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Coming Attraction

What is it about rainy days that make lonesome train whistles sound so much more lonesome? We get two sets here: the passenger Amtraks on the east bank carrying travelers to and from Montreal, and the mile-long freight trains on the west bank carrying crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in New Jersey. The Doppler effect turns approach signals into the wailing of ghosts.

I’d like to be on that Montreal-bound train…

And really, I suppose I could be.


It’s currently 60°.

I know, I know. Weather! Boring. Unless you’ve just spent a week suffering through temperatures that are only slightly warmer than the beach resorts of Mars.

Temps are supposed to go back down tonight.

Warmer days and at least one 24-hour stretch of blue skies and massive sunshine assuaged the rougher edges of my nihilistic mood, though I’m still feeling detached, adrift. I firmly believe that every era promotes its own apocalyptic fantasies by playing the Ain’t-It-Awful game, but ya gotta admit that this era has the technological advantage.


I chatted with Samir about religious fundamentalism in the context of certain experiences he’s been having here.

“Of course, Islam is not the only religion that preaches fundamentalism,” I assured him. I showed him hastily Googled images of Amish people, Hassidim.

“But we’re not like that!” Samir said. “I have an uncle who takes his daughters out of school when they are 13. ‘What do they need education for? They’re women.’ But my father, me –“ He shook his head adamantly. “My wife does not want to finish her degree! I tell her, ‘I want you to finish your degree! I want you to be educated!’

“If you come to my house, the women dress however they want to dress. There are no rules. But if they go outside, women wear hijab. It’s easier.”


There is a short story by Fritz Leiber – brilliant as everything Leiber wrote was brilliant – called Coming Attraction. One of the status details in this futuristic universe is that women all wear burkas as a kind of fashion statement.

I’m kind of thinking burkas is a natural progression of the #MeToo movement.

I mean, sooner or later, it’s got to dawn on someone that provocative clothing choices play a role in sexual exploitation.

“Twenty years from now,” I said to Samir, “I wouldn’t be surprised if large numbers of American women who are not Islamic are wearing hijab. It’ll start off as a protest and morph into fashion. It’ll be interesting! Because, of course, fundamentalist Christian women will start wearing revealing clothing to signal their opposition to the trend.”

I beamed at him. “I probably won’t be around to see it. But you will! And possibly, you’ll remember this conversation.”

“That’s the only reason why I want to live forever,” I added. “Because I really want to see how events turn out! I hate being trapped in a single time/space continuum!”

Samir looked at me for a long moment. “You will come with me to Algeria.”

“Yes, yes. When you have your big wedding. I am definitely going to come!”

Samir shook his head. “Even if I do not have the big wedding, I want to show you. I want you to meet my family. I want you to see my country. I want you to see.”


(And now I’m remembering why I’m not on that Montreal-bound train. Winters in Montreal are just terrible. I should know; I spent the winter of 1972 there – with Jean-Luc and Ann and Reed and Jon. A story for another day.

Maybe I’ll go to Montreal in the spring.)

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org/696953.html. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:40 pm (UTC)
This is just so damn well written and fun to read. Burkas on Amazon now !
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks, m'darlin'.

Maybe this is how we get filthy rich. With the Early Boarding Ticket on the BURKA TRAIN! :-)
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:46 pm (UTC)
I always remember this Bristish Muslim girl (I think I told you this) saying that wearing the burqa made me feel so free.

I can imagine that.

Incidentally, that is when I finally "got it."
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:47 pm (UTC)

Her! :'D
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:50 pm (UTC)
Freudian slip! :-)
Jan. 12th, 2018 04:49 pm (UTC)
Well, it does suggest interesting variations on that naked-under-her-mink-coat meme. :-)

I get it. But then if it were up to me, I'd wear scrubs all the time.
Jan. 12th, 2018 10:55 pm (UTC)
I hope you do go to Algeria!

As for revealing clothing etc., I see it as a matter of principle that women wear whatever they want and men keep they hands to they selfs. But outside of principle, I think women might give a thought to whether they really want to reveal so much, even if the reaction is completely contained in a man's head.

I am thinking about one of the very few absolute refusals I made to Honora; it was to have a bikini when she was 13. And the reason was, I didn't want her to experience the way grown men might look at her before she could process it properly. I let her have a tankini, which was just enough not like underwear that I felt it gave a less provocative message. And she got a bikini at 16.

Sometimes I look at the girls in church wearing yoga pants and I wonder if they would feel so comfortable if they knew the imaginings these pants inspired in the dads sitting in the pews. And you can't police imaginings.
Jan. 12th, 2018 11:55 pm (UTC)
Have you read Peggy Orenstein's Girls and Sex? If you haven't, I think you'd find it interesting. :-)

I support the right of every person on the planet to do whatever he/she wants so long as it doesn't harm anyone else.

