Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sad girls and writers on writers

I'm not a big reader of The Hairpin, or really any ostensibly feminist, but smart "lady blog" lately -- mostly because over the past few years I've found myself aging out of them -- but I really like this article by Haley Mlotek, admittedly because it makes me a little uncomfortable:
I made a joke a long time ago about my book collection being a kind of Sad Girls Club—which is true, and something I'm proud of, and I swear I will do a post on that soon—but I do also think I spend a lot of time reading books or articles that celebrate something, even if it's sadness, because those are the books that have the greatest impact on my actual life.
I can sense someone hovering over their keyboard right about now, ready to pounce out my "shaming" of melancholy, but wait. I don't think theirs anything inherently shameful about sadness or being a "voyeur" of it, but, particularly for women, it's become an industry. Sad women are marketable.

I've notice over the years most of the characters I've created are men. I fail at writing female vulnerability.

There is a common thread in a lot of contemporary women's writing -- call it the "Bell Jar Syndrome" or something -- where female characters have a lot of privilege, but little agency. It seems trite, mentioning something that I'm sure every reader has noticed but none seem bothered by. On the opposite end, I'd put someone like Dorothy Allison, but she's rarely considered a peer among canonical female writers. It's hard to be tough without being pigeonholed as "plucky." It reminds me of the backlash last year over "strong" female characters.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reading List: Class; Classism

I couldn't find a good list of books that discuss economic class or classism, so I made one.

Granted, this is a list from a strictly US point-of-view, so it's pretty limited at the moment, but classism is one of the only "isms" scarcely acknowledged in progressive circles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quoted: John D'emilio on same-sex marriage

Rather than thinking of marriage for same-sex couples as providing access to benefits currently denied them, it might be mire accurate and revealing to think of marriage as validating and sustaining privilege that one already has. Why do I claim that? Because marriage is not something randomly distributed across the population, with finding one's life partner or soul mate being the key factor in whether one marries. Instead, those least likely to marry are those nearest the bottom of the economic and educational pyramid; those most likely are those with higher economic status and educational attainment. Marriage penalizes those who are struggling economically. For low-income families, marriage makes it harder to get access to public benefits. When working-class marriages end in divorce, the economic impact on adults and children is often devastating. -- John D'Emilio "The Campaign For Marriage Equality" from In A New Century
Before I add anything (and I do want to add things), John D'Emilio is a well-respected LGBT activist and writer, not some right-wing ideologue who wants to deny rights to gay people. While I don't entirely agree with him -- I'm not fan of marriage, period -- I think he makes a valid point comparing today's climate of LGBT rights and its overwhelming focus on marriage to feminism's long-standing problems with intersectionality. Gay people aren't a monolith, though, and some want to get married, have a white picket fence, 2.5 children, the big American dream -- no matter how big a lie the American dream is. I still respect that. But I also see the need for anti-assimilationist arguments largely shut of out mainstream LGBT politics.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My WIP via the internets

Over the past few weeks, I've written a few preliminary scenes or chapter sketches that may or may not end up in my NaNo novel. For fun, I decide to run what I had through a few online classifiers. Here's what I got.

I Write Like

Story intro: James Joyce
short passage about MC's past which includes shoplifting and vandalism: Chuck Palahniuk

Conclusion: my writing is muddled and full of swear words. Also, I Write Like is really addictive and ego-boosting.

Seriously, I don't think either of these is terribly far off. I tried writing the intro with a definite "voice" that bordered on free writing. And I actually like Chuck Palahniuk a lot and see myself aping his style every once in a while. I tried it with another short story I wrote a while back that dealt most with gender roles and male-female relationships and got Margaret Atwood.


Gender Classifier
female: 76.2%
male: 23.8%

My MC is indeed a girl.

Age Classifier (top three)
26-25: 21.5%
18-25: 19.9 %
65-100: 19.4%

She's nineteen. So close enough? Most of what I write falls in that funny gray area of being a little too sophisticated for YA. I don't know which part pegged me a senior citizen.

Classics (top three)
1. Frank Baum
2. Oscar Wilde
3. Mark Twain

I think Wilde is the modern fiction everyman here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Princess Culture

Essays on princess culture make me hyper-aware that there are some apparently crucial aspects of girlhood I completely missed. (Granted, I didn't know who Lisa Frank was until I was thirty-five.)

Raise your hand if you had no interest in being a princess.

Most of it, I think is generational. I was already well into my teens when The Little Mermaid debuted. Fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty I deemed "baby" before kindergarten, so that was that. And the sole real life princess I could identify was Diana. I remember watching the royal wedding out of  a sense of daughterly duty, but I didn't get it. I didn't get why I was supposed to be obsessed with this particular fantasy.

I didn't eschew all fantasy play. I loved anything with a witch in it. I flew my star wars characters around in a Barbie beauty salon pretending it was their spaceship. I wanted to be a rock star and tied scarves around a broom handle to play that I was Steve Tyler. When I didn't want to be a rock star, I wanted to be an MTV Vee-Jay like Downtown Julie Brown.

None of these things seem out of the realm of typical 80s childhood, so my guess is that it is generational. In that respect, I'm glad my girlhood wasn't sponsored by Disney, but as Laurie Penny stated in her book, every girl has a princess in her head. Mine was misplaced at the factory.

Another thing that most women neglect to mention is how class and femininity are intrinsically tried. Girl stuff is consumer stuff. There were few "girly girls" in my neighborhood. I didn't even here the phrase "girly girl" until I was in my twenties. Had I as a six or seven year old, worn a tiara or a tutu to school, I would have gotten my ass kicked. (Actually, the nuns at my school would have slapped me with a dress code violation first.)