dolorosa_12: (Default)
I. A friend of mine, a (white) university lecturer from Canada who did his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the UK, was in a pub with his wife, a (white) British secondary school teacher. One of the other patrons started ranting against 'the immigrants'. My friend pointed out how expensive and difficult it was to emigrate to the UK, using his own situation as an illustration.

'Oh, I wasn't talking about you,' the ranter said. 'It should be easier for people like you to emigrate. You're not like all those others.'

II. I have been in the UK on several student visas, and the process is extremely complicated and very strict. You must prove yourself able to support yourself financially, prove that you're a genuine student, and, if English is not your native language, prove English-language competence. I am now on a one-year post-study work visa, which is similarly arduous to receive. If I were not in a relationship with a person from within the EU, I would have to leave the UK - the country in which I have lived for the past seven years - next June.

Almost all my non-EU friends in the UK who have finished their postgraduate studies are here on spouse visas. Employers don't want the expense and hassle of applying for work visas. Those friends of mine who don't have a partner from an EU country have left.

III. A friend of mine, an American woman who did her undergraduate and postgraduate study in the UK and is married to a British man, recently took the test to apply for indefinite leave to remain as the spouse of a British citizen. Every single question was a variation on the following theme:

'Are you eligible for benefits in such-and-such a situation?'
'No.'

IV. As a German citizen, my partner can waltz through passport control in seconds. He can earn as much or as little as he likes. He can stay in the UK forever. But he cannot vote in general elections.

As a non-EU citizen, I am occasionally hassled at passport control (although less than someone non-white and non-native-English-speaking), as if my student status might be suspect. I must prove that I have access to funds beyond my actual daily needs every time I apply for a visa, even though I am eligible for no state benefits. I can vote in general elections, but my time in this country is measured in visa expiry dates.

V. Were I to want to move to Germany with my partner, we would have to get married, as although the UK treats de facto relationships as equal to marriages, Germany does not recognise them. However, since same-sex marriage is illegal, same-sex de facto relationships are exempt from this restriction.

VI. I come from a country whose leader - an immigrant from the UK - locks up refugees in internment camps in various Pacific countries and denies that the situations from which they've fled are really all that bad.

Anti-immigrant rhetoric in Australia suggests that the country is being overwhelmed by floods of these refugees, but in actual fact, the number of refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat in the past decade is a fraction of the number of refugees who arrived in Italy in a single year.

VII. One of my colleagues at Original Library Job is a (white) British man. Two years ago, he got into a relationship with a Chinese woman who had entered the country on a partner visa with another British man (that relationship had since ended). My colleague and the Chinese woman got married and applied for a spouse visa.

This was denied on the basis that their relationship was not genuine, and because the UK Border Agency believed that because the woman was a political dissident, she was using my colleague to get out of China. Their case is still dragging through the courts, and apart from one brief holiday together in Thailand, they have not been able to see each other. As she was refused a UK visa, the woman is denied entry to all other EU countries as well.

VIII. I reject the dichotomy by which a wealthy, educated Westerner who emigrates for work or study opportunities is an 'ex-pat' while a poor person from a non-Western country who emigrates to escape dangerous or difficult political, social, environmental or economic circumstances is an 'immigrant'. I am an immigrant. My German partner is an immigrant. The Polish woman who cleaned my former college accommodation is an immigrant. The girl I went to school with whose father was jailed for political dissidence in Thailand was (originally) an immigrant, though she may identify as Australian now. Our relative privilege levels mean that we are not treated equally, nor should we pretend that we are all the same. But on a basic level, we should reject any language that implies that one type of immigrant is excellent (and should have an easier time of it) while another type is to be despised and mistrusted.

IX. In other words, if you are arguing against racists by saying that not all immigrants are brown and/or Muslims, I don't want you on my side.
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
So, yesterday I did something that I normally deplore in others. I reblogged a quote from a Joss Whedon speech without knowing anything about its broader context. In this case, the quote seemed okay in isolation, but it was taken from this disaster of a speech which is (and cannot be framed otherwise) the unappealing spectacle of a straight, white, cis man telling women how to do feminism. And I have to be consistent. If it were any other man, I would have already been outraged. The fact that it was Joss Whedon actually hurts.

Because look. It's been a long time since I adored his work uncritically, and I've been careful to point out the very real problems in Firefly, in Dollhouse, even in Buffy. I've confronted his treatment of Charisma Carpenter, which was deplorable, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he showed evidence that he was learning.

Because after all these years, I still love Buffy. It was such a source of strength to me at the time, and when I rewatch it, it reminds me what I felt and what I've survived. Because I still think that Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Tara Maclay, Cordelia Chase, Anya Jenkins, Joyce Summers, Jenny Calendar, Faith Lehane, Zoe Washburne and Kaylee Frye are fabulous female characters. (The less said about Inara Serra and River Tam, the better.) Because I still think Whedon's original Equality Now speech, the one about 'why do you write these strong female characters?', is an insightful examination of representation and why it matters. Because the way Whedon wrote Black Widow in Avengers was a gift - she had exactly the kind of power I wanted to see explored in a story. Because the way Whedon characters use words as a weapon even when their physical strength has failed is something that has given me such happiness and strength over the years.

Because (and this might just be internalised misogyny at work) I so desperately wanted a man to say publicly, 'I understand what it is that women are fighting for, what they experience. I understand it and I will try to help.'* Whedon's words and his works were so important to me, so close to my heart, that I needed him to Get It. I needed him to be on my side. I didn't need him to be perfect, but I needed him to try to be better with every new project, and I needed him to use his power and prominence for good.**

I can't give Whedon the benefit of the doubt any longer. That speech has shown that he's not going to learn, he's not going to change and he's not going to help. His words haven't changed my opinion of his work or how strongly I feel about it and identify with his characters, but they have certainly changed my opinion of his intentions. And that actually hurts. It's like closing a door on something. Joss Whedon! I trusted you! And you messed up.

