Metapost: Repeat Saturdays (with Audio!)

So I don't mean to toot my own horn or whatever, but there is some groovy stuff in the archives on this blog. And some of you are new to the conversations and missed stuff the first time around. And some of the old stuff is worth talking about again in a fresh thread that isn't 200+ comments deep.

So. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be reposting some stuff, starting with the Hunger Games posts because I want to get back into doing that series. (It's totally normal to walk around the grocery store crying because the Hunger Games audiobook is so damn sad, right? Yeah, I thought as much.)

And because I'm testing out a new microphone and have been wanting to do podcasts for, like, forever, the posts will be narrated by me. And fair warning: the audio is pretty shitty so far because $40 microphone (a review product courtesy of Vine) and because I Am Not A Professional Narrator and I'm fully aware of that.

Feminism: Overheard

[Content Note: Gun Violence]

For a group of men this morning when I was out running errands:

"Everyone says they hate Obama, but I love him. He made my gold worth more, he made my silver worth more, and now he's made my guns worth more."

"Yeah, I guess no matter how much he tries to hurt us, sometimes he helps."

Can someone please stop my culture, because I'd like to get off now.

Feminism: My Father, My Brother, My Husband, My Son

[Content Note: Hostility to Reproductive Rights]
[Repost Note: This is a repost of an article that previously appeared on Shakesville.]

Family Symbols by George Hodan
In his State of the Union address this month, President Obama invoked -- for what is officially now the eleventy-billionth time -- the framing that our economy is stronger when "our wives, mothers, and daughters" can contribute to that economy without fear of discrimination and violence.

Liss has already written why that framing is reductive and misogynist for defining women in terms of their relationships, and how that framing subtly reinforces the idea that President Obama is speaking to men about their wives, mothers, and daughters. And that this choice to address men over women is particularly problematic for many reasons -- not the least being that for a number of the women in this country who both support Obama and choose to identify as the wives-mothers-and-daughters of men, not all of those men support Obama and his policies in the first place. Which means that for these women, Obama is talking over his supporters in order to address people who do not support him now and never have.

I am one of those women.

Open Thread: Drums

Hosted by hands playing a drum
Ever since he was a little kid, my brother used to drum on everything that would stand still long enough.  We used to have a game, at night, where he would tap out a rhythm on the wall between rooms, and I had to try to tap it back without messing up, as it got more and more complex.

In high school during the summer, he’d spend long hours marching in the Florida sun with a snare drum around his neck for marching band.  Then he’d come home, barely pause to grab water, and spend even more long hours in the stifling garage, practicing on his drum set for the garage band he was in with my  best friend.

There’s something about the “energy” of drums, the subtle tensions of the weaving rhythms, that’s very evocative.  Whether it’s a marching band snare, a full drum set, a djembe, a bodhrán… something about it just stirs the blood.

Open Thread!  Have you ever taken part in a drum circle?  Or heard an all-percussion band?  What did you think?  Do you play drums, of any kind?  Do you play any other instruments?  Do you know any fun facts or trivia about drums?

~ 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!



Film Corner: Sweet Home Alabama

Yes, it's "Sweet Home Alabama"! Now no longer just a song that's been in the soundtrack of every movie ever, no matter how inappropriate the song might be for the movie nor how much audiences are sick of the song being in movie soundtracks -- now it's also a rom-com with Reese Witherspoon that seeks to explore country life versus city life in a totally-fresh, non-stereotypical manner that accurately portrays American Southerners as complex and complicated.

HAHA JUST KIDDING, obviously it portrays everyone in southern America as white, backwards, conservative, and obsessed with Civil War reenactments, and aggressively puts forth the garbage essentialized notion that you are defined by where you grew up.

At least, that's what I'm getting from the trailer:


Remake time!

Southern Male Love Interest: You used to be a different person from what you are now. Would you like to ditch years of growth and self-understanding in order to revert to the un-complex childhood sweetheart that I remember you being?

Heroine: No, I'm fairly certain that I don't want to embrace a cult of youth where I never grow or change beyond the sixteen-year-old that you like to remember me as. I'm also pretty confident that the sixteen-year-old that you claim to remember was equally complex and complicated, but that you were either too self-involved to notice at the time or that you've spent the intervening years of our separation re-writing me in your head in order to idealize something that I never was, never will be, and wouldn't be happy as. Furthermore, your unwillingness to grant me the divorce that I want and using the law to force me to spend time and money to gratify your need for attention speaks to an abusive, controlling trait that doesn't mesh well with your insistence that I need to change to become the "real" me that you think you know so well. You're setting off major red flags, so here is my lawyer who will deal with you further while I extricate myself from any and all contact with you.

Northern Male Love Interest: Does this mean you'll marry me after all?

