Tag Archives: Isla Vista

Have You Heard… “Boris” by Lo-Fang?

 

Songs of 2014

by Gabriel Valdez

Have You Heard? is a stream of song recommendations, many of which will be new to you. We’ll focus on the music of 2014 to start, and we’ll be highlighting a lot of smaller, more independent artists.

Let’s inaugurate this with the most terrifying song of the year, and one of the few for which I’ll ever give a trigger warning: “Boris” by Lo-Fang.

The excellent original song by female duet Boy was an Anais Mitchell-like descent into an inescapable moment. It became louder and more chaotic as it progressed, blurring the lines between consent and coercion. Where the plot and their relationship ends is up for debate.

In covering it, Lo-Fang switches the song’s perspective to that of the man, ditching nuance and lending a more directed sociopathy:

“Baby, aren’t you hungry?
I could give you codeine,
I could get my car keys.
Oh, what a cute dress,
right now it’s useless,
I heard your boyfriend’s out of town.”

The titular Boris’s intent becomes clearer, and the chorus “You should get out of town, too,” is no longer a mutual suggestion, but a threatening ultimatum. Where Boy’s original female perspective became a chaos of pressures and confused motives, Lo-Fang’s male perspective keeps control of the moment, using harmonies and a staccato violin-and-acoustic guitar duo as if weapons all aimed at the woman he’s coercing, manipulating, and finally kicking away as if a used piece of trash.

Released in 2013, but not widely available until this year, Lo-Fang’s “Boris” is a terrifying snapshot into a mentality that, between the Isla Vista shootings, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, and GamerGate, has contributed toward pushing women toward a second-class citizenship.

If it’s depressing that this is – to me – the song that most exemplifies the battles of 2014, it’s also reassuring that Lo-Fang (Maryland-based Matthew Hemerlein) can both capture and criticize a moment like this through such powerful music. It reminds me that art is still the best way to change people’s minds and open them to new perspectives.

Credit where credit’s due – Have You Heard? is Vanessa Tottle’s brainchild, influenced by Rock Paper Shotgun’s Have You Played? feature.

On Beating Women

Stop Violence Against Women

I learned late last night that a friend of mine was beaten by her ex this last Friday. She was beaten so severely she has 20 broken bones, lacerations and penetration wounds, and a ruptured liver. She only escaped out her back door when the blade he used to stab her broke off its handle, and he left the room to get another one.

I was going to work on an article today about how women in B-films get treated differently from men, how an entertaining but decidedly one-note comedian like Will Arnett gets a pass for falling flat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while Megan Fox is reviled and critically downgraded for it, how Robert Pattinson, Michael Sheen, and Taylor Lautner get off Scot-free for the Twilight series while Kristen Stewart is held uniquely accountable for production failures beyond an actor’s ability to control. Their careers are somehow defined in a way the others’ aren’t. The Rock can make a dozen awful B-movies and we admire him for his muscles. Actresses like Fox and Stewart can make a handful and the media criticizes them for their looks. Now, that seems like an inconsequential piece of writing. I realize it’s not, that how our media trains us to look at and criticize men and women is the foundation that opens the door to later blame and hatred, but Jesus, I’m incapable of writing that article today.

Paramedics use a mnemonic acronym to help them learn how to evaluate a patient: DCAP-BTLS. It stands for, “Deformities, contusions, abrasions, punctures & penetrations, burns, tenderness, lacerations, and swelling.” It’s useful in describing the results of an injury and isolating a treatment. It’s not meant to describe a bad breakup.

My friend is missing teeth. She cannot chew. She cannot see out of one eye. She makes her living as a model. I fear that’s done with.

She is nothing but bruises now. I’m tempted to make a metaphor about how the physical ones will go away, while the emotional and mental ones will be the work of a lifetime. But the truth is many of the physical ones won’t go away either, not after how badly she was beaten, and they will be constant reminders of how someone else felt he had the right to take away her power, her livelihood, and her ability to make her own choices about her life.

I have no ability left to perceive or process this.

