manifesta: (Psych Major)

From Dear Author, on female sexuality and romance:
 

"For me, the critical issue is that as a society we continue to value a woman’s sexual status and we give value to women (or take it away) based on this status. Society justifies whether a woman deserved sexual assault or even rape based on whether she appears sexually demure enough."
Word.

Several commentors made the distinction between having random sex and embracing sexuality-- a distinction I don't agree with. Random hook-ups can be just as fulfilling as planned sex within a relationship, and the notion that sex should only occur within a relationship is simply the other side of the coin that says women should only have sex with a single partner and--as seen in many romance novels--that that partner must be their True Love. This isn't a rule that's placed on romance heroes, which is part of the point Janet tried to make.

Further, women or men who choose to pursue multi-partner relationships or random play are not necessarily psychologically driven by traumatic factors to do so. Some, yes. Others make the conscious decision to do so because that's what they're into.

There's also a lot of fail in the comments regarding the biological differences in the sexuality of men and women. Given the many alternative sexual practices, including but not limited to homosexuality, transsexuality, asexuality, and poly lifestyles, and that women and men are not nearly as different as we tend to believe (see Janet Shibley Hyde's Gender Similarity Hypothesis), I'm not convinced that men and women are driven by separate evolutionary forces. Culture is far more important in determining whether men sleep around more or women stick with a single partner. If men are lauded as studs for having sex with as many women as possible and women are chastised for having sex with more than one man, it is no longer biological forces that shape men and women's sexuality, but society.

That said, when discussing the supposed differences between men and women, there are other types of information aside from evolutionary psychology that can be applied. Try developmental or social cognitive theory. Anthropological and sociological sources would also be good. Ev psych ain't everything, y'all.
manifesta: (Dangerous)


Catherynne M. Valente on the intersection of politics and books:

"My story is political.

"I can write from the heart--and seriously, where else would I be writing from? I'm such a commercial sellout with my popcorn novels and my stacks of cash that I have to dig down to my Grinchy literary heart with both hands and even then I might not find anything but hot sparkly vampires? I'm all heart, baby. But I can write from my ventricles and still be political, because I am a woman and a feminist and queer and there is no telling my story, no matter how cloaked in fiction, without bringing all my uncomfortable politics in. That is telling my story. It means I worry about colonial issues, it means I worry about portrayals of gay sex, it means I consider the race and gender balance of a cast of characters, it means I think long and hard before committing narrative. Because my politics are the politics of thinking long and hard about things."
This is the reason why I dedicate a large part of this journal to the intersectionality of books, publishing, and social justice. When I criticize specific romance novels for ignoring the laws of consent or modern urban fantasy for only portraying women as strong when they're overly sexualized or the lack of strong female characters and woman writers in epic fantasy or the recent trend in YA promoting domestic violence as socially-acceptable and makes caricatures out of young women in comparison to their male paranormal counterparts-- THIS is why. Because books are the dark mirror to our reality and they reflect the subtle truths of our thoughts and beliefs and attitudes that the privilege inherent to belonging in an advantaged group disguises.
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
The start to the new year has been lovely. Over the course of New Year's Eve I blazed through Hilari Bell's Rise of a Hero, and then through Forging the Sword, the last two books in her Farsala trilogy (the first being Fall of a Kingdom). Her style is reminiscent of Alma Alexander's in her Changer of Days duology and features many similarities, although both first books came out around the same time. I don't really consider this to be a bad thing; I think each books expands in separate directions within the context of their own worlds. I particularly enjoyed some of the innovative obstacles the protags face in RoaH.

I think it's YA, but I could be wrong. I could see it as adult epic fantasy.

Yesterday I finished Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come, and it stuck me how ahead of the publishing trend my first two books were. My first was a contemporary fantasy when contemp/urban was just starting to expand, and my second was a contemporary faerie tale with roots in an alternative Tudor England. Books like Midnight that combined my two loves--faeries and real-world fantasy--were limited to Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block, and few others, all of which were YA.

Brennan's writing is luscious, and her leading female character a realistic mix of strength, desperation, and cunning. She also kept regional faerie lore intact, a task that must have had its difficulties.

Now, partially inspired by Brennan, I'm re-reading Charles de Lint's The Onion Girl. It has reminded me why I love urban fantasy--true urban fantasy, not the gutted version that's being reproduced over and over again today. It also reminds me of a time when women's strength in UF was portrayed through determination and character rather than the false symbolism of a vampire boyfriend or knives.