Heroine: No, I'd prefer to marry someone who can come up with a more personalized proposal than renting out Tiffany's for the night. Was that supposed to be romantic? It's like you thought the best way to win my love was to write a check. I appreciate you trying to honor my wishes for the ring of my choice, but there are ways to do that which still suggest that you know more about me as a person than just "probably likes sparkly things because women amiright". Furthermore, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you seem to have some co-dependency issues with your mother that need working out, and coupled with that and the fact that she seems likely to be extremely hostile to me, I'd prefer to not get in the middle of that. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go speak to my Sassy Black Gay Friend and ask him to not call me a "steel magnolia" anymore because I reject the cultural need to essentialize me into a stereotypical role based on the location of my birth. Ciao!

THE END!

Writings: A Note On Covers

One of the big things the successful indie authors tend to bang on about is the importance of covers. Despite the warning that you can't judge a book by its cover, many readers do precisely that. As an avid reader and chronic book-buyer, I can absolutely attest that I have bought books for their covers. Even when a cover isn't in a genre I care about, if it's eye-catching it can mean the difference between snagging my attention or not. Here is a good example, courtesy of a Kindle weekly deal that landed in my inbox:


Thought Transcript:

LOL! Someone should tell Eloisa James that there's a difference between "I am holding up my skirt in order to run better" and "Here, have a look at my diamond-studded panties. Too much or not enough? Be honest!" and that this cover is leaning towards the latter. Heh.

Seriously, what the hell is she supposed to be doing, some kind of yoga move in a ballgown? Ach, I'm going to have to click over and read the description or it will bug me all day. *clicks over and reads*

Huh. It's a Cinderella story. And the prince is apparently not a total jerk. And the rival woman is apparently sympathetic and likeable rather than a total shrew in need of comeuppance. And the heroine is apparently the active and competent manager of an estate rather than a passive piece of fluff in a ball gown. And there's a pickle-eating dog for reasons entirely obscure to me.

I really don't read romance, but I do like fairy tale remakes. And it's only a dollar. And it kind of sounds like the author was trying to avoid problematic tropes? Which would be totally cool if that was the case. Ah, what the hell. At least I can say I'm broadening my horizons. *tosses book into cart*



It's true that there's no one book cover that will snag every reader on earth. But there are definitely book covers that can catch prospective readers' eyes and tempt them to read your book description just to find out what the hell is going on in your novel. Sometimes that's the first step in snagging a new fan.

Metapost: Disqus Hiccups

Disqus is having hiccups this morning. If comments look out of place or seem to be popping in and out of existence, it's not just you.

Narnia: Bad Metaphors, Bad Masters

[Content Note: Graphic discussion of WWII and the Holocaust, Slavery, Racism, Rape]

Narnia Recap: In which Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep are captured by slavers.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 3: The Lone Islands

When we last left our boy-king, he and his companions had been captured into slavery. Caspian had been bought by an older (and apparently very privileged) man who had the good grace to disapprove of slavery, but not so much good grace that he didn't feel the need to not repeatedly taunt a slaver who was fully capable of going back to his ship and taking out his frustrations in the form of abuse on his captives. If you all recall, I thought that was a really stellar way to be above the whole slavery thing. Rock on, Privileged Guy!

Open Thread: Attention Twilight Fans

You need to be aware of this. Because I am so freaking excited.

Open Thread: Mythology

Hosted by a Greek statue


I grew up with myths - Greek myths, primarily, and as I grew older I started branching out into other cultures. 

I love stories of all kinds, really, and what I find especially fun is retelling those stories in new and interesting ways.  Sometimes it’s just plain entertaining, and sometimes it shines a new light on the original story.  (I don’t have a bard’s tongue, sadly; my retellings tend to go along the lines of “…so then Kali’s all ‘Yo, Durga, tag me in!’  And Durga reaches out from the back of her TOTALLY SWEET riding-tiger and slaps her hand, so then Kali sticks her tongue out and…”  Complete with bouncing up and down and lots of hand gestures.  Enthusiasm, yes; poetry, no.)

One example of this type of re-imagining is Sita Sings the Blues - an interpretation of the Ramayana from Sita's point of view.  Among other things, it incorporates torch songs from the 20's-30's, which made me happy :)  (Two things.  Thing the first! While I personally enjoyed it, the film's gotten mixed reaction from the Hindu community - some have loved it, some have hated it, and some are ambivalent.  The creator herself is not Indian, so... whether or not it's appropriative or disrespectful is open to interpretation.  Thing the second!  While giving Sita her voice is arguably a feminist approach to the story, the story itself is not feminist - control issues, patriarchy, and victim blaming abound.)

Another is Myths Retold, where Ovid (no, really, that's what he calls himself) writes a whole bunch of... well... retold myths.  I especially like this one, because he tends to tell myths about the same way I would (see above.)  They're best read out loud, for maximum effect :D  (Do note: the site is NOT a safe space.  Basically take any normal trigger warnings that would apply to any given myth, and dial them up to eleven.)

Open thread!  Did you grow up reading myths, or did you learn them in school?  What types of myths are your favorite?  Is there a lesser-known story that you particularly like to share?  Do you tell stories in "traditional" ways, or do you tend towards a more casual/modern style?  Do you like new interpretations of old stories, or do you prefer the older versions?  What other re-imaginings have you found that are good or at least interesting?  Do you know of any places or sub-communities where the oral storytelling tradition is alive and well?  Bonus question: what IS the difference between a) religious stories, b) myths, and c) fairy tales/legends/folklore/other stories?  I tend to group them all under the heading of "myths" (for reasons I don't have the space or the time to get into here), but I always wonder what dividing lines other people use...

~ 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!)

Film Corner: 27 Dresses

By popular demand -- by which I mean "because I felt like it" -- I've decided to do film remakes of romantic comedy films I haven't seen based purely on the trailers. Which means that I might be clobbering the really good messages that were actually in the film that I didn't see anything of except the trailer! But I'm okay with that! My feeling is that if the film industry is going to keep bombarding me with film trailers, then I have the right to spoof them! Joke's on you, film industry!

So first up is a classic -- by which I mean it came out in veritable ice age of 2008 and if you can remember that far back you are Officially Old like me -- that keeps coming up on several DVDs I own for no apparent reason that I can see except that apparently 20th Century Fox thinks that if you like some 20th Century Fox films, you might like all of them, regardless of genre! Of course you would! Here is a trailer:



Remake time!

Male Love Interest: You've been a bridesmaid twenty-seven times?!

Heroine: Yes, and I feel blessed to have had so many wonderful friends who felt close enough to me to ask me to participate in their major life-altering moments. Though a few of them may have asked me more for my bridesmaid experience than for my friendship -- thus gaining a free wedding planner in the bargain and using me unfairly -- and while I am learning to say no and express my boundaries more assertively over time as I age, I've nevertheless gained a number of fun memories and valuable experiences and I have no real regrets. Indeed, I think I will leverage those moments and my vast experience into a new and fulfilling career as a paid wedding planner, which will additionally work out well for me since my younger sister is marrying my boss on whom I have a perfectly natural but probably unhealthy crush on, so a career change at this time will almost certainly be helpful in giving me time and space to work through my complex feelings on the subject of their marriage and to dismantle the troublesome crush.

Male Love Interest: Would you like to transfer the crush to me?

Heroine: No, you seem like the type who would aggressively argue with and irritatingly play "devil's advocate" about the value of major and deeply personal life decisions with a woman who has recently suffered head trauma. That's grody behavior and you are grody to engage in it. Furthermore, I outright reject the stereotype that being a bridesmaid is somehow "less than" being a bride. I support my twenty-seven married girlfriends in their choices and I'm deeply happy that they are content with their lives, but the fact that I myself am unmarried does not suggest that I am broken or incomplete or dissatisfied. 

Male Love Interest: Fair enough.

THE END!

Open Thread: Graffiti

Hosted by graffiti in Guaruja


“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”
Banksy, Wall and Piece

RECOMMENDATIONS FRIDAY!  What have you read lately that was interesting?  What have you written lately that was interesting?  Shamelessly self-promote or point us towards something that amused you or made you think.

~ Kristycat  

Metapost: New Template

Oh, hey, look at that. New template.

So here is a thing you need to know about me: I don't like change.

I don't. I don't like upgrading software. I don't enjoy switching from the familiar and old to the new and uncomfortable. I eat the same brands every day, and I wear the same clothes every week, and there's a joke in my family that Nissan is going to have to keep churning out old-models of my car because when it breaks down I want the same model. Change is not something I embrace.

But here is a new template. Not because I didn't like the old one but because I strongly believe that I need a change right now to communicate what I am doing here and why. So here is a new template.

It's still in work -- I have a list of about five more things that need to be tackled. But I think it's in a good place right now and ready to be used. Maybe in another few months or years it will be time to change again, but for right now I hope that everyone will enjoy this template.

Much thanks goes to Melissa McEwan at Shakesville for letting me copy her current template, to Clarissa Filice for her lovely artwork, and to Mohamed Lamine for his excellent coding skills.

Tropes: Taking Heart with Ni No Kuni

[Content Note: Ethics of Magic]

So it's been kind of a long month for me, between dealing with new assignments at work and gathering materials for a non-fiction deconstruction book on feminism in Studio Ghibli / Hayao Miyazaki movies. And in the midst of all this, the Christmas present that Husband ordered finally arrived in the mail: a Studio Ghibli video game called Ni No Kuni ("The Wrath of the White Witch", or so the English subtitle declares). So we thought we'd take turns playing through and seeing how the game holds up to the usual high feminist standards of Studio Ghibli.

