Category Archives: Feminism

Feminism: Something Like a Rant

One of my favorite male writers posted on Twitter recently about learning how his behavior towards women has made them extremely uncomfortable.  He was completely chagrined.  His apology and promise to do better seemed heartfelt.  I only know this author through his books and his presence on Twitter.  It does not come as a surprise that he was unaware of what his behavior towards women really was.

He shared a post he’d written on his blog about owning his mistakes.  This post is not about that.

This post is about what someone said in the comments:

but it’s outright demoralizing for newbie writers who come to a convention to try to network, and they see that the male pros are bro-ing it up as colleagues, and they’re talking to the pretty women (who then have to fend off unwanted advances) … but the women they see as plain are entirely shut out of conversations.

Story.  of.  My. Life.

Shit like this brings me to my knees.  Someone’s saying the thing I’ve been struggling to explain for years.  I have been ghosted, over looked, looked over, looked through, gaslighted, etc. because as Kameron Hurley said, “My body isn’t coded correctly.”

I can’t tell you how many people, especially men, have told me my experience is “not that bad,” or “didn’t happen.”

I’m done with all that.  This behavior has taught me to keep to myself and not seek advice or attention.  Those who chose to treat us like that can just suck eggs right about now.

Once at a holiday party, a male co-worker sat next to me and we had an interesting talk about something.  We talked until he got a better offer from a pretty, vivacious woman across the room.  He would have denied that’s what happened, but I knew.

Another time, a friend and I had just finished dinner.  She was thin and pretty with long curly hair.  A drunk Asian man walked right past me to talk to her.  When he wobbled off, I asked if she knew what had just happened.  She didn’t see it and thought I was being too hard on myself.

No.  There was a time when I once thought there was something wrong with me to be treated that way.  For decades, I fought for recognition as someone who existed and took up space in her own right.  It was exhausting, and led to some really embarrassing and truly terrible events.  I berated myself for being so sensitive and crying over “every little thing.”

Guess what?  Those things weren’t little and they hurt like hell.  My heart was so battered and bruised I couldn’t see it wasn’t my fault.  I was doing nothing to be treated that way.  Nothing.

So men, take a look at your actions around women.  Do you drink a lot and then flirt mercilessly, thinking her many replies of “no” and “go away” are  a game?  Stop that.

Do you stand in the hall at conventions having an interesting conversation with a woman who is less attractive, and then abandon her the second a prettier woman walks past?  Knock it off.

Do you stand at the bar with your male compatriots yucking it up, refusing to acknowledge the woman standing there wanting to ask for you advice about a writing problem or to tell you how much she loves your work?  Seriously, knock that shit off.

Do you hit it off with someone and she doesn’t return your calls?  Ask yourself why.  She’s not the bitch, you probably are.

There are so many other stories to tell about this.  A lifetime of stories.  Doesn’t matter to me if you believe them or not.  My lived experience trumps your expectation of a skewed truth.

Bitter, resentful, angry, desperate, etc.  I’ve been called them all, and more.  So what?  Maybe you could look at your own behavior and think about what might have made me, or a woman of your acquaintance feel that way.

The lowest setting on the privilege scale is cishet white male.   Maybe the reason no one’s telling you about your behavior is because she’s scared to.   A lot of men don’t handle it well and they lash out.

There are moments of agonizing pain because, damn it, that scar just got opened for the 700th time, and someone should pay for the pain they’re causing.  Society trains women to be docile and submissive and then wonders why we’re angry.  Dude, have you met you?

There was a time I didn’t want to identify as feminist because they just seemed so strident.  Then I started reading and listening and learned feminism is about equality.  It’s about my right to exist in my own space and not be hassled by some man who thinks he can, and should.

On a group trip to Canada, I was insulted over my weight.  Aghast, I walked away.  Next morning at breakfast, the very same man walked up behind my chair and put his hands on me.  It took both my friend and I to convince him he needed to leave.  I had no room to maneuver or I would have gotten up and left.  He put his hands on me and he thought it was okay.  Not only that, when I asked him to stop, he wouldn’t.

