebellion against the label “feminist”.  More and more people are refusing to identify as such, including women.  Why?

Do they wish to turn back the clock?  To take the hard-won rights away from women?

Absolutely not.

Many are simply fighting for equality under a new flag, Egalitarian is mine.  Many feel that the third wave is filled with too many extremists who fight for superiority instead of equality.  That too many of the issues are fabricated from half-truths.  Etc.

Yet many who still identify as feminist do fight for equality.  These are my allies.  These are my friends and family.  These are the feminists I respect.  And there’s something that I notice they all have in common:

Not one identifies with the third wave.  They either identify with an earlier wave, no wave at all, as an “original” feminist, or as a fourth wave feminist in an attempt to reclaim the movement from those who have tainted it.  They feel like calling everything rape trivializes the experiences of rape victims, that there are problems and privilege on all sides, and instead of treating a list of “men’s issues” as a bone to throw the opposition, they give those issues the same priority as the women’s issues.

May those that fight for equality take back your movement.


Teaching Boys Not To Hit Girls?

The other Sunday, my local church decided to hand out foam sticks to the kids which lit up due to LEDs inside.  Naturally, lightsaber inspired battles broke out everywhere afterward.

My oldest daughter was gleefully engaged in such a battle with a boy about her age.  Then his mom put a stop to it.

If she merely objected to her son being in any sort of fight, albeit a playful mock battle, that would have been one thing.  But that wasn’t her reason.  The real reason irked me.  She told her son to disengage because, “Boys don’t hit girls.”

I get the idea.  Abuse is a nasty thing that was once considered something bad men did to women.  And I take issue with feminism on many things.  But haven’t we reached a point in our society where we realize the sexist fallacy that boy was just taught?

He wasn’t beating on her, and she was no unwilling participant.  She was even bigger, stronger, and more skilled than he.  She joined the battle because she wanted to engage.  She wanted to interact with other children and this was the manner she chose.  So why does this woman think that my daughter’s gender must hold her back from this interaction?  She may not think of it that way, but if her son cannot hit back in the appropriate manner then there is no battle.  All because, “Boys don’t hit girls.”

If we are to reach equality, either we end these mock battles completely or we need to remove the old restrictions.

But what about adulthood?  I’ve personally seen a high school girl wail on a boy her age with balled fists rooted on by all the girls and ignored by the boys.  Yet, when he couldn’t get away and slapped her with an open hand to stop the fight, the crowd turned on him violently.

Because “Boys don’t hit girls.”

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against anyone.  Period.  Men are abused more frequently by women than the feminists would have you believe.  HelpGuide and the Mayo Clinic both recognize this.  So should men hit women?  Remove the gender terms.  Should anyone hit anyone else?

I answer this with the second punch mentality.  The core tenets are as follows:

1.  No pre-emptive strikes.  That’s just another term for assault.

2.  Never throw the first strike.

3.  Always attempt to evade/de-escalate violent situations.  Seek help where and when possible.

4.  Sometimes escape, aid, and de-escalation are impossible.

5.  Possessions are rarely, if ever, worth the fight.

6.  Words are NEVER worth the fight.

7.  Fight only to prevent harm, death, and/or rape to yourself or others.

8.  Your first move should ALWAYS be a dodge or block unless joining a fray to aid a person already under attack.

9.  Your opponent(s) must throw the first strike.

10.  The first strike does not need to be allowed to connect.

11.  Do not seek revenge nor punishment.  Seek only to stop the immediate threat.

12.  Threat stopped = end of fight.

13.  When you throw the second strike, make it count.  You may not get another.

14.  Take no pleasure in the fight.  Only in the resolution.

I may have left out a few, but you get the idea.

Time to stop the “Boys don’t hit girls” garbage.

The Sexism of the Bar

Ok, ok.  The title is obvious clickbait.  Here’s the situation.  Short Stories From Quarroc: The First Door Part 2 got delayed due to a nice little Tornado Watch.  Thankfully, the tornado passed by without incident.  Rather than pull a non-post like I did Monday, I’m going to indulge my contrarian nature.

There is a common practice in bars that is very sexist.  Not only does it discriminate against people on the basis of gender, it objectifies women and exploits an entire gender.  The practice?  Ladies’ Night.

Don’t laugh.  I’m serious.  The discounts are only offered to women.  That’s just as sexist as giving a discount only to men.  Also, let us look at the core of the practice.  The idea of Ladies Night is that you offer a discount to women to entice them to go to your bar.  This of course assumes that women are not in the habit of going to your bar in the first place.  Why are bars trying to attract women?  To bring in hetero-normative single men of course.  This assumes that the men are the big spenders.  And what is the assumed reason that the women will attract the men to the bar?  To hit on the women in numerous pick-up attempts.  Thus, the women are objectified as sexual bait to lure men into the bar.  Also exploitative to both sexes.

Think about it.

Also, while I’m on the topic.  I’ve read countless posts on the effect of ‘pink toys’ on young girls.  ‘Pink toys’ referring to male-centered and/or gender neutral toys being reissued in pink to encourage young girls to buy them.  The Nerf Rebelle line of foam dart guns, for example.

