Film Corner: Silence of the Lambs

[Content Note: Misogyny, Misogynistic Language, Sexism, Transphobia]

Husband was out of town over Memorial Day weekend visiting his kids, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to watch Silent of the Lambs for the first time.

I've never seen the film before because I didn't particularly want to see it. Scary movies were forbidden when I was a child because I found them, well, scary and because my parents didn't want to deal with the aftermath of nightmares. (Nor do I blame them for that.) And I carried over my No-Scary-Movies rule into adulthood, branching out only tentatively into fantasy violence, which I can handle slightly better. (I only very rarely ask Husband to check behind the shower curtain for vampires. I do, however, always check the driveway for zombies in the morning before going to work.)

Pictures of the Day: Genderbending LOTR

This made me smile.

Hat tip to Lillian Cohen-Moore.

Feminism: Sabotaged Birth Control

[Content Note: Forced Reproduction, Partner Violence]
[NB: Not only women need reproductive rights.]

Via Kat Stoeffel at NY Magazine:

Surveying 641 women who received routine ob-gyn care at Providence’s Women and Infants Hospital, Clark found that 16 percent had received unwelcome pressure to get pregnant. Their boyfriends and partners made it hard for them to use birth control — poking holes in condoms or hiding their pills — or threatened to leave or harm them if they didn’t get pregnant.

I think it's important to note that individual pressure on women by their partners to reproduce against their will is not occurring in a vacuum from social pressure on women as a group to reproduce against their will nor from the corporate pressure on women as employees to reproduce against their will nor from religious pressure on women as congregants to reproduce against their will.

These things are linked, and they need to be addressed on a system-wide level, not just on a case-by-case basis.

Twilight: Feminism Lite and Rape Culture

[Content Note: Rape Culture, Misogyny, Abusive Relationships]

Note: Ana is away from the computer this week. This is a Twilight-themed post. We will return to our chapter analysis next week.

I began officially criticizing Twilight on the internet in 2010. Twilight was the first literary deconstruction I worked on, and I was deeply inspired by the work of Fred Clark in deconstructing Left Behind. In the same way that Fred highlights the toxic messages in Left Behind and their effect on mainstream Christian community, I hoped to examine what I perceived as toxic messages in Twilight and their effect on cultural attitudes towards women. Probably not surprisingly after three years of immersing myself in Twilight, I began to feel that the truth was more complicated than I'd first realized.

Unlike a lot of the authors whose popular works undergo systematic skewering by bloggers (see Tim LaHaye, Orson Scott Card, Ayn Rand, etc.), S. Meyer does publicly identify as a progressive -- or at least as a feminist. And I believe that she does so sincerely and not disingenuously, though I also believe that her brand of feminism is extremely limited and potentially very harmful for a lot of marginalized women. But it does make deconstructing Twilight unusual at times because of the "Feminism Lite" factor.

Open Thread: Writer Workshop

A couple of you have requested a special monthly open thread dedicated to talking about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). So here it is!

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Open thread writing workshop below!

Metapost: Claymore Fans with Kindles

Dear Claymore Fans who also own Kindles, do me a favor and email VIZ media to say that while you super-appreciate them making their content digitally available on the Nook, you'd extra-super-appreciate it if it were available on Kindle as well. And also tell them that you like Claymore on the grounds that it's freaking awesome.

Thanks muchly!

[Related Links: VIZ Media Digital Content]

Narnia: Loving Her Less

[Content Note: Misogyny, Abusive Relationships, Racism]

Note: Ana is away from the computer this week. This is a Narnia-themed post about Susan. We will return to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next week. 

A lot has been said, here and elsewhere, about the misogyny directed against Susan Pevensie in The Last Battle, wherein it will be revealed that Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia and may-or-may-not have been barred eternally from heaven (depending on how you interpret the theology of the gates closing and everyone you've ever heard of from Narnia being in heaven at that point). And a lot has been said here about the misogyny directed against Susan Pevensie in the two books that feature her as a protagonist: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.

What I generally see less of on the internet is a treatment of the misogyny directed against Susan Pevensie in the novel which is thematically set in the middle of LWW, at some point between the victory over the White Witch and the ending when the children tumble out of the wardrobe: The Horse and His Boy.

Open Thread: Open Thread of Openness!

Hosted by Memorial Day flags
So - I was going to do a Memorial Day themed open thread, and indeed, that's a great possible topic.  Do you have anyone in your life you honor and remember on Memorial Day?  Do you have any plans for picnics or cookouts today?  If you're not in the U.S. and have no connection to Memorial Day at all, is your Monday going well?

However!  As we're in a blog-vacation, this is the open thread to last us until NEXT Monday.  Which means it is TOO BIG FOR ONE TOPIC!!!

Now, yes, ALL open threads are, well, open.  But here, I am actively encouraging you to proactively throw your own topics out there, to get people talking about anything and everything.  Be creative!  Heck, if nothing else, treat this as a getting-to-know-you thread.  Where ya from, what's yer business, how's the kids?  :)  (And hey, if you have anything you'd like to see as a starter topic in a future open thread, toss it out there - I love ideas!)

DO PLEASE remember - for the rest of the week, moderation is happening on a strict "when we feel like it" schedule.  So you're on your honor to behave :P

Anyway.  Have fun, and we'll be back next Monday!

