Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Different Ways of Knowing

Growing up, I hung out with my brothers more than my sister - she was the oldest, I was the second youngest and we usually got along like oil and water. This meant that I was often drafted for various pick-up games. Baseball, basketball, races, soccer, golf, pool: you name it - we did it. And when we did, every so often one of them would stop and pause, make that fake crowd noise, and soak up the fake adulation. I never did; I never really understood it.

My brothers and I also played soccer from kindergarten until high school. We played other sports as well (they played more sports than I did), but soccer was the main sport for all three of us for most of our childhood. My dad was taught how to play by friends in college who were from South America and he fell in love with the game immediately. He was always one of our coaches, always a volunteer ref, and would get excited like a kid at Christmastime when the World Cup would come around and soccer would finally be on TV. Cable and then affordable satellite was a gift from the gods because with it came soccer games on Univision and then the English Premiere League (and by then, the MLS, as well).

When the World Cup finally came to the US, our parents splurged and got plenty of tickets. I was never really one for watching sports, but I was excited to finally go see people play a sport that I understood in a huge stadium with tens of thousands of screaming fans. The reality was even better than I imagined it would be; in some ways it like my first time in a stadium. I couldn't believe that everyone there loved my sport as much as I did; I was so used to it being ignored, mocked, and looked down on. I finally understood why so many guys liked watching sports so much and why they enjoyed live games in big stadiums so much. The adreneline was unlike anything I'd felt before - it was almost as good as playing a championship match myself.

When the Women's World Cup came to the US in 1999 I was dissapointed that the start of my grad program and financial situation meant that I couldn't go to any of the games, but I watched all the ones they showed on the basic cable my roomates and I could afford. Simply watching them on TV gave me the same rush I felt the first time I walked into the Rose Bowl in 1994; the world felt so full of hope and possibility.

Several months later I was in my parents front yard, getting some exercise by practising the drills I remembered from AYSO and high school. I made an especially spectacular move (for me) and was immediately startled to hear the the soft roar of a fake crowd coming out of my mouth. I was stunned. I hadn't known until then that it was in there, inside of me, just waiting for the right time to come out, but I knew right away who had put it there: Mia and her teammates. I was not silent as a child because I dared not give into the urge - I was silent because I lacked the frame of reference that the impulse required. Mia and the rest of the gang planted that picture in my head, and in the minds of thousands of other girls and women. It was as if someone had finally shown me what colors were after years of living in shades of gray. For some reason, when it came to soccer, I needed to see women succeeding in order to dream in technicolored hues.

(I remember thinking in the summer before seventh grade, as we watched the 1990 World Cup on pay-per-view, that my junior year, and the 1994 World Cup, was a really long ways away. Now it's 2006 and I'm reminscing about ditching grad school classes to watch the first Women's World Cup in the US - in 1999. My how the time flies and the world turns.)


I started writing this post back in the summer; I'd originally meant for it to be a segway into talking about soccer, sexism, the World Cup and the infamous importing of prostitutes for the most recent Cup in Germany.

I've ressurected it from the draft graveyard because of this link from When Fangirls Attack. In it Dane quotes (I don't know who)* as an example of sexism

It’s the difference between "this is written/drawn for me and it’s nice" and "this is written/drawn for me and it could have been written/drawn BY me because I can really identify with the women doing it."

*Dane - links please!

(side note: while I don't completely agree with the label, The Dane gets a whole plateful of cookies for calling it sexism, and not reverse sexism)

There's been a lot of discussion about the Minx line, female creators, and Minx's lack thereof. When it comes to real life examples like Minx, there's a lot of things that come into play when discussing they whys, wherefores, and why nots of gender disparity. I just wanted to take a step back for a moment and remind everyone (and possibly explain to those that don't understand yet) why we even care about the gender of artists, writers, and even soccer players.

It's not because we don't think men can't do a good job. In fact, it's often quite the opposite. It's because we've all had that feeling of not being connected to something we love; of doubting ourselves, despite intellectually knowing we shouldn't, simply because we belong to a group that is (practically) invisible within a community of fans or among the superstars that we aspire to be. We all know what it's like, in some way or another, to watch our brothers cheer themselves on, and wonder why they do that or what it would be like to feel the same way.

The saying that you should write what you know has some truth to it, and that's where some of the complaints come from as well. Of course, most of the great stories are about the kinds of things that everyone can relate to. So obviously, writers can write about people they empathise with, but are not exactly like, and readers can read about characters they empathise with, but are not exactly like. The entire fantasy and superhero genres wouldn't exist of this weren't true.

When entire groups of people are almost completely missing from the equation, however, this often means that even well-meaning writers and readers will overlook what should be obvious. Michele Serros, the author of Honey Blonde Chica and other YA books, remarked during a panel on YA novels at last year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, that a professor once told her that she ought to change some of the references to various aspects of Hispanic culture from her books because the "average" reader wouldn't recognize them. Serros' logical reaction was that she and her mother had figured out all the references to east coast life that dominated the YA novels available to her as a child, why couldn't other readers do the same? Far too often though, people's reaction - both critics and readers - includes the assumption that the dominant group is the norm.

Often times this goes beyond never asking the dominant group to stretch their empathy and imagination and always asking other groups to do so - and into innacurrate and riduculous portrayals. Based on what people are saying about the Minx authors, Minx books very likely won't have all the idiotic assumptions that many of DC's other comics have.

However, it's not illogical for new readers to be wary of these authors because of their gender. It's not as if the girls who choose Dramacon or The Babysitter's Club over a Minx title never read anything created by men or are choosing not to read these particular authors because they think boys are icky (ok, well -some, maybe) or because of something they only heard or went through once or twice. When women and girls are wary of unknown male authors, it's often because of repeated bad experiences and they almost never write off male creators altogether. The same can't necessarily be said of the hypothetical "average" readers that may be confused by references to Hispanic culture in Serros' novels or people who use stereotypes about certain groups to avoid dealing with them altogether.

While unfortunately some of the end results are similar, there is a difference between picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, who is hispanic, female, etc. because you fear being condescended to otherwise, and not picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, etc. who is hispanic, female, etc. because you think that they are incapable of doing a good job.

I'm not happy with the situation, and I'll recommend the Minx titles (or not) based on the books themselves, not the creators gender, but I'm not going to criticise teen and tween girls if it turns out that they need that Mia Hamm moment or if they need some time to recover from the getting burned by yet another clueless attempt to relate to them as girls, teens, whatever.

After all, for all that I complain that boys need to learn some empathy and pick up a few more books that are written by women or - god forbid! - where the main character is a girl, I completely understand why so many boys who wander into the library and bookstore look at me and mostly see yet another woman trying to tell them what they should read or would like. I understand that these are completely different situations, and that part of the solution to the latter has to be making sure that it's not only women who are helping them choose their reading material. Part of helping people learn to be gender blind is making sure that no one gender dominates - especially to an absurd degree.

There is a lot to criticise about DC's choice of authors in light of DC's own comments about wanting to open up comics to more girls. As a line of books, Minx looks promising. As a line of books that's (supposedly) meant to do more than ride the manga wave, it leaves much to be desired.

In the end, it's as simple as that.


In 2001 the WUSA began it's inagural season. In 2003 play was suspeneded permanently, without my ever having gone to a game.

All kinds of people have all kinds of opinions on why the WUSA failed, and if was doomed to do so or not. Here's mine: the WUSA failed because there aren't enough girls and women who make that fake crowd noise, and for most of us that do, it was often a fleeting experience, nothing like the layers upon layers of memories that most men build up over their lifetime. But make no mistake, the WUSA will be back. The memories may be few and faded, but there are still more there than there used to be. It's just a question of how long it will take to build them up high enough.

Eventually, as with DC's attempt to tap into the vast numbers of girls and women who read comics, even the mostly clueless will be trying to get a part of the action.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One Last Thing....

...about the meeting for YA librarians.

The conference room we were in had all these celebrity "Read' posters up on the walls. (For some reason Sean Connery holding a book about Scotland sticks in my mind.) One of the posters that was almost directly across from me was of Orlando Bloom.

It was really quite distracting.

I rather suspect that we have all of our meetings in that same room.

So - I'm wondering if it would be better to sit on the same side of the room as I did this last time, that way I know I'll have something to entertain me if the meeting gets boring, or if I should make sure my back is to the poster so that I don't miss anything important.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Promise I'll Talk About Something Else Soon

From the Comic Book Resources forums, via this post from Sporadic Sequential, via When Fangirls Attack:'s a fantasy story and they've explicitly said they're not publishing genre work under the Minx line.



I missed that.

And why the hell would they do that?

And why the hell would they make a rule that all their stories have to be about being a girl, and then hire almost no female creators?

(And don't some of the upcoming stories fall under the superhero and action genres anyway?)

