foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

Last month over at Fangs, Fur, & Fey on LJ, one poster discussed a conversation she overheard in the fantasy section of a bookstore

Dude: Man, look at all this.
Pal: Wha?
Dude: I'm getting so sick of seeing this shit.
Pal: Wha?
Dude: This, and this and this (*pointing to books on shelves I'd have to crane my neck to identify*) and this and this.... All these books with heroines who wanna be the hero and shit.

(At this point, if I'd been drinking a beverage, I'd have spit it out.)

Dude: And vampires, man, quit with the stupid vampires. We need more books like this.

(He picks up the latest video game tie-in.)
Wow. Just.... wow.

Oddly enough, only a few commentors remarked on the misogyny underlying the conversation. The rest of the commentors discussed the legitimacy of being frustrated with the vampire fad.

Frankly, I don't give a shit if they have reason to bash vampire fiction or not. That wasn't the main point of their conversation. The fact that they're assholes who don't respect women? Yeah, I care about that quite a bit. 

The question of whether or not there are too many heroines and not enough heroes in current fiction was also raised. I've personally considered if I should be writing about more heroes. The conclusion I eventually came to is that the fantasy/scifi genre has historically been dominated by male leads and male writers. This is not exclusive to the genre; it mirrors real life. As much as I dislike how far too many authors portray the new kick-ass heroine in UF, I will admit that it's something that did not exist on bookshelves about 10-20 years ago. And it's such a pervasive concept for exactly that reason.

So, no. I don't think there are too many heroines and not enough heroes. Perhaps one day when women aren't paid seventy-five cents to the men's dollar and one in four women aren't raped and we don't need domestic violence shelters because there isn't domestic violence and other people cease attempting to control, shame, or distort our perception of our bodies and...

Maybe then I'll reconsider.

foreverlasting: (Dangerous)
I recently ran into an entry by Carrie Ryan where she discusses Breaking Dawn in the context of sex and violence. I know I've already beaten this topic over the head, but with the new Twilight movie come out this year, in many ways I feel like I can't say this often enough.

I'm particularly a fan of this bit:
I'm not a fan of challenging books. I also don't have a problem at all with Breaking Dawn or the violence in it. I give full props to Stephenie Meyer for writing the book and concluding her series the way she felt it should be done. But I'm just shocked that the collective fear of sex in YA novels is so strong that it outweighs any problems we have with violence or potentially abusive relationships.
Apparently some parents are (have been? this was a while ago) pissed that there's sex in the final installment of the Twilight series. Between two married couples, no less. Admittedly, I myself have never understood this country's determination to get its offspring hitched before they could, ah, consummate, but you would think the fact that Bella and Edward waited until their honeymoon to get down and dirty would placate conservative readers. I guess you can't please everybody.

Meanwhile, that scene with blood, gore, and Edward ripping her open with his teeth? A-okay.

Ryan points out the hypocrisy inherent in our society: We're fine with teens reading and watching violence, but sex? Oh, sweet cheesecake, NOT SEX!!!

I have issues with the young adult label. Many issues. The primary of which is the limitations and restrictions. Some publishers literally have checklists where sex or varying amounts of violence can tip the scale from YA or adult. The violence, I understand. But sex? We are a culture initimately familiar with violence. Sex is not violence, or at least, it shouldn't be. In fact, sex could be perceived as the exact opposite of violence. I don't see why the two are clumped together. Especially since abstinence-only education doesn't work.

My parents never told me I couldn't read any particular book (though they probably would have asked me to put back any erotica if I picked it up). I started reading adult novels when I was 12. Granted, I was an advanced reader, but many 'young adult' readers read books above their age bracket. You know what happens when children (13 and under) read something sexual? If it's not too explicit, they'll either a) become curious and ask questions, which you would think any parent would be qualified to answer, or b) they don't even pick up on it. As for years 13 and above, I'm intrigued as to what people think teenagers think about. Or, hell, do. Okay, here's a hint: It's not their homework.

