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Sidetracks is a collaborative project featuring various essays, videos, reviews, or other Internet content that we want to share with each other. All past and current links for the Sidetracks project can be found in our Sidetracks tag.

text that says Ana's Section

➝ I have not yet read A Song of Ice and Fire, so I have no opinion on its portrayal of gender issues or sexual violence. There may be many valid ways of critiquing the series on those grounds, but I completely agree that geek-shaming is not one of them.

➝ Renay pointed me towards KJ's response to the above, which is definitely also worth reading.

➝ Addressing gender inequality in campus culture: UR DOIN IT RONG.

➝ Interesting Bitch Magazine article addressing what Jodie brilliantly baptised the 'excepto-girl' phenomenon.

➝ THIS times a million: The F Word article about the recent trend in movies that amount to cautionary tales about the HORRORS that will befall anyone who deviates from the romantic ideal of committed heterosexual monogamy (and pathologising the women involved, of course).

➝ The story told here about a professor who was reported for encouraging students to acknowledge that we all have racist thoughts was saddening if not surprising. But there's a lot more to this article: Deeply embarrassed white people talk awkwardly about race.

Transgender narratives in pop culture.

➝ A fascinating SurLaLune article about the movie The Company of Wolves. Hey Jodie, remember when I kept pestering you to watch it? Not that I'm posting this as a reminder or anything *cough*

➝ The Real Help: a reading project hosted by Amy and Amanda.

➝ In case anyone missed it, Memory wrote a list for LGBTQ speculative fiction for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

What's going on with #yesGayYA: very comprehensive post from Cleolinda.

To my Someday Daughter by Geordie Tait. As I said above, I'm not a fan of nerd shaming. But I'm even less of a fan of rabidly misogynistic reactions to nerd shaming.

text that says Jodie's Section

I'm going to start my section with a cheery link, because damn sometimes the world makes me happy:

When we label certain kinds of books "boy books" we are not only reinforcing a certain idea of manliness that doesn't include all boys, we are also cutting boys and girls off from a lot of books they might actually like. Sure, many of them won't, but the reading experience of each individual needs to be considered. It is not about gender, but about why each person reads and how. Reading choices do not exist in a vacuum.

'There are no Boy Books' - Charles London

➝ The History Girls discuss the number of cross dressing protagonists in historical fiction Cross Dressing. I really want more books with cross dressing boys and a discussion about cross dressing in entertainment (and lo she was demanding and it was good).

Discussion about the prevalence of US tropes in media. I hadn't really thought about how US tropes might be shaped by US history, so this was very enlightening.

A handy dandy chart to help you distinguish dystopian situations from post-apocalyptic ones.

Malinda Lo reminds us that sometimes it's just not time for a leather bikini. (wut, really? I guess I'd better change...). Heroines need practical clothes for fighting in. Lo points out a tumblr called Women Fighting in Reasonable Armor, that combines feminism, with clothing history and fabulous art. I would love to see the costumes from that tumblr incorporated into Malinda Lo reminds us that sometimes it's just not time for a leather bikiniThe Hero Factory.

megwrites compiled a list of GLBT Book Recommendations. that were suggested on Twitter after the blogging community launched the #buyabiggaynovelfororsonscottcardday to protest Orson Scott Card's creepy, homophobic, badly written, revisionist version of Hamlet.

➝ Must watch Friendship is Magic Now! A Feminist watches My Little Pony Friendship is Magic and Jezebel investigates Dudes who like My Little Pony in a positive, critical light.

➝ There's a lot of talk about the way race and history is portrayed in 'The Help' right now (omfg I saw the trailer this weekend and I have honestly never seen such a relentlessly upbeat trailer for a film about oppression and civil rights — thank you universe for critically analysing this book and expanding my understanding). People are talking about other films which include racial tropes, in order to illustrate typical racial stereotypes and show how common they are in films. 'The Blind Side', which is based on the true story of seems to be coming up a lot in these discussions. Both 'Should we want movies like 'The Blind Side' and 'The Blindside': When a True Story is Hard to Tell' grapple with the problems of filming a true story that could provide more support for racial stereotypes.