~ Kristycat

(p.s. Reply-function reminder, blah blah you know the drill)

Review: Hot Guys and Baby Animals

Hot Guys and Baby AnimalsHot Guys and Baby Animals
by Audrey Khuner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hot Guys and Baby Animals / 978-1449407902

Alright, let's get this out of the way first: I'm not super-thrilled by the "pron 4 wimmen!1!" marketing for this book. This book isn't porn, and while it's fine to look at it and/or be turned on by the models, I don't think it's valuable to perpetuate the meme that women can't or don't look at real porn, when many of them do. That meme-road leads only to sex-negativity and shaming. (And, yes, I'm the Most Humorless Feminist in Nofunnington, to quote Melissa McEwan. I'll show myself out, etc.)

Now that we've got that out of the way, I like this book just fine for what it is. It has hot guys and adorable baby animals and -- and this is a BIG part of why I like it -- cute flavor text for each of the pictures. So you get things like:

Mark thinks people like him because he has a great smile.
Sadie Belle thinks people like Mark because he has Sadie Belle.

See? It's cute! (Well, I think so.) And there's a lot of really sweet, upbeat friendliness to this book -- I almost feel like this is the sort of thing I would really value the next time I go through a bout of depression. In some ways it seems sort of tailor-made for therapy: lots of friendly nice people smiling at sweet fuzzy animals with humorous-yet-inviting flavor text that isn't an overwhelming wall of text. I like it, is what I am saying.

I also like that there's a diversity of skin colors among the 38 models, as well as a lot of welcome facial diversity. I'm less thrilled by the lack of body diversity, since there are no visibly disabled or fat models, but that's industry standard for these things, I suppose. Still, they could have added one stocky guy and one guy in a wheelchair and had 40; how hard would that have been? I'm just saying.

All in all, this is a cute coffee table book and I genuinely think could be helpful to anyone going through a depressive funk who also happens to like hot guys and baby animals. I'm sad to see, for that reason, that Amazon doesn't seem to carry a "hot girls and baby animals", because I imagine those could be similarly cheering to look at. Someone should get on that.

NOTE: This review is based on a free electronic Advance Review Copy of this book provided by the publisher.

~ Ana Mardoll


Review: Hip Hop

Hip, Hop (Portuguese Edition)Hip, Hop
by Catherine Hnatov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hip Hop / 978-1595722669

According to the back of this book, the book is available in English/Spanish and English/Portuguese -- to be clear upfront, the book I received for review is only in English. It may be available in other languages soon, though, as there are only 25 words in this book. I counted.

This is a cute book for infants. My copy has five animals -- a bird, a rabbit, a dog, a fish, and a cat -- and each animal has a short description of what it "does" and how it "sounds". The descriptions are black text on a full-page of color, opposite a drawing of the animal in black and white. It's fairly simple and cute enough, though I don't know if the book is worth the current asking price in terms of repeat enjoyment. I imagine the book is something that would please most infants, though.

The copy I reviewed is an electronic copy, so I can't speak for the quality of the hardcover (which I normally wouldn't speak to at all, but I figure when babies are apt to be gnawing on it, it's worth a mention). So I would recommend checking the other reviews, since this is a "content only" review.

NOTE: This review is based on a free electronic Advance Review Copy of this book provided by the publisher.

~ Ana Mardoll

The cat sleeps.
Purr, purr.

Metapost: Memorial Day

We're taking Memorial Day week off at the blog and will be back next Monday! There will still be Narnia and Twilight posts on Tuesday and Thursday, but moderating will be slim-to-light. Please be extra careful to respect the safe space while we're gone. Thank you!

Feminism: Communication vs Transgression

[Content Note: Rape Culture]
[Repost Note: This is a repost of an article that previously appeared on Shakesville.]

Emily Esfahani Smith at The Atlantic: Is Sex Still Sexy?

There are fully one-billion things wrong with this article which seeks to chastise Maine college students for writing and acting out a series of skits in order to talk to fellow students openly about sex in a sex-positive manner that will reinforce Yes Means Yes narratives and reduce slut-shaming and rape culture mentalities on campus (from their website: "A performance-based presentation about consent, boundaries and healthy relationships").

Smith leads by criticizing the skits for being too open and too heavy on communication -- which we all know is Not Sexy! -- by saying:

But the exhibitionism of Speak About It kills this mystery and longing—it leaves little to the imagination. As the writer and critic Cristina Nehring, author of A Vindication of Love, tells me in an interview, "Where there is no distance and no sense of transgression at all, where anything goes and everything shows, there is no erotic chemistry.
And ends with:
If we want sex to be sexy again, perhaps we should speak less about it.
Did everyone get that? Where there is no sense of transgression (and since Smith and Nehring are both professional writers, I assume they understand that the commonly used definition of "transgression" is "a violation of limits") there is no erotic chemistry, and therefore we should stop communicating so much about sex, even if the goal is to educate people on sexual assault and healthy consent.

I really hope that Smith is not outright suggesting that sex isn't sexy if there's not always the lingering change that it is actually rape instead. And yet that is what she is effectively advocating, even if she doesn't realize it. She is recycling old "communication kills the mood" narratives, and those narratives are an integral part of rape culture since they are regularly used to silence people in order to preventing them from asserting boundaries until whooops those boundaries have already been crossed. And these harmful narratives are deliberately employed by rapists in order to render their victims vulnerable to transgressions against their will.