*****

Classes have started, and in lieu of finishing the last stats courses, I'm indulging in reading-focused history and women's studies courses, as well as psych of law. I'm still researching stereotypes with a professor, and will be for the rest of the year, but our direction may be changing a little-- something we discussed at our 8AM meeting this morning, 4 full hours before my first class. Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of science. 

The sociology department is trying to lure me over to the Dark Side. They've invited me to apply to work on a grant-funded research project, which would do wonders for my resume. Tempting.

Tomorrow I get to watch Pocahontas in class. On one hand, yay. On the other hand, this is ironic, given that I just watched Avatar last weekend, and was not that impressed (via [personal profile] shiegra).
*****
 
I finally figured out how to conduct political warfare via the use of illusions in Black Widow's Walk. I'm surprised it took me so long to come to that conclusion, but now that I have, it opens up all sorts of doors. I'm officially dedicated to finishing BWW by April 1st--a date at the end of the quarter that I picked randomly, but also happens to be the 5th anniversary of the completion of my first book. (Yes, I remember things like that.) If shit happens, shit happens. Regardless, it's nice to finally have an end goal in sight.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
Catherynne M. Valente on RoF's "all women-authors" issue to debut in August 2011:
"By definition, herding women authors into a single book or magazine and proclaiming it special for their appearance there is, well, segregation, and has an ugly implication that they won't be appearing in regular issues.
[...]
But brain, isn't this what we want? A high percentage of female authors in a table of contents? Well, 50% would be good. 40%, too. But creating Very Special Issues once in a 15 year run isn't the same as addressing the problem head on by understanding the psychology at play and changing the editorial paradigm. It's just a bone, thrown."
As always, bold emphasis mine.

On one hand, I can appreciate that women writers in a field still dominated by men are being recognized and showcased. An all-women's issue does benefit a disadvantaged group by placing and paying only women writers, whereas in a regular issue women writers would be lucky to get half the spots, if that. I particularly like their call for pieces that tackle, specifically, gender, feminism, and sexism:
"While being a woman submitting a fantasy piece to us is enough to get your manuscript considered for this issue, submissions dealing with gender, sexism, and other areas important to feminist speculative literature are particularly welcome."
On the other hand, in the same line of thought as Valente, I do wonder if this 'special' issue is not the celebration I perceive most women's mags to be, and more as a justification for present and future discrimination. It would be all to easy for RoF to put out this issue and then never again address gender within the context of sci/fi and publishing. A better system would be to ensure that more women writers are represented in every issue, not just one.

One commentor at the RoF blog said:
"I am totally for feminist articles and stories and art, but the idea of an all-woman issue is really distasteful and smacks of a stunt rather than inviting discourse on the issue of feminism and fantasy. It shows contempt for many male authors who write thoughtful female characters and it panders to a certain mindset that maintains that women authors are underrrepresented in fantasy. I don’t think that’s the case, and if you look at the fantasy bookshelves, women may be in the majority."
After reading RoF's guidelines, I'm not 100% in line with the notion that this is a stunt rather than an actual attempt at dissecting the intersectionality of gender and sci/fi--ask me again after I've read the stories chosen for the issue. I'm also disappointed with but not surprised at the oft-touted cry of "sexism!" any time a women-only space is established within a male-dominated sphere. Women authors are underrepresented in fantasy--though the number of women sci/fi authors is certainly growing, many of the books written by women that are shelved in the fantasy section are urban, historical, romantic fantasy or some derivative thereof. Epic, S&S, and high fantasies are still written primarily by men and/or feature male protagonists. And let's not pretend here that it's all about the authors; it's as much about the gender of the characters as anything. Publishing stories that are written by women but only feature male protagonists is effectively the same as a woman assuming a male pseudonym because they're less likely to get writing work otherwise. Women still operate in a male-dominated world, and sci/fi--both the process of publishing and the end product--reflect that.

Is the gap shrinking? Yes. Can the number of leading women protagonists in epic fantasy be summed up in a meager two pages worth of comments? Yes. Do we still see women in the refrigerator and Harry Potters instead of Harriets? Yes. Are women in sci/fi only visible when they're wearing leather, toting guns that they magically acquired out of thin air, and are reduced to their relationship(s) with other men? Yes. Have we made up for the past century's worth of fantasy works written by men for men that feature male protagonists? No. Hell no. And I'm tired of being told otherwise.