Oh, and for the record, people need to learn to shut the fuck up with the comparing the excitement over TinTin's comic to the buzz over Snakes on a Plane. Not the same thing at all. Yes, it's true that online buzz may not equal actual money for a company. Oddly enough, intelligent people knew that before Snakes on a Plane bombed.

Snakes on a Plane however, was loved because the very name was a satire on Hollywood marketing and project greenlighting. It's not terribly surprising that when it came to going to watch an hour and some change movie that wasn't a satire, a lot of people that loved the name passed on opportunity to watch the actual movie. (Honestly, who the fuck didn't see that coming?) The problem with the buzz over TinTin's comic, however, is the normal one of "just because a dedicated fanbase is willing to pay money for it, that doesn't mean enough people are willing to may money for it." Which is entirely different, since the question for prospective publishers is not 'will the fanbase abandon the idea in droves" but "is there a larger market for this product?" The answer may not be "yes", but it's also not the obvious "WTF were you thinking?" that applies to Snakes on a Plane.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yes, More Minx

David Welsh has some of the best and most intelligent comments on the new Minx line floating around the blogs, imo. His recent article for Comic World News is no exception. (via CC) In it he does a great job of explaining something that's been bugging me for a couple days now (and in an aside, no less).

He starts out by admitting that:

Categories like shôjo and shônen don’t have they weight here that’s attributed to them in Japan; if a story sounds good or the art appeals to a given reader, they won’t much care who a Japanese publisher tried to market it to originally.
But then adds:
(Of course, DC is shooting for just that kind of compartmentalization with Minx, so maybe it’s more relevant than I think.)

Look, I'm not at all pleased that kids are so gender consious when picking books. And not all kids are. And boys tend to be more so than girls. (I'd love to see a graphic novel imprint for 10-14 year-old boys try to make it with mostly female creators.)

So, it really shouldn't matter that Minx currently has only one and half female authors.

Except that the girls that are going to be appealed to through names like Minx and authors like Castellucci tend to be, in my experience, among the most gender conscious for their age. Not every girl will care about the gender of the creators. Most girls won't. But the ones that do are the same ones that DC seems to be going for. Which really begs the question - WTF were they thinking?

I would also like to point out - as others already have - that girls wanting books that are about being girls to be written by people who were once girls is more along the lines of wanting mysteries to be written by people with experience in solving them. It doesn't make sense as a hard and fast rule, but it's not completely illogical to consider such things when one is deciding on whether or not to try a new series. You may already know that Mike Carey rocks, but your average Clique reader hasn't ever heard of him.

Tokyopop Visits

As promised, my notes from Tokyopop's presentation - and an answer to Lyle's question (sort of):

As I mentioned in the previous post, Hillery Pastovich came out to talk to us at our Youth Services Director's request; a request that was prompted by a previous controversy surrounding an adult book about Manga.

Ms. Pastovich was very nice and was very good at her job, which was mostly to convince my fellow librarians that graphic novels have a place in libraries, to get us interested in her company's products, and to give us some knowledge that would be useful in responding to concerned parents.

Since none of us need the vocab lessons or to be convinced that graphic novels are good things, I'll skip ahead to the interesting bits.

- Tokyopop is in the early stages of revamping it's rating system. Generally, some of the OT stuff will become M, some T stuff will become OT, etc. Don't expect to see it until fall, and they may or may not go back and adjust some of the already published titles still in print.

- The first copies of Kilala Princess just came off the presses. She brought a few copies for us to look at. Sadly, there wasn't much time to do so. You can see even more on their website than I got a chance to read. (Although it was different pages, weirdly enough. I think the website must start with the first chapter, but the book includes a prologue.)

- Any librarians out there (and presumably laypersons as well), you can go directly to so that you don't get "lost in message boards for the rest of the day" trying to find useful information.

Which brings me to Lyle's questions:

- I don't know about Tokyopop, but Ms. Pastovich was well aware of the problems caused by revamping the site. I doubt they plan on drastically changing it anytime soon, although one would hope that they figure out a better way to direct potential readers to actual content sometime soon.

- With regard to how librarians (and readers) can find out which titles belong to which genres (since Tokyopop's imprints are mostly by age) Ms. Pastovich says the new books should have the genre printed on the back and side of the cover. Their website does break down the titles by genre as well, although I'm not sure if they make that information clear on the synopsis pages or on lists of new books, etc.

The whole hour was a lot more fun than I've made it out to be. Ms. Pastovich had some pretty funny comments about some stuff. Tokyopop apparently called up YALSA and asked them "Are you sure?" (or something to that effect) when they found out that some of the more controversial manga - such as I Luv Halloween, which she described as "South Park meets Quentin Tarantino" - had been nominated for various awards. When talking about Fruits Basket and it's popularity, her comment was "we're not sure why, but ok!" She said the same thing in reaction to middle aged women being the largest demographic for Yaoi. (I decided my first meeting was not the best time to explain the attraction to those that don't already get it.)

She also did a good job explaining why they started the Jr. Manga imprint and how it was different from regular manga. Essentially, little kids were always asking to be read from manga books, but pre- and early readers have a hard time following lots of panels of sequential art (which makes sense, considering how kids learn to read) and the stories weren't always appropriate, so they started making larger books with only two panels per page with stories appropriate for young children.

I'm not sure about the new MangaChapters line, just because from what I've seen, the mix of manga and print hasn't been completely worked out. However, I think it's a good idea, especially since some of the librarians who were skeptical about the value of graphic novels perked up at the idea of a book that would be a bridge from sequential art to "literature."

And that's all, folks!

County Removes Graphic Novel With Hamster Sex From it's Shelves

First, Some Background

This is going to be hard to explain without naming names, but I'm going to try.

I live in [Blank] County, CA. It is one of the largest counties in the United States. A big bunch of that is desert, national forest, designated wilderness, etc. There are huge swathes of land - some of it with people living on it - that are not incorporated into any city. It is the county's job to provide to these areas the kind of services that cities provide. Thus, we have a countywide library system with branches anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour apart. Please understand, though, that [Blank] County also has a lot of people. Some branches are very tiny and serve small communities (like mine). Others are big and serve areas as heavily populated as any decent sized city.

[Blank] County, like a lot of local governments, has had some issues with corruption recently. That means they have an image problem at the moment. [Blank] County is also one of those reddish-purple spots on those voting maps that everyone likes to post. The reps we send to the state and national level tend to lean right, several of the homes near my branch up in the mountains are strictly vacation homes, and we have one of the largest Mormon populations outside of Utah. Needless to say, we also have a very diverse population, including a a very large working class and poor population and a significant number of Spanish speakers. [Blank] County is still very much California, but it's slightly poorer and much more conservative than most people imagine California to be.

I mention all this only because it turns out that there was a reason why Tokyopop was invited to speak at my library's countywide meeting for YA/Childrens' librarians.

[Blank] County Removes Graphic Novel With Hamster Sex From it's Shelves

Last spring, a kid from [Middle of Nowhere], CA, checked out Paul Gravett’s Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics from his local [Blank] County Library Branch. When he showed his parent the one page that showed Hamster Sex! (why? what self-respecting teen does that?), the parent brought this fact to the Library's attention.

The book ended up getting pulled completely from the shelves of every branch in the county that owned a copy, rather than simply moved to the appropriate location in each branch. Yes, someone had decided that since it was full of "cartoons" that it belonged in the Juvenile section. Publicly, the Library Director says that it was a joint decision with the County Board of Supervisors. The rumblings I heard today suggest that that the decision was made against the library's wishes. I don't know which story is correct.

I do know, however, that we can request this title from a nearby county through the same system that we use to request books from other branches in our own library. No, I do not mean interlibrary loan, I mean that all a patron has to do is walk in and ask us to request the book from the system and it will arrive a few days later, free of charge. This isn't something special for this book, it's just a deal we have. I thought I'd mention it because it highlights so well, IMHO, just how ridiculous this stuff can get to be.

But Shouldn't Children Be Saved From Graphic Hamster Sex?

I was in grade school when The Simpson's came out and were a Big Thing. Kids used to wear Bart Simpson T-shirts to school all the time. My parents never let my brother or I watch it.

I'm still not sure if this was a good decision or a bad one. The Simpson's is not a children's show and children really shouldn't be watching it. However, since it's not a show made for kids, I really don't think we would have liked it, and I wonder if not letting us do so simply made it forbidden fruit.

I'm not against directing children's media choices. I think that's our job as adults. But I also know that I read a lot of stuff as a kid that would have shocked my parents, and I really think I benefitted from it in the end (here is where I would link to my as yet to be written posts on scifi/fantasy and romance novels). Generally, I'm mostly for directing children's choices, and mostly against dictating children's choices. When it comes to stuff that isn't schoolwork or chores, I think it's better for kids if they have a certain amount of freedom. I also think weeding out the really bad stuff is easier if you keep the dictating to a minimum and stick to more creative ways of directing their choices. Even as a teenager, I knew that it would be easier to get my then preschool cousin away from Ren and Stimpy and Rocky and Bulllwinkle (neither of which seemed appropriate to me for a four-year old) if I said that it was time to play outside instead of making a big deal about either of the shows. I understand that sometimes you just need to say "no" in clear and plain language - I just don't see that the library had gotten to that point. I think people were mostly just freaked out by something odd and no one wanted to be seen as defending Hamster Sex! - for kids!

