The Nomenclature of Gay and Female Bodies

17 11 2013

Most of us are familiar with the highly developed and sophisticated set of terms used to describe the female body. (Understanding that gender is a complex creature, here by female body I mean the traditional concept of the biological female body.) Many, if not most, of these terms compare women to animals. In my experience some women don’t care, some women find them empowering, and many find them demeaning. This is totally understandable. I guess it just depends on the individual.

I am quite certain most of these terms are available on Urban Dictionary in case you are unsure of their meaning, but here I have provided a few of the most famous ones. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them seem to treat women in terms of their sexual relation to men. A simple Google search for each term reveals its image in the popular imagination. Oh, I suppose this is the time to tell you that the below images are not safe for work. Also, *trigger warning* for potentially degrading images.

First, we have the bitch:

Female Nomenclature - Bitch

OK, so this term does not refer strictly to the body, but it still compares women to animals, which is a running theme here. The bitch is supposed to be an unpleasantly feisty woman. Funny. I would never call Helena Bonham Carter a bitch—I would just call her magnificently talented—but I guess you could make the argument that a bitch is a good thing.

Then there is the fox:

Samantha Fox - Leather

While the bitch is a ball-breaking ‘cock-blocker’ (not exactly the same thing as a cuckold), the fox is a pornographic delight for heterosexual men everywhere. Samantha Fox, who happens to have a female partner (to the chagrin of men who grew up in the ’80s), calls her fans ‘foxies’, so sometimes it might be a positive term.

The fox closely resembles the vixen (which happens to be a female fox):

Female Nomenclature - Vixen

Here I have used a picture of the character Vixen from the Disney film The Fox and the Hound because a Google search of vixen yielded nothing but images of ’80s hair bands and pornography models. The vixen, I think, is supposed to be more sweetly seductive than the fox.

Even more seductive is the sex-kitten:

Female Nomenclature - Sex Kitten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, the term does refer to her sexual relation to a man (or, I suppose, her sexual relation to a woman too.) The sex kitten puts the vixen to shame. She is ultra-cute and coy, and loves to toy with men’s desires. Personally, my idea of a sex kitten is Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman—a lady who will claw your balls off if you fuck with her:

Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman

In this case I must maintain that the sex kitten resembles something more akin to a powerful, self-asserting agent—like the Egyptian goddess Bastet—than a pleasantly-purring princess. Of course, this was from a film in which men themselves were compared with bats and penguins. Oh, there was also the Poodle Woman, but she was more creepy than sexy, which I kind of like.

And what of the majestic cougar?

Female Nomenclature - Cougar III

She is the sexually mature, over-forty mother of cats. There are many a pimpled teenage boy who fantasize about her. But why can’t older women be sexual and vibrant without kow-towing to silly puerile sex fantasies? Jessica Lange, Miranda Richardson, and Ellen Burstyn have already proved it is possible.

But the complimentary anthropomorphic archetypes end there, it seems, for we also have the dog:

Female Nomenclature - Dog

Does this look like a woman to you? It doesn’t to me. I am pretty confident in saying this is categorically cruel and demeaning.

Another case in which the woman is compared negatively with an animal is the cow:

Female Nomenclature - Cow

I guess this is supposed to refer to an overweight woman? So, what? It’s cruel and unnecessary. I take great delight in the thought of a cow daintily trampling the smug teenage boys (and sometimes older men) who mock women’s weight.

The nail in the coffin is the whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

The whale is actually a graceful and intelligent creature, but somehow this fact has escaped the minds of those who compare women’s bodyweight to that of a whale. Hopefully they get crushed by a calving cow while surfing the waves of southern California and, while pinned under her weight, have to watch her calf suckle from her teat, as the cow and her calf wash away. That would be sweet justice.

This trend in ascribing animal traits to women applies to lesbians too, particularly in the form of the bull-dyke:

Female Nomenclature - Bulldyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just one image of the bull-dyke, and it suggests there is power in the term. There are other images which are decidedly less sympathetic. The bull-dyke is a large, strong, assertive gay woman. I guess this is another case of ‘pick or choose’ whether you like the term or not. By the way, is that Betty Friedan? At any rate, I think she rocks.

Another lesbian category is the lipstick lesbian:

Female Nomenclature - Lipstick Lesbian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In accord with the third-wave feminist movement, she needn’t be masculine in order to be a woman. I don’t see a problem with that. Women should be able to be whatever they want to be, whether masculine, feminine, or gender-queer. Again, I guess it’s your business whether or not you like the term ‘lipstick lesbian’.

Let us not forget the leatherdyke:

Female Nomenclature - Leatherdyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She wears leather and rides around on a motorcycle. She takes the dominant, butch role in sexual relations with other women, her preferred instrument of pleasure being either a fist or the strap-on dildo. Her leather gear symbolizes her tough exterior, which is supposed to be attractive to lipstick lesbians.

There is a very interesting intersection between women and gay men in terms of nomenclature: both groups have been categorised by body type, especially in terms of animals or sexual nature. The dynamic might be different with gay men in that there isn’t a heterosexual male presence influencing the categorisation, but there is an internal, sometimes self-defeating, pressure to do so. And sometimes women do view men in objectifying ways, although I think it’s safe to say this is less common  only because women know by experience what it feels like to have this done to them.

Some straight women will feel guilty about making some of these categorisations—and yet I almost want them to, because it would suggest that they acknowledge that they have sexual desires too. This doesn’t feel harmful to me, since I know men have traditionally been perceived as the sexual agents, and women, as the sexual patients. So read on, straight women and gay men.

Perhaps the most popular man is the twink:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Twink

He is called a twink because he is smooth and filled with cream, like a Twinkie. (Gay men are vile and disgusting in their metaphor.) He is the property of Hostess, which is now owned by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. Forget animals. He is a processed piece of junk-food from the local convenience store. How’s that for dehumanization?

But then there is the bear:

Gay Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bears adopt a rough and gruff exterior, but are often surprisingly sensitive and articulate. They do co-habitate, but the bear-net is loose. Some bears tend toward chubs or otters. (We will get to these latter two below.) Sadly, some of them believe in the ‘straight-acting’ script, which states that a real man isn’t gay, because gay men are somehow unmanly (whatever ‘manly’ is supposed to be). Bears who like leather are called ‘leather bears’.

A young, small bear is called a cub. A cub is just a baby bear; he is younger. What he has in common with his older peer, though, is that he tends to be hirsute. Hair is the crowning glory of the cub and the bear, whether it be a beard, or—ahem—anything else.

Akin to the cub and bear is the otter.

Gay Male Nomenclature - Otter

The otter is basically the same thing as the cub or bear—he is hairy—but unlike the cub or bear the otter is always slighter in build. Also he tends to have a markedly playful nature.