If this women-only issue knocks male supremacy down a notch, I'm all for it. If not, well, I'm willing to wait and see what happens before I pass too harsh a judgment.
manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
Kristin Briana recently posted about her list of top 5 YA girls. Here's mine for women in fantasy.

5. Mina from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance chronicles.

A God convinced that she ishuman, Mina raises an unstoppable army to serve what she believes is the One True God.

4. Alexia of Okrannel from Michael A. Stackpole's DragonCrown War Cycle.

She's a princess of a fallen nation and leads an army to reclaim it.

3. Alanna of Tortall from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet.

She sabotages the patriarchy and becomes a knight, and then turns down the King when he asks her to marry him because she knows the life of a tamed wife isn't for her.

2. Surreal SaDiablo from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy.

She's a prostitute and an assassin, she plays a part in Jaenelle's rescue from Briarwood, and she doesn't hesitate to plop someone's decapitated head into a bucket.

1. Sioned from Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince series.

Why? She's smart, sassy, and the cornerstone of Rawn's many autonomous female characters. She makes difficult, heartbreaking decisions in the first book that influence the next five. The series follows her from a young woman to old age, and she just gets more badass with time.
Sioned glanced over her shoulder. "Do you think this castle--any castle--could hold me if I wanted to leave?" [...] "It seems to me that what peopole call 'insane' are things they neither know nor understand--nor could possibly guess at. Such is the fate of those cursed by a total lack of imagination..."
"Tell me or I will lock this castle--"
With a little shrug, she replied, "You're becoming predictable--not a healthy quality in a prince. Good night."
I wish I could pick more than five. I wanted to include more off-the-beaten path books and heroines, but it's a little difficult without the memory cues a full bookcase would provide. I didn't include Jaenelle Angelline or Karla of Glacia because I'm sure people are tired of hearing me gush over the Black Jewels. Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve is also pretty high up there, as well as Rani Trader from Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' Guild. And Talyn from Holly Lisle's Talyn, and...
manifesta: (Sailor Moon)
Justine Musk on Why You Need to Write Like a Bad Girl, Part 1 and Part 2.
"As girls we are taught that we do not belong to ourselves: our time, our sexuality, our ambition, must be channeled into fulfilling the needs of others while our own needs are dismissed as unimportant, trivial, ‘female’.

The need to write isn’t about the desire to find meaning in the world, but to make meaning. If you have it, you know it; it’s lived inside you from a young age and will never leave. It will continue to call and nag and eat away at your soul until you start to do something about it. To deny it, to allow others to deny it, is to kill off a part of your personhood."

As Veronica from Dangerous Beauty says, "A woman's greatest, and most hard-won asset... is an education."


I'm currently reading Califia's Daughters by Leigh Richards, a present-day post-apocalyptic  based on the Amazon women of Mexico/California from the 1500s. (Present-day California is rumored to be named after Queen Califia.) A plague has killed off most of the men, leaving women to take up what had once been men's roles.  It's not particularly fast-paced, but I sense that there's an epic plot twist coming that I'm hoping is worth the wait.

I recently won an ARC of Liz Maverick's Crimson & Steam, the first paranormal romance with steampunk elements that I've heard of. I'm hoping it arrives in the mail before I leave for home next weekend, otherwise I may not get to post a review until after it comes out later this month.

Also: I'm deeply saddened that The Hunger Games is not coming out in paperback until July 2010. That's nearly two years after it came out in hardback.


In psych news, Experiment #1 has been laid to rest. I turned in my final paper and gave a presentation on it last week (nothing was statistically significant, nada, nothing) and now all I have left for school is my final on Tuesday. Over break I'm going to be studying for the GRE, researching one of my pet theories for a possible experiment, reading books, and eating candy canes. And writing BWW... but let's not think about that right now.

Oh! And I forgot to mention: Congress was fabulous. I took class taught by Liz Lira, a 16-time national and 6-time world champion. One of my favorite of her performances is from the 2002 Mayan World Championships. No pictures yet, but hopefully soon.
manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
I'm in the middle of writing a ton of papers (in particular, the final paper for my main experiment), so I'm dropping in just to link an entry made by Sarah Dessen regarding domestic violence:

"I'm sitting here watching a segment on domestic violence on GMA, and it's breaking my heart. They're talking specifically about teenage girls, and what they are calling the "Rhianna effect," i.e. that since she came forward and talked about being beaten by Chris Brown on Friday night, calls to domestic violence lines---and specifically teen targeted ones---went up considerably. This is an issue close to my own heart, because I wrote a book about a girl in a similar relationship, and since then I have literally gotten hundreds of emails and letters from girls telling me about their own stories with abusive boyfriends. It's a terrible, terrible thing, that this happens, and I so respect Rhianna for coming forward and shedding some bright, needed light on the subject. I was never in an abusive relationship. But several of my close friends, in high school and since, were, and they were not weak women. They were strong and smart and just got overwhelmed. It happens. But it doesn't HAVE to."