Most of all though, I'm really against other adults telling me what I can read. I happen to like a lot of stuff that I don't think kids should read and a lot of stuff their parents wouldn't read themselves. But my tax dollars go to pay for library books as well. It's one thing to argue that the money should go to pleasing an audience consisting of more people than just me, it's quite another to get rid of books already bought just because kids (possibly) shouldn't be reading it.

I'm also beyond fed up with the idea that if it's cartoons, it must be for kids. Thankfully, that's slowly changing - it just needs to change faster, then we won't have as many problems with stupid stuff like this.

After all, Laurell K. Hamilton's books and Gregory Maguire's Wicked include a lot of weird sex (the former probably more explicit than the Hamster Sex!) and they're still on our shelves.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Million Reasons Why Andrew Clements is Awesome

And Mike Reed Isn't Too Bad Either

Since I had to type out a bunch of reviews of recent books for my Library Studies class, and it is the holiday season, I figure I'd share some of the better ones with you. (After translating them from HW speak.)

A Million Dots.

Written by Andrew Clements. Illustrated by Mike Reed. Published by Simon and Schuster. Copyright 2006. ISBN: 0689858248

The author of Frindle, The Report Card, and other favorites has a new book out this year, A Million Dots. This new book, however, is a picture book - and non-fiction to boot! Lucky for us, it turns out that Andrew Clements writes awesome books for kids of all ages.*

A Million Dots is a book with - you guessed it - a million little dots. Really, really, itsy bitsy, tiny, little dots. In order to help children understand scale and conceptualize just how big those really big numbers are, Clements, and artist Mike Reed, use all those tiny dots to count to one million.

The book begins by showing one dot about the size of a period, and then ten, and then a hundred tiny dots. The rest of the pages each have a couple thousand dots on them, so that by the time you get to the end of the book, you've looked at one million tiny dots.

Each page also features an odd and/or interesting fact (the distance from the earth to the moon in school buses or some such) and an accompanying retro style illustration. The illustrations are covered with a grid of tiny little dots and the effect is stunning rather than distracting. The dots make the illustrations look similar to the way grainy old photos do, thus the dots end up complementing and blending in with the pictures instead of detracting from them. To top it off, the dot corresponding to the number mentioned in the sentence is highlighted in the illustration by not only a slightly larger light colored circle, but often a cleverly placed star, or other relevant feature, as well.

(This would be as good a time as any to say that I'm putting my vote in for Reed to at least get a Caldecott Honor this year)

In short, A Million Dots is very cool and would make a great gift for any kid between the ages of 5 and 10.

*Yes, Clements has written pcture books before, and beginning readers as well, but (as far as I know) he's best known for his novels for children.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh Good Lord

Someone is trying to make my brain explode.

Originally Posted by EmeraldGuy32
I think she's refering to the [strippers] that aren't actually whores.

wh...who would want one of those? what the hell is the point?

(I suspect Ragnell.)


Must. Finish. Homework.

although my post on why I started reading romance novels is obviously long overdue as well

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Goodbye to Fanboys (for the moment)

So, I'm procrastinating because I have homework that's due tommorrow but the work is damn boring because it's all about kids books and the class isn't that hard, so it feels like busy work.

So, I'm procrastinating by clicking on links at When Fangirls Attack and I run across this:

and the girls women thing is 30 years old. Most people today don't care. Most women I know still refer to themselves as girls, have girls night out, refer to movies they like as chick flicks. We don't need 30 year old feminist garbage, we've moved beyond it. People are people.

There is so much that could be said in response to that, but for the moment, I simply must congratulate spiderrob8 on accomplishing something I had previosly thought impossible: I am so ready to go do my homework now.

Explaining for the umpteenth time why Mo Willems and Sandra Boynton rock my world suddenly sounds infinitely more appealing than it did ten minutes ago.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Give Me Your Questions!

Hillery Pastovich, National Sales Manager from Tokyopop, will be coming to a countywide meeting for YA Librarians in my area next Wednesday - and I will be there since, while I am (as of yet) only a lowly Library Assistant, I am in charge of YA stuff at my branch.

So, while I'm sure most of it will be a sales pitch to us, and I'm not sure how capable Hillery Pastovich will be at answering your questions, and I do need to be careful of what I ask because this is the first time I will be meeting all the other YA Librarians and I'd really like to get to be an actual librarian at some point, please do let me know if you have any questions you'd like me to ask.

I return, I will do my best to ask them and post both her answers and any other interesting information from the meeting.

Classic Graphic Novels

Especially since it looks like Kalinara could use some cheering up, I thought I'd share with you all that Sterling Publishing* is putting out a new line of classics adapted as graphic novels.

Unlike the last set we got in, which was pretty much junk, this one looks like it might be worth looking at. The artwork I've seen so far looks promising. The first two titles out are Dracula and Tom Sawyer (sorry, no A Little Princess yet, and since the line is called All Action Classics, likely not for a while). Dracula reminds me of the overly stylized Disney Hercules - not my cup of tea, especially with the tiny female waists, but it's at least pretty and readable, which is a step up from the other comic classics we got in. Tom Saywer looks really nice, however. It reminds me of Bone and the new Babysitter's Club, which makes me happy because I love Mark Twain.

Since it's from Sterling, I'm cautiously optimistic. We get a lot of junk from Sterling. They aren't really known for finding the next Newbery or Caldecott. Mostly they publish the kind of low end titles, such as an endless supply of sudoku or craft books, that are obvious attempts to chase the latest trends. However, Sterling also publishes some of our top selling classics for kids. Granted, they are top selling at my store in part because we get them cheap (due to no copyright and other reasons stated below), but they are also very nice looking and the abridged classics are about as good as your're going to get when you chop books in half - or thirds.

I'm not quite sure when they are due to hit stores. The only date I've seen is November, and we don't have any in yet.

*I should share that Sterling is either owned or in partnership with one of the companies that pays my bills (I'm a little confused as to the actual relationship). Since I'm not terribly happy with them, that doesn't mean a whole lot at the moment, but I thought you should know.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Comics for Girls - I'm Back From Hibernation! Edition

Jill at Feministe has a post up about DC's decision to publish and market a series of almost manga style (my words, not hers) graphic novels for girls.

There's a lot of good comments in response, such as:

I can’t help but feel that DC wouldn’t have to go to all this trouble if they just took down the NO STINKY GIRLS sign on the superhero clubhouse.
I think that's true - to a certain point.

It's important to remember why DC is doing this. Unfortunately, they are not doing it because the powers that be at DC have finally realized that girls do not have cooties after all. They are doing this because books for teens - most especially teen girls - are consistent top sellers at just about every major bookstore. Graphic Novels - most especially Manga - is also the biggest growing section at most bookstores. Other than new releases and workbooks for kids, it's pretty much the only section that keeps getting more room at my store. Within the last year alone, we've added several bays to the adult Graphic Novels (with most of it going to manga), several shelves to the teen manga, and an entirely new (but still small) section of kid's manga. And that doesn't even count all the random beginning reader books put out by Tokyopop, the influx of graphic novels in the first chapter books section (most of which are published by Tokyopop), or the soon to be half a shelf in young readers devoted to Bone alone.

Another commenter wrote:
i personally dont think theres a need to specifically target girls with girl comics…i certainly had no trouble finding awesome ones
Now this, I don't understand at all. I'm happy that she was able to find comics she liked, and I'd never suggest that girls (and women) don't read comics or that companies need to market to girls to get any girls to read comics, but I'd say it's pretty irrefutable that boys have an easier time finding good comics than girls do. Granted, as many people pointed out, marketing isn't going to solve the problem by itself. But it can't hurt, either.

As I commented on the Feministe thread, DC simply woke up and finally smelled Tokyopop's profits. The graphic novels for girls they are putting out are deliberately meant to ride on Tokyopop's coattails. Knowing how books get shelved in every B&N, and having helped several hundred kids look for books, it's quite obvious that the choice to make a series of black and white graphic novels - and not a series of comic books in color - and to market them exclusively at girls, was a marketing decision meant to ensure that their product would be placed next to Tokyopop's Kingdom Hearts and DN Angel in the teen manga section. The decision to hire a relatively well known author of books for teen girls is just the icing on the cake. (And suggests that DC is serious about making this work in the long run, and not just grabbing a few bucks - knock on wood.)

