29 December 2010

Fish outta water

Hey hey, apologies for lack of postings - I've been up and down in terms of moods, and just all over in terms of life.

I was discussing my lack of posting with Acadian a bit ago, and one of the things we talked about - er, I babbled on about, rather, - is why I haven't been posting much.

You all should be very flattered - I often find myself intimidated to post here. You all are posting about news articles and issues that I don't even know about until I read your very posts. It feels a bit like bringing an inner-tube to the deep end of the pool: I just want to "say shit" and babble on about more personal stuff (it's just where my brain is) while the rest of yous are being all "articulate" and "posing valid interesting feminist questions"... and I know that it's not a requirement to post the thought-provoking essay-esque posts that you all do, but ... see above metaphor about inner-tube in deep end.


This year has very much been the year of me. I have taken up a LOT of my energy. My moods have been terrifying. I spent 6 months (no, REALLY!) on BC pills that had me crashing every-other week. I spent the next two months futzing with BC before I crashed enough to go off them completely. The last four months I've been cycling off and on. Between that, trying to get an apartment set up, and still working 40-hrs-a-week at my job being a big ol' adult and running things.... Basically, when people ask me what I've been doing, what I actually should be saying is "I've been babysitting myself the ENTIRE TIME and I'm fucking exhausted!"

Anyways, since I've been watching after myself, I find my musings very me-focused. (like hey, right now) and that leaves me with less posting about "very neat things" and more posting about "me me me".... which feels very shallow and whiny. Between this fact and that whole "I don't have polished writing" thing (which I posted about awhile ago, but can't find again), I find myself shy about posting here.

ANYWAYS- I was chatting to Acadian about this, and I felt like I wanted to share it with the class, because I dislike the fact that I've dropped off the face of the blog.

23 December 2010

Synecdoche, shenpa, and other difficult words

"Synecdoche" usually applies to a single thing taken to represent a larger class of things. I'm going to stretch that definition a bit. We all know that celebrities and other public figures come to represent much more than just another person who happens to have an exceptional talent or two. We start to associate them with positive or negative traits or attitudes. We can even invest them with representation of aspects of our own personalities and our most deeply-held beliefs. We get invested in their perfection. We idolize them. They become objects, representing things much bigger than they are as individuals.

And then they let us down, by proving that they are not representations, but people. And that sets the hook of shenpa, defined here as the thing that fuels our knee-jerk responses, the goad that drives us along well-worn paths of anger, fear, and hopelessness.

The Assange mess is the latest enactment of these two difficult concepts colliding and feeding each other.  Public figures carry so much of our needs and dreams, that a threat to one of them can feel like a threat to our selves. And if the offense committed by a hero is large enough, wrong enough, frightening enough, we can turn instead on the accusers--a last-ditch attempt to deny the cracks in the shell of our heroes, who contain our beliefs, pieces of our selves.

Sady Doyle of TigerBeatdown found a way to take her anger and emotional triggers and convert them to meaningful action. #Mooreandme made her and its other supporters targets of the anger of the betrayed. But she stayed with it. She stayed awake through fear and anger and desperation. She didn't hide what she was doing and why, and as she faced first stonewalling, then contempt in return, she continued to examine not only the actions of those she was facing, but her own assumptions and reactions.

"And then he came down."

Sometimes the trap is sprung and we escape it anyway. Some days it works.

20 December 2010

More About What I Said I Didn't Want to Talk About

The one part of the Assange affair that I keep coming back to is the idea that what he is accused of is sort of "bizarrely rape" because "Swedish laws are so strict and weird."

"That wouldn't be rape anywhere else," argue (some of) his supporters. "Not in America or the U.K. or Australia. The Swedes are just messed up about sex."

To clarify: I'm talking about the allegations that Assange's accuser said she didn't want to have sex unless a condom was used, and that he then penetrated her without one; and that he penetrated her while she was asleep.

It is true that Sweden has more specific laws on this topic than other countries do. That doesn't mean they're wrong, however.

I've been thinking about this, and it all came up again because of the Naomi Wolf/Jaclyn Friedman debate, which I haven't had a chance to read all the way through (I'm sort of putting it off, to tell you the truth).

And then Thomas, over at Yes Means Yes, said it way better.

Sex being okay under certain conditions and not under other conditions -- that's normal. That's acceptable. That's why you can decide to break up with someone -- they used to be meeting conditions that they are now no longer meeting! So you can choose to stop sleeping with them! Until/unless they meet those conditions again! (Or you can decide that you never will, because they never will.)

All human interaction, really, is about setting conditions. Sometimes, you are very close with someone, or have a long history, or close ties, and your conditions are minimal, and basic. (You still have them, though, yes, you do. Even if they're just, I will interact with this person as long as they are not violently stabbing me while I do it.) Other times, you have specific relationships that are formed for specific periods, specific reasons, and with specific goals and specific sacrifices in mind. And when someone else isn't meeting those goals, or making those sacrifices, and forces you to do things that were not in your criteria -- that's a boundary violation. That's unacceptable. And when they violate specifically stated boundaries around sex -- that's rape.

Anyway. That is what I have to say about that.

In future-blogging news, I finally found the outlines for some essays I want to write about entertainment, and what I think about it, and how other people, who do it for a living, could do it better. So I believe that January will be my Entertainment Month, as in, I will try to write four semi-serious, sort-of-thought-out essays in a row on media and entertainment. So stay tuned for that. Over the next couple of weeks my blogging may be sporadic, as I have holiday commitments.

May your own holidays be cheery and bright and less stressful than you hope.

19 December 2010

Tony Porter is fabulous

Sorry about the lateness of this; thought I'd sorted it to post on Friday but clearly not. (I was otherwise engaged with family drama)
It's not the best of all posts, but it really makes me happy to watch this. After the ragefulness of the last couple of weeks, this guy gets it. He gets it in an articulate way that everyone can respond to!

Don't know that these things embed, but go ahead and click!

So There's This Kerfluffle? In the Internets? Maybe You've Heard About It.

I don't want to talk about the mess surrounding Julian Assange and the rape charges against him. I never met the man. I never read Wikileaks. I have no idea, really, what kind of person he is or what he does in his spare time, though I've heard enough to where if I ever met him I would make sure not to be alone with him.

I'm still examining my own beliefs about who has the "right" to do what -- though obviously, obviously everyone has the human right to not be raped --, and what I think about his alleged actions, and his accusers' alleged actions, and his defenders' alleged actions. I don't actually have the information I need to begin to understand what "really" happened. (I don't know of a place I could really get this information, either; everyone seems to be calling everyone else a liar.) I know that even being as neutral as I am -- I don't think true neutrality is possible -- is a choice, and that a lot of people on both sides see this choice of neutrality as a betrayal. I think my line wouldn't please anyone; my line doesn't please me and it will probably move. It is a betrayal, maybe; civil rights and human rights shouldn't be negotiated and compromised and there isn't a lot of space for neutrality on them. 

I'm not going to rattle on and make my very confused feelings about this into a whole post. I think that would be a betrayal. This isn't about me. But I'm also not ignoring it.

There seem to be so many reasons why this case is a Bad Example, and we should be fighting over a Good Example, if we want to fight rape culture. (In a lot of ways, the Roman Polanski case was a Good Example; it certainly seems far less ambiguous.) Maybe, though, a bad example is the best kind of example. I know it's pointed out a lot of my own prejudices to me.

I do want to point you somewhere, to people with more bravery and more conviction than I have right now. Some very, very, brave women are taking a stand on Twitter, and making this case an example, and using its publicity to fight rape culture. You should read about what they're doing here, but please, count this as a trigger warning. The link goes to the first blog post explaining the protest; a lot has happened since then that you can read about on the same blog. The protest has been going on for four days now. The latest posts and updates are especially powerful, and therefore get an especially strong trigger warning.

There are a bunch of ways to get involved in that protest, whether you're on Twitter or not; some of them -- and some supporting arguments for the protest -- are here, and there's a trigger warning on that too.

I don't know what Assange did or did not do. I can't imagine anyone accusing him for fun. I know that rape culture is more pervasive than I can describe, and that any ideas I have about Assange will be colored by it. I'm trying to figure out what that coloring is doing to me.

What's it doing to you?

14 December 2010

Linky link: Gender Bias Bingo!

Fun and infuriating.

This is part of a UC Hastings Law project doing research into gender bias in the workplace. I'm listening to Joan Williams, one of the heads of the project, talking on NPR's Forum right now. (OK, actually yesterday morning, but I might have gotten so excited I accidentally originally posted this on the wrong damn blog. Maybe. Because I'm smooooooooth like that.) Her book, Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter is on order for me through interlibrary loan as of this morning. Watch this space for my review.