Oooh, ooh, and here's my favorite comment of the day, courtesy of anywherebeyond @ LJ:
Considering HALF the teens polled about the Chris Brown assault on Rihanna think that she was responsible, I think it's time we quit acting like hysterical ninnies about teen sex and start taking a hard look at teen violence. I don't think a book should be challenged for EITHER reason, but it makes me crazy that people think nothing of the 1500 people who die at the end of Titanic, but hesitate because Leo and Kate might get hazily busy before the ship sinks. It's absurd.
ZOMG, THANK YOU. You don't know me, but... *loves*

As a violence-prevention advocate, it's incredibly frustrating trying to get into schools to talk about this kind of stuff. Most parents don't want their daaaaahling children objected to learning about basic biological processes and the very cultural implications associated with them.

We need to change the way we view sex and violence, and we need to do this in the schools. Critically ripping apart analyzing Twilight is only the start.
foreverlasting: (Dangerous)
I would like to personally extend a warm "FUCK YOU" to Governor Schwarzenegger of the state of California for his award-winning decision-making skills. What, the budget's too tight? Let's cut ALL the funding for domestic violence shelters!

Again and again we see examples of how little our culture thinks of women. When Chris Brown battered Rihanna, the media had a fucking shitstorm. Those not on Brown's side encouraged Rihanna to sue his ass. Others routinely victim-blamed her when she went back to him. She was a bad role model, they said, for returning to her abuser.

You know who's a bad role model? PEOPLE WHO SHUT DOWN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS.


foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

I finally finished reading The Prize by Brenda Joyce the other day. For a romance, it's pretty long. Nearly 600 pages. The irony is that they printed it on thinner paper, and so it's not even as thick as your average 300-pager.

The immaturity of both the main characters was irritating, particularly Virginia. I did like the setting, and how they went through a multitude of ups and downs before they got their HEA (not that I'm a huge fan of HEAs, but I digress).

However, one scene truly bothered me, to the point where I nearly stopped reading for good.

"Panic came. He was too big. She was only eighteen. He was her captor. She was afraid and she wasn't ready. What if he didn't love her!
[...]
"Devlin, don't," she began.
But it was simply too late. Crying out, he thrust into her..."

I think the only reason I continued reading from there was the ambiguity of whether or not there it actually was too late. But my first reaction was, "RAPE!" And according to the Yes Means Yes model, it certainly was. In retrospect, there was no enthusiastic yes. There was no communication. Nothing that would indicate actual consent. I really shouldn't have continued reading it. However, since I did, I would like to question two things:
 

1. According to the Smart Bitches, the trend for rape in romance novels has decreased since the 80s to the point of almost non-existence. Apparently, when books do include rape them them, huge shitstorms ravage the web from angry readers and other authors. A prelim search (Google, Amazon, popular romance review blogs) indicate that no one seems to identify the rape in this book AS rape. Some reviewers are quick to point out the characters' relationship as dysfunctional and cliche; as someone currently taking a romantic relationships psych course, I have to agree. There were too many drawbacks to the relationships from the get-go. That they were able to overcome them makes it an interesting story, but it also is highly unrealistic. (I must be one of those heretic younger readers who find outdated ideals offensive.)

The fact that no one is commenting on the rape in this book is disturbing, and I believe that it may point to even greater problems. If the ambiguity of whether there was consent threw even me, then what would the average romance reader think? Probably nothing. This leads me to wonder whether or not rape in romances is actually decreasing, or whether our definition of rape in romance novels isn't changing as quickly as our actual, real-world definition has. She didn't say yes? That's rape. In romances, however, we like our sex scenes as hot and suave as possible--and that may not include securing authentic consent. I have a bad feeling that many romance novels have their heroes forgo asking for a yes and are still banking on the absence of a no in order to create a sex scene that is sexy and not complicated with modern matters such as ensuring all parties are happy and willing.

2. Why was this scene written? It's hazy enough that I could believe that the author didn't intend it as a rape scene. Then where did it come from? The heroine had doubts. She explicitly said no. Do not collect $200, do not pass go. But the hero both ignored her request (y'know, being so caught up in his uncontrollable passion and all) and didn't even pause to check in on how she was doing after the pentration.

I don't understand WHY. What does it do for the story, but to create an atmosphere of conflict? To indicate who is dominate and who is submissive? 

