Charlie Sheen’s HIV Diagnosis: When Bad Things Happen to Bad People.


Though I’m ashamed to admit it, my first thought when I heard the news that Charlie Sheen was HIV-positive was that he deserved it.

I’ve long been a Sheen hater. That his arrest for threatening to kill wife Brooke Mueller on Christmas Day in 2009 and the drunken and drug-fuelled hotel room rampage he went on in 2010 that saw porn star and escort Capri Anderson cowering in the bathroom, afraid for her life, were all swept under the carpet in favour of continuing on in his $1.7m per episode role on Two & a Half Men made my (tiger) blood boil. We’ve since found out that in 2011, around the time of his “winning!” meltdown, he was diagnosed with HIV so much of his spiralling out of control could be contributed to that. But he also shot his then-fiancee Kelly Preston in 1990, so maybe he’s just a reprehensible human being.

But just because Sheen is one person I think the world would be better off without, doesn’t actually mean that he deserves HIV.

I restrained myself from voicing my initial reaction because I knew it was wrong. I would never say or even think the same of a rape victim, so what makes HIV different?

Like I often do when I’m struggling with my feelings about something, I took to the interwebs to help work through them. At New York Magazine, HIV-positive journalist Tim Murphy equated the way the media has responded to Sheen’s news as that of the 1985 AIDS scare and that we need to do better in our stigmatised reporting.

If I hadn’t been a slave to online feminist spaces over the past six years, who’s to say I wouldn’t join in with so many others in blaming rape victims for their attacks, for example? Since feminist spaces are often progressive in other areas, such as civil rights, environmentalism and animal rights, if I hadn’t found them would I be a climate-change denying, anti-refugee, factory farm food-buying racist? Surely if I can train my brain away from these dominant ideologies, I can think objectively about Sheen.

So maybe I’m more worried that his HIV status will draw sympathy from the general public who are often so eager to forget his horrible past which, in addition to terrorising the women in his life, includes well-documented drug use, property damage and alleged child pornography consumption. When Sheen was at the height of his infamy in 2011, some of my friends would brush these allegations to the side because “he’s entertaining”. Yeah, I find gendered violence entertaining, too! Now that his erratic behaviour can be put on the backburner to dealing with a HIV diagnosis I dare say a lot of people will continue to overlook it.

But Sheen is just one person out of the 39 million living with HIV: why should he be held up (or torn down) as an example when nothing else he’s done is worthy of emulation? Just because he‘s patronised sex workers and was allegedly an intravenous drug user (which Sheen denied in his interview on the Today show) in the past doesn’t mean everyone with HIV is.

And that’s why it’s so easy to blame Sheen for his own misfortune. Engaging in these behaviours is a known risk factor in contracting the disease. But so is being an uncircumcised man or living in some parts of Africa.

Criticism, similar to the focus of the media on the Paris terrorist attacks over those in Beirut and the rest of the Middle East, can also be drawn to the concentration on Sheen’s diagnosis over the still very prevalent spread of the disease in other parts of the world.

And I guess that stems from the fact that, like the Avenue Q song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. We can’t stop the bigoted thoughts that pop into our brains from time to time but we can try to unpack them before we air them on social media or our IRL social groups. Having studied the anthropology of HIV/AIDS briefly at uni, I realise my initial feelings were not about the disease per se, but about this one individual who has it.

Right now, my position on Sheen’s diagnosis has shifted slightly but it’s still not necessarily an admirable stance: what a waste.

Sheen had all the privilege and opportunity—being from a famous Hollywood family and given chance after chance whenever he fucked up—in the world but he chose to squander it in a spiral of drugs, violence and crime.

Sheen didn’t contract or deserve HIV because of this but I’m not sure, whether in my personal or our collective opinion, that we can separate the two.

Related: Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Charlie Sheen’s Witness.

Minus Two & a Half Men.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [NYMag] What We Can Learn From Charlie Sheen’s Admission That He’s HIV-Positive.

[Wikipedia] List of Countries By HIV/AIDS Adult Prevalence Rate.

Image via Süddeuttsche Zeitung.


On the (Rest of the) Net.


Rachel Hill’s book The Sex Myth, released on Wednesday, is excerpted here. [Sydney Morning Herald]

And I interviewed Rachel on the book. (An extended version to come.) [Junkee]

I also wrote about how I Am Cait might be the turning point in reality TV. [Spook Magazine]

35 of the 46 women who have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them have been photographed for and told their stories to New York magazine. [The Cut]

How that story came about and how they recovered from the DDoS hack. [Mashable]

What happens to mass murderer groupies when their subjects are convicted? [Slate]

In the wake of last week’s Twitter hubbub, Taylor “Swift isn’t here to help women—she’s here to make bank.” [Gawker]

Is there room for the Legends Football League in the recent revolution of women’s sports? [Grantland]

A history of World Wrestling Entertainment’s racism. [The Atlantic]

Orange is the New Black fails its Asian characters. [Hyphen Magazine]

On the “racebending” of Hermione Granger. [HuffPo, Buzzfeed]

ICYMI: My thoughts on Hulk Hogan and racism in wrestling.