_______________________________
* I should have realised that such men do exist, and in fact they exist all around me, they're just not going around shouting things publicly and being rewarded with acclaim for it. My own grandfather had a feminist epiphany after watching All About My Mother with me and my mother when he was in his 70s. As far as I'm concerned, he was living a feminist life before then, quietly, in his actions towards my grandmother, his sisters-in-law, his four daughters and their children. My partner had a similar epiphany a year or so ago when he told me, 'I get it, now. I get why you criticise media for representation, and I see what you see now. I see beyond the default.' It's a quieter kind of male feminism, but it's altogether more helpful, and I see no problem in drawing attention to it here.

** Again, since we're talking about famous men learning, changing, and using their power for good, I'd like to take the opportunity to draw your attention to John Scalzi. He is an example of someone in Whedon's position who does things right. He's not perfect, but in the years I've followed him, he's learnt and got better. When Racefail happened, he initially screwed up, but listened to friends' criticism, apologised publicly and then offered his (very widely read) blog to Mary Anne Moharanj, an author of Sri Lankan background, as a space to educate people about issues of racism and representation. He's gone on to use his clout in the sf/f community to agitate for panel equality and clear policies on harassment at conventions, and used the taunting of sexist, racist trolls as opportunities to conduct massive fundraising drives for charities supporting equality. In other words, he's taken advantage of the privilege offered by his position as a prominent white male author to amplify the voices of those without that privilege. And that, to my mind, is how it's done.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm not sure if you know this already, but my absolute favourite, favourite kind of story involves angels and demons, over-the-top battles between them, and theologically-tinged interactions between angels, demons and humans. Discussions of free will, the value of flawed humanity, and the incomprehensibility of angelic/demonic nature to ordinary individuals are all desirable bonuses. Unfortunately, very few authors get the tone or narrative right - or rather, very few tell the kind of story I want to read. (I should also clarify that I'm not a religious person, and the kinds of stories of this type that I enjoy normally bear little resemblance to any recognisable depiction of angels or demons within any religion.) I can only think of about five stories that did what I wanted, and they all have their flaws: Paradise Lost (which only works for me if I read it against Milton's intentions), His Dark Materials, Supernatural (which has other, massive problems that a lot of people find extremely off-putting, with reason, and also comes saddled with one of the worst fandoms I have ever encountered), Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books (in which the angels are extremely peripheral to the main story of a masochistic holy prostitute and her adventures as a spy), and Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice (shut up! that book is WONDERFUL). Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy is fabulous, but its demons don't come from any recognisable theology and aren't really the point of the narrative.

In order to get the stories I want, I've waded through a lot of rubbish, from Sharon Shinn's Angels of Samaria series, with its anaemic love stories and irritating plot twist, to some truly dreadful YA paranormal romances (anyone ever read Fallen by Lauren Kate?), in which angelic nature is simply a convenient way to engineer EPIC, IMMORTAL SOULBONDS. I expect very little when picking up a story about angels and demons, which is why Estelle Ana Baca's Cherubim and Seraphim, the first in her Ministers of Grace trilogy, doesn't bother me as much as it could have. But it's so full of typical weaknesses of characterisation and plot that I feel exasperated. Why is it that almost no one can write angels and demons right?

Spoilery dot-points behind the cut )

In spite of all those complaints, I'll keep reading the trilogy, because, as I've already established, beggars can't be choosers. I guess I should get on with writing my own 'war of angels, demons and humans' book that I've been writing for years. After the PhD, maybe.

---------
*Although one is orphaned in a really terrible way.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
Everyone expected me to become a journalist. My parents are journalists, and all their friends are journalists, and I grew up in Canberra, where it sometimes feels like everyone is either a journalist, a politician or a public servant. When I was growing up, the concepts of 'adult' and 'journalist' were almost interchangeable.

I say 'journalists', but what I really mean is 'political journalists'. My father is a very senior political journalist, and so are most of his friends. Hell, even the woman who introduced my dad to my stepmother is a senior political journalist.

I could tell you any number of wacky stories relating to politicians - like the time Paul Keating rang our home number in a blistering rage in 1992 because Dad had said something unflattering on the news, and I, a seven-year-old, answered the phone and had a rather surreal conversation with the surly Prime Minister. Or the time I got roped into a dinner at Bill Shorten's house (because his then-partner knew my stepmother) before Shorten became a politician, where everyone smoked indoors and he tried not to make his ambitions so obvious. Or the time when I was 22 years old and accidentally met Wayne Swan while I was wearing my pyjamas and he proceeded to grill me about opinions of Labor among young people.

Political journalists were my mentors. When I was a child they treated me like a sort of precocious pet, when I was a teenager they tried to steer me in that direction as a career, and when I did, briefly, become a journalist as an adult, they treated me as one of their own. I looked up to them and thought there could be no one as clever and eloquent and cynical and powerful as them. When my father broke very important political stories, I basked in reflected glory, and when Kevin Rudd first emerged as a credible candidate in 2007, I stood in the newsroom with the other journalists, glued to the TV and feeling as if I were participating in something powerful.

And I think it's fairly obvious that I'm extremely left-leaning, so I don't feel like I need to say anything about the horrors that have been going on in the Labor Party since it came to power, because you know what I will say, and what I will feel.

I have always responded to Australian politics like a journalist, even as a child, and even now, when it's five years since I could call myself such a thing. And that is why it hurts. Because political journalism in Australia, particularly after Gillard came to power, is a disgrace. It has reduced everything to personality - and so personality, not policy, came to matter. I am ashamed to have been a journalist, and to have had a journalist's mentality. My childhood memories are tainted. I feel like my trust has been betrayed.

The recent leadership spill upset me less because it will hand Australia to Tony Abbott on a plate, than because it is the crowning moment in a series of things that have shown the Australian political media in an extremely poor light. I know these priorities of mine are messed up, but it is what it is.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Fandom, I love you to bits, but do you think you could manage, just for once, to acknowledge that female characters exist?

