[The whole TWD blogging series is here.]

So, when we last discussed TWD, several things had happened:

Woodbury had collapsed, Andrea had died, and the Governor had abandoned his survivors. This was all part of the Battle of the Patriarchs.

Anyhoo, the Governor got rid of the handful of other dudes who had escaped with him and was supposed to have some sort of reflective travel thingie until he found a family with two sisters and their elderly father, and the daughter of one of the women. Amazingly, this small group had managed pretty well on their own up to that point, but, as soon as the Governor shows up, the little ladies become powerless, for instance, in getting the elderly man to bed or get him his oxygen tanks. They needed manly rescuing.

After convincing the women that their place, which had been safe so far, no longer is, they all go on the road, under the safe leadership of the Governor (because, really, that’s what women want). They find another group. The Governor kills the current leaders (so much for the whole crisis of conscience thing), takes over (because he’s The Man), and decides to go attack the prison where Grimes and his group are still holed up.

Meanwhile, Grimes is still a horrible leader. When Carol tries to teach the children how to defend themselves (a perfectly reasonable thing to do), Carl sees her, and she tells him not to tattle on her to her dad… because Grimes is a horrible leader but somehow, that never gets questioned. Follows a weird flu epidemic that conveniently kills the rescued members of Woodbury.

The worst of the last season was definitely when Grimes decides, all by himself, to exile Carol because he thinks she killed some of the flu sufferers, including Tyrese’s girlfriend (hence another episode of macho nonsense, with some “let him hit me” stuff, and Tyrese making the other men promise to find who killed her). So, while on a supply round, again, Carol shows she understands what situation they’re in pretty realistically (after the death of a young couple they encountered), and it’s not pretty. This solidifies Grimes’s belief that he has the right to just kick her out of the group. When he gets back to the prison, no one questions him, which is really completely barf-worthy considering the season opener last Sunday.

twd2Then, the prison gets attacked and is set on fire. The one highlight of the season is Hershel’s killing. Big fist fight between the patriarchs, where Grimes gets all bloody, in addition to his being sweaty and gross all the time. In the chaos, the group disperses, and for the rest of the season, we’ll follow the separate groups: Carl, Michonne, and a totally beat up Grimes (whose leadership is inexplicably restored the minute he starts to fee better), then Daryl and Beth (who gets kidnapped by a group of gross dudes), then Maggie, Bob, and Sasha (and with this group, we learned that black lives are less important than white lives, when Bob decides to go with Maggie and abandon Sasha). Tyrese ends up with the girls from the prison, Grimes’s baby, and they end up with Carol, who is left with the task of killing one of the girls who have become, well, insane, and can no longer be trusted to harm them.

Along the way, they pick up a few extra people: a big dude who protects a mullet dude who supposedly has the cure for the plague and needs to get to DC, and a couple of women from the previous group that attacked the prison.

twd1Separately, they are all following signs to Terminus, a supposed sanctuary, which turns out, surprise surprise, to not be that at all! The season begins after they have all been captured by the cannibalistic Terminus people, who used to be good guys, but then, bad guys came and took over Terminus. They took it back and turned bad guys themselves.

The big moral lesson of the opener is that, basically, there are no more boundaries between good guys and bad guys. Everybody is equally awful.

The whole episode is Grimes’s group’s escape from Terminus (in large part, thanks to Carol), killing a whole bunch of Terminus people. Grimes is still as awful a leader as he was before: after their escape, he wants to return to finish them all off. At least, the others dare tell him it’s a bad idea.

But, of course, because it’s TWD, there has to be some patriarchal BS: remember, they escaped thanks to Carol’s intervention (Carol is turning in to the most badass character of the show, without the credit from the other characters). When she is reunited with the group, she cautiously approaches while keeping her distance. We get a big moving reunion with Daryl. And Grimes, asshole that he is, says “did you do that?” (meaning, set Terminus on fire, which allowed their escape), and hugs and thanks her when it becomes clear that she did. Somehow, he has given her her seal of acceptance in the group (patriarchal acceptance is needed), and the others come and greet her as well.

I am waiting to see if the rest of the show will address her shabby treatment in the previous season and if Grimes feels at any point he has to make amends for kicking her out of the group.