Compare that to Marvel's decision to revive White Tiger as a young woman and hire Tamora Pierce and Tim Liebe to write the new series. I applaud Marvels' decision as well, but I worry that it won't generate the profit's DC's line will, and thus will die an early death - the awesomeness of Tamora Pierce notwithstanding. I also wonder if Marvel made the right decision in making it a traditional comic book. Without a lot of marketing outside of the comic book world - and there hasn't been much - Marvel is barely capitalizing on the huge built in fanbase for anything with Tammy's name on it. Yeah, they can publish it as a graphic novel later - like Runaways - but that means that there's the danger that, like with Runaways, the comic book industry itself will tend to downplay the overall profits since much of it will not be made in the traditional way. Which means they'll have less reason to continue to try to break their own mold.

By the way, I agree with the sentiment that I wish they’d change the way they write comics (maybe hire a few more female artists/writers as well), instead of creating “just for girls” comics.
I really do wish this as well. But as long as simply writing a story along the lines of Anne of Green Gables or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is considered writing something that is "just for girls" there will be a time and a place for "just for girls" comics. I don't like sharp gender divides, and I don't like how such attitudes suggest that stuff like Marvel's new White Tiger doesn't even exist, and I really don't like how this kind of thinking tends to ghettoize some of the best books ever written for children and teens.

However, I much prefer it to people thinking that "girl" stories are not even worth writing - which has generally been DC's attitude in the past. Just because you'd never read That Summer or would prefer Captain Underpants to Babymouse doesn't mean that they aren't damn good books and that the world isn't a better place for them having existed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Today's Random Thought

This is what I learned in grade school:

Plants need sun. If you put them in the dark, they die.

Carnations naturally come in a variety of finite colors. One of them is white. If you put a white carnation in colored water, it will get colored streaks along it's petals to match the water. It's stem will turn a slightly different shade as well. Carnations of every hue will in fact, get different shaded streaks if they are put in colored water, white is just more dramatic. (I'm not sure how well watering a planted carnation with colored water works...)

It seems to me that most people who toss out statements like "the fact is that we are driven by our biology in much the same way as other species" would like to pretend that nature vs. nurture works in ways that follow only the the "plants die without sun" simple cause and effect lesson, when in reality it's complex in ways that put the "what color carnations are possible?" question to shame.

But maybe that's just me.

Generation Warfare

I had a minor meltdown at Pandagon this morning, and while I probably went off the handle a bit more than was needed, I do think it needs to be pointed out exactly how much many people in the older generations don't get anyone under 30.

Yeah, I know, it's nothing new; neither is their constant complaining that we just plain suck compared to every generation that has gone before. However, in the interest of fostering understanding, I offer an abbreviated list of ways in which we are not what you think we are. A list that I'm sure many will disagree with and ideas that very few people who bother to read this blog - young, old, or in between - are ignorant of. (But it'll make me feel better, so...)

We Do Not Believe In The American Dream

It's a lie.

It was not our Manifest Destiny to cross the Great Plains; it was greed that drove us.

Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, The American Dream does not exist, especially for us. There are very few jobs out there and even those are fading fast. And they all need college degrees and experience. There are no homes for sale as well - not at prices we can afford, anyway. We started our adulthood deep in debt and we will always be in debt. Our friends and older siblings that bought houses they couldn't afford during the soon to burst housing bubble will be joining us in our parents basement - provided they still have one. There will be no two door garage and white picket fence for us.

We don't even want it, anyway. We grew up in suburbia and would rather not have to live and die there, thank you very much.

We don't like cars, either. Not the way you do. Road trips are fun and some of us do love driving but we don't revere it the way you do. Even in Southern California, Land of the Almighty Automobile, we are starting to wait until we need to drive to work or college before we learn to drive at all. There's just so many better things we could spend every fourth paycheck on.

We Believe In the American Dream

Not the kind with white picket fences and freeways across the Grand Canyon, but the kind that Langston Hughes wrote poems about. We may not believe in Norman Rockwell's America, but we yearn for the Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want, and Freeedom from Fear that it promises. We believe in equality, opportunity, democracy, variety, morality, the common good, and above all our right to pursue happiness.

We're just not sure how to get there - or even if it's possible. Nirvana sounds nice too, after all. I'm not going to skip this week's episode of Lost to go looking for it, though.

We Don't Understand the Meaning of Civic Duty

We say we believe in Democracy, but we don't know what it means. Our parents taught us that all politicians - no all leaders - are born shifty and corrupt and that our pathetic attempts at protest range from a cute phase we'll grow out of to destructive behavior that comes from lack of purpose and responsibility. Our high schools taught us that history was always set in stone, so our actions cannot shape the future, and that democracy is a popularity contest for positions that don't really mean anything anyway.

We believe without question that we have a right to our opinions but we don't understand that voicing them is crucial to a healthy democracy. Democracy is something you do in the voting booth and occasionally something you do by signing a petition or volunteering for your party of choice. The truth that it is a way of life escapes us in terms of day to day practicalities.

When some of us do figure it out and do try to engage in democracy, our parents throw their mistakes and failures back at us - usually as proof that we are not needed nor are we reliable. We quickly learn that we aren't wanted at the grown-ups table anyway - because that means less pie for everyone that is already there.

Constantly rebuffed, we instead spend much of our time debating and reading and watching TV and learning more and more, pondering how to put our vast current affairs knowledge to practical use.

We Are Dedicated and Passionate Volunteers

We volunteer more than any other recent generation. We believe strongly in our causes - with all the fervor and conviction that is characteristic of youth.

We drift from job to job because we search for meaning, purpose, and respect - not an easier paycheck. We refuse to commit to a career because we either like all of them or like none of them. But most of all because the only ones that pay the bills sabatoge the causes we are so dedicated to.

We watch our parents and grandparents struggle more and more, rather than less and less, and wonder: if we jump from cage to cage, will we mind the bars less or more? If we just spend all our time spinning on the wheel, will we learn to forget that we are trapped?

We know that you think that we are lazy, unmotivated, and ignorant. We also know that you only see what you want to see. It's always easier to blame others for your own mistakes. Besides, it takes one to know one.

And a few extra special bits about younger feminists

We Aren't Feminists

Feminism is a dirty word that that angry, ugly girls call themselves. We believe in all the things (er, well most of them) that feminism has acheived, but we are already equal to men, thank you very much, we don't need a movement anymore.

Of course, lot of us know that isn't true, but even we aren't quite sure what to do about it most of the time. Especially since, as hard as it is to get anyone to listen to us because of our age or lack of experience or childlessness, it's even harder to get them to take feminism seriously. (see above) We are feminists, but we are often invisible ones.

We Have Been Feminists Since Before We Could Remember

We don't understand that Amherst opened it's doors to women after the troops came back from Vietnam; we figure it must have been in the dark ages because the thought of not having the chance to go to an ivy league just because we're girls is as alien to us as being told we can't vote. Same goes for the pill, female astronauts, and Barbie dressing up as a doctor, just to name a few.

Our mothers tell us that when they were allowed to play sports, they had to to do so under weird rules - like basketball players having to stay on one side of the court instead of both offensive and defensive players being able to run from one end to the other, like they normally do. A part of us doesn't really believe them, though; people couldn't possibly be that stupid.

When we learned to call ourselves a feminist varies. Some of us proclaimed in kindergarten that "tomboys don't exist, just girls." Some of us came by it gradually, becoming more and more comfortable with the name and dedicated to the cause as we grew older. Some of us still think feminism is over and done with already, even if we can't imagine a world without it.

We've Always Known the Boys Are Being Neglected and Treated Unfairly

We fought the battle of the sexes with our brothers and classmates from grade school through high school and bore the brunt of their bewlilderment and anger as they saw the little things they took for granted, like being called on in class, happen less and less. We looked around at our high school honor rolls and wondered where the boys were. They angrily replied that they'd been forgotten because mom and dad and teacher and coach were too busy spending time with us.

Any complaint of sexism was quickly met with a complaint of reverse sexism (as if reverse discrimination was an idea that made sense) and sometimes we had to admit they had a point. Along with all the traditional trials of adolescence and being a female, we had to deal with our male peers blaming us for feminism's mistakes. The boys lashed out more and more as they became increasingly angrier and stronger - and many of us learned to hate feminism ourselves because of it.

We Know That Feminists Aren't the Ones Who Have Been Neglecting and Mistreating Them

Many of us also became frustrated at our male peers insistence that, on the one hand, every objectionable act they committed was programmed into them through testosterone and, on ther other, it really wasn't fair for everyone to think less of them because they were boys.

We emphathized with their plight but became scornful when many never outgrew their childish reactions. We learned to put the blame where it belonged (on the patriarchy) when practically every effort to help was rebuffed with cries of man-hating. Like Mae West we learned we were feminists though experience: every time we tried to stand up for ourselves or our boys, we were called the F word.

We learned to carry the epitath "feminist" proudly. We knew that it was proof that we loved our brothers as much as we loved ourselves, even others thought differently.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Real Men Do/n't

I really should have much profound things to say about this, but at the moment the only thought that keeps popping into my head is an exchange that happened during one of my visit's to my sister's house.