13 December 2010

Read This Not That: Feminist Young Adult Retellings of Cinderella

Read THIS:


The fairy tale of Cinderella is apparently a compelling one for YA novelists. I sort of get that. I think a lot of women find the idea of rising out of a mundane, chore-filled existence and becoming beautiful and high-ranking at sought-after to be kind of compelling. (I do. Where do I sign up to quit doing mundane chores?) But the original tale of Cinderella is not feminist, not even in a sort of PC feminist-lite, non-progressive but non-offensive kind of way.  Think about it. Evil stepmother. Life of drudgery. Pretty pretty princess moment. Love at first sight. Shoe shopping. (Yeah, I went there.)

And of course, everyone knows that story. So you want to write a YA novel, you want to jazz it up a little but keep it familiar, maybe include a more empowering message. Well, maybe you don't. But these ladies do.

Both books are retellings of Cinderella, and they're both intended for the 12-15 age group. Life of kitchen drudgery makes an appearance, so do glass shoes, so do evil(-ish) stepmothers. Princes are wed. (Spoiler!) Both writers also put in feminist story elements, sending their heroines on quests and giving them goals. (Ever notice how in the original fairy tale, Cinderella is less adventurous even than Snow White? You have to work hard to be less adventurous than Snow White.) Now, full disclosure, I read Ella Enchanted lo these many years ago, back when I was in the target demographic. And I read Bella at Midnight last week. So maybe I've edged out a little bit, but Ella is still a comfort book for me and I'm always looking for new comfort books. And I really feel that Bella didn't live up to its potential.

Ella sticks much closer to the original fairy tale in its structure. Ella's father is a wealthy merchant, and the story picks up when her mother dies, when Ella is in her early teens. Ella is eventually saddled with an evil stepmother who makes her do chores, and she does eventually go to a ball, wear glass shoes, dance with a prince, etc. What sets Ella apart is her curse: at the beginning of the book, Ella as a baby is cursed with obedience. She must always obey a command. This ends up working delightfully. She can be adventurous, go on quests, and yet has a compelling reason (in the literal sense that her reason is a compulsion) to stay at home and do chores for her stepmother. She meets the prince long before the balls, but cannot act on her feelings toward him lest she put her country in danger. She can be a traditional Cinderella, and yet be likable, yet have a goal that has to do with living up to her potential, not pleasing boys.

Bella, on the other hand -- God, Twilight has ruined that name for me -- is under no similar compulsion. She is actually raised by a foster family of commoners, and so when her father sends for her upon his remarriage, she is accustomed to the kitchen and spends her time there out of choice rather than necessity. Stanley gets a few points with me for giving the background on the "evil" stepmother, who has understandable if unfortunate reasons for disliking her stepdaughter. Bella too goes on a quest, to warn her particular prince of imminent danger. She's forced to show some initiative, and yet she does it in the most docile way imaginable. (She does get an interesting honor at the end, one which is traditionally masculine and which Ella does not. It isn't quite enough to balance.)

 For in the end, it comes down to their characterizations. Ella, saddled with obedience her whole life, is naturally rebellious. She is full of mettle and humor. Bella, by contrast, is much more traditionally feminine (though she does at one point assume a masculine disguise, something Ella never tries). She's sweet, and dear. Her family is always doing things for her, because she brings them so much joy. She's friendly and honest and never seems to lose her temper. All her habits are good ones. It's impossible to dislike her -- but next to Ella she's faded and uninteresting. I know exactly why Char falls for Ella and so does he. Julian seems to fall for Bella because... well, she's just so sweet, what else can he do? (He is impressed with her heroic act at the end. But he's already fallen for her before she performs it. Char also falls for Ella all unawares of her heroism, which takes a subtler form, but it has nothing to do with her sweetness.)

In pure storytelling, Ella also wins; it presents a coherent world full of different races (elves, gnomes, ogres, giants) and lets its heroine move about freely therein. Bella is full of false starts and plot strings that don't seem to lead anywhere -- Bella has a talent? for making people feel better? by listening to them? I'm not sure, because it was mentioned once on page 127 and then never brought up again. It also mentions God and His Will every few pages. As an atheist/agnostic/shut up it's none of your business, I am not the best person to judge as to whether a reference to God is appropriate. But I found it quite off-putting; the author seemed torn between how much of her kingdom is magical and imaginary and how much is actually based on Medieval Europe (where mentions of God would be expected). But Bella's act of heroism is almost religious, Ella's is personal.

Ella is a personal story -- one young woman, overcoming a handicap in both the short and the long term. Bella is the tale of an instrument -- a young woman who had just the right potential to fulfill just the right role. That role is unfortunately much less interesting to read about.

10 December 2010

Politicians letting us down...again.

Apologies for last week; I just plain forgot! I'm hopeless most of the time.
Today is another rant, albeit probably with fewer words. And as the majority of you are American, you may not be interested in this, (hell, MissMermaid may not be! It's been bashed about in the media a hell of a lot this week) but oh well.
My thought processes on the tuition fees scandal/protests are as such:
* It pisses me off beyond belief that the media today is focusing on the royal couple being caught up in the crossfire. Whilst it's a shame that Charles and Camilla did happen to be attacked briefly, they were not physically harmed. Probably shaken by the events, but no-one was beaten up.
*David Cameron's (and the head of police's) insistance that these protestors are nothing more than brainless thugs out to have a gooItalicd time are also annoying. Whilst it can't be pleasant for anyone in government to deal with, these students are not there to mindlessly wreck buildings just to have agood time. There is a legitimate anger behind these protests and, rather than possibly admitting that Clegg, the Lib Dems and Tories are all out for themselves when it comes to universities, and happy to lie about everything, they instead choose to point the finger. The young are being denied the same accessible (yeah, ok) education that we have had. A lot of people cannot afford £6-9000 a year-even if they don't have to pay it off straight away, they will still have to pay eventually. Had these been the fees facing me, I would not have gone.
*(As an aside, I do realise that Americans have it much worse with regards to fees; but the entire point of these protests is to prevent this kind of expense happening to us. I don't want to sound like a whinger, but I will risk it)
* POLICE BRUTALITY. Kettling (not letting out injured protesters within these kettles), attacking students with the authority on their side, etc etc. I'm sorry, what? That is not acceptable. Have we learned nothing from the G8 protests? Seriously, this is all kinds of disgusting.
*The fact that this brutality has been swept aside and the media is rather attacking the attack on the royal car. UM, SORRY, NO. Camilla and Charles, as I said, were not harmed. Some students have been pretty badly assaulted; where is the questioning of the police force? Where are the namecalls from Cameron about this? No? Colour me surprised.
*I will have to resort to the standard anger towards Nick Clegg here, as well as all the Lib Dems who went back on their word (Ed Davey, the MP of the constituency next to mine) and voted for this. The fact that Clegg courted the student vote, encouraged it, promised voters that there would be no broken promises on his part, etc-leads him to be a less than desirable deputy prime minister. (or human being? Haha, too personal) I do understand that their policy was unsustainable; however, hiding the fact that they'd scrapped it from the public was the biggest mistake they could make. I no longer trust them, nor do I wish to vote for them again. It's back to Green for me.
*The irony that both Cameron and Clegg repeatedly attacked Brown throughout the election, and yet he's the one (for me) who comes across as the classiest politician, throughout the election debacle and here. I've lost all faith in Nick Clegg, and David Cameron has all the respect he's ever had from me: none.

Excuse this post for all of its inadequacies in content; I'm just here to vent, yet again. I'm a very angry person, ok?

09 December 2010

Reason Number 856 to Love Helen Mirren


Oh, this makes me forgive you for your unfortunate performance as Phedre at the National. Which I never blamed you for, not really; the director of that piece was a hack of the highest hacky order. But anyway. You're relieved, I'm sure, to hear my opinions on this matter.

Happy to be here

I went to the mountain today. Yesterday's rains meant the walk was wet, at times my trail was a creek, and what's usually a trailside creek was a full-fledged river, with waterfalls everywhere I looked.

I told a friend that the mountain always makes me happy, that whenever I go there, I feel so lucky, it makes me laugh. I was speaking literally. I am so fortunate; to live in this beautiful place, to have the leisure and means to spend a day wandering in it. What else can I do but laugh when this joy is mine?

What are you thankful for today?

07 December 2010

Hallelujah Puts a Smile on my Face

Hello again everyone. Apologies for missing the last two weeks, things sort of imploded family/health-wise, and in my truly British way I dealt with it by burrowing my head in the sand and not communicating generally. Things are slowly getting better though, so hopefully I’ll stop doing a general disappearing act.