Similar to bears, cubs, and otters is the satyr:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Satyr

The satyr is half otter, half ‘average’. That is, while he has an average amount of hair on the upper half of his body, he has an enormous amount of the stuff on the lower half. Admittedly, it is not the most common of body terms used in the gay community, but it exists. The satyr of Greek mythology has an enormous sexual appetite, but I am unsure how far this applies in the modern-day gay male usage of the term.

And then there is the chub. The chub is just a large man, like the female whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

Some people like the term chubs, some people don’t. Some people are attracted to chubs and seem to use it in a complimentary way, yet I can’t help but think that the term is flippant, if not slightly degrading. Again, decide for yourself.

Then there is the dolphin:

Olympics Day 8 - Swimming

Like the twink, the dolphin is slim and hairless (and usually white), but unlike the twink he usually shaves it off so he can swim faster through the water. I guess he would be like a slim, sexy whale (depending on your preferences, of course). And like satyr, the term dolphin isn’t very common, but it exists. He is the prototypical gay bar go-go dancer.

One of the stranger creatures is the leatherdaddy:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Leather Daddy

The leatherdaddy is much like the leatherdyke—he performs an assertive, dominant sexual role—and he is usually older than his twinkish partner. I don’t get the weird ‘daddy’ thing—it kind of creeps me out—but I think it’s just supposed to signify adoration of an older, powerful man. Also like the leatherdyke, the leatherdaddy is totally into BD/SM. Oh, and Tom of Finland’s caricature of the male form is obviously exaggerated (as caricatures are)—most men do not have such ridiculously broad shoulders and narrow hips. I guess it’s just a fantasy.

Finally, there is the pig:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Pig

By pig, I don’t mean ‘male chauvinist pig’, I just mean a hungry, nasty sex animal. That is the way it is used in the gay male community. The pig doesn’t necessarily dislike romance—he may love it—but he is noted for his love of rough, loud sex. He is into all sorts of things that I cannot possibly enumerate here, nor should I for the sake of decency.

So there you have it. Those are the chief terms used to describe the bodies of women and gay men. Sometimes the term does not refer specifically to the body, but it does refer to the personality and the way in which the individual relates to another, often sexually. I won’t even attempt here to dissect how the media influences concepts of physical beauty—that is an entirely separate blog entry—but I do want to draw your attention to the way people categorise women and gay men according to body and personality type. Some people like it, some don’t, and some just don’t care. My only caveat is this—never be mean-spirited.





Women Who Like Gay Porn

8 04 2012

Surprise! No, not really. It’s quite common-sensical, actually–a lot of women like to watch pornography. You might think this strange, assuming either that pornography objectifies women, or that women are sexless emotional angels, but in fact you’d be wrong. It turns out a lot of the pornography women like to watch is gay. This actually makes sense for several reasons, and it seems to corroborate research on female lust, voyeurism, and promiscuity.

The first reason it makes sense for women to like watching gay pornography is pretty intuitive. Just as straight men are sexually attracted to women, straight women are sexually attracted to men. Hence, just as straight men like watching lesbian pornography, straight women like watching gay pornography. Now people will try to break up this neat little analysis by screaming, ‘But women are less visual than men! Research ‘n’ stuff says so!’ This is basically what Tracy Clark-Flory says in her sex column at Salon in which she responds to a woman experiencing a ridiculously unnecessary tug-o’-war between her ‘feminine’ prudery and her lust for man-on-man action: ‘It’s true that research has found men to be more visual’ concedes the columnist in a tone of tired surrender. Sigh. The all-powerful spell of biologically determined sex difference prevails once again: ‘Men are like this! Women are like that! It’s in the genes! No nuance required! John Gray! Venus! Mars! Easy as cake and commercial as shit! Tehehehe!’ But there are two problems with this: Clark-Flory didn’t even direct the reader to a name connected with the research she ‘cited’ (the curse of popular publishing), and pornography isn’t just about vision anyway; it’s about hearing and other senses, too. So, even if the research proved men to be more visual than women, women might still derive other sensory pleasure from pornography, or it might simply provoke their imagination. The point is that straight women are attracted to beautiful men by way of many senses, and beautiful men are a dime a dozen in gay pornography, hence it makes sense for women to enjoy it–despite the mountains of shame that may weigh on their conscience due to age-old prescriptions on women’s  desires.

The second reason it makes sense for women to like gay pornography is that it doesn’t involve sexual exploitation of females. We all know the formula: some ugly man slams a woman’s head into the cushion of a sofa inside some gross, overlighted Hollywood McMansion while she squeals like a stuck pig and rubs the nipples of her voluminous breasts with her French manicure.  The man’s looks don’t matter, because he is the agent, while she is the screaming lump of gorgeous, glistening flesh to be used. It’s obviously male-centred and male-dominated. It almost feels like rape. Gay male pornography doesn’t have this. It involves a man penetrating another man, so there is no man dominating and objectifying a woman. Some gay pornography does involve objectification, but there seems to be a mutual respect and understanding rather than a real-life power division. This isn’t necessarily so for straight pornography, which can conjure up troubling images and memories for many women. But straight sex shouldn’t be the way it is portrayed in pornography–there is no reason why a man and woman should not have mutually respectful, understanding, and loving sex. That’s what should be depicted in straight pornography. Until that day comes, though, women will like gay pornography. Heck, they might still like it afterward, simply because they like watching gorgeous men having sex.

The third reason it makes sense for women to like gay male pornography is that it lacks a storyline. This is curious and much less intuitive. In his blog Straightguise, openly gay clinical sexologist Joe Kort, PhD, cites an article by Elizabeth F. Stewart in In Family magazine called ‘Hot Man On Man Action (And the Lesbians Who Love Watching It)’. Kort agrees with Stewart that lesbians enjoy gay pornography for its raw nature and de-emphasis on background and storyline, but he adds that straight women may enjoy gay pornography for this reason, too. But women are supposed to like storylines, right? Wrong, according to Kort. Kort cites Stewart as saying in her article that ‘It is a myth that all women–lesbian or straight–want a storyline and emotional content in porn.’ He, too, mentions that women might enjoy gay male pornography because of the balance of power as well as the obviously real orgasm (often faked by women in straight pornography). Obviously it isn’t scientifically conclusive, but Kort’s suggestion that women like gay male pornography for its lack of a storyline, and for its mutual, egalitarian rawness, deserves a great deal of further exploration, because it totally defies the assumption that women are overwhelmingly sexless and emotional creatures. (But, then, a lot of the best gay male pornography is highly emotional and romantic, and many gay men will attest to this, citing some of the highest-quality specimens of film portraying men in love.)