Sincerely,

Ronni

This post is brought to you by Fandom A, which seems to have reduced its most awesome female character to being a sort of cheer squad to the main slash pairing, Fandom B, which alternates between ignoring my favourite character and blaming her for the stupidity of her husband and son and only mentions my second-favourite (teenage) character when discussing which creepy old man to pair her off with, and Fandom C, which prefers incest pairings to writing about female characters (admittedly, the canon is horrible in this regard and tends to kill off every female character as quickly as possible).

This post is also brought to you by the knowledge that if people wrote fic for my favourite mini-fandom, it would all be angsty incestuous pairings of the (male) Imperial family members, with a side order of woobiefied (male) villain.

Bonus points if you can guess the fandoms.

PS It's not so much that I want people to stop writing fic, making art and producing meta focusing on male characters. It's that I wish it could be supplemented with equally good amounts of fic, art and meta about female characters. I wish female-centric texts would become as popular as male-centric texts.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
In this post, I'm going to be talking about sexual harassment, bullying and other generally unpleasant effects of misogyny. If you feel that isn't something you'd like to read about, feel free to scroll on by, and don't look behind the cut.

Click here for anecdotes and lots of interesting links )

If I am angry, it is only out of love, because I love these people I'm complaining about, so clever in some ways, but so unwilling to see why this issue hurts me so much. And if I am generalising, prove me wrong.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
My mother sent me this article by Annabel Crabb about Facebook. While I have no particular issue with the article (because I agree with Crabb in thinking that Facebook is not a benign entity, and because I think there are other forms of social media that are better), the comments enraged me. I normally know better than to read comments on internet news articles, but I couldn't look away for several moments, which meant I was blasted by the usual garbage about young people who spend too long on the internet and don't have any 'real' friendships. There was no way I was going to let that one lie.

You've heard it all before when I've rhapsodised about my internet friends and so I won't wax lyrical on that particular point again. We're all on Livejournal or Dreamwidth, so I think I'll take it as given that everyone reading this knows that internet friendships are, indeed, real.

One of the other weird - and unexpected - benefits of having online friends is that you end up learning a lot about the life, history and politics of a variety of other countries and cultures. Due to the demographics of my particular set of internet friends, I have a much more solid knowledge of what it's like to live in Iceland, France, Finland, Ireland, various parts of North America, and, indeed, Britain and Germany, years before I lived in any of those places. (My friendships are limited to a certain extent because I only speak English - and now rather bad German - and I imagine if I were multilingual, my circle of friends would come from even more places.) Online friendships give you a much broader perspective of what it is to be human, and I'd like to think they help to make you a more empathetic and knowledgeable person.

A second point to consider is this. I am an Australian, and lived in Australia until I was 23 years old. Then I went to the UK to do an MPhil (and later PhD) degree. I'm currently living in Germany. Even if you take online friends out of the equation, a significant proportion of my friends live scattered across the globe. Many of them, understandably, live in Australia, but a lot of the Australians have wandered off to the UK, the US, France, Italy, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Cambodia and so on. Then take the friends I've made since moving to the UK. They are a mixture of people who were undergrads at some point when I was studying in Cambridge (and have since completed their degrees and moved elsewhere, either for work or for further study), or they were postgrad students or postdocs, working in a field which requires you to move in order to be where the jobs are. And in two months, when I'm back in Cambridge, I'll have a similar bunch of Germany-based friends whom I'll have left behind. If you take my last ten Facebook interactions, they were (in reverse order):
1. Messaging my boyfriend, who lives in Cambridge, in order to organise a time to talk on Skype;
2. Talking about music with people who live in Stockholm, Michigan, London, Lahti and Thurso respectively;
3. Chatting with a friend who lives in South Wales;
4. Chatting with my boyfriend's sister, who lives in another part of Germany;
5. Discussing the potential Galax-Arena film with a bunch of Australian friends;
6. Talking about the LGBTQ pride Oreos with an Australian friend;
7. Organising a group present with a bunch of friends from Cambridge;
8. Wishing a pair of formerly Cambridge-, now Peterborough-based friends congratulations on their engagement;
9. Commenting on an article my (Cambridge-based) boyfriend posted on my wall; and
10. Talking about Cirque du Soleil with an Australian friend.

Not one of those conversations could have taken place without the internet. I loathe the phone, even if I could've afforded those kinds of international calls, and in any case, it is the internet that enables the kind of spontaneity that typifies the above interactions. Quite simply, without the internet, I wouldn't be able to interact with the vast majority of my friends in a way that is natural and spontaneous. And I think I'm fairly representative of my age and demographic.

Finally, while I am at my happiest when I am interacting with people both 'in real life'* and online, with some kind of balance between the two, in my years online, I have encountered many people for whom the possibility of online friendship was utterly transformative. For whatever reason, these people found or find 'real life' interaction difficult, undesirable or impossible, and the internet perfectly suited to their personalities and interests. And I think that the existence of the internet, of online friendship, is incredibly valuable for this reason. I personally find it easiest to have meaningful conversations through the medium of text, either through blogs and comments, Twitter conversations or various chat platforms, and I am incredibly grateful that such things exist.

We're never going to convince the cane-wavers. And that's okay. If they can't see that what we have is valuable, that what we do is friendship, I don't want them here anyway.

___________________
* I put this in quote marks because the internet is, of course, part of real life.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
Everyone, if you don't like blood, please look away right now.

I'm serious )

Personhood

Oct. 15th, 2011 12:48 pm
dolorosa_12: (una)
[Note: I'm using 'women' to mean cis women here, because the people I'm ranting about are not aware that there are any other women besides cis women.]

So. The Personhood Amendment. Not a pretty piece of legislation. I'm almost speechless with rage, so I think instead I'll link you to another person's words, which do more to rebut pro-lifers' claims that they are, indeed, pro-life than anything I could possibly say.

