I Read the Internets – 11/25/06

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Between my birthday (which was on Monday) and Thanksgiving (which was on Thursday, as they generally are in my country of origin), I have been doing much more eating than reading of the internets this week. Fortunately, something like the ultimate in internets reading was done for me by Racy Li, who put out the Seventh Blog Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans on the 20th (to those of you browsing from work – you might wanna wait until you get home to check this particular edition of the carnival out. Racy Li has some provocative artwork up in her sidebar that might make your coworkers a little more curious about your browsing habits than they need to be). She pulled together an excellent assortment of posts, and you should go check them all out (and I’m not just saying that because one of mine is in there, I swear)!

On the subject of the Feminist SF Carnival, I believe that the organizer, Ragnell, is interested in volunteers to host future editions. If you’ve got a blog, and you’re interested in feminist takes on sci-fi and fantasy (and comics, and video games, and all that awesome geek stuff), you should totally volunteer for one. It’s fun! Really! If you’re interested in hosting, I believe you can shoot Ragnell an email at ragnellthefoul[AT]hotmail[DOT]com.

Aside from the posts Racy Li rounded up for the carnival, I’ve mostly been reading reviews this week on the internets. Kameron Hurley wrote about The Privilege of the Sword [post since removed], which I just recently read, myself. Hurley liked a lot of the same things I did:

There are some nice things Kushner does here: Katherine isn’t a slap-dash 20th century heroine eager to put on pants and dance around with a sword. She misses the relative “safety” of skirts that don’t “show” her legs. She misses the idea of parties and suitors. She’s only fifteen, afterall, and very much wants to live the life of masked balls and gowns that all of the other girls of her age and class are experiencing. Instead, she’s been asked to dress as a boy and learn the sword, and though she eventually takes to the lessons (in no small part because she’s been inspired by a lurid romantic book about a dashing swordsman), we’re always aware of the awkward and sometimes humiliating feelings she has while walking around town dressed so “ridiculously.”

And she was less enthusiastic about pretty much the same things that left me a little cold. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read many posts that I agreed with more wholeheartedly, especially because Hurley concludes with: “Which goes a ways toward explaining why I write what I write. I think we all end up writing the books we wished we were reading.”

Hell yes.

Meanwhile, Liz Henry at Feminist SF – The Blog! writes a quick couple of paragraphs about Cleopatra 2525, which I may need to add to my Netflix queue. I think there’s some room in there after Jack of All Trades and before the next season of Xena, so that should work out nicely. I’m pretty sure the costumes will make me roll my eyes, but I’ll put up with a lot of pleather for the sake of cheesy sci-fi featuring a cast made up predominantly of women. My needs, they are simple.

For a webcomic take on what usually happens to women in sci-fi television, check out this (kinda vintage) strip from Home on the Strange. I saw a link to that one somewhere-or-other earlier this week (scans_daily? G-W? Does tryptophan cause memory loss?), and I’m totally adding that comic to my “to read the backlog of” list.

Wrapping up the review theme this week is a post from Amy Reads wherein she reviews Wonder Woman #3, and uses the text as a starting point for some interesting meditations about feminisms:

When we trap ourselves in tit-for-tat, in ideology-for-ideology, we accomplish nothing. When we accomplish nothing, no one is saved. When no one is saved, we all lose. Is fashion “not feminist enough”? Is shopping “not feminist enough”? Is Circe correct? Is Wonder Woman “not feminist enough”? Are there more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in Amazonian philosophy? I don’t have a definitive answer, Friends, but I have a suggestion.

Salvation comes from action and ideals, from deeds and words, from physicality and philosophy. And while I think the Amazon Princess may occasionally value one over the other, particularly on Earth, I think that we can certainly see the benefits of both.

At the risk of repeating myself – Hell yes.

Winding down, I saw some visuals on the internets this week that reminded me of the many conversations we’ve had here at THL about the representations of “normal” and “ideal” weights for women in film, TV, and on the runway. First, Jill at Feministe writes a couple of lines about Ana Carolina Reston, a model who just died from kidney failure related to anorexia, and attaches a picture at the top of her post which kicks off some major controversy in the comments. Meanwhile, anne at Big Fat Deal is posting two videos that frame the sexuality of plus-size women in dramatically different ways.

That’s all the internets I’ve got for you, this week. See something you think I should read for next time? Email me at robyn [dot] fleming [at] gmail [dot] com with a link.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    You’re watching Xena? I’d love to see your thoughts on that in future posts. Also Cleopatra. I had it on Netflix briefly, but something about it really drove me nuts… can’t remember what. The pleather was bad, but I think it was the music or the photography or something. It did have some interesting gender-bending moments.

