bloodygranuaile: (caligari awkward)
So, I have seen a bunch of commentary lately about the term "Mary Sue," and how it has turned into a generic term for "any female character ever who I dislike, probably because she did something or was good at something or didn't get hit by a bus on Page 1 and I think this is terribly unrealistic (because we all know that real girls are never good at anything ever), and also, I detect some hint of wish fulfillment somewhere, which is self-evidently bad."

Many people smarter than I have discussed the massive, massive problems with the first parts of this definition, including such awesome ladies as Holly Black and Seanan McGuire.

But I also want to mention something that keeps cropping up about "wish-fulfillment characters," and that is: When the flying fucksticks did "wish fulfillment" become a dirty word? Especially in FANTASY? Ask nearly goddamn anybody who reads about the stories that inspired them and stuck with them and meant something to them as children and they will, at some point, mention some aspect of the story that they wished they could have in their own lives. Using storytelling to imagine fulfilling one's various wishes is a very, very old and, apparently until quite recently, fairly well respected part of the whole stories thing.

And I know that GRIMDARK and UBER GRITTY and ALL THE READERLY PAIN is very in right now, which I adore, particularly when it is done well, but even the edgiest and grittiest and grimdarkiest of stories that you can actually manage to get through and read have at least one part that makes you go "I wish I had that!" or "I wish I could do that!" Even A Song of Ice and Fire is full of food that you want to eat until you get sick (and now you can!), and witty one-liners from Tyrion that you wish you were clever enough to have thought of, and Brienne kicking so much ass and having so much strength and discipline that you only wish you could ever be that badass except you can't even get off Tumblr and go to the gym. Wish fulfillment can work perfectly well in a story and be all sorts of fun, particularly if it's supposed to be a more or less fun or fluffy story to begin with, and especially particularly if the author's wishes that they are fulfilling are similar to yours.

If they are not similar to yours, then just don't read the book/watch the movie/cosplay the lead from the TV show. Even some kinds of stories that have literally nothing what the fuck ever at all even a little bit to them except wish fulfillment can still be deep and meaningful to the people with those particular wishes. Example: Spiderman. Spiderman has, no joke, been a very important and formative and inspiring and hopeful story to legions of awkward nerdy dudes who like science and do not feel they have enough awesome to attract their sexy lamp of choice and do not feel particularly special or like they have the power to fix any of the various things in this world that need fixing. Spiderman makes these dudes feel that they can be special and powerful and fix things and acquire their preferred female-shaped life accessory. If Spiderman is not the fulfillment to your particular wishes, however, it is possibly one of the dumbest and most vacuous stories ever told. Particularly the movie version that my ex made me watch. (Watching it caused me to actually lose a lot of respect for that particular ex. He strongly believed that he was not stupid and did not like stupid things, because only stupid people like stupid things (this ex did not really believe in fun, as you can probably tell already), therefore, everything he liked was smart and objectively good, because he was a smart person with objectively good taste. So you can imagine how surprised I was that Spiderman turned out to be the most across-the-board straight up fucking stupid movie I had seen in about ten years at that point--literally nothing about it was "good" in any way outside of the wish fulfillment. It did not have clever dialogue, or a surprising plot, or good acting, or pretty costumes, or any understanding of basic physics, or ANYTHING.) The utter lack of anything whatsoever going on with Spiderman outside of the "It would be cool to be Spiderman!" aspect has not stopped it from becoming a well-beloved classic superhero and a household name. And do you know what? THAT'S OKAY. That has always been okay.

But suddenly now it is so not okay that people aren't even bothering to argue WHY it's not okay; they just say "Wish fulfillment" and everyone gravely nods that yes, truly, that is a terrible, terrible thing that shouldn't be happening anywhere near storytelling of any kind. (I suspect the not-okayness of wish fulfillment may have something to do with the increased visibility of stories wherein it is ladies' wishes that are being fulfilled, and if our wishes are fulfilled in fiction, maybe we will want them to be fulfilled in real life next, and then we might turn into feminists or something! Quelle horreur!)

I would like to posit that there is actually only one wish that is incompatible with good storytelling, although it is, sadly, a common one: The wish that everything be easy and free of conflict.

This is a problem because conflict is the basis of all stories. Non-completely-shitty English classes will teach you this somewhere around fourth grade.