Potentially triggering for child abuse, neglect and rape )

I'm fed up with Tea Party types who claim to be libertarian and anti-government, except when it's the case of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, then no government intervention is too much. I'm fed up with pro-lifers who care only that a foetus grow into a child, but care and do nothing to ensure that that child (and its mother) continue to have a life after birth. I'm tired of them thinking that abortion is just something that happens to bad people, that if you bring up your daughter (only your daughter) well, then of course all her children will be loved and wanted and safely born within marriage, when statistically it's highly likely that every one of these people knows someone who had an abortion. I'm tired of them arguing that if you don't teach teenagers about contraception, they somehow will not think or want sex at all. (Let me tell you something: I still remember when my then 14-year-old sister came home after a sex-ed class at school and swore never to have sex at all, because of the risks of STDs. Knowledge is power! How can a child, a teenage girl, make a decision like that without all the knowledge?) I'm tired of MY personhood being ignored I feel their words like a physical attack. Their hatred for women is like a blow. I'm scared. I'm angry, and I'm scared.

Again, because it's worth reiterating,

“Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.

Personhood

Oct. 15th, 2011 12:48 pm
dolorosa_12: (una)
[Note: I'm using 'women' to mean cis women here, because the people I'm ranting about are not aware that there are any other women besides cis women.]

So. The Personhood Amendment. Not a pretty piece of legislation. I'm almost speechless with rage, so I think instead I'll link you to another person's words, which do more to rebut pro-lifers' claims that they are, indeed, pro-life than anything I could possibly say.

Potentially triggering for child abuse, neglect and rape )

I'm fed up with Tea Party types who claim to be libertarian and anti-government, except when it's the case of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, then no government intervention is too much. I'm fed up with pro-lifers who care only that a foetus grow into a child, but care and do nothing to ensure that that child (and its mother) continue to have a life after birth. I'm tired of them thinking that abortion is just something that happens to bad people, that if you bring up your daughter (only your daughter) well, then of course all her children will be loved and wanted and safely born within marriage, when statistically it's highly likely that every one of these people knows someone who had an abortion. I'm tired of them arguing that if you don't teach teenagers about contraception, they somehow will not think or want sex at all. (Let me tell you something: I still remember when my then 14-year-old sister came home after a sex-ed class at school and swore never to have sex at all, because of the risks of STDs. Knowledge is power! How can a child, a teenage girl, make a decision like that without all the knowledge?) I'm tired of MY personhood being ignored I feel their words like a physical attack. Their hatred for women is like a blow. I'm scared. I'm angry, and I'm scared.

Again, because it's worth reiterating,

“Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This rant has been building in me for quite some time. Three things, however, convinced me to finally write it.

First is the increased number of secrets posted on [livejournal.com profile] fandomsecrets along the lines of 'social justice types are ruining fandom'.

Second is the number of people I've encountered over the years who react to any criticism of their favourite books/films etc with 'But it's just a story!!!!! Why can't you just ENJOY it?!?!'

Finally, every so often I'll be talking to my boyfriend about a particular book or series or whatever, and he'll say something like, 'I don't know how you can enjoy anything if you're always thinking about these sorts of things [meaning a combination of social justice issues and general thematic concerns]'.

I think he at least gets it now: that is precisely how I enjoy all texts. I can no more switch off that part of my brain than I could give up breathing. But I must confess that to the first two issues, I can say little more than 'huh?' Fandom, to me, seems to demonstrate that everything is interesting or enjoyable to at least someone. You like kids' tv shows from the early 90s? There's a comm for that. You want to make icons of a particularly obscure anime, or discuss continuity issues in Marvel comics or write porn about what band members get up to on tour? You'll fit right in somewhere. There's a corner of the internet for those who like men in tights, vampires who sparkle and knights who say 'Ni'. And if there isn't, you can make one.

But if everything is worthy of enjoyment or interest nothing is above - or beneath - criticism. And, shock horror, it is perfectly possible to like something without thinking it's a paragon of perfection. In fact, sometimes it can be more interesting to like things in spite of their flaws.

I enjoy some pretty problematic stuff. I love Supernatural, which has almost parodic levels of sexism, racism and the odd bit of homophobia. All its female characters end up either evil or fridged. Every PoC is evil. It is quintessential tale of a couple of White Dudes with Issues. And yet I find those White Dudes with Issues completely compelling. I love what it says about family, about sibling relationships, about how to be good (and, more importantly, to do good) in a bad world, about the tricksiness of words, about how to communicate when you mistrust the slipperiness of language and feelings. But the part of my brain that allows me to see and enjoy all these positive and interesting themes in Supernatural also enables me to see that there is much in the series that is deeply, deeply wrong and in need of criticism.

I see no contradiction in being able to adore Firefly for the way its characters talk, for the beauty in the relationship between Simon and River and for its story of a family that is made, not born, while at the same time taking issue with a universe dominated culturally by the US and China with no Asians, and being absolutely disgusted with everything to do with the characterisation of Inara. I can admit that Buffy got me through highschool and is to a large degree responsible for my feminism while at the same time acknowledging that there are things that happened in the series that (rightly) hurt a lot of queer people.

It is possible to love His Dark Materials because Pullman's language is beautiful and its characters are compelling and it gave me the words as a child to articulate my own atheism, while also noting that Pullman's depiction of organised religion is a parodic interpretation of the worst excesses of Catholicism. It's possible to enjoy The Vampire Diaries for its fantastic portrayal of female friendship, because Elena is just awesome and the series goes where Twilight feared to tread, while at the same time thinking that there's some dodgy stuff going on in terms of race and don't even get me started on the character of Damon.

Because nothing is 'just' a story. Stories do matter.

If you don't want social justice getting in the way of your squee, if thinking with some nuance about stories is so annoying that you can't enjoy them, well, fair enough. It's perfectly easy to avoid. Stay in the corner of fandom that suits you best. If you see someone criticising your beloved tv series, film or book, walk away. The internet is big enough for all of us.

But don't you dare tell me I'm ruining fandom by talking about these things, that I can't enjoy texts unless I encounter them passively without criticism. To me, the unexamined text is not worth reading (or watching). That's just how it works for me. You stick to your corner of the sandbox, and I'll stick to mine.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This rant has been building in me for quite some time. Three things, however, convinced me to finally write it.