As an anthropologist from the planet Mars, though -- my favorite persona! - I guess I wonder whether certain extremes of what might be considered sexually provocative dress isn't causing "harm" in that it's sending out exactly the double message you note: Look but don't touch.

In Japan, for example, there's much alarm over the fact that a significant proportion of the male population prefers playing video games and watching porn to engaging in any interactions with real human girls. Interacting with real human girls is waaaay too problematic.

I think I'm seeing the beginnings of that here as well on a small scale.

There's also the other issue: Why do women make "sexy" clothing choices? I mean obviously, in some instances, a woman is signaling an availability for sex. In some instances, it's a utilitarian choice; if it's super hot and muggy, you may want to wear as few clothes as possible. But why is showing off one's cleavage or one's butt cheeks in a thong a fashion statement? That's a serious question, not a preamble to, because it shouldn't be! I'm sincerely curious.

The anthropologist in me sees it as an internalization of male sexual fetishes and so is prone to regard it as I might regard manacles and dragging chains if those accessories became a hot fashion statement among the descendants of African slaves.

I echo my diary entries on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, and over on LJ, someone I think highly of took me to task over this entry and pointed out that women wearing burkas get raped all the time. Which, of course, is true. I'm not saying wearing revealing clothing is a prerequisite for rape. And, in fact, as we all know, rape has far more to do with anger than it has to do with lust.

I guess, though, while I consider myself a feminist, I do believe that women need to hold themselves partly accountable if they put themselves in harm's way. There's a contributory negligence issue if a young starlet actually believes a producer wants to have a business meeting with her in a hotel room at 2am. I get that this is the point where more orthodox feminists begin to assemble outside my house with tiki torches and pitchforks. But that is what I believe.
Jan. 13th, 2018 04:23 am (UTC)
I guess the following question, in my mind, is "If a woman wants to show her sexual appeal, why do we believe that makes her at fault for assault?" Honora believes, if I read her right, that a woman who rides the subway in a g-string and pasties should still be free of harassment and assault, because it should be ingrained in men that it's ugly and wrong to harass and assault; their feelings about the woman's body are theirs to feel and understand, but they have no right to harm her. And it is harm.

Or, to put it a different way, if I put very appealing pastries in my bakery window, am I at fault if someone breaks the glass to get at them?
Jan. 13th, 2018 02:41 pm (UTC)
if I put very appealing pastries in my bakery window, am I at fault if someone breaks the glass to get at them?

There's no overwhelming biological drive impelling humans to eat appealing pastries. :-)

There is appetite, which you would be correct in pointing out can be satisfied in numerous other ways. As I wrote above, I suspect one of the ways the sexual equivalent of that appetite may be satisfied in the future is by cocooning and watching porn. I think sexual aggressiveness can be programmed out of men, but I suspect that programming comes with a cost. I could be wrong! We'll see.

At any rate, if I'm not wrong, at least that solves the overpopulation problem, right? A win/win! :-)

I'm pretty sure I could ride the subway in a g-string and pasties without getting sexually assaulted. (I might be dragged off by the Transit Authority Police, but that's another story. :-) ) I'm 65; I'm no longer an object of sexual longing outside a very narrow band of my coevals. :-)

I was a sex object for years and years and years, having been blessed in my youth with a kind of preternatural physical beauty that was so compelling, it functioned as a superpower. :-)

Of course, I resented the objectification! But when it disappeared, when construction workers stopped whistling, well... I missed it.

There's also a fairness issue at play, it seems to me, if males are programmed to squash their more aggressive sexual drives but females are not taught to modify their own behaviors.

Edited at 2018-01-13 02:42 pm (UTC)
Jan. 13th, 2018 03:52 pm (UTC)
False equivalency!! (I've been longing to use that phrase). Not all problems are "you each have a part of it," and to present it like that is to fail to hold the perpetrator adequately accountable. This, btw, is the way much couples therapy fails, by trying to make each person feel less attacked by pretending that one's morning grumpiness is the equivalent of the other's withering cruelty. "How about if you try to smile at the breakfast table, and you try not to call your partner an incompetent ugly troll" is misrepresenting the problem for both.

Jan. 13th, 2018 06:39 pm (UTC)
You definitely get points for "false equivalency." :-)

But I'd say that by doing that, you are framing the debate as an entitlement issue: Men are not entitled to respond to provocation; women are entitled to provoke.

When it's framed that way, there's bound to be tons of resentment on both sides.

Myself, I see it as far more sensible for both men and women to be accountable.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I will note here that I was raped in my late teens and that I believe that one of the contributing factors was that I put myself in harm's way. Obviously, another and, yes, larger reason was that the perp in question was an asshole creep. But still. I made a bad decision.)
Jan. 13th, 2018 09:43 pm (UTC)
Well, are we entitled to respond to provocation as we like? Analogous to "he was such an asshole to me, for so long, I just had to stick that knife in him." If we view assault and harassment as hate crimes and as serious crimes, I think the analogy works. They are hate crimes because they work to maintain male privilege through women's fear and self-editing.