What frustrates me most about this intellectually lazy article is that there is no way that Smith immersed herself this deeply into the Speak About It performance materials to write her article that she could somehow miss why and how communication is integral to preventing sexual assault. Speak About It very clearly explains how communication empowers the vulnerable to assert their boundaries and provides crucial visual representations of what healthy sex can look like in contrast to the misinformation disseminated through popular culture. I can only assume that Smith did grasp the fundamentals but felt like they were less important than criticizing these proactive students for Doing Sex Wrong on the grounds that their sexuality doesn't align with her personal narratives of what is erotic and what isn't. 

I invite everyone in the comments to pick out there favorite utterly-terrible quotes from this garbage article, but mine will always be the part where Smith criticizes a man for asking his partner if she wants a Gatorade after sex. Smith thinks this is a perfect example of non-erotic sex; my personal response is that hell, yes, I want a drink after sex. There's ice in the freezer, and cups above the sink. And thanks.

Hat Tip to Jackie.

Open Thread: Darkness

Hosted by sunset clouds
When the dark comes down, oh, the wind is on the sea
With lisping laugh and whimper to the red reef's threnody,
The boats are sailing homeward now across the harbor bar
With many a jest and many a shout from fishing grounds afar.
So furl your sails and take your rest, ye fisher folk so brown,
For task and quest are ended when the dark comes down.

When the dark comes down, oh, the landward valleys fill
Like brimming cups of purple, and on every landward hill
There shines a star of twilight that is watching evermore
The low, dim lighted meadows by the long, dim-lighted shore,
For there, where vagrant daisies weave the grass a silver crown,
The lads and lassies wander when the dark comes down.

When the dark comes down, oh, the children fall asleep,
And mothers in the fisher huts their happy vigils keep;
There's music in the song they sing and music on the sea,
The loving, lingering echoes of the twilight's litany,
For toil has folded hands to dream, and care has ceased to frown,
And every wave's a lyric when the dark comes down. 

- "When The Dark Comes Down," by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  (Note: don’t forget to post new comments rather than replying to other comments!)
~ Kristycat

Twilight: Gentleman by Birth or Deed?

[Content Note: Addiction, Rape, Racism, Murder, Hate Crimes, Riots]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 14, Edward and Bella spend the night together.

Twilight, Chapter 14: Mind Over Matter

Edward has managed to backstory much of his family over the ride home to Bella's house, including the fact that Edward is actually over 100 years old. Bella has taken this about as well as you might expect, with a mixture of calm acceptance and a hunger for more information while Edward is still in the rare mood to share.

Open Thread: Monkeys

Hosted by a monkey with big eyes

We come from monkeys, swingin' in the trees
Little bit of monkey inside you and me
Monkey in the middle
Monkey on your back
It's a fundamental problem but a scientific fact: we come from monkeys!
- Emerald Rose, "We Come From Monkeys!"

So - completely unintentionally, monkeys have become my daughter's mascot.  Fully half of her toys and clothes are monkeys, monkey-themed, or have monkeys on them.  We didn't plan this or buy these for her, they just sort of... accumulated.

Open thread!  Monkeys are awesome!  They brachiate!  (True fact: I ask the GM to let me take "brachiation" as a skill in every roleplaying game I play in.)  Some of them have prehensile tails!   They have adorable almost-human faces!  What's not to love?  Do you have any cool trivia about monkeys, or stories about seeing monkeys in a zoo or in the wild?  (Alternately, do you hate monkeys, and if so, why?  Did one steal your keys, Night At The Museum-style?)  Share!

~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder!  Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread.  This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for! 

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!

Metapost: An Important Announcement

We have switched over* from Fringe to Once Upon A Time and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I love it more than I love almost all the things.

I love it almost as much as I love Elementary. And that is a LOT.

That is all.

* I'm still going to try to finish Fringe out for deconstruction purposes, but it's no longer dinner-teevee, as Husband has announced that he no longer cares what happens to any of the characters and never wants to see another episode again after the two-fer anti-choice / free-your-mind episodes which were each odious in their own way.

ETA: Also, Disqus appears to be down for the evening. EVERYWHERE.

Narnia: Native Occupiers, White Discoverers

[Content Note: Body Transformation, Racism]

Narnia Recap: In which Eustace is turned into a dragon.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 6: The Adventures of Eustace

When we were last in Narnia, we were dealing with the Theologies of rolling around in a pile of dragon gold and considering how best to spend it, which is obviously a sin when Eustace Scrubb does it but was not a sin when the four Pevensies were merrily digging through their swiffy hidden treasure vault back in Prince Caspian.

Metapost: Disqus Replies

Folks, I'm not trying to be mean, but it's been 10 days since I asked everyone to read the updated comment policy, and 7 days since I asked everyone again to read it, specifically because we're getting a LOT of people using the Disqus "reply" function in ways they are not supposed to here. Additionally, almost every open thread for months has asked people not to use the reply function for anything more than extremely short (i.e., twelve words or less) "I agree" type statements.

It is very frustrating to be forced to repeatedly ask people to observe in this space a courtesy that was instituted because I and others here have a visual processing disability which makes parsing nested comments extremely difficult and frequently outright painful. It is additionally very frustrating to keep feeling like I'm being a big meanie for asking people to observe this courtesy in a disability-activist space where I have spoken extensively about the importance of remembering and accommodating disabilities.