Morrissey and cats. Tumblrs were made to please every interest, however odd adorable.

➝ Over at The Smart Set Jessa Crispin wonders if the word feminism might be in trouble, even if the movement isn't. I feel like this is the kind of article that gets written in the middle of serious feminist frustration when nothing seems to be changing and no one is taking shit seriously. While I don't really agree with the stance the article takes towards the end I can certainly see being in that kind of place before the year is out.

She's also recently written an article about female artists and the obstacles to placing women in the canonical company of the greats. And I wanted to share this article of hers about the way mistresses are written.

➝ Karen Healey talks about liking problematic work sensibly and with humour.

text that says Renay's Section

➝ I really enjoyed this post about the concept of the Mary Sue, Oh, Mary, Mary. I have watched this term spread throughout fandom as a slur and now it's leaking into original fiction and I am one of those people who doesn't think it applies specifically to work that's original in the same way as it does in fanfiction. This debate cropped up because of some kind of quiz (it's linked in the entry) that tested characters for Mary Sue traits. It reminded me of that horrible flowchart released last year that I can't find the link to now breaking female characters down into categories. The above post shows how silly it is to apply the test to original female characters and casts an extra value judgment on being female. Really, we don't have enough rules and regulations? We have to invent more tests to judge our ladies by?

The most recent entry on this topic that I saw today on my tumblr dash came from Mem, who is super smart and well-spoken. The entire post where she talks about Mary Sue as a concept is here, but I just wanted to pull one quote out that tickled me:

But people use the phrase 'Gary Stu' for dudes!" A) Ha ha ha ha ha, uh, maybe two people in the history of the universe have used that phrase, and B) that, too, is problematic in that it is a derivative or subset of Mary Sue), and 2) IDK if you’ve noticed, but too-perfect dude characters are fucking EVERYWHERE. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie or played a video game or consumed any media at all? Then you've engaged with media in which dude characters are either absurdly perfect or their flaws are mitigated and indeed celebrated by the narrative.


➝ Back in August, before I was lost in the bowels of university, there was an article in the New York Times: Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope? This has been trounced, quite rightly,since this dude was full of crap and hot, smelly air, but my favorite responses were by far Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope of Someone Saying Something Intelligent? and NY Times To Ya Publishing: Stop Being So Girly. This may also suggest a lot about my preferences in editoral writing, ha!

Several authors got involved in this, and my favorite response was a comment by Saundra Mitchell, where she took a commentator to task for suggesting that women writers hide their gender to make their chances of being read higher.

If women have to PRETEND TO BE MEN so boys will deign to read their books, what’s at work is not biology or neurology, it is sexism.

She was my favorite person that day.

➝ I live in a really diverse city, because of the university, and I've been here for ten years now. My worldview has really shifted from my white hometown upbringing. So when I think about stories and writing they reflect my world, I was pleased when my fictional worlds started to reflect my reality which is full of people who really aren't like me. But it's hard to do and scary in so many ways. What does "authentic" mean, anyway? runs into the question and faces it down. It's a nice read. Malinda Lo does great meta.

➝ Jim Hines (a blogger I like more and more every time I run into his posts) wrote an interesting post about Jane C. Hines which was at once fascinating, infuriating and too true. This entry in particular was what set off my 2012 Secret Project, in fact, specifically this line: "Jane’s sales haven’t been as good as mine. The books were the same, but hers weren’t reviewed quite as widely, and there are some people who simply won’t read female authors."

Date: 2011-10-07 06:17 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
The Jessa Crispin link reminded me of a recent interview with Katha Pollitt where she said:

"The word feminist is polarizing because feminism is polarizing. It’s a pretty deep critique of “normal” relations between the sexes. That’s bound to be unsettling. It’s not about the name – if they called it “bluebird happyfun” the same people who disdain feminism now would say, “Those bluebird happyfun women are just a bunch of man-haters."

