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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

➝ At the risk of turning Lady Business into a Foz Meadows appreciation blog...

In pop culture, girls who crush hopelessly on guys they can’t have are painted as just that — hopeless. Over and over again, we’re taught that girls who openly express sexual or romantic interest in guys who don’t want them are pitiable, stalkerish, desperate, crazy bitches. More often than not, they’re also portrayed as ugly – whether physically, emotionally or both – in order to further establish their undesirability as an objective fact. Both narratively and, as a consequence, in real life, men are given free reign to snub, abuse, mislead and talk down to such women: we’re raised to believe that female desire is unseemly, so that any consequent shaming is therefore deserved. There is no female-equivalent Friend Zone terminology because, in the language of our culture, a man’s romantic choices are considered sacrosanct and inviolable. If a girl has been told no, then she has only herself to blame for anything that happens next – but if a woman says no, then she must not really mean it.

This is exactly what I was trying to get at when I said I craved stories from women's perspectives that legitimitised experiencing longing and desire and even idealisation in the same way manic pixie dream girl stories do for men. I know that having had access to such stories would have made a world of difference to my younger self.

On the Rights of Reading and Girls and Boys:

Our children—both boys and girls—lose when we constrain their reading preferences. Ironically, what is acceptable in books for girls today is a much wider range of characters and themes, thanks to the advances of feminism, while what is acceptable for boys is still sadly influenced by what I assume is homophobia and an intolerance of effeminacy. A girl reading Homer Price, Sherlock Holmes, or anything by Robert Louis Stevenson or Mark Twain would be viewed as a reader of classics, but a boy reading much of Louisa May Alcott, the Brontës, or Jane Austen would have a harder time with his image. Girls, at the same time, are harmed by believing boys cannot be interested in female heroines and authors.

Men Reading Women:

The very question why men should like Anne Tyler's books strikes me as odd. I haven't come across the reverse kind of question: why women readers should like, say, Henry James, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Edward St Aubyn. This shows that even here, in a sphere where women flourish, where the record of their achievement is truly staggering, the world is not yet on an even keel, so to say. Why males might like a female writer is still a question; why women appreciate the writing of men is not.


➝ I love the fact that there's been so much Diana Wynne Jones love on the bookish Internet lately. Here's Peter Glassman on her work in general, and Chasing Ray on Fire & Hemlock (one of my all-time favourite novels).

➝ The blog PhD in Parenting has a series of posts on children and gender. As you'll have noticed before, I'm not exactly the best at telling whether this kind of commentary is doing a good enough job of staying away from girl cooties territory, but I thought there were some interesting ideas in the post and in the comments and would love to hear what others think.

➝ And speaking of avoiding the girl cooties trap, Clare at the Literary Omnivore has some excellent commentary on The Hunger Games merchandise and on some people's very problematic understanding of what makes Katniss a better role model than Bella.

➝ The F Word on Sherlock's Victorian Values: I found much of interest in this post, but at the same time, this paragraph really frustrated me:

The BBC's Adler was not a feminist icon, she did not meet the high expectations held for this adaptation, but the reactions surrounding her depiction speaks volumes about the socially unacceptable nature of powerful female sexuality.

A sex-positive attitude is a central part of my feminism, and yet I still found Adler's sexualisation problematic - not because I find powerful female sexuality unacceptable, but because it frustrated me to see sexuality become this particular character's sole defining trait. It's perfectly fine for feminists to disagree on this, but I'm always wary of discounting other readings with what amounts to "the patriarchy made you do it" arguments. We can never quite tell how much of our thoughts and attitudes are a product of the sexist world we've grown up in, of course, but when approaching feminist readings that differ from my own, I personally prefer to err on the side of generosity and not assume they're all coming from a place of internalised sexism.

➝ Lastly, I created a Pinterest board called Die, Gender Essentialism, Die. I would love suggestions of more things to add to it.

text that says Jodie's Section

➝ I'm going to start with some good news this week. Greg Mortenson, the lying liar behind the autobiography 'Three Cups of Tea' has to pay money to compensate the charity he founded, because he benefitted financially from their mass purchase and promotion of his two falsified books. Hurray!