Emphasis mine.

I loved Dreamland, her book that involved domestic violence, and so I really appreciated that Dessen made this statement. However, I'd like to note that violence doesn't just 'happen.' There are specific gender roles our society perpetuates that in turn fosters violence against women by men. Domestic violence or sexual assault victims/survivors do not simply 'get overwhelmed.' This implies responsbility, and that if they had simply done something, called someone, the violence never would have happened or it could have ended sooner. The responsibility to end the violence shouldn't be placed on the woman to make that call; it should be placed on the man to not engage in violent behavior.

I truly don't believe Dessen meant it this way. Unfortunately, semantics is half the battle. As long as we continue to blame women with our words, on purpose or on accident, we continue to support the violence that is being perpetrated against them.
manifesta: (Kahlan)
I think that the posts over at SF Novelists can be hit and miss sometimes, but I really enjoyed Marie Brennan's post today titled A Woman's Place is Not in the Refrigerator. In it she discusses how female characters are often killed off in order to propell the main male character's story forward and jumpstart their motivation.
"...it shows up in narrative media all over our culture. And, like many such tropes, the problem isn’t that it ever happens; the problem is that it’s a pattern. One which routinely treats women as the objects of violence, and as plot devices manipulated in the interest of a man’s progress."
I liked the post so much I checked out her website, where I found a backlog of some of her past posts, such as Tough Women, or Fascimiles Thereof, which outlines a lot of the problems I see in modern UF:
"...and instead of tough women we've always had an abundance of tough chicks, sexualized little things crammed into corsets, with guns to substitute for strength of character. I can think of exceptions to the rule, but they're just that: exceptions instead of the rule, and all too prone to getting undermined somewhere down the road."
as well as an essay on how she writes female characters. Between finding these gems and morning classes being cancelled due to high winds and power outages, it's been a lovely welcome back from my feminist weekend.

Brennan also has a ton of other essays that I haven't yet had a chance to peruse, but will as soon as I'm not drowning in psych work.* Being a fan of historical faerie fantasies, her book Midnight Never Come is now on my want list. Anyone read it?


*All the trials for my main experiment are (thankfully) done, which means I no longer have to get up at 6:30AM. The coding is also complete, leaving only the results analysis before I can write the paper. Alas, there are plenty of other things to do, such as prepping for two other experiments and reading a never-ending supply of psych articles.
manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
So. I wake up at 6:30AM so that our group can meet at 7:30AM in the clinic. After arranging the room to our specifications, we went into the back where the hidden camera equipment is located... and discovered that no one had brought a DVD. No DVD, no tape of the room, no data, no experiment. We had less than 15 minutes before participants would be arriving. One of our group members booked it to the other side of campus, bought two DVDs, and got back in 14. We set up, we're awesome, we're waiting for participants to arrive... and waiting...

Turns out our experiment wasn't posted online. Which meant that no one could even sign-up let alone arrive.

After all the stress, one of our group members burst into tears and had to leave. The rest of us tried to pull it together and rescheduled the experiment, which is now online and hopefully being signed-up for. The graduate TA was very kind and didn't look at all pissed off that we had just wasted her time. She even tried to help us find DVDs when we realized we didn't have any. We're going to buy her coffee in thanks and apology.


In contrast to last week's racefail, I stumbled onto The Advantages of Being a White Writer on Justine Larbalestier's blog. Not only is the entry itself is good, the comments are either well moderated or the general community of her blog is thoughtful and articulate.

As someone who's sick of the bullshit, I really appreciated her beginning statement:
"I know that the title of this post is going to lead to some comments insisting that it’s not true that white writers have any advantages and that many white people are just as oppressed as people of colour. I don’t want to have that conversation. So I’m going to oppress the white people who make those comments by deleting them. I don’t do it with any malice. I do it because I want to have a conversation about white privilege in publishing. We can have the discussion about class privilege and regional privilege and other kinds of privilege some other time. Those other privileges are very real. But I don’t want this discussion to turn into some kind of oppression Olympics."
Go read it; it touches on some points regarding the intersection of race, white privilege, and publishing that I hadn't thought of. I only wish more blogs were moderated this way.