Forgoing the acquisition of consent is not sexy. It is not romantic. It is violence, and no matter how many layers of sugar you coat it, it will always be violence.
foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

I got into an interesting discussion with my Romantic Relationships prof during break today, but first, a flashback to a Washington Post article from 2008. It was published shortly after the final Twilight book hit the shelves. 

"Yet on some level, it seems that children may know human nature better than grown-ups do. Consider: The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct..."

Yes. Yes it is. 

"...it derives from something deeper. In my research on youth and gender issues, I have found that despite all the indoctrination they've received to the contrary, most of the hundreds of teenage girls I have interviewed in the United States, Australia and New Zealand nevertheless believe that human nature is gendered to the core..."

No. No it isn't. I don't care if thousands of uneducated, hormone-driven teenage girls tell you it is; it's still not gonna be.

And for the record, would someone like to point me in the direction of the big flashing sign that says, "GENDER IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, YOU ARE WHO YOU WANT TO BE"? No? What do you mean it doesn't exist, and so this mythological indoctrination of anti-gendered ideals couldn't possibly exist either?

More to the point: If teenage girls haven't been subjected to social norms depicting more than two possibilities for gender, or told that gender doesn't actually exist, how could they ever believe otherwise?

"...They are hungry for books that reflect that sensibility. Three decades of adults pretending that gender doesn't matter haven't created a generation of feminists who don't need men; they have instead created a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the "Twilight" saga."

They seek out books that reflect gender roles because we teach them from birth that women and men are opposites and can only function when divided into separate boxes. They adore these roles because our media tells them exactly what they need to look like, be like, and act like. People like to laugh when I tell them that our media is teaching young girls that they should grow up to be saved by men, and then I point out shit like Twilight. Throughout the entire series, Bella doesn't do a damn thing for herself. Meanwhile, Edward controls her, operantly conditions her be with him, renders her utterly dependent on him, and Meyer portrays this as love. Teenage girls think this is love.

Let me state this simply.

ABUSE IS NOT LOVE.

Taking advantage of someone due to an inbalance of power IS NOT LOVE.

Now to get to what my professor was saying: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is the perfect reflection of the average teenage girl's romantic fantasy.

It's natural to obsess over a partner in a new relationship and part of the process. It's self-serving, because we constantly think about them, constantly want to be with them, which protects and promotes the relationship. This is fine, in and of itself. Where it becomes dangerous is when we combine this obsession with gender roles and effectively give the male-identified individual in the relationship more power than the female-identified individual.

We teach girls to obsess, to focus all their energy on being in a relationship. We. Teach. Them. We do this to them, we tell them that this is who they should be. And we tell them over and over and over again. Obsession might not be inherently negative, but when a girl/woman trades in her identity and free choice for a boy/man's and does so because society has been telling her she should since she could walk, we have a gender-based problem. Brushing it off the table by saying "Look here! Proof that this is what they want!" does nothing to address the issue.
foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

I understand that a genre can start out as one thing and evolve into another, but when even the origins of said genre are misrepresented, it becomes a little too much.

1. If a book is referred to as 'urban fantasy,' then it damn well better feature a setting that could even remotely be considered urban. Set in the present real world outside a city? Contemporary. Contemporary. Urban fantasy is a subset of contemporary fantasy, not the overarching umbrella of all modern-era, real-world fantasies. A novel can be both urban fantasy and contemporary, but not all contemporaries can be urban.

2. Urban fantasy existed before Nail Gaiman AND Laurell K. Hamilton. They didn't appear on the UF scene until the mid-to-late 90s. Charlaine Harris didn't publish her first Sookie Stackhouse novel until 2001. Who were the harbringers of the genre, then? Charles de Lint. Terri Windling. Emma Bull.

UF originated in the 70s and 80s, not the 90s like too many people tend to believe. My guess this occurs because UF in the 70s and 80s didn't necessarily (if at all) feature what we consider to be the earmarks of UF today: kick-ass heroines and their string of boy-toys. Instead, they focused more on regular people who were connected in some way to magic while living in an urban setting. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Urban fantasy is NOT about the kick-ass heroines. In fact, let me go a little farther and say: ENOUGH. I don't want to read about some half-vamp, half-wolf wanna-be slayer who takes names while wearing stilettos* and fucking every goddamn male being that trots along. Stop it. Just stop it. I'm all for consensual sex regardless of the number or type of partners, but the "ambiguity" of the heroine's relationship HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH URBAN FANTASY. If you want a book that deals in HEA-less sexual affairs, go petition the RWA into changing their requirements for a romance, or write literary love stories and give Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. (Or, hell, just convert all the way and write erotic romance or straight-up erotica.) UF is not the ghetto to write whatever won't fit into other genres.

