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[personal profile] bookgazing
White, yellow and red book cover of Kameron Hurley's The Geek Feminist Revolution featuring an illustration of a llama

It's the start of July. I am trying to review Kameron Hurley's essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution. In my wisdom, I have decided an analysis of her essay, "I'll Make The Pancakes: On Opting In And Out of the Writing Game", would make a great entry point for my review. I reread it to remind myself of the piece's fundamental points:

The more women writers I read, from Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Toni Morrison, the less alone I felt, and the more I began to see myself as part of something more.

It wasn't about one woman toiling against the universe. It was about all of us moving together, crying out into some black, inhospitable place that we would not be quiet, we would not go silently, we would not stop speaking, we would not give in.

It's hard to see the keyboard when you're trying not to cry.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] nymeth
White cover with the same text in the quote that follows in red and black font
She didn’t write it.
She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have.
She wrote it, but look what she wrote about.
She wrote it, but “she” isn’t really an artist and “it” isn’t really serious, or the right genre—i.e., really art.
She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it.
She wrote it, but it’s only interesting/included in the cannon for one limited reason.
She wrote it, but there are very few of her.

I should start by warning you that this post will be quotes heavy: How to Suppress Women’s Writing is so great that I just want to cite the whole thing at anyone who’ll listen.Read more... )
Reviewed at: Novel Readings

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[personal profile] helloladies
Korra and Wan, the first Avatar

Last year, Lady Business presented Ana and Jodie's co-review of series one of The Legend of Korra, which sits somewhere between a sequel to and a spin-off from 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'. It's fair to say that as feminists invested in media and huge Avatar fans, we both had a lot of feels about this program and a lot of dreams for series two. Join us as we talk about how the second series played out and whether flying bunnies can soothe a riled critic.

Jodie: Ok, so I feel like we have A LOT to get through in this post. You correctly predicted that I have many emotions about this series, especially related to the use of secondary female characters this series and they are all bashing against each other. Where shall we start?
All the words + spoilers )

Other Reviews and supplemental material:

renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
Tomb Raider reboot logo

The Tomb Raider franchise is incredibly long running with huge amounts of multimedia content, so of course I know almost nothing about its history. Tomb Raider debuted back in 1996, two years before I graduated from Nintendo to Playstation. I missed the boat on the initial launch of the franchise and never picked it up. The 2013 Tomb Raider, a reboot of the series, is my first experience with it other than the films.

1996 Tomb Raider game cover with Lara holding her iconic guns

I was aware of the first film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, because when it was released I was constantly on the lookout for stories with women at the center. Even though the film didn't get a good critical response, I still loved it. I liked the sequel just as much, although that one didn't do as well either critically or with audiences. I had been so sheltered and subject to regressive media that my parents liked that these movies were like catnip. An intelligent, hardworking lady with incredible physical skills! Outsmarting everyone! Being both badass and empathetic! It was impossible to resist. Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
The clones from Orphan Black drawn like characters from The Simpsons

Last year, the BBC made a major science fiction action/thriller series, helmed by a woman, that made about 50% of the internet lose it. It was never in doubt that opinions about "Orphan Black" would make it onto Lady Business. Join Ana and Jodie as they examine the many amazing faces of Tatiana Maslany, super-actress, and share their thoughts about a story where human cloning has produced a set of interesting, diverse women. As usual, be warned that there will be plenty of spoilers.

Jodie: Tatiana Maslany though.
Read More - Lots and lots more )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Parks and Recreation full cast

"Parks and Recreation", the mockumentary-style adventures of Leslie Knope and the rest of the Pawnee Parks Department, was definitely my favourite TV discovery of 2013. Getting acquainted with these characters over the course of five seasons was a complete delight, and it made me incredibly happy to see Jodie fall for the series as hard as I did. So we're here today to share with you our many, many words of joyful squeeing about everything that makes "Parks and Recreation" so great: the characters, the diversity of the assemble cast (still so rare for a major hit series), and of course the wonderful humour. Along the way we also consider the moments in which "Parks and Rec" defaulted to tired narrative tropes we'd prefer to see gone.