But why anyone would still defer to Grimes is beyond me.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to my previous posts on The Walking Dead (in chronological order, from oldest to most recent):

It’s been a while since I have blogged about The Walking Dead (well, since last season). So, half of season 4 has come and gone and it’s time to review what, I think, has been the most consistent thread of the show: its misogyny. Fear not, unlike most of the human population, in TWD, misogyny is alive and kicking and it was on special display this half-season.

Last season ended with one of the best and most mistreated female character, Andrea, dying after the collapse of Woodbury. The Governor decided to evacuate, then massacred most of his followers and took off with a bunch of his lieutenants. The survivors were rescued by Grimes group and brought to the prison. That is where the new season picks up. We don’t know what happened to the Governor but Michonne is looking for him. Ok. So, now the prison has a bunch more people and children. It is pretty obvious that they are all non-entities, therefore, most likely, they will meet a red shirt fate.

walking-dead_3But there is this thing: Carol plays teacher to the bunch of kids the group has inherited. But in addition to storytime, the kids (boys AND girls) get training in weapon use, because, you know, it’s a useful skill to have in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Enters the sociopath-in-chief, Carl, and Carol is quick to tell him “don’t tell your father”… Why? Grimes (whose death I would pray for at every episode if I were the religious kind) would, of course, not approve, and even though he’s no longer technically in charge, well, the patriarch’s opinion still matters more than a woman’s action (more on that later).

Of course, we all remember that Grimes did not want grown women to have guns, in the earlier seasons, but was ok for Carl to learn to use them (with the results we know).  It’s the men’s job to do the protection thing, as Lori used to remind Andrea in Season 2. And, of course, we all know that Carl will tattle. At the same time, it is pretty clear that Carol is in love with Daryl. Whether that’s fully reciprocated is not clear.

As you remember, when the show started, Carol was a battered wife, weak and submissive. At the show progresses, and after the death of her daughter, and especially this season, Carol has become a much stronger character. She seems to have figured out what times like these require and is no-nonsense about it. She’s becoming a leader, preparing the kids for their future when the current adults are gone, one way or the other.

Well, of course, we can’t have that.

Some flu-like bug infects the prison and secondary characters die like flies, including Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, who gets attacked by post-infection zombie after refusing to have sex with Tyreese (see what happens to women who don’t submit their male superiors?). Karen will later be murdered by some mysterious killer (along with another sick and close to death “patient” and their bodies burned. The fate of his property girlfriend will drive Tyreese to a fit of rage (even though the super-flu was guaranteed to kill Karen and turn her into a walker). Note: when Grimes discovers the crime scene, he sees a bloody handprint that is child-size (hint!!).

But, he confronts Carol and she confesses to the murders and provides a very rational explanation: they were going to die anyway, they were contagious and putting others in danger. But that’s a problem because the other men have promised Tyreese swift punishment for whoever committed the murders.

CarolBut, and this is one of the most vile moment of the show, even though it’s pretty clear Carol is taking the wrap for someone else, Grimes is an idiot, and, on their next supply run, he makes the unilateral decision to send Carol into exile, back into the zombie apocalypse, on her own (but she has a car and supplies!).

That is one of the most disgusting patriarchal plot of the show, and it is pretty clear that Carol is being exiled as potentially competitive leader, what with all her work with the children. And in TWD, women can’t be leaders. Even if Carol had killed the sick people, Grimes and the others have done way worse (including, for Grimes, killing Carol’s zombified daughter).

Throughout that supply run, Grimes keeps quizzing Carol. And when they run into a couple of other people, young man and woman who offer to help, Carol is the one who accepts and Grimes refuses, but she prevails. That means, of course, that decision will necessarily turn out to be a bad one, for which Grimes will blame her. And, as they wait for the young man to return, it is Carol who is rational about the fact that they need to leave, he’s probably dead and they need to get back to the prison. After all, if the young man and woman had listened to Grimes instead of Carol, they might have survived (how did they survive all along??). But Grimes uses that as his final reason to exile her.

Interestingly enough, somehow, he, alone, gets to make that decision, without the council that was created at the prison and that was supposed to handle all the decision-making. What follows is even worse: as people at the prison learn of Carol’s exile, none of them basically care, not even Daryl. No one question’s Grimes prerogative to have made such a unilateral decision. No one wants explanations beyond Grimes’s version of events. Patriarchal words carry all the power and no questions are asked.

So, that is the first patriarchal and misogynistic thread of this half-season. The second one has to do with the return of the Governor.

Lilly TaraWhen last season ended, the Governor and his acolytes just drove into the sunset. When we pick up, the Governor has been abandoned by them. He wanders all alone, long hair, beard, etc. Until he meets a small family of two sisters (Lily and Tara), their elderly, sick and dying father, and one of the sister’s daughter (Meghan, can this be even more heavy-handed).

We might as well name that storyline “the miracle of the patriarchy”. For instance, obviously, these two sisters have done pretty well for themselves so far, what with surviving this whole mess, keeping their father alive, and living in relative comfort. But somehow, as soon as the Governor (renamed Brian) shows up, the sisters become all powerless to do the things they obviously had to have been doing all along, like putting the disabled old man to bed, getting him a re-supply of oxygen, etc. All of a sudden, they need a man to do all the basic survival stuff (kinda reminiscent of the young man and woman in the previous thread). Not only that, but the little girl, Meghan, is described by her mother as not very talkative, but opens to the Governor. Is there anything that a patriarch can’t do?

Anyhoo, even though, they seem to have a stable situation, the sisters decide they need to leave and have the Governor guide them to wherever, after the old man’s death (you would think that would make their situation easier, but go figure). No surprise, Lilly and the Governor start having an affair. And, of course, the sisters turn out to suck at walking away from a decent place, one twists her ankle, so, of course, the Governor has to save the little girl. Really, women can’t do anything right.

As they meet the former acolytes of the Governor, and a group of survivors they have teamed up with (how original), the Governor returns to his murderous, pathological self and takes over the crew because that cannot be left to a bunch of Latinos. Long story short, the Governor wants the prison and riles up the crowd to get them to agree to go take it.

They go, mini-war starts where the Governor’s group uses a tank, thereby demolishing the very prison they want to occupy, which makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly enough, Tara, the soldier sister, turns out to be lesbian (and her lover is also ex-military… geez), but, despite her military experience and training, turns into a puddle of fear at the first exchange of shots. It’s so ridiculous.

But the main point of this whole plot is this: CLASH OF THE PATRIARCHS, that is, Grimes and the Governor having themselves a real man fight, with no weapons, just fists, dammit, because that is how real men fight each other. That is what this entire half-season has been about.

The only good thing about this half-season: Hershel is dead, thank goodness. No more pompous pontificating.

But as I mentioned, the misogyny of the show, unfortunately, is alive and well.

Being a total nerd, I am currently going over the United Nations 2013 Human Development Report. As always, the report goes over the types of policies that improve the Human Development Index of a country. But take a look at this excerpt from page 88, that compares different educational scenarios over time for South Korea and India (the red emphases are mine and click on the image for a larger view):

Differential educational prospects 2

Now, granted, there are other major differences between South Korea and India. However, it is not exactly news to assert that better educated women provide benefits to society as a whole and that therefore, educational equality by gender is a pre-condition to higher development and major social change. Religious fundamentalists like the Taliban understand the dynamic very well, which is why they get all hung up about educated girls and are willing to use extreme violence to prevent even the primary education of girls.

By SocProf.

And keep the girls out!

“Last Tuesday evening, Mark Cuban, the famously outspoken owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, told ESPN that he would consider drafting Brittney Griner, the 6ft 8in center for Baylor Bears, to his team. Cuban said:

“If she’s the best on the board, I will take her … You never know unless you give somebody a chance.”

He followed up with a statement the next day to USA Today, in which he wrote:

“We evaluate every draft eligible player on the planet … As I told the media yesterday, she would have to excel in workouts to get drafted. I have no problem giving her that opportunity. I hope she gives it a shot.”

Cuban’s remarks about Griner and her ability were conditional, based on her trying out for the team. He wasn’t offering her a seat on the bench, merely a chance to determine if her skill level deemed her worthy of a Mavericks jersey.”

And predictably, at the slightest hint of challenge to the patriarchal and phallocratic order – by having a few women cross the borders into exclusively male territory – a sh*tstorm exploded:

“And thus was born the #GrinerNBA hashtag – which turned quickly into a cesspool of misogynistic and transphobic (“she’s a he!”) comments about Griner (sadly, a common event whenever Griner is the center of the conversation). The misogynistic comments tended to point out that Griner is just a woman and the NBA is not the place for women: “no offense she a girl”“NBA’s a man’s sport”“I’m all for equal rights but Women need to know their place.” And Cuban would “take a chance with her in the kitchen”“I would not like to see #GrinerNBA happen because it is a men’s league.”