It happened on the other side of the country, and it’s easy to think this is somehow isolated, but the truth is that movements like the Men’s Rights Association – which teach men they are held down by women’s freedoms that still don’t measure up to theirs – plague the upbringing of young men in this country. We’re taught to assert ourselves by owning and possessing women, that dating is a competition for a prize, and that rejection or loss is only the go-ahead to aid your relentless pursuit with the tools of manipulation, drugs, and violence.

It’s not isolated. There was an afternoon this May when, between four friends: one was intentionally hit in the head by a man on the street, and later confronted by a man on public transit who asked to touch her. A second was followed to an appointment by a stranger who stared at her the whole way. He waited while she conducted her appointment, and then followed her home. A third wasted the afternoon talking to a string of photographers who treated booking her not as a professional photo shoot, but as an opportunity to ask her out on dates. The fourth was followed by a car whose driver asked her where she was going, if she needed a ride, and then repeatedly threatened her if she did not get in the car.

I have friends who are stalked. I have friends who’ve been beaten and raped. I have friends who have been drugged and raped. I have friends who were drugged and raped with the assistance of third parties. I have friends who were drugged and raped and kept in a house for days on end. Most of the rapists never went to jail, or even before a jury.

As Vanessa Tottle pointed out a few weeks ago, regarding the four writers of our music video countdown, “All four of us have taken a friend who’s suffered sexual assault to the hospital. Two of us have taken a friend who’s been rufied to the hospital.”

This is not isolated. Vanessa defined it after the Isla Vista shootings as a war, and it’s one that is severely underfunded and under-reported. After those same shootings, Chris Braak defined the reason they happened in an argument far better than I’m capable of making right now.

This Tuesday slot is ordinarily reserved for our trailer of the week article. I had picked The Theory of Everything, a biographical movie about wheelchair-bound astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. You know what I’d written after first seeing it?

“There come times in human history when we are blessed with gifted people whose minds we wholly don’t deserve. It is these minds alone that drive us forward more than anything, that give us the only hope we have of making it as a species. It is the responsibility of the rest of us to stumble after them and, in our best and most selfless moments, to push ourselves beyond what we knew how to be an instant before. It is the only real payment we can make on the huge debt we owe to them.”

I meant it when I wrote it. I’ll mean it again, in a few days. Today, however…today I have no way of believing we have it in ourselves to repay that debt. I have a friend in the hospital 2,600 miles away, the man who nearly killed her on the loose. The perceived transgression she made against him was to end a relationship in which she was abused. For this, he broke into her home, stripped her naked, beat, kicked, and stabbed her.

In a few days, I’ll go back to tilting at windmills and having hope it makes a difference. Today…today I just want to tear down everything I know.

If abuse is something you yourself live with, please ask for help. It’s there for you.

If there are other good resources, please mention them in the comments.

National Domestic Violence hotline: 800-799-7233

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network online hotline
Resource number: 202.544.3064

Family Violence Prevention & Services Resource Centers
National Resource Center: 800-537-2238
Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: 855-649-7299
Battered Women’s Justice Project: 800-903-0111 x1

Thursday’s Child — Friends of the Blog Day

We’re highlighting a couple articles coming from friends today, including a superb piece on photography by John Schell, an article on misogyny in the gaming industry by Elizabeth Tobey, and an article on the Slender Man murder and how much media is or isn’t to blame by folklorist Joseph Laycock.

But first, we’re required to include a David Bowie song in every Thursday’s Child article. It’s in the charter or something. Given our subjects of fashion photography, gender dynamics, and the folkore of memes, I can’t think of anything more appropriate than Floria Sigismondi’s weird, Tilda Swinton-inhabited music video for Bowie’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).”

Now, on with the show:

CO-ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
Terrance Malick’s Darkest Film
Rob Turner

To the Wonder

When I write a review, I’m limited to 700 words. My responsibilities are to translate the experience of watching a particular movie and to clarify in what ways it’s valuable. The bulk of the work is in my editing.