This was also one of the major problems with Mary Sues back in the day when Mary Sue was a term only used in fanfiction to describe author self-insert characters who fulfilled all of the author's wishes at once, including the one to just have a nice time farting around in the fandom-land of choice and not having to go through the stress and mess of actually having the adventures. The problem with Mary Sue wasn't that she had powers, it was that she had such awesome and outsize powers that she was able to instantly neutralize the entire plot. And while I sympathize with the wish to be able to clean shit up quickly and not spend a lot of time fighting and worrying and being miserable, that is also fucking boring to read. Back before the flood of specifically female self-inserts by young writers into largely male-populated fandoms (I am looking at you, all the LotR Tenth Walker fics) gave us reason to come up with a speshul name that implied this was some sort of ladies-only thing, this was called "immature writing" or simply "bad writing," as it is an extremely common mistake of young writers to make their heroes super awesome but their villians/plots/marine-life-filled-tornados really wimpy, so the hero beats them too easily and there is no tension and basically a weak or nonexistent plot. I have read quite a few dude-authored original fiction pieces by teens where the hero was too awesome to get or stay in enough trouble to make any kind of story, particularly in my time as a school literary magazine editor. I rejected them all for being boring.

So, as Holly Black points out, there are some major issues with applying the term "Mary Sue" to any non-fanfiction character, but if we're going to do so, I wouldn't ask "Does this character have power/talent/the ability to get out of bed in the morning without concussing herself?" or "Does this character have anything going on that would be fun to have going on myself?", but "Is this character's power so disproportionate to everything else in the universe that it cuts the plot off at the knees?" because that is basically where any of this "wish fulfillment" or "has powers" or "is special" stuff becomes a problem.

I do think the last Twilight book runs close to Mary Sue-ness not just because it's hip to bash on Twilight or even because, as [ profile] cleolinda says, Bella Swan Vampires Better Than You, but because the plot is resolved pretty much by the main characters being so awesome that their mere existence causes their enemies to stop being their enemies anymore, because nobody can resist their total awesomness, and that shit was boring. I remember when Breaking Dawn came out there was a pretty big outcry of disappointment from the fanbase because it was so anticlimactic; like, the whole book was gearing up for a big showdown, and the fight just never happened because they were too awesome for anyone to fight them, and the only reason the book was as long as it was was apparently because it takes the Volturi forever to get their immortal asses to Seattle.

In contrast, I have heard some people complain that Daine from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals Quartet is "a bit of a Mary-Sue," by which they mean that they think the rare and exceptionally strong magical powers and divine background are a bit much. However, I think this is rather bogus, because Daine is far from the only absurdly super-powered entity running around the Tortallverse. Her big antagonist through the series, Emperor Ozorne, is a well-matched adversary in terms of absurd superpoweredness: he is one of the most powerful mages in the world in his own right, AND he is the emperor of a very large and wealthy empire, meaning he has large numbers of other powerful mages at his disposal, plus money, armies, ships, etc. And he never gives up on making everybody else's lives hard. If Daine had showed up in Carthak at the beginning of Emperor Mage and just been like "Ozorne, sweetie, could you stop being a power-mad murderer and just, like, abdicate your throne to a democratic parliament and go play with your birds?" and Ozorne said "Of course! You're so amazingly persuasive, and the purity and goodness that shines out of your face has caused me to repent my villianous ways, and also I would do anything to make you happy because you've been here for thirty whole seconds and that is just more awesomeness than I can take"... well, that would be some bullshit Mary-Sue-ness. (And one of the things people forget when calling published characters Mary-Sues is that the fanfics that inspired this term REALLY WERE THAT BAD, because writing is hard, and therefore a lot of the young and inexperienced writers mucking about in fanfiction are veeeeeeeeeeery bad at it, and that is okay, in the same way that it is okay that the picture frame you made out of popsicle sticks for your mom in third grade is of inferior woodworking quality to the beautiful, useful, and sturdy dryhutch that my adult uncle with the carpentry hobby made twenty-five years ago and that I am still using as furniture.) But instead, we get two ridiculously high-powered characters who never give up on trying to defeat each other, and Ozorne keeps managing to put Daine into shitty situations that she actually has to work to get out of, like when she thinks he killed her best friend and teacher and she goes on a destructive rampage with her army of resurrected dinosaur skeletons, which, on the one hand, is conflict-ful and unpleasant for Daine because she is REALLY UPSET ABOUT NUMAIR in that scene; I hope to not have to be that upset about anything anytime soon!, but on the other hand, I challenge anyone to look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that they do not wish to be able to command an army of rampaging dinosaur skeletons.  Rampaging dinosaur skeletons ARE AWESOME, and their awesomeness should not be a complaint, unless you are straight up allergic to fun.

So I say, BRING ON THE WISH FULFILLMENT! Just don't leave out the plot while you're at it, and mix it up with plenty of readerly pain.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)

This is everything I try in a muddled fashion to explain to people who don't understand why Twilight is popular even though it's dumb.
bloodygranuaile: (bitch please)
Just in case anyone is still laboring under the misconception that anti-choicers are nice, reasonable, not-viciously-woman-hating people, who just rilly rilly love babies, and think babies start being babies at 1 cell because THEY LIEK TOTES UNDERSTAND SCIENCE--I bring you two absolute parody-of-themselves gems from the religious loony "understanding" of science. In the Pandagon thread I posted previously, one of the anti-choice trolls claims the following:

Anti-Choicers Totes Know Science 1: "Plants do not reproduce sexually."

