Congratulations to ar and gloss for winning the book giveaway! Please PM me or email me at manifesta at dreamwidth dot org with your:
1. mailing address
2. which book you would like
3. if you want it as an ebook
4. your preferred online book distributor, if you have one
I include the last just in case someone really wants to support an indie bookstore, etc. but otherwise I'll order through anything that can ship to you.
Thank you everyone for participating in 3W4D and the giveaway! I may not have been able to reply to everyone, but I've truly appreciated your thoughts, comments, and support.
A few of my own thoughts on the giveaway process:
1. There were three other potential books that I at one point had wanted to analyze but didn't: Elantris by Branden Sanderson (political fantasy), The Last Mortal Man by Syne Mitchell (science fiction of some flavor or another), and Vision in White by Nora Roberts (contemporary romance). The last was originally among my top five but I realized last minute that it's a trade paperback, not mass market. The first two were quite good, but only featured one woman as a protagonist, and while they would have been fun to dissect, I was torn over whether or not they served the purpose of the giveaway as I saw it (which was, at its core, to be empowering for women).
2. On that note, common characteristics of the books I analyzed include: female authors with strong female protagonists; added to or subverted the traditional norms of the genre in some way; an element of fantasy; and thorough worldbuilding and/or characterization. I mostly went with instinct when picking my list, and I think it turned out well.
I'd also like to note that these aren't necessarily my favorite books, but rather good books I've read in the last 8 months or so.
3. Everyone's posts they linked to on the giveaway entry page are so interesting! I've been trolling the latest things/3W4D pages but it seems that there was still content out there that eluded me. Thank you for sharing your meta, comment fests, and recipes with me!
For some reason, the poll creator isn't working for me, so if you'd like to answer in the comments: Which of the four books were your favorite?
Congratulations to ar and gloss for winning the book giveaway! Please PM me or email me at manifesta at dreamwidth dot org with your:
From Kiersten White, author of the upcoming YA Paranormalcy, on romance in YA:
"But I knew—KNEW—that we were meant to be together. And if I could just figure it out, convince him, I’d be able to root out his personal demons. He would confess he simply feared he wasn’t good enough for me/was actually protecting me, and we’d be able to have our happily-ever-after.It's good to know some YA authors are listening.
As long as I earned it. As long as I was good, and pure, and self-sacrificing. Then I could make it work.
Romantic, isn’t it?
Wait. You mean that was creepy? You mean that no girl should ever, EVER have to “earn” the right to be treated well in a relationship? That if a guy treats her like that, he is not worthy of her?
[....] So here’s to making sure that our girls know they are worth far, far more than a bad boy. That they shouldn’t have to work to earn the right to be treated like they deserve. That they shouldn’t have to sacrifice themselves or their dreams for someone to love them."
I particularly appreciated her emphasis on how women, and especially young girls, are socialized to believe that they must earn their happiness, and in earning it they must compromise themselves (which isn't portrayed as compromising oneself at all, but rather making a general compromise for the good of the relationship if not solely for the boy).
I think that, in regards to relationships, there is a very strong American rhetoric of "making it work." Couples are encouraged to compromise and to be flexible enough to take as well as give, which all in all is sound advice. Gender roles throw a wrench into the equation because women are already encouraged by society to give more than they take. And so when you look at the current trend in romantic YA (and especially in paranormal), what Americans see--because it's what they expect to see--is a couple "compromising" when what's actually occurring is a greater portion of the burden of "compromise" being shouldered by the woman.
It's been 3 weeks, and the moment you've been patiently waiting for has arrived!
Here's how it's gonna go down: As of today, Friday, May 14th, this post is open to anyone, anywhere*, to enter the giveaway. It will remain open for entries until 11:59PM PST on Monday the 17th. After that I will draw 2 winners at random and announce them in a different post. I will then ask them to email or PM me with their address information, which I will never ever distribute, etc. etc.
As a refresher, here are the rules.
The books I've analyzed are:
#1: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum
#2: Skin Game by Ava Gray
#3: Hawkspar by Holly Lisle
#4: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
In your comment, you should have either:
1 link to a 3W4D post you made exclusively to DW for the festival
5 links to comments you made on 3W4D posts
As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to be on a lovely little island without any form of internet connection over the weekend. After Friday night PST I won't be able to answer any queries until late Sunday at the earliest. Please have patience with me if I'm slow to respond to comments/PMs.
Thank you everyone for your interest in this giveaway and my posts! It's been a pleasure to promote some great books. And if you haven't had enough giveaways in your life, merisunshine36 is giving away 2 copies of N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
And out of curiosity's sake: A poll!
ETA: The poll doesn't seem to be working, and I'm too annoyed to fiddle with it. I'll try again later this weekend.
*Only caveat is that I have to be able to ship to you through an online distributor. Also must have a DW account or use Open-ID.
When I originally decided to do this giveaway-analysis combo, this was the book I was thinking of: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Genre: Historical young adult
Release: September 2002
Jacky is a plucky London orphan girl who pretends to be a boy and enlists at a young age on a British military ship. She does so because she realizes that it's easier to live as a boy than it is as a girl, especially as an orphan.
One of the things that both baffled and irritated me for a long time was Jacky's longing to be a lady. It just didn't make sense--she's on a ship! Climbing the rigging! Firing cannons! And lest she lack in heterosexual sexual experiences, she even gets to snog cute boy(s)! Really, who would settle for being a lady and give all that up?
Jacky defies stereotypes. She's loud, brash, and blatantly flirtatious to the point of making ambiguous moral decisions, but she's also whiny, dramatic, and occasionally very irrational. She's got tons of flaws but a whole hell of a lot of charm. She can keep her head in a life or death crisis but burst into hysterical tears at the thought of far less severe corporal punishment. To wit: She doesn't make any kind of sense.
