Friday, December 3, 2010

Bananas and Lemons

So I took the day off yesterday to celebrate my birth and hang out with Baby, Alia, and ... uh, the new baby, whose nom de blog has yet to be generated. His nicknames around the house are Ike (he bears -- as many babies do -- a passing resemblance to Dwight Eisenhower) and Benazir Bhutto, but I don't think either of those will do. Baby got me a new amp for my Rhodes piano so I can once again torment the household with my sub-mediocre renditions of popular songs and Christmas carols. We ate twice-baked potatoes with steak (mmm ... beef allowance) and afterwards drank beers and played Bananagrams with Arkay and our housemate Mollrats. (I hope she doesn't mind that nickname -- I can't imagine why she would have a problem with it.) It was good times.

Yesterday, I ran into the word "cisgendered" for the first time -- twice. First, in this overlauded but amusing video mocking "postmodern" Christians somewhat accurately. Second, in this thoughtful but amusing blog post ruminating on "Liz Lemonism." Turns out cisgendered is the opposite of transgendered. Who knew? That will be useful in future Bananagrams escapades.

The Liz Lemon post is smart enough, but reading it on the bus this morning -- the wrong bus, by the way, since the driver put the wrong text up on the sign and denied it, despite six of the eight riders having to get off at the first stop and walk back to the transit center -- clarified something about what bothers me about certain segments of feminism. Now, before I go and say something ill-advised about feminism, know that in certain crowds I could easily be called a feminist. My wife, whose RSS reader proves her bonafides, may or may not agree with that assessment depending on the day, but ultimately I am generally inclined to be sympathetic to feminism and highly suspicious of anyone who, like me, would make generalized claims about feminism on the whole.

However, reading the post and the comments I was reminded of my young adulthood as a sort of fundamentalist Christian. Specifically, I was reminded of reading Focus on the Family's BreakAway magazine for teenaged boys. One of the recurring themes of BreakAway was analysis of the content of media from a "Christian perspective," to determine whether the music or movie in question could be called Christian -- primarily to satisfy a legalistic requirement that one only consume Christian products. Readers would write in asking if their favorite bands were Christians. Is Metallica Christian? Is Beck Christian? Is Sonic Youth Christian? Spin Doctors are not Christian because "Two Princes" encourages rebellion against one's parents, by the way. (I don't remember them ever actually critiquing the generally vapid content of any of the "actual" Christian musicians popular at the time.)



Now, I was an English major, so I'm aware that critique of pop culture from an ideological perspective is essentially all the humanities have to offer at this point, but there is something really dumb about this "in or out" attitude. One of the commenters says, "someone once told me that 30 Rock was premised on Liz Lemon’s ugliness, and . . . that made me swear to never watch it. That doesn’t sound like feminism at all to me. Just more picking on women." So, she won't watch a show because it's "not feminist?" That's silly. Even as a young fundie I knew it was okay to listen to The Who, even if they say "fuck" now and again. Lighten up!

Having said that, I'm now going to be accused of supporting the myth of the humorless feminist, so I'll stop on this note: I like women. I like feminism. I'm glad my daughters will reap the benefits of the hard work of feminists past and present. But seriously, avoiding 30 Rock because Liz Lemon is too pretty and not feminist enough is dumber than Dan Quayle decrying Murphy Brown's proud single motherhood.

UPDATE: Baby says this is basically me just now:

Using an image from the very blog I was writing about is a nice touch!


  1. Shit. I forgot to say happy birthday. Happy belated. That's what I get for not opening up my calendar. 1000 apologies. I will kiss you on the mouth next time we meet.

  2. It's possible Dave didn't understand cisgender.

    Saying "It's cool- my wife is a feminist!" Better or worse than saying "It's okay- my best friend is black." Discuss.

    Also, it's a shame tumblr took privilege denying dude down, because I think he might have some things to offer to this discussion.

  3. Happy belated bday. Sorry I missed saying this yesterday! I blame the great internet outage of 12/02/10. Cisgender is now a part of my vocabulary thanks to you.

    I'd like to add that regardless of any feminist aspect that Liz Lemon may or may not bring to 30 Rock, that show has ceased to be funny. Liz's quirks are annoying and repetitive, and seem to mainly be meant to amuse bitter middle-aged ladies, and they need to write Kenneth off the show permanently. The only two characters that are even remotely funny are Tracy and Jack. Anyone else agree?