Additionally, from a feminist standpoint, I can see why ass-kicking heroines are often portrayed as magically and/or physically strong AND as women uncommitted to any particular relationship. It's a short-cut. Why attempt to go through all the effort of writing a character that is strong because of who she is and the choices she makes, when all she needs to do is have sex with multiple God-like men? Newsflash: having sex with 2+ partners is no more feminist than having sex with one partner. It does not make her stronger, and in some cases, it simply makes her indecisive; the victim of yet another stereotype of femininity.

Urban fantasy is about people living in urban settings that interact with magic or magical beings in some way. I can appreciate the lean toward equality by making the majority of lead characters women, but it's not about the ass-kicking heroines. It's really not. And if you're going to portray a heroine as kick-ass, regardless of the genre, make her genuinely kick-ass, emotionally and mentally. Don't take short-cuts.


*Speaking as a ballroom dancer, if slaying demons were possible while wearing heels, I'd drop out of college and start hunting.

Found via Smart Bitches.
foreverlasting: (Rory/Logan)
Sex ratios are the number of men to every 100 women in a population. The higher the ratio, the more the men; the lower the ratio, the more women. It's worthy to note that, when looking into the past, sex ratios can be correlated with social norms. The higher the ratio and the larger number of men, the more women stay in the home, wear less revealing clothing, be less sexually expressive, etc. such as occurred in the Victorian Era and, more recently, in the 90s. A lower ratio and more women, and women are more likely to be in the workforce, wear shorter skirts, be more openly sexual, etc. such as the 1920s and the women's liberation movement. If you compare both sides, it's easy to see that one side giveth (in terms of less restrictions) while the other side taketh away. Logically, if men put more societal restrictions on women when they are in power, you would think that women would put more restrictions on men when they are in power. However, that's not what occurs.

After explaining all this, my Romantic Relationships professor went on a tangent to explain that the women's liberation movement was (is) not about raising one group over the other. He explained--at 8AM in the morning to roughly 20 summer college students--that its goal was to make women equal to men, without the constant power struggle.

It's really good to see someone teaching a class that is largely about gender roles from a psychological perspective who gets it.
foreverlasting: (Dangerous)

To my dismay, today has involved quite a bit of me running around for what turned out to be a fruitless effort. Both the people I'm subletting from as well as my property manager neglected to tell me that I needed two additional keys--one for the mailbox, and one for the building's front door. Many hours later, 2 trips to the property manager out in the middle of a residential zone bordering on rural, 1 key wrongly copied, and lots of coffee consumed, I ended up back at my apartment without anything to show for it. A couple hours after that and additional phone calls made, they property manager had the right front door key copied and hand-delivered it to me. I think they felt bad. They didn't say anything to the effect of feeling bad--they're too arrogant for that--but I think they felt bad. Maybe. I still don't have a mailbox key.


A couple weeks ago, I lent a male-identified friend The Venus Fix by M.J. Rose. Romances aren't really his thing, particularly not psychological thrillers, and I knew this, but we had been discussing pornography at the time and The Venus Fix has a solid perspective on how it impacts people. He later came back and told me he could definitely tell the book was written by a woman. I asked him why. He said that when the heroine woke up and opened her eyes, the hero described them as an ocean (or a storm, or something nature related... whatever). He laughed and commented on how cheesy-slash-creepy that would be if a guy did that in real life. I have to agree with him. I'd probably fall off the couch laughing if a guy looked into my eyes and declared them to be wonderously similar to soil. Or something.