The book I would have preferred, the book I had expected, was a blatantly pro-female book that had an Alanna the Lioness-esque character who loathed any mention of restrictive forms of femininity and preferred men's roles. Being feminine was fine and all, but to prefer it? After experiencing the agency of living as a boy?
It's not a neat and tidy book. It's messy. Jacky's messy. She doesn't fit inside a box. She wants what any girl wants when she's lived a life of destitution but isn't too old to remember the time when she was a lady. Unlike the Alanna archetype, she hadn't chosen to take on men's roles--her survival had depended on it. She hadn't had the chance to experience what life could be like as a woman beyond her life as a girl on the streets. There's a world of difference there, hinging on choice and privilege. I may want her to want to continue kicking ass as a pretend-boy, but she's experienced the military's jagged edges, and while she's no stranger to rough living, she prefers comfort. When juxtaposed with the inelegant lifestyle of a ship's boy, a profession chosen out of necessity rather than desire, the luxurious life of a lady might begin to look good to me, too.
Her relationship with _______ further reaffirmed her desires for more traditional gender roles. He's conservative in his wishes for what he wants her to be--a lady--but tolerant of her wily ways. She wants to be a lady as much if not more so than he wants her to, and their mutual desires create a feedback loop. Despite this, Jacky really is quite the mischevious creature, and becoming a lady does not come to her as easily as being a boy.
(This isn't to say that the plot is about her becoming a lady. It's not, but it does influence some of her choices.)
Is Bloody Jack feminist? I'd say so. Jacky's simply not the traditional feminist heroine.
As an aside, the first two books of the series are not my favorite. Jacky's character become much more developed and nuanced in the later books, and her perception of her own sexuality and gender become clearer. If a giveaway winner has read the first one but not some of the later books, I'd cheerfully be willing to substitute this one for another in the series (given that it's availiable in mass market paperback or ebook).
Want to win Bloody Jack? Hand around until Friday, May 14th when I open a post for comments!
I'll be out of town (on a wonderfully remote island without any internet connection) this weekend so after Friday I won't be able to answer questions until late Sunday at the very earliest. Please look over the rules and ask any questions before Friday, if possible.
A quick recap: I'm giving away 2 books for three-weeks-for-dw three_weeks_for_dw (aka 3W4D). 2 winning participants will get to choose from a selection of books that I'll be analyzing over the course of the 3 weeks. Chosen books will range from romance to fantasy to YA. Here is the introductory post and giveaway rules, and all giveaway-related posts will be filed under the book giveaway and three weeks for dreamwidth tags.
I really love this one: Hawkspar by Holly Lisle.
Release: June 2008
So, as irrelevant but nonethless interesting background information, I remember back when Holly Lisle was still writing Hawkspar. She endured quite a bit in her struggle publish it in a way that did the book justice, and so to see it in its 600-page glory is cheering. Hawkspar a pseudo-standalone, pseudo-sequel to her other book set in the same world, Talyn (which is also very good). I've always been a huge fan of Lisle's worldbuilding abilities, but her novels prior to Talyn fell a little flat. They were okay. Not amazing, but decent. I feel like Talyn and especially Hawkspar are the height of Lisle's writing ability, the two books that went above and beyond all her previous works.
Hawkspar is a slave in a religious cult. Her eyes are replaced with the stones that goes by her name, and thus she becomes the new goddess of war, one of several goddesses whose eye are likewise replaced. She can no longer see what's in front of her, but she can slip into the streams of time and see the past, present, and future. The book is split into two POVs--Hawkspar's and Aaran's--but because Hawkspar's is written in first person, the reader is intimately connected with her every thought, and I think this may be why Lisle was so successful in writing about a character that is blind.
Humans are very visual creatures, and we depend on sight more than any other sense. A lot of the narrative in any book consists of visual descriptions of people, places, things. Because Hawkspar couldn't describe any of these things, Lisle was forced to focus on Hawkspar's thoughts, feelings. Her actions, others' actions. Lisle wrote this so fluidly that I was almost to the end of the book before I realized that, in the majority of Hawkspar's scenes, nothing visual had been described. She relied on other senses to describe the tangible: sounds, smells, texture. Hawkspar's sensory perception enhanced the overal feel of and my connection with the story.
There is at least one gritty scene that made me go, "It's not gonna go there. It wouldn't go there. ...holy cheesecake IT JUST WENT THERE." It was one of those moments where I knew that things would have to work out, because the story was no where near over, but I couldn't figure out how they could.
Hawkspar herself is calm and collected, but vengeful. She has insecurities, and feels incompetent at times, but she remains strong in times of crisis. I liked her a lot, if that says anything. She uses her Eyes to her advantage, but being able to see the future is only useful if the seer is able to make the appropriate decisions that would turn at least one possibility to her advantage. Hawkspar does just that, and plays a mental chess game with opponents that don't even recognize there's a gameboard.
( spoiler alert: discussion of Hawkspar's status as disabled )
Warnings: Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault against tertiary characters. There's also a decent amount of violence, but oddly enough a lot of it's off-screen.
Want to win Hawkspar? Hang around until Friday, May 14th when I open a post for contest entries!
Just when you think I've fallen off the face of the 'verse, I come rolling on back with another one. This time it's Skin Game by Ava Gray.
Genre: Paranormal romance
Release: November 2009
If I were to list, off the top of my head, all the reasons I like this book, they would be (in no particular order): the hero is not a rapist, asshat, or domineering to the point of controlling the heroine; the heroine is highly independent, self-confident, and assertive; her magical powers (which are minimal, but impressive) do not define her; and Kyra and Reyes' sharp, fiery banter. The sex scenes are hot, too, although what Kyra thinks is kinky makes me laugh just a little on the inside.
