dolorosa_12: (Default)
Earlier this year, due to a law change, I was able to apply for British citizenship by descent through my father — something that had previously been impossible for me due to various quirks of British citizenship law. I put in my application, which was approved in May, and had my citizenship ceremony shortly thereafter. This was the last in a run of extraordinary good fortune for me and Matthias. He had received permanent residency in the UK (the optional equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain for EU residents in the UK, and a prerequisite for applications for British citizenship by naturalisation). We had got engaged and set a wedding date. He had successfully applied for a new job, which represented a significant promotion. My job had been made permanent. In other words, we had been putting down deep roots, taking steps towards the future we were choosing to build in the UK.

On Thursday, that future became a lot more shaky and uncertain.

By a bitter twist of fate, my new British passport, which represented the final stage in my immigration journey, something that I had been looking forward to so much, arrived at my house in the early hours of Friday morning, at almost precisely the moment Nigel Farage was crowing on TV about 'independence day' and his 'revolution achieved without a shot being fired'. A moment that I had been dreaming of for years had become a sick joke.



 photo Image-Passport_zpsmdvxd8sr.jpg

I keep looking at that top line on the passport and feeling bitter, bitter sadness.

It's not just about me. Over the past few days, I've been hearing story after story from EU migrant friends, as well as non-EU migrants, and non-white British friends of acts of appalling racism and xenophobia, of feeling unwelcome in their own homes, of the feeling of suddenly facing uncertain futures. I've heard from countless people about various ways this referendum result is likely to affect their current or future employment, their visa status, their ability to sponsor non-EU spouses and other relatives for visas, as well as from British people furious and terrified that they have been stripped of their ability to live, love, work and study in 27 other countries. The loss of free movement is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for me, as someone who has lived visa to visa, keeping track of the implications of small changes to immigration law. A whole world — cosmopolitan, international, collaborative and outward-looking — has been rejected.

I'm particularly furious on behalf of the Scottish and Northern Irish citizens/residents of the UK, and those of Gibraltar, who are being dragged into this by Little Englanders (and the Welsh) without their consent, as well as residents of London, and the bigger cities and university towns of England and Wales, all of whom voted overwhelmingly to remain. My own second home of Cambridge voted to remain by 73 per cent, so at least I don't have to look around and wonder which of my fellow residents are frightened racists. I'm proud of my city. I'm also enraged on behalf of the millions of EU residents of the UK who were denied the ability to vote on their future and forced to watch helplessly as others decided it for them. (A post of Matthias' to this effect caused an ignorant Tory friend of his to question why he hadn't become a citizen if it mattered so much to him, which I must admit gave me a white hot fury. The reason why he hadn't become a citizen was that it would have invalidated my previous visa. He was on track to become a citizen in January next year, but that's now up in the air, as Germany only allows dual citizenship with other EU nationalities.)

I have particular contempt for David Cameron, selfishly bargaining the futures of millions of younger Britons, UK citizens' lives in the wider EU, and all immigrants here in the UK for a shot at stabilising his ailing leadership. Close behind come the Tory Leavers, opportunists stirring the pot for their own personal gain, as well as the Farages and Rupert Murdochs of this world. The Leave voters who didn't actually want to leave, but just wanted to register a protest are utterly beneath contempt. Don't make protest votes unless you actually want to live with the consequences. Otherwise register your disenchantment with spoiled ballots, or by staying home. The rest of us have to deal with your mess.

There was a lot of talk of reaching out and finding common ground, but to hell with that. I, and most people I know, are not taking this lying down. I will be writing to my MP and MEP, urging them to fight against the decision, given that it is an advisory, rather than binding referendum. I strongly encourage you to do the same. You can find your MP here and your MEP here. I would also encourage EU residents in the UK to write to the MEPs of their home countries. A friend of mine has written a good letter and is happy for it to be used as a template, so please get in touch if that's something you would like, and I can pass his template on to you.

If you're based in Cambridge, there is a rally on Tuesday, starting at 5pm at the Guildhall. Details are on this Facebook event, which also includes links to equivalent rallies in Bristol, London, Exeter, Liverpool and so on (although be aware that you'll have to wade through a lot of awful comments from gloating Leavers). I'm almost certainly going to be attending, although I will be late coming in from work, and I encourage anyone who feels up to it to do the same (or at equivalent rallies in their own cities).