The Guardian article that Bookslut links to here sticks to reporting the facts in a rather bland, opinionless way which I assume is meant to be unbiased. Yet, somehow it still feels like the article's author desperately wants to remind you that Greg Mortenson is a good guy really. His co-workers like him! See this one lady says so.

For something with a bit more fire and common sense, I recommend Bookslut's response to an article about Mortenson's actions, written by Laura Miller in April 2011. Jessa Crispin also linked to an investigation of Mortenson and compared his falsified memoir to to James Frey's, earlier that month.

➝ Speaking of Jessa, she now runs the Kind Reader advice column at the Barnes and Noble Review website, where she uses books to try and help people caught by difficult conundrums. This month's advice is particularly relevant to me and I'm very grateful for the guiddance of that final paragraph.

➝ More good news; E A Games will not be removing same sex relationship options from its games, despite pressure. – via LGBT Space

➝ An influential study, claiming that gay people can stop being gay has been renounced by its author.

The article says this study has been lending validity to 'pray away the gay' therapy programs for a long time, partly because the scientist who created it had previously worked to stop homosexuality being classed as a mental disorder. As a prominent liberal scientist had produced this study it could be presented as unbiased by organisations that cited it (even though the data was criticised for emerging from flawed methodological processes). This allowed people who want to convince the world that gay, lesbian and bisexual people can become straight to strengthen their rhetorical arguments with flawed, but prestigious science from a non-religious, liberal researcher. A public retraction makes that argument invalid. - via Cheryl’s Mewsings

➝ Even though I like the peerbacking, kickstarter model of funding projects I try not to flood this space with links to projects that need financial contributions. I very much don't want to be that ass that makes you feel guilty about the starving children if you buy a nice coffee, or don't have any money to give.

I will just show you the 'We See a Different Frontier' project though, with the understanding that I don't want to tell anyone what to do with their money, the anthology that might be produced if the project is funded sounds sooooo interesting. We See a Different Frontier would be 'a special issue/anthology of colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the first-world viewpoint'. Sounds amazing and necessary, right? - again, via Cheryl’s Mewsings

➝ Celebrating projects that manage to find the money they need is free and we can all do it! Here's news of a great project that has been funded successfully. Katie's NHS doctors refused to prescribe her hormone replacement therapy. Her friend Paris Lees told her to ask the internet for help and help it did. now has the money to start seeking private treatment. Hurray for Katie.


➝ To end Robin Lafevers talks about second chances for published writers at Writer Unboxed. I worry about debut authors, because so often it seems like all their hopes rest on one book and a huge heaping of chance. Nice to see such a sensible and uplifting post, which can provide hope for all authors who keep going. Also, I want 'Grave Mercy' now, please to be giving it to me universe.

text that says Renay's Section

[personal profile] chaosraven linked me to BIGBANG - FANTASTIC BABY M/V. I've had it on loop for way too long. Curse you, Rose! *shakes fist*

Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her 'Puffy' Appearance. This was fascinating to read except for the ableism (sigh, really?). Don't Read the Comments™.

➝ Sorry, unfortunately Lady Business is the Foz Meadows Show this month. >.> A few weeks ago, Hank Green did a video about The Friendzone. I found it really weird and kind of brain-hurty to compare it to the post Ana linked above, a piece Foz Meadows wrote about the same topic. I have some trouble parsing arguments, but find it interesting how Hank's was gender neutral and it felt very purposeful and like it was avoiding the issue but I couldn't put my finger on this issue until I read this post.

Female Science Fiction Author Reading List.

➝ I have no clue how to cite this (I do not understand tumblr), but this essay about Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender is wonderful. Spoilers for the entire series.

The Further Adventures of Lady Business!

This week, Ana reviewed Sexing the Brain by Lesley Rogers, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and Zahra's Paradise by Amir and Khalil.

Jodie hasn't posted anything in ages, but is part of several co-reviews, watchalongs and readalongs right now, which is tons of fun.

Renay went back to visit her childhood home and subsequently into the past.

Date: 2012-04-15 11:19 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I found the fozmeadows post really interesting. I had never heard of Friend Zone, but when I was growing up with the internet there was a lot of crit of the 'Nice Guy' idea. ('I'm such a nice guy, why do girls always go after bastards?').