Image via Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


I went to see Into the Woods this week and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would having read some things on the interwebs about its race and gender problems.

While it certainly still had those (*spoiler alert* both The Witch and The Baker’s Wife die because they don’t subscribe to typical notions of femininity; The Wolf wears a zoot suit in a dodgy part of the woods) it’s probably the least problematic of all the Oscars bait in cinemas at the moment.

I found the politics of gender very interesting. I was surprised by how on the nose the rapeyness of The Prince was, and I thought Chris Pine played him to perfection. I was taken aback by the pedophilic undertones rife throughout the musical, exhibited by The Wolf and The Baker, amongst others. And for those unfamiliar with the stage version, in it the actor that plays The Prince also plays The Wolf! It gives a whole new meaning to the niceness/charm VS. goodness that reverberates throughout Into the Woods. If you like musicals and/or picking apart the underlying meaning of pop culture, go see it. [The Windowsill]

Why are some of our favourite TV shows given a “free pass” on their problematic content while others are expected to be all things to all people? I love that Sinead Stubbins threw in the gender card: Sex & the City, Girls and even Grey’s Anatomy are often held to a much higher standard than prestige TV’s other (read: male protagonist-based) vehicles. [Junkee]

Not knowing you’re beautiful is exactly what makes you beautiful. [Daily Life]

The history of the Lifetime movie. [WaPo]

Disney’s Agent Carter isn’t feminist: it’s about “Disney owning feminist entertainment, and thereby being able to set the terms for it.” [In These Times]

Just as relevant to the #Tay4Hottest100 controversy as it was when it was published last year, Brodie Lancaster writes about gender-based music elitism. [Rookie]

“Looking ‘Black’ is a Crime”:

“Authorities want to ban hoodies but not guns, sagging pants but not police murdering unarmed Black people, natural hair but not unnatural racist discrimination.” [Dame]

Nicki Minaj sacrificed love for career success on her latest album, The Pinkprint. [One Week One Band]

Looking at Pretty Woman‘s positive portrayal of sex work. [Bitch Flicks]

Why do all on-screen female journalists sleep with their subjects for a story? [NY Magazine]

The inevitability of being called fat for deigning to be a woman in public. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

“The Girls effect” on the Iowa Writers Workshop. [Vulture]

The effect menstruation has on professional sportswomen. [Birdee]

Glee flies in the face of character development, storyline continuity and sensitivity by making Coach Beiste a trans man. Would you expect anything more? [Autostraddle]

On being a fat bride-to-be. [The Guardian]

Image via Tumblr.

Magazines: Covers Worth Talking About.


The first cover listed here to grab my attention was Hillary Clinton for New York magazine, but then Miley came along and blew that out of the (pool) water as she is wont to do.

The accompanying interview for her Rolling Stone cover was done in the days following her much-talked-about MTV VMAs performance, which is discussed at length inside. And rest assured, there are lots of scantily clad shots to compliment her tongue-thrusting on the cover.

Next comes Chris Brown for Jet, a cover which doesn’t necessarily grab the eye as the others do, but it’s what Brown says inside, a snippet of which is captured on the cover, that’s noteworthy. He who is a perpetuator of violence himself identifies with Trayvon Martin, the teen who was shot dead a year and a half ago in Florida in an alleged self-defence. His killer, neighbourhood watchman George ZImmerman, was acquitted of his murder in July this year, and was involved in an apparent domestic violence incident with his estranged wife earlier this month. His wife later refused to press charges.

Now, I’m not saying that Brown can’t identify with a fellow young black man who has been victimised, but equating murder with justified criticism for intimate partner violence and a lack of remorse for said violence is a bit rich.

Finally, in the wake of the mall massacre in Nairobi which, it is believed, had a woman at the helm of the terrorist operation, Pakistan’s Newsweek has a cover story on the rise of female terrorist. I think alternative cover art would have conveyed their message just as well as explosive-tampons…




Images via The Hollywood GossipVanity FairNY Daily NewsYahoo! Finance.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Does having a feminist as a running mate during the election campaign make Julian Assange more palatable to voters concerned with the rape allegations against him? [Online Opinion]

A really thought-provoking piece about the evolution of cooking. Meal preparation is the bane of my existence; I’d rather clean than cook. I find it so boring and time-consuming that if I was to come into a large chunk of money, I would seriously consider hiring a personal chef. Recently, I even privately mused about just ordering takeaway every night, but that isn’t necessarily in line with my ethical philosophies, not to mention health. [Daily Life]

Hugo Schwyzer has quit feminism. While a lot of feminists will be rejoicing at this fact, I actually like Hugo and will be sad to see his brand of male feminism disappear from the feminist interwebs. At least for now… [The Cut]