Now, that being said, I think it is wise for women to remember the culture they live in and not to put themselves in harm's way. But that doesn't change my views on whether the harm should be allowed to exist.

Agree to disagree?
Jan. 14th, 2018 01:04 pm (UTC)
Indeed! :-)
Jan. 13th, 2018 09:55 pm (UTC)
Jan. 14th, 2018 01:15 pm (UTC)
Welllll... Not exactly.

I suspect we're both kind of done with this conversation, but what I would say is that this sentence - What he did was appalling and a great deal worse than what I did -- is disingenuous to an extreme.

How is he supposed to know his behavior is unacceptable if she doesn't clearly tell him? Is he supposed to be able to read her mind? As far as he knew,she was acquiescing.

And while I personally have no problem with using one's sexual allure to personal advantage, many people find it morally appalling behavior.

Edited at 2018-01-14 01:15 pm (UTC)
Jan. 13th, 2018 03:06 pm (UTC)
If I put a very shiny AK-47 in my shop window, I ***WILL*** be held at fault if someone steals it and uses it to commit a crime.
Jan. 13th, 2018 03:10 pm (UTC)
Is that true? Huh! Didn't know that.
Jan. 13th, 2018 09:54 pm (UTC)
Owner’s liability for a crime committed with a stolen gun

Question: Recently, and over the past few years, there was much publicity about criminals using stolen handguns to commit homicides. If my registered gun is stolen and used in a fatal crime, can I be criminally or civilly responsible?

Answer: The August 20, 2010, double murder/suicide involved a stolen 9mm Beretta. The killer reportedly stole the gun from a relative. In 2006, a mentally ill killer stole a .45 Govt. Model from his caregiver that was hidden under the house; three people were murdered at the Round Top Lookout. In both cases, the gun owners are exposed to serious civil liability if it can be shown the owners were negligent or in violation of the law by improperly storing the handgun(s).

The families of the victims could bring a civil suit for wrongful death. Civil liability will hinge on whether the gun owners acted in a responsible and reasonable manner. Were the guns stored in compliance with the law? Gun locks used?

Were the guns in locked safes to which the killers had no access? Did the owners lend the gun to the killers? The owners could also be charged with criminal negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

For most criminals, buying a “hot gun” in Chinatown is more myth than reality. The greatest source of firearms used in crime is from friends, family, via theft, or by burglary.

Best solution? Store all of your firearms in a strong, locked safe. Bolt it in a closet out of plain sight.


A glass window would not qualify as a "strong, locked safe kept out of plain sight" - the law would crucify me
Jan. 14th, 2018 01:17 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm. A case in Hawaii. Does the argument say whether it was tried in a state or federal court?

I think gun laws vary widely on a state-by-state basis.
Jan. 13th, 2018 10:54 am (UTC)
I echo my diary entries on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, and over on LJ, someone I think highly of took me to task

This is LJ, that was on DW. But thank you for thinking highly of me ;-)

Interesting to read the comments here. As you can imagine, I agree most with lookfar and Honora.
Jan. 13th, 2018 02:24 pm (UTC)
Duh. :-)

Dreamwidth and LJ are kind of like the literary equivalent of China Mieville's Besźe and Ul Qoma: The Blogging Platform and the Blogging Platform! :-)

I post these days from DW. But one of the reasons I can't abandon LJ is that the people I like and have interesting conversations with - apart from you - all use LJ.
Jan. 13th, 2018 04:00 pm (UTC)
Jan. 13th, 2018 03:58 pm (UTC)
Even those of us who were only normally pretty feel bad when we are no longer viewed that way! I never felt I was attractive enough, because I was fat, but I was certainly attractive enough to flirt, and have boyfriends, and catch the eye of the passing fellow. Alas, no more.

In the course of my work, I've occasionally treated very, very pretty women that seemed to me to have been too weak to handle it. I think it can be confusing, starting in childhood; the beauty skews people's responses both positively and negatively, so that the person has to have a strong sense of self in order to figure out how things work. Which you clearly do!
Jan. 13th, 2018 06:49 pm (UTC)
Well, my mother was a borderline, so I grew up thinking of myself as basically invisible.

In time, I grew to enjoy being invisible. Harriet the Spy is my totem animal! :-)

Having beauty basically thrust upon me at the age of 16 was a very confusing experience. Though, as I say, a superpower -- I was able to leverage that beauty for a few years at its height with a modeling career, which subsidized college and my considerable wanderlust. And, of course, anyone whose attention I wanted would pay attention to me. :-)

But, yes, it had its downside. An awful lot of people made all sorts of weird projections on to me.

I was ambivalent when beauty began to ebb at approximately age 40. :-) The truth is, though, that I like being invisible, so I haven't been as bent out of shape as a lot of other beautiful women I know.

Edited at 2018-01-13 06:50 pm (UTC)
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )