Sunday, July 15, 2012

Banned Words Digest

Having been off the women-doing-things beat for awhile, I am still getting up to speed, here. I thought I might check in on a few of our Banned Words on Google News to see how they're doing lately.

The results were edifying. I shall have to do this more often.

Things that are feisty: Canadian football teams, Joe Biden, otters, Pixar's protagonist-shaped mass of red hair (ya think?), Yvette Nicole Brown, and oh my God you have to read this story from the Belfast Telegraph about a Tory MP yelling at the Prime Minister.

An excerpt from that last one:

Nobody could make head nor tail of it as she screamed louder and louder to make her voice heard over the din of the Commons.

The blood pressure rose, her face became redder and redder - rhubarb, tomato, beetroot - up the colour chart it went. Her arm - the one in the sling - started gesticulating widely.

Veteran MP James Gray sat back as far as he could, conscious no doubt of taking one in the eye at any moment.

As the kids on the Tubes say: GPOY.

But back to business! Things that are sassy: E!, Britney Spears, celebrity journalistrixes, Bachelorette Emily Meynard's minidress, Pink's new single.

Things that are plucky: the Oakland A's, faithful dogs, Aussie footballers, tennis player Laura Robson, wee schoolchildren, death-defying seals, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I sense an opportunity for Science here. There ought to be a more long-term study, with pretty charts breaking down the relative frequencies for each word. (Categories: Women, sports teams, animals, Irishmen, the celebrity-industrial complex.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pre-Women Rock

In the New York Times today: Rocking Out, No Boys Allowed.

This was not a standard garage band. For one, the members had picked out instruments two days earlier. For another, the jam session ended when a supervisor called, “Ladies, it’s snack time.”

The band formed at Girls Rock Camp in Atlanta, which teaches 10- to 16-year-old musical beginners to bang drums and windmill guitars like their rock heroes. The five-day camp has a simple message: Girls rock too. In a genre long dominated by men, the founders want campers to feel as comfortable being loud and expressing themselves on stage as many boys do. 

Oh, to be a preteen in July. These kids are precious, no sarcasm intended. Here's 10-year-old Katherine Butler, whose band Think Fast has already been riven by artistic disputes:

“We’ve had some hard times,” she said. “It feels like we’ve been a band way more than two days.”

And another anonymous rockette:

“I don’t respect Justin Bieber, but I really, really like him.” 

Bless. Absolutely darling. But wait.

A similar rock camp for girls opened in Portland, Ore., in 2001, and the idea has quickly gained steam. It was founded by a women’s studies student who had worked in the music industry and wanted to encourage more women to start bands. 

Encouraging more women to start bands. Oh yes let's. As the article reminds us, this is all so empowering. By all means let us gather up our tender young offspring and deliver them into the loving, empowerfulizing embrace of the music industry.

Summary: be solo, or a duo, because a full band is financially untenable; work much, much harder, under much more stressful conditions, than bands of earlier generations had to. Be very young, or have the ability to take the broke-ness, the physical and emotional knock-around, that very young people can.

Whoops, Mike Doughty, you're such a downer. Let's try that again. Being in a band is so empowerfulmentatious! You go, girl!
On a personal level, I have witnessed the impoverishment of many critically acclaimed but marginally commercial artists. In particular, two dear friends: Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) and Vic Chesnutt. Both of these artists, despite growing global popularity, saw their total  incomes fall in the last decade. There is no other explanation except for the fact that “fans” made the unethical choice to take their music without compensating these artists.

Shortly before Christmas 2009, Vic took his life. He was my neighbor, and I was there as they put him in the ambulance. On March 6th, 2010, Mark Linkous shot himself in the heart. Anybody who knew either of these musicians will tell you that the pair suffered depression. They will also tell you their situation was worsened by their financial situation. Vic was deeply in debt to hospitals and, at the time, was publicly complaining about losing his home. Mark was living in abject squalor in his remote studio in the Smokey Mountains without adequate access to the mental health care he so desperately needed.

Artists, comma, good news about. Anyone?

Google: Red In Tooth And Claw

Finding Women Do stories is sort of an art form. There are a few ways to go about it.