"Suppose that, say, oak trees reproduced in pairs, by creating together a new, single organism."

(Pro-choicers point out that they do. Explanation involves something about apple seeds being embryos.)

"No, it’s not. It [an apple seed] is analogous to a sperm. The manner in which human beings and apple trees reproduce is entirely different and disanalogous."

(Pro-choicers explain about pollination.)

"They do not combine and form an entirely new and distinct organism of the same species in the way that human beings do. There is no such thing as a “seed embryo”! The best analogy (which is what you want if your position is correct) would be a plant that reproduced by combining two seeds together, which resulted in the formation of an entirely new organism. Such a seed would be of the same genus as the two trees that produced it; if oak trees reproduced this way, the product would be an oak."

(Pro-choicers: "Learn to botany, dumbass!" Painstaking re-explanation of pollination and gametes and such.)

"When a female plant fertilizes a male seed, all it does is put biological material on top of the plant seed. It’s like sprinkling salt on your food. When humans reproduce, they create an entirely new, living organism. They don’t put fertilizer or some other material on top of a seed like plants do."

Yes, you read that right. This dude was supposedly about my age, and does not understand the difference between fertilizing an egg and winding up with a fertilized egg, and putting fertilizer on soil to wind up with fertile soil.


Anti-Choicers Totes Know Science 2: "There are special magic birth control pills that don't function as birth control."

Setup: Dude said something about Natural Family Planning. Pro-Choicers/Actual Woman Who Have Woman Bits And Know How They Work pointed out that NFP only works if you have regular and predictably cycling (along with about twelve hundred other mitigating factors).

"Irregular menstrual cycles are treatable."

(Women: With hormonal contraception. Which you just said you were against.)

"I know that. However, hormonal birth control is used only to regulate irregular menstrual cycles. When it is used to regulate them, it does not make you infertile like the ordinary use of OCPs usually does. It only regulates your fertility cycles."

I know magical thinking shouldn't surprise me, but... "If you take the SAME pill with a different INTENT, it WORKS DIFFERENTLY!!" I mean, I know that a lot of teens go on BC for the dual purpose of period regulation and BC, and tell their parents/whatever nosy patriarchs ask questions about it that they're only doing it for the period control aspect, but I'd never heard that they also pretended that it wouldn't work for the bc aspect anyway. And that any dude anywhere over the age of nine could really be so damn terrified of Teh Laydeez Have Bodies!!!11!!1!!!1EWWW!!!!11!1!!1 that they would actually let themselves believe it just blew my lobe*.

I know it's only funny 'cos it's not me--if this dude has a sister, or a mother, for that matter, her life is probably hellish--but since it's not me, I laughed myself into a cramp, and felt obligated to spread the hilarity and feeling of superiority.

*Obstreperal lobe, to be precise: the part of the brain that detects and resists oppression and evidence of oppressive structures. It is made-up science, but I reserve the right to use it anyway, because I fucking know it's made up.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Dr. George Tiller Shot And Killed In Church

Dr. Tiller has been specifically targeted for years because he provided late-term abortions, which are the abortions least likely to be entirely elective. So even if you're a rabidly sex-negative wingnut who thinks nobody should do more than hold hands unless it's for the specific purposes of having a child... late-term abortions have nothing to do with that. Women get late term abortions if they wanted the kid and complications arise/are discovered late into the pregnancy. Nobody just goes "Actually... d'ya know what, never mind, frak this" seven or eight months into a pregnancy. Which is why Tiller's clinic did useful shit like provide counseling for the patients and religious ceremonies for the fetuses (if the patient desired), while all the wingnuts were standing around outside slut-shaming already traumatized women (and, of course, not saving any of the slut-shaming for when the abstinence-only sex 'education' screed takes their own daughters to the clinic... 'cos somehow, the unwanted pregnancies of pro-lifers are always "exceptions" to the women-who-get-abortions-are-murderous-sluts rule, but developing eclampsia or something is not).

Pro-life, my ass.
bloodygranuaile: (bitch please)
Considering how much of my life I'm spending dicking around The Feminist Blogosphere these days, I really want to take at least one women's & gender studies course while I'm at Clark.

Also, Sarah Haskins is one of my new favorite people. Although now I feel kinda bad about eating yogurt. (I figure it's okay, because I eat Greek yogurt I have never yet seen a commercial for. Maybe just because I don't have television, but whatever.)