    That “Home on the Strange” rocks. I’ve always hesitated to say it on this site, thereby reducing it to a direct criticism of the people who write sci-fi, but there is some truth to it. IMO, it’s not that they miss out on girls because they’re into sci-fi (there are plenty of girls who love sci-fi geek guys): it’s that some of them already were having troubles relating to women, so they take refuge in the Real Woman Free Zone of sci-fi. In other words, their shyness with women is their reason for being in sci-fi, not the other way around.

    Then, instead of appreciating girls who like sci-fi geeks, they ignore those and always chase Miss Prom Queen, and of course she doesn’t give them the time of day… or even humiliates them. Which makes the situation even worse: but it is all stemming from the geek’s own issues. Not from anything women have done “to” him. Except perhaps his parents, but who doesn’t have to take responsibility for a few parent-inspired neuroses in order to become a real grown-up?

    Amy’s review raises some very interesting points. The goal of feminism, in my mind, is for both women and men to do what they want (short of hurting another). It’s not that women should stop shopping; it’s that they should feel free to shop or not, and so should straight men. Ditto on makeup, wearing skirts, etc. If people are judging folks according to that stuff, we should make it as confusing for them as possible. :D

    But is a woman more of a hero for running a woman’s shelter, or for being a pampered Senator whose working to pass legislation for tougher penalties against rapists? I can’t make that value judgment: I think we need both. And I think this value put on “getting one’s hands dirty” just goes back to the Puritan work ethic that overvalues hard physical work over academic achievement or management, yet doesn’t reward the hard workers monetarily, and I find it totally hypocritical: a way of flattering people into submission. Working directly to prevent rape is honorable, especially if that’s your forte: but fighting the big monsters – a Congress who still thinks it owns our vaginas – is equally important, even if it might be easier or more luxurious.

    I uh… I think that was relevant. I’m kind of all over the place, but I don’t feel like editing now. ;)

  2. says

    Hi BetaCandy (love the name!),
    But is a woman more of a hero for running a woman’s shelter, or for being a pampered Senator whose working to pass legislation for tougher penalties against rapists? I can’t make that value judgment: I think we need both.

    Indeed. There does seem to be value judgment placed on the down and dirty, no? The same as there seems to be value judgment placed on those who actively protest and campaign, as opposed to those who write letters and donate money to causes they believe in. Both are so equally important.

    And I think this value put on “getting one’s hands dirty” just goes back to the Puritan work ethic that overvalues hard physical work over academic achievement or management, yet doesn’t reward the hard workers monetarily, and I find it totally hypocritical: a way of flattering people into submission. Working directly to prevent rape is honorable, especially if that’s your forte: but fighting the big monsters – a Congress who still thinks it owns our vaginas – is equally important, even if it might be easier or more luxurious

    And how. Well said, Friend :) As an academic feminist, I occasionally get the “what are you *really* doing for women’s rights?” question, because people only see the academic me. It also needs perspective, no? I think perhaps The Hiketeia negates Circe’s accusations a bit. There, Diana does something *specific* for women, and a woman, in need.
    Ciao,
    Amy

  3. says

    Hi Robyn,
    Meanwhile, anne at Big Fat Deal is posting two videos that frame the sexuality of plus-size women in dramatically different ways.

    What bugs me is that whoever made that video (and I doubt seriously it was Nintendo given that it completely lambasts their product) is promoting, and in fact reveling, in fat girl/skinny girl stereotypes. The “fat” girl is intellectual, as proven by her modest, conservative clothing, her cultured speech, her *glasses*, while the “skinny” girl is blonde, bubbly, dumb, and vapid. Why would you want something cheap, the “fat” girl asks, when you could have substance? I like play-doh and horsies! the “skinny” girl says, or some other asinine comment. Not only does it insult “fat” girls by presenting them as “beauty is only skin deep; she has a great personality; size is substance” and never beautiful in their own right (as the actress rightly is), but I find it insulting to the multitude of not-vapid “skinny” blondes I know, as well.

    As for the music video, when I first saw it last week, I really didn’t know how I felt about it. I still don’t. I am ever for the promotion of strong, sexy women, regardless of body type (because at least half of sexy comes from confidence, no? And confidence comes from understanding that one can be sexy damn the ridiculous social dictates regarding women and bodies, no?), but this video feels almost as if… I don’t know. I really don’t know what it almost feels like, but it’s not making me comfortable, whatever it is! It’s almost as if the video is telling me, a larger woman, that “hey! I bet you didn’t know but you can be sexy, too!” to which I make a rude hand gesture in its general direction and say, “yeah, figured that out ten years ago, thanks.”