This is not anomalous behavior.   It happens every day.  Probably to someone you know.  Men, before you get yourself twisted up over some man putting his hands on a woman friend of yours without permission, take a good long hard look at yourself.  Do you walk up next to/behind a woman you vaguely know and touch her?  You may think it’s just an innocent, friendly gesture and you’ll probably never know she flinched when you did it.  We’ve been trained not to let you see us flinch.  But we do.  If you have ever put your hand in the small of her back and she is not a very good friend you have just committed assault.

She knows she’ll get laughed at for even complaining or asking you politely not to do that.  She knows you probably won’t understand because you’re a good guy and you treat women with the utmost respect.  No, you don’t.  You don’t.  And you need to look at your interactions before you pass judgement on women who refuse to be in your presence, or to get close enough for you to touch.

A writer friend completely objectified a woman to me based on her author picture.  The red-headed lass was to his liking.  Sat there, looked right at me as we’d been talking about feminism in speculative fiction and objectified her.  The pain ripped right through me, both because it was obvious he didn’t hear what he was doing, and because he’d just made me feel small and unworthy because I wasn’t a red-headed lass.  I got over the small and unworthy part fast because fuck him.  He’s not the first to look right through me and compliment another, prettier woman.  He probably won’t be the last.

If you don’t know whether you do this, ask your friends.  Especially ask your women friends.  Be prepared for some hard truth.  And then be prepared to do the work to do better.

Don’t treat women like that.  Don’t do it.  We’re not a glass of your favorite whiskey to be sipped at.  We’re not your favorite cigar bought and paid for.  We are people.  We are your mothers, sisters, aunties, daughters, wives, writing partners, and comrades in arms.

Do not make the mistake of thinking we like how you treat us.  And do not make the mistake of thinking that our silence makes your behavior okay.  Knock that shit off and evolve.  To truly be the man you think you are takes honesty and work.  Do that and see how much better all your friendships are.  Do the work.

Review: Cinderella Liberator

Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit

Title: Cinderella Liberator
Author: Rebecca Solnit
Published: 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-608465965
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb:  Rebecca Solnit reimagines a classic fairytale with a fresh, feminist Cinderella and new plot twists that will inspire young readers to change the world.

Fairytales made no sense to me.  Even as I tried to fit myself into what society believed girls should want, which included some fairytale version of finding a husband and having children, it didn’t make sense.  And I didn’t understand why.

I mean, why should Cinderella want to go to the ball so much, and why would she want to marry a prince?  Did that really mean happily ever after?  What if she – what if I – wanted something different?

The appeal of being rescued is certainly be understandable, especially when growing up in a dysfunctional, unpredictable environment.  When your whole life feels hopeless, rescue seems like the best chance.  When one wants to be rescued from misery, there is no understanding about agency.  So, in some ways, Cinderella’s traditional gambit of marrying the prince and leaving behind her wicked steps makes a tremendous amount of sense.  If only there was another way ….

Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator begins with the familiar story.   But when the lizards become stagecoach women for Cinderella’s carriage, one sits up and takes notice.   And when Cinderella asks if the lizards want to be human, the reader understands this isn’t the same Cinderella of childhood.

At its base as a political structure, feminism is about the right to make choices based upon personal agency.  Women get to choose what they want to do, or should be allowed to, anyway.  Solnit takes that one step further.  Not only does Cinderella get to choose, but so do the animals who help her get to the ball.  The entire cast gets a makeover.

This more equitable story in which Cinderella opens a cake store and become friends with the prince who wants to work on a farm is one everyone should read.  Especially those with small children entering the world of make-believe and fairy tales.

Solnit’s version is more hopeful and happier, giving children (and adults) space to learn about equality and choice.  It certainly gave me happiness and hope.

On Writing: 2019 Book Commentary

“The creative life is not linear” – Austin Kleon

2019 by the numbers.

Random thoughts about the madcap year that was 2019 reading.  Some events were so glorious as to be unrecognizable as anything I’d ever dreamed could happen to me.  Others predictable and necessary (day job). In addition for my own blog, I now write for Hugo award-winning fanzine Drink Tank, and M. Todd Gallowglas’ Geek’s Guide to Literary Criticism.