Last week I was shipped off to the snowy wilds of Norfolk for a week for work and ended up battling freak snowstorms (how does the rest of the world cope with snow? Certainly better than the British…) and spending a lot of time in a van with no heating. As a welcome home present a family member has given me a horrible throaty/fluey thing, and as my job depends on me shouting a lot at small children, I’m going to bed in the hope that 16 hour sleep will kick it into shape.

It seems that several Bluestockingers are having a tough time at the moment, so thought I would use my non-post to send a big, feminine, intellectual, cross country and trans-Atlantic hug to you all.

Also, I thought I’d share this. A genuinely impressive and heartwarming feat of Christmas cheer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE

You might have seen it already, but it certainly put a big smile on my face when a friend in Canada sent it to me. I could enter into a discussion about why people do flashmobs and how they developed as a type of performance art, but due to brain dissolving into a ball of mucus-like goo, instead I'm just going to point out that it makes me very happy that people take the time and effort to do things like this, and I hope it does you too.

Big hugs

Miss Mermaid X

06 December 2010

Read This Not That: Sci-fi Series Featuring Tiny Gifted Tacticians

Read THIS:



Editor's Note: As said in the title, these are both series. I've included the cover image for book one in each, but even if you start with book 5, Miles beats Ender. Here's why.

Both series feature small (child or midget) protagonists. Both protagonists win some pretty epic space battles, because both protagonists can plan tactics like we lowly humans can't even imagine. Both are plot-driven, but both take place in whole worlds that are carefully thought out; both series are full of underlying themes. But the similarities end there. Wordwrestler and Arcadian have worked together tirelessly to explain why we think you should spend time with Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, and not Card's Ender Wiggin Series. To give credit where it's due, and to give you an idea of the democratic ideals we here at FnBs represent, we give you the following dialogue which may (or may not) justify our recommendation.

Linky Goodness

Stay tuned for a proper post later (preview: it's a double-supported Read This Not That) but in the meantime, you might enjoy this video over at Sociological Images. There are issues with it for sure, but it's definitely one of the healthier responses to the question of privilege, and I wish my high school Ethnic Studies teacher had had a listen before she started teaching a class subtitled Why You Should Feel Like Shit if Your Skin Is Lighter Than Mariah Carey's. (Okay, it wasn't wholly her fault; there were a lot of circumstances stacked against her. But I am still bitter, because that was an hour a day, five days a week, for four months, that I could have better spent watching Stand and Deliver twenty times. It taught me that Racism Is Bad.)

02 December 2010

Books that hook you: an example and an invitation

I've got quite a few of these, books I revisit every few years. The Age of Innocence is probably my favorite one, now and for the past decade or so. Every time I read it I find new ways of looking at it, new layers to the language. What follows is my doubtless hacky attempt to excavate another small facet.

still not dead.

Hey FnBers, and anyone else.

Just dropping a quick post:

This is the second week where I'm really having a hard time with life. I even had a great idea for a post the other day, but I just don't have any sort of energy - mental or physical - to spare for an actual GOOD blog post. (or at least GOOD in my eyes)

My depression has generally been taking it's usual form - which is that I think I am not particularly needed/missed/liked. I don't think people HATE me, simply that I am insignificant to them - that if I were gone they would say. "oh hmm. bummer." and not really be all that upset.

I know this is not true in my head, but in that deep feeling place that believes random things, I believe these things to be true.

of course, my physical manifestations are not eating enough, sleeping too little or too much, and having no enthusiasm for anything at all.

to top it off, I'm having a LOT of work stress right now, which I in turn into feeling bad for feeling stressed when I'm repeatedly told not to stress so much.


I have a day off and a dinner engagement to attend to, and I need to get up and out and moving. Just wanted to say I'm sorry for not contributing much these past weeks, I don't know when I'll be back in the blogging saddle, and I would feel bad but I know you all understand - and my plate is already overloaded with feeling bad, so thank you, for being internet nice enough for me to not feel bad about missing post after post.

also, thanks for letting me vent. I appreciate it.

01 December 2010

Quick Link: Gender Dynamics

Sociological Images has a fantastic vid up this week by a young woman in Hong Kong, talking about gender dynamics and the negative stereotypes women encounter daily. She focuses on Hong Kong specifically, but I guarantee you'll recognize the things she talks about. Well worth your ten minutes.

29 November 2010

Some Harry Potter Thoughts

So I have two great posts outlined, but I spent ten and a half hours on Amtrak today and as such can barely spell my own name. So you get a smart post next week.

This week, you get a quick (and spoiler-filled) list of my impressions on the latest Harry Potter, which I saw over Thanksgiving with my cousins. If you haven't seen it yet, go read something else. I recommend something coherent.

1. So let's get this out of the way: it was a fairly decent movie. I feel like I've been watching the evolution of Steve Kloves's writing skills over the last ten (or however many) years, as he has gone from super-sucky to eh, nothing to write home about. A not inconsiderable improvement.

2. That said, there were still some clunker lines. The most obvious among them being, to my mind: Harry: We should get moving. Hermione: Ron's not strong enough to Apparate. Harry: Guess we'll go on foot. Next scene: Them in a completely different locale with none of the same geographic features. Me: Eyeroll. Exactly how many miles do three teenagers, one of them wounded, who are trying to keep out of sight, walk in a day?

3. That said, there were good lines. For example,  how awesome was it that Harry finally got the whole "dead parents" thing turned on him? That was epic. (I have an actor friend who, when he needed to build up frustrated teenage angst for a role, used to say he was channeling Harry Potter, circa movie number five. "My parents are dead!" he would yell, and then pop in and do an angsty scene, note-perfect, against all his natural inclinations.) Finally, finally, Ron, in the exact same tone of voice as Harry made so famous, yells "What do you know about it? Your parents are dead!" And despite the sadness that the line implies and the importance of it in terms of plot, I chortled.

4. SPEAKING of dead parents, where was the Harry Potter memorial? AHEM. I thought that a vital and beautiful part of the book, and was sad when the movie showed only a burned out house. The movie was two and a half hours already, Kloves. Another ninety seconds won't do much either way. Christ.

5. You can really see the camaraderie among the three leads now that they've been making movies together so long. It's nice; it mirrors the camaraderie the characters have in the books. The kids are clearly comfortable with each other, which I liked. (Not at all like the early movies.)

6. Still, though. I don't know if it's me or them, but those actors? LOOKED SO YOUNG. And TINY. I once saw Emma Watson in real life, and she is ridiculously small; but the whole movie I was going, I'm not sure you're old enough to be doing this! All the adult actors are still taller than you! Eat some spinach or something!

7. In other I-am-turning-into-someone's-grandma news, they should have been wearing way more winter clothing. They're on a camping trip in England in winter. I myself have lived in England and spent a couple of winters there. (I had the sense never to camp outdoors during that time.) I know that as a native Californian I expect to be rather warmer than England can generally provide. But still. Trust me when I say, a turtleneck and a sweater is going to do nothing for you. You need about four more layers, and at least two of them should be waterproof. It was distracting, how freezing I imagined all of them being. Don't even get me started on the whole stripping, diving into iced over water, coming out, putting on one shirt, and being fine scene. Because when you're magic you don't get hypothermia!

8. Something done really well: The opening scene, where Hermione removes her parents' memories of her. Beautifully done, and done in a cinematic, not literary, way. Unlike so many other scenes in this series.

9. Something done quite poorly: Assorted lines wherein someone yells, "But that's so dangerous!" Mates. I do not want to be the one to tell you this. But you are past that level. It was "so dangerous" back in movie two. Now it's just your life. Love it or leave it.

10. Proof that my gay and gay-friendly friends have totally rubbed off on me: In the dramatic moment, when Ron is destroying the Horcrux, it's taunting him with Harry and Hermione kissing, naked. (Tastefully fogged out for the younger viewers.) Ron, in love with Hermione himself, gets a determined look on his face and stabs it to stop the scene. Me (in my mind): You go Ron! Kill the heterosexuality! You know Harry really loves you! (My sister, when I told her that: God, you can't even pronounce "heterosexuality," can you? England was so bad for you.)

Hello again, goodbye

Just a quick Hello and a quick goodbye:

Hello: I am sorry I missed my Wednesday post.
When I woke up Wednesday I had no hot water, and my heat was still not on in my apartment, when I got home that night, my building had no power. I decided to high-tail it to a friend's place, seeing as I had to car-trip to Seattle with them the next morning anyway, (American Thanksgiving!) I don't do internet when I'm with company, so I did not update on Wednesday.