I suspect she's right.

Date: 2011-10-08 12:37 am (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Yeah, I so often hear people shy away from the word, but if we make another word to mean the same thing, it'll have the same problems and issues. I think we're at an odd bottleneck in some cases because we're digging trenches in the rain. I don't want to say some things are "easier" to see, because they're definitely not, but when so much of the discussion and problem centers are things that are theoretical — not tangible — it makes it less accessible. Look at how much time you and Jodie have spent discussing gender essentialism and people still go around living that dream.

We're still figuring out what we're going to be in a different world. Feminism, in a lot of ways, needs to grow up and mature (see how many non-white women are often pissed, and rightly so, at mainstream feminism) and I suspect this is the start of it.

Date: 2011-10-09 03:51 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I do think it helps to have real world examples to match up with the theory. Explanations of why the theory does tie into practicalities helps to show everyone that the theoretical issues that people are identifying do cause problems that affect real individuals. But it's tough to put a range of examples out there when to a certain extent people don't see these problems that you identify as real problems and misidentify other areas as serious crises, because cultural conditioning affects their analysis.

If I can find the link to a study I need, I might create a short post that gives an example of what I'm talking about.

Date: 2011-10-11 01:37 am (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
I would be really interested in reading a post like this! I struggle, especially in my workplace, to verbalize with concrete examples why some commentary and behavior is sexist (or racist, which actually happens more, but that's not surprising given my coworkers). Most people don't find theory accessible at all which is the fast track to frustration and then a complete shutdown.

Date: 2011-10-11 09:24 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I'm actually having a little trouble pulling examples out myself. I can get to a certain point: 'X causes inequality and X kind of inequality is clearly bad for the world and women' but I don't have concrete studies that will back up my ideas about why inequality is bad with examples and proof that people can see. I would need to do a lot of reading of studies on the relation between inequality, self-esteem and pay I think, or my thoughts would come out woolly.

I have vague ideas though that in order to really get people motivated about sexism we need to tie 'this causes inequality' to loss of material gain. A lot of people aren't really interested in the idea that true equality is its own end...I actually feel a little bit naive and dismissive saying that I do think full equality, beyond equality that affects us all materially, is my aim. Feminism started out partly as a move to increase womens material circumstances and shouldn't I be campaigning for tangible benefits (of all kinds, but still real, definite things) instead of some fluffy idea of fairness?

Related point: Looking at the whole 'boys don't read for pleasure' debate there's some serious argument inequality going on again there. As far as I can see there are limited tangible benefits that boys who read gain over boys who don't read. According to this survey http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2011/110804.html Boys who don't read at 16 have a 10% lower chance than boys who read of getting a managerial job. But boys who don't read at 16 also have a 9% higher chance of achieving a managerial position than girls who do read at 16. So even if they don't read, boys have a 9%, or 22% higher chance of gaining a managerial position than girls (depending on whether the girls read, or don't read at 16).

The tangible benefits of being a teenage boy reader are less than huge I guess, compared with the tangible benefits of being male? But still people are up in arms about any perceived inequality to do with boys reading, while they're unable to get excited about inequality that affects girls unless it has some tangible negative consequence attached. (I hope that makes sense).

Maybe Ana could tell us if more definite 'real' things that people proved happen to boys if they're not reading for pleasure from her studies...Otherwise I'm calling bull on how people approach inequality differently when it's related to boys.

Date: 2011-10-11 09:10 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
We should so read this book together: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Work-Politics-Inequality-Institution/dp/030017134X/ref=wl_it_dp_o_npd?ie=UTF8&coliid=ISDBALRPYEWY2&colid=3JFYN5E4DPNTA It sounds like it would be really useful in terms of helping us verbalise all those arguments.

Also, I found absolutely nothing tangible of the kind you have in mind in my search. I'm sorry to say that the level of discourse in specialised sources isn't really above what we see in the popular media (remember that quote I e-mailed you both?). So yeah, don't hesitate to call bull.


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