For some reason, I think in response to my sister or brother-in-law stating something about gender that I disagreed with, I mentioned a men's t-shirt that I recently saw. It was pink and said "Real Men Wear Pink."

Brother-in-law yells back from the other room: "No they don't!"

Which I found extremely funny because, while one could take the t-shirt to mean that only men assured of their masculinity dare to wear pink, they real point is the "real men" wear whatever the fuck they like.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Just wanted to let everyone know that all the hard work that has taken me away from blogging is starting to pay off.

As of the end of the the month, your friendly neighborhood Mickle will no longer be just an Hourly Bookseller - she will also be an Hourly Library Assistant.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Feminist SF Carnival #5

The 5th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans is up.

Thanks 100littledolls!

The Hathor Legacy will be hosting the next one, submissions are due the 13th of October.

"The suggested theme for the 6th edition is gender: roles, identities, and transgressions – but there’s no need to stick to the theme if your otherwise eligible post doesn’t fit into it."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

If There Was a "Politically Correct" Term for "Rape" it Would Sound a Lot Like "Forced Seduction"

In light of Racy Li's response to this post by Ragnell, I thought I'd share with you all a recent post and some subsequent comments about Romance, Erotica and Political Correctness over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels.

Sarah's initial post is a response to a rant by author Laura Kinsale:

I read a lot--a LOT--of reader commentary on the various romance sites regarding things like alpha heroes and “rape” and “forced seduction” and how all that is so 1970’s...but we’re all enlightened modern women now and we just don’t like that sort of thing. Then in the next thread will be complaints that the genre just isn’t as compelling or interesting as it used to be and readers can’t find books they really enjoy, and gee, why are all the heroes vampires now?
Sarah ponders the question
Can you have your emotional security cake and hump it too?
and invites readers to respond. Here are my faves.

Candy, who co-runs the site with Sarah:
I disagree with Kinsale....There’s a difference between political correctness and homogenization, and she’s complaining about homogenization. There’s no doubt that political correctness can drive art towards homogeneity, but an even stronger force is market demand.....

And there’s also a difference between political correctness and speaking up about what one thinks is fucked-up shit....

...Yeah, vampires and werewolves and demons, oh my, allow us freer reign for some of our darker fantasies, but I’d argue that the sweeping historical saga of the 70s and early-to-mid 80s served much the same purpose and provided a similar element of fantasy. Not too many romances were written back then about the mousy truck-stop waitress being wooed and raped and then wooed and raped again and then abandoned and then raped and then having a secret baby and then raped and then finally falling in love with one of the truckers at her restaurant.
Laura Vivanco:
I think different people will find different things erotic...

Similarly, when it comes to romance novels, different people will have different fantasies and enjoy reading about different types of relationships....Each reader, with her/his different preferences can email authors, post on message boards etc and so the authors, like Laura Kinsale, will receive mixed messages, because they’re getting different messages from different readers.
Fucking a woman who’s crying out of fear is never hot.
Yawn. Blaming political correctness is so damn lazy.
If PC is the reason we’re not seeing the romanticization of rape, go PC.

Sorry, rape isn’t romantic. Forced sex isn’t romantic. Rough sex within boundaries? Oh yeah, very sexy. A man seducing the hell out of the woman? Very sexy.

Even studies about rape as fantasy fail to really get at the underlying issue - which is letting a woman put the responsibility for her desires that she’s deemed unacceptable or inexpressible onto the man. That’s not rape. That’s something else entirely and it’s really exciting if it’s written right.

Strong characters of both genders are sexy and compelling. A strong character can be vulnerable too. Blaming the lack of compelling characters on PC does nothing to convince me that it’s anything other than lazy writing that creates cardboard characters in some romance novels.

I don’t bemoan the good old days when heroes were asshole rapists and if the heroine got uppity he’d give her a little what for to put her in her place.
I suspect the audience of the 70s and 80s already knew the subtext and didn’t need to have it explained, or at least felt the same way he author and/or heroine did, even if they didn’t quite understand the underlying reasons for what they felt. I’ve read those books. They never bothered me; I understood what was really going on.

But the fact is, this is the 21st century, and one hopes that women today are allowed to own their sexuality, allowed to say, “Yes, I wanna!” and not be thought less of. If it’s PC-ness that demands that women be allowed to have sexual feelings, then hoo-rah for PCness.
One thing struck me in [Laura Kinsale's] quote from Ester Perel:

And eroticism thrives on something very different. It thrives on the unknown and the mysterious, on the unexpected. It’s not what you want in a long-term, secure relationship.

I’m a great fan of the In Death books and it seems to me that Eve and Roarke have a long-term secure relationship… and a highly erotic one. Nora Roberts manages to keep the heat up between two strong and independent characters… so it can be done. There’s very real conflict between the characters, in their world views and where they draw the line, and this adds to the romantic tension between them. and so far there’s not a single vampire in the entire series.

So it is demonstrably possible to have dark heros and dark heroines - or at least those with their own demons - without bowing to Political Correctness or feeling the need to stick a vampire into the series to create erotic tension.
Which makes me want to read the In Death books, because that sounds like a lot of what I like about Gabaldon's novels.

I was thinking about the term “forced seduction,” which I think is in itself a little misleading...“Force” implies total unwillingness, for me at least, on the part of the person being forced.

Seduction, however, automatically implies a certain (often psuedo-)reluctance on one side. If the other person was ready to go straight off, you wouldn’t need the seduction....even when the seduction is more physical,...[she] is almost always responding in a way that says she’s willing, she’s ready to go, she’s not being forced, though it may look that way at first. (Unless, of course, she’s only trying to lower his defenses so that she can knee him in the balls. I like my heroines kick-ass, too.)

Does that make sense? I’m all about the seduction, but adding the term “forced seduction”...that’s just a veiled rape.

Go and read it all.

And while you are there, don't forget to read one of Candy and Sarah's snarky takedowns of various romance novel covers. Honestly, sometimes they make even Greg Land look good.

To the Parents I Was Rude to Last Night at Work:

I'm not sorry that I was rude to you.

I apologize to my co-workers, because I know your opinion of me transfers to them, and they are very nice people who deserve better.

I'm sorry for myself because I really do wish I was smarter sometimes.

I'm sorry I was rude because, now that I've eaten and gotten some rest, I'm less grumpy and I've had time to reflect and realize that smiling and saying "Can I help you find anything?" might have made you realize how much of an ass you were being instead of giving you more excuses for your own rudeness. Some of you seemed pretty self-absorbed and dense, however, so I doubt it.

I am not sorry, however, that I was rude to you or that your feelings may have been hurt. You deserved it.

It's one thing to be rude because you're having a bad day and you really need to let your frustrations out somehow. (see: me, last night) It's still bad because, unfortunately, sometimes people get caught in the crossfire. I know, I'm in retail. I'm often the person caught in the crossfire. It is, however, forgiveable. We all do it.

It's quite another thing, however, to be rude simply because it makes you feel better to be rude. It doesn't matter how politely you word it, commenting on someone elses bad fortune, without asking what you can do to help, is just another form of name-calling, no matter how politely you word it.

Going up to a person who makes little more than minimum wage, as they are racing around trying to keep customers like yourself from destroying the store's merchandise and treating books like trash, and saying "Gosh, this must keep you busy all night" is not commisserating with them, it's being an ass. You deserve much worse than silence and a roll of the eyes. Especially when you are stupid enough to repeat yourself as if the reason for my silence was poor hearing and not the complete inability to come up with anything remotely appropriate in response.

People like you deserve a time out, a lengthy fire and brimstone lecture, and community service. A little bit of rudeness is letting you off easy.

PS - to the lady that was nice enough to not only point out the dripping cup left on the Klutz fixture, but pick it up and hand it to me, and then thank me for the books I found for you even though I didn't have to go to that much effort to do so, I'm very, very sorry that I was not the essence of good manners to you. You are a wonderful person.

My First Kiss

was in second grade.

We were both seven, brown haired, and brown eyed.

We sat together in class. I'd try to do my schoolwork and he would try to make me laugh by telling me silly stories. Like how his little yellow hot lunch ticket wasn't really a ticket, it was really a lunch box with an apple, and a sandwich, and all kinds of other stuff inside. I'd often giggle so hard I thought I was going to fall out my chair.

The kiss happened during recess. We sat on the hill by the fence at the back end of the little kid's playground.

I closed my eyes and kissed him softly on the cheek - nervously and hesitant.

I kissed him because he kept chasing me at recess and he wouldn't stop. I kissed him because I didn't know how else to make him stop bugging me. I wanted to go play tag or swinging statues with my friends - not be constantly asked for something that didn't even make sense. Mommies and Daddies kiss and hug. Brothers and sisters kiss and hug. I didn't hug and kiss the boys - or girls - I played with at school. Why would I want to do that?

Why would he want to do that?