I actually first heard of Sarah Haskins when posted a link to her target:women about how birth control pill ads avoid talking about how their product can actually be used for birth control, but I cannot find that video at the moment. Again, felt vaguely guilty because I actually *do* use BC for "period control", but this might just be my inner Catholic doing its Catholic guilt thing, because I know perfectly well that my being medically forsworn from using over-the-counter painkillers for five years has absolute jack shit to do with slut-shaming in mainstream media in any way, shape or form.

At any rate, I'd go try and drag up that video clip too, but I kind of have to go read Heart of Darkness again. And then possibly shoot myself, because that book sucks.

ETA: I foooooound iiiit!
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
I officially take back any complaints I may have had, no matter how minor, about the first three books we read in 19th Century British Novel. I take back being ~so annoyed and disappointed~ in Austen for Captain Wentworth's "superfine, extraordinary sort of gallantry" NiceGuy rant about how women had no right to be comfortable on ships and should never travel on them. I take back any whinging about how utterly confusing the beginning of Wuthering Heights is or how catty all the women are or how god damn dumb its narrator is. I take back any complaints of Mr Rochester really being kind of a twat and Jane wanting St. John's approval and the ending being ridiculously sappy to the point of creepy in Jane Eyre.

Because now we are getting into the Victorian novels written by men, and if Wilkie Collins is any indication of the normal way women were written about in the nineteenth century, then it really is pretty damn impressive that anybody wrote anything involving female characters as being kind of people-like at all. I'm about fifty pages into The Woman in White and good God, if this man doesn't stop with the sexist attempts at "characterization" and give us a really good PLOT to work with by the end of this chapter, I am going to go positively apoplectic.

The first and least surprising issue is the narrator's own views towards women. I am not even going to start being bothered by his excessively lengthy descriptions of what they look like; Victorian writers give unnecessarily lengthy descriptions of everything. That these descriptions do tend to be somewhat longer than the lengthy descriptions of men, and focus much more explicitly on deeming each trait "beautiful" or not, whereas a judgment on the aesthetic pleasingness of men's features is only passed for about half the details given, is something I am rather inured to at this point, and it cannot possibly bug me more on feminist grounds than on simply stylistic ones (the rules for writing a paid-by-the-word Victorian serial novel are almost exactly antithetical to modern rules for fiction writing). What bugs me is the actual standard of beauty for women. Austen, while still using beauty as a "positive" trait for her heroines in a way that is problematically lookist, at least tends to define her "beautiful" women as being "healthy," "athletic," or "fresh" looking, with countenances "lively," "thoughtful," "capable of expression," "intelligent," or some other actual positive quality, when personality is supposed to be shown in appearance. Wilkie Collins' first and foremost standard of female beauty is "those feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, without which the beauty of the handsomest woman alive is beauty incomplete" (32).

I'm still waiting for the novel in which "pliability" is considered a positive attribute in a man. When dealing with people we expect to be fully fuctioning autonomous human beings--in the Victorian period, this meant "men"--we call it wussiness. So, yeah: it's a woman's most important job to be ~pretty~, which is problematic enough, and then a woman's prettiness hangs necessarily on it being immediately visible that she is easily controlled. And that is Why The Victorians Sucked At Life, Hardcore, Exhibit A.

Oh, and then there's Mrs. Vesey, who is not pretty, but is "the personification of human composure and female amiability", in that she does nothing but sit, sleep, and smile, and cannot so much as decide what cut of meat she wants at lunch.

Exhibit B: Actually, exhibit B might just be really bad writing on Collins' part, I wouldn't be surprised if other Victorian writers were somewhat more aware of the fact that women could read. I mean, women did a very large portion of the novel-reading in Victorian society, which is why the novel was looked down upon as an inferior form of literature, and is also why there was always such Scandalized Outrage whenever a novel printed something mildly challenging to the status quo, because everyone knew that Impressionable Females would read it. Except, apparently, Wilkie Collins, who apparently believes that only men can read. Straight men and lesbians, at the most generous, but frankly, if he didn't realize women read novels, which actually was talked about at the time, I'd be rather surprised if he realized that some people aren't heterosexual, which was not. At any rate, after a two-page description of how hawt Miss Fairlie is (get it? FAIR-lie? Because she's the most beautiful pliable angel fairy cupcake darling ever?), he tries to describe her effect on him, saying: "Think of her as you thought of the first woman who quickened the pulses within you that the rest of her sex had no art to stir." Or, in modern parlance, the first time you saw a really hot chick and did not just recognize intellectually that she was supposed to be attractive, but were like, DAMN, that chick is REALLY HAWT. Except that a huge chunk of his readership probably never thought that chicks were really hawt, or at least not the definition of "thought" that means "felt," with quickening pulses and all that.

Exhibit C irks me the most because I had high hopes for the character the first couple lines she was introduced. Exhibit C is Marian Halcombe, that most pernicious blight upon womankind, even more so than merely stupid wussy girls: the Misogynistic Woman.