When I write a film essay, there’s no limit save the reader’s attention span. My responsibilities vary because the bulk of the work is in the research. It’s like a science experiment – you start with the seed of a theory or message and then you learn everything you can. Either the research proves out or you’re proven wrong. Either way, you’ve got an article.

Nowhere is the bulk of the work in the writing – that’s the fun part, that’s the part that you can’t get onto a page fast enough. You can sense when someone needs to write, absolutely needs it like breathing, and when someone is obligated to write. When someone needs to write, you’ll put everything else to the side and read them for pages. You want to know where their emotional journey as a writer takes you. When someone is obligated to write, you’ll look at three paragraphs as an eternity that deserves skimming at best. Research sits awkwardly; the seams in their editing are apparent.

Rob Turner needs to write about To the Wonder. It seeps through every word of his article. His research is considerable, yet hidden. His structure is exacting, yet elegant. That’s how you translate the experience of a film – you hide all the work behind it but the passion, the awe of being a witness to it. If that’s what Malick can achieve as a director in To the Wonder, that’s what a writer who needs to write can achieve in writing about it. Rob Turner does just that.

Anti-Strobism and Using Natural Light in Photography
John Schell

Schnell article lead

I know we have some photographers and models who read here, and John Schell’s article is an absolute must-read for them. Natural styles of shooting are often overlooked in film, and that’s doubly true in photography. There’s some superb advice here on how to shoot with natural light and play with over- and under-exposures. We’re used to everything being overly strobed and photoshopped and little details being blended out in fashion photography, whereas natural light brings out dimples, smile lines, and other imperfections.

We’re becoming somewhat resistant to excessively perfected photos, at least insofar as fashion photography goes. (Landscape, nature, and commercial photography are frustratingly different stories.) The imperfections that are so regularly hidden from us are what people remember best and most appreciate about each others’ appearances. They can make a photograph recapture a ‘day in the life’ feeling instead of a day in the studio feeling. They bring back a warmth and glow that glamor and fashion photography have lately abandoned in favor of antiseptic tones and clean lines.

Ditching strobes and learning to shoot naturally is a big step in the right direction. For another example of this, I do prefer the natural light style of Holly Parker, a photographer and the model in many of John’s shots. Look to Holly’s work for color composition, framing, focus, and very smart use of focal points. She’s got a cinematographer’s eye for composition. Look to John’s work for how he uses shadow, exposure, contrast/blow-outs, and especially implied motion. His work is more classically commercial.

Thanks to Holly Parker for pointing this article out.

Sexism and Misogyny in Gaming
Elizabeth Tobey

Mario

I know a few folks who work in the video games industry. Both women and men I know assert it’s their dream job, but for women it usually comes with a hesitation and a caveat about the online community. And by caveat I mean quoting threats of death and rape they receive on a weekly basis.

Elizabeth gives several examples from her own experience in the industry, as well as suggestions for how the community needs to change. Because of the inherently online nature of many games and their platforms, I believe what’s taught and reinforced about women through that medium has a far greater effect on youth culture than what’s taught even on film or television.

For the kind of response women in this industry regularly have to put up with, look no further than the first post in response to Elizabeth’s article, from anonymous poster Blah Blah: “Genders will never be equal, a woman could only take this viewpoint. Women have what most men want, a wet hole. Equal, so no more ladies nights, we won’t pay for your dinner on a date, you can open the door for us. Etc. You’re a woman that is employed as a public relations person…do you really think you’d have gotten that first job if you didn’t have boobs?”

I don’t know, Blah Blah, but plenty of men magically get jobs in the industry without having breasts. Also, ladies’ nights are not a treat for women, they’re an advertising plug for bars looking to drum up more business. Also also, try splitting the check if you can’t pay for dinner without expectations attached. Also also also, try buying a friend dinner with no expectations outside of having a nice dinner with someone. Also also also also, I’d like to suggest the mind-blowing notion that holding the door open for someone does not automatically mean they owe you sex. Controversial, I know. Five alsos in a row: try holding the door open for everyone who needs it, and not just the people you want to sleep with. Six alsos in a row: someone buy Blah Blah a copy of Strunk & White; I had to correct the punctuation while quoting him and I can’t be around for him all the time; I might accidentally hold the door open for him, and then he’d owe me sex.