I do wonder if there's a change a-coming on the way women who are interested in guys who aren't interested are protrayed. I agree that there's a huge tradition of protraying these kind of women as ugly and that's still going on as new media is born, but now more and more I see them equally portrayed as sexy + desperate = mildyly deranged in an unattractive way. This is much in my mind since I just saw 'We Bought a Zoo', which is full of this kind of female depiction. I'm interested in unpicking what multiple purposes/unconcious ideas I can see in the growing popularity of this trend and whether there are certain kinds of attractiveness/female sexuality that get tied to women who the male characters aren't interested in and how that links in with their characterisation as desperate.

Date: 2012-04-15 11:55 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Ana: 'the reactions surrounding her depiction speaks volumes about the socially unacceptable nature of powerful female sexuality.' - It's hard to judge this comment, because there are no citations of the types of reactions they're referring to. I bet there were a lot of really gross comments out there, but like you I get really edgy about this kind of blanket 'If you don't like the way she's portrayed and we think the way she's portrayed can be interpreted in a feminist light, then you're on the patriachy's side' stuff. Since I got it kind of totally wrong when I was addresing Holly Black's comments as being generally aimed at people making alternate feminist criticism and she was talking about two very specific anti-female articles I'll refrain from judging, but I do wish I could see some examples of the kind of critique they've seen, so I could make my own judgements.

Renay: Interesting Azula article and very relevant to thoughts I've just written down. Thanks for giving me something more to think about her, besides her awesome evilness.

Date: 2012-04-15 12:56 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
Jodie, I'm also very excited about The Rejectionist's novel - the way she describes it reminds me of Elizabeth Hand's stuff a little bit, which I just love. Also, the news about the Spitzer article made me so happy.

Renay, what Jodie said re: the Azula article.

Date: 2012-04-15 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mooredatsea.blogspot.com
Ms Ana -

I thought the article on gender-balanced parenting was interesting, for two reasons - one that it really did acknowledge that is very hard to carry through. Its hard on your kids, its hard on you, its just not easy. ITs not like breaking a stereotype one's self - you are basically enlisting someone else to bear the psyhcic brunt of the activist backlash.

Secondly, though, some of what it said about how toys have changed over the last years made me think abotu the connections between gender role enforcement and capitalism (I'm sorry, I don't mean to be your red-flagged political commenter all the time…). I look at the state of toys over the last fifty years and the big change has been in specialization. Instead of buying generic toys (a box of legos with no instructions, blocks, a fairly generic doll, etc), the majority of toys now purchased have an increasingly specialized purpose (A box of Legos for reenacting one specific scene in the Harry Potter movies, a doll allowing you to play an extremely sexualized zombie/vampire/whatever. No I'm not kidding about that. Weirds me out every time I see it). Well, as things specialize, they sort of, by definition, cannot leave the empty space necessary for the spontaneous creation of shared psychic space for play. If you dump a box of old-school legos in front of a group of kids who enjoy military play they'll make a gun out of them. IF you dump them in front of a bunch of kids who like social role play, they'll build a house with furniture. Even with the much maligned doll, if sufficiently generic, one can use it to imitate caretaking, to roleplay as a doctor, or a fireman, or a policeman chasing kidnappers, or make it into a giant to attack a lego city, or whatever). When a toy becomes ovely specialized, though, it begins to prescribe play - and isnce that play is being prescribed by adults, its going to be prescriptions that match the desires that purchasing adults project onto their children. Hence, the reinforcement of gender roles (and of any host of other problems - militarization, ethnic stereotypes, heteronormativism, etc).

Ms Jodie - The EA issue is an interesting one to me because, as someone inside the tech community, its such a boiling pot of these worries. I wrote a whole post not long ago about the fear of beign overly feminine in programmers, and teh overwhelmingly male population thereof, and the problems inherent in that. At the same time, I think I hinted at the fact that programming seems to be an enormously attractive occupation for people with marginalized states of mind in terms of gneder dynamics - there is a a higher percentage of homosexuality, transgenderism, queerness, etc in programmers, I've found. I think THIS aspect is wonderful, as it takes a dispossessed group and gives them a great deal of power in a very important media exposure market. ITs as if you took all the gender-queer and homosexual artists of the 20's - 50's, and then had them run the television industry


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