There are also various petitions floating around, which I encourage people to sign and share. Most importantly: demand for a second referendum, and guarantee the status of EU citizens currently resident in the UK. If you have any other relevant petitions, feel free to share them in the comments.

I also want to say that I have extensive experience dealing with UKVI, deciphering their incomprehensible forms, gathering the extensive documents required for visa applications, and understanding the byzantine requirements for various visas, including the EEA (Permanent Residence) cards that are a prerequisite for British citizenship. If you or any EU resident friends and relatives want help making such an application (although I can understand if you don't feel welcome and want to get out as soon as possible), get in touch and I will help in any way I can. Please stay and help me vote this pack of fascists out!

Most importantly, if you see any acts of racist abuse, please do what you can (and what you feel safe doing) to challenge them and protect their targets. This result has emboldened a lot of racist xenophobes, who suddenly feel they have a mandate to unleash their vicious, vicious hatred. We need to speak out against this behaviour when we see it, and not yield the public square to them. I'm not naive enough to think that Britain was entirely free of racism, but I have never seen it so blatant, and so publicly acceptable. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I woke up in 1933.

But I still love this, my second home, my international city, my found family of friends from all around the world. I love my job, my university students and researchers, my NHS nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers, who enrich my life every time I teach them.

As I said on Twitter on Friday, I will remain here until the lights go out.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Day Thirteen: Favorite female character in a book

Noviana Una (Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall)

Noviana Una makes me want to be a better, braver person. What she endures, what she achieves, and what she becomes are so inspiring to me that I struggle to find the words to describe it. Spoilers for the entire trilogy follow, so I've put them behind a cut.

Romanitas trilogy spoilers )

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (Default)
One of my friends on Tumblr asked me to talk about why John Marsden's Tomorrow series had such a profound impact on me as a child and teenager, and why I continue to care deeply about the series to this day. Because I don't like writing long posts on Tumblr, I'm answering him here.

Content note: It is impossible to discuss this series without talking about war, violence and rape.

I made a list )

I hope that answers any questions about what the Tomorrow series meant and means to me!
dolorosa_12: (Default)
One thing guaranteed to make my hackles rise is the argument that because women didn't 'do anything important' or 'didn't contribute much, historically', before modernity, they can be left out of narratives taking place in, or inspired by, pre-modernity. By whose measure are we judging the activities of pre-modern women? Tansy Raynor Roberts expresses exactly what's wrong with such attitudes:

History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.

History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.

But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and other writers of what we now consider “primary sources” simply didn’t think about women and their contribution to society. They took it for granted, except when that contribution or its lack directly affected men.


This ties in with something [profile] kateeliliott was saying about the fact that Cat, the protagonist in her Spiritwalker trilogy, is proficient at both swordplay and sewing, but when she finds herself stranded with nothing more than the clothes on her back, it's the sewing that saves her:

In book two, Cold Fire, Cat is thrown out into the wide world alone and far afield from the place she grew up. Basically, she finds herself with the clothes on her back and her sword as her only possessions. It would have been easy for me at this point to focus on Cat’s sword-craft.

Being confident with a sword is a useful competency for a young woman unexpectedly out on her own in an insecure and often dangerous world. Her ability to use the sword could become the most important and most visible of her skills as she continues her adventures.

But I did not want to imply that the skills most important to her ability to adapt to her new circumstances were solely or chiefly the skills that have long been culturally identified as “masculine,” such as fencing (fighting). I wanted to depict skills identified (in American society but by no means in all societies) as “feminine” as equally important to her survival.

Why? Because as a society we often tend to value the “masculine” over the “feminine.” “Masculine” is public and strong, “feminine” is private and (often) sexual, and frequently “feminine” concerns are defined as trivial and unimportant. Such definitions are cultural constructs, as is the relative value assigned to various skills and experiences.


Elliott tends to emphasise this concept in her writing. In her previous series, Crossroads, the main characters, married couple Anji and Mai, arrive with all their followers in a new land, and wish to settle. They are welcomed in partly because of Anji's military skills and large band of mercenaries (because the new land is at war), but it is Mai's skills, bargaining, barter and diplomacy, learnt at her family's fruit stall in the marketplace, for which they are really valued, and which save them time and time again. Elliott is committed to redressing an imbalance and writing traditionally 'feminine' skills as heroic, and it's one of the reasons she's one of my favourite authors.