Since I've been back from American thanksgiving (which was very nice) I've been wallowing in the sand-pits of depression, and haven't been up for much think-y posts, as my thoughts don't go beyond "boy, I wonder when I will be out of these sand-pits" and "how in the world am I going to get enough energy to get up this morning?"

So that's where I am right now.

and now the goodbye:

Leslie Nielsen died today. I guess it was peacefully in his sleep after battling a pneumonia - something like that, I read the article but obviously retained no information. if you're really curious just google it, I'm sure you'll figure it out.

But it gave me a good excuse to post: here's a Leslie Nielsen clip, it's a really great line.

I'd like to write a nice line about how this humor should be a way to sustain me during my time of need, or something to link the video to my current state of mind - and in general I'm very much a fan of humor as a good medicine, and I enjoy funny in most forms.... but I'm really just tired. I wanted to let you all know how I was doing, and I felt like I couldn't post a "don't worry, i ain't dead" post without some sort of theme or package feel.

ok, enough with my verbose-ness, I hope everyone had a good weekend and/or lovely American Thanksgiving

26 November 2010

Warning: triggering for sexual assault survivors

Just when my faith in men creeps up a little bit, one moronic individual makes it crash down again.
According to this dude, consent takes away the fun of the 'chase'; American girls, in their uppity need to retain control of their own bodies, make sure men suffer for it, or something.
To be honest, what he says is confusing as it is: talking about French girls taking control and deciding to have sex with men...newsflash. THAT'S STILL CONSENT.
But why worry about female rights? MEN'S SEXUAL URGES NEED TO BE MET. >:(

22 November 2010

I Write Letters

Dear Edmonton, Canada,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the very first anti-sexual assault campaign aimed at the people who can actually make a difference: the goddamn perpetrators. If she doesn't want to sleep with you, and you sleep with her anyway, it's rape, folks. Don't be that guy indeed.

Dear Everyplace Else in the World,

Well, someone's set you a lovely example, haven't they? Where's YOUR poster campaign? Oh, right. You're busy blaming the victims. Never mind.

Dear The Pope,

When you try to get more in touch with Kids These Days, and so you soften your "no condoms ever" policy, so you cite as an example as someone who could use a condom and not be sinning "a male prostitute", what I am hearing is, the man who does everything that I think is bad (prostitute or customer) is still more important to me and more worth saving than the woman who does everything I think is good. The "worst" (by Catholic standards) man's health is more important, more beneficial, more worthwhile, than the "best" woman -- he should protect himself from HIV, but she should not. That is crap, and that is one of many reasons your church bothers me.

Dear Second Season of Chuck,

I must perforce stop watching you again. I keep trying to like you for my sister's sake. But every time you do that nudge-nudge, wink-wink thing at Jeff and Lester (that is, every time they come on screen), you basically say, yeah, we know these guys are douchebags, and we don't exactly endorse that, but don't'cha just wanna cut 'em some slack? No. No, I do not. Men who see women as walking, talking masturbation aides are never funny, unless they're at the bottom of a lake. I want to poke my own eyes out with a spoon every time I see them. I hope they die in a fiery blast from hell. Then and only then will I chuckle at them.

Dear First Season of Fringe,
Are you ever going to pick up? You don't offend me, except when you don't acknowledge the existence of the laws of physics you're breaking, and Joshua Jackson is quite fetching, but you are boring me and very soon you will get deleted off my hard drive if you don't get more interesting.

Dear Miles Vorkosigan,

Marry me.

20 November 2010

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2010

Today is the twelfth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, intended to honor the hundreds of trans people who have been killed through malice or neglect directed at them because of how they looked.

Killed. Because of how they looked. When we put it like that, it's horrifying, isn't it? It should be.

One of the dearest, kindest, most artistically bad-ass people I know is a trans woman named Elenore. She's made a comic about today. Go read it. I'll wait.

If you are trans, or love a trans person, coping is a year-round state. For me, one way of coping is acknowledging the intersectionality in play here. If someone, anyone is attacked for how they look, it's the person who does the attacking, and the society that condones the attack, that are in need of a change. Every trans person harmed harms us all. We need to stand up for our fellow humans. Be there, and be heard. It is the least and the most we can do for each other.

19 November 2010

My brain is frazzled, so not much of a post tonight. But here, have an article I fully agree with.
FYI, this is why, as much as I'm looking forward to the Harry Potter film, I also am dreading it. Supa!fresh Hermione is not my idea of a role model I wish to aspire to. But I shan't start; I'll never finish.

17 November 2010


This week I don't have must post in me, i must admit. Part of it might be I have been waking up with a mild migraine for the past four days, and it might be partly just the usual business of life.

But I found something hilarious and awesome, so I don't feel too bad for just giving you a link.

Privilege denying dude

16 November 2010

Bits 'N' Bobs

This started out as a mini-post, and turned into a sort of fragmented meander - though hopefully an interesting one...

So, firstly, I’m wondering perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew for roughly the 19th time in my life. Continuing on from Arcadian, at nearly 23 I’m wondering when I will work out my limits. Unlike Arcadian, I feel I can blame this sense of near-invincibility-until-I-actually-keel-over on my parents. Well, my mum. She’s a classic ‘superwoman’ – have an amazing career, create a wonderful home and look after a very demanding family, and more – a truly amazing woman who is (however clich├ęd it sounds) one of my best friends as well as my mum. However, growing up with this as a role model does sort of instil one with a sense that ‘nothing you ever do will ever match up’. A vague impression that I’ll never be working hard enough or aiming high enough.

I’m currently adjusting to working full time for the first time in my life (for longer than 6 weeks) and loving about 98% of it. The only problem being that when I arrive home I’m shattered. I can attempt to something other than have a bath, perhaps watch a bit of TV and go to bed, but it generally doesn’t end happily. Granted, it’s not your average job (touring a theatre-in-education play around primary schools, average 1 ½ hours driving each way and between schools – turns out it’s quite hard work) and I do have a pain/fatigue condition, so I could sort of be let off. But there’s always a little guilty niggle at the back of my brain pointing out that my mother (and to a certain extent my father) has never let illness or fatigue slow her down. I know that the majority of this is me, not my parents – and that they’d be horrified to know this. They have been nothing but supportive, incredibly so, throughout my life. But still I find myself trying to do more and more – alongside a full time 10 hours a day physical job I’m running a weekly drama group (plus fundraiser/performance coming up, gulp) and two book groups, and long distance relationship and all that general family/friends social stuff. On top of a pain/fatigue condition.

To sum up, half of me is going “woah slow down there lady, you’re running yourself into the ground”, whilst the other half is reminding me that “pfft. That’s nothing. Stop whining and do something WORTHWHILE.” Then there’s a tiny little part of me also going “when are you going to grow up, stop worrying about what other people think and realise your limits?" Though does that ever happen? Looking at my mum (however much I love and admire her) I would say not…

Secondly, on a happier and totally random, unrelated note, just when I think Daniel Radcliffe (in his own special way) could not make me adore him any more, he sings the Elements song on national television. However odd this sounds, it made me so happy I thought I would burst (thanks to Arcadian for the tip off!) so thought I would share it with you to lighten up my little whingefest.

Finally, since I seem to be meandering around the place, much to my amusement/despair I vaguely feel it is my duty as a British blogger to mention the newly-announced Royal Engagement. I’m sure it won’t be the last time the media frenzy surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement is mentioned on Fishnet Bluestocking – even if it is in the form of a rant – as only a few hours in I’m sure mrs_random_cheese (a fellow brit) is already getting as sick as I am at all the fawning obsession surrounding the couple (and I’m saying this as a supporter of the monarchy). It will be interesting to see how the media start treating “Wait-y Katie” now she’s in line to be Queen – the "commoner" who dares to marry a Royal moulded into a new Diana, or (seeing as it's the 21st century) actually allowed to be a modern woman? Hmm…

On THE final note: Prince Harry in charge of a stag do? I’d pay to see that...

15 November 2010

Young and Stupid

"What, and suck all the spontaneity out of being young and stupid? I'd rather live in the dark."

"You're not gonna be young forever."

"Yes, but I'll always be stupid! . . . . Let's not all rush to disagree."

-- Xander and Willow, in the Buffy episode "What's My Line? Part I"

I have from a very young age considered it a massively unfair burden that I must make some dumb and ill-informed decisions before I can learn enough to choose well.

I'm not exaggerating. I hated being corrected as a kid. I don't mean that I fought with grown-ups, or pushed my own view, although I'm sure I did. I mean I can remember the deep sense of embarrassment and shame that used to wash over me when I attempted an answer and was mildly and politely told that no, actually, it was this other thing.