Thanks to Elizabeth Tobey for letting us know about the article.

Media Algorithms and Bad Reporting
Erin Biba

Volcano

I once saw a program titled Top 10 Deadliest Things About Volcanoes. I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure number 1 is going to be volcanoes.” It was actually a decent program about the history of volcanic eruptions and their effects at different eras in our history, but the countdown approach was simply one made to entice viewers – “I can only think of 5 deadly things about volcanoes; I wonder what the others will be,” that sort of crap.

We have a sense that attention spans are shorter and that it’s everyone else’s fault but a writer’s or publisher’s. It’s the effect of technology, it’s the effect of movies, it’s the effect of 37 hours of TV a day. Yes, it is. That doesn’t change anything.

It’s still the responsibility of the writer to capture that attention span and the responsibility of the publisher to prize it. The poetry community whines that it’s all but extinct save for a few intellectual circles while the organizations that define what poetry is reject slam and hip-hop as too commercial and performance-based. The literary community holds up drama while acting as if genre and young adult fiction – which still sells like hotcakes – is beneath it. Conversely, the studio system shoves money down the throat of genre fiction – a $200 million movie that makes $300 million will get sequels, while repeatedly making $20 million narratives that make $100 million (see Steven Soderbergh) will get a director run out of the system.

The point is that people are still interested in those things that demand our attention. Yes, technology’s to blame for the deficit in our attention spans, but so are the poetry and literary communities, studios, and publishers that are too afraid to demand their readers’ and viewers’ attention. Those communities and companies have as much of a hand in training readers and viewers how to read and watch as any technology does. If we don’t make demands of readers and invest in good reporting and good writing, then we’re just training those readers to reject us in a generation’s time.

There’s a reason people are coming to this site and others like it. It’s not the presentation; lord knows I need to clean that up. It’s because we have high standards for our articles and, honestly, for our readers, too. I’ll make top 10 lists here and there, but only if the list has a good reason to highlight something more important than a subjective ranking that’s likely to change tomorrow. I can’t even highlight others’ articles without writing commentaries that are just as long as the article. Readers have read, shared, and argued (oh god, have they argued) Russ’s and Vanessa’s work because people still want to think and be challenged when they read and they watch and they listen.

The only thing we teach readers by dumbing ourselves down is to learn to ignore us. The less you demand of your readers, the less they value you. And you cannot demand something of your readers unless you demand something of your writers first. That means prizing the ability to write, and that starts with publishers and publications both online and off.

“’Slender Man’ Murder Attempt Wasn’t Media or Madness”
Joseph Laycock

Slender Man doctored meme

And finally, concluding with a consideration of the power of media in contrast to the power of community. How much is one to blame for violence versus the other?

I remember thinking after Columbine that, while those kids listened to Marilyn Manson and played Doom, neither of those things taught them Hitler’s birthday. Someone around them taught them that, and taught them that violence was a viable way of celebrating it.

The difference now is that community isn’t as immediate as it was even 15 years back. We’ve seen this with the Slender Man attempted murder, and we saw it two weeks ago in Isla Vista – your primary community may be an online one, and what you’re taught there isn’t as easy to monitor or put in context. As Laycock writes, it has nothing to do with an inability to differentiate reality from the internet – that’s a myth, and children are perfectly capable of that differentiation. Let’s not evolve a new Twinkie Defense.

It has everything to do with community, education, and social environment, three things that are now often conveyed through a less immediate and answerable medium than we’ve learned to deal with at this point. But read Joe’s article – he elucidates these and other ideas in far greater detail.

Thanks to Joseph Laycock for letting us know about the article.

A Timely Allegory, a Unique Opportunity — “Maleficent”

Maleficent lead

A man wants the respect of the other men around him. Acquiring that respect means he has to display his worth. This display becomes a grotesque act of violence against a woman. This is the broad allegory at work in Maleficent, defined in its first 20 minutes. After the Isla Vista shootings, I don’t know that there’s a more appropriate 20 minutes of film we need to see.