Outrageous nature comparisons aside, I think it's worthy to note that women-identified folk writing men don't necessarily write men's thoughts and behaviors as they typically might be. Which isn't to say that no man would ever compare someone's eyes to a raging venus fly trap (okay, I'm done now), but I have to wonder whether it's the author's--and, subsequently, women in general's--wistfullness to be considered special manifesting in print. Women are taught from the cradle that their worth is determined solely by their attachment to a male. Of course we would want to believe, and thus put down on paper, that men think our eyes are remarkable.

foreverlasting: (Non-Violence)
A sequence of similar yet different thoughts.


I've been watching the Iranian Revolution from the seclusion of my bedroom in an upper-middle class neighbourhood of the United States. I loathe the idea of human to human communication being boiled down to a mere 140-character limit, but I even signed up for Twitter, just to read about what's going on firsthand.

A lot of people scoff at non-violence. They say it's an idealistic notion. It's true; it is. Perhaps unrealistically so. I hold no illusions that one day there will be world peace and it'll all be unicorns and rainbows from there out on. However, what I've learned in the past year as a violence prevention advocate is that ideals are necessary. They are the golden standard we never cease to strive for, because--being humans--there is always room for improvement. Without that standard, without someone, somewhere, saying, "HEY. This is what we can achieve if we try hard enough!" there is no motivation to reach that point. And without the motivation to reach that point, we lack the motivation to reach the more realistic milestones in between.

Non-violence is not made of soft stuff. It is the work of hundreds of thousands, of millions. It is patience, and it is learning when to keep your mouth shut and when to scream and keep on screaming.

Non-violence is currently reclaiming an entire country. Ghandi would be hella proud.


A lot of people are crying out for the US to step in and intervene. And do what, I want to know. Storm in and take over, exactly the same way we've overrun the rest of the Middle East? I have faith in the Obama administration, but what America doesn't understand is moderation. We want to be seen as the rescuers. The heroes. To be perfectly clear, Iran doesn't need a fucking knight in shining red-white-and-blue. It's got its heroes. Thousands of them.

US citizens are helping the ways that they can, by creating secure proxys, forums, and spreading the word. The last thing we need is our military to step in and steamroll any progress the revolutionaries have made. It's their country; they are in the process of shaping it to be what they want it to be. Give them support, but don't take away their autonomy.


Finally, I'd like to note that regardless of Iran's leadership, the US will still be facing the same diplomatic issues. A new leader may be the result of a "reform," but on a Western scale that "reform" will be mild at best. There will still be quite a few contentions between the US and Iran, socially if not economically and diplomatically (being a social psych geek I focus on the social aspect more). A revolution may aid in promoting kinship, but it will not change the immediate relationship between the US and Iran.
foreverlasting: (Psych Major)
My first final was at the grudgingly early time of 8AM. Not a fan, but I think I passed. Afterwards I crashed in bed to the sound of Kiki packing and dreamed of faeries and curses. When I came to, we had the following conversation:

Kayla: "You're so weird."
Kiki: "Like you're not? You're a psych major."
Kayla: "I'm justified. You're not."
Kiki: "Who're you to judge me?!?!"
Kayla: "...a psych major."


On an unrelated note, I've been the victim of hiccups off and on all day. The record is currently at 5 separate sets.

I'd also like to note the significance of the 5 typed as a number, rather than spelled out. This, ladies, gentlemen, and gender-benders, is the direct result of becoming a slave to the psych department. I used to be well-versed in MLA. Now, I practically breathe APA. I know, I know; it's saddening.


I was browsing Carolyn Jewel's site this afternoon, and ran across this pretty:

"By and large, Romances are written for women by women and historically and presently, the efforts and contributions of woman are culturally denigrated across the entire social spectrum. Professions once traditionally male often see a decline in prestige and wages when women enter the profession. If men were to read and/or admit they read, romances, the reputation of the genre would soar. Romances exist in a ghetto and a lot of readers simply never take notice of them because they're not mainstream fiction. Romances need to leave the ghetto."
 
From a feminist standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. I more than agree that romance as a genre is a powerful, pro-woman industry. Unfortunately, every time I read a romance and I find myself mocking the characters for their trite and over-played gender roles, I have to wonder whether romance novels leaving the ghetto will honestly do any good. It's may be a female-run industry, but is it truly feminist?

More on that when I have my thoughts in order. Back to studying for Stats.