This ties in with another interest of mine - the desire for survival, compromise and accommodation to be viewed as powerful and brave, as well as active rebellion and resistance and uncompromising, principled morality. Because sometimes, when you are dispossessed, survival and bargaining are all you've got - and they are powerful. (This is one reason why I was uncomfortable with the way the debate about the recent Lincoln film was being framed - as an either/or distinction between principled, uncompromising resistance and compromised negotiation. Of course the situation being debated was very different to what I'm discussing here - all the characters discussed were powerful, privileged men - but it was too black and white for my liking.)

Which brings me to my current reading material, Signs and Wonders by Marina Warner. And she says, of her novel Indigo (set in the colonial Caribbean and reframing The Tempest to give voice to the female characters),

Serafine (the Sycorax character) teaches my Miranda how to pass, how to survive, how not to attract attention and punishment. On the one hand, a storyteller will mould listeners to conform, but on the other hand she will try to open up possibilities by calling the rules into question. The relationship between Serafine and Miranda operates in this doubled way: Serafine is a captive of the colonial world, and there is no other way she could be - in those times, at the beginning of the twentieth century - but at the same time her stories open up alternatives for Miranda. So Miranda is brought up by Serafine to resist, even though the surface messages of the stories she tells her are conformist; covertly, Miranda learns otherwise.

This is exactly what I've been trying to get at. Heroism has many faces, and power is expressed in many different ways. We would do well to make room for this multiplicity.
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: (Default)
My brain sometimes takes weird turns. Last week, Matthias and I went to London to see Robyn in concert (which was amazing) and it got me thinking about her music. Its power lies, I think, in taking the words that are used against the powerless and dispossessed and using them as weapons or armour. Her lyrics are so sharp they could cut you, but you kind of don't notice it until some time later. Anyway, what with the Robyn lyrics and the fact that my PhD thesis is basically about dispossession and the creation of history and identity and the realisation that, like everyone, I have certain literary tropes that are like catnip to me (in my case, motley families that are made, not necessarily born, taking their power back) I have come to the conclusion that I am all about the dispossession.

With that in mind, I decided to compile a (provisional) list of texts (that I love) with this trope. That is, stories about the dispossessed finding strength in their dispossession and reclaiming the power that was always theirs. I emphatically do not mean 'dispossessed' people using the tools of their oppressors to save the world - Campbellian heroes have no place here. If you're the rightful king, and you defeat the evil, false king and replace him, you're not really dispossessed, even if you grew up on an isolated farm. A benign monarchy is still a monarchy.

Was my Una icon ever more appropriate? )

What about you? Do you have texts that fit with this trope that you could recommend? Or do you have your own particular tropes which you want to read/watch again and again and again? Inquiring minds want to know.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
So, if you've been reading this blog at any point in the last, oh, nine years, you probably know that there are certain series of books that I adore and rave about constantly. And if I had to narrow the list down to 'the most life-changing books I have ever read', to the books I would take with me on a desert island, to the books I would carry around in order to keep myself sane in a post-apocalyptic scenario, I would name three series: the Pagan Chronicles by Catherine Jinks, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Romanitas by [profile] sophiamcdougall. These series all came into my life at precisely the right time, and have affected, influenced and transformed me in various ways. I could read them again and again and again and still discover something new.

But what struck me this morning is how close I came to not reading any of them at all. The sheer crazy random happenstance that caused me to read all these series is completely ridiculous.

memory lane is full of strange twists and turns )
dolorosa_12: (noviana una)
My brain seems to respond to everything in one way: make a playlist. This playlist is basically a spirit-lifting, carry-on-being-awesome, you-are-stronger-than-this, inspirational playlist. It's a mixture of songs with emotionally-appropriate lyrics and songs which, when I listen to them, never fail to make me feel as if I could take on the world.

You can't have my fear )

So yeah. When I'm back in the UK (ie out of Germany, a country despised by youtube) I will make this into a playlist on youtube. Because I'm cool like that.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Has anyone on Earth not watched Buffy Season 2 yet? Just in case, the image behind the cut is a spoiler for that season.

you've been warned )

After a good conversation with [profile] catpuccino and several times running around the mountains, that image kind of sums up where I am right now. Which I guess is a good thing?

[I should add that I am not exactly lacking in the friends department.]
dolorosa_12: (noviana una)
I'm pretty much an open book when it comes to talking about myself online, and so I see no point in holding back, or hiding what I'm about to say here behind friends-lock.* And I'm listening to The Sounds, which is my go-to 'Getting Stuff Done and Being Generally Awesome' music, so it's high time I got this off my chest.