The film is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s perspective. We’re introduced to Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) as a child. A fairy from a fantastical land, she falls in love with a human boy, whose thirst for respect and power causes him to betray her and cut off her wings. The power of allegory is that this can all be accomplished with a PG rating. Children will marvel at the film’s fantasy land and understand the tale of vengeance at the film’s heart. They will comprehend the allegory at face value, but they thankfully won’t have the experience to be able to apply it. Adults will recognize the trademarks of scenes we’re used to seeing in other genres. When Maleficent wakes up after being drugged and finds her wings have been cut from her, it’s not a hard metaphor to grasp. Unfortunately, too many adults in the audience will have had the experience to be able to apply it.

After her betrayer is named king, Maleficent curses his daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning) – she will prick her finger on a spinning needle at the age of 16 and fall into a “sleep like death.” I won’t give anything away beyond these basics, but Maleficent is filled with metaphors of social shaming, divorce, and abuse. Like the best fairy tales, these darker meanings are only hinted at, giving the tale greater relevance and more value in being retold.

Maleficent Elle Fanning

As an allegorical reinterpretation of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is powerful and more timely than its filmmakers could ever have imagined. As a film, it suffers from some dodgy craftsmanship. There are very beautiful moments – its creature, costume, and set design are brilliant. Little details, from the filigree on the king’s armor to the embroidery of the pillows on which Aurora rests, fill out the world with the texture of unspoken history. Some very overlooked technical elements take away from this, though – the sound design is thin and the musical score feels recycled. The visual effects can range from breathtaking to amateurish, and they have a markedly different tone from dialogue scenes. The 3-D is strained and muddies a great deal of detail – opt for 2-D showings. Maleficent doesn’t feel like a finished film. It feels like a very promising rough cut.

Only a few actors in the world are dynamic enough to command our attention through such a litany of technical dilemmas. Foremost among them is Angelina Jolie. There is dialogue here no actor can pull off, and yet she grounds it with a regal bearing that is at once overacted and tender. Director Robert Stromberg often focuses exclusively on her eyes, putting the rest of her face in shadow, and she has the ability to convey so many emotions in quick succession it leaves you reeling. Every time a slapstick scene clunks or an action scene only half-works, we return to Jolie’s performance and the film recovers almost entirely.

Maleficent link

That scene in which Maleficent wakes up to discover her wings are gone – it’s not filmed well. The set’s beautiful, but the shot choices take away from the moment. None of that matters – Jolie’s performance in that scene is so wrenching and haunting that she could’ve filmed it on a bare stage free from the context of the plot, and we’d still understand its every nuance. Fanning also deserves credit for her bright turn as Aurora, as does Sharlto Copley for his nasty, emotionally lean performance as the betrayer-turned-king, Stefan.

Maleficent is more important for its values and performances than its cinematic accomplishments, but this may make it a better film than something less ambitious and more polished. It joins a growing trend in summer entertainment of discussing issues we as a society are often too slow to address. Add to this the rarity of a performance as outlandish and commanding as Jolie’s, and Maleficent is a very solid recommendation, especially as family entertainment. It hits some heavy issues that – like it or not – children have to be prepared for as they grow up. It’s up to you how much you’d like to discuss afterward. Maleficent leaves the door open to those discussions in a unique and comfortable way.

Maleficent cap

Their Desperate Arsenal: Isla Vista and the War at Hand

Too Familiar

by Vanessa Tottle

The gall of them. The gall of one young shit in Isla Vista. He used a Sig-Sauer P226, which is what James Bond used in Bolivia after getting a woman killed because he fucked her like a prize.

He also had a Glock 34. Denzel Washington used that once in Man on Fire. He looked very good in slow-motion gunfights. He needed to. There was a white, blonde, baby Dakota Fanning to save from endless Mexicans.

