Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

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Who needs copper pots?

Last night I watched S5E3 of Louie.  In a series that has been a steady diet of awesome since it started, this was hands-down the best episode yet.

Also – trigger warning for abusive partner / relationship.

The prologue takes place in an upscale kitchenware shop in Manhattan.  The owner upbraids Louie for what she says will be him wasting her time looking at professional-grade copper cookware.  She reads him for just wanting to interact with her because she’s a good-looking young Asian woman, and more generally for being a middle-aged, middling-dumb male whose generation has ruined the world and left the mess for the smarter, younger generation to clean up.  Louie has no coherent response to any of this because it all has at least a thread of truth.  He doesn’t even have the self-respect to abandon, at the check-out counter, the other merchandise he was going to buy; he meekly pays for it all and leaves.  With no nice copper pots.

And so we have the more benign of the two male-insecurity themes dealt out in this episode.  Cue the opening theme.

On his way home with his kitchen crap, Louie encounters a cop, who turns out to be Lenny, his sister’s ex-.  This forcefully jovial, incredibly unlikeable brodude-with-a-badge gloms on to Louie in seconds.  It’s painfully clear that Lenny has no friends, not even on the police force.   As their disastrous outing to try to go to a Knicks game wears on, I’m wincing.  I’m waiting with Louie for the MRA-whining that has shaded into emotional abuse to turn physical, maybe even deadly.

Then the crisis comes, and the abuser promptly collapses into a useless bowl of mush.  Louie has to go rescue the situation with a most improbable find.  On the way home with his prize, Louie must spend every dime of “cops will never hassle the middle-aged white male” currency that he has.  His successful return finally elicits a sincere response from Lenny, but you know it won’t last.


Hometown favorite Mrs. Kasha Davis was eliminated in last night’s RuPaul’s Drag Race.  I could tell she was in trouble from the opening of the challenge production (“The DESPY Awards”), and no redemption was coming.

This feels like seeing your home team miss the playoffs as a result of the last few games of the season, and I guess it’s no different to feel this way about a drag queen than about a baseball team.  A little more so when you know and like the queen.  Perhaps it’s as if you regularly hung out with many of the members of the team?

What’s odd is to think about how this feels to MKD (Ed Popil).  She’s known for months where she got eliminated; the episode we saw from last night was filmed sometime last fall.  Strictly forbidden to talk about any results, she’s been watching her local fans’ excitement build knowing that it would all continue for only five episodes.

Sports results (assuming they are not fixed, of course) are at least immediate, so friends and family and the players themselves can all react to them and process a loss together.  In this case, as with any reality show, the player knows first.  Then there’s a long delay in which the player is still “in”, as far as the public knows, and the suspense has to be maintained.  Finally, everyone knows: but that can be months and months down the road.

I’m not sure which is better.

How Drag is Different from Blackface

Mary Cheney saw the previews for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 7, and flipped out.  Although out as a lesbian herself, she can usually be found attacking LGBTQ communities to make political hay for those who trade on the Red base’s homophobia.  She wrote,

Why is it socially acceptable – as a form of entertainment – for men to put on dresses, make up and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.) – but it is not socially acceptable – as a form of entertainment – for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans? Shouldn’t both be ok or neither? Why does society treat these activities differently?

Wow… equating drag and blackface!  I wonder if she also sees no difference between MMA and gay-bashing assaults like this one.  Hey, both use fists and feet as weapons!

There was a lot of buzz around this, which is too bad because it’s just what she wanted.  Maybe some people found her deliberately muddled framing of the question created difficulty expressing a good response.  One who had no such trouble was Marriage Equality vlogger Matt Baume:

This is an important distinction.  We go to drag shows pretty often – another one today!  And we have never seen a drag performer do anything remotely denigrating to women.  To us, the point of drag is… well, it’s just fun.  But the serious point underlying it is, Gender is not a binary value, 1 or 0 and that’s all there is.  Gender is a spectrum.  Well, actually a few of them but that’s a topic for another day.  The binary view of gender does great damage to people whose true self doesn’t notch cleanly into a box at end or another.  Drag is a way to explore that issue in a fun setting.  And to get back to the “fun” aspect, a drag performer who fit Cheney’s straw-man description of drag would just be… bad.

Full disclosure: we are definitely fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and especially of one of the contestants on Season 7, Mrs. Kasha Davis.  She’s the hometown favorite for Rochester this year, and on Mar 2nd we’ll be rooting!


The Best Way to Fight Terrorism in the US

Get Out of the Box

From the earliest age, boys are taught that there is a certain range of behaviors and feelings required of them if they will ever be considered men, and that straying beyond these borders is really not acceptable.  “Act like a man!”  “Real men don’t cry!”

Vignette: I’m eating lunch at work, sitting with some other men.  Bob (no real names, of course) tells us he has just traded in a sporty roadster he’d been driving for a four year old mid-sized import sedan. He was able to pay cash for the sedan, which eliminates car payments as part of a larger effort to repair his credit, damaged by a business that went under some years earlier.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Not to Carl!  He starts on Bob right away.  “You bought a WHAT?  Why do you want a pussy car like that?  That’s a woman car.”  I snap at Carl, defending Bob’s right to drive whatever the heck he wants, especially as it’s part of a sensible financial plan and not some display of Homo Sapiens Americansis’ peacock feathers.

On an intellectual level, I am puzzled by gender-insults being hurled at a car.  But in a deeper way that I can’t get rid of, I know exactly what Carl means.  After all, I, too, have been trained in the finer points of “manliness”; on the playgrounds and in the locker rooms of my youth.  How many years of such training am I up against here?  In some sense, is Carl just another prisoner of the Man Box?

Males are trained right from the start of life to be in control.  To obtain money, cars, and girls (only girls!) for sex.  To be aggressive, tough and athletic.  Failure at any of these things is failure to “be a man.”  To display any weakness or sensitivity, to cry, and oh especially to feel any attraction to another boy is truly a failure to “be a man”.

In this TED talk Tony Porter recounts an early experience where he had to deal with this pressure.  Watch to the end (about 10 minutes) for what a nine-year-old had to say.

Nine years old.

Now as we all, know, beer is the Official Beverage of the Man Box.  You can plainly tell by watching TV on a weekend afternoon for the repertoire of 30-second dramas recounting beer’s benefits, and its noble efforts at helping all men obtain money, cars, and girls (only girls!) for sex.  One brand recently took it to its logical conclusion and offered a view of the other side of the coin.  In this video, we explore not the benefits of remaining comfortably within the Man Box, but the penalties for venturing outside it.

Oh, no!  You stepped outside the Man Box!  You will now be crushed to death, as obviously must happen.  Afterward, your friends and lovers will forget that you ever existed.  Within about three seconds.

At this point, I think the only counter I can offer is awareness.  Be aware as men (or as women in relationships with men) of when the Man Box is restricting us from something natural, something right.  Then step outside it.

I promise the giant beer cans are not gonna get ya.

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