And the usual threats of physical violence, rape and murder.

Now this is interesting in light of the case of Caster Semenya. Caster Semenya is the South African track and field athlete who had to undergo a series of degrading procedures to ascertain that she was really a woman, because she was too good to be a woman, so, athletic authorities had to check. She was then ordered to undergo hormonal treatment to lower her performance level closer to a “normal” woman level. Commentators indicated that it would be unfair to have her compete with women if she had an advantage (hormonal levels, for instance).

But, as Dave Zirin writes in his book Game Over, women cannot win when it comes to sports and the Griner case is no different:

“These misogynistic jokes discredit Griner’s ability to play ball with men by tapping into old sexist ideas that women are always less than men and that their specific space in this world is wherever men are not. The very act of getting on Twitter and saying misogynistic things about such a popular female sports star is an act of desperation. It means to set right the balance that was upset when Cuban floated the idea of allowing Griner to try out for the NBA.

With an irony not apparent to these commentators, the belief that Griner is “not manly enough” to play in the NBA is flatly opposed by the other offensive method people used to insult her: that she is a man. This is aclassic transphobic trope, or a fear that her gender presentation does not “match” the sex she was assigned at birth. For example: “she possesses man parts, so why not?”“Griner has a penis and would fit right in”“She looks and sounds like a man.” For much more, if you need it, in this vein, just check out the hashtag.

These transphobic jokes, like the misogynistic ones, devalue Griner because we live in a society that denigrates trans people in general and chafes whenever confronted by someone who does not fit into a neat box of “feminine woman” or “masculine man”. Because athletes are seen as “masculine”, female athletes, by being athletic, are no longer feminine.”

So, a woman athlete is either not woman enough (to play with men) or not a woman at all (in which case, she’s a freak and can’t play with men either).

What this framing does is (1) shift the discussion completely away from the actual skills of the athlete in question, (2) reinforces the gender boundaries: men and women in sports have to fit in neat, separate boxes, no overlap possible, no path back and forth allowed; gender is exclusively binary; (3) overall reinforces patriarchal and phallocratic norms where women cannot win (remember Durkheim’s functions of deviance?): fit in culturally and patriarchally accepted and enforced gender norms and one is seen as inferior to men; don’t fit in gender norms and enjoy the torrent of misogyny and transphobia coming your way. The safest alternative then is to step back in line and let gender status take precedence over athletic status.

By SocProf.

Over at Sociology in Focus, Dave Mayeda has a new post on the intersections between masculinity, rape culture and sports and explores masculine bonding as constructed against a feminine “other” seen as the out-group. This was especially visible in the Steubenville case:

“But it’s more than the ways that male athletes are treated as public heroes who can do as they please in societies where sport is deeply embedded in society’s power structure. Sporting culture also seeps into male groups, where individuals within them simultaneously aim to out-do and bond with each other through others’ exploitation. This masculine bonding can be committed against females or males, but in the process, the victim is typically feminized, irrespective of his or her sex.

In the Steubenville case, this gendered bonding and exploitation is clearly visible, as the adolescent males enhanced their friendship through the physical and subsequent verbal/online abuse of the female victim. Karen Franklin, in her important article, “Enacting masculinity: antigay violence and group rape as participatory theater,” notes further that males who participate in such activities are actually compensating for masculine insecurities by performing and showing off in front each other, at the expense of the feminized victim.

And now, there is the case of Mike Rice, at Rutgers University:

The whole ESPN story is here.

I think this video perfectly illustrates the point Dave was making. The coach asserts his power and superior status through physical posturing, pushing, showing, throwing the ball, and accompanying all this physical display with a torrent of homophobic slurs directed at the players. This utterly patriarchal behavior (the power of the fatherly figure) not only reinforces the dominance and power of the coach but also acts as social control mechanism against the players. It is a form of gender socialization directed at male player behavior: what traits they are expected to display and what happens when they do not.

As was demonstrated very convincingly some time ago by Jackson Katz in Tough Guise, such name-calling (and here, the physical bullying) operates to keep young men in a very small box of acceptable masculinity, posited as completely opposed to anything feminine or gay.