But why do lesbians like gay male pornography? Because some of them do! This was surprising to me. It’s anecdotal, but I worked with a lesbian at a theatre in Vancouver, and when I asked her about this, she nodded, “Yes, it’s true.” We already know one reason, it seems: as Stewart noted, some lesbians like the rough, anonymous nature of gay male pornography. I can only speculate about the other reasons: so-called ‘lesbian’ pornography is fake, degrading rubbish made by straight men for straight men (it says a lot when lesbian pornography is so off-putting as to turn lesbians on to gay men poking each other’s anuses); lesbians may derive a cerebral pleasure watching men do each other instead of women; and you don’t have to be attracted to somebody’s sex to be attracted to what they’re doing and the way they’re doing it. This last point is important. You can be turned on by what other people do without being attracted to their biological sex per se. So, that is perfectly good reason for lesbians to like gay male pornography, especially when women are so poorly portrayed in the industry.

I should mention income disparities in pornography. Defenders of straight pornography will often argue that the industry isn’t unfair towards women, because the women, being the objects of desire, actually earn more money than men. But this doesn’t necessarily give women an economic advantage over men in the industry. For who is the producer and the director? Probably a man, and that man probably earns more than any of the female models. So even then men might have an economic advantage over women in the industry. Besides, the cost of pornography is not just economic–it is also social and psychological, given the image of women it peddles to the male masses. No wonder a lot of women choose gay over straight pornography.

One last point should be made: research doesn’t necessarily support the assumption that women are more monogamous or less libidinous than men. Self-surveys do not actually reveal how people feel, or what they actually do. The media tend innacurately to portray men as more promiscuous than women when in fact women reveal a similar level of sexual desire when interviewed privately and discreetly, as Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers explain in Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs (pp. 58-9). We get a more honest picture if we look at our closely-related simian cousins. While Darwin observed female chimpanzees’ sexual swellings, he failed to notice the “12-day period around a chimpanzee’s maximum tumescence, when she typically mates about one to four times an hour with thirteen or more partners”, according to Barnett and Rivers, quoting Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (p. 53). In fact, there might even be reason for women to be even more promiscuous than men, or at least for men to be more loyal to women than previously believed. As Barnett and Rivers note (pp. 61-3), human females don’t go into oestrus, so human males don’t know when the females are fertile. It could be two or three days out of the month, but he doesn’t know which days these are. Hence, to ensure he successfully spreads his genes, it makes sense for the male to have sex as often as possible with the same female, not with many other females, since he might be killed or injured by their mates. Barnett and Rivers explain this increasingly accepted paradigm even further in their book, which is very much worth reading. What we can say based on these observations is that women like sex, and sex with a lot of different men, a lot more than we might wish to believe given our predilection for safe and secure sex roles.

To summarise, a lot of women like gay pornography, because they’re sexually attracted to men (if they’re straight), gay pornography doesn’t exploit women, it lacks a storyline (which women don’t necessarily crave), and lesbians dislike the degrading, fake portrayal of women in straight pornography (while taking pleasure in the sex acts of people despite their gender). We ultimately get a picture of women’s true desires, which is extremely transgressive. Pornography has been bad for both men and women, but it could be good for both. The point is that women liking gay porn liberates both sexes. It lets men enjoy the role of the sexual giver for once, and women, the role of the sexual agent, for, in the end, a black-and-white power-division isn’t healthy–a balance is.





Mapping American Social Attitudes

28 03 2012

I’ve found maps fascinating ever since I was a wee lad. I remember getting a globe for my birthday in 1986 and an atlas for Christmas in 1991, and getting new maps and globes over the years to watch the changes in national boundaries. I was shitty at math but adored maps. Maps say so much in pictures  about people, politics, migratory patterns, industry, the environment, natural resources, social attitudes, and loads of other hot, steamy, bloggable stuff. Looking at different maps of the United States, we can see a stark divide in political and social attitudes about race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Here I want you to take a look at some maps of the U.S. to see where different attitudes are concentrated. It’s amazing to see the clear patterning of regional differences, which in turn shows us where we have our work cut out for us in terms of achieving social equity.

We can start this work by looking at the political attitudes, which frequently overlap with social ones. Consider the following maps of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The first map shows states with red, Republican majorities, and those with blue, Democratic majorities; the second one shows this same information, but with a focus on population density.

As we can see, Republican voters were clustered in the south, the Great Plains, and the interior west, while Democratic voters were clustered in the northeast, Great Lakes, and west coast. As it so happens, the red areas also generally reflect sparsely populated areas, and the blue areas, more densely populated areas, revealing a correlation between cities and Democratic values.

But does the Republican-Democrat divide reflect something more than just urban versus rural? If we look at the following Gallup maps from 2011 and 2010, respectively, we get a better idea how conservatives and liberals are distributed across the country.

Not only are the northeast and northwest regions predominantly Democratic and urban, but they are also decidedly more liberal than the south and the midland. (The midland tends to be a grey area, as we shall see.) The ideological divide along geographical lines begins to deepen. Urbanity, Democratic politics, and liberalism begin to characterize the northeast and west coast while rurality, Republican politics, and conservatism begin to characterize the hinterland.

The regional difference comes into even sharper focus when we look at education and religiosity in America. Below is a 2009 Gallup map showing the most religious and most secular states in the country as well as a 2000 Census Bureau map showing educational attainment.

As the first map suggests, the south is much more religious than average, while Cascadia and New England are much more secular than average. The second map shows the inverse for education: the more secular areas tend to have better-educated people, and the more religious areas tend to have less-educated people, especially when we compare Washington state and Massachusetts with Mississippi. What this seems to show is that religiosity and lower educational attainment pattern together in the south, while secularism and higher educational attainment pattern together in New England and Cascadia (anchored by the cultural and educational centers of Boston and Seattle, respectively).

This ideological divide becomes particularly important when we look at the history of black civil rights in the United States. Consider these maps on slavery and anti-miscegenation laws:

It’s probably no surprise that the south consisted almost entirely of slave states, and the north and west almost entirely of free states and territories. Nor is it surprising that the map of anti-miscegenation laws so closely follows this pattern, with the south resisting the repeal of racist marriage laws until 1967, over one hundred years after slavery was abolished. The south wasn’t always overwhelmingly Republican, though: the region was full of “Dixiecrats” when the liberal Democrat and conservative Republican binary was not as stark as it is today.

But this general pattern of a blue, liberal region wrapping around a red, conservative hinterland doesn’t end with race; it also shows up in opinions about women, women’s rights, and sex differences, as illustrated in the following maps of women’s suffrage laws and attitudes about abortion.

In the suffrage laws map, the divide between a conservative south and a liberal north and west is slightly blurred. Large parts of the northeast joined with the south in resistance to suffrage, but vast parts of the west and northwest remained progressive on this issue, in stark contrast with the south. The north-south binary reappears, however, in the 2006 abortion map, which shows a northeast and west coast far friendlier toward reproductive rights than the south.

The south’s apparent concern for unborn babies seems incompatible with its poor record on child welfare. We see another stark regional difference looking at maps of state-by-state child poverty rates and overall child welfare across the United States.