1. While I do have good days and get a great deal of enjoyment out of life (my boyfriend visited me over the weekend and I had a marvellous time), lately, the bad days have been outnumbering the good quite significantly.

2. I can't sleep at all. I have very little desire to do anything. (Biggest warning sign: I lose all interest in cooking and eating, which is generally something that gives me a great deal of pleasure and has a calming effect.) And I go through the day feeling as if all light has been sucked out of the world, as if everything is broken and can never be fixed again. I feel powerless and hopeless. On the worst days, I can barely muster the willpower to have a shower or get dressed.

3. There are various reasons for this. Most of you know that I went to counselling and a group assertiveness course a couple of years back. While the decision to do this was prompted by two very specific events (both of which I've alluded to here over the years but never spelt out explicitly, although I've told a lot of people who read here the details elsewhere and would be happy to do so to those of you who are curious, via PM), it was something I'd been wanting to do for a long time and I found it very helpful.

4. However, there are various shitty things in my life - including said counselling-prompting events - which just refuse to go away. I wonder now if they'll ever go away, or if I'll ever stop feeling affected by them. What I really need is more long-term counselling, but that isn't possible until I get back to Cambridge in August, so until then, I have to find ways to manage this. After walking around in town earlier today and thinking, I came up with the following strategies:

5. First and foremost, I must make time for healthy living. I have to get my sleep pattern back on schedule. I need to make time for exercise every morning, I need to eat more fruit and spend more time preparing food. You'll notice that all these things are kind of interrelated; the reason why I haven't been exercising in the mornings is because I've been so tired from lack of sleep, and the reason why I can't sleep at night is that I haven't been exercising.

6. I thrive on lists and schedules, and I think it would be helpful to me to make a list of everything I want to achieve the next day every night and tick them off one by one.

7. It is with a mixture of regret and relief that I have decided I'm going to stay off Tumblr until at least the end of May. It's partly because Tumblr has a kind of hypnotic 'staying up with the blue screen glow' power, and I will sometimes log on there and three hours later find myself in a kind of dazed reblogging forever loop. But it's mainly because last night and today's depression has been brought on by two very specific posts on Tumblr, posts by people that I don't want to unfollow, but which upset me so much that I wasn't able to stop thinking about them all night and all of today. They were - I don't want to say 'triggering', because they weren't triggering exactly, but although they weren't directed at me (indeed, they were posts by people who don't follow me) I was so hurt by them that I have been basically unable to function for the past 15 hours. And thus:

8. I pride myself in my ability to look on injustice and horrors, to allow myself to feel outrage instead of only focusing on the positive aspects of life, but I think for the next little while, I'm going to have to turn away, to look away, to avert my eyes.** Because I know exactly what sort of things set me off, and yet I can't trust myself not to go searching for them.

9. I'm putting this all out there in the public because I'm hoping that if I talk about it publicly, it will shame me into following my own advice.

10. I have a yoga class tonight. And it will make everything better. Right?

_________________
*And it is due to my privilege that I'm able to do so. I am safe to do so. Many people are not.
**And again, it is due to my privilege that I am able to do so. Many people cannot avert their eyes, because it is their everyday existence.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
Day 14: Do you have siblings? Talk about them, or talk about what it's like to be an only child.
As you're all probably well aware, I have three younger sisters. I love them to bits and find it very difficult to live so far away from them, as it's meant that I've either drifted apart a bit from them (as is the case with my first sister) or missed their entire childhoods (as is the case with the other two).

Mim is 23 years old. After finishing up her undergrad degree in Sydney a couple of years ago, she moved to Melbourne to start a degree in media and communications and work part-time for a small film production company. Last (southern) summer, she got a cadetship working in Canberra for the public service, and at the end of the cadetship, they offered her a full-time, ongoing job there if she wanted. So that is what she is doing now, while finishing off her Master's degree part-time by distance. We were closer as children, but ours is a resilient friendship that seems able to be revived at any minute, and whenever we're both in the same place, we end up chatting away as if we've never been apart. We share similar tastes in music, movies and food, although she is not in any way a geek and isn't so fannish about stuff (for want of a better word). Our childhood was absolutely idyllic. We were not allowed to watch much TV, and in fact had no desire to do so (oh, how things have changed), but instead spent all our spare time playing imaginative games either outside or in the house. We had whole worlds, with ongoing storylines that could be picked up at any time, and dropped whenever we felt like it, only to be picked up, not where we left off, but accounting for any real time that had passed. I am so grateful to her for our childhood.