First is the increased number of secrets posted on [livejournal.com profile] fandomsecrets along the lines of 'social justice types are ruining fandom'.

Second is the number of people I've encountered over the years who react to any criticism of their favourite books/films etc with 'But it's just a story!!!!! Why can't you just ENJOY it?!?!'

Finally, every so often I'll be talking to my boyfriend about a particular book or series or whatever, and he'll say something like, 'I don't know how you can enjoy anything if you're always thinking about these sorts of things [meaning a combination of social justice issues and general thematic concerns]'.

I think he at least gets it now: that is precisely how I enjoy all texts. I can no more switch off that part of my brain than I could give up breathing. But I must confess that to the first two issues, I can say little more than 'huh?' Fandom, to me, seems to demonstrate that everything is interesting or enjoyable to at least someone. You like kids' tv shows from the early 90s? There's a comm for that. You want to make icons of a particularly obscure anime, or discuss continuity issues in Marvel comics or write porn about what band members get up to on tour? You'll fit right in somewhere. There's a corner of the internet for those who like men in tights, vampires who sparkle and knights who say 'Ni'. And if there isn't, you can make one.

But if everything is worthy of enjoyment or interest nothing is above - or beneath - criticism. And, shock horror, it is perfectly possible to like something without thinking it's a paragon of perfection. In fact, sometimes it can be more interesting to like things in spite of their flaws.

I enjoy some pretty problematic stuff. I love Supernatural, which has almost parodic levels of sexism, racism and the odd bit of homophobia. All its female characters end up either evil or fridged. Every PoC is evil. It is quintessential tale of a couple of White Dudes with Issues. And yet I find those White Dudes with Issues completely compelling. I love what it says about family, about sibling relationships, about how to be good (and, more importantly, to do good) in a bad world, about the tricksiness of words, about how to communicate when you mistrust the slipperiness of language and feelings. But the part of my brain that allows me to see and enjoy all these positive and interesting themes in Supernatural also enables me to see that there is much in the series that is deeply, deeply wrong and in need of criticism.

I see no contradiction in being able to adore Firefly for the way its characters talk, for the beauty in the relationship between Simon and River and for its story of a family that is made, not born, while at the same time taking issue with a universe dominated culturally by the US and China with no Asians, and being absolutely disgusted with everything to do with the characterisation of Inara. I can admit that Buffy got me through highschool and is to a large degree responsible for my feminism while at the same time acknowledging that there are things that happened in the series that (rightly) hurt a lot of queer people.

It is possible to love His Dark Materials because Pullman's language is beautiful and its characters are compelling and it gave me the words as a child to articulate my own atheism, while also noting that Pullman's depiction of organised religion is a parodic interpretation of the worst excesses of Catholicism. It's possible to enjoy The Vampire Diaries for its fantastic portrayal of female friendship, because Elena is just awesome and the series goes where Twilight feared to tread, while at the same time thinking that there's some dodgy stuff going on in terms of race and don't even get me started on the character of Damon.

Because nothing is 'just' a story. Stories do matter.

If you don't want social justice getting in the way of your squee, if thinking with some nuance about stories is so annoying that you can't enjoy them, well, fair enough. It's perfectly easy to avoid. Stay in the corner of fandom that suits you best. If you see someone criticising your beloved tv series, film or book, walk away. The internet is big enough for all of us.

But don't you dare tell me I'm ruining fandom by talking about these things, that I can't enjoy texts unless I encounter them passively without criticism. To me, the unexamined text is not worth reading (or watching). That's just how it works for me. You stick to your corner of the sandbox, and I'll stick to mine.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I could start this anywhere. I could start this with the day my mother first put a book into my hands, some American picture book I can no longer remember. I could start with the day I finally learnt how to read, and how the feeling was so shocking it was like a clap of thunder. Or I could start with how I used to pretend to be Sara Crewe from A Little Princess because her ability to escape her surroundings by imagining herself elsewhere seemed extremely desirable to me.

But really, there are only two places I can start. One day, I was ten, and I read a book where one (illiterate) character said to another, 'People who read are always a little bit like you. You can't just tell them, you have to tell them why', and I leapt up to write this down in the little notebook I always carried around, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I thought, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

And one day, when I was 15, I read a book, the third in a trilogy, a book I'd been yearning to read for three years, and one character urged us all to 'tell them stories', and I, with tears streaming down my face (because this book has one of the saddest endings of any work of literature), nodded, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I believed, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

Tell them stories. People who can read must be told why. These two things are true. And they must be the starting point for any response to yet another odious attack on 'depraved' modern YA literature.

I was lucky enough to have an almost trouble-free childhood and adolescence. I had an engaged, thoughtful and empathetic mother who had been buying me books as presents before I could even read, who always answered any questions I had truthfully and without a shade of embarrassment (I remember her explaining to me 'where babies came from' when I was three. I didn't understand her answer, but I'm really happy she actually bothered to explain). My sister and I were always very comfortable discussing everything with our mother, and enjoyed a relationship of openness and mutual respect which continues to this day.

Like most nerdy children, I suffered the usual bullying in primary school, and had the misfortune to be in a group of friends with whom I was incompatible in the early years of high school, and lacked self-confidence until well into adulthood, and books were an escape and a comfort, but compared to what some other people have gone through, it was nothing. I was lucky enough to have really good friends outside my 'group' (I was in higher classes than my 'group', so I knew a whole other bunch of people from those classes, and I also had good friends outside school from gymnastics, piano, Kumon, family friends and, later, my part-time job), and it was less bullying per se than a kind of bewildered indifference. We had formed our group in early Year 7, when people's personalities were less defined, and then, too late, realised we had very little in common besides a hyper-awareness of (and indeed anxiety about) other people's opinions. In any case, I loved reading and was consoled by it, but I don't want to describe it as an escape as I don't really think I had that much to be escaping from at that point in my life.

To be honest, most of the really awful things that have happened to me happened in adulthood. I was ill-prepared for adulthood in a psychological sense and became increasingly depressed as the years after high school continued. The low point was 2007, when I graduated from uni and moved back to Canberra to work in a job that I hated and dreaded. In that year, it was a YA book that saved me, as it brought me to the internet, to The Republic of Heaven, and to a truly wonderful group of people who, and I wish I could say I was exaggerating, gave me something to live for. They saved me, and they have continued to save me for nearly five years now.

But I digress. I'm happy now, and, in any case, in going into my own personal story of how YA literature saved me, I'm wandering away from the main point I'm trying to argue. Which is that literature gives you words.

If you are lucky like me, and grew up, for the most part, without significant pain or sadness, it gives you the words to articulate your beliefs and feelings, and it gives words to those outside your experience, who did and do suffer. I never had an eating disorder or a problem with body image, I was never a teenage victim of abuse, I did not have a problem with poverty or drugs or alcohol or self-harm, I had no disability, I was not pressured into sex as a teenager, I never had to come out or experience homophobia, I never experienced war or violence, my society did not view me as Other. But in reading stories about people who did, I was given the words of people who had experienced these things, and I like to think, or at least I hope, that in having the words of fictional people who experienced these things, I was better equipped to empathise with, and indeed to recognise the common humanity of real people who had. But the point is that if those words were of benefit to me, how much more must they have helped real people who had experienced all these things? Because those stories give them words - words to articulate their experiences and beliefs and feelings.

(I'm uncomfortable talking any further on behalf of others, as I recognise that I have various privileges: white privilege and straight privilege and cis privilege and so on, and indeed if anyone sees anything that's problematic, feel free to let me know either in the comments or via PM, but I did want to at least try not to make this all about me.)

We need stories. We need words. Because they are an essential starting point for really important conversations. Without words or stories, children and teenagers - and, indeed, adults - won't be able to think more critically about, well, anything. Stories and words are the starting-point. Some people would prefer their children not to think about these things at all - indeed, not to know about these things at all - but these are precisely the things that teenagers should be thinking about. Ignorance helps nobody.

Tell them stories. Always ask why. These are the beginnings of all things. They are not a luxury. They are dangerous and powerful. They are essential.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I could start this anywhere. I could start this with the day my mother first put a book into my hands, some American picture book I can no longer remember. I could start with the day I finally learnt how to read, and how the feeling was so shocking it was like a clap of thunder. Or I could start with how I used to pretend to be Sara Crewe from A Little Princess because her ability to escape her surroundings by imagining herself elsewhere seemed extremely desirable to me.

But really, there are only two places I can start. One day, I was ten, and I read a book where one (illiterate) character said to another, 'People who read are always a little bit like you. You can't just tell them, you have to tell them why', and I leapt up to write this down in the little notebook I always carried around, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I thought, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

And one day, when I was 15, I read a book, the third in a trilogy, a book I'd been yearning to read for three years, and one character urged us all to 'tell them stories', and I, with tears streaming down my face (because this book has one of the saddest endings of any work of literature), nodded, because it was so true, so perfect and so exactly what I believed, expressed in words I myself did not possess.

Tell them stories. People who can read must be told why. These two things are true. And they must be the starting point for any response to yet another odious attack on 'depraved' modern YA literature.

I was lucky enough to have an almost trouble-free childhood and adolescence. I had an engaged, thoughtful and empathetic mother who had been buying me books as presents before I could even read, who always answered any questions I had truthfully and without a shade of embarrassment (I remember her explaining to me 'where babies came from' when I was three. I didn't understand her answer, but I'm really happy she actually bothered to explain). My sister and I were always very comfortable discussing everything with our mother, and enjoyed a relationship of openness and mutual respect which continues to this day.

Like most nerdy children, I suffered the usual bullying in primary school, and had the misfortune to be in a group of friends with whom I was incompatible in the early years of high school, and lacked self-confidence until well into adulthood, and books were an escape and a comfort, but compared to what some other people have gone through, it was nothing. I was lucky enough to have really good friends outside my 'group' (I was in higher classes than my 'group', so I knew a whole other bunch of people from those classes, and I also had good friends outside school from gymnastics, piano, Kumon, family friends and, later, my part-time job), and it was less bullying per se than a kind of bewildered indifference. We had formed our group in early Year 7, when people's personalities were less defined, and then, too late, realised we had very little in common besides a hyper-awareness of (and indeed anxiety about) other people's opinions. In any case, I loved reading and was consoled by it, but I don't want to describe it as an escape as I don't really think I had that much to be escaping from at that point in my life.

To be honest, most of the really awful things that have happened to me happened in adulthood. I was ill-prepared for adulthood in a psychological sense and became increasingly depressed as the years after high school continued. The low point was 2007, when I graduated from uni and moved back to Canberra to work in a job that I hated and dreaded. In that year, it was a YA book that saved me, as it brought me to the internet, to The Republic of Heaven, and to a truly wonderful group of people who, and I wish I could say I was exaggerating, gave me something to live for. They saved me, and they have continued to save me for nearly five years now.

But I digress. I'm happy now, and, in any case, in going into my own personal story of how YA literature saved me, I'm wandering away from the main point I'm trying to argue. Which is that literature gives you words.

If you are lucky like me, and grew up, for the most part, without significant pain or sadness, it gives you the words to articulate your beliefs and feelings, and it gives words to those outside your experience, who did and do suffer. I never had an eating disorder or a problem with body image, I was never a teenage victim of abuse, I did not have a problem with poverty or drugs or alcohol or self-harm, I had no disability, I was not pressured into sex as a teenager, I never had to come out or experience homophobia, I never experienced war or violence, my society did not view me as Other. But in reading stories about people who did, I was given the words of people who had experienced these things, and I like to think, or at least I hope, that in having the words of fictional people who experienced these things, I was better equipped to empathise with, and indeed to recognise the common humanity of real people who had. But the point is that if those words were of benefit to me, how much more must they have helped real people who had experienced all these things? Because those stories give them words - words to articulate their experiences and beliefs and feelings.

(I'm uncomfortable talking any further on behalf of others, as I recognise that I have various privileges: white privilege and straight privilege and cis privilege and so on, and indeed if anyone sees anything that's problematic, feel free to let me know either in the comments or via PM, but I did want to at least try not to make this all about me.)

We need stories. We need words. Because they are an essential starting point for really important conversations. Without words or stories, children and teenagers - and, indeed, adults - won't be able to think more critically about, well, anything. Stories and words are the starting-point. Some people would prefer their children not to think about these things at all - indeed, not to know about these things at all - but these are precisely the things that teenagers should be thinking about. Ignorance helps nobody.

Tell them stories. Always ask why. These are the beginnings of all things. They are not a luxury. They are dangerous and powerful. They are essential.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
In the summer of 2003/4, when I was 19, I spent some weeks transcribing my great-grandfather's World War I journal. He was in his late 20s when he joined up, and he fought on the Western Front. For the most part, his journal is pretty banal, full of remarks about the weather and train journeys. Every so often, however, his emotions break through, in comments like 'Today was unbearable. May God forgive us all.' I like to think that such sentiments were the expression of the grief of an ordinary man, conditioned to think of his enemies as inhuman, forced to recognise their humanity. As far as I know, my great-grandfather joined up for a combination of the usual reasons: some degree of social pressure, some degree of a sense of responsibility ('doing one's bit'), some desire to see the world and some degree of patriotism. What this patriotism was not was a desire to 'preserve the Australian [read: white, Anglo, Christian, heterosexual] way of life'. When, on Anzac Day, I commemorate and think about the soldiers who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars, I am thinking of, and commemorating people like my great-grandfather.

And when I see racist, homophobic fuckwits using the memory of men and women like my great-grandfather to propagate an ideology of hate, a definition of 'the Australian way of life' that means 'monocultural, racist and homophobic' that I will not dignify with the name of 'Christian', I am outraged and disgusted. The first person, Jim Wallace, retracted his remarks after dissent from several other Christians, including a member of the Wayside Chapel. The second person, Bill Muehlenberg, did no such thing. His blog post is a mess of the usual garbage:

1. Godwin's Law (referring to detractors as 'the Gaystapo' - stay classy, dude)
2. Misuse of the term 'political correctness' to mean, as so perfectly expressed by my friend Ange, 'you're no fun if you disagree with my choice to say hurtful or racist/homophobic/sexist/misc. things'
3. Equating GLBTQ people with paedophiles, and the 'license' to allow same-sex marriage as allowing paedophilia
4. 'Oh noes! Same-sex marriage will DESTROY the tender, fragile institution of marriage and the foundations of the family and The Australian Way of Life™!'
5. 'Being gay is a choice! It is a lifestyle! And those who choose it shouldn't flaunt their lifestyle in my face at the Mardi Gras!' *pearlclutch*
6. 'Freedom of speech=freedom for me to say whatever racist, homophobic bullshit I like. Freedom of speech is gone if people are allowed to criticise said racist, homophobic bullshit.'

I like to think that, if, indeed, my great-grandfather was fighting for patriotic reasons, his patriotism was similar to mine: a pride in a secular, humanist country, a country that has been enriched by immigration and multiculturalism, a country that has a way to go in regard to GLBTQ equality but which at least recognises that one's sexual preferences, gender performance and identity are nobody's business but that person's and a country with genuine freedom of speech. And I like to think that, if anything, he was fighting for a country where Anzac Day is not tainted by association with the hateful ideology of people like Bill Muehlenberg.

I don't like the views of people like Muehlenberg. Unfortunately, I have to share a country with him (for all that I currently live in the UK). But I can choose to avoid people like him, and he can choose to avoid people like me, with our dirty, multicultural, socially liberal 'politically correct homosexual agenda'. The country is big enough. 'We've boundless plains to share,' after all. The national anthem says so. Deal with it.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
In the summer of 2003/4, when I was 19, I spent some weeks transcribing my great-grandfather's World War I journal. He was in his late 20s when he joined up, and he fought on the Western Front. For the most part, his journal is pretty banal, full of remarks about the weather and train journeys. Every so often, however, his emotions break through, in comments like 'Today was unbearable. May God forgive us all.' I like to think that such sentiments were the expression of the grief of an ordinary man, conditioned to think of his enemies as inhuman, forced to recognise their humanity. As far as I know, my great-grandfather joined up for a combination of the usual reasons: some degree of social pressure, some degree of a sense of responsibility ('doing one's bit'), some desire to see the world and some degree of patriotism. What this patriotism was not was a desire to 'preserve the Australian [read: white, Anglo, Christian, heterosexual] way of life'. When, on Anzac Day, I commemorate and think about the soldiers who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars, I am thinking of, and commemorating people like my great-grandfather.

And when I see racist, homophobic fuckwits using the memory of men and women like my great-grandfather to propagate an ideology of hate, a definition of 'the Australian way of life' that means 'monocultural, racist and homophobic' that I will not dignify with the name of 'Christian', I am outraged and disgusted. The first person, Jim Wallace, retracted his remarks after dissent from several other Christians, including a member of the Wayside Chapel. The second person, Bill Muehlenberg, did no such thing. His blog post is a mess of the usual garbage:

1. Godwin's Law (referring to detractors as 'the Gaystapo' - stay classy, dude)
2. Misuse of the term 'political correctness' to mean, as so perfectly expressed by my friend Ange, 'you're no fun if you disagree with my choice to say hurtful or racist/homophobic/sexist/misc. things'
3. Equating GLBTQ people with paedophiles, and the 'license' to allow same-sex marriage as allowing paedophilia
4. 'Oh noes! Same-sex marriage will DESTROY the tender, fragile institution of marriage and the foundations of the family and The Australian Way of Life™!'
5. 'Being gay is a choice! It is a lifestyle! And those who choose it shouldn't flaunt their lifestyle in my face at the Mardi Gras!' *pearlclutch*
6. 'Freedom of speech=freedom for me to say whatever racist, homophobic bullshit I like. Freedom of speech is gone if people are allowed to criticise said racist, homophobic bullshit.'

I like to think that, if, indeed, my great-grandfather was fighting for patriotic reasons, his patriotism was similar to mine: a pride in a secular, humanist country, a country that has been enriched by immigration and multiculturalism, a country that has a way to go in regard to GLBTQ equality but which at least recognises that one's sexual preferences, gender performance and identity are nobody's business but that person's and a country with genuine freedom of speech. And I like to think that, if anything, he was fighting for a country where Anzac Day is not tainted by association with the hateful ideology of people like Bill Muehlenberg.

I don't like the views of people like Muehlenberg. Unfortunately, I have to share a country with him (for all that I currently live in the UK). But I can choose to avoid people like him, and he can choose to avoid people like me, with our dirty, multicultural, socially liberal 'politically correct homosexual agenda'. The country is big enough. 'We've boundless plains to share,' after all. The national anthem says so. Deal with it.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
Why is it that in all rental properties, there's always something that goes wrong? We've been having problems with our washing machine for ages. When you put it on, it can't get to the spin cycle at all. Initially, we got around this by physically switching it to spin when the other parts of the cycle had finished. After a while, this stopped working too, and so we first had to switch it to drain, then to spin.

Today, it refused to drain at all. When I woke up this morning, I thought, 'well, it's a beautiful sunny day, I don't have to be in the department until 1pm, so why don't I wash our sheets and M's towels? That way, they can dry on the line in the sun all day!' But the Washing Machine of Death had other plans, and our sheets and the towels have been stuck in the machine for three hours, while I desperately tried out every damn setting trying to get it to drain. If I could've just opened the door, it would've been okay, as there's a laundrette down the road and I could've used its dryers.

As is usual in such situations, the landlord's gone AWOL. J emailed him ages ago, and M emailed him again two weeks ago. He promised to be in (last) Monday to check it out. He wasn't. I just phoned him. He claimed to be in a meeting and that he'd phone me back in half an hour. We'll see.

In other, happier news, I simply CANNOT STOP PLAYING THIS SONG. It's a clip from the Tiësto concert in Victoria Park that I went to last year, but it's not your usual shaky camera-phone footage. I'm also pretty sure it's me jumping around like a lunatic at 4.42. Woo! Youtube fame!

ETA: The landlord's called and tried to sort some stuff out. No one can actually fix the machine until Wednesday, but apparently there's a way to drain it manually. I don't have time to try it now, but hopefully I can sort that out tonight.

ETA: M fixed the washing machine on Monday and we tried it out yesterday with a load of H's laundry. When it got to the spin cycle on its own, I danced around the kitchen.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
Why is it that in all rental properties, there's always something that goes wrong? We've been having problems with our washing machine for ages. When you put it on, it can't get to the spin cycle at all. Initially, we got around this by physically switching it to spin when the other parts of the cycle had finished. After a while, this stopped working too, and so we first had to switch it to drain, then to spin.

Today, it refused to drain at all. When I woke up this morning, I thought, 'well, it's a beautiful sunny day, I don't have to be in the department until 1pm, so why don't I wash our sheets and M's towels? That way, they can dry on the line in the sun all day!' But the Washing Machine of Death had other plans, and our sheets and the towels have been stuck in the machine for three hours, while I desperately tried out every damn setting trying to get it to drain. If I could've just opened the door, it would've been okay, as there's a laundrette down the road and I could've used its dryers.

As is usual in such situations, the landlord's gone AWOL. J emailed him ages ago, and M emailed him again two weeks ago. He promised to be in (last) Monday to check it out. He wasn't. I just phoned him. He claimed to be in a meeting and that he'd phone me back in half an hour. We'll see.

In other, happier news, I simply CANNOT STOP PLAYING THIS SONG. It's a clip from the Tiësto concert in Victoria Park that I went to last year, but it's not your usual shaky camera-phone footage. I'm also pretty sure it's me jumping around like a lunatic at 4.42. Woo! Youtube fame!

ETA: The landlord's called and tried to sort some stuff out. No one can actually fix the machine until Wednesday, but apparently there's a way to drain it manually. I don't have time to try it now, but hopefully I can sort that out tonight.

ETA: M fixed the washing machine on Monday and we tried it out yesterday with a load of H's laundry. When it got to the spin cycle on its own, I danced around the kitchen.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This post has been building in me for a long, long time. To a certain extent, it's tilting at straw men, as you may conclude when you've read it, but it's something I really need to say.

It was The Social Network that tipped me over the edge, much to my mortification. Or, not so much The Social Network but the promotional material associated with it.

I've got something inside my head and it's got to come out )

The internet is neither a force for good or a tool of evil. It just is. It is no better, and no worse than the ideals, desires and needs of the people and communities who use it. But my friendships with the sraffies, the Obernetters and the other people I know online have enriched my life in so many ways. I'm tired of being told that we are creating false personae. I'm tired of being told that our friendships are somehow lesser, or less meaningful, or less real, than those forged entirely in the 'real world'. My 'real world' includes the internet and the people on it.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
This post has been building in me for a long, long time. To a certain extent, it's tilting at straw men, as you may conclude when you've read it, but it's something I really need to say.

It was The Social Network that tipped me over the edge, much to my mortification. Or, not so much The Social Network but the promotional material associated with it.

I've got something inside my head and it's got to come out )

The internet is neither a force for good or a tool of evil. It just is. It is no better, and no worse than the ideals, desires and needs of the people and communities who use it. But my friendships with the sraffies, the Obernetters and the other people I know online have enriched my life in so many ways. I'm tired of being told that we are creating false personae. I'm tired of being told that our friendships are somehow lesser, or less meaningful, or less real, than those forged entirely in the 'real world'. My 'real world' includes the internet and the people on it.

Profile

dolorosa_12: (Default)
rushes into my heart and my skull

June 2017

S M T W T F S
    123
456 78910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jun. 22nd, 2017 06:28 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios