Thursday, March 22, 2007

Apologies Once Again

...for the lack of posts.

I had an out of town wedding to go to and I got sidetracked typing up a series of posts that will likely never see the light of day because my ideas are all jumbled and incomprehensible.

Mostly, though, it turns out that Kingdom Hearts II is just as addicting as the original.


grad school applications? what grad school applications? I have to go help Pooh get his memory back!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Everyone Else Is Doing It

So, people are actually finding me through google instead of just because When Fangirls Attack, the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, and now Jade Reporting link to me sometimes.

Let's see if we think they found what they were looking for, shall we?

mary marvel fan service

doubtful, very doubtful

sue dibney rape

possibly, but again doubtful. there are a lot of people out there that are much more informed about this subject than I am

teenage boy tells stories about being a peeping tom looking in girls bedroom windows

again, very doubtful. very, very doubtful.

on the plus side, I'm actually slightly amused that someone who was trolling the internet for titilation was directed to these archives instead. since I'm not so sure I would have been amused at all by that a year ago when I wrote those posts, I'm taking that as a sign of progress.

politically correct sexual fantasies

um, ok. since I haven't posted any of my own sexual fantasies here, the answer is again "doubtful." since I'm also fairly certain that the kind of person who would type in such a search actually believes that "PC" means "walking on eggshells for overly sensitive people" as opposed to "a term that is mostly made-up" I'd say this gets bumped up to "very doubtful."

photo of andrew clements

sadly, that's a no. but at least we're in the same ballpark.

refuse male gyn

and we finally have a "possibly!"

jack and elizabeth fanfics

nope. especially since if I'm going to write Pirate's fanfic, I'm pairing Elizabeth with Will.

how to create search algorithims

at first I thought this was a "no way!" and then I realized it linked to my link to a post at She's Such a Geek! which talked about unintended sexim in google searches. so yay! a "maybe" and a "maybe someone learned something"

buffy getting fucked

most definitely not. go away.

can i see a slave being punished

then I suggest you do something about that. shame on me, but you won't find much help on that here. thanks for reminding me that I ought to do more posts about global feminist issues, such as human trafficking.

"women fighting back" and movies

and a "yes!" woohoo!

anime labels

I dunno. probably not.

y: the last man feminism

it feels so nice to be helpful

And that's all folks!

Comic Book Buying

I decided to stop by the local comic shop last night on my way to do other errands, and then immediately regretted it because it was market night and the shop is in the middle of downtown. It's hard to say which was worse, parking or getting around the store.

I picked up Dark Tower for a co-worker, and Wyrms (bleh. why did I do that?) and Wonder Woman for me. I glanced over the display of older Buffy comics and go to the counter. There was a line, so I had a few minutes to notice the boxes and sign directly across from the counter: "10 comics for $4, 30 comics for ..." some price I couldn't see because someone was in the way. (Someone who didn't move the entire time I was there, btw. Note to fellow customers: some of us need to learn to be a bit nicer about moving along and browsing a few feet over after a few minutes.)

"Ah-ha!" I thought "so this is what a bargain bin looks like!" Since I was waiting anyway, I started rummaging through the boxes. I ended up walking away with a couple of back issues of Manhunter, a few titles that I've never read but that look interesting (Arana and Neverwhere), and then a couple that just made me crack up. Mostly the Robotech (totally rocks!) and Voltron comics. Plus, it took long enough that the line was gone.

Comic store guy started ringing me up and asked "No Buffy?" and then immediately started to apologize for stereotyping.

I cut him off with "Wait! You have copies?!" all the while mentally kicking myself for not paying better attention to it's release date.

"Yeah, two left, I think." Said comic book guy #2.

So I ran to get one of them; they were in the section I had to look at by glancing around other people and the title is little itty bitty, so I don't feel too stupid.

I got back to the counter and cbg #1 apologized again and said something about me getting Dark Tower. I told him I was glad he asked and then feel a little guilty for making it more likely that women who don't want Buffy will have to hear that every time they come into the shop.

Whether he did the right thing or not depends on why he mentioned Buffy. If it was because I'm a girl, that was stupid. If it was because he had made a guess based on the reading material I was already getting, that's cool. As a fellow bookseller, I consider it part of the job description. If it was because I'm a girl and because of my reading material....that's the part I'm not sure about. But I also know I've been guilty of doing this myself.

ps - I was checking the dates for a couple of festivals/conventions that I'm considering going to, and I noticed that Comicon pre-registration (ie the cheaper tickets) ends Monday. I was thinking of going this year, but I hadn't decided yet. Any opinions on the matter? Does anyone have any idea how much the single day tickets cost?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Yeah?'re a whole pack of smokes!

First, an approximation of a conversation between me and two of my teen patrons as we got ready for our second Teen Game Night.

Teen 1: "He's a …. oh, except I'm not supposed to say that here. (pause) "[something to the effect of that's stupid because] fag actually means cigarrette in some countries."

Me: "Yes, but we aren't in those other countries, we are here…."

Teen 2: "[jumps in with more about the various meanings of faggot]"

Me: "…Besides, you obviously didn't mean to use that definition. That doesn't make any sense. Why would you call someone a cigarette?…"

Teens 1 and 2: "[more stuff about the various definitions of fag and faggot]"

Me: "And in either case, you meant it as an insult. You shouldn't be mean like that. So stop it."

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure Teen 1 will use "fag" as an insult many times over in the near and far future, but at least they both shut up fairly quickly after that.


Unlike preschoolers, teenagers respond fairly well to logic. They also still see a lot of black and white and respond really badly to the total absence of logic that a lot of people in charge of their education, safety, what have you, use. (Most often when they want teens to act responsibly but they don't want the headache of actually giving them the responsibility of making their own decisions.)

Take, for example, the teens that got suspended for saying "vagina" over the school loudspeaker. I have no doubt that these girls are fierce feminists, but they are also teens. Teens who are active and engaged enough to try to make an honest to goodness (and possibly unpopular) political statement in front of the whole school, during school hours, as part of something as geeky as a poetry slam.

I'm going to take a huge leap and hypothesize that these girls are not considered to be juvenile delinquents by their teachers or peers. Which means that while they may not always be obedient, or gracious when they are obedient, they do tend to follow school rules. So why choose this one to break, especially having been forwarned by their principal?

Is it because they believe in the cause that much?

They suddenly decided that being good was no fun?

Or did their principal manage to piss them off that much?

I suspect the first and the last.

I think that we probably never would have heard about this if the principal had simply said "Discussions about sexuality are not appropriate in a high school setting outside of health class (or extracurricular clubs that are formed for that explicit purpose) and so you need to find another passage."

Instead he said "Discussions about sexuality are appropriate in a high school setting - even to the point of being allowed during school performances.

But you can't actually say the technically correct have to use juvenile euphemisms."

or something to the same effect anyway.

Which misses both the point of the poem and one of the main reasons one would allow discussions about sexuality to occur in high schools in the first place. The principal not only told them that they couldn't discuss what they wanted to discuss - he also showed them that he didn't even have enough of a backbone to just come right out and say so in the first place. Plus, he insulted their intelligence by acting as if the meaning of the poem was incidental to their decision to perform it in public . He also acted as if his censorship of the most important word in the whole poem did not have the same effect as censoring the meaning of the poem.

In other words, he did that wishy-washy, hair-splitting, la-la-la I've lost all sense of reason and logic thing that adults often do with teens. Which, understandably, drives teens bat-shit crazy.

It's made clear in all the articles about this that these girls thought about what they were doing. This wasn't a stupid prank. This was a deliberate "screw you, your illogical rules, and your belief that I'm too stupid to catch on."

Rock on.

Or, as Dar Williams says: "Teenagers, kick our butts."


Which brings us back to "faggot".

Forget "how do we teach our children to act responsibly when the president gets blow jobs in the Oval Office and pundits call other public figures faggots."

How about, "How the hell am I supposed to get these teens to treat each other with respect when we act as if it's the word that's taboo and not the act of insulting other people that's wrong?"

How do I teach them about context and intent when we'll all get in trouble for simply saying the word, irregardless of context?

How do I teach them to respect themselves and each other when I'm forced to implicitly support the idea that their bodies and new desires are shameful ?

I understand why I shouldn't use many of these words or bring up certain topics, even when I think it would be helpful rather than rude. My position of power means that I keep my opinions to myself for a variety of obvious reasons. And so, there are certain words that I will never use with them, even though I personally think that they shouldn't be so taboo.

I'm also sure as hell not going to let them get away with saying such crap in the library. We're supposed to be a safe space for everyone, and that means no slurs like "faggot."

But the whole knee jerk "shush!" reaction that I see a lot of other adults do is annoying the crap out of me.

All that teaches them is to wait somewhere else to say it.

It also teaches them that a lot of really broad topics are off limits around me. Which really clashes with the whole "I'm a trusted resource" mission statement among librarians - YA librarians in particular.

(sigh) I get the feeling this isn't going to be easy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Because I'm All About Procrastination Today

First, y'all should go check out Elizabeth Bear's stuff about Criminal Minds and screwing around with gender roles.

- I can't for the life of me remember who I first saw mention it , sorry. :(

I (heart) Reid. Have I mentioned that lately?

Ok, back now? Good.

So I was looking at my stats to see what blog entries people were actually bothering to read, and one of them happened to be this one. In it I mention how annoying it is when guys (non-boyfriend guys) put their hands on my back to guide me out of the way instead saying excuse me.

WTF? Where do they even learn that?

Anyhoo, I noticed Hotch (or was it Morgan?) doing that very same thing to another male character on Criminal Minds a few episodes ago and I thought "huh, that's weird, maybe guys do it to each other too."

And then I thought about it today in light of the all the evidence that the writers of Criminal Minds have all kinds of fun playing with gender roles and I thought "Dude! They are so deliberately screwing with us! I so want to meet whoever wrote that into the show!"

Or maybe I'm wrong and it is something guys do to each other too.


On a Lighter Note

Go see, if you haven't already.

May favorite is the one with Robin and Spoiler*, just because it reminds me so much of the actual imagery tampon commercials use whenever they are doing the "active and beautiful" theme.

Has When Fangirls Attacked already linked to this and I just missed it, or (gasp!) have Ragnell and Kalinara not seen it yet?

*I am right and that's Stephanie and Cassie? right? Sorry, I'm still just starting to branch out from manga and Runaways. Some of the superheroes that have had multiple secret and real life identities still confuse me.

"Look, Nora, in lots of things, you're still a child. I'm older than you in many ways and I've had a little more experience."

I adore my alma mater to pieces.

Quirks and all; and trust me, it has plenty of quirks.

Such as...a PE requirement.

Yup, that's right, we had a PE requirement to fulfill before we could graduate. I took Badmitton, Rennaissance Dancing, and Self Defense. Which....yeah, that says a lot about both me and my school right there.

If memory serves me, the self-defense course was the most popular PE class available; owing in no small part to the college being both liberal leaning and all-women. Our instructor was tiny, not much taller than me. I'd imagine most people saw her as pretty non-threatening. as just your normal, slightly overweight, middle aged woman. She was also in charge of campus security and had a black belt in karate. One of our final classes included a demonstration of her breaking boards with her karate chops and kicks (with one of us nervously holding the boards up for her).

At the time, the class was - to use an over-used and often abused phrase - empowering. Of course, pretty much anytime we got together and had the opportunity to yell simultaneously was an empowering experience - Convocation, Disorientation, Graduation, Friday Night parties, etc.. Adding in the practice punches and learning how to get out of a choke hold certainly gave the class extra kick to it, though.

However, one of the most memorable parts of the class was not so empowering in retrospect.

Part way through the course we got the lecture from our instructor about acting smart so that it would be less likely that we would ever have to use any of this stuff. Now, I do give her props for not pretending as though following her advice would for certain save us. I will also adore her forever for being the first person to ever tell me about the FBI's research about rape, and how they concluded that women who act confidently - as if, you know, they have every damn right to be wherever the hel they happen to be at that moment - are statistically less likely to be targeted by rapists.

Her list of advice - which sounded a lot more like dire warnings - was endless. Don't have an apartment by yourself if you can help it. Don't say your name on your answering machine. Don't walk alone at night. Don't take trips by yourself. Don't trust strangers. Watch your drink at all times. Never carry your keys with your fingers through the key rings (they can be easily broken that way if you are attacked). Carry your keys in a fist with one key poking out between your fingers. Make sure someone knows where you are going if you do go out alone. Glance under your car as you walk towards it whenever the area is deserted or it's nighttime. Have your keys ready to go so that you can get in your car quickly. Don't make your routine too normal. Get a second floor apartment if you can. Don't listen to music while jogging outside. Don't jog at night. Make sure your dorm blinds are closed before dressing and undressing. And on and on and on.

Now, a lot of this advice is perfectly reasonable - as long as it's taken with a grain of salt and one balances trying to be safe with not missing out on opportunities. Unfortunately, when people give out such advice, they usually leave out the bit about the salt and weighing various costs.

Which is part of why my reaction at the time was mixed. I wanted to be smart and safe, and her advice seemed mostly reasonable, but....some of it rubbed me the wrong way, and it was one of the most logical and reasonable bits of advice she gave us that bugged me the most.

Closing one's blinds before undressing is a pretty normal and low energy task. It might seem odd to you that she would even mention it. Unless, of course, you happen to be living on a fairly isolated campus with a student body that is all female. Privacy boundaries change. The topic of periods becomes acceptable in normal conversations. Pajamas are worn to communal dining spaces. Third story blinds that look out over the lake or the athletic fields are often left open for the view and sunlight.

Side note: when people ask me why I went to a women's college, I want to point to experiences like this. Nothing opens one's eyes to the subtle way that culture and other institutions blindly favor men than going to a school that is focused only on women. Not that one needs to do so to see that "male" is the constant default "in real life", but - for me, anyway - there's just something about having spent several years in a culture where "female" was the default that solidifies this knowledge in a way nothing else could have.

Back to the main topic....

I immediately knew why the thing about the blinds bugged me. I was convinced I was behaving illogically as well, but I still rebelled at the suggestion and deliberately ignored it. Not because I thought the 15 seconds it would take to do this was really all that much of an inconvenience, however.

Here's where I explain, because I'm sure very few of my current readers know this, that I spent my entire high school career checking not only my windows - but also in my closet and under my bed - each and every time I got undressed. I didn't do this because I was irrational or paranoid. I did this because it was the precaution that I had learned to take in order to prevent my brother from spying on me. It was the safety measure that I found worked best. It became so automatic that I didn't stop doing it until I had been living in the dorms for quite a while. What had started out as a logical response to clear and present danger had morphed into something closer to a tic or a security blanket. Until one day my brain noticed what my body was doing....and I stopped and pushed the horror of what I had become back into the dark corner of my mind where everything else about that time dwelled.

Until we got the lecture.

And all I could think when she mentioned the thing about blinds was that I didn't want to go back to being afraid all the time. I refused to go back to living in a world where even my own bedroom was unsafe. I thought at the time that I was being illogical, but in reality I was being very logical, I was just to scared to examine everything throughly enough to realize it.

I wasn't living on a co-ed campus in the middle of a city, in a bedroom that looked out into the street. I was living on a relatively remote all women's campus and my bedroom window looked out over lots and lots of green space surrounded by forest. Yeah, some creep could hide out by the trees with binoculars, but I it seems to me that such men are looking for victims, and will find them no matter what I do. Yes, a couple of extra seconds spent doing a simple chore was certainly low cost enough to be worth the safety gained by doing so. The problem is that this would never be a mindless task for me ever again. I would never be able to go to the window and simply consider it normal behavior, like closing the door to the bathroom or keeping my mouth closed as I ate. This had gone far beyond normal cultural mores long before I'd ever gotten to college. And it wasn't ever going away - at least not anytime soon. It's still something that I often think of when I go to open or close my bedroom blinds.

So my choice was not between having to do normal, simple, short tasks and endangering myself. It was between doing something that would make me a tiny bit safer and not expecting to feel like shit for at least a few seconds every day. What would seem to be the logical choice to any outsider was no longer an acceptable option to me.

At the time, I didn't question any other particular bits of advice our instructor gave us (remember, I thought I was being illogical), but the experience did leave me with a vague uneasiness with such advice. As time went on and I had to decide more and more often whether or not I would follow her safety measures, I found myself looking more critically at what I would be giving up by doing so. I've decided in favor of ditching her advice to a degree that would shock and alarm many, I'm sure. I've walked down streets alone at night. I traveled alone by myself dozens of times. I've done so without making sure anyone has my itinerary (what itinerary?). I've even walked alone, by myself, in a foreign city, with no cell phone, at frickin 1 am at night, and I was perfectly fine, thank you very much. And no, no one knew where I was except me.

Do you know when I wasn't safe? In the middle of the day on a crowded subway full of normal people. That's when some guy decided my boob was his little pet.

And in my bedroom, when I was alone by myself, and no one else was home except my own family.

And do you know what else? I don't regret getting on the subway that day. If some fortune teller had told me that my choices were getting on that subway and experiencing that humiliation along with everything else I did that day - or staying home where it was safe - or even choosing to travel to Paris with a group and doing group things instead, I still would have taken that damn subway. Because that was the subway that took me to Monet's Waterlillies.

So, I'm with Sheezlebub on this one: you can take your "advice" and shove it you know where.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An Apology to All Female Gamers

I'm afraid I managed to reinforce some of the not so nice stereotypes about girls and games over the last few nights.

I didn't mean to, I swear!

See, here's how it happened:

YALSA came up with the idea to start a new annual teen event called Teen Tech Week and being a YA librarian and all (yeah, yeah, I'm technically just a "library assistant") it was my job to come up with stuff for the teens to do. Besides, I thought it was a pretty cool idea anyway.

However, since I was never cool even when I was a teenager, and since I'm still getting to know the teens from my area, I put out a survey asking them to rate some ideas that I had...well, ok, some ideas I got from YALSA's wiki and site.

The overwhelming winner was...well, it was actually a movie night, but we couldn't get the license in time, so we opted for a Teen Game Night, which came in a pretty strong second. So, I borrowed my brother's Playstation, hauled my teeny tiny TV up the mountain, ordered some pizza, and told the the kids they were welcome to bring any of their own games and game systems. Several brought in games and handhelds, and we left the computers on and provided board games as well, so there was plenty for everyone to do. One of the teens actually brought in a big huge TV*, so we were able to set up another station with yet another kid's XBox.

Overall it was a HUGE success. I saw lots of faces I had yet to see ever in my entire four months working there and I know several of the kids came in because their friends told them about it. Dude, I'm getting word of mouth advertising!

However, I haven't played anything other than puzzle games on my computer for, well, several years. Not since my brother and I shared an apartment and a Playstation, I'm ashamed to say. (A different brother and Playsation.) So...I sucked. Plus, I was only half paying attention to the game (for the whole two minutes I played any) because it was my job to keep an eye on things.

It also didn't help that I was all nostalgic about all the old games, or that I had to keep asking "so how do we do this?", or that I just tried laughing my miserable failure off as if it were a joke.


Well, I may be able to keep the Playstation for a while, so I might see about practising some so I am less of an embarrassment to my gender the next time around.

Of course, that probably means I should pick something up besides Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2....

*yeah, so, there's lots of obvious potential problems with letting them do this, but the kid who brought the TV in is 17 and is leaving for Boot Camp and then Iraq in less than 6 months, so I kinda figured he was old enough to make his own decisions about such things. And all the other kids had carrying cases for their gear and games, so it was quite obvious that they do this often, and that their parents know they do.

Since When

do Thin Mints come wrapped in foil tubes instead of plastic ones?

And why is this bothering me so much?

Oh...yes, because after spending two evenings in a row hosting a teen game night, I really don't need anymore reminders of how old I am.

"Nintendo Gameboy Color! I remember when this was the coolest thing ever!"

"Super Mario Bros.! I remember when we got our first Nintendo!"

Yeah...I think I'll shut-up right about now.

(the game nights were super cool, though)