I really do not want to institute a rule where long replies are deleted on sight, but that is what I am being gradually pushed into by the continued mentality in this space that the comment policy I keep asking people to read only applies to other, newer commenters and not to regulars here. I either have to start deleting good comments to "make the point" forcefully enough, or I have to withdraw from the board entirely and not read the comments on my board. Neither of those possibilities are attractive to me.

I am going to ask again that everyone here be cognizant of this and adjust their commenting practices accordingly. I want to remind everyone here that the new comment policy is required reading for commenting here for a reason. Thank you. 

[Related Reading: Remembrance]

Open Thread: Karaoke

Hosted by a girl with a microphone
Ahh, karaoke.  One of the finer things in life.  There's nothing quite like getting together with a bunch of your friends, going out on a Friday or Saturday night, and listen to drunken strangers butcher "Black Velvet" and "Love Shack."

Seriously, I love karaoke. 

I love the camaraderie of a good karaoke joint.  Everyone there is on the same side: they want you to be awesome.  I remember one night when I started a song in the wrong key and couldn't get back on track - a total stranger, no joke, jumped up next to me, leaned into the mic, sang a few bars in a strong voice, and hopped down once I got it.  I could've kissed her in gratitude, and I nailed the song after that :)

Open thread!  Do you enjoy singing karaoke?  Are you the person who's stoked about belting out your favorite songs, the person who's kinda shy but might try a song or two after a few beers, or the person who'd rather just sit and watch other people get up and sing?  (Or the person who just cannot stand karaoke, and if you never hear another guy who thinks he can sing warbling his way through "I Love This Bar," it'll be too soon?)

~ Kristycat

Monday Reminder!  While I have fun coming up with pretty pictures and/or interesting “prompt” questions for open threads, you aren’t limited to those!  These threads are open - go wild, talk about whatever moves you!  (Just remember that this is still a safe space, please!) 

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!

Elementary: Becoming the Oppressor

[Content Note: Drug Addiction, Child Abuse, Stockholm Syndrome, Reversal Twist, Surgery]

Official Episode Synopsis: Sherlock and Watson consult on a child abduction case involving a serial killer who is nicknamed "The Balloon Man," because he leaves a signature batch of balloons at each of his crime scenes.

, (Season 1 | Episode 3) "Child Predator"

So, hey, content note upfront: this episode involves child abduction, child abuse, Stockholm syndrome, and then a reversal twist where a victim turns out to be a victimizer. One of the praises I've heaped on this show in the past is that it doesn't rely on this trope nearly as often as some crime dramas do, but it is here for this episode and not everyone will want to come along for the ride. So here's a content note upfront and I'll try to handle the issues herein sensitively.

Open Thread: Sun

Hosted by the setting sun
“And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,
"You owe me."
Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky.”
― Rumi

 Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  (Note: don’t forget to post new comments rather than replying to other comments!)

~ Kristycat

Deals: Beer and Baking

Free Kindle books today that look interesting:

Twilight: Existence and Empathy

[Content Note: Minor True Blood Spoiler, Religious Upbringing]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 14, Edward and Bella spend the night together.

Twilight, Chapter 14: Mind Over Matter

So here's something that is probably going to shock everyone: I think Chapter 14 is probably my favorite chapter of Twilight. (And, yeah, I know, I said something similar about Chapters 12 and 13.) And it's funny for me to say that because Chapters 12, 13, and 14 all contain some hugely unhealthy problematic stuff in them. And we need to look at that.

Disability: An Open Plea To NetGalley

[Content Note: Ableist Narratives]

Related Reading: The NetGalley Wellness Challenge

Fringe: Having Anti-Choice Cake (And Eating It Too)

[Content Note: Anti-Choice Narratives, Forced Birth, Rape]

Welp, I hadn't planned on making a Fringe deconstruction tag, but I guess I'm going to have to because I am now seriously annoyed about last night's episode: Bloodline.

First, a quick recap below the cut.

Open Thread: Bees

Hosted by a bee

The bees are disappearing!

Actually, no joke, they totally are, and if I were a responsible adult I would be concerned for real live environmental reasons.  Because I'm not,  however, I'm concerned because I like honey and because I think bees are cool.

In high school, our campus was invaded by bees (actually Carolina yellow jackets).  In short order, I became the bee (read: yellow jacket) whisperer: the girl who could have five wasps crawling on her face and not freak out; the one who could swipe a panicked yellow jacket out of the air mid-classroom, calm it down, and deposit it outside.  At the height of the invasion, they would swarm anyone who dared eat lunch outside; I was one of the few who negotiated a truce, filling my soda bottle cap full of sugar water and placing it a few feet from my food, thus letting them drink their fill while I enjoyed my lunch unmolested.  Somehow other kids felt this was giving in.  Wevs, I got to eat my cookies without worrying about getting stung.

Open thread!  How do you feel about bees?  How do you feel about wasps?  Are there any insects you have a particular affinity to?  If you're allergic to bees, does that give you more incentive to stay calm around them, or make you more afraid of them?  Any cool stories regarding bees or wasps?  Have you ever made an uncanny connection to a wild animal?

~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder!  Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread.  This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!  

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!