  • In Toni Morrison’s Beloved Paul D’s story about learning to read and being beaten for it just leaves a hole in my heart.  He kneels on the ground with a bit in his mouth and notices the rooster named Mister doing whatever he wanted.

“I was something else and that something was less than a chicken sitting in the sun on a tub.”

  • I’m not qualified to  review Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power.  How does one speak to a tragedy caused by differences in pigmentation?

“Barack Obama [governed] a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as president.

Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom [slavery] and the great power of not being a n*****.”

  • As Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution brought me to myself in 2018, so too did Feminisms and Womanisms edited by Althea Prince & Susan Silva-Wayne.  The taste of seminal feminist works from Emma Goldman, Simone de Bauvoir, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem made it easier to understand big parts of my life.

It is truly amazing how long we can go on accepting myths that oppose our own lives, assuming we are the odd exception.” – Gloria Steinem

The need to be noticed and liked, the need to be listened to and accepted, the need for encouragement and praise; all became sources of shameful, rather than normal, neediness in my mind.  Especially the need for affection.” – Nancy Graham

Susan Sontag’s essay on women and aging made me want to throw the book across the room in a fit of rage.

The rules of this society are cruel to women.”  – Susan Sontag

  • Stealing:  Life in America by Michelle Cacho-Negrete, sent to me for a review by Adelaide Press.  Her essays are powerful as she relates the stories of a life lived right, doing everything she was supposed to do and still needing to steal food to feed her children.  Her triumph over that and the particular experiences of being “other” really sang to me.
  • Stopwatch Chronicles, M. Todd Gallowglas’ collection of flash fiction bowled me over.  He is sharp, witty and fun. His insights are dead on and I love his wordplay.  Ditto Bard’s Cloak of Tales.
  • The Killing Light, the triumphal conclusion to Myke Cole’s Sacred Throne trilogy.  I’ll just quote myself here, “Heloise remains the hero we need for today..”
  • How Fiction Works by James Wood .  I will forever be grateful for the phrase “flaneurial realism.”
  • Literary Theory by Sarah Upstone – this little book packs a lot into it and is one of my go to reference books.
  • The Art of Fiction and Moral Fiction by John Gardner

“… in order to achieve mastery [they] must read widely and deeply and must write not just carefully but continually.”

“… the temptation to explain should almost always be resisted.”

“Art, in sworn opposition of chaos, discovers by its process what it can say.  That is art’s morality.”

“…art can at times be baffling …”

  • Wizardry & Wild Romance by Michael Moorcock.  Each reading enriches my understanding of the genre I live and breathe.
  • Better Living Through Criticism by A. O. Scott.  Scott’s commentary helped give voice to the questions I’d been asking about what criticism is and why it has value.  His outstanding thoughts on art and criticism as a conversation resonate deeply. As does his insistence criticism is a way to seek out the excellent as a foodie demands excellence from their favorite chef or restaurant.

“… our understanding of art emerges from our experience of it.”

Writing for Drink Tank led me to works I might never have read.  Chris’ unbounded knowledge of books and themes kept me busy.

  • Challengers of the Unknown by Ron Goulart led me to one of the cheesiest books I’ve ever read.  (Drink Tank #414)
  • Before the Golden Age edited by Isaac Asimov, From the Earth to Around the Moon by Jules Verne, and First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells were fodder for thought about Antique Space.  (Journey Planet/Drink Tank Crossover)
  • Drink Tank #410 gave me a reason to join the Alexander Hamilton party.

 

Review: The Killing Light

The Killing Light by Myke Cole

Title:  The Killing Light
Author: Myke Cole
Published: 2019
ISBN-13: 978-0-76539559-3
Publisher: Tor.com Publishing
Twitter: @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb: Heloise and her allies are marching on the Imperial Capital. The villagers, the Kipti, and the Red Lords are united only in their loyalty to Heloise, though dissenting voices are many and they are loud.

The unstable alliance faces internal conflicts and external strife, yet they’re united in their common goal. But when the first of the devils start pouring through a rent in the veil between worlds, Heloise must strike a bargain with an unlikely ally, or doom her people to death and her world to ruin.