The first thing we learn about Marian Halcombe is that she has a very attractive figure and does not wear corsets, and the text likes that she doesn't wear corsets, and I was kind of hoping we would be going in the direction of a positive, non-conventional sort of female character. The second thing we learn about Marian Halcombe is that her face is very ugly, which is actually kind of cool, since this didn't seem at first to compromise the text's sort of vague setup that we might still like her. She has "piercing, resolute" eyes and a "bright, frank, intelligent" expression, all of which I figured were good qualities shining through the moustache & such, and while her ugliness is supposedly exacerbated by the lack of "gentleness and pliability", she is still described in mostly positive terms--such as a "self-reliance" in manner--and the narrator seems to think that these are, indeed, positive terms. In fact, the narrator likes Marian Halcombe very much.

Unfortunately, I don't, because the moment she opens her mouth, she outdoes the narrator is sexist drivel. She starts off by criticizing her sister for having the "essentially feminine malady" of a headache, and chatters on through:
-"How can you expect four women to dine together alone every day, and not quarrel? We are such fools, we can't entertain each other at table."
-"You see I don't think much of my own sex, Mr. Hartright... no woman does think much of her own sex"
-"I will... do all a woman can (which is very little, by-the-by) to hold my tongue."
(All of the above comments occur on ONE PAGE.)
-"...and I am inaccurate, as women usually, are in calling Mr. Fairlie my uncle..."
-"Women can't draw--their minds are too flighty, and their eyes are too inattentive."
-"...I can match you at chess, ecartes, backgammon, and (with the inevitable female drawbacks) even at billiards as well."

That's all in the next two pages. I admit I am curious as to what the "inevitable female drawback" is at playing billiards. The only thing I could think of would be difficulty bending over a billiard table and breathing at the same time as a result of wearing corsets, but Marian doesn't wear corsets.

Now, the average Victorian woman didn't have whole lot to recommend herself in terms of being not wussy and useless, especially among the leisure classes. But Marian does not seem to be making the Mary Wollstonecraft argument that "Women are stupid, because we make them stupid." She just seems to be saying that women are "inevitably" stupid, foolish, and incapable of doing anything, even playing freaking billiards or having a dinner conversation. I am still waiting for the qualifying statement that "we are raised..." or "we are allowed/not allowed/taught/not taught..." to be this way, and until it happens, I am staunchly disliking Marian Halcombe.

I have a lot of female friends that have issues with, y'know, most other women as they wind up. The closest friends I've had in life, consistently, have been girls who are most used to being friends with guys, and the next closest 'level' of friends have been predominantly male since I hit my teenage years. I'm entirely used to hearing women bash "girls" for a particular normative conception of girls-as-they-wind-up, specifically "what we wind up running into a lot," generally with a very clear understanding that girls don't HAVE to be that way, because the girl-that-doesn't-play-well-with-other-girls has managed to not turn out that way. We are generally lamenting the widespread habit of many girls to wind up the way they have been taught to be, and more often than not there are cries of "I thought we knew better than this now" or "What kind of crap were these girls reading when they were young?" I don't hang out with women that sit around giggling "LOL, women suck, and I suck too because I'm a woman, I am catty and bitchy and a walking stereotype of female inferiority because I do not believe I can be any other way, TEE HEE."

And while nobody with eyes attached to a functioning brain will claim that women, as they are, as they really exist now, let alone how they really existed in Victorian times, were and are overwhelmingly spifftacular awesome wonderful good intelligent strong people as a general demographic, there is a HUGE difference between people who think that most women suck because women are brought up to suck and that's bad, and people who think that women suck because women just inherently suck and we're bad. The first bunch of people are cynical, rational feminists who understand that environment impacts people's personality development and the patriarchy impacts it harmfully. The second batch of people are self-hating misogynistic women and I cannot fucking stand them.

*deep breathing*

Now that that's off my chest, I think I can keep doing homework now.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
...brought to you by someone other than me.

This article caught my eye because the title is *exactly* what I think every time I hear depersonalizing ditherings over what "women" want, like the entire gender has some sort of hivemind, and any time two different women have different responses to things it's indicative of some sort of horribly inconsiderate complexity of the hivemind developed on purpose just to frustrate poor, lonely het men.

That's not actually the subject of the article (partly because, y'know, the article happens to be about something else... but my naive side is hoping it's also partly because there's no NEED for even remotely serious articles about how women don't actually have a hivemind, because the only people dumb enough to think so don't get to points in their careers where they write shit and it gets published anywhere serious, and also there aren't that many of them... right? Right? *Please* tell me I'm right...), but the article, and the NY Times article it's in response to, are both pretty interesting. And the comments are a good read, too.