(It is so tempting to blame this sort of thing on one's parents, isn't it? It's a hobby of mine. But in this case, I can't imagine they had anything to do with it; they took a great deal of care to instill confidence in me and encourage me to learn and try new skills, and persevere through mistakes. No, my friends, I blame my parents all the time, but I believe this one is on me.)

When I started college, I swore up and down that I was going to do every reading and attend every class. (See, rather than bypassing young-and-stupid, I merely morphed it into a bizarre, twisted mutation of itself.) I am not joking. I took it seriously. I didn't miss more than one class a semester until half way through my third year.  Because I was knocked so flat with the flu that I couldn't get out of bed, really, for a week. Even then I tried to go to class, only to leave halfway through and get taken to the doctor by a caring university nurse. (I still made it to my philosophy seminars, and sat in the corner, contagious and miserable.)

If I only take things seriously, I tell myself. I can just avoid that whole mistake-making, not-thinking-through element of the human condition. That's other people's problem, I decided. I will do better. I just need standards.

I'm putting all this in the past tense, but I am barely, edgily, inching my way out of this way of thinking.

Because a lot of things did work in that way of thinking. I sure attended a lot of college classes. It gave me a bizarre kind of confidence in myself, and a way to feel in control of my life. Just learn enough, that's the ticket. There is somehow a level of knowledge you can achieve that will make you ... what? Confident? Responsible? Intelligent? Impossible to overlook? Whatever. I was going to find out, because I was going to get there.

And it was all fun and games until I looked around and found myself living in a Bryan Fuller show, but without the supernatural element. And I'm still looking around being like, well, I thought that going to high school, and going to college, and then traveling, and working, and traveling more, and getting a master's, I thought that would be enough. And I don't really see how a PhD would help me. But something went wrong, because it wasn't enough.

Every person older than me (and maybe 85% of the people younger than me but older than say, 17) is shaking her head, the way I do when a fictional character has just made a really boneheaded move. (You thought that would work? You're cute but stupid!)

I can't illustrate this all adorable, like the clever person who runs Hyperbole and a Half would do. And I can't seem to make it deep, or about anything other than my confused floundering. (I mean, I'm sure it's a metaphor, for, um, politics! Everything is a metaphor for politics, right? It means, um, personal responsibility, or something.) It's not a feminist issue, except for how I'm bitter at people, some of whom are men, who seem to have their lives better sorted. It's not even about culture, or pop culture.

It's just that universal human thing, of wait, how the fuck did I get here? Because I honestly thought the map was going that way... and now that I am here -- can I do anything about it?

You know what this relates to? Being fucking 26. If I were older, and knew more, I wouldn't have this problem! FOILED AGAIN.

14 November 2010

Linking Again

I've taken another dive deep into Miles Vorkosigan land, which means that instead of getting anything done I'm sitting with a library book giggling and talking aloud to fictional characters. (...Shut up.) 

Thinking about Miles and how he stacks up against other escapist heroes brought me back here. Ahh, who doesn't love a good excuse for self-pity? So sexy. (On the page I mean. I believe many a real-life relationship has suffered from an excess of self-pity.)

Stephen Fry Gives Me What I Want!

Sort of.

Thanks for the tip, Word.

13 November 2010

Brief post from me again (wow) but I just wanted to direct attention to this story:

HURRDURRHURRDURR, is essentially how I feel about these morons trying to hijack a legitimate week for those who aren't in a safe space regarding their sexual orientation. But hey, can't have the minority stealing attention the privileged have. No sireebob.

12 November 2010

Warning: weird rant ahead

This is going to turn into a rant of pretty personal things, so please feel free to ignore. I figure, I know two of you well enough to be comfortable about talking about this, and the others-you're across the pond so I won't see you to be uncomfortable about it.
Anyway, the last couple of weeks I've been faced with various attitudes, snarks and glorifying of eating disorders. With content that could be triggering for personal problems, there should always be a trigger warning. And such it is for many things. But, I don't know, I don't see the same courtesy for eating disorders. Which is fine, except whenever I see someone discussing weight, calories consumed, the cottage cheese on their thighs, the fatty fat fattys walking past, it ignites omething in me. Well, it ignites the self-loathing, unconfidence and hateful hateful voice that I, as many others do, like to call my best enemy Anna. My body hasn't been physically in danger for a long, long time now. But I don't know that I have ever recovered mentally, so when crap like..'lol, had 400 calories today, must be an anorexic now', I blow my rage hole. Teenagers who post comments on forums all 'lol, yeah, anorexia. I want to have it, I wish I were thin :(" Um. NO. NO. SORRY NO NO NO. NO-ONE PLANS TO BECOME SO MENTALLY OBSESSED WITH EVERY CALORIE THAT YOU WEIGH EVERYTHING YOU EAT. No one plans to become so obsessed with your weight that you have 30 minute arguments with your mother about whether or not she planted that chicken skin on your plate so she could fatten you up. No one plans to get so obsessive about everything that your skin turns blue, you're constantly cold, you can't remember feeling any kind of emotion and tiredness and no energy is such a common feeling that when, for once, you're not tired, you feel 500 million times better than you always would. I always remember that day when I went shopping for clothes and didn't yawn once. Because I felt so good, and I felt so free and even though it was a long way to go recovery wise, I had started to feel again. blah blah blah, whatever.
You know what else isn't helpful? Friends commenting on other people's weight freely, with no self-restraint. Judging what they put in their mouth, joking about their level of attractiveness. People on the internet, malicious and crap, talking about how 'haters are fat and ugly'. Screw. You. I don't know where you get off feeling morally superior to those who eat more/less than you, or those who weigh more/less than you, but please stop. For the love of all that is holy, stop it now. Orfearmywrathorsomething.

Jysk, 'eat a sandwich' isn't helpful. I didn't FEAR the sandwich, I was afraid of everything that came attached with the sandwich. Lol, and now I can't stop devouring chocolate. Will this cycle ever end? I don't know, but I DO know that laughing, mocking or judging people for their eating habits (which I'm sure you guys don't do by the way, this is a generic 'address the world' post) sits so far below cool I will consider ending the friendship. Or conversation. Whichever. Mental scars are still real, you just can't see them.

11 November 2010


So, I hopped on board the Nanowrimo train. Yup, I sure did. I stayed on the main carriage of that train for about three days with my "shiny new fantasy" idea. I don't usually do fantasy, I write Young Adult - but this was different, this was not caring and being laid back and just writing to WRITE.

Problem was, I stopped caring. I didn't have an end in sight, and I haven't read enough fantasies to properly spoof them - I didn't even have names for people. I had no patience with any of it. It wasn't fun.

So I turned around and took a hold of that old stuck-in-my-head YA plot - and I said "FINE I WILL WRITE YOU DAMMIT!"

but.... no excitement there either.

Probably the only REAL productive thing I wrote was some porn. Which I did between the two ideas (no, you can't read it) lots of excitement there.

So Now I'm officially OFF the Nanowrimo train, and when I first hopped off of it (er, fell) I was a little glum and kind of "OH SHIT if I can't write for Nano how can I ever hope to write anything ever and also WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE!?"

SO I had a little moment. or two. for a day or so.

and then I did an amazing thing: I forgave myself. I didn't beat myself up. I gave myself a little shrug, told myself it was ok, and tried to turn it around so I could find a little more good from the experience. For instance - I wrote that porn I mentioned earlier.

I'm writing this now, and I'm thinking maybe I'm going to try to write everyday, only I won't put limits on it. how many words, what piece, etc - maybe I just won't care.

So goodbye Nanowrimo - I do wish all the others on that train the best. I'll still enjoy my emailed pep talks. I hope next year we can work something out. In the meantime - I think this counts as my writing (woot!) so I'm on track for writing everyday. I think. I may have missed a day earlier. oh well.

(man, this forgiving yourself is really the way to go.)

09 November 2010

Spot the Misogyny Drinking Game

Okay, I do not have the energy for this myself, but I invite any of you, authors and readers, to play along and take a shot every time Keith Olbermann disses Michelle Bachmann on the grounds that she is a LADY.

I don't agree with any of the words that come out of Bachmann's mouth; I'm thinking of retiring the word "the" from my vocabulary simply because she uses it sometimes. But Olbermann using a fake whiny voice when he quotes her, and saying things like "oh, snap" as if they're having some sort of playground throwdown, is not really the most mature tactic, and smacks of "you can't really argue logically with CRAZY LADIEZ."

I dunno. As aforementioned, I just don't have the energy right now. Opinions? Maybe I'm going for the worst.