I was owned once. It was not in the way that Elliot Rodger would have liked. It was in the way that an abusive family owns you, like a vase they don’t know where to put, so they stick you out of sight and out of mind, but still you’re owned, and your chief quality is your quietness, and sometimes that is reinforced.

I weigh 105 pounds. I am a 105 pound vase. I crack myself because my quality is quietness. I have a black belt in krav maga. It has cost me three cracked ribs and a broken jaw. Try getting the flu with a broken jaw.

I lead paleontology digs now. I have taken assistant leadership roles in Canada, the United States, China, and South America. I almost have my Ph.D. It has cost me a broken ankle, a concussion, and cool-looking parasites. Once, I stood looking at a bear while friends climbed up river banks to safety, and I was all that was between my friends and the bear. The bear didn’t move. Maybe it saw a vase whose quality was quietness, with too many cracks to give a shit about one more. Maybe it was disinterested.

The gall of one young shit in Isla Vista, to think I can be owned, to think I would go back to that, to think I would move aside for him, to think that Bond and Denzel gave him strength enough to move a woman. I was thin as ragged bones until I left my parents’ house and learned I was crafted out of more than quietness.

What has he to show for pain? Disappointed misogyny? Three guns and nowhere to use them? Pain is real. You don’t come back from it. You feel it all the time. I don’t doubt that he felt pain. I doubt that he had ever earned it.

Pain can be taught. I’m a Harry Potter fan, I think every abused kid is, so let me describe it like this: pain can be cast like a charm over you. Pain can be offered as an excuse by people who want to master you. You think it’s real. You think you won’t come back from it. You think you feel it all the time. But it isn’t real. You are bewitched. You are the victim of an illusion.

Believe in any pain for long enough, and you become a thing, owned by whoever made you believe in it. The boy in Isla Vista belonged to someone else. He belonged to the Male Rights Association. He belonged to a philosophy. He had found a family who taught him the pain he should believe in, and who taught him being owned by their philosophy was the only outlet for that pain. He became a vase they didn’t know where to put, but one they crafted out of violence.

If you want to temper a human being, you give her hope. You tell her that her enemies are behind her, that they cannot hurt her anymore. You teach her cracking can be beautiful. You teach her to look at herself as a leader.

If you want to temper a weapon, you give him hate. You tell him that his enemies are all around him, that they only think of hurting him. You teach him cracking isn’t acceptable. You teach him to follow you.

I was a vase, stuck out of sight and out of mind. So was he. To pretend we started any different is a lie. To call him evil is to isolate the repercussions to a dead man. I hate him, but I won’t ease my mind with excuses. He was shaped this way by others. He was tempered through a process. He was taught who to blame and who to hate. His life was not a war, he was just a weapon made by others. He was an amateur. The professionals don’t get their hands dirty. The ones who teach young men to think this way are waging the war. The politicians who seek to control our rights to our bodies are waging the war. They teach men to be mastered. They teach women to be tired. Before we see what other weapons that philosophy can make, we need to treat this like a war as well. Our weapons are leadership, creativity, knowledge, communication, and relentlessness.

They try to take away our leadership by destroying Head Start and Acorn and unions across North America. They reinforce the idea that one president’s too black to lead and the next president is too much of a woman to lead. They try to take away our creativity by stealing from PBS and NPR, by foisting us with Common Core education and standardized testing. They try to take away our knowledge by making higher education unaffordable. They consolidate media into a handful of channels, and these channels interrupt discussions of hate crimes and government deadlock with breaking Justin Bieber news. They try to take away our communication by bankrupting the postal service and making plans to sell the internet chunk by chunk like parcels of land. They replace these with false alternatives, hoping we don’t notice. They try to take away our relentlessness by making us re-fight the battles we have already won – abortion, voting rights, fair pay, social security, veteran care. Women are exhausted from fighting for our bodies. Minorities are exhausted from working harder for the right to vote. The poor are exhausted from working more to make the same. The elderly are exhausted from a broken promise they worked all their lives to earn. Soldiers are exhausted from physical and emotional scars that go untreated.