Women Want Less Condescending Articles About What We Want

I'm not sure if the title's grammatically correct or not; my initial reaction was to parse it as wrong, but then I realized I wasn't sure if the writer meant that there needs to be a smaller number of condescending articles (in which case it would be "fewer"), or that we can keep the number of articles but they should all have less condescension in them (in which case "less" is fine). I support either way.

Sidenote: I also support the use of brute violence against men telling women what women want. For serious. Come tell me what I want when you develop telepathy and can read my motherfucking mind. 'Til then, go fuck yourself, I ain't doing it.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
When I was a junior in high school and taking American lit, I found myself wondering if the entire course was merely a test to see how much hippie liberal education from childhood had really been internalized--namely, if, being raised my entire life to believe that white people are not superior to black people, I had developed the hippie fortitude to survive an entire year of reading really good books by white people and really bad books by black people* without being tempted to conclude that black people are bad writers. (Luckily I passed, because I recognized this as the same trick they pull when studying "women writers," and they only have you read the most dull and sappy books about how dull it was being a woman, and never any of the books that, like, are good stories and happen to have been written by females--they go in a different unit. And then there's Octavia Butler, who is both black AND female, and has never shown up in classes about either Books By Black People or Books By Women, but only in a class about aliens.)

I'm starting to get a similar vibe from a lot of the books I'm reading for my French classes this year. All three French classes have been variants on the theme of "Non-Whites Speak French Too," with a special emphasis on "And Really Quite A Lot of Black People Speak French!" Number of black male characters I've been introduced to in Francophone novels and movies in the past year: Lots. Number of black women in same: Lots. Number of sexual liaisons between the two: More than I'm comfortable with considering my grasp of French is still less than fluent (reading a sex scene where you have to look up all the words above a fourth-grade vocabulary level is fucking awkward). Number of black male Francophone characters whose number one personality trait is being a hardcore womanizer: Lots. Number of these the text seems to dislike: none. Number of black male Francophone characters whose number one personality trait is not womanizing, but their attitudes are still problematic: Most of the rest of them. Number of black male Francophone characters whose relations with women *didn't* annoy my inner feminist: One, this being Ibrahim Ducoure from Moolaade, who refuses to break his engagement with an uncircumcised woman even though his father threatens to disown him.**

The last major thing that happened in Point-a-Pitre--Paris, which I'm currently reading for Immigration in France, is that the narrator's girlfriend Annick dumped him and he is now all upset 'n' shit that he lost her. Why did she dump him? Well, he went out clubbing with one of his friends (following a two-page monologue on the part of the friend about Why He Is Teh Awesome At Picking Up Chicks, Like Srsly, Even The White Girls Dig Him), and he hooked up with some other chick named Marie-Laure and brought her back to his place for sexytimes, and then in the morning when Marie-Laure was still asleep he goes to the bakery to buy croissants for breakfast (because they are French), and while he is at the bakery Annick stops by for something... and Marie-Laure is still there! And Frederic (this is our lovely narrator) is all annoyed, like, but I wasn't expecting her to come by this morning! Why did she come by without me expecting her, did she not realize I might be doing something that I was going to hide from her? And then Marie-Laure is *also* mad at him and calls him names for not telling her he had a girlfriend. And then he goes and tries to get Annick back, and she is like NO, WE ARE SO DONE HERE, and he keeps trying to get her back, mostly by just telling her he wants to, and at one point he grabs her and forcibly kisses her, because that is not at all assault in any way, shape or form, no, definitely not. The one thing he does not do is apologize, because he'll be absolutely damned if he'll apologize, because he didn't do anything wrong, I mean, his dad cheated on his mum all the time, and that wasn't why she left him, so how dare that uppity bitch Annick have different standards? So instead he decides it must be because Annick's family is higher up on the socio-economic ladder than he is and the problem here is really ALL ABOUT CLASSISM, and not about, like, honesty/transparency/having the same damn understanding of the parameters in a relationship, or anything like that at all. Poor put-upon Frederic, all the women in his life are mad at him because he's poor, and are PRETENDING it's because he double-crossed them! How dare they! Women are so mean and irrational!

And seriously... I, personally, am the sort of person that thinks the automatic expectation of monogamy as *the* defining factor of a relationship is vastly overrated. If people want open or polyamorous relationships or whatever, I say go for it. But put all your cards on the table and if you want something some way, ASK for it. This isn't the sort of thing where you get to keep it all secret and say IT'S MY PERSONAL BUSINESS AND NOBODY ELSE'S AND I WILL MAKE THE RULES UP AS I GO ALONG THE WAY I WANT TO AND I AM NOT ANSWERABLE TO ANYBODY ETC ETC. A person's sex life is certainly not, like, public business, but it is most definitely the business of the people they are sleeping with.