Kyra's a badass conwoman/thief on the run after pulling off a major heist. Reyes is an assassin sent to kill her and bring back the loot. Too bad Kyra's skill is the ability to temporarily steal other people's best skills and use it against them. This paranormal is low on the paranormal (paranormal-lite?), and I wonder if that might be why I like it so much. Not necessarily because I prefer less emphasis on the paranormal--as a fantasy reader, that's simply not true--but perhaps because, by focusing less on Kyra's magical powers, Ava Gray was able to write her as fully fleshed-out character whose identity did not revolve around her power.
As I see it, the current structure for paranormal romance and modern urban fantasy allows the heroine to rely solely on her magical powers and/or her boyfriend(s) to get her out of a jam. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the paranormal/urban aspects are what define the subgenres, but when magic or guns or sexuality or boytoys replace any real characterization of the heroine--her personality, her intelligence--the book loses impact. It's easy for PR/MUF heroines to become cardboard copies of each other: the gun or the mysterious powers become all there is that you need to know. Kyra's strong in the sense that she's not easily manipulated, she's cunning, and she gives back what she gets. Her ability to steal others' skills doesn't overwhelm or define her. She is also Reyes' equal, and him hers (which I think speaks to his humanity and strength, too).
Another refreshing tidbit was Reyes' lack of magical powers. He still fits the physically-strong-hero mold, but Kyra has the advantage; she's something he's never seen, never dealt with before. And whatever strength he has is negated when she steals it.
Make no mistake, Reyes does use his strength, and has flash impulses that portray him as potentially controlling and even dangerous--but he never acts on those impulses without Kyra's consent. He's manipulative; he has to be. But the danger, the real danger, stays out of the bedroom. It's a fine line and I feel like Gray walked it well.
The cover baffles me. It's clearly supposed to depict Reyes in all his half-naked glory, even though the story revolves around Kyra. Her motivations, her plotline, her actions are what propel the story forward. But at the same time, I'm somewhat grateful that it's not yet another half-naked, leather-wearing woman on the cover. And I suppose it coincides the title.
Which, by the way, I had to look up: "A term coined by renowned investor Warren Buffett referring to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running." I had quite the "OH!" moment, although it doesn't make sense until the end.
The ending... I don't know how I felt about the ending. It seemed rushed, and both characteristic and uncharacteristic of Kyra. Also, I'm annoyed that character ____ is going to be the hero of the next book, because he came off as such a creeper in Skin Game. It would take a lot of convincing to redeem him as a hero.
Overall, a good read. I love the concept of paranormal romance in theory, but it can be difficult to love in practice. PR books tend to follow the same pattern, a pattern I tend to take personal issue with. Skin Game shakes things up and even does a little dance in all its rebellious glory.
Want to win Skin Game? Hang around until May 13th, when I open a post for entries (and don't forget to read the rules!).
Sorry for the delay on responding/commenting. I hope everyone is having a good Three Weeks!
"1. You can submit a manuscript and it will likely be judged by someone of your race—even at a multicultural press.And the list goes on.
2. You can query a number of agents who have extensive experience selling manuscripts by authors (and to editors) who share your race.
3. You can be pretty sure that the book buyer in a large chain or indie bookstore is someone of your race.
4. You can be pretty sure that your book—if it’s lucky enough to get reviewed by the major outlets—will be assessed by someone of your race who operates with an appreciation of your culture’s particular literary tradition(s).
5. You can attend numerous children’s literature conferences with programming that reflects your interests and/or your culture, you can network with industry professionals who share your race, and otherwise feel comfortable as a member of the majority.
6. You can write about anyone who lives anywhere and be accepted by many as an extraordinarily creative person and/or an expert on topics outside of your lived experience."
First up: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum.
Genre: Political fantasy
Release date: September 2009
Downum has a lush writing style full of description. Her setting draws on South Asian culture, placing The Drowning City, and the quickly flooding city of Symir, apart from other European/Victorian political fantasies. I'll admit up front that as a White American still working on deconstructing my own privilege, the finer points that distinguish between what is the appropriation of a culture and what is not still elude me at times. I've scoured the web trying to find reviews that mention any form of cultural appropriation within the book and found none. If there is, it is beyond my current ability to identify. If anyone who has read the book feels comfortable chiming in, I would appreciate it. I suppose you could say this is my "I think it's okay, but I acknowledge that I may not be seeing everything I should be" warning flag.
While courts and royalty are mentioned, they do not seem to play a primary role; the focus is on lower-class characters, the mercenaries, activists, and of course Isyllt, a necromancy/spy sent to fund Symir's revolutionaries. What I like about TDC is its use of subterfuge as a plot device and the edgier character archetypes. Isyllt knows she's being sent to secretly topple a city as well as its government to the advantage of her own benefactor and she doesn't shy away from that. She also doesn't hold any illusions that a revolution will occur without a high price, but at the same time is willing to do what needs to be done. I think this mental neutrality comes in part from her personality and her role as a necromancer (which I suppose could interconnected). The closer she gets to the revolutionaries, the more she feels the conflict and the consequences, illustrating a form of character growth that challenges her previous ways of thinking.
I get the feeling that she's a little jaded, and while her reasons for being so are fleshed out, they are explained in a seemingly random infodump and then for the most part dropped. This made her seem a little whiny in the beginning, which is a startling trait to see in a necromancer.
I also wish she would use her necromancy skills more frequently, but the fact that she doesn't renders it all that more significant when she does. Her reluctance also forces her to base her choices on what she can and can't do without the aid of magic--choices that she sometimes, with bitter humor, later regrets. Her flaws are apparent, and she's far from perfect; you could perhaps even say that she's a little fucked up. There's a brief sex scene with a character who may or may not be on her side (but it's consensual, so woohoo!). I appreciated their casual simplicity, a no-strings approach that's outlawed in romances and doesn't make frequent appearances in fantasy. Downum didn't try to force an emotional relationship that wasn't there while still making it relevant and meaningful.
Two secondary characters and Isyllt's bodyguards, Adam and Xinai, have some of my favorite moments. Xinai is decidely badass, a competent, merciless assassin. But she is also a native to Symir, and when she comes home, she's welcomed by a bloody reunion that shakes her world up again. It takes all her strength to confront her past and her future, to sacrifice parts of herself to support her family and the survival of her culture. Adam and Xinai have some of the sexiest, endearing interactions in the book, and I really hope they show up again in the forthcoming sequel, The Bone Palace.
Want to win The Drowning City? Hang around until May 13th, when I open a post for entries (and don't forget to read the rules!).
However, today at Dear Author I found the perfect example of what I refer to when I say that not all readers, even educated ones, can recognize a forced seduction scenario as rape every time. I think this particular example highlights exactly how hazy the distinction can be and the cognitive dissonance we may endure when faced with two conflicting images: how we are inclined, as a society, to believe that if, later on, a rape is presented as though the woman wanted it, then we dismiss any other reactions she may have had.
"This is one of the problematic areas. Charlotte is not a prostitute but nor is she a virgin. At the beginning of the coupling, it appears from Charlotte’s point of view that this is unwanted and initially fights him off, yet the two proceed to climax. Later in the chapter, clues are given that Charlie not only consented but was a full participant. During the consummation scene, I wasn’t sure. I read it twice and came away with some ambiguity. However, the post consummation exchange displays what I enjoyed so much about this story."This book received a B grade from Jane at Dear Author.
"So (and I address this now to the theoretical audience of those on the other, privileged end of the inequality) if you, as a white person, are afraid of writing about us: then be afraid. Carry in your heart the fear of doing further injustice to a people into whose blood oppression has become so incorporated that our institutions and our media echo with the dual strains of self-loathing and adulation for those who are not us. Live with the anxiety of questioning your assumptions about a people that is not more American than America, not a race composed only of tourist guides and call-center agents and overseas foreign workers and shoe-crazy society matrons and celebrity politicians, not your "little brown brothers and sisters"; whose richness and diversity and pursuit of individual identity all too often escape the surface view to which most observers are confined. Confront your blind spots and your privilege in having the luxury of overlooking this inequality because you aren't disenfranchised by it. Cast away the viewpoints that tag our similarities as proof of the good points of the Philippines and relegate our differences to the status of "disadvantage" or "compensation for..." in those instances when you do choose to acknowledge that we aren't "just like you". Grasp the difficulty that comes with having to ask yourself whether you are condescending, whether you are offending beliefs that are not held without reason, whether you are perpetuating a mindset that plays at well-intentioned assistance while diminishing fundamental freedoms to choose our own goods. We've had 'well-intentioned assistance'; the Americans called it benevolent rule. Delve into our history, the blood of our politics and our wars; soak yourself in it, in the grit and the grime of our daily living, until you understand why we rage and why we have cut out our tongues."I've written and re-written what I want to say here about a dozen times. As a white writer, I feel like ephemere has given an answer to an old question: whether white writers should write characters of color. A simple "yes" or "no" isn't good enough. Sitting with the fear, constantly challenging one's own privilege, acknowledge of one's inexpertise... self-awareness and respect... those aren't the this-or-that answers we often look for. The question is complicated, and so is the answer. Avoiding writing characters of color out of fear boils down to avoiding the fear, and is a privilege. As is writing characters of color without keeping that fear in the forefront, because I think that fear, that awareness mingled with accountability, is what is required to deconstruct privilege, and sweeping it under the bed does nothing toward that.
I mentioned briefly, back in the dark ages prior to manifesta's renovation, that I wanted to do a giveaway of books that I thought were awesome. More recently I brought up the idea of analyzing some of these books, focusing what I thought was done poorly or done well, and there seemed to be some support for this idea.
So, here's the deal:
1. Over the course of the next Three Weeks I'll be posting about different books that I've read in the last 8 months. The facets I will focus on in my analysis will vary from book to book but ultimately stem from a feminist perspective, and I'd highlight whatever I thought relevant or simply struck my fancy.
2. I will try very, very hard not to post spoilers. If I do think something is spoilery but essential, I'll hide it under a cut.
3. My discussion of each book will not be comprehensive; i.e. if one of the female characters is stuffed in a refrigerator, I'll mention that, but if there are tragic plot holes, I might not mention that (though really, if there are tragic plot holes I think I'd be less inclined to consider the book "awesome"). Thus I wouldn't by any means consider my posts to be reviews, but because this is a giveaway, I suppose you could say that I'm endorsing them.
4. There will be two (2) winning participants, which means I will be giving away two (2) books,* though I will be posting about more books than that. Winners can choose which book from the ones that I've posted about as their prize. I don't have a finalized list of books that I intend to include, but they'll range from fantasy to romance to paranormal romance and include at least one YA. I realize this isn't a very broad spectrum and won't suit everybody, but it's what I like to read.
Because Three Weeks is a celebration of Dreamwidth and a way to foster content and community, there are a few rules. You must do one of the following to enter the giveaway:
a. post at least one (1) entry of 250 words or more exclusively to Dreamwidth (personal journals, comms, etc.) for the festival, content choice up to you; if you want to do photos, vids, poetry, icon spams, etc. that's fine, too
b. post at least five (5) comments of 50 words or more (each) to Three Weeks-related content** during the festival
Don't know where to start? All posts tagged with three weeks for dreamwidth or threeweeks will show up on this feed: http://www.dreamwidth.org/latest?feed=
The word minimum is more of a recommendation than a strict guideline. Quality over quantity.
I reserve the right to disqualify any entries or comments that I consider to include hatespeech of any kind.
5. At the end of the Three Weeks festival, the week of May 10th, I will make a post that people can comment on to enter the giveaway. Your comment, in order to be considered eligible, MUST INCLUDE a link to your entry or five separate links to your comments. (If you're not sure how to link to comments, look for a 'LINK' button around or below each individual comment.)
You do not have to be subscribed to me to enter. You also do not have to link to or comment on my journal or entries, but if you'd like to signal-boost the giveaway, I'd appreciate that.
I recognize that not everyone who reads DW content has a DW journal. I could require that people sign up with the site in order to participate, but I don't want a flood of otherwise unused accounts sitting around after the festival's done. I will accept open-ID*** participants that post comments on Three Weeks-related content but ask that you consider trying out DW. We're pretty cool. Really.
Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to comment, message me, or email me at manifesta at dreamwidth dot org.
Ironically, this week is my busiest of the quarter, so I may not be as active around the community as I would like. I will try to read and comment as much as possible, but my response time to any queries may be slow. Please have patience with me.
And on another vein, I truly wish I could give away more than two books, but it isn't plausible at this time. Perhaps in the future I'll do a used-book giveaway, which may cut down on costs.
*Giveaway open to everyone on the planet as long as I can ship to you through B&N, Amazon, or some other book distributor. If you would prefer an ebook version, then assuming there is one, I can do that, too.
**I chose to restrict comments to Three Weeks content in order to promote feedback within the festival itself. If anyone has serious issues with this, I will consider changing it to include comments on entries outside the festival.
***I will not accept anonymous entries because I won't be able to figure out if you were the one who actually posted the linked comments.
madame_parker is new-ish to DW and is a bookworm with fannish interests. Go say hi!
ephemere talks about gaming, culture, history, and economics.
lea_hazel comments on books and general general geekery, and makes the occasional but highly amusing psychological observation.
three_weeks_for_dw starts on Monday the 26th! To echo erda the easiest way to contribute, if you don't have the time/don't want to write up anything in a post, is to comment! I'll be posting... something. It's a surprise (even for me!).
[trigger warning for discussions of rape culture]
I've had a week to think about it, and the fallacy I keep coming across whenever there's a discussion regarding rape culture in books is the notion that if the reader is educated, then they are exempt from being influenced. This notion focuses on a small portion of readers that have been educated about what rape culture is and what it looks like, can recognize rape culture when they read or see it (and let me be the first to say that there are times when I, as a violence prevention and survivor advocate, and as someone who analyzes everything, cannot recognize it), and ignores the social norms that are inherent to and disguise, to the point of acceptance, rape in our society. It also shifts the burden of responsibility to the individual to educate themselves about what rape--and what the social norms that perpetuate rape--looks like.
Forced seduction scenarios contain an inherent element of confusion. They blur the line between rape and not-rape, perpetuating the society-accepted notion that "no" really means "yes." They are different from rape fantasies because a properly constructed rape fantasy not only defines itself as a rape fantasy but also creates a context that validates what consent is and isn't. While rape fantasies may still have a psychological impact on the reader, forced seduction fantasies are far more dangerous, because in a rape fantasy the reader is made aware that it is rape that is occurring, whereas in a forced seduction fantasy, there's no such tell.
I am a proponent of education that paints a clear picture of what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. However, no education in the world can stand in the face of the repetitive and mixed messages American* culture is currently sending through every possible venue. Popular culture can be a magnificent, terrifying force. I'm sure there are people out there who can say, with utmost certainty, that they know exactly what rape and rape culture looks like and that they would be able to identify every facet of it every time. And I have no doubt that they can. But this isn't about the individual.
When books, movies, songs, advertisements, and tv shows, the things we buy and the things that are force-fed to us, depict unhealthy relationships as healthy and violence against women as acceptable, then even a discerning individual's ability to see beneath the sparkle can waver. Even more significant than these messages' impact on the individual is the impact they can have on the group. The 'culture' part of 'rape culture' reflects the systemic and institutional schemas that normalize rape on a scale of millions.
I am currently in the midst of conducting experimental trials regarding stereotype threat, i.e. negative stereotypes about a particular group that reduces performance on a related task. The particular stereotype threat my research focuses on is the stereotype that women are bad at math. Previous research has found that almost all American women have been exposed to and are thus influenced by this stereotype, regardless of whether they consciously believe it or are even aware of its existence. Simply checking the box that says 'female' before a math test is enough to consciously or unconsciously trigger the stereotype threat and reduce performance.
My point is that, in any discussion regarding rape culture or oppression or privilege, the words unconscious, subliminal, and implicit cannot be stressed enough. Simply by being a part of a culture, we are exposed to repetitive, frequently subtle, unrecognizable messages that we unconsciously allow to influence our beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
One example would be writers that write forced seduction scenarios. Either they have been exposed to the idea that a women who says no but then says yes after the hero ignores her original response is not rape, and
(1) thus not only consciously or unconsciously believe it themselves, but are also consciously/unconsciously sending it to the reader in equally implicit conditions because it corresponds with what societal norms say rape looks like, or
(2) consciously don't believe it, but underestimate the power of subliminal messages, particularly in the context of a culture that promotes the image of rape under narrow circumstances (which forced seduction does not fall under).
Rape thrives in part because women are blamed for the violence committed against them and because the definition of rape is frequently limited to a rape that coincides with physical violence. By writing forced seduction scenes, the author is caught in the bind that is rape culture, regardless of whether they recognize the harm their words can cause. It's a double-edged sword, one designed specifically so that women either perpetuate ideas that further their oppression or are silenced.
The other example would then be readers who intentionally or unintentionally read a forced seduction fantasy. A reader with education regarding healthy relationships or what rape looks like might be able to discern that it is, indeed, rape. Or they won't, and that'll be that. Or they won't, and this scene--coupled with other scenes and other books and other movies--might begin to chip away at what they thought they knew. Myths like gray rape might seem to gain credence.
A reader without any education regarding healthy relationships or what rape looks like might recognize it as rape. Or they might unconsciously or consciously integrate the scenario into their schemas of what rape isn't, based on what society has already taught them. If you're given two contrasting images, such as she said no/she liked it, the resulting cognitive dissonance will demand that you choose a side or find a happy medium. She said no = rape, she liked it = not rape, happy medium = it could have been rape, because she said no, but it wasn't, because she liked it.
It is rape culture when we're taught to believe that no means yes.
It is rape culture when our fiction reaffirms that no means yes and there is no context that disconnects this idea from reality.
It is rape culture when we're taught to believe that fiction that reaffirms that no means yes, without any context, doesn't harm us.
I don't consider myself to be patronizing women when I say that forced seduction scenarios are a symptom of a larger, cultural problem, one that not only sends mixed messages about what rape looks like but then also perpetuates the societal acceptance of violence against women. I don't consider myself to be patronizing women precisely because while I know for a fact that women are quite sharp, this kind of shit is sinister.
We've been taught to believe that violence against women is acceptable, that rape is only rape if it's violent. To combat this idea we've worked hard to raise awareness and demand better, and we've seen progress. But now we face the conundrum of whether some of our attempts at progress reflect and promote the very attitudes we seek to rid ourselves of.
To go back to the original question of the responsibilities of the writer, I don't think that writers are obligated to teach readers appropriate beliefs and values. I do think that they are responsible and should be held accountable for the messages that their books send, messages that are reliant entirely upon the context that either validates or invalidates them, particularly when the content of the message coincides with subtle, real world attitudes and is conveyed in an implicit manner. I don't say this to censor authors or limit readers or suggest that only certain things should be written. A fantasy about a mass murderer doesn't hold the same water in terms of readers' unconscious or conscious impressions because it's quite obvious that in the real world, being a mass murderer is a Bad Idea. A romance that portrays rape as not-rape coincides with social norms that also consider some rapes as not-rape and is that much closer to normalizing and condoning narrow definitions of what rape is and what rape looks like.
Old news, but I thought that if I hadn't come across these until recently, then others might not have either.
N.K Jemisin on book covers and race. For context, the two covers of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms--the preliminary one that features a POC and the final version that does not--can be seen together here (scroll down).
"Because I’d seen that preliminary cover, I knew the publisher had been willing to put a brown woman on my book. My fears were allayed at that point — such that when my editor said she was removing the character for aesthetic reasons, I believed her. But given the pervasiveness of whitewashing in the industry, I do wonder what readers are going to think when they see my book, read that the character is brown, maybe see my author photo and realize I’m brown, and then see there’s no character on the front. Will that feed into the notion that PoC on book covers don’t sell? And I can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if they’d kept my protag on the cover, aesthetic considerations aside. Even if the publisher had been willing to run with it, would the buyers at the chain stores accept it? Would retailers take one look and shove it in the African American Interest section? Would SF reviewers pay any attention to it? Like I said, this is a pervasive thing."Jemisin also posted a three-part series on writing characters of color: part 1, part 2, & part 3.
From part 2:
"Personally, I prefer Rowling’s method of dealing with it. She didn’t label the white characters white, or the black characters black, or the Asian characters Asian, etc. She drops broad hints about all of them, from culturally-distinct surnames like Patil and Chang and Granger, to culturally-associated styles and foods (braids, sari, Harry’s love of the quintessentially-British treacle tarts), to more subtle cues like Dean’s football preferences. But she does this equally for the white characters and the characters of color. No group is treated as “normal,” or by exclusion/emphasis “abnormal”."
"The discussion had a lot of focus on supposed responsibilities as writers. I’m not shouldering the responsibility of perpetuating violence against women if/when I decide to write a book with forced seduction or a book with a rape fantasy. Because I have no responsibility in the violence committed against women unless I’m one of the ones who either turn a blind eye when I see (or am aware) of a woman being assaulted, or I’m the one doing the assaulting."Because I don't think I can better articulate my thoughts at this time, this was my reply:
"No, you are most certainly not responsible for perpetuating violence against women–only the perpetrators can do that.Thoughts? In some ways I feel like this discussion mirrors that of the rape culture and YA debate.
My issue with forced seduction/rape fantasies is that they can subliminally advocate for its acceptance as norm. Many people, many women, do not recognize forced seduction *as* rape because our society tells them it’s not; our society says that they really wanted it all along, and as proof, the heroine is suddenly overcome with pleasure and falls in love with the hero in the end. If this was a straight-up stereotypical violent rape scene that had “THIS IS BAD” written in red all over it, there wouldn’t be a problem, because most people would read it and recognize it as violence, and then make an informed decision regarding whether or not they want to continue reading accordingly. A person unfamiliar with the definition of rape may not– and as a survivor advocate, I’ve come across a large number of people who do not, and further would not define forced seduction as rape. This is the message that forced seduction in romance novels has and in many cases continues to send, particularly because now days the “forced” part manifests in an even subtler, less easy to identify form than its 1950-70s cousin. By painting rape in a positive light through forced seduction we diminish its violence. The message taken away from that can result in conscious or unconscious beliefs about and narrow restrictions on what “real rape” looks like.
To be clear, I’m not referring to people who WANT to read forced seduction/rape fantasies. They exist, and their desires are completely valid, but they aren’t the demographic I’m focusing on. I’m also only referring to forced secution/rape fantasies where the heroine does not welcome the perpetrator’s advances but is then overcome; I’m not referring to fantasies where she is clearly distraught over the rape and wants nothing to do with the rapist.
I realize there isn’t a clean-cut answer and that advocating for a ban on forced seduction/rape fantasies would take away from the readers who want to read them, but their presence in your average vanilla romance presents a problem for unwary readers. Rape is perceived as such a blurry concept for so many women–after reading a forced seduction scene, would the reader thereafter be able to recognize the way her husband ignored her refusals, if he laughed and told her she wanted it, as rape?
Books send potent messages we don’t even realize we’re receiving. While the author does not perpetuate violence against women, I do wonder whether writing forced seduction/rape fantasies, without addressing them as a violent acts in the text, in turn promote rape *culture*–and that in some ways is even scarier, because while it doesn’t teach men to rape, it reinforces the notion for women that rape is only rape if it conforms to specific standards and includes overt violence. It doesn’t perpetuate violence, but it further confuses the distinction between what is and isn’t rape in a patriarchal society that relies on that confusion in order for violence against women to continue unchecked."
When I was considering spending money on Dreamwidth, I always circled back to, "Why?" I could pay as much or less for a domain of my own. Avatars don't mean that much to me, though I am excited that I no longer have to cycle between my favorite ones, and honestly, the majority of the perks that differentiate between the free, paid, and premium paid accounts have never interested me. Then I wondered where that money would go and what exactly I would be paying for, if not these optional add-ons.
What sets DW apart from other blogging sites in my mind is that it supports safe spaces. It is a multi-layered community that works together, developers and members alike, to ensure that everyone feels welcome here. It's become a mecca for academic and creative types to gather and exchange ideas. In some ways I feel like to support DW is also to support a larger cultural movement of awareness and respect.
Some journals and comms that I think encourage this statement (for followfriday!):
hooked_on_heroines-- meta on women characters and quickly becoming very active
ladiesbigbang-- still accepting sign-ups until April 30th! Want me to cheer for you?
academia-- for people interested in scholarly pursuits
fantasy-- meta on all types of fantasy, also quickly becoming more active
staranise-- fun, interactive posts on writing, psychology, and fandom
miss_haitch-- lots of yummy meta on writing, plus provides tons of great links
three_weeks_for_dw begins on April 26th! I still haven't decided what I'm going to contribute for the fest, but I will be doing something.
"I think true love comes if you believe in it. If teens get nothing else from SHIVER, I hope they get this: that if you are open to love and are willing to settle for nothing less than someone who is completely into you and just you, who respects you for who you are, who is happy with your boundaries and interested in keeping you happy, you will find it. I want every teen who reads SHIVER to settle for nothing less than a relationship with that kind of equality and respect. Because you'll get what you demand, and if you go into it knowing that sort of love is possible -- well, you're a heckuva lot more likely to get it. It kills me when I meet teen girls who are dating some jerk who is less than respectful of them or who is making them do things they aren't ready for or who is disinterested or condescending. Real love lets you be the person you're meant to be. It makes you a bigger person, not less of one."Though I haven't read SHIVER, this is the kind of message I can get behind. Whether the author's intentions are translated to the text or not is up for debate (anyone care to chime in?) but as soon as I get my hands on a copy I'll discuss it here.
Another thing that interested me was what I found while digging up reviews for it. The general summary I see going around is this:
"For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever."
Here's another summary from Beyond Hollywood:
"When a mysterious boy name Sam with yellow eyes show up, Grace realizes that he’s the wolf, but can only be human for a few months during the summer. In winter time, when it gets cold, he must revert back to wolf form. Further problems arise when a local boy is killed by a wolf, and a wolf hunt by the locals threaten Sam’s life. Can Grace save her hairy boyfriend?"The most jarring difference between the two is how Grace's agency is framed. In the former, it's up to Sam to save himself, but in the latter, it's up to Grace to save him. It could very well be that it's a mix of both (and I don't doubt that it is), but both summaries convey a very different feel of autonomy. I think they also draw the line between a book that is just another mirror image of Twilight and a book where it's up to the mortal heroine to save her paranormal boyfriend, a new twist on a tired trope, and one that could potentially counter rape culture to boot.
Whether it actually does this... we'll see.
A week or so ago, kaigou wrote an incredibly powerful post in reaction to discourse occuring within the rape culture/YA debate. The post is currently frozen, but I still recommend reading it.
"What's the message in there? That to write a story where a girl stands up against the rape culture is only possible and believable if it's not in our world, and not in our present day? That we need to wait twenty years -- or be on another planet altogether -- before it'd be okay for a young girl to tell a guy where to get off and have her demands be respected?In the post kaigou temporarily sets aside scifi-fantasy in favor of exploring the power of the contemporary (possibly also paranormal) YA (i.e. "this context") and demands why women and girls are only allowed to set boundaries and experience agency within scifi/fi but not contemporary YA. I think this raises some interesting questions, and I'd like to expand on it a little further. Note that I'm not setting contemporary YA and scifi/fantasy in opposition with one another, painting one as bad and the other as free of problematic portrayals of women; rather, I'm following the basic premise that women in scifi/fantasy are able to experience more agency (however layered or illusory) than their counterparts in contemporary YA due to fundamental beliefs about women's lives in contemporary society that don't seem to apply to AUs.
"[...] Yes, science fiction and fantasy have their place. I'd be one of the last to argue otherwise. But in this context, in this genre, the contemporary has a power that cannot be defeated by "what it'd be like in thirty years" or "what it'd be like if we were all blue and living on Pluto" -- it can only be defeated, I've come to believe, by showing our next generation of women that the things they deal with, here and now, can be changed, should be changed, and that we -- the generation who went before, who now produces the works that these younger women read -- are aware of what they face, and we are using our own experiences to give them paths to follow, to lead them out of that goddamn cage of the rape culture, and that yes, as a matter of fact, that we do not believe that the only path to true love is to accept the stalker-rapist, that we call that as bullshit and are here to help them see there is a better life -- a better world! -- possible."
I think it's a given to say that the contemporary holds a certain power of immediacy that scifi/fantasy doesn't, and I think this is significant in understanding why issues such as the perpetuation of rape culture become so prevalent across a single contemporary genre. I've said before that books often reflect the underlying beliefs of society, and while this holds true for scifi/fantasy as much as it does contemporary YA, by introducing the element of the fantastic we also introduce the possibility that not everything is the same as in the real world. Part of the reason scifi/fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance hold my attention from a meta-analytical perspective is precisely because of this possibility; it is also why I think they are incredibly powerful tools, particularly given their popularity and success, that could potentially shed light on systemic beliefs and counter them in an unrealistic context with realistic results.
That said, I think this exposes the inherent cognitive error that does set contemporary YA and scifi/fantasy in opposition: that scifi/fantasy should or does completely fill in the gaps left in between the reality of oppression and the fantasy of freedom. By this I mean the idea that if scifi/fantasy's role is to explore alternate possibilities, then contemporary YA's job is to reflect current realities. An alternate approach to the latter, and one I'm loosely basing on kaigou's above statement, is that contemporary YA's job is not only to reflect current realities but to also create a model for improvement.
This isn't to say that contemporary YA shouldn't tackle issues such as rape as a reality of many women's lives. But it is to say that the repetitive tropes that place girls and women in positions of vulnerability and their boyfriends in positions of power, without raising any questions about this arrangement in the text and thus subliminally advocating its acceptance does harm.* The defense that women are dealing with these issues in real life is not a reason to portray unhealthy relationships as healthy nor the women themselves as helpless victims too oblivious to recognize the violence in their own relationships.
From Bitch Magazine, in an article on why contemporary intersectional feminism isn't necessarily anti-racist,** which may seem off-topic, but I do believe the basic idea applies here, too:
"I mostly think this because my method of measuring where feminism is at isn't coming from the "oh, well it's better than it was before" place or the "oh, we need to understand that the second-wavers were women of their time" starting point. My measurement says that things have been really fucked up, are still really fucked up, but most importantly that I don't have to keep swallowing the pill of "understanding" why they remain that way in many instances."Bold emphasis mine.
Part of the reason that many YA books are currently a vehicle for the perpetuation of rape culture is not just because the portrayal of relationships are riddled with socially accepted violence but also because we as a society have swallowed the defense of "this is the way things are." It is certainly pertinent to reflect "the way things are," but it is equally important to do so with an awareness and respect toward the people being impacted and to take a stance, implicitly or explicitly through the text, that does not in any way condone the behavior.
*In accordance with my idea that genre books are the "dark mirror" to our reality--reflecting negative yet prevalent societal norms in a subtle manner--it follows that if stereotypical or negative portrayls of people, particularly marginalized groups, in scifi/fantasy books can have a dentrimental psychological impact on readers, then so, too, can contemporary YA. However I would suggest that the lag time between the absorption of the messages we receive and their solidification in our unconscious is greatly reduced (i.e. the amount of consistent messages need not be so high) due to the inherent relateability of contemporary/YA books. The messages are more powerful because they are all that more obvious. (And by obvious I refer to the connection between the realistic setting and the negative portrayal, not their subtlety as a function of privilege.)
**See how I slipped that in there? Read it. It's important, too.
Reposted because the original timestamp backdated it. Sorry if you're seeing this twice on your reading pages.
Quick question for the masses: Can anyone see my last post, "the reality of oppression and the fantasy of freedom," on their reading page?
I know it's not appearing on one person's, despite the fact that they're subscribed to me. I didn't backdate it, but I did originally post it as a private entry (I'm paranoid and don't trust the save-draft function) before reposting it as public with an updated timestamp. If this seems to be the problem, I might repost it altogether so it shows appropriately and find another location to draft my entries.
I should really cease in promising which post will come next, because invariably that's the post I get stuck on, which then puts me off of writing any new content until I become unstuck.
I've been working on a proposal for Sirens Conference in between classes, salsa practice, and running pilot tests for experiment #1.
"Inspired by the daring adventures of women characters and compelled by the brilliant works by women authors, Sirens is dedicated to women in fantasy literature. Our conference, part scholarly examination and part networking retreat, welcomes academics, authors, professionals, and readers—and encourages all attendees to provide their perspectives on fantasy books by women, female characters in fantasy works, the market for fantasy by and about women, and how to support women in fantasy literature."The guests of honor this year are Holly Black, Marie Brennan, and Terri Windling. Anyone can propose a topic for a presentation and there are multiple mediums (papers, workshops, discussions, etc.) availiable. I think it's a great concept, but I wish it wasn't in Vail. 90 minutes from the nearest airport in Denver. At an expensive spa resort. I see the costs stacking up there, and while I recognize that the location was chosen specifically to create a private, welcoming atmosphere, it makes me question its accessibility for people who can't afford to drop several hundred dollars on a single con.
Recent book acquisitions include His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts, Auralia's Choice by Jeffrey Overstreet, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, and Vision in White by Nora Roberts. 3 fantasy, 2 romance. I've already finished Vision in White; while I found some of the characterization to be overdone and annoying, it was a charming story.
I reread Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet over Spring Break (Tamora Pierce has become my paragon of feminist high fantasy that I go running to, sometimes screaming, when the rest of the world seems to have gone utterly batshit) and it occurred to me how much more in-depth Pierce went/was allowed to go with Keladry in comparison to Alanna from her earlier books. Alanna certainly had her share of struggles, but because she was forced to pass as a boy, others treated her like a boy, and so she was not bombarded with others' judgments of her as incapable every day. Alanna's successes enabled her to believe in herself, because when she succeeded, others also saw her succeed; with Kel, when she succeeded, others saw her fail. Kel's successes weren't considered legitimate in the eyes of the men (and some women) who wanted her to fail, and so the rugged determination borne from success in Alanna's case actually had to come from somewhere deeper for Kel. While Alanna's story will probably always be my favorite of Tamora Pierce's, Keladry's contains a more nuanced look at gender relations, particularly at the emotional level, and illustrates Tamora Pierce's growth as a writer.