I hope you'll join us for this shameless torrent of words, though those of you who have yet to watch the series should be warned that there will be lots of spoilers. )
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[personal profile] helloladies
Like last year’s study, Coverage of Women in SF/F blogs (2012) has generated a range of reactions. Much has been reasoned, and we’re grateful to everyone who took the time to look closely at the data. However, some responses have been, well…interesting. Oh internet, you all know what 'interesting' means in the context of discussions about gender, right?

Luckily, because we’re bloggers, we have our own space where we can deconstruct that kind of response. And that’s what we propose to do below: each of us will be taking apart particular reactions and trying to explain just why we found them suspect by examining the language used or the critical ideas expressed about our data. Since the 101 derailing nature of these reactions made us angry, we’re just going to let that anger roar in places, while simultaneously producing a clear outline of just why we are angry and how several respondents to our study hope to misrepresent our findings.
Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
A lady after our own data-loving hearts, KJ, awesome librarian and feminist mentor extraordinaire agreed to share with us some data related to gender and categorization within the NPR's Young Adult list from 2012. You can read more of KJ's writing at [personal profile] owlmoose or [ profile] lifeofkj.

I have long been interested in the issue of representation of female authors on best-of lists and in different genres of writing, particularly sci-fi/fantasy. There were two such SF/F lists that caught my attention during the summer of 2011, both based on reader polls, one run by Tor Books and the other by NPR. There were some notable differences between how these polls were run, which lead to some interesting contrasts between their final lists, but both suffered a lack of female representation. Tor's list (2 of the top 10, 24% of the top 50) was a bit better than NPRs (none in the top 10, 15% of the top 100). There are a number of possible reasons for this, but I would look to two in particular: Tor's poll was limited specifically to books published in the most recent decade, 2000 through 2010, while the NPR list was all-time; and the Tor list was a reader free-for-all, while the NPR list was curated, 200-some nominees culled from reader submissions with some strict rules about what genres were to be included. And though I hesitate to ascribe any intent to the NPR editors' choices, their genre exclusions — horror, paranormal romance, and YA — are areas in which female authors tend to be better represented than in other areas of SF/F, particularly the latter two. Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, J.K. Rowling, and Stephenie Meyer come immediately to mind, but the list hardly stops there. I was not the only person to side-eye this decision in terms of how many popular female authors this choice would leave out — NPR's own Monkey See blog even mentioned it as a reason that fewer women were represented — but at the time, the NPR poll editors promised that they would do a YA poll in the summer of 2012. So I was curious to see what would happen with that poll. Read more... )

Supplemental Material )
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[personal profile] helloladies
The Backstory )

The Inevitable Disclaimer )

Methodology )

The Results )

Credit and Further Reading )

eta - 3/9/12 3:15P.M.: Going forward, to leave anonymous comments on this post you must sign your comment with the name you use online or a name created specifically for commenting across this post. Any non-signed comments will be screened upon discovery. We will not engage with unsigned anonymous comments.
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[personal profile] nymeth
A Wrinkle in Time original cover

My recent experience with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was a good reminder of why I should get back into the habit of rereading: my appreciation for the book deepened considerably on a second reading. I enjoyed it a lot the first time around, but this time there was even more to it than I remembered. The characters grabbed me more; the writing stood out in ways that it hadn’t before. This isn’t to say that I found it perfect, but it’s the kind of book I’ll happily spend a long time thinking about and trying to engage with.

I reread it so I could write a post about Mrs Which for the novel’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Revisiting the story while paying particular attention to the role one of the characters plays in it was a new approach for me, and something I really enjoyed doing. But of course, it didn’t exhaust all the things I wanted to say about A Wrinkle in Time, so here you have them: all my extra words.
Read more... )
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[personal profile] helloladies
There was much excitement here at Lady Business headquarters about the airing of the first episode of the second season of the BBC series "Sherlock" on the first day of the year. The first season had ended with a painful cliffhanger, and we couldn't wait to find out how Sherlock and Watson would find their way out of the huge mess they were in. However, we were presented with an episode that left us with many complicated feelings to sort through. In the following conversation, Jodie and Ana attempt to do just that. If you haven't watched the series yet, we should warn you that this discussion contains spoilers for the first episode of season two.