On the 2008 child welfare map, children are better off in the lighter-shaded areas, which include Washington state, Utah, the Upper Midwest, and New England, but they are worse off in the south–the same part of the country where women’s rights, black civil rights, and post-secondary educational attainment tend to lag behind, and where religiosity tends to flourish. A very similar pattern holds for child poverty rates, with a dark band of impoverished children in the south and a lighter strip of well-off children in the west, north, and northeast.

No discussion of American social attitudes would be complete without mention of gay rights, which seems to be the social justice zeitgeist of our time. It’s everywhere in the news, at least in the United States, where everything is controversial. Once again, the general pattern we have been seeing holds true when we look at the maps below showing the advance of gay rights in the United States.

The first map shows the northeast, Midwest, and west coast taking the lead in knocking down old laws banning sodomy between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. Most of the south (as well as Mormon country) had to be forced by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling to catch up with the rest of the country. And, in typical fashion, the northeast, Midwest (Iowa), and northwest (Washington state) shine bright blue as the beacons in the gay marriage movement, while the south and Great Plains are steeped in a mostly dark blood red. We must take care not to lump the entire south into the category of “retrogressive”, however: one former slave state–Maryland–is now a gay marriage state. Now, that’s a remarkable transformation. How many states can say that they used to have slaves, but they will soon have legally married gay couples if all goes according to plan?

Certainly, looking at a few maps gives only a rough depiction of social attitudes in America, and much more investigation is required to yield a truly refined and nuanced portrait of the issue, but we can still get a general idea where American attitudes lie with respect to the rights of women, minorities, children, poor people, etc., by looking at maps. Cascadia and New England generally represent more liberal, educated, healthy people while the south generally represents the opposite. We can use this kind of knowledge to focus our efforts on helping those who have been targeted for oppression. It isn’t about judging ignorant rubes–it’s about demonstrating compassion for the underprivileged. With further research, and with the facts in mind, we can reach out to disenfranchised minorities, abused children, poor people who don’t have money for rent, young pregnant women with no access to reproductive health-care, bullied gay youth with nowhere to go, and the lonely, ostracised atheist or Muslim, with the goal of creating equity for all. This is the purpose of looking at social attitudes in America.





The Divine Feminine: an Iron Age Stepford Wife?

22 03 2012

Maybe you are one of them–women, and even some men, who have secreted away from the church pew to summon the goddess in the sacred grove. The trend is growing, it seems. More people are searching for spiritual fulfillment by exploring the “feminine” side of spirituality which is central to so many pagan and New Age traditions, including Wicca, and generally absent from the supposedly more patriarchal male-god religions. But is this “divine feminine“, which forms one half of a duotheistic theology, really such a fair-minded and forward-thinking alternative to male-dominated mainstream religion? As we will see, it might actually reinforce the very patriarchy it seeks to dismantle, and the implications are ominous for women and men alike.

To show how the “divine feminine” movement backfires in its attempt to overturn patriarchy, we must first establish what the concept means. Generally speaking, the “divine feminine” embodies a triad of female archetypes: the Maid, the Mother, and the Crone. Each archetype correlates with a different stage in a woman’s life. The Maid represents the pure and innocent virgin, the mother, the nurturing life-giver and care-taker, and the crone, the wise old teacher–or, potentially, the wicked witch. She is every important aspect of womanhood, or so it would seem, and people pursue the pagan priesthood specifically to pay her homage. She functions as the polar opposite to the male god in a binary which consists of an aggressive, rational, dominant “male energy” and a passive, emotional, submissive “female energy”.We worship her because she complements a strong, disciplinarian masculinity with a weak, nurturing femininity that males supposedly lack.

But, in the stereotypical binary of the weak goddess and strong god, we already see the failure of the divine feminine to dismantle patriarchy. An example of this binary in Chinese philosophy would be the yin and yang, in which a negative, dark, feminine principle complements a positive, bright, masculine one. The divine feminine movement attempts to reclaim female authority from obscurity by extolling the meek, nurturing, yielding nature of the goddess and ignoring her strong, confident, assertive nature—but this is oxymoronic, because it suggests that women’s power lies in their powerlessness. How can women gain power and influence equal to that of men if they are essentially less powerful and influential than men? It just doesn’t make sense. So, with its schizophrenically passive-aggressive, powerful yet powerless goddess, the divine feminine simply gives patriarchy room to flourish.

Now, critics of this view will argue that the binary isn’t really that black and white. “Each man has a feminine side, and each woman, a masculine side”, they will assure you, glowing with pride in their observation. They will point out, for example, that in the yin and yang model, each side has a little bit of the other within it. This is true, but it is also true that the yin is still overwhelmingly dominant and “masculine”, and the yang, overwhelmingly passive and “feminine”, so it doesn’t achieve much to say “there’s a little bit of the other in each”. Besides, it’s a circular argument. Arguing that there is no pure masculinity or femininity, and that each man is a little feminine, and each woman, a little masculine, is a homunculus fallacy, because it still relies on the use of the discrete terms “masculine” and “feminine” to explain gender. Once again, we see how the divine feminine fails to completely liberate male and female from oppressive sex roles.

In addition to the yin and yang model, the fact that the goddess exists almost entirely in relation to males and childbearing presents a problem for the “divine feminine”. The most important role of the goddess is that of the fecund, life-giving, heterosexual mother. She is constantly associated with the earth, fertility, menstruation, pregnancy, and child-bearing. After all, only women can give birth, right? Yes, male fertility is also celebrated in the form of gods like Priapus and phallic cults, but this fertility forms only one aspect of the male god, who is also warrior, judge, poet, and leader, among many other things. The goddess, though, is overwhelmingly associated with nurturing, life-giving fertility, and her sexual relation with the god, as in the sovereignty goddess, an earth divinity whose purpose is to bequeath the land’s power to a man through sexual relations. She is the pure Maid who is sexually desirable to males, as in the Teutonic fertility goddess Ēostre (related to “Easter” and “oestrus”), the Mother who bears her husband’s children, as in Gaia, and the Crone who is useful for nothing more than giving advice and recalling how many miles she had to walk in the snow, and who sometimes represents death, sinister magic, and even cannibalism, as in the child-eating Slavic witch Baba Yaga or the Greek serpent-daemon Lamia. When the woman explores life beyond the hearth and nursery, her unbridled energy necessarily becomes an evil, a transgression against her husband, children, and community. But this isn’t exactly fair. What about girls, sterile women, post-menopausal women, hysterectomized women, lesbians, and women who simply choose not to have children, or even to marry? Most of us would still call these people female, and the vast majority of them are not evil child-eaters, so obviously the “divine feminine”, with its inordinate emphasis on female fertility, fails to represent the many different aspects of female virtue beyond that of childbirth and nursing. It is hard, then, to see a feminist ideal in this Triple Goddess.

