Posts tagged Feminism
Posts tagged Feminism
She seems like a cool lady and The Luminaries sounds just like the sort of sprawling 19th century set novel that I love to lose myself into. However, the media hyperfocus on her age, exemplified by articles like this, kind of annoys the hell out of me. Emphasising her youth to such an extent can be a form of backhanded condescension: a 28-year-old woman is an adult, not some sort of cutesy prodigious child, and I don’t believe her age makes the win more praise-worthy than if she had been 36 or 52.
Why do we privilege cultural narratives that fetichize youth and add to the pressure to be bigger, better and brighter than anyone else before you reach 30, or else you’re doomed to mediocrity until the end of times and nothing you ever do could possibly amount to anything? Can I remind the world of last week’s commentary about Alice Munro, who first became a published author at 37?
Life is not over until it’s over. I know the pressures and demands of adulthood are complicated, but we do ourselves a disfavour if we slip into believing that if we haven’ achieved x by age y then it’s unequivocally Too Late. “All great people achieve things when they’re young” is nothing but a harmful myth.
Yep, big Borgen fan here. I just… have no words :| It reminds me of the time someone said girl protagonists were “an overdone trope” in YA. It just goes to show the extent to which stories about boys and men are perceived as the default. Tell a bunch of those and it’s business as usual, but have more than 10% stories about women and it’s OH NOES WHEN WILL THIS TIRESOME TREND END.
What I did at work today. Totally worth going in with only 4 hours of sleep. Just before my shift ended someone checked out Woman and Reclaiming the F-Word and it was really satisfying :D
I desperately want to think that a review this overtly sexist and dismissive wouldn’t be published today, but I’m really not sure. And even if so, these days we ignore women’s writing instead, which isn’t exactly better.
From Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections on the Magic of Writing - full review.
I suppose locking her in a room with a copy of Delusions of Gender and throwing away the key isn’t an option? :P
Seriously though, I know how frustrating those conversations can be :\ Sometimes there’s just no getting through to people, especially when they simply shut you down. What I’ve found helpful (to varying degrees) is to focus on the science itself as much as possible. People like to shout “science! biology!” in a way that implies that whatever objections we have to essentialism *must* be political. But while it’s true that I don’t particularly like the political implications of gender essentialism, the main reason why I reject it isn’t that. The main reason is that it’s simply not supported by the facts as we known them.
You could try pointing out that infant studies such a Baron-Cohen’s have huge methodological flaws (tiny samples, not being double-blind) and explain why these things matter; that the results haven’t been successfully replicated; that there are contradictory findings; that many gender-related generalisations are actually based on anecdotal evidence; and that when it comes to neuroscience and gender even the biggest experts are pretty much still fumbling in the dark, because even when differences are found we still don’t know enough to draw reliable conclusions about what they mean. Brain plasticity is also worth bringing up. It’s a mistake to assume that any differences in the brain are innate and not the result of the genders being socialised differently, because learning is not fairy dust: it’s literally written into our brains and it affects who we become.
If she brings up politics at any point, you could try saying that while it’s true that questioning the status quo is a political position, the same goes for trying to uphold it. It therefore makes no sense to suggest that only people doing the former could be affected by biases. Unfortunately we tend to see culturally dominant ideas as “neutral”, but that’s far from the truth.
Good luck! As I said, I haven’t always been successful in getting through to people myself, and I appreciate how difficult these conversations are. One of the reasons why I never tire of reading books on this topic is that they help me improve my arguments and give me lots of examples that I can use.
Isn’t it odd how everyone that supports abortion has already been born?
Strangely, everyone who opposes abortion has also been born. It’s almost like you have to be born to have opinions… like it’s part of the basic definition of being a person or something. I’m so glad you pointed that out. It’s a really great point.
Can’t not reblog.
“Gender Balance in YA Award Winners Since 2000” at Lady Business — A fascinating look into the stats behind YA awards by gender of protagonists and authors, addressing the common belief that boys don’t read YA because there are too many girls in it.
