manifesta: (Psych Major)

[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.
 

*Though I imagine this extends to other cultures as well, being an American, I can only speak from my experience as an American.
manifesta: (An's Fury)
Potential trigger warning for discussions regarding sexual assault/rape culture. Though I think it might be mostly in the links.

A week or so ago, [personal profile] 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?

"[...] 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."  

In the post [personal profile] 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.

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 [personal profile] 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.

manifesta: (Psych Major)
[livejournal.com profile] theinkymuse posted a discussion of how whitewashing covers impacts people of color.
 
I've already covered the Bloomsbury debacle(s), so I won't again, but definitely read the rest of his post. What I wanted to point out was how he used social cognitive theory to frame his analysis.
"The portrayal, and even preeminence, of white people that whitewashing engenders does have an affect. If we are not white, and we are not equal enough to even be put on book covers...what are we? Secondary? Inferior?

"There is a theory in psychology known as the social cognitive theory, stating that we, as individuals, form out concepts and schemata for the world from our interactions, experiences, and observations of society.

"That's what people of color are seeing and learning, and, eventually, it may even be what comes to pass. Self-fulfilling prophecies, and all that business. Because it's an identity issue, and it's an equality issue, and it's a damn important issue."
I may have said this before and in various ways, but his post solidified for me the connection between social cognitive theory and my feminist analysis of genre books and the publishing industry, and I thought I might elaborate.

By way of introduction, I am a psychology major, and within the realm of psychology I happen to specialize in social cognitive theory. "Social" psychology is the study of the interactions between individuals while "cognitive" psychology is the study of the mind. Combine the two and the result is the study of how individuals' interactions influence the mind (and vice versa).

Social cognitive theory, in the context of genre books and in my mind, means taking an interaction and the characters involved in that interaction and looking at their myriad of motivations, emotions, and investments, all of which are built upon the layers that have been laid down from the very beginning of the story and have resulted in a complex psychology of human behavior--and then working even farther backwards and looking at why the author wrote it they way they did and how, in their writing it in that specific way, their real-world biases and the limitations of their experiences are reflected.* In regards to the industry itself, it means examining what choices are made (such as the skin color of the cover models, but can also extend to include content, such as what is and is not allowed in YA books), the biases surrounding those choices, and their impact on the people who see and read those books.

What we see, if we see it often enough, we frequently internalize. Even if we consciously don't agree with something, our subconscious absorbs the stereotypes that the images that surround us present, and with enough exposure these stereotypes may develop into beliefs and attitudes that we may not explicitly show but still confirm through our subtle behaviors. Books are one medium that expose these attitudes. Hidden biases that the author may not have even known they had are no longer hidden as the veil falls away and the words on the pages of a book become an entrance to not just what the author thinks about, but what they don't think about. A privileged individual that thinks about their own privilege can at least attempt to reduce their bias on the page. A privileged individual that does not becomes glaringly obvious.

Close examination reveals our society's preference for white, cissexual, heterosexual, thin, able-bodied, male characters through the absence of non-white, LGBTQ, non-thin, disabled, transgendered, and female characters. The divisive, often exlusive, and increasingly contradictory roles and characteristics of male and female characters can be labelled with new language that pinpoints the divisive and patriarchal notions underlining them.

It's a cycle.** We not only absorb messages that reinforce societal norms (regardless of whether we actively strive not to) but we also reproduce them, often times in quiet, unnoticed ways. The latter is the only part over which we have some control; by continuing to analyze, to question, to pick apart these tropes that objectify women or justify the rape culture that is increasingly perpetuated through YA romantic fiction (next post!), we can begin to raise our level of consciousness and challenge the system in place that allows for these messages to continue to be sent.


*As a sort of disclaimer, I am often the first to defend the sanctity of the author--that the experiences and beliefs of the characters do not necessarily reflect the author's experiences or beliefs. Because x character is depressed does not necessarily mean that the author has ever, in their lifetime, experienced depression. However, I do believe that consistency and repetition across books and genre reveal not only the subtle but telling aspects of the author's schemas but also the systemic and institutional prejudices society holds against cognizant groups.

**If you want a diagram of how social cognitive theory works in this context, a rough draft version might be:

repetitive biased message in real world -->
--> author bias (conscious or unconscious)
--> repetitive biased message in a book (as seen by character actions/beliefs/choices, lack of representation, what the characters mean to each other, etc.)
--> internalization by reader
--> conscious or unconscious behavioral replication of biased message by reader
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: (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: (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: (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: (Black Widow's Walk)
See title. I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween and ate lots of chocolate (I had some pumpkin spice Hershey Kisses myself). I was with some friends who came from out of town for most of the day, then joined up with another group later that evening for general revelry and good times.

Still plugging along on BWW. Over the past two days I've begun compiling character bios, writing up a few paragraphs about the primary and secondary characters, as well as the two prominent Guilds. Yes, I'm doing this after having just passed the 1/3 mark. I don't typically write bios (I have a long list of characters and their basic characteristics so I can keep track of whose hair color is whose, but that's it) but right now it's helpful for fleshing out their motivations. Several characters have portrayed animosity toward each other for foggy reasons that I was able to finally figure out (at least in part) today.