Also, if you knew you'd have to hide it, it was probably wrong. At least feel bad about it. I could be just like "Oh damn, poor Frederic made a mistake" if poor Frederic actually realized he'd made a fucking mistake. But no, we get "But my Daddy did it years ago in the Caribbean and I'm pretty sure my mom left him because he was an alcoholic and not because of that!" GROW UP.

I'm getting very tired of feeling like I'm being taught that Black Men Are Misogynistic But We Can't Have A Problem With This Because It Sucks To Be Black In France And Its Former Colonies. I mean, most white guys seem to have sexist views of women too, but some of them occasionally remember to pretend not to, so I don't feel like the entire canon of Stuff Written By White People is so uniformly unthinkingly objectifying.

I'm pretty certain there are black men out there who aren't misogynistic--I've even met a few--and I would hope this is true within the French-speaking portion of that demographic as well, but apparently none of them are writing anything Ferly can use in her classes except Ousmane Sembene (the man behind Moolaade).

I think I need to give Rue Cases-Negres another watch one of these days. If I recall correctly, the main character in that one was a little boy who was just too young to have picked up that sort of shit yet. And he had an awesome grandma.

Blar. It's not even like I have an issue with highly "male-identified" work, or even that I can't relate to highly male-identified or male-targeted work. A lot of stuff I like is total all-male, boys-and-their-toys fails-the-Bechdel-test "guy" fiction. I'll take a bromance over romance any day of the week. But I can only take so much CHICKS, DUDE, CHICKS. CHICKS CHICKS CHICKS. CHICKS LOVE ME AND I LOVE THEM EXCEPT WHEN THEY HAVE OPINIONS ON SHIT garbage before I start to lose the ability to identify with the characters at the level that's necessary to enjoy a story.

There's a dearth of decent black female Francophone characters here, too. Helene and Juletane from Juletane at least felt like fully realized people--every black female in the books written by men have felt flat to me. The mother in La Civilisation, Ma Mere! was pretty awesome, but the Chraibis are Arab, so that doesn't quite fix this problem of not being able to find une negresse that comes off like a person instead of as some "othered" thing of Une Negresse. Even in Amour, Colere, et Folie--all written by a woman!--only Amour managed to characterize its women in a colorfully human manner, even if not a positive one: everyone in Amour is CRAZY. But that's an improvement over Colere, where the in-class discussion consisted almost entirely of Charlotte lamenting "Elles sont faibles! Toutes les femmes sont faibles!" Because they were.

Colle Ardo and the women in Moolaade, obviously, are the notable exceptions here, being totally badass, and perhaps they get it from not speaking a damn word of French between them, since pretty much the whole movie's in whatever African indigenous language they speak in that corner of Burkina Faso.

I should probably top ranting and actually finish this section of Point-a-Pitre--Paris so I can do the damn assignment and move on to reading something decent. And maybe if I keep reading, something will bludgeon Frederic to his senses!

*There was also one really bad book by a white person, which was Ethan Frome; I'm not sure what that was supposed to tempt us to think.

**Ducoure actually only speaks French for one scene of the film, when talking to Mercenaire, since the rest of the movie is in I don't actually know what language.
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Madame Ferly thinks I should try to major in French. I think it's only two extra courses to double-major instead of minoring. Two issues: one of those is National Imagination, which I don't really want to take, and also there's an abroad requirement. Madame said something about (since it's obviously way too late to do a semester in Dijon) doing summer courses in Quebec. Which would be awesome. It would be doubly awesome if I could also still work for at least part of that summer. Probably at least worth looking into.

I heard once that one commonly used measure for being "fluent" in a language is whether or not you can crack jokes in it. I'm nowhere near punning my way through my French homework but I'm starting to be able to make an effort towards being horribly sarcastic, mostly because my head will explode with righteous feminist indignation if I keep having to write all these damn papers I'm writing without finding some way of expressing my complete and utter contempt for a world in which this shit is still possible. A week or so ago we had to read and write on an article about attacks on single women in Algeria (no, seriously. Grown women who live by themselves are getting violently attacked on the street simply FOR BEING SINGLE). Now I'm in the middle of a four-page essay about a "society in transition" re: the film "Moolaade," which is about a group of women who, having listened to ~nasty subversive radio programs oh horrors~ in which they find out that female genital mutilation is NOT, in fact, mandated by the Koran--oh, and also having been through it themselves, so they know how much it sucks--start a huge to-do in their cute ickle traditional Burkina Faso village when they decide to give protection to four nine-year-old girls who ran away from a "purification" ceremony.

I have spent a LOT of time in this freaking hippie school reading about the evils of globalization and guess what, globalization has its ISSUES. HUGE ISSUES. I am not a huge fan, on most counts, like how it lets people economically screw other people over on bigger scales than we have ever seen before, or how it causes ridiculous and easily treatable health crises that still never get solved. I can even shed my hippie liberal tear for this nebulous idea of "cultures" being destroyed, although I still think there's a huge difference between actively trying to obliterate use of a language (bad) and omg trying to also teach people languages spoken by more than like four people, how dare we (useful! this is what language is FOR!).