I also really liked Larbalestier's On Hating Female Characters entry:
"Yet still readers call Isabelle (of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy) a “slut” and have crushes on Jace who’s much more slutty than Isabelle. What can we do to shift such sexist assumptions when they’re so deeply ingrained in so many of us? Because even when we write books that challenge such stereotypes, readers put them back into the text by reading Isabelle as a slut and Jace as Hotty McHott Hero."
And I think this comment said it well:
"Which is why no one has a problem with girls reading a book about a boy written by a girl (Harry Potter), but people think it’s cool and different if a boy reads a book about a girl written by a girl (Twilight). And why Nora Roberts is not the same household name as Stephen King."
manifesta: (Dangerous)
Marjorie M. Liu made heads roll a few days ago in her post regarding Roman Polanski. It's good to see such a prominent author speaking up. Carolyn Jewel did, too. (Edit 10/8/09: Amanda Downumhas also chimed in.) For those unaware, Roman Polanski is a U.S. fugitive currently undergoing criminal court in Switzerland to be extradicted to the U.S. to face trial for his offenses. Some people have even risen to Polanski's defense, neatly ignoring the fact that he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl.

As someone relatively familiar with these issues, I'd like to address some of the language I've seen being used.

From TulsaWorld:
"Roman Polanski lost the first round Tuesday in his battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl."
An adult does not have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Sexual assault laws vary across the U.S. regarding how many years can separate two minors for sex to be legal, but in every single state it is illegal and considered to be no less than rape for an adult to penetrate a 13-year-old girl. It is not sex. It is rape. Referring to it as anything other than such is to demean the levity of the assault.

I'd also like to note that, regardless of age, it is also illegal and considered rape if one or more of the parties involved is intoxicated because it is impossible for someone under the influence to grant consent. This is also standard in every state.

Polanski plied her with alcohol. Why there is even any discussion after this point, I don't know.

From Carolyn Jewel:
"I really thought we'd moved past the days when we blamed women for the violence committed against them. I really did. I didn't think anyone in America today could stand up and blame a 13 year old girl for the actions of a 43 year old man who gave her alcohol and drugs before he got around to having sex with her -- because, damn, she kept saying no!"
Good entry overall. However, in a nutshell: we as a society are no where NEAR over blaming women for the violence committed against them. Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and rape apologism is on going, and it occurs among our peers, our workers, our friends, our family, our police, our government. In a world (and specifically, this country) that believes people get what's coming to them, the first question we ask is not, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" but instead, "What did you do to provoke him?" This is not the first case of a child molester, but it is a case that has been under public scrutiny because of the perpetrator's fame, the length since the rape, and his flight from the country.

Let me make this clear, folks: If the perpetrator had been anything other than famous, this uproar would be not be occurring.

There are thousands of women, men, and children who have had acts of violence committed against them, many of whom do not have their perpetrator's fame to speak for them. Thousands.

What's sickening that it's taken the rape of a child by someone famous for people to begin to realize that no, HELL no, things are not okay here. When the news of Chris Brown's assault and battery of Rihana manifested last Spring, people pointed fingers, tsked, told Chris Brown never to do such an awful thing again, and promptly dropped it. Over half of teens polled blamed Rihanna. Only when it's so clear-cut as to include a child, and alcohol, and a desperate flight from the country does the media consider it sensational enough to cover it, for people to sit up and pay attention.

It doesn't matter how many times she said no, or if she said no at all. Consent is not granted in the absence of the no. Consent is not granted even if she says yes, but is still intoxicated or underage. Consent was not only NOT granted, but she was not ABLE to grant consent, period.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
It occurred to me today that in a lot of books, the female characters are often referred to as "beautiful" first and foremost before anything else. I keep tripping over that word, too-- my first impulse is to describe Deahnna as beautiful... right before going on to add that she's a talented violinist and infamous for her devil-may-care attitude. I think she's beautiful. Zephyr, the lead male character, thinks she's beautiful. But that's not what she's known for. She has other qualities about her that are awesome; hello, she's a badass violinist. (And she could Spin most people into an illusion so taut they'd never again know up from down.) I'd rather let the reader decide if they think she's beautiful, but not base it on me telling them she looks that way.

On a related note, Kate Elliot asks: Have you read any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed? (I'd like to add, do you know any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed as strong?) They've developed quite a list already, but I bet the list for epic fantasies that don't portray women, especially strong women, is even longer.

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