I Read the Internets – 11/15/08

Hello, fellow readers of the internets! If you haven’t perused it already, the 22nd Feminist SF Carnival is live at SpaceWesterns.com. It’s a three-parter this time around, with new content in the first part, highlighted previous carnival entries in the third part and a whole lot of links to articles here at Hathor in the second. Which is really flattering, and also reminds me that I need to get off my butt and do some more in the series I started way back when on the women of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Anyway! Go read ye some carnival. And then volunteer to host one. You know you want to.

When you’re done with that, take a look at this post by Betty about strong women in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Though she has a penchant for wearing inexplicable belts in promotional images, Betty thinks the title character comes off as really strong, not just physically so:

Sarah Connor, on the other hand, is the decision maker on the show. John, her son, doesn’t like the fact that her word is law, and occasionally challenges her authority, but he’s not stupid enough that he can’t recognize her experience is vaster than his own. You might critique the fact that her primary purpose is to bring John Connor, humanity’s messiah into the world, but you have to acknowledge she hasn’t faded into the background after the womb-work was done. It’s her name on the opening title, and her story.

The difference is, obviously, agency.

I haven’t watched Sarah Connor Chronicles, but I’m thinking maybe I should. I do love me some strong women.

More on the topic of physical strength, E. Cabell Hankinson Gathman wrote a really interesting piece this month for Strange Horizons called “Wii Fitness: Rocking the Hula Hoops (and the Weight Issues).” Cabell talks about how much she hates Boardy, which is something I’d definitely thought of on my own (she and I compared notes briefly but neither of us know how to murder the little monster), but she also goes into the skeezy issues with weight and fitness that Wii Fit buys into:

…this is the crux of the matter: the only goal you can set is a weight change—a loss, of course; Boardy encourages you to think about how, with a BMI of 22 (right in the middle of normal and least likely to die, according to the somewhat dubious stats that Boardy himself reports), you’re okay, but you could be better!

I have the console and the game, and I enjoy playing with it, but it is definitely frustrating and dispiriting to have sanctimonious Boardy constantly chiding me about my weight. I’m heavier than is healthy for me right now, but even at my most athletic I’ve never had a BMI near 22. I’m too muscular. And it’s pretty absurd to assume that that means I’m unhealthy.

Over at Fantasy Magazine, Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote an article about “Pre-Columbian Cultures in Film” that I found really thought-provoking. Moreno-Garcia talks about the ways in which several pre-Columbian cultures are smushed together and then super-simplified to create the interchangeable “loin-clothed savage” that we see in film. This ignores the rich and varied history of actual pre-Columbian cultures:

The pre-Columbian people that inhabit movies are far removed from reality. Two-dimensional, without a real culture or language, their accomplishments in art, astronomy or mathematics are ignored. Instead, they wander the screen clad in clichés.

When they are good, they are presented as child-like, primitive but harmless people like the chief from Road to el Dorado. A visit from a kind conquistador is all it takes to rectify their ways. But sometimes they are naughty and they decide to bring a stone jaguar to life (like that movie’s evil sorcerer). When that happens they’re appropriately punished.

I noticed some pretty obviously Mexica-derivative cultures in a couple of sci-fantasy books that I read lately, and though individual characters from them were reasonably three-dimensional, the cultures as a whole were all evil and savage-y. I was pretty perturbed to see that going on in depictions of groups that were so clearly based on a real culture. I mentioned it to a couple of friends, and they observed, as Moreno-Garcia does, that there aren’t really any “autochthonous leading voice[s]” in fantasy, whether it’s cinema or novels. But Moreno-Garcia also points out that:

…there’s also no ancient Romans or Greeks making movies and they generally get better portrayals than the average indigenous culture. One can only hope that one day movie makers will decide it is more interesting to explore rich, complex worlds than have a dozen men in chicken feathers and body paint worshiping a white dude who just landed in the area.

For an interesting exploration of some of the same ideas, check out Liz Henry’s post (and the resulting robust comments section) at Feminist SF – The Blog! about Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m putting it on my list.

You should also read Liz’s post about a blogging party that she’ll be hosting which will have a virtual component related to it for those of us who can’t hang out together in meatspace.

And closing with humor, as I like to do, I recommend to you MightyGodKing’s “MGK Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits” series: parts one, two, and three. I laughed so hard I choked, for serious.

Happy reading, internets! I’ll see you next time.


  1. SunlessNick says

    I haven’t watched Sarah Connor Chronicles, but I’m thinking maybe I should. I do love me some strong women.

    I think you should, though if you can, start at the beginning.

  2. SunlessNick says

    I have to say after reading Betty’s post, I’ll be stuck for weeks looking for reasons to use the phrase “inexplicable belt.”

  3. MaggieCat says

    Though she has a penchant for wearing inexplicable belts in promotional images, Betty thinks the title character comes off as really strong, not just physically so

    I have a theory about the belts in the promotional images, and I suspect there are at least three things at work here (or at least there would be if I was the one responsible) :

    A) Belt and a person with guns tends to take on a gunslinger connotation, even if wearing an actual gun belt w/holsters isn’t acceptable in modern day California. Which is particularly relevant given that all of the main characters are (when they aren’t believed dead) wanted by various law enforcement agencies and regularly commit petty and not so petty crimes for the greater good. They’re working outside the law but still on the side of justice.

    B) This is my personal favorite given the show in question: it specifically draws attention to the fact that both of them are women. Not girls, not stereotypically “feminine”, but females of an adult age. The larger hip/waist ratio that most women possess is a defining difference (and a pain in the neck when costuming performers playing the opposite gender, but I digress) and one that usually doesn’t appear until the mid-late teens.

    C) And most people don’t dress in an entirely utilitarian manner all the time — there’s usually something, a piece of jewelry, a scarf, whatever — so an image just looks unfinished without an extra of some sort. Random belts have been showing up everywhere for the last few years, so it pings with the people who are aware of that and works on a level that points out that a woman does not have to shun all accessories in order to be a considerable threat and capable of kicking everyone’s ass, but does it without taking away from the fact that they’re both more concerned with what they can do rather than with how they look.

  4. says

    SunlessNick – I’ll definitely start at the beginning. I’m big on watching series from the start.

    MaggieCat – I was thinking it was B) more than anything, but I like the gunslinger idea you’re riffing off, too.

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