dolorosa_12: (ada shelby)
I'm at home today, because this evening (too early to be able to get there after finishing work), I am going to be fulfilling a lifelong ambition and seeing Massive Attack live in concert! And not just any concert — an anniversary show focusing on the music from their Mezzanine album. Seeing my favourite band of all time perform the songs from my favourite album of all time is just so amazing. Fifteen-year-old Ronni would be astonished at her good fortune!

As a result of being home, I've been trundling back through my reading page, and come bearing links.

First up, if you, like me, recently watched Russian Doll and loved it, [personal profile] rachelmanija has set up a discussion post here. Spoilers are allowed in the comments.

I really shouldn't sign up for multiple exchanges simultaneously, but the new [community profile] peakyblindersficexchange sounds right up my alley. I love the show, and definitely think we need more fic for this fandom. If you're interested in participating, the various deadlines are there in the Dreamwidth account. It seems to use OR matching, and matches on relationships rather than characters, and my impression is that if you don't see your chosen relationship(s) in the tagset you can request that they be added. Assignments are a 500-word minimum.

If you, like me, adore the 'absolute unit' meme (basically, square sheep), you will also adore [personal profile] bironic's latest fanvid. I've embedded the Ao3 link below.

Squares Are Everywhere (90 words) by bironic
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: "Absolute unit" livestock meme
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: cows - Character, Sheep - Character, Pigs - Character
Additional Tags: Memes, Humor, archival images, Art, Video, Embedded Video, Fanvids
Series: Part 58 of vids by bironic

"In awe at the size of this lad. Absolute unit." Or: improbably shaped livestock.

This feels peak millennial, but I discovered this poem, 'The Ex-Girlfriends Are Back From the Wilderness' by Hera Lindsay Bird via Florence Welch's Instagram account, and I kind of love it. like too much Persephone and not enough underworld…/wearing nothing but an arts degree. I feel seen.

I hope you're all having wonderful Fridays.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
The colder weather seems to have done wonders for my writing productivity: I've finished my Yuletide assignment, and made a good start on a second treat. That wasn't all the writing I got done over the weekend — I also found the time to write a longish review on two Iliad retellings and Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. You can find the review here on Wordpress, but here's a brief excerpt:

I never had much interest in the long recitations of characters’ ancestry, names of warriors killed on the battlefield, wooden horses or lucky arrows shot through vulnerable heels. Instead, I focused on the story that whispered in the margins: the calamity of war to the women and children it made most vulnerable, the ways such women coped with the ever-present threat of male violence, and the simmering presence of this violence even in ostensible peacetime, in spaces where women were surrounded by their own families. I sought out retellings of the Iliad that brought this story to the fore.

I should note that because the two retellings focus on the character of Briseis, the review involves discussion of rape and slavery, so consider this a content warning. I also get pretty ranty about The Song of Achilles, so if anyone feels like venting with me about that book, feel free to join in in the comments (and if you like it ... I'm sorry).

Also over on Wordpress, I reviewed Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanishers' Palace, a Beauty and the Beast story where both characters are female and the Beast is a dragon. You can read that review here.

This being an Aliette de Bodard story, there are all the familiar and fabulous features that I’ve come to expect in her work: loving and mouth-watering descriptions of food and cooking, a refusal to flinch away from the devastating effects of empire and colonialism, and an intricate exploration of the different ways survival can look. This last is crucial, and resonates deeply with me. De Bodard rejects an individualistic interpretation of heroism, where a lone, special individual bravely solves the world’s problems alone. Instead, courage in her writing is all about (inter)dependence and community building — the little acts that forge and strengthen networks, reinforce familial and non-familial bonds, and the way that sometimes merely surviving and helping others survive is its own victory.

I'm now taking a break from all that writing with a bit of reading. I've just finished Leah Cypress's 'Timshala', the last in the Book Smugglers' 2018 series of short stories on the theme of 'awakenings', and I definitely think it was the best of the bunch. Their short story series tend to be pretty hit and miss with me, but this one — part Ancient Egypt-inspired death cult with religious controversies and political intrigue, part exploration of determinism and free will — was excellent. It's available to read for free online here.

Having finished 'Timshala', I've now moved on to Girls of Paper and Fire, a novel by Natasha Ngan which I've wanted to read since I first saw Samantha Shannon posting on Instagram about reading an ARC of the book. This was months and months ago, and I'm glad to finally have a copy in my hands. I think I'll curl up in my wing chair and read it, watching the sun go down and the darkness fall through the garden window.
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
The links this week are a bit of a mixed bag, partly because I've been somewhat distracted, and as a result this post is a bit shorter than usual.

Tade Thompson made some important points about literature and diversity, storified by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. I see Tade's thoughts as another part in the conversation I linked to last week.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz had some further thoughts on the matter.

Zen Cho posted 'Ten Things I Believe About Writing'. There's also a great interview with her up at Kitaab:

I write stories as a way of answering questions.

Another post by Rochita talks about language, identity, and the process behind writing her latest published story, ' Bagi: Ada ti Istorya':

While thinking of language recovery, I found myself thinking too about what lies buried in language. What narratives had I chosen to erase when I chose to leave behind that language? What narratives could be pulled out of a text or a few lines or a word? What memory–what emotion would rise up from the use of a language that has lain dormant for so long.

More on language and storytelling: Samantha Shannon interviewed her Dutch translator, Janet Limonard.

I loved this new, bilingual Ghostwords post.

Kate Elliott had lots of thoughts about Mad Max: Fury Road, and Charles Tan storified them.

This review of Mad Max: Fury Road by Julianne Ross really resonated with me:

But where Fury Road really surprises is in its genuine respect for the five women Furiosa is trying to save. They are beautiful, generous and kind — deliberately feminine traits that have allowed them to survive as long as they have, and which the movie refuses to treat as a burden or incidental.

This Mad Max fanvid by [ profile] jocarthage is simply breathtaking.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This week's post goes from the sublime to the ridiculous (but mainly focuses on the sublime).

To start off, an absolutely fabulous roundtable on diversity. The participants are Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, M Sereno, Bogi Takács and JY Yang, moderated by Charles Tan.

Over at Ladybusiness, Renay has created a fabulous summer (or winter) reading recommendation list.

On a sadder note, Tanith Lee has died. Athena Andreadis has written a lovely tribute. Sophia McDougall shared an old anecdote about meeting Lee.

There are a lot of new updates at Where Ghostwords Dwell.

Sophia McDougall has posted an excerpt of Space Hostages, which will be published really soon.

You can enter a giveaway to win an ARC of House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard here.

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road this week and absolutely adored it. (If I had endless money and more time on my hands, I would have seen it at least five more times since Tuesday.) This essay by Tansy Rayner Roberts goes a long way towards explaining why.

I found this post by Kaye Wierzbicki over at The Toast very moving. (Content note: discussion of abortion.)

This is the last week of A Softer World and I am really not okay. This and this are probably my favourite recent comics of theirs.

Natalie Luhrs is reading what looks to be a terrible book for a good cause. I encourage everyone who has the ability to donate. I will be donating to an equivalent UK-based charity.

This post's title comes from my favourite Eurovision song this year, which didn't win. This did not bother me in the slightest.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
Note: I'm talking here about my family in very positive terms. I know some of you have difficult or distressing relationships with your families, so this might be something you want to skip if you think it will be upsetting for you to read.

I don't want to make a super long post for International Women's Day, but I did want to talk a little bit about my wonderful, loquacious, gossipy, emotionally articulate, supportive, matriarchal family. My grandmother, who would have turned 87 on Friday, was the beating heart of our family, and was the oldest of seven siblings (five of whom survived past infancy), and her two sisters were always very much part of our family gatherings, laughing uproariously and talking at a million miles an hour. My grandmother did not have any formal education beyond the age of eight, and she wrote awkwardly because her teachers had forced her to write with her right hand, although she was left-handed. In spite of these obstacles, she was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, a Scrabble and crossword fiend, so witty with her turns of phrase. She is the reason the rest of us are such champion talkers, and why so many of her daughters and granddaughters ended up in fields where words and communication are crucial.

My mother is the oldest of my grandmother's four daughters, and she was the first person in her family to go to university, and one of the first women in Australia to have a permanent show on the radio. She was the first and greatest in a long line of older women who acted as guides, teachers and mentors to me, and is responsible for my love of stories, literature, reading, writing and learning. One of the things I admire most about my mother is her ability to sit down next to any person in the world and find common ground, getting them to open up and tell their story. Above all things, my mother nurtured and encouraged my intellectual curiosity, and her staunch support and belief played a big role in giving me the strength and determination to pursue my academic qualifications to the bitter end.

Cut for photos )

I have the great fortune and privilege to be the oldest of five sisters (one of whom I grew up alongside, the other three being significantly younger), and to have grown up surrounded by aunts, great-aunts and female cousins (as well as my mother's closest female friends, who became like surrogate aunts to me), in a truly matriarchal family, where women's voices, experiences, relationships and feelings were genuinely celebrated. I have also been lucky in that since secondary school, my most important mentors (English teachers, supportive undergrad lecturers, Honours thesis supervisor, editors, MPhil and PhD supervisor, previous and current library bosses) have all been women. Furthermore, at every stage of my life, I have been friends with amazing, intelligent, compassionate and generally awesome women. This matters to me. It has shaped me and guided me, and given me strength and courage, and I like to think that I've been able to share some of that with the various girls and women in my life. I hope that all of the women reading this are able to experience something similar, whether with families of blood or of choice. It is my norm, it is my greatest joy and my greatest strength. It is my feminism.

Cut for more photos )
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Day Thirty: Whatever you’d like!

Today, I'd like to close off this meme with a recommendation. If you like stories about women, if you like to focus on relationships between girls and women that are collaborative and compassionate, rather than antagonistic and competitive, if you are sick of the way fandom (and the world at large) elevates individual women by tearing other women down, go to [community profile] ladybusiness. There you will find excellent commentary, so many book, TV show and film recommendations that you won't know what to buy next, and a welcoming, friendly community. They also run a sideblog on Tumblr called [ profile] thefriendshipzone, which focuses on instances of female friendship.

Honestly, [community profile] ladybusiness was my find of the year. I am so happy it exists. When I am talking about women's stories, and about feminism, that is what I mean.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
Day Twenty-Eight: Favourite female writer (television, books, movies, etc.)

Kate Elliott

She's my favourite because her books are wonderful, her female characters are excellent, and she is empathetic and thoughtful about the wider context of her work. But above all, I love her for this:

Even in patriarchal societies of the past (and present!), women who might otherwise have been banned by custom or law from partaking in the public life of politics, power, learning, work and so on still had personalities. I can’t emphasize this enough. People–even women!–have personalities regardless of how much or how little political power they have. People can live a quiet life of daily work out of the public eye, and still have personalities. Really! They can still matter to those around them, they can matter to themselves, and they can influence events in orthogonal ways that any self respecting writer can easily dream up.

Furthermore, with a little careful study of history, one discovers that women found ways to accomplish plenty of “things” big and small, personal and political. Maybe they did it behind a screen, or around the corner, or in the back room or in a parlor, or ran the brewery they inherited from a deceased husband, but they did all kinds of stuff that was either never noticed or was elided from historical accounts. So much of our view of what women “did” in the past is mediated through accounts written by men who either didn’t see women or were so convinced (yes, I’m looking at you, Aristotle, but you are but one among many) that women were an inferior creature that what they wrote was not only biased but selectively blind. Even now, in “modern” day, so much is mediated by our assumptions about what “doing” means and by our prejudices and misconceptions about the past.

That's why I read, that's what I look for in my fiction, that's what I want in my female characters. Kate Elliott gets it.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy two days ago, and, a couple of quibbles with certain narrative choices aside, thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't really have much to say on the matter, but my friends [ profile] jimtheviking and [ profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves have been having a very interesting conversation about it which I felt was worth sharing. Expect spoilers for the whole film.

This review of The Magicians by Lev Grossman by Choire Sicha doesn't really make me want to read the series, but makes a couple of points about writing women in fantasy literature that really resonate with me:

“When I was writing the story in 1969, I knew of no women heroes of heroic fantasy since those in the works of Ariosto and Tasso in the Renaissance. … The women warriors of current fantasy epics,” Le Guin wrote in an afterword of The Tombs of Atuan, “look less like women than like boys in women's bodies in men's armor.” Instead, Le Guin wouldn't play make-believe, and her women were sometimes vulnerable, including physically. She refused to write wish fulfillment, even the wish fulfillment many of us crave.

The first time I read the Earthsea quartet (as it was then), the stories of Tenar and Tehanu resonated with me in a way that was powerful and profound. I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and I think it was the first time I'd read stories that gave me a glimpse of how terrifying it was going to be to be a woman. They are not easy or comforting stories, and they showed a world that I was about to enter and told me truths I had at that point only dimly understood.

Here is a post at The Toast by Morgan Leigh Davies about attending the Marvel panel at SDCC. It made me deeply grateful that my fannish interest lies in characters and not actors.

This post by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast is deeply hilarious:

Far be it from me to criticize the tactics of modern union organizers, but frankly I think the world was a better place when tradesmen organized to agitate for their rights in the workplace and practice esoteric mind-controlling spells at the same time.

The Society of the Horseman’s Word was a fraternal secret society that operated in Scotland from the eighteenth through to the twentieth century. Its members were drawn from those who worked with horses, including horse trainers, blacksmiths and ploughmen, and involved the teaching of magical rituals designed to provide the practitioner with the ability to control both horses and women.

(As an aside, if you're not reading The Toast, you're missing out.)

Samantha Shannon has some good news. Her Bone Season series was intended as a seven-book series, but Bloomsbury had initially only committed to publishing three. But now they've gone ahead and confirmed that they will publish all seven. Samantha is awesome, as is the series, so I am thrilled.

Speaking of The Bone Season, I made a Warden/Paige fanmix on 8tracks. I go into more detail about the reasons behind my choice of songs here.

The [ profile] PreschoolGems Twitter account is one of the most fabulous things ever to exist on the internet.

This particular A Softer World gives me life.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
This weekend, the weather suddenly turned summery (or at least what passes for summery in the south-east of England). I think I was more excited about the fact that I'd be able to dry laundry in the courtyard instead of in the house than the fact that I would be able to ditch my winter clothes. I've since done two loads of laundry, and I find the sight of sheets waving gently in the breeze oddly comforting.

Yesterday I went with my friend and former sort-of-housemate J2* to a buffet lunch at Pembroke College. It's an annual event to which all the people who supervise (i.e. provide the one-on-one tutorials that are the main part of the teaching method at Oxbridge) students from Pembroke are invited. J2 invited me as her guest, and when we arrived we discovered that another friend of ours, M, had also been invited. The meal began with sparkling wine in what I think was the college's senior combination room, and then we were treated to a three-course buffet in the hall. We sat next to a very bitter physicist who spent the whole meal complaining about how academia has changed in the past twenty years (the short version: too much admin), and an interesting woman who taught Arabic language and Middle Eastern history. She bemoaned the fact that interest in her subject area only spikes when something terrible happens in the Arab and Islamic world.

After the lunch, the three of us went to a pub that lets people take drinks outside into the park near the mill pond, and we sat on a wall, surrounded by hundreds of other people who clearly had the same idea. All in all, it was a really fabulous day.

Today I've just been lounging around at home. Matthias is working in one of his library jobs, but will be back in about an hour, at which point we'll have a late lunch. This evening I've got yoga, but other than that, I don't plan on leaving the house. I've been - rather decadently - drinking white wine in the sun and reading novels. At some point I'll probably post some reviews of them, but for now, I plan to relax.

I'll leave you with a few links to stuff that's been making me happy today.

First, [ profile] sophiamcdougall's newest book, a children's science-fiction work called Mars Evacuees, is about to be published. She's got a couple of excerpts here and here. The second link includes a bunch of other stuff, all of which is worth reading, especially her article in the New Statesman about the gender disparity in book shop displays.

This review of the recent TV series of Dracula, posted in [community profile] ladybusiness, is making me rethink my decision to avoid the show. I find Jonathan Rhys Meyers almost unbearable to watch, and that is why I originally chose to give the show a miss, but if anyone who has watched it has an opinion, feel free to weigh in and convince me one way or the other.

Fantasy author Saladin Ahmed has started a really cool side project, tweeting the Husain Haddawy translation of the Arabian Nights.

I'll leave you with some music. Yesterday, in honour of International Women's Day, I posted a bunch of feminist music on Tumblr. Assume a broad definition of the word 'feminism' here that has room for Christine Anu singind about migration and identity, Lucinda Williams singing about loss and grief, and Ciscandra Nostalghia demanding listeners worship her.

I'm really into the music of The Daysleepers at the moment. This album and this album are simply fabulous. They sound like summer in Sydney - all diving under waves and bobbing out beyond the breakers, the glare of the asphalt hurting your eyes, jacaranda trees, standing on a roof and watching the fireworks on New Year's Eve, mangoes, cherries and grilled fish and sparkling wine - in a way that I cannot properly articulate. Just gorgeous.

Finally, Matthias and I watched the last stage of Melodifestivalen for the first time this year. We both would've been much happier if Alcazar had won.

Seriously, is that not the most Eurovision song ever?

*By which I mean that she lived in a sharehouse with my partner Matthias during the year I lived in Germany, so she was my housemate whenever I visited him.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
I've been really busy lately, which is why I haven't posted for ages and ages. I have two very good excuses, however:

1. My PhD viva is in just a week. I'm actually feeling quite calm about it, which surprises me, but I seem to have given myself the attitude that there is nothing I can do now to change how the viva goes - as the examiners already have my thesis and I can't alter it - so I might as well not worry. I imagine I'll be a nervous wreck next Monday, though.

2. I have a new job! It's only temporary and part-time, but it is in another academic library in Cambridge, it's a step up from my current library job* (I'm learning how to catalogue, and my job title is library assistant rather than library invigilator) and it's come along at a really good time, as I don't get money from my PhD scholarship funding body any more and was really worried about what I was going to do for money. So far I'm really liking it, although it's very different to my other library job, and I've had to cut back my hours there, which is sad as I really love working there.

I have a bunch of links, although I must admit that some of them are very old and you're likely to have encountered them already. These are more for personal reference so that I can find them again, and close some tabs on my laptop and iPad. The first, however, is a link to my latest post on my review blog. It's mainly a review of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but also talks more broadly about the (published and unpublished) wish-fulfillment fantasies of teenage girls and whether such things are valuable or dangerous (or both, or neither).

As someone who wrote a story about her book boyfriend being in love with her idealised character, I have a lot of sympathy for teenage (and not-so-teenage) wish-fulfillment fantasies depicting their protagonists being pursued by a multitude of love interests. It’s a powerful trope for girls who may be feeling unlovable or simply baffled at how to have romantic relationships. However, this desire to be desired should not be portrayed at the expense of functional friendships among teenage girls. Portraying all female relationships as inherently competitive and antagonistic creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the real world whereby girls and women view all other girls and women with suspicion, undermining one another instead of supporting each other.

The Dreamwidth community [community profile] ladybusiness is not new, but it is new to me, and I point it out here to those of you who are interested in reading (or participating in) thoughtful discussion about female characters in a variety of media. There are podcasts, linkspams and lengthy meta posts. At some point when I have more time, I'm going to read through all the archives. I recommend it highly.

Speaking of podcasts, this speech by Maciej Cegłowsk, the creator of Pinboard, about fandom is thoughtful and well worth a listen. It's an old link, and I can't remember where I saw it first, but if you haven't heard it yet I would encourage you to do so.

This link is more for my own future reference, and I haven't actually read through all its content yet. It's a series of posts on Making Light about dysfunctional families, and looks as if it will be really interesting. I'm saving it for after the viva.

On a related note, this post about so-called 'Ask Culture and Guess Culture' had me nodding my head a lot. I don't know if there's any data to back up its assertions, but I can certainly recognise elements of this phenomenon in my own life.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at (pace Moomin fans) the Cluelessness of Everyone.

I am definitely from a Guess Culture family (you were never supposed to ask for things unless they were the right things, the things that people would say yes to, and there were so many subtle ways to hint at what you wanted to ask, figure out whether the answer would be yes or not, or, from the other side, hint at whether or not you were going to say yes; it was considered indescribably selfish and rude to state preferences for e.g. food or drink options at other people's houses (the only acceptable answers were 'whatever everyone else is having' or 'whatever is already open'); and so on). My partner is very much of the Ask Culture school. It's easier now that we've been together for years, but at the beginning of our relationship (and indeed, in many other of my romantic and friendship relationships) I used to work myself up into a hysterical level of anxiety whenever I was required to ask for anything directly or given options to state a preference (because the asker wasn't hinting properly about what answer they wanted from me!). I'm told that this has the potential to come across as being very passive-aggressive, and if it's true that it is some sort of culture clash, a lot of things about my interactions with other people make a whole lot more sense!

Tumblr user thefrenemy posted this great defence of the selfie.

I hate with a boiling passion 99% of all of these photos, all of these memories of my life documented on film. Every time I get a notification on my Facebook saying that somebody added a picture of me, I get an actual nervous feeling in my stomach. Like, oh great, let me take some time out of my day to analyze my body and feel like shit about myself! I check the picture. I get taken out of the wonderful moment it was taken in to nitpick my flaws. Ew, I hate my face. Ew, I hate my tummy. Ew, my arms. Ew, ew, ew.


I think I look like a goddess in my selfies. I think I look like Dolly Parton, a witch, and pretty much every street blogger rolled into one. They make me feel absolutely fabulous and alive and gorgeous. I rarely feel this way and when I do, it’s because it’s exactly how I want to look for me. It’s exactly the way I’ve always wanted to look and felt I could look without all that loud noise about how I should look better. It is the evidence, the proof positive, that there are moments we can feel and look fan-fucking-tastic in our own eyes. That alone is worth its weight in gold.

I have nothing to add.

As a final link, have John Scalzi's predictions for the Oscars. He's not always right, but his reasoning is always pretty solid and I appreciate that he predicts what he thinks what will win as well as stating what he thinks should win.

*Although it actually pays less, which is a pain.
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: (sister finland)
Warning: this post is about being followed by men down the street, late at night. If that's something you'd rather not read about, please feel free to give this post a miss.

This is what happened to me last night )
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
I am so desensitised to the objectification of women that the first time I saw the video for Robin Thicke's song 'Blurred Lines', my only reaction was 'this looks like a hipster's Instagram album'. That version is bad enough, but there's an uncut version of the clip in which the female dancers are almost completely naked. And I know, the whole thing is clearly mainly a publicity stunt, because of course everyone will hear about it, get outraged and then go and have a look. And of course, 'music video clip objectifies women' is pretty much news at eleven these days. It's not so much that Thicke's video is doing anything newly horrible, but rather that it's one of the worst examples of undressed women-as-wallpaper that I've ever seen. It's bad enough to have half-naked women dancing around in a video clip, but in this one, they're being moved around (or rather dragged around by the hair) and posed like furniture. The point at which Thicke blows smoke into the face and mouth of one of the dancers makes my flesh crawl.

So then boylesque troupe Mod Carousel did a parody version, featuring the vocals of Caela Bailey, Sydney Deveraux and Dalisha Phillips.

The parody clip essentially mimics the original frame for frame, with some changes in props. Apart from switching the genders of the dancers, singers and rapper, there are no differences. It's a pretty powerful statement. But what interests me the most is the reaction currently playing out in the comments.

Now, Youtube comments are pretty much the dregs of the internet, and these are as awful as you'd imagine. What I'm seeing is a lot of clueless men Just Not Getting It. As Mod Carousel note in the information for the clip,

It's our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and do everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.

What we get in the comments is this:

If they had Calvin Klein models with just a thong on or something like that AND ATTRACTIVE Female artists then you would succeed. I'm not gay but I can say that Robin Thicke, Pharrell, & T.I. are all good looking dudes & they can sing/rap be blunt they're [the female singers and rapper] not really at all attractive to the common male. - gman4eva9.

However if they truly were trying to objectify the men in the same way the women were being objectified, I think they should have done it in a more masculine way rather than the feminine portrayal of these guys. In my opinion, using Chippendale's or Magic Mike type of dancers would have demonstrated the objectification more effectively. - Kevin Wright.

A swing and a miss. Might have worked if they hadn't dolled up the men. It doesn't create an equal but opposite contrast. Should have had men portrayed as how women idealize them. - dwcupcakes.

why do the guys have to act gay....the girls in robin thicke's video weren't acting like why are the girls dressed like guys.... - DisneyStarsTube.

I could go on. Of course, there are plenty of people articulately shouting down these idiots, who have spectacularly missed the point. It's not about whether heterosexual women find the dancers in the parody version hot (and I love how all these men in the Youtube comments are falling over themselves to tell me what I - and all women who like men ever - find attractive). It's about the fact that flipping the genders and posing men like scantily-dressed pieces of furniture provokes a very different reaction to videos which pose women like scantily-dressed pieces of furniture.

It's about the fact that when women behave towards men like men behave towards women, it's considered so unnatural that men think they are watching something designed for the gay male gaze.* It's about the fact that when the objectified become the subject in a faithful, image-by-image parody, male viewers' first response is to criticise the appearances of the female subjects for not being sexually appealing enough.

*Which reminds me, yet again, of a post by Kate Elliott in which she refers to an email by a guy who berated her for 'pushing a homosexual agenda'. Eventually, she worked out that what he meant was that her books, written mainly from the point of view of heterosexual women, describe men in a sexual manner through the eyes of these women. Being made to view male characters in this way made the reader feel as if he were reading from the perspective of a gay man.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
So this week, despite being in June, is May Week in Cambridge. On Tuesday, Matthias and I went to what will probably be my last chance to go to the May Ball at my college.

Photos behind the cut )

There have also been multiple garden parties (with two still to come) and a cocktail party at my friend M's house (where I managed to fall down the stairs - due to clumsiness, not drunkenness - and seriously bruise my arm). In other words, this week has been wonderful.

I have some cool links for you. First up, Tansy Rayner Roberts' post about The Mists of Avalon. I have a complicated relationship with that text. I like that it puts women front and centre in the Arthurian story. I find its lack of historical accuracy really irritating. (This is my problem with Juliet Marillier's work too. I can quite happily read stories set in Ancient Rome, because I haven't studied it. Medieval Ireland - especially twelfth-century Ireland where scribal families aren't Christians (what the hell?) - is another matter.) But Rayner Roberts' post reminds me why I liked Avalon the first time I read it.

There’s something incredibly refreshing about epic fantasy told from the point of view of women – it’s not that it’s a better way to tell a story but it’s different, and considering how many times the Arthurian cycle has been retold, anything new is good. It’s still a story about war and politics and danger and men, we just don’t have to see the world through the eyes of those men.

The internet is not killing music. It's just forcing musicians, managers and promoters to try different ways of interacting with fans. This interview with Mr Suicide Sheep, who is essentially a very, very popular uploader, goes a long way towards explaining this new paradigm.

My channel has been active for over three years now. For two of those years, I did not receive any money for running it. As it grew, I was approached by various networks to become a partner, and as I do this full time, there is no way I could support myself and not get paid for it. I know a lot of people are against this, saying “I only upload other people’s music”, and I completely understand where they are coming from. They have to realize though, it’s all about promotion. If an artist can not successfully promote themselves, they approach me. It’s a similar concept to a label really. They also distribute other people’s music and make money from it.


These photos of women writers at work are lovely, poignant, inspiring and bittersweet.

This xkcd says everything I ever wanted to say to those yearning for a lost Eden.

That's all for now. Have a happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
These are all happy links! I've been feeling really down recently, so I think it's best under the circumstances to focus on the things that have been making me feel better for now.

First up, I was thrilled to discover that [ profile] upupa_epops is hosting a meta comment-a-thon over on LJ.

(click on the picture)

You can get there by clicking on the icon.

On a much smaller scale, [community profile] fem_thoughts is hosting a comment meta about female characters, with some really interesting posts already up and running.

Those first two links are thanks to [personal profile] goodbyebird. The next link I encountered through [community profile] metanews, and is a really excellent analysis of Buffy Season Six by [ profile] gillo. You can find it here. For a taste:

The point here, I feel is that nice guys do turn into nasty people. Nobody starts out life thinking of themselves as a jerk, but some people turn into jerks even so. And we see, step by step, how that happens – the losers are not losers when they are together. They can rejoice in their technical skills and arcane knowledge of films and TV which matter to them but not, as far as they know, to anyone else. Loners, they want to forge a sense of being part of something bigger. They need to feel adequate in the areas of life which peer pressure has marked out as important – making money, achieving targets, finding partners of the opposite sex. That need to feel adequate subtly shifts into a need to feel they excel. Warren goes the furthest down this dark path, and pays accordingly, but all three of them share that need to be not just good enough but actually important. When you are a child you assume all grown-ups are important – and when you get to be one it can be a shock to find out the truth. In this, as in so much else, the Trio echoes Willow - who also started off as nerdy in a sweet sort of way. You could draw a lot of parallels between Jonathon's increasing need for acceptance from Earshot to Superstar and Willow's need to be in control from advising Cordelia to hit the Deliver key through to riding that big truck.

It's brilliant stuff.

Still on the Buffy theme, Foz Meadows has been doing a rewatch, and has come to some interesting conclusions. I would recommend all her posts on Buffy, but in particular this one about the romantic relationships. I'm not quite sold on her interpretation of Angel, but she's spot on in every other regard, in my opinion.

This gif set on Tumblr is kind of adorable. Be warned, it contains massive spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

Finally, have a link to the Soundcloud page of Seven Lions, just because it is fabulous, fabulous music.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
There are certain things that I simply do not post on Facebook, even though posting them on Dreamwidth/LJ is essentially preaching to the choir. It's because I know that even though the majority of my Facebook friends will either react positively or benignly ignore anything I say about rape culture, there'll always be someone who attempts to take me to task, makes stupid victim-blaming 'you wouldn't walk around with money dangling out of your pockets or leave your house door unlocked' analogies or accuses me of thinking badly of all men. I just don't have the energy to engage with that sort of stuff, but I always have a lot of feelings about this particular issue and need to talk about them somewhere. So, lucky you. You get to read them.

Cut for discussion of bullying and rape culture )
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Life is a bit crazy at the moment. For the past couple of weeks, my supervisor and I have been discussing the final stages of my PhD, and yesterday we had a meeting where we sorted out four potential examiners. (I need two examiners, one from within my department and one from another university, but I need to nominate two potential people for each examination slot.) I've written my abstract and am at the point where I need to inform the university of my intention to September! I am both terrified and relieved to have got this far. But this means the next few months are going to be extremely sleepless.

I have had huge numbers of tabs open for weeks and weeks and weeks (and even resorted to emailing links to myself in order to close some tabs), just waiting for me to have the time to do a linkpost. I don't really have time, but I want to get these out there before too much time passes, so here they are.

I finally dusted off my Romanitas blog and posted the next of my commentaries. This one's for Romanitas Chapter 5, 'White and Silver'. I also wrote a fairly negative review of Juliet E. McKenna's Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution series on my Wordpress review blog:

I’m sad to say that the series just doesn’t work, or at least it doesn’t work for me. The problem is partly one of characterisation (I find all the characters clichéd collections of tropes rather than engaging human beings), but really one of believability. The problem is that the whole revolution is too easy.

This is an old post by [ profile] sophiamcdougall about London, but it's so wonderful that you need to read it anyway.

Australian YA author Melina Marchetta is someone I really admire. She's constantly pushing herself in terms of what she writes, and is thoughtful and articulate about her writing and that of other people. This interview with blogger Jo at Wear The Old Coat is characteristically excellent:

I don’t believe that writing for and about young people is a public service. The problem about role models is that some people may believe a good female role model is someone who doesn’t have sex as a teenager at school. Other people may believe that a good role model is someone who challenges the establishment. Or someone who works hard and gets into university. Or someone who doesn’t have to go to university or college to succeed. I don’t think of role models or teaching lessons when I’m creating character. If I did have a secret wish of what I’d like to come out of my writing, it’s that someone feels less lonely. Or someone feels more connected. Or someone questions the status quo.

Another author very dear to my heart is [ profile] kateelliott. I've mentioned before that I'm deeply interested in people on the margins of history, people who led fulfilling, happy and interesting lives, but whose stories were never recorded because the Powers That Be didn't view those people's activities as being important. Elliott is an author after my own heart. She puts such marginal people front and centre in her medieval (and nineteenth-century) inflected worlds. Her interviews and blog posts make it clear that this is a deliberate choice. If you're not reading her already, this latest offering might tempt you:

I am not, by the way, a monarchist nor do I yearn for the halcyon days of yore with a secret reactionary bent to my heart. The idea that epic fantasy is by nature a “conservative” subgenre is, I think, based not only on an incomplete reading of the texts but also on an understanding of the medieval or early modern eras that comes from outdated historiography.

I don’t doubt specific works can be reactionary or conservative (depending on how you define those words), but more often than not I suspect–although I can’t prove–that if a work defaults to ideas about social order that map to what I call the Victorian Middle Ages or the Hollywood Middle Ages, it has more to do with sloppy world-building in the sense of using unexamined and outmoded assumptions about “the past” as a guide. I really think that to characterize the subgenre so generally is to not understand the variety seen within the form and to not understand that the simplistic and popular views of how people “were” and “thought” in the past are often at best provisional and incomplete and at worst outright wrong.

Historian Judith Bennett calls this the “Wretched Abyss” Theory, the idea that the European Middle Ages were a wretched abyss from which we modern women/people have luckily escaped. It’s one of the founding myths of modern feminism as well as the modern world. Me, I want to live now, with internet, antibiotics, and that nice intensive care nursery that saved my premature twins. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t also responsible to depict a more nuanced and accurate representation of “a past” as it was lived and experienced as a dynamic and changing span.

And now, for a complete change of subject, have a link to a post about Oideas Gael, the Modern Irish language school where I've spent a couple of happy summers. It really captures the heart of the little village and the classes. I was sorry to hear from the post, however, that Biddy's (one of the three pubs in the Glen), has closed down. Its wall had a sign promising 'ól agus ceol', which is really all you could possibly want in a pub...

Love, Joy, Feminism is pretty much my favourite blog these days. It's written by Libby Anne, who grew up in an abusive fundamentalist subculture in the US, but broke away as an adult. She is an articulate, unflinching and persistent critic of the culture in which she grew up, and this makes her dangerous to those who promote that subculture as a way of life. If you feel up to it, I highly recommend her most recent series of posts, which are on homeschooling and its potential to exacerbate abuse and neglect. You can tell how rattled Libby Anne's posts are making some people, as she's receiving a huge backlash from the (so-called) Homeschool Legal Defence Association (an organisation that believes children have no rights, parents have complete ownership over their children and that any regulation beyond parents informing the state of their intention to homeschool is an infringement on parents' freedoms). I highly recommend reading everything Libby Anne writes.

Still on the topic of homeschooling, here is a post by Jon Bois about his homeschooling experience as a child in rural Georgia in the '90s.

Check out this TED talk about changing the way we talk about abuse and harassment. The gist of it is that men (are the perpetrators in not all, but most cases of abuse and harassment) should be told that being bystanders to abuse and harassment is a failure of leadership - that if they are in positions of authority or relative power, and they do nothing to investigate, discourage or stop abuse and harassment, they are failing as leaders.

Finally, have a read of Maureen Johnson's post about genderflipped YA book covers.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
So, I stayed away longer than I intended, but I have now submitted what I hope to be the penultimate draft of the first two chapters of my thesis to my supervisor! That's 40,000 words. I am very, very relieved. So I celebrated today by doing nothing but exercising. I went to a yoga class in the morning (which was filled with little old ladies who were much more flexible than I am), and then a long run in the sunshine. I really cannot express how good all this exercise is for my mental health. I'm not saying that you can cure depression and anxiety with a daily run, but it does help to keep the awfulness still and quiet for a little while.

We have our annual student conference in our department. I helped organise it in my MPhil year, and I presented at it in the first year of my PhD, but ever since I've just gone along for the fun of it. We've got our friends J, L and C staying with us for the weekend. J is going to be presenting there. We're going to spend tonight eating take-away and watching cheesy medieval films, and then head off to the conference in the morning. Our new house is very conveniently located - only fifteen minutes' walk to the department, and very close to the college where the dinner will be. And then on Sunday Matthias and I are going to see Paloma Faith.

One of my friends (one of my group of friends from uni, who mainly studied maths or other sciences) posted a link to an article about a study which found that the number of girls studying maths in the HSC (the equivalent of the A Levels for students in NSW; Australia doesn't have a national education system) has increased dramatically in the past decade. While I think there is a problem in encouraging girls and women to pursue study or careers in mathematical or scientific fields, and that mathematical literacy is pretty poor in the Australian adult population (I used to work as a newspaper subeditor, so I have some first-hand experience of this), I'm not sure exactly what the right way to go about fixing this is. Some of my friends were suggesting that maths be made compulsory up to Year 12 (the final year of high school - right now it's only compulsory up to Year 10, and the only compulsory subject is English), but I'm a little dubious about whether forcing people to study something would increase their enjoyment of it (or encourage them to pursue it after secondary school).*

I am going to tell you my own story, because this is the only way that I manage to work out what I think about such issues.

I did (mostly) okay in maths and science classes in secondary school up until the end of Year 10. I was in the top class for both (out of four levels in Maths and three in Science), and managed solid Bs, with the occasional A. As long as I did my homework and studied a little bit before tests, I could keep up. But when I started Year 11, and maths became much more abstract, I really, really struggled. I had to stay in the top class because I was doing the International Baccalaureate, and only the top class covered all the IB material.

I spent every evening doing maths homework. I failed every single test. The highest grade I got on a test was probably around 35% (because of the way my state's education system worked, that scaled up to about 75%, which meant it didn't affect my overall grade). Can you imagine what it feels like to spend all of your studying time working on one subject, and get results like that? It was the first (and only) time where there was no correlation between my effort and the outcome.

In contrast, in my literature class, everything just clicked. I'd always found it very easy to spot themes, stylistic devices and all that stuff in works of literature - I'd been doing it since I was a child, every time I opened a book, for fun. After a long struggle during the earlier years of high school, where my grades steadily improved from solid Bs to lower As,** I could write reasonably good essays. I found literature study easy. My grades reflected my effort: as long as I listened and participated in class, as long as I put in time with my essays and presentations, I would get very good grades. In fact, I was consistently in the top three students in the grade.

It was pretty clear, by the time I was in the final years of secondary school, that I was going to study something related to words and writing, and that I would ultimately work in a field related to that. And yet, because all of my friends were excellent at maths, I felt that I was incredibly stupid. About 60 per cent of what I angsted about during those two years was whether I would pass my IB maths exam. (The other 40 per cent was why the guy I liked didn't want me back.)

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this. I don't think I was bad at maths because I'm a woman - I think I was bad at maths because a) my brain simply doesn't work that way and b) I did better in subjects that were assessed primarily through essays or assignments rather than in exam conditions. I don't even necessarily think that I would have been better off if I'd been able to drop Maths entirely. I wonder if I would have been okay if I'd been able to go into the class one level down. But I think I disagree with making the choice of subjects of study more rigid and restricted in the final years of high school. If anything, I'd go in the other direction, and have more options - especially more vocational options and opportunities for internships or work experience. I feel the way to encourage more students to study specific subjects is to make them more geared towards those who have a deep and genuine interest, streamed into different levels if necessary. I think something needs to be done earlier on in education to make maths and science more appealing to girls, but I think by Years 11 and 12, it's too late, and making such subjects compulsory at that stage isn't going to solve the problem of the lack of women in those fields.***

* If I had my way, English, Maths, Science, Modern History (or a combined History and Geography class) and a foreign language would be compulsory up to Year 10, but I think there should be more choice after that. I also think a course on managing money, and another on managing your mental health, should be made part of the curriculum.
** I will always be grateful to my English teacher during those years. She could see that I understood stuff, but wouldn't give me amazing grades until my written expression improved, and every essay it got a little bit better until I wrote one on Macbeth and she actually said to me, 'You finally understand how to do this'.
*** In any case, there are fewer women in fields which are supposedly more popular for girls - fewer senior female academics, even in the humanities, and fewer women in senior positions in the media, or working as journalists and reviewers in top, well-paying publications. My position on all these issues is that the later years of secondary school, and university (both undergrad and postgrad) is the wrong time to be addressing this problem. It needs to be dealt with both earlier (in primary and the earlier years of secondary school) and later (when adults enter the workforce).
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: (sister finland)
[personal profile] thelxiepia, to Todd Akin (re: his reelection): The female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.

Obama: It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. It doesn't matter if you're black or white, Hispanic or Asian or Native American ... it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, gay or straight ...
Young daughter of my friend L (shouting at footage on laptop): HURRY UP WILL YOU? I ALREADY KNOW ALL THIS STUFF FROM MY TEACHER.

These two are, I think, the most representative quotes from last night's election viewing.

I hold dual citizenship, and as a result, while I don't feel very American or have any intentions of moving there, I am able to vote in elections. Some of my non-USian friends have been very critical of the way that people outside the US tend to obsessively follow the election campaigns and results, but the sheer volume of vitriolic hatred this time around has had the odd effect of making the political personal for me.

When I think of the rhetoric that's been flying around - about women (particularly, about sexually active women and women who are raped*), about the poor and unemployed, about people with disabilities, people who are ethnic minorities, LGBT people - what strikes me is a profound lack of empathy. These vocal social conservatives look at the most dispossessed and vulnerable people in their society, and are unable to see their humanity. They hate, they hurt, they bluster and blame because they are unable to imagine any circumstances where they would be in such people's shoes.

I stayed up until 5am watching the election coverage in a state of profound hysteria. It's not that I think Obama's the messiah, or that I even agree with all the things he's done in his first term, but that, in words at least, in relation to Americans at least, he strives to reach out, to compromise, to entertain multiple points of view, to affirm the worth and humanity of all. And that may not matter very much in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. It is enough, for now, for me.

And now I'm going to go to sleep. Following a nearly sleepless night with a library shift where I shelved eight trolleys of books is starting to take its toll.

* Which is not the same thing, and it's terrifying how these things seem to be conflated in the eyes of some social conservatives.


dolorosa_12: (Default)
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