I watched this project form and am super proud of Ana for accomplishing it. Although trying to figure out some of those protagonists on Google Books was not the most fun I’ve had in ages. So of course, that means…ANA, LET’S ADD 2012’S DATA NEXT YEAR. :D :D
Consider it done ;)
As you can probably tell by the sneak peek above, the results paint a picture that might be surprising if we take the conventional wisdom about the current gender ratio in YA into account. One of the key things about these results is the fact that they raise two possibilities: the first is that the gender balance in award winners is proportional to the gender balance in YA at large, in which case we should perhaps pause and consider the cultural biases that make us see female dominance where none exists; the second is that the gender balance in award winners is completely out of synch with the rest of YA, and in that case we’re left with questions about why we’re rewarding stories by and about men so disproportionately.
First of all, I read the post you mentioned and yeah, the high school crush/porn star analogy made me incredibly uncomfortable, mostly because it’s male gazey in the extreme. Rothfuss assumes that his readers will be heterosexual men who’ll be able to follow the analogy, and he underestimates how alienating and even vaguely threatening reading something like that can be for a woman.
For the record, I am pro-porn: not all feminists are in agreement when it comes to this, but personally I don’t think porn is inherently anti-feminist. But when I think of mainstream porn, it’s hard to dissociate my feelings from the fact that in actuality much of it is extremely misogynist.The porn scenario Rothfuss describes makes me uncomfortable not because I want to shame women for their sexuality, but because sentences like “she’s wearing fuck-me red lipstick and a lot of dark eye makeup. Her breasts are amazing now, proud and perfectly round” evoke a kind of porn where it’s only the men who set the terms. So reading something like this is yet another reminder that for much of the world, my subjectivity doesn’t matter because I’m a woman; that many, many men perceive me as an object to be stared at and whose sexuality only exists in relation to their desires.
As for the second part of your question, I guess it all depends on how you define “sexist”. Reading Rothfuss’ last post I can see he’s willing to engage with feminism, and I really value that. But that doesn’t mean he won’t also do or say problematic things sometimes, as all of us do. Personally I find it useful to label specific actions or behaviours as sexist rather than people. I realise that this has the potential to be read as me going out of my way to spare the feelings of dudes who barely even acknowledge that *I* have feelings, but to me it’s less about their feelings and more about picking useful strategies to enact change. A lot of people still don’t understand that being told “this thing you just did/said is pretty sexist” is NOT the same as being told “you’re a completely worthless human being and there’s nothing you can do to ever change that”. They become defensive; they stop listening instead of taking the time to think of why that one thing they did is not okay and how they can avoid doing it again in the future. We’ve all been raised in a patriarchy, so all of us (including feminist women like me) have done/said/thought sexist things at one point or another. I find it useful to think of sexism as a pattern of thoughts and behaviours we *all* need to make a conscious effort not to slip into rather than as an unforgivable personal flaw, so I try to make things as impersonal as possible when addressing something I find problematic. Obviously I’m not suggesting this is the one true feminist strategy - I’m glad there are people out there adopting different strategies towards the same goal, because we need as much diversity of voices and approaches as possible. Some people will respond well to my kind of mild-mannered diplomacy; others actually need someone to shout at them a bit before they listen.
Also, I know I don’t know you, but your question was perceptive and I have no reasons whatsoever to believe you’re not intelligent. I second-guess myself a lot, and to this day I struggle with feeling that I’m not smart/articulate/knowledgeable enough to have opinions on this or that feminist issue. It’s helpful to have people you can bounce ideas off or approach for a second opinion, but over the years I’ve also learned to trust my instincts and to listen to my voice. If a situation makes me uncomfortable, there’s probably something there, and even if others don’t agree it doesn’t mean my response isn’t valid.
I really hope this helps.