Deals: The Hobbit

There's a sale on 4 different editions of The Hobbit at Amazon right now. I'd run down the details, but they're more adequately explained here.

eReader: eReaderIQ Watchlist

If you buy from Amazon Kindle and aren't already aware of it, ereaderiq has a really great "watchlist" service for Kindle books. All you have to do is load the Kindle books you want into your Amazon wishlist, make the wishlist public for a one-time sync (you can make the list private again afterwards), and then eReaderIQ will send you notifications when the book price drops by whatever amount or percentage you set. (I usually set for $1 drops.)

The service is free; the site makes its money by embedding an affiliate code in all its links, which you don't have to use but are certainly convenient for one-click access. The email alerts look like this:

Narnia: Moving To Calormen

[Content Note: Body Transformation, Death, Suicide, Disablism, Racism]

Narnia Recap: In which Eustace is turned into a dragon.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 6: The Adventures of Eustace

When we last left Eustace, he had been herded by the author into a Valley of No Escape and was trembling before a dangerous creature that he doesn't recognize (the narrative states that he doesn't even know the word "dragon") and torn between hoping the dragon won't eat him versus noticing with some degree of pity that the dragon is old and weak.

Metapost: Comment Policy and Disqus Replies

Folks, we've had a lot of people using Disqus Replies today for comments that are significantly longer than 12 words. Please familiarize yourself with the comment policy and the Disqus rules therein. I really don't want to start deleting good comments just because they are nested as replies, and would prefer not to have to grapple with that as an option.

Thank you in advance for reading and understanding the policy.

Open Thread: Happy Day-After-Mother's-Day!

Hosted by a Mother's Day Whale

What does a whale have to do with Mother's Day?  Nothing, why?

Regardless.  Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day which I'm shamelessly choosing to declare the most important holiday ever, for reasons that have nothing to do at ALL with the fact that I got free chocolate.  Nothing at all.  No bias here.

Anyway.  Open thread!  Anyone do anything nice with their family (biological, adopted, chosen, married-into, whatever) yesterday?  Do you like Mother's Day, or is it yet another fake holiday invented to make us feel like we have to buy cards, chocolates, and flowers?  Do you celebrate it with your own mom, and if not, do you have a stand-in "mom" that you recognize instead?  Does anyone have any creative ideas for celebrating the day that step away from the traditional flowers-card-chocolate routine?

~ Kristycat

Monday Reminder!  While I have fun coming up with pretty pictures and/or interesting “prompt” questions for open threads, you aren’t limited to those!  These threads are open - go wild, talk about whatever moves you!  (Just remember that this is still a safe space, please!)  

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!

Fringe: Fringe vs Consent

[Content Note: Fringe spoilers, Abuse, Non-Consensual Bodily Autonomy Issues, Misogyny. Seriously, this is a massively triggery/spoilery post.]

I mentioned in an earlier post that Husband and I have been watching Fringe and that I have mixed feelings about it. Those mixed feelings have only gotten more mixed: it's deeply frustrating to watch something that had so much potential in terms of plot and yet which has horribly monstrous people for protagonists while doggedly trying to backpedal so as to insist that, no really, they aren't that monstrous after all and that the whole foreshadowed redemptive path turned out to be hard and so we're not going to do that after all. 

This is Olivia Dunham:


Tropes: No Place Like Home

[Content Note: Abuse]

Leaving Narnia. Returning to Kansas. I don't know what else to call it, and there's probably a more formalized name for this trope, but a quick search didn't net me anything. But broadly-speaking, I'm becoming more than a little disenchanted with fantasy stories where the protagonist (usually a small child) sorts shit out in a troubled fantasy world, gains friends and prestige and (optionally) love interests, and then in the final pages of the narrative either gets shoved back into the Real World without their consent (a la Narnia) or chooses to go back for no more compelling reason* than because the authors felt like that was The Right Thing To Do.

* In the specific case I'm thinking of, which I won't share because spoilers, so instead I'm invoking Oz and Narnia because those are fairly common knowledge.

To be super-clear, I don't have a problem with protagonists choosing how to live their lives and making their own happy endings. There's nothing wrong with choosing to go back to the Real World because of parents or friends or preference or because otherwise you'll never eat another ice cream sandwich again. That's fine. But I do have a problem with the fact that I'm starting to feel like this trope is frequently invoked because the authors felt like it would be actively Wrong for any protagonist to decide that zie likes the fantasy world better than their original "home", and I disagree with that assertion. There's nothing intrinsically or morally "Right" about accepting the world you were born into as fundamentally better for you than anywhere else: it's a valid choice, but not the only valid choice.

And I additionally can't help but feel that this underlying assumption -- that taking an opportunity to leave forever a place that may not be healthy or safe for you, rather than trying to stick with it and work it out because it builds character or whatever -- is deeply problematic when it runs in parallel with various different types of marginalizations. Sometimes abuse victims seriously just need to get out; sometimes people dealing with homophobic and/or transphobic cultures and families choose to leave for their own safety. Sometimes a magic world is just objectively better for a person with a disability, or anyone else in search of a magical fix** to a life-affecting issue.

** I can't help but note after typing these words that the very phrase "magical fix" sounds synonymous with 'lazy' and/or 'morally degenerate' to a lot of people in our culture. How fucked up is that?

Yet if we're constantly being presented with this cultural narrative that pleasant places are great for vacations and character building but that, ultimately, there's No Place Like Home and -- more fundamentally -- it's actually morally wrong to permanently leave home forever, even if that choice to leave is motivated by self-care, then there are a lot of harmful messages accompanying that cultural trend.