Twitter misogynists are finally getting their comeuppance. [Daily Life]

Camilla Peffer writes about the inherent sexism of Australia’s Next Top Model. [TheVine]

An interesting response to “I want to date you because you’re awesome”: “I want you to date me because I’m awesome”. [Pandagon]

“The Rape Joke”: a poem about being raped. *trigger warning* [The Awl]

The difference between the Melbourne murders of Jill Meagher and Tracy Connelly? Meagher was “the perfect victim” worthy of mourning while Connelly was just a prostitute. [The King’s Tribune]

But Wendy Squires posits that Meagher and Connelly were more similar than we think: they were both victims of predators who want to hurt women, regardless of their occupation. [The Age]

And it turns out the anonymous sex worker in Squires’ piece, above, was Tracy Connelly. [MamaMia]

Sex & the City‘s Samantha vs. Cougartown. [New York Magazine] 

On the (Rest of the) Net.


Did Madonna call Britney fat? [The Vine]

Clementine Ford’s take on the Australia Day protest hullabaloo. [ABC Unleashed]

And here, what really went down outside the Lobby restaurant. [RedStache]

All the single ladies: are you sick of continuously being asked why you’re single? Bailey Elliot is, too:

“Why is it socially acceptable to comment on someone’s single status, but definitely not OK to comment on someone’s relationship? There have been many times when someone has said something offensive to me, and I will look at their relationship and wish that I could fire something judgmental back. Some of the people who have said the worst things to me are the ones in the most dysfunctional relationships: married to a raging alcoholic who abuses pets while drunk, a patronising and controlling man, or a man who refuses to communicate in any real way. Are we so enamoured with the idea of marriage that we believe that any marriage, no matter how dysfunctional, is better than singledom?” [Jezebel]

Why is it that everywhere you turn (family restaurants, the gym, the bowling alley), there’s a Pussycat Doll spreading her legs, asks Mia Freedman. [MamaMia]

For the U.S.’s Black History Month, let’s remember that Rosa Parks did much more than just refuse to give up her seat on the bus. [Ms. Magazine]

What the?! The banning of naked A-cup adult breasts lest they promote pedophilia?! Granted, this story is two years old, but interesting nonetheless. [Crikey]

How to be a celebrity in this era of “16th minute”, “I am me”, reality fame. [New York Magazine]

The apparent conservative agenda of the Susan G. Komen foundation which has come to light in their refusal to funnel through donations to Planned Parenthood. [Jezebel]

It’s all happening in the world of MamaMia: no more SkyNews show, but an e-publishing sector instead! And deputy editor Bec Sparrow had a baby! [MamaMia]

Erica Bartle’s thoughts on the whole Melinda Tankard Reist debacle. I’m still ruminating over her post, and I might be back with a response of my own. [Girl with a Satchel]

Image via Pop Sugar.

TV: Who’s That Girl? It’s the New Girl.


I’m not the biggest Zooey Deschanel fan. I’ve only really seen her in Failure to Launch (she was the saving grace in that unintentional horror movie) and some of Tin Man, which I wanted to like but couldn’t bring myself to get through.

But, after reading a few different takes on Deschanel’s television leading lady debut in New Girl (especially this New York magazine cover profile), I decided to give the show a shot.

I was expecting manic pixie dream girlishness galore, which there is a lot of, but I think the three guys, a girl and a pizza place apartment format makes it a bit more palatable for the mainstream sitcom crowd.

In a bid to better understand the Deschanel obsession, I borrowed (500) Days of Summer off a friend and watched it yesterday afternoon. I have to say, I quite enjoyed it; whether that was down to Deschanel’s acting or simply the storyline and filmmaking, I can’t say.

While I feel like Dechanel’s character, the titular Summer, was portrayed as the “saviour” to Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Tom, New Girl Jess is the one that needs to be saved from her social awkwardness, bad relationship and fashion faux pas. In real life I don’t see why people would need saving from these situations, but that’s the way the plot crumbles.

So, three episodes in, I’m still not really sure what I think about New Girl, or Deschanel herself. I’ll probably stick the season out (at only 12 half-hour episodes, it’s a small commitment to make) as I have a hard time not finishing things, no matter how tedious or non-enjoyable they are.

If Jess is able to break out of the mold of quirky girly girl who shows emotion and sings publicly at inopportune times, and Deschanel is able to prove her worth as a top notch TV actress who appeals to the mainstream instead of being seen as the manic pixie dream girl du jour, the New Girl might just be one I can come to know and love.

What do you think of New Girl so far?

Related: Manic Pixie Dream Girl Bitch.

Elsewhere: [New York Magazine] The Pinup of Williamsburg.

[HuffPo] Women in Hollywood: Is “Girliness” the Real Problem?

[Jezebel] New Girl is Likeable, Though Strangely Familiar.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Elizabethtown, Garden State & the Alternative Flat Fantasy Female.

Image via New Girl Things.