But... not with the women's rights stuff. Not with any sort of rights issue that could very easily be solved by people opening their eyes and recognizing what a HUMAN BEING looks like when they see one, instead of making up whatever sort of bullshit they can think of so they can hang on to whatever sort of power the old system was giving them. If MY society contains occasional enlightened individuals who truly believe that women are people, and even the misogyny that still surrounds me leans more towards instances of personal asshattery by individual asshats that do absolutely nothing to prevent me from driving, voting, going to school, talking to people, or getting a job, and YOUR society cuts women's girly bits off to make them "pure" and "marriageable" so that they can never enjoy sex enough to ever be tempted to run away from their husbands, then I live in CIVILIZATION and your picturesque little traditional "culture" CAN'T GET IMPOSED ON FAST ENOUGH. MISOGYNY IS NOT A CUTE LITTLE ANTHROPOLOGICAL CURIOSITY. IT HURTS PEOPLE, AND IT IS WRONG--MORALLY, SCIENTIFICALLY, BIOLOGICALLY, AND COMPLETELY WRONG.

And I will NOT adopt a neutral academic tone when writing about it. I am NOT being biased in condemning it. I am pointing out the self-evident scientific fact that the human species has two genders and they are both still human and I WILL NOT PRETEND THIS IS A MATTER OF OPINION.

*climbs off soapbox*

So, that was your feminist ranting for the day. I have to go finish ranting feministly in French, and you should all run to Netflix or your nearest purveyor of difficult-to-find West African movies and rent "Moolaade." A bientot!
bloodygranuaile: (Default)
Oh God, I needed this book so badly.

This is one of those books in a little trend in the YA fantasy world of writing fairy stories that draw on the old fairy myths--the ones where fairy courts are actually powerful and dangerous, and where fairies are the size of people and have glamour magic and weather control. None of this Tinkerbell shit.

This is a trend I like a lot.

Also, there's a blurb from Tamora Pierce on the back cover, and Tamora Pierce is my favorite writer of fantasy adventure stories with kick-ass heroines, liek EVAR, so I knew that, at the very least, this would be a nice antidote to all this Twilight shit that's been invading my brain lately. And it was, even more than I imagined--where the Twilight Saga is all about being magically destined to fall in luv with people, Wicked Lovely maintains that even in the face of all sorts of destiny and fate shit, and being magically transformed into a fairy just because some obsessive fairy king thinks you're the Summer Queen and "once you've been chosen you can't be unchosen" and "THERE ARE RULES!!!" and blah blah blah, your reactions, choices, and opinions on things are all up to you. It is inevitable that Aislinn becomes the Summer Queen, but she manages to do it on her own terms anyway, which includes having only a friendly and professional relationship with the Summer King, because she'll be damned if she gives up her mortal boyfriend who's actually nice and supportive and things for that bossy douchewagon Keenan just because she's fated to be his Queen. She decides its her *job*. She pays attention to detail and displays "outside-the-box thinking," as well as determination (I think of this as "love smarter, not harder," and it tends to be the biggest factor in whether or not I support a romance (It's also something I should learn myself one of these days, but that's another story)).

It felt like Bella choosing Jacob, or something. It said that if the supernatural wants to pick up modern human chicks, it needs to deal with the century the humans are living in, and being a bajillion years old is no excuse. It said that being supportive is more important than having shiny magic powers. It said that fate can go fuck itself. It was SO REFRESHING.

Beira is also a great villianess, of the archetype EBIL ICE QUEEN BWA HA HA. She is not only ebil, but also quirky and obnoxious. You just have to love a villian who inspires both fear, via killing people and animals and making you painfully cold all the time, and also annoyance, because she dresses up as a fifties housewife when you come to visit and you KNOW SHE'S REALLY EVIL WOULD SHE STOP PRETENDING TO BE NICE PLZ. AND THOSE PEARLS LOOK STUPID.

My favorite character would still have to be Donia, the Summer King's last guess at who the Summer Queen was, now transformed into the Winter Girl. She's complicated, because she used to be human and is now a fairy; used to love the Summer King and now still does but also hates him 'cos this whole mess is his fault; and is aligned with Winter and in the Winter Queen's thrall but her preferred loyalties are still with the Summer Court. Her job is to convince Keenan's girlfriends to not take the test to see if they're the Summer Queen, although if they do, they take her role as the Winter Girl and she is freed from the cold curse business and gets to be a regular faery. So she is all sorts of conflicted. She's also genuinely kind of nice and awesome.

I feel so much better now.


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