I get why a lot of authors take this route: on the surface, it's optimistic. Characters Johnny and Jenny have Learned Valuable Lessons and will now use their knowledge and determination to make the world a Better Place for themselves and others. On a meta-level, the author knows that the reader can't realistically aspire to live in Oz or Narnia, but zie can aspire to take those lessons and improve their lives, just as Johnny and Jenny chose to do, when leaving their fantasy world and going back home! I understand the appeal of this trope to authors, as a neat, tidy ending tinted with rosy optimism and can-do spirit.

But still ... I'd like to see just a few more people stay in Oz and Narnia, and I'd like to see that condoned as a morally neutral choice, no better or worse than coming home to England and Kansas. And I'd love to see at least a few authors highlight why that is, and how some people in our culture are marginalized more deeply than others. Because privileged readers like Kim and Kenny kinda need to hear that there's more to life than making their lives easier -- there are also people out there suffering even more than they are, people who can't make their lives easier just by employing hard work and determination. And marginalized readers like Sarah and Shawn could probably stand to hear that when their lives are too hard and too painful for them to bear, it doesn't mean they are to blame for not being smart enough or trying hard enough.

And I think that's another reason why I find this ending trope depressing: sometimes the authorial choice that seems "optimistic" is really quite depressing if you poke too hard at it. If there's really is "no place like home", then a lot of us are in a bad place with no way out. Just saying.

Disability: Pedometers and Being Oppositely-Abled

[Content Note: Chronic Pain, Weight Loss Programs]

I always hesitate to write disability posts because they always sound to me like I'm the whiniest whiner in the world. But then I remember how much mail I get in regards to my disability posts thanking me for talking about chronic pain and invisible disabilities, and I remind myself that emoting is not only a valid form of activism, but also my most comfortable mode of expression. So having said all that, I want to talk about something that has become a symbol of my disability for me lately as it progressively gets worse, and that symbol is this pedometer:


Open Thread: Urban Garden

Hosted by a green living wall

Rainbow Treasure
I have found the treasure
That lies at the Rainbow's end;
Wealth beyond computing
Is mine to give or lend. 

Opals of an April dawn, 
Gold of a shimmering noon, 
Amethysts of the sunset, 
Pearls with the glow of the moon. 

Would you like to share it? 
There's more than enough for all
In my Iris Garden 
Against a grey stone wall.

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  (Note: don’t forget to post new comments rather than replying to other comments!)

~ Kristycat

Metapost: Comment Policy Update

There is an update to the comment policy. I would like to ask everyone to re-read it, if only because it lays out the rules regarding the use of Disqus in this space, which we've not had a chance to post since the 2013 update. Thank you!

Twilight: Centering Edward

[Content Note: Murder, Ableism, Suicide]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

Okay. Deep breaths. We're going to get through this chapter. We just need to pace ourselves, keep our eye on the finish line, and remember to keep breathing. Not unlike Bella, actually, as she struggles to survive her exciting new relationship.

When we last left Bella and Edward, everything was all misty and romantical because Edward had confessed that inconveniencing his vampire family was (shockingly!) better than murdering Bella. Obviously because she's so important and not because being a murderer is a terrible, terrible thing to have to live with for eternity. And plus that particular ship has already sailed for Edward, though I'm not sure that Bella knows that yet.

Open Thread: Coffee

Hosted by two cafe lattes
First off: apologies, apologies for missing Monday's Open Thread.  I just know y'all were heartbroken :)  I plead having just come off of four days of camping in the pouring-down rain with a squirmy baby who couldn't be plopped down in the flood-mud to play!

Anyway.  On with the open thread!

I recently obtained a Keurig machine as a birthday present, and I'm still madly in love with it.  It's just a basic one, but it is AWESOME.  I've been exploring different coffee varieties, and have found to my delight that although light roasts (my favorite) tend to be looked down on by "serious" coffee drinkers, because they're not all dark and bitter and hardcore, they DO have more caffeine.  So there. :P

Open thread!  What kind of coffee do you like?  Dark, light, espresso, espresso drinks, drinks with so much milk and sugar that they're only loosely defined as "coffee"?  Do you like the coffeeshop atmosphere, or do you consider it pretentious and/or a waste of money for something you could get at home?  Iced coffee: a godsend during the summer, or an abomination?  Or do you eschew coffee altogether and prefer something like non-caffeinated herbal tea or something?  Discuss!

~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder! Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread. This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread. When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!

Elementary: Liss and Ana Talk About It

Since I'm going through Elementary from the beginning, and very slowly, it'll be awhile before I have a chance to register my serious issues with Dead Man's Switch which (coincidentally) aired right after I told everyone on earth to watch Elementary and which was easily the fail-iest episode they've aired. Whooooops!

So instead, I will just direct everyone to this co-authored Shakesville post which sums up my issues pretty thoroughly. There will obviously be more later, but in the meantime here is my take.

Feminism: Helen Keller on Privilege

[Content Note: Privilege]

“I had once believed that we were all masters of our fate--that we could mold our lives into any form we pleased... I had overcome deafness and blindness sufficiently to be happy, and I supposed that anyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life's struggle. But as I went more and more about the country I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a subject I knew little about... I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.” -- Helen Keller [emphasis mine]

I've been re-reading Lies My Teacher Told Me this week, and thoughtfully considering Loewen's discussion of how American textbooks deliberately silence Keller's adult work as a socialist in order to keep her "safely" contained as an inspirational disabled child who overcame her disability in a sufficiently vague manner that doesn't have to be interacted with as it concerns social class and marginalization in America when I stumbled onto this quote which is basically pure, distilled incredible.