Well, because his mother was the yard duty and she thought it was cute. I probably could have tried telling my teacher. There's a good chance this particular teacher would have put a stop to it. There's also a good chance she would have told me to take care of it myself. Recess was our domain and (for very good reasons) teachers and even yard duties often try to not get involved unless someone's going to be physically injured or there seems to be a pattern of bad behaviour going on. Of course, I didn't know at the time that his actions may be considered the latter, all I knew was that what happened at recess, stayed at recess, and that the yard duty was encouraging him.

But what he was doing wasn't cute; it was a miniature version of bullying someone for sex.

Let's pretend for a moment that instead of bugging me for a kiss, he was bugging me for a toy. Not one of the school toys, but my own toy. A whistle, a Garbage Pail Kids* card, a Star Wars figurine - whatever. And he didn't want to just play with it for a while - he wanted it.

Now, most adults would have no problem as seeing this as very bad behaviour on the boy's part. And while many would also consider me a schmuck for giving in, they would agree that the boy should be stopped and I should be given my toy back. Because the same people would have no problems understanding that his behavior was a grammar school version of blackmail: I'm not going to harm you, but I'm not going to let you live in peace if you don't give me what I want. They understand that lecturing the boy and giving me my toy back is how children learn about property rights.

Which begs the question: what were we being taught about sex and coercion? Nothing good, obviously.

It's the whole chicken and the egg thing. We don't teach kids that coercing someone for sex is wrong and so people have a hard time seeing it as criminal rather than just not nice, but since we don't prosecute people for using coercion to get sex, we don't make a consious effort to teach kids that coercive sex is not ok. And since many people are still confused on the whole consent/submission thing (see comments on previous post) it does need to be a consious effort.

We need to make coercing someone for sex illegal the same way that blackmail is illegal because if we don't, not enough people are going to bother to teach their kids to do the right thing. And failing to teach people to not use coercion to get sex is what makes it so easy for the guys that everyone agrees are assholes to go one step up and commit what most peopke think of when they hear the word rape.

A single line in the sand is a hard thing to see and, quite frankly, I don't think it's particularly fair of us to expect teen boys - or girls - to fully understand the difference between consensual sex and rape when we haven't defined for them an intermediary crime involving coercion for sex.

*yeah, I know, I'm old. And no, I never owned one. They weren't allowed at my house.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

And Now For Something Serious - and Long

Just warn you all - the title wasn't meant sarcastically.

There's discussion going on over at Alas about rape. (yeah, ok, so, a little sarcasm there) The initial post was mostly about Restorative Justice, which is interesting and all, but what sucked me in was the discussion about what constitutes rape.

Two possible scenarios that are examples of not good behavior, but don't meet the legal definition of rape, were brought up. The first is in the post itself and is essentially the story of a teen girl "giving in" to her (hopefully) teen boyfriend, partly because they're alone, she has no car, and she lied to her parents about where she was, so her options for leaving are limited and carry a lot of risk. The second one was a short description of a woman who "gives in" to her boss's advances because she fears she'll lose her job.

Sailorman replies to the second with:

... the “acceptable” option was for her to quit and sue under the various acts and statutes preventing sexual harassment. Then she’d get her job back, or get paid, and he’d get fire/fined/what have you.

Nobody thinks she should “suck it up” and have SEX with him. Yuck. But if she elects not to use the alternative avenues, and decides to sleep with him because she doesn’t want to deal, it’s not rape. It’s BAD, and it’s punishable under more than one law, and it’s morally reprehensible. But it’s not legally coerced.

Now I'm going to assume that Sailorman meant "it's not illegally coerced" since he just said that it's not rape and illegally coerced sex and rape are synonymous.

While you are mulling that over - as well as the supposed absolute certainty that she 1) can afford to quit her job, 2) can manage to bring the case to trial 3) manages to win the case and 4) that this entire process is less of an ordeal than just sleeping with her boss a couple of times - I'm going to switch gears for a moment and pick on the 16 year old author I love to pick on.

so - be warned - spoilers ahead for Eragon

Although that's kinda like saying "warning: I'm going to give spoilers for Joseph Campbell's synopsis of the hero's journey, as well as some typical elements of modern fantasy!"

But seriously.

I was thinking about that stupid scene the other day and I realized why it's always bugged me so much. It's not just that it's disturbing that the desire to own, er, I mean, rescue, a virginal maiden is ingrained in young men's psyche's at such a young age. It's not even just that it's frightening that it's so important that she be virginal and something he, and he alone, owns that Paolini would feel the need to insert sexual violence into a book in which sexual desire is fairly rare - just to show that she is both virginal and his.

The main problem is that Ayra is supposed to be a hero, but she is praised for a decidedly selfish and un-heroic act. In fact, she is considered worthy of being the object of Eragon's (and the reader's) affections by this very act. Tens of thousands of people are counting on her, an entire kingdom relies on her strength and wisdom; but she uses her last bit of energy, not for one last attempt to live so that she can return to the people who need her nor to make a probably unsuccessful attack on her nations foe, no, she uses it to save herself - sexually - for Eragon.

Now, technically, plotwise, she was just saving herself. But saving herself from what!?!? The woman had already been tortured and was described as being not just on death's doorstep, but straddling the threshold. Even if, for some weird reason, she could really only affect the guards in ways unhelpful to her escape, why not fight back, even if it's just one small punch? What did her actions really gain her, anyway? Are we under the impression that the guards just looked down at their crotch and said "Oh, well, it's not up for it today, guess we'll go back to playing cards."!?!?

Now, I can see lots of reasons why her choice made sense - but it wasn't a heroic choice. I'm sure she's a very nice person, but this should present a problem to her heroic status - not a leg up.

So why did she do it? Or rather, why did Paolini have her do it?

For the same reason Sailorman wrote
Nobody thinks she should “suck it up” and have SEX with him.

Well, why the hell not?

What if she has a dying parent or a sick kid relying on her? You'd expect a father to "suck it up" when it comes to a lot of crap, wouldn't you? To the point of risking his life, even. Isn't that what heroic father figures do all the time in the stories?

Yeah, yeah, this is real life, not the movies. But that's why I brought up Eragon. (see, there is a method to my madness) Women are supposed to scarifice everything for their loved ones as well, in the stories. Everything except their "purity."

(ok, so, um, spoilers forFirefly too.)

As uncomfortable as it is to watch, there is a part of me that loves the scene in Objects in Space, Firefly's last episode, where River calmly talks Kaylee through freeing the rest of the crew, despite the villian's threats of brutal rape if she tries to do so. Sexual violence is pervasive in mass media and women fighting back - and winning - is fairly uncommon, but it's even rarer to see women risking sexual violence to save others. Oh, they'll submit to it (ahem, see: Inara in the episode with the duel) - but they don't risk it.

Why not? Well, partly because "yes means yes and no means no." Except when it doesn't. What if yes means "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than endanger the life of my child" or "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than move my parents to a dodgy nursing home in their last days" or even just "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than get grounded and not be able to go on the trip to DC" or "yes, I'd rather you fuck me than than have to deal with finding a job in a crappy economy."

Talk about the fallacies of choice feminism at it's finest.

The question is, though, are such actions on the part of the person doing the fucking illegal, and if so, is it rape?

I wrote:
If it’s a crime to threaten or attempt to do it, why isn’t it a worse crime to actually do it? As I understand it, attempted extortion is different from actual extortion. Just like attempted murder is a different crime from all the different levels of murder.

So, if threatening someone’s job in order to get sexual “favors” (don’t you just love that term?) is sexual harrassment, why is “accepting” sexual “favors” as a result of threats (overt or otherwise) still only sexual harrassment? It may not be rape as we generally use the term, but it most definitely is not sexual harrassment as we generally use the term, either.

To answer my own question: "Because Paolini wrote that even heroines avoid rape at all cost, to the point of endangering the people they are supposed to protect."

In other words, yes always means yes. You can't criminally coerce a yes except through physical threats, because nothing short of death is worse than real rape, not even torture - and even the death part is debatable. If she said yes, she must have been at least ok with it, so it's only bad in the abstract, like attempted crimes. Still punishable behavior on his part, but no trauma or victimhood on her end. No more than someone only threated with a crime, anyway, probably less, really.

The real commonality between Sailorman and Paolini is that they both deny women's ablity to be heroic when sex is involved, although they would probably disagree with my assessment. In a lot of ways, going through the ordeal of a sexual harrassment lawsuit is a heroic act (that is, after all, how they were able to make a movie about the first big lawsuit). But Sailorman denies this fact by assuming that not having sex is always the easier choice. I'm all for people being heroic, but I think it's ridiculous to make heroism a requirement for being a "real" victim of a crime. I think it's especially silly of a country whose Good Samaritan Laws exist to protect would-be heros from lawsuits, rather than anti-heros from criminal prosecution, to do so.

Can you think of a better way to cut down on sexual harrassment than to make harrassers guilty of an even more serious crime if she does ever say yes?

And can you think of a worse way to combatt sexual harrassment than for society to almost always see no crime at all if she does ever say yes, no matter the reason why?