The divine feminine is a well-meaning attempt to correct the historical repression of females in mainstream Western religion and spirituality, and in some ways it may have made inroads, but it still falls short of the goal: it presents an oxymoron in the powerlessly powerful goddess, it creates a contradiction by using the terms “masculine” and “feminine” to assure us that there is no pure masculine or feminine, and it describes a goddess whose identity exists almost wholly in relation to men and reproduction. This divinely powerful goddess begins to look like nothing more than an Iron Age Stepford wife. Of course there is nothing wrong with women being compassionate and nurturing, but there is something wrong with women being more compassionate and nurturing than men, especially if all of us are supposed to meet the same, ultimate standard of enlightenment. To reclaim female authority in religion and spirituality, then, we should be exploring the many other aspects of the divine feminine: the warrior, the judge, the poet, the leader, and the good witch. In fact, we should be expanding this to the scientist, the doctor, the politician, and the professor. After all, we no longer live in the Iron Age, and these roles meet the practical demands of the modern day. Simultaneously, we should be exploring the more yielding and nurturing side of the god. By performing this kind of self-scrutiny, we learn from each other and become truly whole human beings.





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: The Homosexual!

22 02 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies were spreading their legs and lighting up London’s nighttime skyline with a blast of super-powered lady plasma, in preparation to confront the dreaded Plastic Demon.

The suite was decorated in whimsical turn-of-the-century art nouveau decor, with a view of the Eiffel Tower through great French doors which opened up on to the balcony. Oswald’s young, handsome male assistant, Frederick, was tidying papers at a desk in front of the main window.

“I’m bored of Paris”, groaned Oswald, clutching a voluminous goblet of wine and gazing outside the window. “Why do I even bother? It farms fashion trends like a soccer mom chugs corporate coffee. All of those simpering mules strolling by—they think they’re the cat’s meow, but, honestly, their City of Lights has grown dim in my eyes, and its fashion, stale.” Frederick turned his head from his work and nodded vacantly in agreement. “They’re nothing more than a bunch of dime-store papier-mâché drag queens strutting their sad plastic corpses down a worn-out catwalk. And now we’re faced with another fashion horror—this new ‘plastique’ line. It’s all over the magazine covers–Vogue, Marie Claire, even Harper’s—a glittering pile of garish, costumey garbage-bags plucked out of The Wizard of Oz or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What’s wrong with a simple, classic dress? Stick with the basics, I say.” Here he paused briefly, swirling the wine inside his goblet meditatively. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the designer’s true identity is. All we know is her initial, ‘P’, but I want to know the true P, what makes her tick, what makes her build such clownish garments, what makes people fawn like puppies at such horrid sartorial monstrosities.” Frederick nodded.

“I need new surroundings, fresh inspiration!” cried the stuffy queen, throwing the emptied wine goblet at the fire-place. “Pick that up”, he said to Frederick, who hurriedly scooped up the shards of glass on the edge of the fireplace, burning himself slightly but keeping his pain to himself. “I crave the shapes, colours, and sounds of avant garde Berlin, wild, exotic Africa, remote, mystical Asia! What I need is a new muse.”

“Racist”, mumbled Frederick under his breath, swabbing his wound and shuffling papers at the desk.

“What was that?!” cried Oswald. “You’re my assistant, wretch, not my sociology professor!” He slapped Frederick with the back of his hand, which was adorned with a large, chunky ring. “I’m paying you to help me write about fashion—and pleasure me—not lecture me on stereotypes!”

“Yes, Mr Oswald”, said Frederick obsequiously, pawing at his abused cheek.

Suddenly there was an explosion of sparkle and glitter as the double doors burst open to reveal Julie Gentron and the Lady League, shrouded in a ball of lady-light. Lupa the Land-Whale clumsily smashed in through the window and tumbled over the desk, lolling about on the ground. Frederick tumbled out of his chair, overcome with shock and amazement. Expensive antique cocktail displays with colourful negro caricatures from the nineteen-twenties, among other accoutrements, were thrown to the floor in the commotion. Oswald dived behind a divan and covered his head.

“Sweet tits of Mary!” screamed the queen.

“Lady League, pose!” cried Julie, stationing herself in the middle of the hotel suite. The ladies gathered themselves and spread their legs in a buffalo stance at Julie’s side. Lupa joined the posse, spreading his stocky legs and placing his fore-fins on his thick hips. His head brushed up against the chandelier, sending a few tear-drop crystals to the floor.

“What in the name of God’s jugs are you—you praying mantises??” cried Oswald, peeking out from behind the divan at the ghastly menagerie before him. “And what is that horrible, gigantic turnip-thing?!” he cried, pointing at Lupa. Lupa lowered his head with shame and frowned. There was a pause, which gave Oswald enough time to analyse their wardrobes. “What’s that??” he hissed, pointing at Donna’s outfit.

“It’s from last season’s Halloween rack at the Bay”, said Donna, looking down at her outfit self-consciously. “It’s kind of retro trashy kitsch, isn’t it?”

“I know what it is, you minx!” grumbled the insufferable bitch. “It’s a throwback to some tacky twentieth century superheroine T.V. series. How gauche. And besides, it’s badly tailored. Look at the seams. And the theme is poorly incorporated into the piece as a whole.” He looked at Frederick for approval. Frederick nodded hesitantly, but turned and glowered.

“Why are you so ruthless??” cried Donna, observing poor Frederick’s reaction. “I thought that the fashion world was full of rainbows, baby-dust, unicorns, and—”

“—and the genius of Simpson Oswald!” cried the queen. He assumed an evangelical tone. “If I were a unicorn,  my aim would be to search out the kind of trash you’re wearing and impale it on my horn of truth! The world of fashion has no room for the lies which you parade.” He stopped and took a few moments to breathe and regain his bearings.

“Sweetie”, said Donna, drawing on a mysterious reservoir of courage, “your world of understated, black-and-grey business wear isn’t fit for a Louisiana trailer park. I Googled you, you prissy little bitch. I’ve seen the garments you made in the fashion department at Oklahoma City Community College. They say one thing: stale, dull, and conservative!” Oswald gasped and cringed in horror.

“That’s three things”, Rosalind said.

“Oh. Yeah. Three things”, Donna said, correcting herself.

“Why, you impudent child!” cried Oswald

“You heartless queen!” returned Donna.

“Girl, I’ll claw you to pieces!”

“Bitch, I’ll crush your queeny ass with one flick of my Lee Press-On Nail!”

Donna and Oswald began to tango, but Donna’s psychokinetic powers got the best of him, trapping him in the pose of a retarded gay Egyptian hieroglyph. He grunted as he fought helplessly against her stranglehold over him. She grinned smugly. Lupa began stamping the ground, flapping his fins up and down and cooing in protest. Another window-pane broke.