Last night, a preview to a movie we were watching concerned the rise of some white male director in Hollywood whom I have never heard of. There was a tagline at the end of the preview which said something along the lines of "[Person] really epitomized the American dream: that you can achieve anything if you just work hard enough." I mentally added, "...if you're an educated able-bodied white cis straight male member of a high enough social class, and also have a significant degree of good luck."

But I guess a meaningful nod to privilege doesn't make as inspirational a tagline. *that face*

Related Reading: John Scalzi's Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

Narnia: Sad Old Dragons

[Content Note: Body Transformation]

Narnia Recap: In which Eustace is turned into a dragon.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 6: The Adventures of Eustace

   AT THAT VERY MOMENT THE OTHERS were washing hands and faces in the river and generally getting ready for dinner and a rest. The three best archers had gone up into the hills north of the bay and returned laden with a pair of wild goats which were now roasting over a fire. Caspian had ordered a cask of wine ashore, strong wine of Archenland which had to be mixed with water before you drank it, so there would be plenty for all. The work had gone well so far and it was a merry meal. Only after the second helping of goat did Edmund say, “Where’s that blighter Eustace?”

Narnia: James Loewen on Seemingly "Natural" Domination

[Content Note: Cultural Domination]

On the chapter regarding Columbus:

A third important development was ideological or even theological: amassing wealth and dominating other people came to be positively valued as the key means of winning esteem on earth and salvation in the hereafter. As Columbus put it, “Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to Paradise.” In 1005 the Vikings intended only to settle Vineland, their name for New England and the maritime provinces of Canada. By 1493 Columbus planned to plunder Haiti. [...]

High school students don’t usually think about the rise of Europe to world domination. It is rarely presented as a question. It seems natural, a given, not something that needs to be explained. Deep down, our culture encourages us to imagine that we are richer and more powerful because we’re smarter. [...]

Also left festering is the notion that “it’s natural” for one group to dominate another. While history brims with examples of national domination, it also is full of counterexamples. The way American history textbooks treat Columbus reinforces the tendency not to think about the process of domination. The traditional picture of Columbus landing on the American shore shows him dominating immediately, and this is based on fact: Columbus claimed everything he saw right off the boat. When textbooks celebrate this process, they imply that taking the land and dominating the natives were inevitable, if not natural.

Most important, his purpose from the beginning was not mere exploration or even trade, but conquest and exploitation, for which he used religion as a rationale. If textbooks included these facts, they might induce students to think intelligently about why the West dominates the world today. [emphasis mine]

One of the many, many issues I have with King Caspian's actions in the last Narnia post, as well as the way in which his actions are described in the text, is that claiming dominion over a land (and any native population therein, since no exhaustive search is made on any of the "uninhabited" islands to make sure that none of the inhabiting plants, trees, animals, etc. are sentient, nor would such a search be feasible since the humans on the Dawn Treader cannot travel to and/or survive in every environment in which a sentient plant or animal could thrive) is treated as a perfectly natural thing to do. No other possible alternative action is even hinted at, let alone made out to be potentially more desirable and/or more moral than absolute and eternal dominion of the lands and people therein.

This isn't academic, nor was C.S. Lewis unaware of the problems with colonialism, yet it's what we're given in Narnia: unabashed cultural domination without a hint that there might be other, better ways to interact with different places and people.

eReader: Cloud Kindle Notes

[Content Note: Potential Privacy Invasion]

Amazon doesn't really advertise it well (or at least not so far as I can tell), so I only just found out about this about a month ago, but you can access all your Kindle notes online from a personalized page. This is obviously pretty swanky, given that I do a lot of posts based on the things I read and highlight, and it's nice to be able to neatly copy-pasta from the cloud anywhere instead of having to boot up the Kindle desktop app, download the relevant book, and navigate to the highlight. Yay for cloud-based top-level views that let me drill down to my highlights in a reasonably timely fashion. I'm actually really pleased with this.

I'm also somewhat pleased with the ability to share your profile and follow other peoples', which is why I'm sharing the link to my own profile both here and permanently in the About Ana blog page. What I'm way less enthused by is that apparently it's an Amazon default to mark all purchased and even wishlist-ed books as "public" for people to view on your profile and it's up to you to go into the system and turn books off individually. That's a stupid default for lots of obvious privacy and marginalization reasons, and I really hope there's a way to change it somewhere in a setting I haven't found, because privacy should be the system default, not a constant opt-in chore for the customer.

So if you've purchased any books from Amazon -- eBook or otherwise -- I recommend checking the link above to see (a) if they made a profile for you and (b) if it has anything public that you'd rather not be. And then you might want to contact Amazon Help (there's a Contact Us button on the lower right) and ask them to make privacy the default behavior of the system. (You don't have to sign in to send a phone call or email.)

Aside from that, though, it's a nice feature and I like it.

Fat Acceptance: Publishers and Fat Hatred

[Content Note: Fat Hatred, Disordered Eating, WWII Imagery]

I'm signed up for email notifications, courtesy of Barnes & Noble, of new books coming out as eBooks that I might be interested in. And because I've bought books like Paul Campos' "The Obesity Myth", I'm now 'helpfully' flagged as interested in anything involving obesity in the title or publisher-provided synopsis. But now I'm getting ahead of myself. (More under the cut.)