Feminism: Barbara Tuchman on Women Workers

[Content Note: Wage Gap]

A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

Peasant women could hold tenancies and in that capacity rendered the same kinds of service for their holdings as men, although they earned less for the same work. Peasant households depended on their earnings. In the guilds, women had monopolies of certain trades, usually spinning and ale-making and some of the food and textile trades. Certain crafts excluded females except for a member’s wife or daughter; in others they worked equally with men. Management of a merchant’s household— of his town house, his country estate, his business when he was absent— in addition to maternal duties gave his wife anything but a leisured life. She supervised sewing, weaving, brewing, candle-making, marketing, alms-giving, directed the indoor and outdoor servants, exercised some skills in medicine and surgery, kept accounts, and might conduct a separate business as femme sole. [emphasis mine]

This is your regularly scheduled reminder that (a) women have, as a general rule, worked throughout the entire history of the world and that the myth that "working women" -- i.e., women working outside the home (as though work inside the home somehow didn't 'count') -- is a new phenomena is largely just that: a myth, and that (b) women's work has consistently been devalued not because the work is not important but because it is a woman who is doing that work.

This is also your regularly scheduled reminder that (c) the devaluation of women's work needs to be meaningfully addressed in our society. And the sooner, the better.

Open Thread: Slinky Science!

Hosted by a Slinky - Photo credit: Roger McLassus / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Did you know that when you stretch out a Slinky, hold it up above the ground, and drop it, the bottom part kinda hangs there in the air until the top part catches up to it?

Click on the link and watch, it’s pretty cool!

What nifty science facts have you learned recently?  Bonus points if they involve toys from your childhood!

(Also, has anyone else ever managed to make a Slinky "walk" down stairs?  I grew up in a house with stairs, and I never could make it work.  I could get it to go a few steps if I gave it enough momentum, but just about ANYTHING will move down stairs if you push it hard enough - cinderblocks, for instance - so I hardly think that counts.)

~ 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 itself.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!

Metapost: New Template

There will be a new template going up later in the week/month as I incorporate changes slowly without breaking things or doing a site shutdown. I had hoped to roll it all out in one day, but real life intervened and I didn't want to shut down the board while I worked out the kinks. I appreciate in advance everyone's patience as the new template goes into effect.

Thank you!

Twilight: Irresistible Women

[Content Note: Murder, Pregnancy, Rape, Abelist Language]

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

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

Where were we? 

   He smiled, but his face was ashamed. “I think we were talking about why you were afraid, besides the obvious reason.”
   “Oh, right.”
   “Well?”
   I looked down at his hand and doodled aimlessly across his smooth, iridescent palm. The seconds ticked by.
   “How easily frustrated I am,” he sighed. I looked into his eyes, abruptly grasping that this was every bit as new to him as it was to me.

Open Thread: Comics

Hosted by a Spiderman made out of ice. This probably never happened in the comics. But I don't know. Gods help me, I don't know.
I’m a bad geek. 

For all my love of things nerdy, I’ve never been a comic book fan.  Not for lack of trying!  As a kid I’d get my allowance, ride my bike down to the comic shop, and pick up an issue, and I’d love it.  I’d read it about a dozen times and memorize every panel.  But, well, comics were expensive and I didn’t get a lot of allowance and what I got was usually used for other things, so a lot of time would go by before I’d go get another one, and by that point the story was somewhere else entirely and I had to kind of guess at what happened in-between.  And that was just X-Men!  I didn’t even know where to start on Spiderman, Thor, The Hulk… and then new titles started coming out, and by the time I finally had time to catch up, there was just… there was just too much.

So there’s a whole chunk of my geek cred profile that’s just missing.  It’s my secret shame.

I watch all the superhero movies and try to fill in the blanks that way, but it’s not the same.  *sigh*  It’s not the same.

Open thread!  What’s your favorite comic book series/group/character?  Do you like comics, hate ‘em, are indifferent, something else?  What superpowers did/do you wish you had?  What fandoms do you love being part of?  What fandom are you not actually part of, even though you may have always kinda wanted to be, and why?  If you could recommend just one comic book series for a total comics n00b, what would it be?  Are there any new and nifty developments in the comic book world we should know about?  Do you have something non-traditionally-geeky that you nevertheless “geek out” about?  What IS traditionally geeky these days, anyway?  Discuss!

~ 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!)

Metapost: Sick Cat

Content Note: Pet Illness

Some of you are already aware of this through emails and texting, but I wanted a centralized place for updates.

Primary Cat started vomiting at fixed intervals on Thursday evening and into Thursday night. We at first thought he had a hairball blocking his system and got him some hairball paste to eat Friday morning, but by Friday afternoon he had started up again and was vomiting foam. At that point, he'd thrown up maybe 20 times in 24 hours. We couldn't get into our vet, so we took him to the local cat hospital. They did x-rays and blood work and announced that he had a bacteria that causes pancreas problems -- they gave us an oral antibiotic to give him, and gave him liquids and an anti-nausea medication by IV while there.

Today it has been crucial to get him eating again, or his internal systems could shut down. Absolutely nothing we've been able to do has worked to get him to eat. We're facing either taking him back to the animal hospital for hospitalization and IV fluids and food -- something they aren't super keen on because he's a high-stress cat and the environment and experience could traumatize him a lot -- or syringe-feeding him food liquids (low-sodium chicken broth, tuna water) until he starts eating on his own. Obviously, all this has been very stressful and has pretty much ensured that I won't be at the computer for an extended period since I have to keep an eye on him at all times and he prefers the safety of the closet right now.

I'll post updates here as they come available. Thank you.

Update 1600 hours (2/16): I'm back home; Primary Cat has been left at the hospital for barium treatment (to look for esophageal blockage) and for overnight stay with IV liquids and medication. I'm pretty shaky, and feel really dreadful about leaving him overnight somewhere he won't be comfortable and where I'm not there, but this seemed like the right thing to do. We're supposed to pick him up tomorrow at 0730, unless things have taken a bad turn.

Update 1400 hours (2/17): We called the vet this morning and they were concerned because he hadn't eaten all night. They told us to bring in some favorite food, in the hopes that he would eat with us there. I was really quite shocked and upset when we got there, because they hadn't put him in isolation like they'd told us they would -- he's a very high-stress cat and terrified of and aggressive to all other animals, and they knew that, but they'd put him in a room full of dogs and other cats in surrounding cages. I told them that he wouldn't eat there, not even with me present (and he didn't), so they sent him home and said we absolutely had to get him eating within 24 hours.

As soon as we got home, I re-opened the can of soft food we'd taken to the vet and he stumbled drunkenly (from the sedatives they had to give him to take the IV out before we left) out of his carrier, ate half the can, drank some water, and curled up in my arms. He's slept most of the day, with a quick trip to the litter box about an hour ago. Now he's sleeping on the bed with daddy. We're hoping against hope that everything will go back to "normal" and that he won't start vomiting or refusing food again like he was a couple of days ago; we have some antibiotics to give him which are supposed to help fight the pancreatitis.

Metapost: Community Note

I need to make something very clear: I am a feminist activist.

I don't mean that flippantly, nor do I mean it lightly. I am actively a feminist. I expend a great deal of activity in the promotion of feminism, even when that expenditure conflicts with the events and needs in my personal life, even when the cost of that activism is my personal health. I do this not because I expect thanks or fame, nor do I do this out of a desire for self-harm. I am regularly, rigorously active for feminist causes because I am, by the very fact of my gender, my disability, my weight, and my sexual orientation, all in.

I live in a state where, if I am made pregnant by a rapist, the state has the legal right to rape me again before I can access a legal medical procedure to end that pregnancy. I live in a country that passes more anti-choice legislature every year in a concerted campaign to deny reproductive agency to women like me.

I work at a company where I have been personally discriminated against for my poor health and adverse medical conditions. I receive health care from doctors who provide me with substandard healthcare because of my weight and appearance. I live in a society that shames me for being an aggressive bitch if I assert my views and my needs, yet chastises me as self-undermining if I try to present my beliefs as personal and innocuous.

I live in a culture where women who share my sexuality are routinely objectified as fantastical sexual objects and villified as insincere untrustworthy liars. I exist in a culture where gun deaths are projected to soon exceed vehicle deaths, yet the right to own a deadly weapon is considered by many to be more important than the right for two lovers to marry, and to be less deadly than my favorite recreational pastime. 

These are not things that I care about from afar. They are not 'special issues' for me to place on a shelf in my mind, to be taken down and dusted off when bored. They affect me, and the people I love, on a daily basis and in ways that are both painfully real and deeply heartbreaking. And so I am an activist -- I am active -- in an attempt to raise awareness, in a hope that I may help effect some small change in the people and culture around me.

I perform this activism by sharing the manner in which I look at the world. I take something specific, something small and easy to hold and examine, and I project from that specific-and-approachable thing to a larger cultural trend around me. I identify patterns, and I illustrate them through example.

Bella's clumsiness becomes a leaping off point for the ways we treat people with disabilities in society. Caspian's unconcern for his subjects becomes a staging ground for a discussion of the ways in which privilege inures us from caring about people more marginalized than us. An example of a "chivalric" rape in the 14th century is a means by which I talk about rape culture and how choice isn't choice when it's not respected. A passage that Others the historical, cultural, and regional entirety of north-western Europe is a means by which I can speak about cultural appropriation and othering -- the same appropriation and othering that makes it easier for my country to conduct a "war on terror" against various "others" that has cost countless innocent civilian lives.

That is my activism. It's what I spend, literally, large chunks of my life on. Not because I have nothing more pleasing to do, but because I care.

And because I care, part of my activism is to nurture a safe space here. I've been on unmoderated feminist boards before, and I inevitably found the experience left me anxious, fearful, and frustrated that so many supposed allies could routinely fail so spectacularly at privilege-checking, and that they could spend months or years reading the feminist posts on the board and still fail to "get it" when it came to matters that affect me, literally, in life and death ways. And because of that, and because of my own needs, I expect -- I require -- a safe space here, where marginalized people can be safe from further marginalization, and where privileged people are expected to check their privilege before posting.

Part of that safe space for everyone means that this space must also be safe for me and the other contributors here. Yet in the past few months, the safety of this space has been increasingly hard to maintain, both for other members of the community and for myself. 

And I need to be very clear about this: This is a feminist activist board.

This is not a Feminism 101 board for newbie education in the comment threads, even newbie education on facets of feminism which some people are less familiar with, such as Fat Acceptance or Cultural Appropriation.

This is not a literature board where I want every word in every post scoured for perfection and accuracy with regards to the world-building of whatever book is under discussion.

This is not a history board where discussions of historical trends are an invitation to argue which place in which time period was the most objectively worst for women.

This is not a board for arguing the basic tenets of feminism whenever someone claims to be personally unconvinced of the seriousness of those topics, or whether or not they are actually life-and-death matters for people on this very board.

This is not a board for assuming that the contributors and community members aren't already deeply familiar with marginalization, nor for educating us about how bad it really is out there as if we don't already know. 

This is a board where I point out patterns in the culture around us using specific examples of popular media. Patterns that are, more often than not, harmful and worthy of examination and redress. And I expect comment threads to be respectful of the purpose of my activism, and to discuss these larger patterns rather than avoiding such weighty discussion in favor of light-hearted quibbling and nitpicking over whether or not -- in everyone's personal subjective opinion -- I am being 100% completely fair in my selection of whatever popular culture example was used to introduce the feminist topic. Because if enough people can be found to say that the FedEx arrow doesn't exist, then my post examining a larger cultural trend doesn't count.

I also expect commenters to not respond to obviously rhetorical questions, to not quibble over innocuous word-choices based on personal preference, and to not demand clarification on the minute details of the popular media under discussion which are not related to the larger topic at hand. I expect commenters to not become defensive or verbally aggressive when I use a favored piece of popular culture as a jumping off point for my activism, and I expect commenters to not treat the comment threads on this board as their own personal search engine for the popular media under discussion.

In other words, I expect activist threads to contain activist discussions.

One of the things I love about the community here is the propensity for spontaneous generation of what I call "fix-fic", or derivative fiction intended to fix issues highlighted in the popular media I discuss. I adore these fix-fics because they serve as a vivid demonstration that my words and my ideas are being accurately communicated. Chris the Cynic's "Edith and Ben" posts are amazing deconstructions of how to portray disability respectfully and how to write romance without misogynistic control dynamics. Fix-fic establishing Aunt Alberta's vegetarianism as a moral decision (as opposed to being automatically faddish) tell me that the point has been made, and clearly, that judging people on their eating habits is wrong. Ursula Vernon's theory that Eustace's 'whining' is a clever and courageous strategy to save his cousins brings to light the reality that there are many different forms of bravery, and that there are a myriad of acceptable ways to be a good person, and a good protagonist.

These fix-fic posts show me, clearly and without question, that the activism I perform on this board is resonating with readers. But apparently somehow my endorsement of these fix-fics have lead to a mistaken impression that I would like every Narnia post, every Twilight post, every post I write, period, closely scoured for accuracy in case I didn't somehow -- in the midst of an activist post on serious topics such as rape culture or slavery or cultural appropriation -- accidentally mix up the Red Queen with the Queen of Hearts on one point of action.

I do not want, desire, or require this sort of auditing in the comments. Bluntly put, I feel demoralized and undermined when I use popular media to discuss feminism only to have a thread immediately devolve into accusations that I have erred, or that I am perceived to have erred, in some minor and utterly unrelated-to-the-larger-point aspect of world-building, or intense and pointed debates about whether or not the literature in question is even "important enough" or "influential enough" to be worthy of deconstruction, or fevered accusations that I myself am not good enough -- smart enough, skilled enough, educated enough, experienced enough, etc. -- to hold an opinion about the popular media under discussion.

The choice to ignore my activist message in order to engage in this unhelpful and off-topic natter demoralizes me. I am demoralized. Nor do I enjoy having to repeatedly explain why this sort of constant auditing of me, of my choices of examples, and of the style of my message rather than serious consideration of the substance of my message is dehumanizing to me as an activist.

I do think that the majority of these comments are made in good faith and with the best of intentions, but that does not make them any less harmful or demoralizing. I attribute these impulses to the dissociation culture of the internet, where words typed in a Disqus comment form are treated as undirected stream-of-consciousness thoughts tossed into the ether rather than as communication that is directed at a real person in the real world. But the fact remains that this false belief that comments here are directed at a void instead of a person is no less harmful, regardless of intent.

I am not a content-generating machine that pieces words together in a void and then divorces myself emotionally from the material. I am a person, and comments which treat me like a construct to be picked apart and examined -- Why did you use this word and not that one? Why did you say something this way and not another way? Why do you think thisly and not thusly? -- and as more interesting and worthy of discussion than the serious topics I chose to deconstruct, dehumanize me into an object rather than a person. 

I require that this space be safe not just for the commenters, but for myself and the other contributors here.

Kristy has recently joined our team, and contributes to this space her own brand of feminist activism. She spends a great deal of time and effort producing thoughtful and beautiful open threads for discussion, in an attempt to balance community desire for "chatty" spaces against my own need for serious activist threads. To date, we have not been successful in conveying to the community the distinction between the deconstruction threads and the open threads, and the difference in expected behavior and topics therein.

This post is intended to reiterate that deconstruction threads are expected to remain conscientiously on-topic, and to deal with the activist topics raised in that post and/or fix-fics intended to deliberately address the unfortunate implications and harmful privilege exercised in the material under discussion. Anything else -- polls, open questions, off-topic tangents, world-building questions based in fan appreciation of a work rather than a dedicated discussion of the feminist issues associated with same, questions about wording from a feminist perspective -- is to be proactively taken by the commenters to the open threads.

I ask this not because of some arbitrary distinction between post types, but because I ask -- I expect -- the community here to respect the activism of Kristy and myself. I write posts about serious topics, and I expect those posts to stay on topic; she crafts welcoming spaces for discussions which do not otherwise fit in the deconstruction posts. I expect members of the community to honor her work by using those spaces as they are intended rather than just when they happen to be the most recent post on the board. Only posting in the open threads when there's not a "better" thread available to post in is not respectful to Kristy's work and it is not respectful to mine.

We are all responsible for the safety of this blog. We are all responsible for our words and actions in this space. It does no good for me, or anyone else, to write a post that upholds the ideals of this space and addresses feminist activism if the comment thread is going to immediately derail into careless displays of privilege and flippant off-topic remarks which undermine the fact that these topics are deeply, meaningfully serious to myself and many of the other contributors. All In means all of us.

I, and the other contributors here, am posting this in order to call on everyone here to:

  1. Think before you speak, and examine your comments in light of the Ramblings comment policy, as well as the concept of this place as a safe space.
  2. Do not expect the contributors here to constantly educate you. Respect the activism here enough to take the time and energy to educate yourself.
  3. Check your privilege before you speak, and proactively take off-topic discussions away from the deconstruction threads -- where the topic is Feminist Activism, not Random Narnia Trivia -- and into the open threads. 
  4. Respond un-defensively to corrections of privilege and to requests to move off-topic discussions to the open threads so that serious discussion can continue unimpeded in the deconstruction threads.
  5. Treat the contributors to this space with the respect that they deserve, considering the time and energy they sink into providing content for and maintaining this space. 
  6. Be all in. Understand that feminism is not a game or a hobby to the community here. If you're not here looking for activism, then you're in the wrong space.

This blog cannot continue if the larger community will not own their behavior, check their privilege, watch their words, and make a conscientious effort to separate the silly from the serious, the nitpickery from the necessary, and the flippant from the feminism. And that statement -- that the survival of this blog depends on the actions of this community -- is not a threat. It's just a statement of fact, of my own physical and mental limitations. I physically and emotionally cannot nurture, moderate, maintain, and create content for a community in the face of the disrespect and dehumanization that comes from continually seeing my style treated with more interest than my substance. 

I am an activist with a message. Whether or not that message continues depends in part on whether or not the community here can be as all in as I must be.



Note: I and the other contributors are taking the week off. New content will resume on Monday, February 18th. This comment thread will remain open for people to express their commitment to being all in, should they so desire. 

What this comment thread is not for is criticism of this blog policy or recommendations for how to run things differently. This is not a solicitation for suggestions; it is an assertion of needs and boundaries, which I expect the community to respect if they care about the content here and the people who provide it. Nor do the members of the community who require a safe space need to be subjected to yet another debate about whether the right to marginalize people is more important than the right to be safe on the internet. That argument can be hosted elsewhere.

Thank you.

Metapost: Announcement

I have run out of all the spoons and am taking the rest of the week off.

Feminism: The Art of Othering

[Content Note: Othering, Orientalism]

Question: Is there a place on this earth to which the following edited* statement from Ancestry.com cannot be made to fit?
About Your Region

You're from [region].

This is where [literary person] wrote [hir] plays and poems. It's home to the legends of [legendary figure]. It's produced some of the world's most adventurous explorers and greatest political and military figures—[examples].

The history of the region is one of periodic invasions and settlements by various groups including [peoples]. [Language] is obviously the primary language spoken. But a few of the older languages spoken by the ancient [other peoples] still exist.

The people of the region have been witness to sweeping political changes and amazing technological progress through the centuries, from [period] to [period]. But despite their penchant for reform and progress, they have always found a way to preserve the past. From [ancient governing bodies] to [modern governing bodies], ancient languages to international diversity, from thousand-year-old [ancient buildings] to [modern buildings], their culture is a fascinating blend of old and new.

Feminism: Barbara Tuchman on Misogyny

[Content Note: Misogyny]

A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman 

I find it interesting that misogyny takes so many forms and yet never fundamentally changes its underlying nature. Women are evil, whether they are beautiful or unattractive, and whether they are superficial or industrious. The best part about Patriarchy is that there is no way to win, but such a variety of ways to lose!

Despite their more realistic characters, the fabliaux were no more true to life than the romances, but their antagonism to women reflected a common attitude which took its tone from the Church. Woman was the Church’s rival, the temptress, the distraction, the obstacle to holiness, the Devil’s decoy.

[...] [Preachers] denounced women on the one hand for being the slaves of vanity and fashion, for monstrous headdresses and the “lascivious and carnal provocation” of their garments, and on the other hand for being over-industrious, too occupied with children and housekeeping, too earthbound to give due thought to divine things.

[...] [Petrarch] had only to recollect, he wrote to his brother the monk, “what woman really is,” in order to dispel desire and retrieve his normal equanimity. “What woman really is” referred to the clerical doctrine that beauty in women was deceptive, masking falsehood and physical corruption. “Wheresoever Beauty shows upon the face,” warned the preachers, “there lurks much filth beneath the skin.”

Tuchman later makes the sardonic point that misogyny tended to ramp up (as a general rule) near the end of a man's life "when a man began to worry about hell, and his sexual desire in any case was fading". And perhaps this is true, that it's easier to openly hate women when you're no longer trying to seduce them.

But I offer a counter-theory, that the process of thoroughly and completely hating approximately half of the world's population -- as well as such close persons as female friends, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and all the other variety of women and girls who pass through the life of any given man -- takes, for many people, time and practice. Sustained, unremitting hatred is tiring and can be hard to sustain.

If true, that would mean that the constant background-radiation misogyny that we constantly see and experience is so much practice that may, given enough time, make perfect. Which is why it is all the more important to call out the low-level misogyny in addition to the obvious-and-egregious misogyny, because the former is a precursor that fosters and enables the latter.

Open Thread: Mangroves

Hosted by a mangrove tree


Did you know that mangroves are one of the only trees that can live in salty water?  They grow in swamps and estuaries and bayous, places where the sea and freshwater rivers combine.  Some deal with the salt by just… well, dealing with it, tolerating it at a cellular level.  Some filter it out at the roots.  Some actually push it out again - the leaves grow salt crystals as the tree secretes it.  That’s why when you see a mangrove swamp, they’re pretty much the only plants in it - other plants can’t live where mangroves live, and mangroves can’t live where other plants can.

Also, they’re really pretty.

…that’s it, there’s no deeper meaning or metaphor here.  I just think mangroves are pretty cool.

Do you know any interesting trivia about plant life?  Have you ever kayaked through a mangrove swamp?  Do you find swamps in general to be starkly beautiful examples of unspoiled nature, or muggy buggy disease-and-alligator-ridden places that air conditioning was invented to protect against?  (As a native Floridian, it’s totally ok to hold both views simultaneously!)
~ Kristycat


BONUS!:  

Narnia: People as Possessions

[Content Note: Slavery, Corporal Punishment]

Narnia Recap: In which Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep are captured by slavers.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 3: The Lone Islands

I have to say that my favorite part of deconstructing is the fan-fixing that goes on in the comments. If you're not reading the comments, you're missing a whole barrel full of fanficcy fun. We've already come to the following tentative fan-conclusions:

Open Thread: Pan

Hosted by satyr chess


In Arcady there lies a crystal spring
Ring'd all about with green melodious reeds
Swaying seal'd music up and down the wind.
Here on its time-defaced pedestal
The image of a half-forgotten God
Crumbles to its complete oblivion.
 - Eleanor Farjeon, in "Pan-Worship"

Poetry.  Wildness.  Unexpected glimpses of the magical, the divine.  The ephemeral sense of something half-remembered, lost forever.  Talk to me about it.

~ Kristycat

Open Thread: Blue

Hosted by a purple man

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.”

- Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

What's your favorite Shel Silverstein poem?  Did you grow up with him like I did, or discover him later in life?  (Do you by some odd chance have no idea who Shel Silverstein is? Because if so, oh man, you and your Google-machine have some fun times coming up.)

A lot of people do what he's describing here - hide qualities about themselves that they hope to find in others.  Do you have any traits you do this with?  Have you made a conscious decision to stop doing this with certain traits?  (This is partly why I've started wearing my geekiness on my sleeve lately at work - I'll never find anyone else who likes, for instance, neo-medieval folk music unless I make it known that I do first!)

RECOMMENDATIONS FRIDAY!  What have you read lately that was interesting?  What have you written lately that was interesting?  Shamelessly self-promote or point us towards something that amused you or made you think.

~ Kristycat