Why isn’t anyone talking about the message that ‘pink toys’ send to young men?  There is one.  I heard it loud and clear growing up, and I’m afraid that my son will soon hear it too.  We live in an age where anything masculine is de facto gender-neutral.  Feminine items, on the other hand, are not.  It is more acceptable to have women-only things, but not men-only.  Therefore, in a society where it is more acceptable for a girl to play with a truck but a boy is derided for playing with dolls, boys get the following message from ‘pink toys’ : “It’s okay for girls to have thing that are just for them, but there is nothing that is yours.  Nothing at all.”

As we strive for gender equality, we must remember BOTH sides of the coin.  Responsibilities come with rights and vice versa.  To gain a new right or privilege, sometimes that requires sacrificing an old one that was originally meant as a compensation.  To be equal, both sides must balance.

Why Recommending Self-Defense Isn’t Victim Blaming

     I’m typing this post last Monday.  The big news seems to be everybody in an uproar over an answer given by Miss Nevada.  She suggested that women learn self-defense.  Now some feminists are up in arm claiming that her suggestion is victim-blaming.  What!?
     Most people know what victim-blaming is.  For those who don’t, it is the concept that somehow a victim “asked for it” or contributed to their own assault.  Those who blame victims hold the victim somehow responsible (in whole or part) for what happened.  Victim blaming is obviously ridiculous as no one EVER “asks for it”, regardless of clothing choice, behavior, or other factor.
     A victim will be assaulted whether or not they defend themselves.  Defense begins after the assault starts.  “Pre-Emptive” attacks are just assault.  No self-defense advocate holds the victim accountable for what happened.  We just seek to reduce assault overall.  If more victims can defend themselves, there would be less FUTURE victims.  And of course, no victim is responsible for another person’s future assault, be it their attacker or another person.  Each person is simply responsible for their own actions, period.
     “Let’s teach men not to rape.”  FACEPALM!  First, a problem I have with the #yesallwomen advocates is the claim they make about men being the primary aggressors and women being primary victims according to reported cases.  This completely overlooks the fact that rapes where men are the victim are supposed to be the most unreported crime.  The words of such advocates have actually worsened the depression for which a male victim I know is being treated.  Second, who doesn’t realize that rape is wrong?  Rape, theft, murder, and assault are all wrong and we all know it.  Yet it still happens.  We teach children not to play with matches, but we still have fire extinguishers and 911 on speed dial.  A back-up plan is needed.
     “But I shouldn’t have to resort to violence to stop a rape/theft/assault!”  Someone told me this on Twitter.  And you know what?  They are absolutely right.  We shouldn’t have to.  But we do need to.  People shouldn’t rape/steal/assault/murder.  But they do, and that is why we need to resort to violent means.
     Some people say that we should try to find out why people do these things so that we can stop assaults before they occur.  Go right ahead.  Learning self-defense won’t interfere with that.  Prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Until the disease is upon you.  Then prevention isn’t worth squat and cure is everything.
     Others make the claim that self-defense is fear mongering.  No, gun control is fear mongering.  Good guys with guns do stop bad guys with guns.  I see it all the time on my local news.  Elderly woman shoots home invader, woman shoots attempted rapist, man shot attacker, so on and so forth.  You can also learn unarmed defense.  I wholeheartedly recommend it whether you own a gun or not.  Seat belts are not fear mongering, nor is self-defense.  It really is the same thing.  Chances are you won’t be assaulted.  Every self-defense advocate acknowledges that.  But it is just common sense to be prepared.

Fundamentals In Consistency

     I would like to start off by saying, I do not intend for this to become a political blog. I try to type independently of any partisan viewpoint. But it is impossible to write about one’s own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs without bias. After all, our bias informs all of these things. That being said, I have heard people from all over the political map spout inconsistent stances. If nothing else, I would like to eliminate inconsistency from the intense debates here in the US.

1. The abortion – capital punishment inconsistency.

     I don’t care what label you put on it. Fetus, baby, we all know what we are talking about. No one having a miscarriage ever said, “I lost my fetus!”. Also, every part of your body carries the same DNA signature, yet a fetus has its own DNA signature from the time sperm met egg, so it isn’t part of your body. It is its own entity wholly dependent upon another. Whether or not it is yet a human being, the process has begun and it is pure human hubris to think that we have any business tampering with it. Susan B. Anthony was opposed to abortion, she saw it as a tool to keep women subjugated.

     If you are pro-choice (aka abortionist, quit acting like it is anything else) then at least be consistent. Quit opposing the death penalty. If our society can allow the unborn to be terminated upon the decision of one person, then we can most certainly terminate a fully grown adult who made their choices and was convicted by the decisions of twelve people. How many jurors do you think actually want to condemn a person in a capital case? Not enough to make unanimous decisions easy. Our society needs to quit treating the convicted criminal like they are the victim. Proving the wrongfully convicted innocent is one thing, refusing to execute the guilty is another altogether.

