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Books Read in 2017 # 8 & 9 - Gender Studies - Tim Lieder [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tim Lieder

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Books Read in 2017 # 8 & 9 - Gender Studies [Jan. 24th, 2017|10:09 pm]
Tim Lieder
8. Alex + Ada vol 1. by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn - This is a hard one to write about since it's a collection of five issues in a story line that has more to it. The first five volumes feel more like a statement of purpose than an actual complete story. The SNL line that the final episode of Westworld could have been the pilot feels real here. Still, there is some interesting dynamic when it comes to the lonely guy/perfect woman story. This has been done to death with the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl trope and Passengers being only two examples of how much the market revolves around lonely men wanting fantasies about finding love without having to do much work for it. I might be getting a tad too personal there. Anyhow, the story of the lonely man is usually one where the man is just whisked off his feet by an MPDG or just finds someone and obsesses over her and eventually wins her over because plot. Granted, most romantic comedies are Lonely Woman finds perfect man who can't stand her and if they work there's actual chemistry. If they don't work, you are at the end thinking "why did I just do this." And yes, Romance movies can work. Dirty Dancing works because Patrick Swayze and Erin Grey have chemistry but also because they are written to actually need each other - at least for the summer. I quite loved the scene in The Matchmaker when the new guy that Janeane Garofalo is supposed to fall in love with states that he finds her senator boss very unimpressive because he doesn't stand for anything, if only because this guy actually knows about politics, follows politics as a reporter and is therefore an ACTUAL MATCH for a woman who is working as a political fixer. How many fucking times do romantic movies actually give the characters something in common.

Thus far, this story is the robot variation of the MPDG trope. Alex is lonely and he's very lonely. He walks around doing not much of anything after a breakup. He's a cipher at this point, almost as much of a cipher as Ada who shows up as the gift of a robot companion bought by his grandmother who is using her own robot companion as a sex doll. There is an undercurrent of robot rights including an AI massacre and laws that prevent robots from achieving sentience. Of course, those come together in the fact that Alex is ok with Ada and doesn't want to return her but also feels disappointed because she is never going to offer a thought that isn't programmed. So he goes looking for a way to get her sentience. This happens in a hotel room and she is overwhelmed with emotions. The final moment is Ada outside on the balcony looking at the sun and saying that it's beautiful and this is the first opinion that she has had for herself.

I want to see where this story is going since at this point it's the story of a lonely man who decides that his sex robot should get a personality and emotions because he knows too well that she's a sex robot. I checked out the second and third books in the series and I hope that there's more explanation of the relationship and less hijinks concerning the hiding of the robot's sentience from the uncaring world.

9. Kill the Body, The Head Will Fall by Rene Denfeld - When I read Rene Denfeld's The New Victorians, it was the kind of critique of feminism that I had been seeking at the time. It was a defense of feminism which wasn't afraid to criticize some of the more out-there aspects of 90s feminism. Only I've changed since then. I have become more feminist. I have stopped mocking Andrea Dworkin. I realized that just because there are some feminists who are completely nuts, that feminism is a big tent and the ultimate goals of feminism are important. So I wondered what it would be like reading a 90s era Rene Denfeld book.

Turns out that she is still a major influence. I pretty much expected that I would still respect and admire Denfeld since I see her on Facebook and she is working diligently for death row inmates in Seattle and she is all around good person. Furthermore, her writing is still compelling. I was worried that she would be like Christina Hoff Sommers or Camille Paglia - one of those feminist writers that I liked when I criticized feminism but now rather odious. Turns out that she was one of the few feminists who got through my ingrained sexism by criticizing the same things that I found silly (Catherine McKinnon, Starhawk's hippie babble, etc.) and then separating these dynamics from the core of feminism.

In this book she talks about being a boxer but she also explores and disputes many of the assumptions that we have about gender and aggression. To her credit, she does not state that anything is particularly natural to any gender but that we consider these things part of gender politics. She cites multiple studies concerning aggression, domestic violence and crime. Many of these chapters are fairly basic but they are basic in the same way that the Bechdel Test is basic. You don't notice how many of your assumptions about women and fighting as well as abuse are societal until they are pointed out. So this is still a pretty great book. It was also a fast read.

(weirdly enough I thought I would have more to say about the Denfeld book than the comic book).
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