Deals: Heir to the Empire

The Zahn Heir to the Empire book, first in his Thrawn trilogy, is on sale today on Kindle for $1.99.

Some of you have recommended this to me as having Princess Leia in a more active (and well-written) role, which is why it was on my wish list and I got the notice this morning. More Star Wars books are on sale here.

Open Thread: Haiku

Hosted by a Japanese garden

An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
- Bashō

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus -
A lovely sunset
- Bashō

Consider me
As one who loved poetry
And persimmons.
- Shiki

Over-ripe sushi,
The Master
Is full of regret.
- Buson

My favorite is the last one ^_^

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  (Note: don’t forget to post new comments rather than replying to other comments!)  Alternately, write us a haiku!
~ Kristycat

Twilight: Trustiness and Truthiness

[Content Note: Murder]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

You guys, seriously? Chapter 13 is officially the LONGEST CHAPTER EVER WRITTEN. Every time I sit down to write a Twilight post, I think, "Today is the day we escape from Chapter 13's clutches," and then I write and write and write and WE NEVER DO. So sod this. Today is the day we escape from Chapter 13's clutches. NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES. Which means that there will be no unifying theme today, just snark and disdain and some occasional confusion.

Also, fair warning: I haven't slept for the past two nights in a row because of extreme back pain, so expect this post to be less coherent than usual and more littered with spelling errors. Fortunately I have caffeine and sugar and LOLcats so I'm sure that will fix everything.

Fundraising: Monthly Donation Reminder and Thank You

For those of you who have requested it, here is the monthly reminder to donate to Ramblings and/or make sure to renew donation subscriptions that have lapsed. This is also my monthly heart-felt thank you to all of you who do donate now or in the past; I cannot strongly enough express my appreciation for those who have the ability to contribute and make the choice to donate to support this space.

The donation options on the blog donation page include one-time donations and monthly subscription options. (Subscriptions can be canceled through Paypal at any time.) I want to reiterate that I don't want anyone to donate if that donation would create financial hardship for them! But if you can afford to donate, every little bit helps. Every tiny tea leaf matters.

Cup Of Tea Isolated by Petr Kratochvil

This space is a strictly-moderated safe space for feminist activism, which takes a tremendous amount of time and resources, and is additionally incompatible with a number of online funding options, including content-generated advertising. Rather than seek corporate sponsorship or mandatory subscription models, both of which I feel are incompatible with my intersectional activism, I have chosen to embrace a donation/patronage crowd-funding model in order to cover blog operation costs. (And if this sounds a lot like the fundraising posts you see at Shakesville, that's partly osmosis and partly because I am deliberately trying to follow Melissa McEwan's model of valuing feminist work, and I've borrowed heavily with Liss' permission.)

I cannot afford to run this site full-time for free, but even if I could, I believe that fundraising for my work is a feminist act. I ask to be paid for my work because feminist advocacy has value and should not be undervalued or unpaid as "women's work" or a "pink collar" profession. If I do not ask to be paid for my work, then I fear I am feeding into a cultural narrative which says that society is entitled to a woman's work for free. I don't want to support that framing.

I also want to use this space to say thank you to everyone who contributes to this space: to those who donate, whether one-off or as part of a subscription, and to everyone else who contributes here with monetary and/or non-monetary support. I read and treasure every affirmation on this blog, especially those comments which note when a post has meaningfully affected them or afforded them particular pleasure. I appreciate every time a commenter checks hir privilege at the door, and encourages others to do the same. And I hold the deepest love and appreciation for our moderating team and contributing writers, all of whom I consider dear friends and colleagues in activism.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributes to this board, and I do not take a single comment nor the smallest donation for granted. I could not continue my work without your collective support, and this community is literally built on your active participation in this space. Thank you.

[Please note: I am not seeking suggestions on how to raise revenue in this space. And I want to repeat that I do not want anyone to feel obligated to donate if money is tight. There are numerous other non-monetary ways to contribute to this blog, should you feel moved to support this space. Thank you.]

Open Thread: Beltaine

Hosted by a deer leaping out of flames

Happy Beltaine, everyone!  (Before anyone corrects me, know that Beltane and Beltaine are both correct - I use the one I think is prettier.)

I know we already did a "Spring Holiday" open thread, but I'm about to be out of town for the next 5 days celebrating Beltaine (and, er, camping with an infant, which may be awesome or may be a TERRIBLE idea), so you get it again.

Two things I noted from the event rules: they specifically list, as a rule, that "No" means "no", not "keep asking" or "try again later" (a good rule to have under any circumstances, but especially at Beltaine, which is linked in many people's minds to sexuality and sensuality); and the women's tent is specifically noted to be open to "all who identify as girls or women" (emphasis mine.)  This pleases me.

Anyway!  Open thread!  To change it up a little: does anyone have any good festival (Pagan or otherwise) or camping stories?  Anyone have any songs they like to sing when gathered with friends, or beverages (alcoholic or non) that are just perfect for passing hand-to-hand through a group?  What sort of events do you like to go to that get you away from the "real" world for a day or a weekend or a week?

~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder! Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread. This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread. When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!

And as always, please post new comments, rather than replying to other comments!