1. Google News, may it live and prosper. Googling news results for "women" (or, better yet, "women increasingly") usually yields a pretty good harvest. Then it's a matter of sifting the wheat from the chaff.

The top news results are often real, newsworthy, depressing stories about the various means by which women are, either physically or through extortion, prevented from acting like people. Have a glance at them, pour out a snifter for your embattled peeps, and move on. These are not the droids you're looking for.

The best Women Do story is usually a one-off near the bottom. It is not really news, so it has probably not spawned a legion of AP headlines or gotten too many commentators in a lather. Moms Rock. Paeans to in-home shopping. Women Sometimes Do Boxing.

Sometimes there's a big evo-psych study hot off the press, in which case, jackpot.

2. Read widely. Where I come from, the land is hard, and we have a saying about our mountains: Two rocks to every dirt. Newspapers are much the same. Two rocks to every news -- in some places three or four -- and a fair number of them are bound to be Women Do.

It is too bad that I don't live in Boston anymore. The Globe sat right on top of a very rich vein of this stuff. Is it still as Women Do-y as it ever was? I will have to start reading it on the regular again.

3. Write a blog making fun of newspapers writing about women. Lure in a bunch of smart readers. Get them to send you things.

Hint hint.

At any rate. This morning, I went and climbed to the top of the mountain, took a deep breath, fired up the Goog, and typed in "women," just to kind of get the lay of the land.

Conclusion: I hope to God Wikipedia can hang onto its Google-juice. Because if AskMen's Top 99 Women of 2012 makes it to #1, the zombies are well and truly coming, my friends.

Women Make Rape Jokes

Thank you, Elissa Bassist of the Daily Beast, for writing the only article in the great frothing cataract of ink spilled on Daniel Tosh's unspeakably shitty rape joke that didn't make me want to secede from reading things: "Why Daniel Tosh's 'Rape Joke' At The Laugh Factory Wasn't Funny."

(I posit that Tosh, right up until the part where he yelled "Fire" in a crowded theater and had most of his asshole privileges justly revoked, had a point. Rape jokes can indeed be funny. But they're usually funnier when you can tell they're jokes. I find that having to study people's facial expressions to see if they're kidding, while making quick mental maps of the nearest emergency exits just in case, kind of takes the har har out of the whole exercise.)

Bassist begins promisingly:
I edit a humor column called Funny Women on, and during my first and last radio interview about “funny women,” the host asked me if I thought rape jokes were funny. She said, “Rape jokes are never funny.” I said I thought anything could be funny. 
Right on, right on.
I went a step beyond and said jokes about tragedy could take on a fierce power. They could be cathartic and empowering, they could help you reclaim control when you’ve lost something you’ll never get back or have been damaged beyond repair.
Anybody who disagrees with this clearly hasn't watched enough Richard Pryor.

Here's where Bassist takes a little side detour into Awesometown, though.
I have a rape joke myself. When I wrote about my sexual assault for a nonfiction workshop in my MFA program, I called the piece “rape-portage,” as in “reportage” as pronounced by arrogant MFAers as “re-por-taj” or “re-pər-ˈtäzh,” if you want to get fancy.
This isn't an argument, it's a proof. If you laugh, she's right. And I challenge you to imagine a roomful of unbearably earnest MFA types trying to figure out how they're supposed to react to this brash, inappropriate, un-victim-ish victim-person wielding that hefty portmanteau without the corner of your mouth twitching just a little.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Women Do Journalism!

Look, the CJR found a whole 20 women in journalism! (One of whom is actually a woman in women-in-journalism journalism! How meta.)

Who am I kidding, I'm just mad I wasn't on the list.

Lo, this blog is revived. No promises of any future content, as I am wicked busy with non-women-in-journalism journalism, but this blog once played a role in my life much like that of a dialysis machine to a kidney-failure patient, and I rather miss it. The unvented spleen just piles up around here.

Also I am thinking of moving it to Tumblr, which I imagine will let me byline everything "Samuel Johnson" in peace, and also reap me a bountiful harvest of peevish social-justice wank. (Le sigh.) Tell me your thoughts, O readers, if there are still any of you out there.