     A person who is pro-life and anti-execution may have an aversion to ending the life of another. At least such a view is consistent. A person who is pro-choice and pro-execution is also consistent. They simply have no qualms about ending life under either set of circumstances. A person who is pro-life and pro-execution sees the unborn as the most vulnerable and innocent stage of human life. Such a person is only in favor of killing those that are found by a jury to be responsible for horrific crimes (I would gladly add serial rape to the list of capital offenses). But the person who lobbies for abortion and against the death penalty is for ending a human life before it can make choices put against ending a convicted adult.

2. The wage – price inconsistency.

     Why doesn’t Mr Big Box Store pay higher wages? Let’s raise the minimum wage! What? Major Burger Joint just raised the price of their fries by two cents? I’m going elsewhere!

Do you see the problems with the above statements? No? Then do us all a favor and just shut up regarding any business/employment/wages/economy issues out there. Seriously, you are COMPLETELY unqualified to offer any insightful opinion if that is the case. And I wouldn’t recommend starting your own business. Either you will change your mind from learning the hard way, or you will fail and fail hard. Maybe both.

     There are a lot of things going into that price and the products have gone through multiple middlemen to get to you. The raw materials may have been sold to someone for processing. Either way, they were sold to a manufacturer to make a product. That product may have only been a component. In that case, a lot of different components were sold to another company from a lot of different companies. This is why there are so many corporations that you never heard of. After the manufacturing chain, the product may be sold to a distributor. Distributors usually have better retail connections than factories. Then the product is sold at this wholesale cost to the store/website/catolog/etc. that you are buying it from.

     All these companies have employees to pay and provide benefits for in addition to building/equipment/maintenance costs. Also, inventory shrinkage is code for damaged, defective, and/or stolen goods. Don’t forget advertising, taxes, company events, research and development costs, promotions and loss leaders, unsold product, and training. All of these are costs companies must recoup in order to break even. No one is ever in business to just break even. You start a business to make money. Subtract the total cost from the total income and you have profit. It’s no wonder that standard retail markup hovers around 55%. And just because an item goes on sale for a lower price does not necessarily mean that a profit can be made on an item for that price. Sales are used to reduce losses on products that aren’t selling well. Better to lose a dollar on an item than to lose on three. Also, both sale and regular prices can be used for loss leaders.

     A loss leader is when a company takes a gamble by selling an item for no profit or even a loss in order to regain it elsewhere. Take the TV show Leverage. There was an episode where the team tried to take down a big-box store. Hardisson, the hacker, tried to case a major loss to the store regarding TVs. I forget whether customers were getting them for free, or just a ridiculous price like ninety-nine cents. In any case, the attempt backfired. The store showed record profits. Why? Because the people buying the TV were also buying other things while they were there. This is exactly how a loss leader works.

     If the minimum wage increases, so do the costs the companies have to recoup. Not only that, but prices of goods and products go up over all as other companies are affected. This makes the profit worth less. $10,000 of profit may now only buy as much as $5,000 did in the previous year. So now the company also has to make more profit to make it go as far as it did before.

     If we demand higher wages, we must expect to pay higher prices. Otherwise, companies have to find other ways to cut costs. This means hiring fewer employees, cutting hours, using temps, layoffs, increased automation, and outsourcing to areas with cheaper labor. And those are just the most laudable methods. How many places just cut corners?

     If we are to demand high quality at low price with maximum employment, wage must remain at low to no growth. That is just the harsh reality of the situation. Economics 101, class dismissed.

3. The gender paradox.

      You can’t do that, I’m a lady! I can do anything a man can!

     The above phrases should never come out of the same mouth, yet often do. When the gender roles were separate, responsibilities and benefits were divided. They may have been assigned in a lopsided manner, but that has no bearing on my point. When women fought for civil rights, many women took on traditionally men’s work and privileges. The problem is, they didn’t want to give up any privileges and expected many responsibilities to remain with men. Rather than equal rights, some women seek special rights.

     Take my former dating etiquette article. It is only one of many examples. While many women do seek equality, a good number don’t. Women within that number see no problem with founding women-only establishments, but get up in arms if men do the same. Take Curves for example. It is a women-only gym chain. Now imagine a men-only gym opened. And no, that isn’t practically every regular gym out there. How many women would put up a fuss to be allowed membership?

      How many shelters for the battered only take women and children? It stands to reason if the sexes are equal, that there are battered men out there too. There are too few establishments where they can seek shelter. “But men can tough it out!” If women can do anything men can, then they are capable of toughing it out too. I’m not saying that women aren’t equal partners with men. What I’m saying is that the civil rights movement has left men behind.

      Society knows that men are capable of raping women, women are capable of raping women, and men are capable of raping men. Yet, society has difficulty accepting the fact that women can and do rape men. Society even questions the very manhood and/or sexual orientation of such a man. Yet it does happen. In fact, it is a very under reported crime.

If you too recognized gender equality, then recognize it in full. Know that men oft have similar vulnerabilities and weaknesses to women, and that women should have similar social responsibilities to men. “But I’m a woman!” must never become an excuse for ANYTHING.

These are but three points. There are more. Perhaps I’ll do a future installment. Tell me in the comments, have I overlooked any?