As Mayeda states,

“The prevention of such violence is not about telling women and girls how to dress or behave. It’s about socializing boys and young men to develop a socially healthier form of masculinity. At 18:20 of the Aljazeera video, social workers discuss how teenage males learn about their maleness, sex, and intimate relationships through highly violent means (e.g., pornography and violent peers). The need then, is for men with healthier social outlooks to take leadership in teaching the younger generations of boys what it means to be male.”

Well, add violent and homophobic coaches to the list.

So, the Taliban tried and failed to kill Malala Yousafzai and now she’s famous, is getting a book contract and everything. That has to be frustrating for your average medieval patriarch. So, how does one compensate?

“A teacher in Pakistan has been murdered in an attack similar to that on Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl blogger.

Shahnaz Nazli was shot dead in Shahkas, near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber tribal district, between the north-western city of Peshawar and the Afghan border.

Reports said the 41-year-old was hit in what as described as a drive-by shooting.

According to the AFP news agency, the teacher was on her way to the government girls’ primary school in Shahkas when gunmen fired at her about 200 metres from the school and then fled the scene.

“The teacher was killed after unknown gunmen on a motorbike shot her and fled,” said a local government official, Asmatullah Wazir.

No groups have so far claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack, though the Taliban has previously been behind numerous attacks on girls’ schools and teachers. Hundreds of schools have been bombed and destroyed in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Of course, the Taliban do not have the monopoly of gender violence. The rape culture in South Africa has had devastating consequences, especially in light of the Pistorius case:

“”The massive problem we need to understand in South Africa is the level of men’s violence against women and against each other,” said Lisa Vetten, a researcher who specialises in domestic abuse. Police statistics on domestic violence are limited. But 15,609 murders and 64,500 reported rapes in 2011-12 suggest massive levels of violence in South African homes.

Household surveys by the MRC have found that 40% of men have hit their partner and one in four men have raped a woman. Three-quarters of men who admit to having raped women say they did so first as teenagers. The MRC found that, while a quarter of women had been raped, just 2% of those raped by a partner reported the incident to police.

Experts say South African society features all the known causes of rape and violence, including a historical culture of “might is right”, a wealth gap that makes men feel weak, an unequal relationship between women and men, lack of adequate childcare, which results in the neglect of boys, and high male unemployment.

Jewkes, a British doctor and director of gender and health at the MRC, said: “Having a father at home is really unusual here. South African children are more likely to be raised by a non-biological parent than by both biological parents. So you see high levels of neglect, humiliation and abuse, which develops into domestic violence. We also have a high rate of teenage pregnancies and those young mothers are not equipped to raise their children.

“South African men think women should be under their control. There is an idea that violence is justifiable as a means to keep women in their place. This has not changed in 20 years and even though the South African murder rate has dropped by 50% since 1999, rape figures have not,” said Jewkes.”

But there are some positive developments out of Ecuador:

“Ecuador hopes to move forward in the fight against violence against women by typifying femicide – gender-motivated killings – as a specific crime in the new penal code.

The first statistics on gender violence in this South American country were presented in 2012, indicating that 60 percent of women had suffered some kind of mistreatment.

The aim now is to include the crime of femicide in the penal code reform introduced in Congress in late 2011. The new code is expected to be approved by the legislature to be sworn in on May 24.

The bill describes femicide as the murder of a woman “because she is a woman, in clearly established circumstances.”

It goes on to describe these circumstances: the perpetrator unsuccessfully attempted to establish or re-establish an intimate relationship with the victim; they had family or conjugal relations, lived together, were boyfriend/girlfriend, friends or workmates; the murder was the result of the “reiterated manifestation of violence against the victim” or of group rites, with or without a weapon.

Femicide is to be punishable by up to 28 years in prison – similar to the sentence handed to hired killers.”

Although:

“Ecuador thus follows on the heels of other Latin American countries that have adopted femicide in their legislation: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.

However, in several of those countries – most notoriously Mexico and Guatemala – the classification of femicide as a crime has failed to reduce the wave of violence against women.”

It might be because femicide is tied to other social and cultural issues that governments have a hard time controlling (such as a deeply macho culture and drug trafficking). Still, at least  it might raise awareness.