This is a sort of mini-post because I am a sleepy mermaid this evening. However, I just had to share a sense of amazement and wonder I am currently experiencing (semi-seriously) as I ponder human behaviour. Let me explain, the television is on in our living room as a sort of background noise. Generally I’m ignoring it as I pootle round sorting out general stuff – but my attention was caught by a rather remarkable programme: Extreme Fishing. I kid you not – a guy (who describes himself as an “extreme angler”) on a boat, wrestling with fish on a line, occasionally commenting (in a very ‘manly’ way) things like “this isn’t like any fishing I’ve ever experienced, and I’m wondering whether I can cope.” For an hour.

Now, you may have gathered that this isn’t my kind of show (very entertaining though it may be) but I was rather tickled by the whole concept. Obviously I’m aware of Extreme Sports, and heard of slightly tongue-in-cheek activities such as Extreme Ironing and Extreme Cello Playing (usually as a fundraising stunt). But this was serious. The whole thing seemed bizarre: let’s take a relaxing, therapeutic activity and make it EXTREME! We will WRESTLE BIG FISH and grit our teeth as we HOLD ON TO RODS VERY TIGHT!

What is it about us as a species that makes us continually want to ‘go one better’ than anyone else. Show that we’re better, “harder” than everyone else? Prove that we can push even the most innocent of activities to the very limit. Maybe it’s some left over urge to be the ‘alpha’ male or female - a need to show off for any potential mate. Or maybe just it’s the need to show off. I’m simplifying like mad here, but hey – any more scientific/philosophic insight is very much welcome!

To end this musing, I want to share with you my own favourite example of this bizarre urge to Man Up: Extreme Reading. One of my friends is a huge Jasper Fforde fan (as am I – and I urge any bookworm to check out his novels, as they are a surreal mixture of references/homages and rambling adventure) and has entered his annual competition to find the most Extreme Reader. Click here to learn about his death defying encounter with the Birmingham Bull for the sake of reading. Much harder than any poncy fishing expedition.

08 November 2010

Area Woman's Life "Not Perfect," Say Sources

Sources confirmed yesterday that area woman [redacted for privacy]'s life is not entirely ideal in every particular.

"This came as a shock to a lot of us," says one, rolling his eyes. "Wait, no it didn't. God, duhh."

In fact, the only person who seemed surprised by the news was the woman herself. "I should have expected this information when I realized my house doesn't look like a Pottery Barn catalogue and my life wasn't following the plot of a rom-com." Still, the ideas that life has hardships that must be met and faced, and that sometimes good intentions do not yield good results, that people occasionally disagree and even argue with their loved ones, and that hoping for things does not make them happen, were hard ones to accept.

"It's not faaaaaaaaiiiiiiir!" the woman was quoted as saying. "I haaaaaaaate it."

She was then shocked that whining like a two-year-old did not yield any measurable results. "Fine! I guess I'll just deal with this by writing spoof articles that aren't good enough for The Onion! That will show them!"

Just what it will show, and to whom, was not made clear.

07 November 2010

What I Want (from Stephen Fry)

I've been thinking a lot about this Stephen Fry debacle, and how it ties into having standards, and fitting in with Word's middle ground, and reconciling things he says with other things he does, etc., etc., etc. And the way that I can express my various thoughts is to spell out clearly the response I wish had come from him, (which, by the way, it's not too late for him to give).

I am presupposing that for some reason, he said things to a reporter like "women just have sex to trick men into a relationship," and that that leaked out. Obviously, we would all be happier if that had never happened, but that's not the point. Now, Stephen, play close attention here.

1) Stop complaining about how unfair all of this is to you. I am sure you have a different impression of what happened at that interview than the reporter does/did. I'm sure your what you think happened is NOT the version that is making the rounds of the interwebz. You know what I don't want to hear? How you were so misrepresented, and how it isn't fair, and they took advantage of you, and life is so hard when you're Stephen Fry. Everyone's life is hard, even when they're not Stephen Fry. Everyone gets misinterpreted, and misquoted, and misrepresented, and if you're famous, the odds are very good that you will be mis-somethinged on a massive scale. It comes with the territory. If you don't want that to happen to you anymore, be very clear in your interviews or live the life of J.D. Salinger. But whining about it makes you sound like a big baby.

2) Acknowledge that what you said sounds really misogynistic. Maybe you said it in a joking tone. Maybe you were being ironic. Maybe you were being serious but you had a whole bunch of background logical reasoning that alleviates the misogyny somehow, at least in your mind. (Not sure how that would work but: benefit of the doubt.) For whatever reason, we missed something that somehow vindicated you. But the thing is, without whatever that thing was, you sound like a total douche, and if you don't acknowledge that, it makes it look like you don't understand what you did wrong. A simple statement of, "wow, reading these remarks in the press, I really understand how women would assume that I am sexist," is what it takes so that I don't feel the need to kick you in the shins. Otherwise, I feel that I have to justify my own outrage. That is tiring, and often unproductive. You want back on my good side, you show me that you are different from all those douches who say something nasty and then go all big-eyed and "What are you so upset about? Crazy bitch."

3) Apologize. This is not difficult. If you were misconstrued, you may tack on the optional phrase, "that wasn't what I was trying to say," to the end of your "I'm sorry." Further elaboration is not necessary. Switching the order of your phrases, e.g. "I didn't mean that, I'm sorry" is acceptable but ill-advised. "I'm so sorry that I sounded like a douche" is what I want to hear from you.

4) Explain to me what you really think about this topic. Don't waste my time telling me that this person or that person fucked you over and that's why you came across sounding like you're a douche when you're really not. Do take a little time of your own to tell me that you think men's and women's sex drives are different, that you see things going on in gay dating that don't happen in straight dating, that you think culture fucks women over in these particular ways, that you think culture fucks over men in these particular ways, that you're a dude and so you understand this better and you don't date women but this confuses you, whatever. Whatever it is you wish that the reporter had expressed, whatever statement you think would not misrepresent your views, make it. Give me your reasoning in detail. You're a smart man, Stephen; that much is and has always been clear. If you want to get credit for your intelligence, you have to make intelligent statements.

And that? That is how to get out of whatever dog house you are in.

Everyone but everyone says misogynist crap sometimes. Just like everyone occasionally says racist crap and sizeist crap and heteronormative crap and pro-cis crap, and every other kind of crap. A lot of us fight the kyriarchy, and sometimes we lose. We lose in our own minds and in our own thoughts and without meaning to, and that's life. And getting sulky because "that's not what I meant!" is childish.

A couple of months ago, I was hanging out with Word and another friend, watching Veronica Mars. For some reason we got on the topic of Buffy -- yay, Buffy! And we started talking about the pilot that was first filmed but never aired, when the role of Willow was played by a different actress (Riff Regan). You can watch parts of it online, and I have. Regan is quite a bit taller than Sarah Michelle Gellar and the other female actresses on the show, and she's also rather heavier. They recast Willow after that pilot, and in the show she was played by Alyson Hannigan, who is about sixty pound soaking wet and spends the first two seasons looking like she's twelve.

We were talking about that, and I said, trying for irony "Of course they couldn't have a fat Willow," as in, wow, the producers have such a limited view of what women have to look like. Word gave me a Look.

That Look was an important thing. "Wow, I didn't mean that from my own point of view," I hastened to clarify. "I meant, that was what the producers were probably thinking." Word nodded, satisfied. Would it be appropriate for me to get pissed at her, because she should have known what I meant? Because she should have realized from my tone, or from her knowledge of me, or from some other superfluous piece of information, that I was joking and trying to point out hypocrisy in someone else? Of course not. I didn't mean to be playing into sizeist prejudices, but the fact remains that the words coming out of my mouth were exactly the same as the words that would come out of a sizeist bigot's mouth. And Word was absolutely right to call me on that, because if I had said that in a larger group? And someone hadn't gotten the irony, so clear in my mind, so unclear in my speech? There's me, justifying someone else's prejudice and labeling myself a problem.

You know what else? When I examined my thought processes, after that incident, I realized I have a hard time picturing Regan portraying Willow over the course of the series. Whatever, she didn't  portray Willow, it doesn't matter. But what does matter is that I can't quantify in my own mind how much of that difficulty I have, picturing this other actress playing this part, comes from a lack of imagination, how much comes from her being a very different type of actress and it being difficult to picture her responding to certain developments, how much from other innocent concerns -- and how much comes from my own sizeist prejudices, the ones I didn't think I had.