Kitty is nine years old. She lives in Melbourne with my dad and stepmother. I saw a lot of Kitty in her earlier years, as she lived in Canberra and I lived in Sydney and would visit for a week at every set of holidays. Now, if I'm lucky, I see her once a year. She's a lovely, chatty, clever girl who seems so enthusiastic about everything. Last time I visited, she was learning ice-skating. The time before that she was doing two types of dance. She loves to write things in journals and she is coming to enjoy reading, although she struggled with it initially. She's also obsessed with music of the Miley Cyrus variety.

Nell is four years old, and she is, as you'd imagine, the one I know the least. She lives with my dad and stepmother in Melbourne, of course. Like everyone in my family, she is very, very chatty. It seems to me that she gulps down life, grabbing it with both hands, full of wonder and curiosity. Although I've only stayed with her for relatively short periods, we have the most amazing conversations.

I love having sisters and couldn't imagine being an only child. I'm sure there are some good things about it, but I would feel bereft and lost without my siblings.

the other days )
dolorosa_12: (una)
Day 6. Talk about a recent experience that has affected you greatly and how.

As some of you may recall, my grandmother recently discovered that she had cancer. I'm pleased to report that she's doing as well as can be under the circumstances. The cancer was in her liver, and luckily the doctors considered her healthy and strong enough to go through with an extremely serious operation to remove the cancerous part of her liver. She had her operation just under two weeks ago and came out of it fine. In fact, she's recovered so quickly that she'll probably be able to come home from hospital quite soon, when we'd expected her to stay there until at least the end of November. The doctor also thinks he removed all of the cancer.

Obviously with cancer nothing is certain, but so far what's been happening has been the best possible outcome for all concerned.

I adore my grandparents. (Only my mum's parents are still living; my other grandparents died in the early 90s.) I respect them greatly for overcoming the difficult circumstances into which they were born and doing everything they could to make a better life for their children and grandchildren (while recognising that the 1950s was a time of great social mobility in Australia). I love them for their seemingly endless capacity to love, for their obvious pride in their descendents, for their life well-lived. To say I was devestated by the news of Marnie's cancer would be an understatement.

And while ours is an affectionate family, very comfortable in displaying love towards one another, Marnie's illness made me resolved to continue in this regard. I write often to my mother and sister, but I've started making a point of telling them I love them in every email. I've made more of an effort to stay in regular contact with my aunts, and told them I love them too. While those I love have always been aware of the fact, since Marnie's cancer, I've been completely open and honest about how I feel about everyone I love. (This may explain why my LJ seems to have turned into a sort of blissed-out love-fest of late.)

Life is precious, and love is precious, and I am incredibly grateful to the people who love me, and whom I love.

the other days )
dolorosa_12: (una)
Day 6. Talk about a recent experience that has affected you greatly and how.

As some of you may recall, my grandmother recently discovered that she had cancer. I'm pleased to report that she's doing as well as can be under the circumstances. The cancer was in her liver, and luckily the doctors considered her healthy and strong enough to go through with an extremely serious operation to remove the cancerous part of her liver. She had her operation just under two weeks ago and came out of it fine. In fact, she's recovered so quickly that she'll probably be able to come home from hospital quite soon, when we'd expected her to stay there until at least the end of November. The doctor also thinks he removed all of the cancer.

Obviously with cancer nothing is certain, but so far what's been happening has been the best possible outcome for all concerned.

I adore my grandparents. (Only my mum's parents are still living; my other grandparents died in the early 90s.) I respect them greatly for overcoming the difficult circumstances into which they were born and doing everything they could to make a better life for their children and grandchildren (while recognising that the 1950s was a time of great social mobility in Australia). I love them for their seemingly endless capacity to love, for their obvious pride in their descendents, for their life well-lived. To say I was devestated by the news of Marnie's cancer would be an understatement.

And while ours is an affectionate family, very comfortable in displaying love towards one another, Marnie's illness made me resolved to continue in this regard. I write often to my mother and sister, but I've started making a point of telling them I love them in every email. I've made more of an effort to stay in regular contact with my aunts, and told them I love them too. While those I love have always been aware of the fact, since Marnie's cancer, I've been completely open and honest about how I feel about everyone I love. (This may explain why my LJ seems to have turned into a sort of blissed-out love-fest of late.)

Life is precious, and love is precious, and I am incredibly grateful to the people who love me, and whom I love.

the other days )

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