This isn’t by conspiracy, not entirely. It’s by mentality, but when a mentality is so deeply and overwhelmingly ingrained in us, it exhibits the same traits as the conspiracies we make up to distract ourselves. But why do they fight so desperately? Why do they take away so much? Because our fate is progress, and theirs is to dwindle.

When you’re in a corner, your training takes over. You don’t think. You react from years of being taught what to do. When I broke my jaw, I was sparring two men who are twice my size and ranked above me. One was my instructor. Krav Maga is never fair. You’re not meant to win fights. You’re meant to learn to keep on going despite being broken. I believe that’s why I take to it. I remained sparring for five minutes after my jaw cracked. I could barely see or hear through the pain. Breath came and went. My body took over as my mind receded. All I could think of was not being cornered. Don’t get cornered, don’t get cornered. I had been cornered years of my life; I would not go back to that. I was given the option to stop. I would not stop. Classmates told me I became vicious. I had no chance to begin with, and then my jaw broke. I lost the match, that was always the point. But I understood then: I was tempered through a process.

Theirs is a different process: Right to rape. Oppression by exhaustion. Destroying the middle class. Imprisoning minorities. Ownership via hatred. They have been tempered by an ugly mentality. But their desperation is no different. We can recognize it if we stop to think and consider their ridiculousness. They have the option to stop, but they react from years of being taught what to do. They are still mastered by their mentality and those who preach it. It is because they will lose that they have become so vicious on its behalf.

I have overheard friends say there’s nothing we can do. I have been told change is a process that takes place over decades. No shit. What number decade is this in that process? My right to vote was established in 1920. The Civil Rights Act happened in 1964. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

Change doesn’t happen for people out of sight and out of mind. It doesn’t happen for the quiet. It certainly doesn’t happen for those afraid of being cracked. I think we’re all done with that. I hope we’re all done with that. They have brandished their weapons. Now let us brandish ours: Let us lead. Let us create. Let us teach. Let us communicate. Let us be relentless. Ours are not the backs against the wall anymore, so let us refuse to act the part.

Long ago, our chief quality was quietness. We are crafted out of so much more than that.

Isla Vista lead

Wednesday Collective — Talking About Isla Vista

Isla Vista

Ask me about dance or film or anything else, and I can go on for hours right now. Especially right now. Ask me about Isla Vista and…I’ve written pages of reaction and vetted them with a close friend, and they’re just not there yet. I will tell you a quick story about the Pick-Up Artist and Male Rights culture, however.

I lost an old friend in February last year to the Pick Up Artist culture. Let’s call him Bob, though that’s not his real name. I had visited Bob in New Jersey for a weekend, but one untested restaurant later and I was slammed with the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had. He was very helpful, even going with me to the hospital, but when he had to step out and I needed to ask his roommate for help, it became an issue. Let’s call her Alicia, though that’s not her real name either. You see, to put it in his words, Alicia was his. She had already informed him once that she was very much her own and no one else’s, but this didn’t stop him from exercising some territorial mark to everyone behind her back. As he described to me, one day she’d realize she owed him for his being such a good friend, and everything else would work itself out.

Bob had been spouting Pick Up Artist gibberish for years: “Have you heard about negging?” “What about getting a friend to talk you up?” “Do you have a backstory ready?”

For years, I had joined other friends in laughing off Bob’s PUA obsession as something harmless. We’d argue with him from a philosophical standpoint, but we’d invariably let it go as not something important enough to truly fight over. That was our mistake, because by the time that thinking had festered in him for years, by the time he found himself with his life truly backed up against the wall, women had turned into nothing more for him than a goal his suffering earned. Alicia was to be Bob’s reward for having a tough run of life, and he spouted off the PUA gibberish as if it were religious dogma.