I didn't mean to send this post off on a tangent, but what I'm trying to say is that Stephen Fry making a mistake is not the problem. Okay, it's not ideal, but his mistake wouldn't have to stand alone and piss people (like for example me) off, if he had taken the mistake and used it as a way to educate himself and others. (You know who did that? Emma Thompson. She's a friend of Roman Polanski, and she signed the petition asking to get him off the charge. A group of students -- from my university, which is awesome -- were like, dude, Emma, you look like you're trying to defend child rape. She took her name off the petition when that was pointed out, and made a statement explaining why. That? Was an awesome response.)

It's not about never making a mistake. It's not about trying to over explain everything, so that you can never be misinterpreted. It's about how you react when someone points out to you that something you said sounds douchey. It's about how you express your frustration when you are misinterpreted. (Or hey, owning your remarks, if you weren't misinterpreted.) It's about having respect for the people who respect you.

06 November 2010

False dilemma

Earlier this week, Arcadian talked a bit about when and why to bring up feminist issues. I'd like to spend a little time talking about how.

Winterson Responds to Stephen Fry

Just a quick note to anyone interested - Jeanette Winterson (author of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and all-round fabulous female egg) has written an open letter to Stephen Fry in The Times today (Sat 4th November).

To summarise, it points out that in women are punished for being 'sexual beings' in pretty much every culture (ranging from being labelled as a "slut/slapper/easy" to being stoned or buried alive), cites case studies in British history, the double standards of men in particular when it comes to female appearance (particularly with aging and the 'toyboy' stigma) and in porn in particular. It finishes by 'explaining' to Stephen Fry "sex for a woman is a lot more than intercourse. And is a lot more than servicing the phallus... it is not that woman lack desire - women lack good lovers."

It's split our family down the gender lines - my boyfriend describing it as "offensive to all men" , and my mum thinking that whilst a little over the top it makes some very powerful points. I wanted to post a link to it, but would have to pay to subscribe - so thought I'd flag it up as one to read if you can get access to it!

Happy Bonfire Night!

05 November 2010

Beauty: the art of cultivating oneself is all about men.

So, I was all set on praising the wonders of Fireworks Night, and how ridiculous and yet amazing it is that we celebrate an attempted terrorist attack on the Houses of Parliament. We Brits are weird, no lie.
However, I came across this article today and I raged. I tend to rage a lot, but really, it inspired a lot of anger from me. The writer of the piece has a history of fat-shaming (hurrah! We all love to judge anyone who deviates from the 7st norm!!!!) so I admittedly have a bias against her anyway, but really? I appreciate a commentary on how the beauty culture can be used as a way to build a woman's self esteem; I like to put it on when I go out because I like to feel good about my face, for me. Not for any man.
I think the worst sentence for me was "To understand what it takes to be beautiful, we need to be very clear about what being beautiful means-being sexually appealling to men." Really? How sexist and heteronormative of you.
Don't let me spoil the experience for you, though. Go ahead and read this trainwreck of an article.

(and loling at the idea of no French feminism. Simone de Beauvoir, anyone?)

04 November 2010

Seriously. What? The. HELL!?

It's been a strange week, y'all. I started writing a comment to Arcadian's post on the having of standards, but found it growing by leaps and bounds into a post of its own. Then the burgeoning post stretched out tendrils to grasp so many other works that I was afraid I'd turn into Cooks Source magazine if I kept at it, so I moved it to the back burner (heh) until I could sort out which ingredients were fresh, organic ones from my own brain, and which I'd stuffed under my coat and smuggled out of the marketplace of ideas.

Meanwhile, something is rotten in the state of libraries. Communications with co-workers and with the public have been confusing to the point of chaos all week long. In fact, most workdays, I feel kind of like Hugh Laurie's character must in this:

So, erm, basically, I've not yet sorted out those thoughts of mine on feminism, on teachable moments, on noticing injustice, and on whether commenting on said injustice every damn time it comes up makes you a big damn bore or a big damn hero. More later.

P.S. Stephen Fry, I'm still kind of angry and disappointed with you, but you do know how to bring the funny. I will give you that.


Let's indoctrinate the young, I say.  A Tea Party candidate, who couldn't manage to scrape up enough support to be the Republican candidate in a Washington state district has written a picture book about the evils of the Obama administration.

Look, don't get me wrong. I really do think that indoctrinating the young is one of the great joys of humanity and very close to the top of my imaginary list of parenthood pros, should I ever make such a list trying to decide about procreation. What gets me about this book is that it's not trying to be subtle. This is a book for adults. I can just picture a six-year-old being completely baffled by the whole thing. The Christmastution? Lots of things in kids books don't make sense to actual kids but few actively try to make it difficult for the parents to explain what they're talking about.

Via Slog.

03 November 2010

Young girls talking about themselves

"Great minds discuss ideas; mediocre minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people."

The above quote that Arcadian mentioned in her "no judgment" post is one my mom once told me, though I forget the context of why it was said. Both my mothers are pretty awesome, and this mom has always steered me through the thorny briar patch of life with pretty sound advice ("if you don't want anyone to find out about something, NEVER EVER WRITE IT DOWN." - sorry mom, I have a journal!)

I think people use the above quote to probably keep young people from gossiping. ("Now kids, stop talking about the new kid at school and go play hopscotch")

In my University class on Chick Lit (yes, really) One of the topics I presented on was Sex and the City, and the notion that women often build friendships through talking. Like the girls on the show do - witty banter back and forth, most of the time they talk about other people. And the generality of "girls talk, boys do stuff" when it comes to friendship feels like common knowledge to me. And girls like to talk about other people. Or themselves. Or both.

So there we have it:

"talking about others makes you a low and petty person."

"women like to talk about themselves and other people"

"women are low and petty people"

which, ok, I already knew that stereotype was going around (along with how irrational we are and stuff), but I never realized how much I felt guilty for talking about people because of this uncontentious connection I was making in my head. I can't want to talk about people I know, that makes me one of THOSE women. One of those "Sex and the City" liking girls. Because after all if women like it it must be stupid. And so talking about each other and ourselves is just us being dumb and petty and things.

I'm coming to a couple of realizations:

1. Facebook. Everyone loves facebook. And facebook is ALL about other people. Talking to them, yes, networking, yes, but you're doing it ALL on a public forum - Everyone can see your conversations and is welcome to opinions on all your relationships and interactions. There's even a status button for your relationships, which everyone gets to comment on if you change. There's a reason social networking has exploded all over the internet and it's because everyone is interested in everyone else - whether they choose to talk about it or not.

that's because 2. we are a social species. It makes sense that other people interest us - we spend most of our time surrounded by other people! Having knowledge of other people actually DOES translate to real business-y world know-how - didn't we cover that in networking?

All of this has been brewing through my head for two reasons, 1 - the quote we started off with and 2. this video:

Catchy. But is that what us young girls talking about ourselves really sound like? "I was like, he was all, OMG, totally" - and do we still sound that way as young women? old women? And why aren't boys the same way - too busy playing computers and inventing things I suppose, right?

In conclusion: I've rambled on a subject that I would like to be more academic about, but have mostly failed at sounding as academic as I would like. I am proud to say I enjoy discussing people, including myself - and I would challenge people who say this makes me petty to hop off their facebook account and come and have a word with me, because I thing discussing people, relationships, words said between people, and other people in general makes sense in this social world of ours.

02 November 2010

Thank You For NOT Smoking

Now, I know it’s never a good idea to expect great things of a screen adaptation of one of your favourite books. It’s an even worse idea to hope for good things from a TV adaptation of a Terry Pratchett book. However, I’m an eternal optimist, so was quite excited to finally sit down in front of Sky’s adaptation of Going Postal. Despite the previous Pratchett adaptations inflicted on fans and regular viewers alike (an average version of Hogfather and the truly abysmal Colour of Magic/The Light Fantastic both inexplicably starring David Jason) I figured that with its lack of high fantasy and streamlined plot – not to mention the modern day and film parallels/references scattered throughout – Going Postal could actually work quite well.

It didn’t. For all sorts of reasons. It wasn’t too bad – there were some nice stylistic touches, and the majority of the casting was great – but there was still quite a lot of ‘I want to beat you round the head Mr Adapter/Director Man then do the job properly myself’. However, there was one aspect in particular that got me really confused, enraged and then despairing of film and TV in general.

The female lead in Going Postal is a character called Adora Belle Dearheart. A complete homage to female characters in film noir, and Lauren Bacall in particular, she’s strong, spiky, deeply sarcastic and a chain smoker. As in, cigarette permanently in hand – so much so that another character comments that Miss Dearheart reminds him of a volcano goddess, especially when the weather god has “rained all over her lava”. It’s a running joke, but one integral to the character.