We're sorry that the only thing we talk about now is BBC Sherlock, but not sorry enough to stop. )

Further commentary:

renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
A few days ago Aarti posted a review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I probably wouldn't have noticed, but I was alerted that the review was imminent and was specifically watching for it after being told it was similar to my own.

Ana and I reviewed the book in 2010 and had mixed feelings about it. I came away feeling like I was missing an emotional connection with the characters. The fondness I normally have for John Green's characters never quite jelled, and I didn't expect them to jell with David Levithan's but was proven wrong, because over a year later I still like Levithan's Will the best. The review posted a few days ago reflected my feelings accurately, and many people say similar things about how the book was tricky, suggesting one conceit but then delivering the Tiny Cooper Variety Novel instead. It's still a great story and says interesting things about friendship and first love and companionship, but it misses the mark emotionally as Tiny eclipses the other characters in the narrative.

Of course, then I had to go read the comments. It should be a rule for me on reviews of YA novels in spaces that don't often review specific types of YA because I often come away with all the feelings. Don't Read the Comments™, Renay! But I did! Read more... )
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[personal profile] bookgazing
In October the Scholastic blog team created a fantasy American football team out of fictional characters. While I may not be a sporty girl right now, I love to watch games and read about sports. I was interested to see who they’d draft, because I’m a girl and I like sports.

Let’s see, there’s Peter Pevensie, Legolas, Oliver Wood, ooo Katniss...

...oh, that should be just Katniss, just the one female team member...


I understand that the gender balance of Scholastic’s fictional sports team isn’t a huge deal. We have bigger things to talk about right? Still, weird feelings, I haz them. To me Katniss’ inclusion looks like tokenism to fend off calls that S&S think sports are just for boys. It’s equally possible that Katniss was put in to provide a pro-active example of mixed sports play, but that’s not how the team selection reads to me. Two or more female characters in that team would have looked like a statement on equality. Putting one female character in the team and including a cheer squad full of female characters, who aren’t given their individual names in this post, feels like a crappy approach frankly1.

It shouldn’t be hard to create a sports team, full of fictional YA characters, that contains more than one girl and I thought it would be really fun to prove just how easy it is by making my very own fictional fantasy sports team. I’m British and know nothing about American football, but I do follow a local team in an exciting sport called speedway. Speedway is the daring motor sport where two teams of seven riders ride motorbikes with no brakes, in a series of competitive heats! I’m pretty sure I know some fictional ladies who can handle that kind of excitement.

Meet the Team )

I would absolutely love it if anyone else wanted to create their own female (or mixed)team for any sport, full of fictional characters and leave their team picks in the comments. You can even name your team. I think I'll call mine the Literary Legends (alliteration - key in sports team naming). What sport will your characters play?

1 And no I’m not hating on cheerleaders, I applaud anyone with that much gymnastic ability, but when all the cheerleaders are female and one of the football team is female it’s an unoriginal way of approaching the world we live in and does unfortunately reinforce stereotypes.
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[personal profile] bookgazing

Last year I asked Simon at Savidge Reads to see if his readers could come up with a list of books that included single women, who stayed single until the end of the book and didn’t die of despair because of their lonely hearts. The Savidge Reads commenter’s made a pretty strong effort and furnished me with a list of contented, fictional single women to check out.

But, see, I am never satisfied. Even as I added these books so full of promise to my list, I was thinking one step on, identifying and grousing over other gaps in fictional female representation.

Although I think addressing the lack of fictional female representation in certain subject areas is important, I don’t intend to get shouty and moan (again) that books about female pirates, or warlords, or scientists are never going to trend as their own separate sub genre. Sure, I’d like more books about female pirates,** but in this post I want to go beyond asserting (again) that female protagonists don’t make it into novels about certain, very cool subjects, as often as male protagonists. However, I think that at least people recognise that this problem exists and these people are committed to pushing for a more equal representation. At least we can see that problem.