I asked Alicia if she would still be around to let me back in after I hobbled down the street to get a prescription filled for my nausea. It was the end of a friendship. Now, I feared getting locked out for the day in a bad section of New Jersey while I could barely stand upright, but in Bob’s mind, other men in the apartment weren’t allowed to be alone with Alicia, because all men must think like he did. Suddenly, I became privy to the same kind of gender inequality we usually only attach to the most extreme religious fundamentalism. It didn’t matter that I was seeing someone. It didn’t matter that Bob and I had been friends for years. It didn’t matter that I must’ve looked real supersexy puking my guts out Exorcist-style. It certainly didn’t matter that Alicia was a person capable of her own free will. Bob could only understand the world through a reward-system of sex and male dominance. In his mind, every decision in his life had to be oriented around the acquisition and defense of sex.

I ended up driving home on massive medication, and not having eaten in two days, because it was too disturbing to stay in New Jersey. When I got home, there were e-mails from him. There were texts from him. I started getting calls at 2 a.m. just to inform me Alicia was his. I scuttled the friendship. Bob had, over several years, adopted himself into a cult. And make no mistake – PUA and the Male Rights Association are cults, developed with the same purpose in mind as any other cult – to indoctrinate and addict paying believers. Like many cults, they need an enemy who’s visually different from their membership – in this case, women. Like many cults, teachings become more and more aggressive to the point of violence and hatred – the one who offers the best opportunity to blame and hate the enemy makes the most money.

I talked with Alicia some weeks later. She was fine. She had found a way to largely extract herself from the situation. I haven’t talked to Bob since, and I’m thankful for that.

MRAs around the country are cults, pure and simple. They don’t always take the look of cults because they’re compound isn’t brick and mortar, but rather an online, anonymous one. They have extensive online outreach, messaging campaigns, newsletters, forums, advice columns, all driven toward the purpose of indoctrination. Some of the more complex ones have oriented themselves around hacking women’s phones and computers. There’s a cottage industry of revenge porn, often involving photoshopping the ex-girlfriends of members onto the bodies of nude models, and then forwarding the resulting fake to the ex-girlfriend’s employers, friends, and relatives in an effort to make her ostracized and get her fired. Other members may volunteer their time to stalk the ex. If they can’t have her, she doesn’t deserve to have a life – that’s what many of these men feel. That’s what the idiot in Isla Vista felt. These cults have members who form the same kind of cause-driven militias that other cults have, and though these associations may be socially networked, their guns are very real.

I also don’t want to relegate the issue to a couple of dangerous nuts. What makes so many men susceptible to PUA and MRA is a culture that values sex as a reward to be won in our films, our video games, our television, our books. We don’t just need better gender representation in our media, but a reassessment of the value systems that our media reinforces. We have a Star Wars film with one female lead to six male leads. How much do you want to bet she’s a love interest? We have 25 superhero films centered around a man for every one superhero film centered around a woman. That includes the most expensive cinematic franchise ever created, which boasts exactly one female superhero among eight males. That’s bullshit.

Look, I’m only qualified to talk about this from a media and art perspective, maybe something of a political one, though it’s been a few years since I was in that game. Every reader is going to be qualified to talk about this through their own specialties. Figure out what you have to say, make sure it’s something that adds to the conversation, and voice up. We may think our goal is to keep Isla Vista from happening again, but the truth is, Isla Vista happens in the form of assault and rape thousands of times every day because of the way men are raised to view themselves, sex, and their relationship to women in this country. The conservative estimate is that a sexual assault happens once every two minutes in the U.S., but this doesn’t take into account an estimate that 75 to 95% of assaults go unreported. That means that the real number may be as high as once every six seconds.

But I’m not an expert in this. There are people far better equipped than I to talk about what caused this and what might begin the process toward addressing it. Please read their words and consider what they have to say. I’ll post their articles below without the usual Wednesday Collective commentary because, frankly, what they have to say, they say far better than I can:

Stockton Man Reportedly Opens Fire on Women After They Refuse Sex
Isha Aran

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism
Laurie Penny

On Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista, Patriarchy
Chris Braak

Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: further proof that misogyny kills
Jessica Valenti

Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right
Adam Gopnik

Seth Rogen Is Not A Victim Of The Santa Barbara Killings
Jessica Goldstein

‘No Way To Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
The Onion staff