“Donna! Mr Oswald!” cried Julie, pressing her breasts outward and assuming an imposing stance. It was enough to cause Lupa to cower, knowing that Julie was the alpha. Donna desisted, and Oswald fell back, regaining his senses. He turned his eyes to Julie.

“Your outfit, on the other hand, is impeccable”, he said, gazing at Julie’s body like a sexually disinterested homosexual infatuated with clothing, “a flawless, streamlined melding of apparel and physique.”

“That’s because you designed it”, said Julie, impatient but flattered.

“I designed this masterpiece??” screamed the queen in disbelief.

“How quickly they forget when they sell their genius for a profit”, said Rosalind contemptuously. “Doesn’t it suit her? She’s a cyborg, after all.”

“Wh–wh–wh–what? One of those icky cyborg things? In my Paris hotel suite? Why on earth?”

“We’re here to save your puny little twig-armed white man’s arse—that’s why!” boomed Rosalind, channelling Grace Jones. Her strong, muscular body glimmered momentarily with a metallic sheen. Julie and Donna nodded in agreement.

“Save me from what?” Oswald was agog.

“Mr Oswald, let me introduce myself”, said Julie with a confident sweep of her shoulders. “I am Julie Gentron, and together my friends and I form the Lady League, a special branch of the Secret Intelligence Service devoted to defending the earth against galactic criminals.”

“Indeed! Except for that one”, he said, glowering at Donna. “Do you always let small-town drag queens follow you around like overly primped puppy dogs?” At this, Donna threatened him with her fingernails; he resumed his station behind the divan, cringing at the psychokinetic mutant.

“Do you always prance around like some useless Project Runway contestant who dropped out of community college with nothing but a pink cotton tank top with a skull-and-crossbones Hello Kitty graphic for a portfolio?” returned Donna, leering at him triumphantly. Lupa remonstrated against Oswald and Donna’s exchange with a low, almost subsonic moan, and the song seemed to have an effect on them, as they began to relax. No-one but Lupa seemed to notice.

“Ladies, please!” cried Julie, standing between the two. Lupa’s big, limpid blue eyes smiled with relief. “This display of oestrogen will get us nowhere. Let’s get to the point of this meeting. Mr. Oswald, we believe that your life is in danger. I realise this must be hard for you to accept, but you must believe me when I tell you that a malevolent and powerful she-thing is working to turn members of the fashion élite into mindless plastic-surgery drones, and you may be her next target.”

“Ba! No one touches Simpson Oswald, least of all some Rubbermaid robot from the Tupperwear Galaxy!” laughed Oswald smugly, dismissing them with a flail of his limp wrist. “I haven’t heard such a farfetched conspiracy theory since Coast to Coast AM said that evil, shape-shifting harp seals were infiltrating the Canadian Parliament. My dears, if I don’t attend this fashion show, I’ll have nothing to say in my next column.” He stopped and scanned Julie. “Why, that’s it! You just hate me—you want to kill my career! The only foe I see is in your jealousy, you viper! If you insist upon hounding me, I shall call for security to remove you and the rest of your wicked brood from my premises.”

“Sir, that is absurd!” said Julie passionately. The other ladies, including Lupa, backed up respectfully. “We don’t wish to destroy your career—the plastic fiend does! If you refuse our help, your entire career will be co-opted by P, who wants to assimilate you! That is why we are here. To help you. To defend you against P. The combined powers of the Lady League are the only way to protect you from this sorceress. Now, if you’ll just—”

“—Very well. I see that your arrogant, heaving bosoms will not desist. Frederick!” he said, summoning his cowering assistant from behind the desk. “Telephone!” Frederick brought Oswald a telephone in the likeness of a statuette depicting a woman in the act of inserting a pear into her bottom. With apparent indifference to this image, Oswald opened up the telephone and turned the rotary dial. A French voice answered.

“Oui. This is Mssr Simpson Oswald, Suite 405. Put me through to security. Security? Oui, Oswald here. What? Speak English. Yes, I’m afraid a throng of squatting harridans have stolen into my suite and wish to kidnap me. I am rather perturbed, naturally. They are quite persistent and flail about like octupi, insulting me and disturbing my evening cold-cream regimen. Will you please send—Allo? Allo?! I demand that you furnish me with sufficient personnel to evict these—”

“—Your kind words beguile my heart, queen”, interjected a strangely soft, purring voice, as if from a synthesiser. The telephone chord silently stirred to life and wrapped itself round the fashion critic’s neck, cutting off the rest of his sentence. “With such sweet sentiment, you warm it to the core, to the hard, brilliant deposit of lust which drives the engine behind this vinyl visage of mine. For this reason I elect you as vice-queen of my holy plastic army. Enjoy wearing my new hot pink, patent leather catsuit with purple-feather epaulets, Sergeant Sodomite. Today is the last day you wear an American-style suit!”

“Wha–? Gak! Help! It’s choking me!”, gurgled Oswald, tearing at the cord round his neck. Frederick flailed in panic, trying desperately to unwrap the cord, but the Lady League acted without hesitation and took over.

“Girls, waste no time!” cried Julie. The skin under her silver body-suit began to squirm; her subcutaneous weapons were preparing for the assault. “It’s the plastic demon trying to take control of objects in her environment. She must be nearby.”

“I hate to side with old dumpy bottoms here”, cried Rosalind, leering at Donna, “but the world is at stake.”  She leaped at the possessed telephone, grasping the receiver in one hand and the cord in the other. “Quick, Donna! Help me get this thing off this tired old queen’s neck!” She had more trouble than usual unwrapping the telephone cord from around Oswald’s neck given her superhuman strength. Obviously some other force was at work.

“Hey! Truck-lady!” said Donna, placing her hands on her hips. “Go grease up something with holes and pistons. If you think I’m going to help save ‘Oklahoma Male Weekly’ over there, with her queen-bee attitude, you’ve got another thing coming. Ass pirate,” she sneered at Oswald. He returned the look.

“Donna! Rosalind!” cried Julie. “We have no time for petty jealousy. For once, stop with your taunting and concentrate your powers! Now! I must rely on you two while I focus on disarming the device.” She stood erect, closing her eyes and pressing her chest outward. Donna half-heartedly followed her captain’s lead by unfolding her arms and dropping her buttocks down on top of the phone’s carriage, burying it within her cheeks. The signal sputtered.

“I’ll admit,” said Rosalind, trying to tear the cord from the queen’s neck, “Donna’s got a point. He’s a cunt. Even if we do convince him that we’re protecting him, what good will it do us? Donna’ll probably end up killing him with her bare hands anyway.” She began to wrap her hands around Oswald’s neck, her fingers intertwined with the cord.

“Girls, I’m surprised at you!” said Julie. “Especially you, Rosalind! We aren’t here to pass judgement on this man! He’s being strangled by a telephone cord, for goodness’ sake!”