I’m sorry, I just can’t help but find this the coolest thing ever. It’s a 1908 postcard satirising the Sufragette movement, but from my privileged present-day position I can’t help but read it as, “Votes for women: lolcat approved”. Not what the satirists intended, but I like my reading better :D
Please! How is making books more accessible to the “weaker (reading) sex” going to endanger girls? This library is merely trying to change the perception (among boys at an image-sensitive age) that reading is somehow “less manly” than other activities.
Except that I don’t see how measures like this even begin to deconstruct the notion that reading is “less manly” - on the contrary, they subtly uphold it. Instead of normalising reading for boys and girls alike, they reinforce the idea that “normal” boys don’t read if there are no bells and whistles involved; that they all “naturally” required special measures like this to even consider picking up a book. These solutions fall under what researchers have called “recuperative masculinity politics”: instead of telling boys that it’s okay to like books, that it’s okay to read for fun, that it’s okay to have interests that fall outside what society deems “manly”, they assume you have to make reading “manly” enough, or else no self-respecting boy will ever come near it. It would be far more useful to let boys know that they don’t need to constantly worry about whether or not what they enjoy is “for boys” - and yes, that’s a huge battle, but it has to start somewhere, and librarians and educators can make a huge difference. The thing that always seems to be overlooked when these policies are discussed is that not all boys are the same. Not all boys are in fact interested in traditionally “manly” things. And what message does this send out to the boys who aren’t? Do we really want the library to become yet another place where they’re reminded that society at large doesn’t consider their gender performance appropriate?
[FTR, I didn’t address what these policies communicate to girls because several commenters had already done so; obviously I don’t think this is a lesser concern. I also find ideas like this excellent as long as they’re not marketed in gendered terms. And no, saying “it’s for boys, but girls can also go in the cave! And those unmanly boys too, I guess" doesn’t count - there’s a steep social cost to deviating from normative gender performances, especially at this age. This comment is basically my MA dissertation in a nutshell.]
Gah. I find this kind of reasoning really frustrating - not because I believe my favourite authors are above criticism, but because assuming that all women have the same experiences and that characters that fall outside what you deem to be the rule must be “unbelievable” is extremely problematic and smacks of essentialism. The title alone implies this universality of experience, as if women were a monolith.
Barkhorn certainly has a point that there could be more representations of female friendships in mainstream “literary” fiction - it would be especially nice not to see this result in the books in question being labelled “women’s fiction”. But her wording really bothers me, and her reading of the novel is completely at odds with my own. I didn’t think Madeleine’s relationships with her college friends and with her sister were characterised by spite, for starters. And I think it’s worth bearing in mind that her isolation and lack of friends is one of the things that make her miserable - the novel not only acknowledges this, but deals with it at length.
There are certainly novels out there that imply that women are incapable of being friends with one another because they’re “backstabbing” or “bitchy” or whatever other misogynistic slur you can think of, but this is not one of them, I don’t think. And it troubles me that Barkhorn’s main criticism is not that this adds to a trend of lack of representation (which would be fair enough, though more as a general comment than one on this particular novel’s merit or lack thereof), but that women like Madeleine must not exist. If we automatically assume that any novel that portrays an isolated woman is doin it rong, we’re creating further limits for what women can do or be, further rules concerning what’s “natural” or “normal” female behaviour, which is not exactly helpful.
I’m a woman not far from Madeleine’s age, and for most of my life I haven’t had very close female (or male) friendships. This isn’t because I hate other women, but because I’m not exactly a pleasant person to be around for long, because close relationships are very difficult for me, and because circumstances in my life have isolated me. I guess I’m not all that believable. Whoever made me up must not have understood women.
…that so many people think that gender is absolutely and immutably defined by God and/or evolution, and at the same time think that it’s so terribly fragile that merely letting little girls play with trucks, or little boys wear pink, will utterly destroy gender (and therefore society) FOREVER.
It’s like… is anyone thinking this through?