    I think the “almost feels like” is that I should be surprised, pleased, and grateful that this video validates my sexiness as a large woman, and as a domestic woman (because “fat” women clean houses, right?). And further, that it’s okay for me, as a larger woman, to be the object of the male gaze. It’s almost as if the video is telling me that I’m not invisible, which I knew already.

    I know, I know, I’m being Generally Grumpy, and I’m responding to all of this personally rather than in a broader context (I am certainly not every woman!), but these two videos create such an interesting space for discourse. Thanks to you, and to Anne, for calling them to our attention!
    Ciao,
    Amy

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Amy,

    For me, it keeps coming back to the idea that everyone can help in some capacity. Not all of us have the sensitivity or people skills to work in a woman’s shelter, for example. Thank goodness those who don’t can instead work in a capacity that might staunch the flow of women into women’s shelters. Because repairing damage is essential, but preventing it is the longterm goal.

    (I read about your name, Etta Candy, and was astonished at the coincidence, because “BetaCandy” is actually a mispronunciation a character on Stargate made. Nothing very deep there, I’m afraid. ;) )

  5. says

    RE: Xena – yep, I’m just about to start the second season. It’s kinda weird to be watching it again, because it was one of my favorite shows when it first aired, but I never saw the last few seasons, and so I’ve not seen it at all for years. It’s interesting to see how different my impressions are now from what they were when I was a kid sneaking down the stairs after midnight to watch pulp fantasy television. I dunno that I’ll be able to say anything really thoughtful about it, but I’ll see if I can come up with a couple of posts.

    RE: what you say about Amy’s post – Hell yes. ;-)

  6. says

    (I read about your name, Etta Candy, and was astonished at the coincidence, because “BetaCandy” is actually a mispronunciation a character on Stargate made. Nothing very deep there, I’m afraid. ;) )

    So that doesn’t mean that one of you is the evil twin of the other, then? Damn, that’s dissapointing!

  7. says

    Your mixed feelings about the second video mirror my own. On the one hand, I do very much appreciate seeing large women being sexy – but the way they’re being shown as sexy, as large women in isolation, dressed in sexy clothes and doing housework in sexy ways, feels almost fetishistic. Having the two male observers come out of hiding at the very end of the video reinforces that the viewer has seen the whole thing through a heterosexual male gaze lense, while playing up a little fantasy that what the women were doing is what they do when they think they’re not being observed. Weird and, again, with an almost deviant feeling to it.

    I want to see a variety of women in films, dressed in a variety of ways, and doing a variety of activities, with each one being attractive – or not – to a variety of potential partners (and/or the viewer) at various times, as makes sense within context. I think everybody can be sexy sometimes – even fat chicks! – but nobody is sexy all the time – not even fat chicks! – and that’s part of why the music video gave me a “bleh” feeling, even though it was kinda nice to see plus-size women being the sexy ones, for once.

    But, y’know, that it’s a music video at all should give me an idea of what to expect. They’re short, and themed, and there’s only so much that can be packed into each one, even assuming that the producers are making an effort beyond “this looks cool” or “hey, this is an amusing reversal”. And that one does play with some tropes of the genre in interesting ways – but I think it could’ve done more.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    My impressions of it were very different when I re-watched it a year ago, compared to 10 years ago. For one thing, I detested Gabrielle 10 years ago, but now I had more tolerance for the growth arc she was on.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Hey, history’s in the telling! If Amy’s willing, we can sell it that way from now on. Long as I get to be the evil one. :D

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    I think you both make excellent points here. Additionally, one of the commenters on the original post made a point I felt was worth repeating (referring to the second video):

    I do think there are plenty of people who find women like them attractive (hawt!). But, that’s still a controversial opinion in many circles. It’s not supposed to be “normal” but more like a fetish or something you’d have to defend rather than just be understood about. So, it’s nice to see videos like that.

    Does the video do anything to normalize the “fetish”? Does it help make it ordinary that some men find voluptuous women attractive? I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting observation about beauty norms.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Meanwhile, at the Urban Legends Reference Pages, a number of doctored images of models like the one that Jill at Feministe used in her post about Ana Carolina Reston (linked in IRtI last week) have been collected. I think it’s too bad that the Mikkelsons describe the original photographs as without alteration” – at least one of them looks like an advertising image for a magazine or something, and it’s silly to imagine for one moment that it wasn’t manipulated in some way before publication. [...]

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