If my giving money to an extortionist solidifies his crime, saying "yes" to sex with a sexual harrasser should do the same - not the opposite. If I can give someone money, and still be a victim of blackmail - without any physical threats involved - then I should also be able to say "yes" to sex and still be considered a rape victim, even in the absence of physical threats. It may be a lesser degree of rape, just as we have different degrees of murder, but it's still rape.

Newsflash: Focus on the Family Unaware of the Power of Alliteration

or irony...or something.

From a cool librarian's blog that I just discovered comes this article from Family News: In Focus.

In it Phil Burress with Citizens for Community Values accuses the ALA of "trying to censor those who exercise their free speech rights and say that there are books in the library that should not be available to children."

Like many people these days, Mr. Burgess is unaware of the difference between the verbs "censor" and "criticise." Well, I guess they both start with C's.

I'm not quite sure where the confusion between "say" and "do things" comes from, though. Perhaps he just believes so strongly in the power of words that he thinks that making a formal challenge is no more significant of an action than stating an opinion out loud.

Focus on the Family makes a point of saying that while "[f]our hundred books were challenged in 2005. None were banned," and that "hundreds of books that have been challenged...not banned."

Yet somehow Josh Montez, the author of the article, misses the significance of the not only the verb "tried" (as in "tried to ban") in the ALA's radio spot (despite quoting the entire thing) but also the fact that "banned" and "books" both begin with B's.

Maybe the book that covered alliteration and grammar was "challenged" and moved to the adult section of Mr. Montez's and Mr. Burgess's hometown library.

And yes, I'm completely aware of the irony of posting something critiquing censorship directly after publishing random mumblings in favor of burning books.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This is What it Has Come To

Tails, Harry Potter, Narnia, even The Giving Tree - they're all toast.

Everyone will just have to go buy their Christmas gifts somewhere else because they are all going up, up, away in a puff of smoke.

There are just too many of them. They are going to eat me alive!

They must be destroyed.

Ok, well, maybe I'll save some copies of Little Women and The Princess and the Goblin. But nothing else! Not even that new one about the chicken crossing the road.

Friday, September 29, 2006

simargl_wings is cool

that is all

Adonis (and his sidekick Cupid) to the Rescue!

Adonis here...

and me, Cupid, too!

....we've been reading a lot lately about how men just aren't as pretty as women, women are just naturally sexier, blah blah, blah. And we're starting to get damn pissed off about about it.


I mean, I know we don't have any of those cool new powers like the X-men...

Please, laser eyes? I'd like to see Cyclops try and go up against the real Cylops...

So why should you listen to us, right? We're only ancient gods after all.

or Zeus!

But I, for one, am sick and tired of all you mere mortals trying your hardest to ignore the obvious truth that men's bodies are a thing of beauty....

you're all just jealous 'cause you know you can't compare to us. I'm putting you all on notice: start behaving or BEWARE MY WRATH!

(um..Adonis...that was soooo not scary)


(You need to do smething. You know, demonstrate your powers...)

(Oh, ok.)

(Ahem) So that you may know to tremble before me, I will give you just a small taste of what you deserve for such insolence...

this'll be good....
...and since sexy, beautiful men seems to be what you fear most, I give you




(I don't think that's an improvement...)

(Have you seen the way fanboys react to the idea of the female gaze...much less the gaze of the gay male?)


(It'll work, trust me.)

(Whatever you say, boss. I'm just the sidekick after all.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some Advice for Authors (and Future Authors)

Please do not go into a bookstore between mid September and the end of October to check up on the sales floor stock of your newly released book. Unless, perhaps, you are Eric Carle or Nora Roberts, but probably not even then.

If you cannot find your book, please do not walk up to the information desk and ask the nice employee there to find your book - all the while pretending to be a customer and not the author of said book. The employee in question is currently trying to do the work of two people at once because corporate is full of jackasses who recently took all the extra hours the store had saved up for Christmas. Consequently, the managers have been running the increasingly busier store you are now in on a skeleton crew for the last few weeks - and they need to continue doing so until November. The employee in front of you, and his or her manager, would much rather spend the five minutes you are sucking up either helping an actual customer or getting more books out onto the floor.

If you cannot refrain from doing this, do not be surprised if stacks of books "accidentally" fall onto - or maybe just near - you. It won't be on purpose, I swear. Really, it's just that we've realized you are right and that we need to make getting all our new books onto the sales floor our number one priority - right after customer service, ringing up customers, cleaning the bathrooms, and, of course, dealing with local authors. Unfortunately, just about everyone's books come out between September and November. That's when we get our Christmas overstock in as well. It's also when the always brilliant corporate big-wigs decide they are going to steal our store managers for a week for their annual retreat. When you are trying to get hundreds of boxes filled with thousands of books out onto the sales floor per day* - all while multi-tasking, because, well, I suppose the customers should be helped every once in a while - accidents are bound to happen with all that rushing about.

One final note....

To the nice, but slightly annoying author who came into RandomCity B&N, CA the other day and got me at the information desk: don't take it personally, but if I haven't managed to find the time to get the brand-new pop-up book by the author of Where the Wild Things Are out from under a stack of books in the receiving room (a stack of books, by the way, that not only covers an entire work table and then some, but is also taller than I am*) and out onto the floor, despite several customer requests, I really don't give a shit that your new mass market is still sitting on the top of one of carts in the back.

*ok, I lied, one more note: these are not exaggerations

My Grandma Rocks!

Thanks to her I now have a nearly new monitor that works. So, not only will it be easier to do my homework, but I may even begin posting regularly again.

Let's hear it for the pack rat/Depression Era mentality that says you should never throw anything out that works (or can be fixed) - even if you no longer need it. Woohoo!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Losing Libby

I picked up a copy of Lost: Season 2 and the latest Entertainment Weekly recently in order to catch up in time for the season premiere next Wednesday.

(warning, serious season 2 spoilers follow)

In Entertainment Weekly Stephen King wrote that:

If you didn't see Libby's death coming, join the club. Neither did I. Because, I'd argue, neither did the producers
Sadly enough, I think Stevie may be right about the producers not seeing Libby's death coming. I, however saw it the moment she and Hurley started getting close. I just wasn't expecting it so soon - I figured they'd wait until after they explained her stay in the mental ward.

I first saw season 1 of Lost last year right before season 2 began. I really liked it; partly because it was well written and partly because it had interesting, strong, female characters. However, I had a hard time going from watching all the episodes all in a row on dvd to waiting from week to week. Plus it clashed with Veronica Mars. So I hadn't see any but the first few episodes of season 2 until a few weeks ago.

I'm still curious about what is going to happen this season, so I'll likely at least try to follow it, but I must say I was really disapointed with the second season in terms of the writers/producers treatment of female characters.

Yeah, yeah, I should have seen this coming. It's not as if the first season was a fantastic tribute to women and feminism, and this is J. J. Abrams, after all. But still. I guess I just saw the glass as half full - but failed to notice the sinking waterline.

Libby is the very epitome of the WIR phenomenom. Abrams and Linderlof may not have created her just to kill her off, but she was created (or at least given a more prominent spot) with the express purpose of furthuring Hurley's character development. She was never important in her own right, only as a part of Hurley's life. The pairing was also odd from the beginning. Not because she was "hot" and he's fat, but in the fact that the writers made it feel even more forced than it needed to be by making it clear that this was mostly about the "nice guy" getting the "hot girl" instead of choosing to focus on the more likely story of two supposedly dissimilar people bonding in the face of extreme circumstances. It was more important to show Hurley's insecurities than it was to give us any solid reasons for why Libby liked Hurley and the focus was more on his ineptness when it came to romance than it was on their growing relationship. Unlike other pairings/triangles/circles on the show, Libby and Hurley were never equal partners when it came to how the writers treated their role in the relationship.

And so, when Abrams and Linderlof were looking for some way to make the season ending that much more shocking, she was the obvious choice. Not only was she expendable, but she was also an ill-fitting peice of the puzzle and her murder would create more "character development" for Hurley. The fact that the obviousness of the choice was less than obvious to a seasoned writer like King speaks to the blindness of privilege, not the orginality of Abrams and Linderlof.

The fact that we never got the expected confession from Libby made the relationship even more about him and even less about them and makes me angry rather than just annoyed and dissapointed.

The fact that the writers probably completely missed the irony of having an emotional prop character say to Hurley, merely an episode before her death, that it was insulting of him to suggest that everyone else may simply be figments of his imagination created to meet his emotional needs - well, that's just completely maddening.

So, in homage both Libby and the orginal WIR list, here is the Lost Body Count:


Steve (or was it Scott?)*

Leslie the science teacher*



fake Sawyer

Sawyer's Dad

US Marshal*

guy that flies into the engine*


Kate's "step"dad

Boone and Shannon's Dad

Sayid's friend

Hurley's grandfather

the guy that shot Ana Lucia

Mr. Eko's brother

countless people killed by Mr. Eko

window washing guy

the two Others Mr. Eko killed*


guard at Iraqi prison

drug runner


Goodwin* (how could I not remember Goodwin?)