“He seems to find no qualms in passing judgement himself”, said Rosalind, increasing her stranglehold. The poor man’s eyes bulged.

“And he’s such a bitch!” said Donna, gliding her fingernails over the poor queen like hovering reconnaissance aircraft.

“God damn it!” screamed Julie, the circuits of her suit suddenly lighting up in response to her mental state. “That’s no excuse! He may be a cold-blooded, ruthless lizard, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to die!”

“Help me, please!” gurgled Oswald. “I’m sorry I was such a supercilious cunt. Maybe I’m wrong about the use of colour and texture—pastels and crushed velveteen are not fashion faux pas! A smokey eye with a dark-red lip is not overdoing it! I give up! Just save me!” Rosalind looked upward snootily, and Donna bore into Oswald’s eyes with a disapproving glower.

“Girls, stop!” said Julie. “We’ll discuss this another time! Donna, stop sitting on the receiver. Use your psychokinetic power to fight the demon!”

“Oh, right. Yeah. Duh!” said Donna, raising her buttocks from the receiver and placing her fingers to her temples. “Sorry for spacing out, Julie. I can do this. I can undo the fiend’s work.” She stood still and concentrated her powers on the cord wrapped around Oswald’s neck. Rosalind assisted by tearing at the cord, and Lupa sang a whale-song which nobody could hear. The cord snapped. Oswald fell back and scurried against the wall, gasping for air. Frederick ran forward to embrace Oswald, who turned him away with a tired groan. Confused, he ran over and embraced Donna, who returned the gesture with a soft pat on the head. Rosalind looked on at Donna approvingly for once, and Lupa stamped up and down, flapping his fins, tears welling up in his big, blue eyes.

“Good”, said Julie, nodding, “but we need more juice to defeat this thing! I’ll deploy a short-distance electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit the apparatus.” She stretched out her arms, her hands curled into fists, and shot forth a beam of gamma radiation that fried the telephone receiver. Meanwhile, Rosalind and Donna were ripping apart the remains of the telephone cord. Finally it dropped to the ground.

“Bahahahahaha!” cackled the sinister voice through the mangled, disconnected receiver. “Your powers may have succeeded in this small trial, Lazy League, but you have yet to defeat my many minions! Soon you shall witness the rise of the demon, and you shall bow at her feet! I’m not going to kill you. Oh, no. I have something far better in mind for you—the beauty of my sweet, immortal caress! Yes, that is right. You shall become like me—plastic!”

The lights flickered and dimmed, as if from a power surge, and all looked at each other in silence.

Stay tuned as the ladies hunt down the inscrutable plastic demon in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





Austra

18 01 2012

I think I may have discovered my new favourite band. That is hard for me to say, since Erasure have occupied the most prominent setting in my crown of musical gems since 1995. That may soon change. Their competitor is Austra, a synthpop/darkwave/indie electronica band from Toronto who just released their debut album, Feel It Break, last year. (Yes, I know, as usual I am late to the game.) However I am not yet ready to give the number one position to Austra, simply because Erasure have produced fourteen studio albums, and I have only heard one by Austra, but if they keep up the amazing work, they very well could earn that place. Besides, a tie between the two bands isn’t entirely out of the question.

OK, so you want to know what the hype is all about, don’t you? It’s about their coherent, well-developed style, their professional-sounding technical wizardry, their eerily fun dance sensibility, lead singer Katie Stelmanis’s chillingly pure, cold voice, their artistically spooky themes, their rich harmonies, their otherworldly melodies. All of these in combination produce a lush, full, satisfying sonic experience. Listening to their debut album, Feel It Break, one imagines opening up a book of occult lore and exploring the hidden mysteries within. I would liken them to a cross between Florence and the Machine, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, and Karin Dreijer of The Knife and Fever Ray. But at least as creepy as Karin Dreijer. Finally, an album that sounds weirdly Scandinavian without getting mired in slow, dissonant, undanceable experimentalism. It’s musically exploratory, thematically fascinating, and fun to dance to.

Check out the video for their single Spellwork, taken from the debut album. In my opinion is encapsulates the overall deliciously spooky theme of the work:

This song gives me goosebumps. One thing that stands out is the strong verse-chorus structure characteristic of pop songs—but it’s all done in such a beautifully strange and ethereal way that it doesn’t sound commercial or formulaic. Stelmanis’s eerily quavering vocals are spot-on, the melody soars like some dark-winged bird over bare tree branches, and those rich harmonies complete the vocal arrangements. And those layers upon layers of tinkling synthesisers just sweep you away into a glittering fairy world of yore. I can’t get enough of the cryptic occult references, either. Lots of Youtube commenters have said that the video is “weird”, but it’s supposed to be. The song is about pagan rituals (or so I think), so obviously the video reflects that. It’s so enticing because it’s so arcane.

Then there is the light, bright, beautiful synthpop gem Lose It. This is probably as pure, pretty, and pristine as synthpop can get, and Austra have distilled the essence of the genre in this song, and yet we haven’t quite heard synthpop done in such a fresh, clever way before. At least I don’t think so. Just have a listen:

Isn’t that just delightful? It makes me pee my pants. And it makes me pregnant. With twins. The most remarkable thing about this song, I think, is the perfect harmony between Stelmanis and the background singers in the chorus. Together, they create this plaintive, crystal-clear, birdlike song of hope and sorrow. It almost sounds like Enya in a strange way, but a cool, synthpoppy Enya. Delish.

OK, on to our last video. Showing their ability to master a range of synthpop sub-genres, Austra reveal their goth goth side in this video for their single Beat and the Pulse, and boy is it sexy. Be forewarned: I don’t do censorship, so this video is not safe for work! (That means it’s NSFW):

So what did ya think?? In my opinion, This is the difference between pornography and erotica. The models are portrayed in a seductive, tasteful manner, and they exude a mysterious power. It’s not crass and exploitative; it’s subtle and stylish. Besides, listen to the pulsating bassline that suddenly creeps into your ears when the beat kicks in. And, again, that rich texture of harmonies fills out the song and sends chills down one’s spine. This is dark, sinister synthpop at its finest.

Speaking of weird Scandinavian-sounding dance music, compare Austra to Karin Dreijer when Dreijer accepted the award for best dance artist on behalf of her band Fever Ray at this Swedish music awards ceremony:

Kooky! And fabulous. Now that we’ve established that both Austra and Fever Ray are cool, creative bands with a statement to make, it’s time to ask the question: which one is weirder? All that matters is that they are weird, and there’s a rhyme and reason to it, even if the typical Beyonce-glamoured American can’t see past his milquetoast Top 40 music collection. Consider this Youtube commenter’s post about the above Fever Ray video: “Its unfortunate most people cannot understand the statement of the absurdity of award shows, come up, make a stupid speech and say thank you within 20 seconds and walk off stage for the next commercial, absolutely meaningless. If viewers can only see the surface level and think ‘Man that lady is weird, whats with the face?’, they need to start digging deeper past the surface [sic]”. So true. So, so true. I cannot improve upon that observation, except to say that the average American isn’t into the musical creativity of artists like Fever Ray and Austra, because they’re only exposed to the commercially successful acts.