When I first started writing BWW, it was like trying to write two books at once: the BWW-that-used-to-be (the first time I tried to write it at age 16, back then titled Discord) and the BWW-that-I-wanted-it-to-be. The book in its current incarnation is neither of those. I actually tossed out a lot of the worldbuilding and plot I had brainstormed throughout August in favor of my older stuff, albeit with a lot of editing, but more and more I've been able to incorporate the stuff I threw out into the Spinners' Guild history. Which is quite spiffy, in my opinion. I liked what I was trying to do, and though it didn't work for the book where it's at now, it does set the past up nicely to cause all sorts of trouble for the present.

My primary experiment goes live this week, and so I'm going to be getting up at 6:30AM every day for the next week to run labs at 8AM. Just the thought of getting up that early makes me wince.

To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo: How's that going for you?
manifesta: (Rory/Logan)
# of shots of espresso in the past three days: Four.
# cups of tea: Four and a half.
# of experiments currently being worked on: Three.*
# of hours in the lab working with data: Numerous.

I had a huge midterm for stats/experimental design yesterday, among other things, which have had me running around trying to get everything ready. On the bright side, the exam wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Progress on BWW is touch-and-go. I think I've thrown the idea of writing every day out the window, and am settling for writing whenever possible. There are only so many sacrifices I can make before my schoolwork/physical self suffers for it. (I already managed to injure my left leg earlier this week at salsa while doing lifts with an inexperienced partner. Clearly, my sanity was lacking, because I never would have compensated so much for his lack of grip otherwise.**) 

On the bright side, in BWW Deahnna and Zephyr are no longer at a fete. Instead, they're in the library. As in, the library scene that I've been wanting to write for ages. I'm about 2k in and it's still got a little while to go.

I made double chocolate Andes mint brownies today. They're gooey and deliciously amazing.


*Coding the data for one, preparing to begin running labs for the second, and in the initial planning stages of the third.
**When coming down from the lift, I knew he wasn't holding on to me tightly enough and took the majority of my weight onto a single leg. Done multiple times, this can hurt.
manifesta: (Rory/Logan)
So. Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson. I wanted to love it, I really did. Unfortunately, it took maybe three pages, tops, before I whipped out my moleskine and started jotting down notes on things that seemed--to my psych major brain--straight up whack.

1. Freud is not the figurehead for psychology. The two are not nearly as mutually exclusive as people seem to think they are, and I'm tired of the cliches. I realize Freud's easy prey, but c'mon. 

2. An intro psych class is not going to give its students free association tests. On the off chance that they do, they will not, under any circumstance, actually take that shit seriously.

3. The vast majority of individuals in intro psych casses will not go on to become psych majors. Further, no one, and I mean no one, as an undeclared freshman, will know what field of research they want to go into. NO ONE. They won't even be THINKING about it. Especially since most psych majors (y'know, the people who are actually declared) don't ever go into research, if they strive for a career in psychology at all.

4. Intro psych students do not conduct meta-analyses. Really. I promise. They just don't. Why? Because they don't freaking know how.

5. You do not even start to think about your senior thesis as a freshman. Truly. I'm not kidding here. I realize that the college is supposed to be a really prestigious school, but I'm still not buying it.

My biggest peeve with the book is that someone who hasn't finished a single course of psychology simply doesn't know enough to be making these kinds of decisions, and I find it ridiculous that she's expected to. As someone drowning in research and experimental design this quarter (I'm running my first round of labs this Friday! Woo!), I simply wasn't impressed. If the character was older, and had taken a couple of stats/research design classes (not a single general AP Stats course in high school) and several psych courses, I think the book would have been a lot stronger and believable.

That said, her boyfriend is abusive. I'm not sure if the author intended for him to be, but he most definitely was. What carried the book was my love of Nathan, who isn't abusive, and who also happens to be chill, calm, and insightful. If I wasn't a psych major, I'm sure I'd be more charmed with the book, if only because of him.


On another note, I won a contest on Jacqueline Carey's facebook last week. Today I checked my mailbox and lo! I found a German edition of Kushiel's Dart, gorgeous, thick, and signed by Carey herself. It's huge--over 900 pages. I think the American version is only around 600. 

Last week was also my university's annual club fair, and I was out and dancing for Ritmo Latino, our salsa club. Several people came and took pictures of us. One guy was even kind enough to hand me a CD filled with professional-quality photos.





manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
I've been gnawing my fingernails off with worry about the beginning of Black Widow's Walk. Is it too edgy, too potentially triggery? Did I do injustice to a subject that is very serious?

I texted my former roommate asking if she could read it and tell me if I was an awful human being (she does so enjoy informing people when they're awful human beings). She read it, gave me some feedback, and basically told me that I wasn't a disgrace to the population (yet). Major sigh of relief.

It's been a dark and twisty, to quote Meredith Grey, past few scenes. I've had to walk away from it at points. I'm hoping with the scene I begin tonight, a new character will add some light-hearted banter into the mix, and though the book will always be dark and twisty at heart, it'll cheer up a little more from here.

On a brighter note, I went to Borders today and came away with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (an urban fantasy harking back to the more traditional lines of Charles de Lint), The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (sword & sorcery?), and The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu (paranormal romance). 

I also picked up Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, a recent YA debut. I've been uber excited for this book because I'm, um, kind of obsessed with my major. Social cognition (how we think when we interact with others + how we think in general) is a lover of mine. In the fall I'm going to be conducting research with one of my professors on stereotypes and prejudice.

I probably won't get to read these for a little while because of I have oodles of other books to read, but I'll ramble on about them when I do.