Sawyer's Mom



Ana Lucia


countless people killed by Mr. Eko


Cindy* (or was she simply taken?)

*single episode characters/characters with no real screen time

characters in flashbacks in italics

(feel free to let me know if my count is wrong)

A few things stand out:

1) Definitely more men than women, but the situation reverses if you stick to just multiple season characters that are (er, were) on the island. Which is typical of the WIR phenomenom. It's not so much that more bodies are female (in fact the opposite is true because more characters period are male), but that women are more likely to die than men and they are more likely to exist mainly as emotional props.

2) Two of the dead women that were not main island characters were created so that main characters could attempt to save them. While many of the men who died in flashbacks did so in order to create emotional baggage for main characters, none of them were characters created to be saved. (the guy Jack tried to operate on doesn't count 'cause Jack was saving him for his daughter, not for his sake)

3) A large number of the men killed in flashbacks were fathers. As much as I'd like to make jokes about Daddy Issues, the writers already made it for me when they came up with the title "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", and besides, it really has more to to with the process of adulthood than personal problems. In the original Little Red Riding Hood, the grandmother stayed dead. In other words, they're fathers because the characters and writers are mostly men, not because dads are bad and moms are good.

4) Several of the men who died in flashbacks were murdered by main characters. They were all bad people (with the exception of Mr. Eko's crimes), but their murders were not justified. Only one woman was murdered (excepting women killed in war), and her murderer committed suicide immediately after. All the men murdered on the island were either bad guys murdered by good guys or good guys murdered by bad guys. All of the women murdered on the island were good characters murdered by good guys. I'm not sure what this means, but there does seem to be a definite gender difference when it comes to being murdered. And murder, not accidental death, is what the original WIR was really about.

One thing J. J. Abrams does do a better job than most of is creating male characters to be used as emotional props; however, he tends to focus on fathers and not mothers (even when the character is female) and still usually falls back on female characters as emotional props even when it's not about parents. The fiance in the bathtub on Alias was a notable exception; but, well, it was a notable exception, not the norm.

I loved the first season of Alias, but it quickly went downhill for me. I had hoped that Lost would turn out better, but now I'm not so sure.

If the buzz I hear is even remotely true, I probably should have just bought Battlestar Galactica instead.

edited because it's Linderlof and Abrams - not Linderhof and Abrahms, to add names to the list, and to include the quote from Libby

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Another Six Weeks of Winter?

After several months of avoiding such addicting activities as blogging and reading When Fangirls Attack - because I am easily distracted and really needed to spend the time looking for a new job - I decided to peek out of my hole for a moment.

One of the first things I found was this.

I feel like a groundhog that just saw her shadow on Groundhog's Day.

(WTF is wrong with people anyway!?!?)

Sorry if I hide back in my hole for a while. I know - I'm a coward and totally lacking in solidarity at the moment. But what with job hunting, planning a long road trip, applying for graduate school, and having to borrow other people's computers because my monitor finally died, it's not really easy to find the time to do this anyway. I'll try to crawl back out of hibernation one of these days.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Look Sharp Me Mateys: There Be Spoilers Ahead!

I have decided that:

1) The final scene with the Kraken is a total shout-out to the Sarlacc - for obvious reasons

2) It's very sad that so few people have read or even seen Treaure Island - as evidenced by the occasional person admitting that they didn't get the whole black mark thing at first.

3) Luke is going to get the girl this time - or heads will roll!

4) All those critics are going to eat it in another ten years, just like they did with Empire. I'm just not sure how much crow they'll have to eat.

5) The whole cannibals storyline was only slightly less offensive than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

6) This series will have (very tiny) spoilers for Pirate's 3 inasmuch as it seems to be about how Jack became a pirate and how he first heard about the Aztec gold.

7) Elizabeth is not sad at the end of the movie because she thought she made the wrong choice (or decided she loved Jack more), she didn't tie Jack up to save herself, and she has so remained true to character. She has always been fascinated by pirates and has always been one at heart plus one of the first lines in the first movie is when her father tells her to watch over Will; every choice she's made in the movies has been made with that goal in mind.

8) All the people who are confused about Elizabeth's actions need to read House of Mirth and A Doll's House. In other words, Elizabeth is not confused about who she loves, but what she wants - not the same thing. She's also quite willing to sacrifice herself and her honor for the people she loves. She sacrificed Jack and her honor for Will's life, and now she's expects to have to sacrifice her hopes and Will's love for Jack's life.

9) The whole water wheel thing was a bit much. Not because it was too long, but because it was really hard to follow. Maybe repeated viewing will help. (checks gift card for Krikorian)

10) "Where's the rum?" = "I have a bad feeling about this."

11) "Savvy?" = "May the force be with you."

12) Do you know how I know Luke's going to get the girl this time? Because Jack and Elizabeth didn't kiss during the whole "my hands are dirty" scene. At the very least the writers would have given us more time to adjust.

13) Besides - Jack settling on one woman? Please.

14) Ok, well, considering #8, Will might not get the girl either. I might be ok with that. But I don't think most of America would be, so he probably is. Going to get her, I mean.

15) When we first see everyone in Pirates 3 one or more of the characters will be in disguise.

16) Davy Jones will ultimately help to break the East India Company's hold over the Kraken.

17) I am a freakin' idiot because it took me this long to realize that Pintel and Ragetti are R2-D2 and C-3PO

18) Jack became a pirate because he had a bad run in with the East India Company. (yeah, I know they already gave that one away)

19) Will will be much more interesting in the final chapter - or I'm going to be very mad.

20) Pirates 3 will be absolutely fantastic! (knock on wood)

Oh Yes It Is!

I seem to be having problems posting to monkeycrackmary's journal, so I'm replying to this entry here.

This is freakin' AWESOME.

And anyone who says otherwise will have to walk to plank!

I just finished this today during lunch - look for a review here later this week!

From Now On, I'm Just Handing Out Copies of "Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook"

OMG - yes! times, like, a thousand.

I will go through the following conversation at least once a day - often several times a day on the weekend:

"I need a book for a boy."

Sometimes the parent will go ahead and add the age without my having to ask - but they rarely leave off the gender.

"What grade is he in?"

"He's six."

If the child is standing beside the parent, he or she will usually simply gesture to the child. Because booksellers, like animators, can tell not only the ages of children, but their reading level as well, just by standing in their presence.

This is, of course, where I want to say "First of all, that isn't what I asked, and secondly, I hate recommending books to six year-olds through their parents, so I'm afraid you'll have to come back either with your kid or after the next shift starts."

Instead I say:

"What grade is he in?"


I love the parents who will still simply say "first grade" betwen the end of June and the beginning of September. Are they aware their child is not in school at the moment? (Yeah, yeah, we have year-round schools, but the majority are still on traditional schedules - it's dangerous to assume that their kid is one of the few who have already begun the new year.)

"Is he starting first, or leaving first grade?"


(Just my luck.)

"Is he reading already?"


(Ok, so obviously, I need to stop asking so many yes or no questions. I'm a bit afraid anything more complicated mught scare them away, though.)

"What kind of book are you looking for?"

I really don't know why I ask this question - they pretty much never have an answer.

"Do you want a book for him to read - or for you to read to him?"

"Oh - for him to read."

Again, I don't know why I ask this question, because they all give the same answer. Does anyone continue reading to their child past age five? Parents, a word of advice: my mother is a first grade teacher and one of her biggest regrets is not reading aloud to us after we learned to read. I really hope you won't have the same regret and that it's just that you have all kinds of cool read aloud books picked out already.

"How well is he reading?"

"He's at a level 1 / level 16 / level (insert random meaningless number here)."

Like this actually tells me anything - besides the fact that you bother to show up for parent-teacher conferences. Every single damn school has pretty much their own system and every single publisher has their owm system as well. I wasn't asking for a lottery number, I was asking for actual information. Can he barely read "cat" or can he manage a whole chapter in one sitting? Does he understand only basic phonics or can he manage some of the more complicated stuff? Does he still need to sound everything out or does he have a decent number of sight words stored in his head?

After asking the same question again and again in various forms ("What is he reading at school?" "Which reading group is he in?") we finally determine his approximate reading level and I take the parent to the Beginning Readers section and point out the right level of books for the main publishers and warn him or her that all the publishers use different systems, so a DK Readers level 1 will be very different from An I Can Read level 1.

"So what's good for a boy?

"Well, what does he like?"

About half the time the parents will actually have a decent answer, but half the time they really don't - and that's just very, very sad.

And then - even when they do have an answer, it's often something that ends up not being helpful.

"He likes karate."

Yeah...there's just such a huge demand for karate books for kids that are able to read "cat", but still struggle with "balloon". Did I mention that I hate recommending books to six-year-olds through their parents?