Anyway, I haven’t written about a cool band in a while, so when I discovered Austra I just knew I had to say something about them and spread the word. I entreat you to do the same. Spread the word. As you would your seed. No, just kidding. Sort of. I can’t wait to hear their next album! I’m thinking of writing about new releases by a few other bands who make me want to diddle myself, like Glass Candy and Chromatics, so keep visiting this blog. (Oh, and I’m posting another instalment of the fabulous lady-comic Julie Gentron and the Lady League very soon, so look for that too.) So go out and buy Austra’s debut album Feel It Break—make sure it’s the deluxe version—and support one of Canada’s most talented and interesting musical products of recent times. (The album was released by Domino or Paper Bag—can’t remember which—and it’s on iTunes, of course.)





Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: Duty Calls

14 01 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies encountered an obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt, but they were able to warp-drive their way back home to London with the help of Donna Destruction. At the landing pad, they met a mysterious, foreboding figure, Lady Fairfax, who scolded them over their tardiness.

“Lady Fairfax, I apologise”, cried Julie. “You see, we encountered a sort of obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt—”

“—Mere congestion, Gentron!” replied Fairfax, rolling in on her wicker wheelchair, cane in one hand and gin and tonic in the other. “You know that MI6 agents encounter such notorious bottlenecks every day. You can’t possibly see yourself as special in the strive to defend the galaxy against the horrors which lie beyond our thin atmosphere—the microbes of Mars’s half-frozen crust, the virulent tar-women of Io’s angry volcanoes, the space-whales of Saturn’s engorged rings?” She paused and looked about her, then tapped her cane. “Wh-wh-where do you expect me to place my gin and tonic, girl??”

“May I, Lady Fairfax?” offered Rosalind graciously. Fairfax acquiesced, harrumphing indignantly as Rosalind reverently placed the gin and tonic on the spaceship console. 

“Ladies”, cooed the venerable matron, “you are tardy for your next assignment. I have intelligence on a surreptitious figure rumoured to frequent the salons of Paris, the gay bathhouses of Seattle, the opium dens of Shanghai. It—for we do not yet know what shape it takes—traffics in something more precious than the methane riches of Titan itself. Humans!”

“Humans!” gasped the Lady League. Fairfax nodded soberly.

“I—I don’t understand”,  said Julie. “Why, we should have no trouble apprehending a mere slave-trader. We’ve done it before. Remember Slimeball and his power over slime? That’s how Rosalind joined the League. She was his captive aboard his Red Sea freighter, and we helped her escape.”

“This isn’t some seaborne skirmish, Gentron”, thundered Fairfax, thumping her cane. She resumed her milder tone. “Due either to some sort of genetic mutation or medical procedure, this—entity—has acquired a symbiotic relationship with a material we all know too well—far too well. And it is to our detriment. Plastic!” The girls shrieked. “This being has commandeered the entire plastic manufacturing industry of Europe. It has so insinuated its way into the beauty and fashion marketplace that one cannot slide on a condom or spear one’s beans with a cafeteria spork without this—thing—turning it against one. The Continent’s brightest plastic surgeons have either disappeared or fallen into secrecy, avowing nothing for fear of retribution. I am afraid Britain is Europe’s last bastion of defense”, she said gravely in her rich, woody Home Counties accent. “This thing, it seems to control certain people. It targets beauties—those who have fallen under the knife, as it were. Supermodels. Actors. Homosexual fashion critics. The list goes on. Our best biophysicists cannot crack this one, girls. Earth—the solar system—is at risk of falling prey to this fiend’s wiles. It has evaded my smartest agents, some of whom never returned from their missions. I fear the worst for them. I fear that they have become a part of its shapeless morass.”

“Fairfax, this is horrible!” cried Julie. “Why, it is inconsistent with the Lady League mission protocol to allow such a crime against humanity to be committed. What can we do to stop this—this creature?”

“Nothing—but to hate plastic!” cried Fairfax. “You must waste no time. Take nothing of plastic with you—it is the warhead of this hideous fiend. You must rely on your own feminine prowess now more than ever. Rosalind Armour, you possess superhuman strength and near-indestructible skin. Donna Destruction, you can move objects with the power of your mind. And, Julie Gentron, with the power of your mind you can control all technology, including the arsenal of deadly weapons implanted within your body by extraterrestrial beings. Surely”, she said, focussing her bespectacled eyes on Julie, “as director of the MI6, I can rely on you ladies to fulfil the objectives of this mission?”

“We will do everything in our power to smoke this fox out of its hole and put an end to it”, said Julie, “even if it requires digging our bare, hangnailed fingers into that hole.”

“Beautiful. You will commence your assignment forthwith by escorting famed New York fashion critic Simpson Oswald to his next fashion show”, said Fairfax, cringing slightly at the name. “He boasts a number of friends in the industry, but, recently, he has acquired a few enemies, so we have reason to suspect he is target number one for this—this—plastic demon. Yes, I know that the pansies can be rather flakey and out-of-touch with reality, but you, Julie, are wearing one of his creations”, she revealed, grabbing the gin-and-tonic back from the spaceship console.

“Really?” cried Julie, scanning her shapely physique up and down. It was a sheer, form-fitting, silvery-metallic suit which covered everything but her face, and was implanted with myriad wires and electrodes which channelled and amplified her thought patterns. Unbeknownst to Julie, the electronic armoury embedded within the suit was the work of the galaxy’s best British engineers–its true powers remained a sinister secret. She wondered at the thing she was wearing, Who am I? What am I?

“What about me??” cried Donna.

“You’re wearing nothing but a leftover tarp from last season’s Halloween sales rack at The Bay”, said Rosalind peremptorily.

“But it’s vintage!” cried Donna, “and it goes with my complexion! Doesn’t it?” There was an awkward pause as everybody else looked at her.

“Enough small talk!” said Fairfax impatiently, waving away Donna with her gin and tonic. “Ladies, you will escort this Oswald to his next show in Paris. As I have stated, he is most likely the fiend’s next target. But beware the plastic demon’s wiles. I warn you. It is as sly as a snake in grass, and it owns every blade.” At this, Julie knew exactly what to do.

“Lady League”, cried Julie, “unite!” The League spread their legs in a buffalo stance and joined fists—which included Lupa’s fin—and a beam of super-powered lady plasma shot forth, illuminating London’s dank, dirty nighttime skyline. The girls were hot and ready to cream that plastic bitch.

Stay tuned for the next instalment to find out what the Lady League do with their legs.