When I first picked up Nalo Hopkinson's The Chaos last summer, I thought, "Finally! A book with a young woman of color as the protagonist!" Of course, I've since learned that there are other dystopic novels with girls of color, but this hasn't ended my love forThe Chaos even after a second (and third) reading.
The Chaos isn't actually set in a dystopia. It's more of a post-apocalyptic world in which Toronto transforms from its usual racist, misogynist, able-ist normalcy to utter chaos, complete with hoodie-wearing sasquatches, escalators that ask questions about quantum physics, and Baba Yaga and her flying house.
This past week, the news broke that New York City began to instruct its police officers this winter that to make sure they act accordingly to legality of women going topless in public. It’s easy to dismiss this law with a punch line, but the truth is that instructing all of New York’s police force to leave topless women alone is groundbreaking and part of a long running movement lead by women who have fought for topless equality.
For almost fifty years, the disempowered and the marginalized and the outcasts have held up Star Trek as a show that said, “This is what we can aspire to: a humanity that has evolved beyond inequality and oppression”. The show presents a vision of Earth that has moved beyond racism and classism, beyond ableism and sexism and homophobia. As a life-long Trekkie, it is tempting to agree with this reputation. Me and Star Trek, hand in hand, running through fields of wildflowers on a soft-focus sunny day while I gaze upon them longingly. Oh Star Trek! So progressive! So feminist!
Well, gang, there’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that feminist comedians and feminist critiques of comedy have been all over the news lately! Woo! Yay!
The bad news is that this is, in large part, because there are a bunch of people who think that they have a constitutionally enshrined right to tell rape jokes and then never have to hear any criticism about them. Boo! Blerg!
There have been a lot of great recent critiques of this sadly evergreeen controversy (you can find some here, here, here and here) and also some awesome round-ups of rape jokes that don’t undermine or disempower assault survivors (some examples can be found here, here, and here).
But while challenging rape jokes specifically is an important way to show that comedy belongs to everyone, we can also draw attention to comedians who tell jokes that embrace women’s lives and experiences--rather than reducing them to blank canvasses for punchlines--showcasing the fact that comedy embraces women far more often than it acts shitty and hostile to us.
Star Trek: Into Darkness came out this weekend, and like any good Trekkie, I was eager to see the film. And although I came away from doing so feeling satisfied, there was one thing that stuck in my craw.