My query to Simon was about a much less visible lack of female representation. The low numbers of single, happy women in fiction is clear from many of the comments made on that post, but what’s also clear is that for some commenter’s it was the first time they’d realised there was a gap in the representation. A couple of months before I sent to Simon asking for recommendations I hadn’t really noticed just how absent single, happy women were from fiction. I am a very single woman who reads all the time. If anyone should have noticed and been annoyed that in a modern society, which would likes us to believe that it validates a single woman’s choice to be single, it should have been me.

When I eventually saw the lack of single female happiness made me think about what other kinds of general female experience are underrepresented and struggle to get that under representation noticed. As soon as I started looking I realised that it had been a loooong time since I’d read a book where a female character was described as plain, unattractive, or ugly where that character ended up some kind of happy by the final chapter.

‘The Woman in White’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ are both good examples of books where female characters don’t have to be attractive to get their happy ending. In the nineteenth century, when looks (in tandem with money) played a large part in defining how marriageable you were and marriage was seen as the gate to prosperous female fulfilment. Despite these societal truths neither the ‘ugly’ Marianne, or the ‘plain’ Jane found in these nineteenth century novels, die out of despair that their looks have doomed them to solitude. Jane actually gets to marry a man she loves. Wilkie Collins doesn’t lead Marianne to traditional, validating romantic happiness, but she doesn’t die, go mad, get assaulted, or end up in the poorhouse. In fact, she is shown as an intellectually sharp, happy, healthy character at the end of the book. I always find Collins treatment of Marianne vs. his treatment of Laura annoying, but since I wouldn’t have wanted her to marry Walter anyway (whatever Walter you are not that cool) I’m generally content to call Collins depiction of an ‘ugly’*** female character progressive.

I guarantee you if this problem was set up as an opinion piece on a big newspaper’s site these are the two books everyone would pull out to knock down the idea that plain girls don’t get a place in fiction. Yes, there are two whole books! Ok, they were written in the nineteenth century, but they’re both classics right? That means female characters described as unattractive are like, taking over the world!

Yes (Mr Straw Man), fine, blah, blah, classics, blah, blah, higly visible – theimportant thing, the thing to focus on is that there are just TWO books. Apart from those two books I find it hard to name any other books where a main female character is described as plain, unattractive, or ugly and offered some kind of happy ending.

Few authors describe female characters as unattractive and write them happy endings. I could make a couple of educated guesses about why that is:

Judging by programs that push make overs as therapeutic, fresh starts that will bring all the wonders of the rainbow, the way society perceive a woman's happiness is still tied up with how society thinks she looks

Not much has really changed and society still thinks happiness comes from romantic fulfilment, which it assumes is denied to women it deems unattractive. Fiction doesn’t reflect happiness for female characters which writers describe as unattractive, because society is narrow in its happiness recognition and assumes female characters described as unattractive could never find traditional happy endings

Some vestige of Victorian scientific analysis still remains in society and it’s still believed that character, personality and fulfilment are reflected by outward appearance. Unfulfilled characters are automatically written as unattractive, because people feel that unfulfilled lives are reflected in people’s dress, or features (or more generously writing descriptions is still seen as a reasonable short cut route to characterisation)

Wish fulfilment

And I’m sure the publishing industry has practical, writing as a business reasons as well (meh).

Now that I actually see this trend to reward only the fictional and beautiful with happiness****, I’m already bored of it. If you can recommend any books with happy endings for female characters who are clearly supposed to sound unattractive to the reader, please leave recommendations in the comments, I will love you. I’m not accepting books where a first person female character describes herself as unattractive, yet everyone around her falls at her feet, which makes it a bit trickier. I don’t expecting we’d get a lot of suggestions wherever we took this topic, but being proved wrong can only make me happy!

* Btw the late, great Diana Norman’s book ‘The Pirate Queen’ is perfect for anyone who wants a starting place

** Can we totally have female pirate week sometime this year?

*** There are tons of complicated cultural ideas past and present that go into that word and into Marianne’s presentation as an ‘ugly’ woman, but let’s push on and I’ll recommend that you hit up an aware fashion commentator like threadbared for analysis of these issues

**** Not every character described as unattractive has to be left happy. I’m not arguing for blanket positive messages that obscure complexity. I just want a little variation from the current standard of ‘beautiful/not considered totally unattractive and happy’ and ‘unattractive, so dying inside’


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