With the target audience including children, teenagers and young adults I had wondered whether The Mob (the production company behind the Going Postal adaptation) would dare to keep this habit of Adora Belle’s alive on screen - indeed, with the anti-smoking attitude now prevalent in the entertainment industry (on screen at least) I had half resigned myself to it being surgically removed. Imagine my surprise when Claire Foy, as Adora Belle Dearheart sashays onto the screen, cigarette holder firmly in hand. My surprise continued as a large section of the plot of Going Postal developed into a half soaked, melodramatic anti-smoking advert. Rather than the chain smoking bitch expected by fans, the Miss Dearheart presented by The Mob has been morphed into a desperate, neurotic young woman, who was driven into nicotine by grief at the loss of her family’s fortune and demise of her brother. Themain character actually experiences a ‘flashback’ in which he sees a young, wholesome Adora Belle (wearing a brightly coloured dress and flowers in her hat) so distraught at the financial ruin of her family that she runs over to a stall in the street, rejects the comfort of a chocolate bar and instead chooses the dreaded box of cigarettes to the sounds of dramatic music. We later see her holed up in a barn (why?), forcing herself to smoke, coughing pitifully as she drives herself further into anti-social despair.

Now, I’m not a fan of smoking in any form. I do understand that role models, such as actors and movie characters, glamorising smoking is bad. I don’t understand however, why The Mob felt that such a melodramatic and patronising depiction of smoking would do anything for the audience save irritate the hell out of us. I looked up Going Postal on SceneSmoking.org, a website rating films based on their smoking content which I both sort of admire and find terrifying, to find out what they thought – sadly it wasn’t listed, which is a shame as they would have had a field day. Because despite the ‘beat you over the head with how bad smoking is’ attitude, if you give a sexy woman a cigarette holder, and, this is important, have the hero to take no notice of the fact his lady is occasionally puffing on it, you undo any of the vague intent behind the patronising additions to the story. Claire Foy, as Adora Belle Dearheart, makes smoking looks elegantly cool. All you’ve done is annoyed the fans, and frankly, anyone with half a brain.

The ironic thing is that in the original book character is, Pratchett very carefully, and subtly, does exactly what The Mob failed to. The Adora Belle Dearheart of the book, however awesome, is no role model. She’s neurotic to the point of needing serious therapy, and wields her cigarettes as anti-social weapons, a foul device to isolate herself from a society she refuses to trust. The main character, when meeting her for the first time watches her suck down smoke with a mixture of horror and fascination. The smoking isn’t carefully ignored, but seeps into both conversation and action – upon kissing Adora Belle, the hero comments that she tastes “like an ashtray”. Not exactly the glamorous society seems so scared of. Perhaps if more care and intelligent thought had been put into adapting Going Postal and *shock horror* stuck more closely to the text, The Mob could have had their cake and eaten it – a strong, spiky cigarette wielding heroine, who puts an impressionable audience right off smoking.

Election Day Special

We here at FnBs would like to remind and encourage all U.S. citizens to take a bit of time today and exercise your right to vote. No matter your background, at some point in history some badass representative of you said something along the lines of "Fuck this, you don't get to tell me what to do without a little bit of oversight and accountability from me," and fought so that you now get to exercise that accountability. Whoever those people were for your group, they were pretty awesome, so don't flip 'em the metaphorical bird today because you can't be bothered. Go forth and participate in the political process.

01 November 2010

On the Having of Standards

About six weeks ago, my mother, my sister, and I drove halfway across the U.S. to drop the aforementioned sister off at her new Institute of Higher Learning. We had rules about driving, snacking, and the putting on of tunes -- namely that the tunes were under control of the driver at all times, unless one of the passengers was so unhappy with the choice that a head explosion was imminent.

And it had to be a real head explosion, which is how my sister got away with putting on the new Vampire Weekend album no fewer than four times in the first three days. I finally did plead imminent burstability on that, and she switched to Taylor Swift.

I was wary. I have nothing against Ms. Swift as a person, but I'd heard a lot about her songs and none of it sounded appetizing. I listened to the lyrics with particular attention. "That's rubbish," I said, more than once. "How can she say that? She's speaking for girls and she's inviting abuse." Or if not abuse, nastiness, or shame, or some other unfortunate thing. "Sure they're catchy," I said, "and some are sweet. But how can you ignore the messages?"

"You always go right for the rape," my sister said wearily.

My sister has long been confused about why I read feminist news blogs. She thinks I just make myself unhappy, since it's not like I'm doing anything about what I read. (That is, I'm not an activist.) My mom and I sometimes quarrel in the second wave/third wave divide, which is also about standards. (I don't want to quote her here, since I don't want to misrepresent her views online, and as her daughter I have a genetic predisposition to misinterpret anything she says that I more easily may disagree with her.)

The question is, of course, how high should the standards to which we to hold ourselves be? How about the standard to which we hold our friends? Our pop culture?

If the standards are too low, you move into the territory of victim-blaming, excuses, and privilege. Nothing changes, because shouldn't we just understand where our bigots are coming from? Aren't there two sides to every issue? Don't both sides deserve to be heard? You can't hate someone (or distrust them, or refuse to listen to their music, or, or, or) just because of one poorly chosen remark, can you?

That place is one that people who fight for any equal right have had to reject out of hand, thoroughly, before their campaigns can begin to make any sort of impact. And yet -- go too far on the other side, and you can't really have a conversation with anyone. No one agrees with you 100%, not even about the "important stuff." You'd have to stop consuming pop culture entirely, I should think, since all of it is tainted by the culture in which it's made.

(The other danger of this extreme is hard to articulate, because most of the people who complain about it are too far the other way. That is, you become so obsessed with the way people say things that you forget to look at their actions and your own. This is known as becoming too PC and you usually see complaints about it from people who claim they didn't realize their language was offensive and will now proceed to whine about how you deleted their comment. Ninety percent of the time I have no sympathy, but every once in awhile I think people become so obsessed with changing language that they forget about changing actions.)

I've seen this question a lot, posted to feminist weblogs. (Some of the ones I read are on a list on the right, you can search through their archives to find examples.) A new "born-again" feminist will ask -- God(dess), what do I do now? My senses are on high alert. Every single one of my friends has already offended me at least once. Help. And the author will start talking about finding an individual balance.

Of course you have to find an individual balance. Somewhere between "Sure, I mean, I guess that's all right, I mean, the victim existing probably provoked it, or something," and "You're a bigot, and not easily distinguishable from a Nazi."

But there is something confusing about facing the fact that your balance is not exactly like anyone else's. I honestly believe it's the same feeling of confusion you get when you realize your religion is not exactly the same as anyone else's (a feeling I remember from my youth, when I was religious myself). Because, especially when you've invested thought and/or time, and/or argument into your convictions, be they cultural or religious, you of necessity become invested in their inherent correctness.

And then, before you know it, you're back where you started. Other people have different standards! How should you react to that?

Maybe the having a solution to this dilemma is just another meta-layer that traps you in the same way. Balance may only be able to exist as something ever-shifting, ever-accommodating. (But not too accommodating. Too accommodating and you get stuck at the accommodating end.) Certainly the only gauge I have for my balance is trying to look at results. Will fighting this misogynist joke have the results I want? What about fighting this rape joke? Will I alienate and offend, or clue in and wake up?

I don't know if it's a good balance. I often feel that it isn't. Plenty of people see me as too hard-ass, but I still feel like in order to be a "real" feminist I should be much more hardass. (Never feeling like you're legitimate is a whole section of cultural misogyny that deserves another blog post.) I can try to stay consistent, and I can try to stay true to myself and my golden rules. But trusting myself on this is both the most natural impulse and the one I doubt the most.

Where do you stand on this?

30 October 2010

Weekend Free-For-All: There Goes My Hero Edition

Stephen Fry!

Shit, man! I loved you! I named you as the one living person I'd like an interview with! You were awesome! You were an advocate for mental health awareness! You host QI, and are consistently awesome about it! I never thought you were perfect, but I respected you and was impressed with your shit.

And then you drag out this goddamned tired cliche? Fuck, man. That's low. That's crap. That's a) deliberately ignoring a slew of cultural factors, b) speaking with authority on something about which you have gathered only anecdotal evidence and data, c) propagating stereotypes (which, by the way, I thought you were generally against), d) going for a cheap laugh instead of trying to challenge prevailing cultural attitudes, and e) coming across like a shmucky douche.

Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done. You know I love you, but that doesn't mean you get to just be a dick. I expected better.

Fry says he was misquoted and misconstrued. He is not, however, apologizing in a particularly mature way. Maybe you and I just need some time apart to sort through our feelings, Stephen.