This is the final book of The Sacred Throne trilogy
Book 1 –  The Armored Saint | Book 2  – The Queen of Crows

I was provided an Advanced Reader’s Copy by Tor Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

“But I am thine Emperor, and the harder the step, the closer it taketh thou unto me. –Writ. Lea. IV.2.”  (p. 167)

In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner writes, “The primary subject of fiction is and always has been human emotion, values, and beliefs.”  (p. 14)  and “The writer must enable us to see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel …” (p. 44)

Any writer who can make the reader feel great anxiety for his characters and drive them to tears in relief has most definitely met the criteria set forth by Gardner.  That Myke Cole’s writing kept me fully engaged and emotionally involved says something about the great talent he has for telling a story.

There’s a thread running through The Killing Light about men and how they must be treated by women.  Repeatedly a female will say something like, “Everything with men is a great care.”  (p. 46)

Heloise was never meant to be and do all the things she does in The Sacred Throne trilogy.  She was meant to be a young woman who marries the man her parents have chosen for her and to settle into the role of home keeper, as women in her village have always done.

But we don’t always get to choose the shape our life takes and who we fall in love with.  The best we can hope is to be gentle with ourselves when we are tested. This is part of the story Myke Cole tells with Heloise, how she must accept and come to terms with herself, and her evolving beliefs and leadership skills.

Her world is one in which only hetero normative standards are accepted.  In Book 1, The Armored Saint, she finds herself in love with her best friend who not only doesn’t reciprocate those feelings, but is horrified by Heloise’s feelings.  Shortly after this reveal, Basina is killed and that death haunts Heloise more than anything else through the series.

Cole portrays her struggle with tenderness, and introduces Xilyka from one of the Traveling People clans who join Heloise’s army.  Xilyka becomes one of Heloise’s bodyguards, never leaving her side. It is in the most tender moments we see Heloise began to overcome her fear of being a lesbian, and of driving Xilyka away.

In one such scene, Heloise’s father, Samson, has arranged a private place with hot water so Heloise can bathe after many weeks on the battlefield, stuck in the war machine.  At this point, the agoraphobic leader  trembles in abject terror at leaving the machine which has protected her and allowed her to become the leader she is.  Samson the loving father tries to coax her out.  Xylika literally rides to the rescue, leading Heloise in her machine behind the screen and bathes her tenderly.  Cole does not ignore the sexual tension such a situation would create, but neither does he dwell on it. His deft writing shows us the normality of two people getting to know each other, carefully exploring the beginnings of a physical relationship.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is Onas, a 16-year-old boy from a different Traveling People clan who also becomes bodyguard, and tries to assert his authority over Heloise as potential husband.  This does not go well. Heloise is exhausted, she doubts her moral imperative to be leading this fight, is grieving for the many deaths caused in this war, and is in despair over having to re-evaluate the values she was taught about the Emperor and the Order.  She literally has no energy to put into this boy’s demands for romance.

Onas keeps pushing.  Heloise side steps, telling him when the war is over, she will think about it.  He sees what’s going on with Xilyka, which infuriates him and makes him push even harder.  Then, the unthinkable happens and Onas’ mother, the leader of his clan, dies in  battle. Onas blames Heloise for his mother’s death.

It becomes too much for him to bear when they stumble upon a band of the Order whose leader has killed so many, and Heloise refuses to let anyone kill Brother Tone.  She recognizes Tone can provide entrance and information into the Emperor’s city and palace that will prove useful.  Onas throws a teenaged temper tantrum and runs off taking other disgruntled fighters with him.

This is not unusual behavior.  Boys have been conditioned to believe that their wants and needs take precedence over a girl’s.  So it is with Onas and Heloise. Despite the many stupid reasons he throws at her as he storms away, the one he cannot voice is he expected her to fall into his arms and she did not.  All logic does not penetrate.

Onas is not the only male in this story who treats her as less than because of her gender.  Sir Steven, leader of the Red Army which falls in with Heloise and her villagers, treats her with great disdain both because she is young and, more to the point, a woman.  During a council at which he has commanded Heloise attend, she questions him. Obliviously he says, “This is my punishment for taking a council of war with a girl.” That word, that attitude, meant to demean her in the presence of other leaders has exactly the opposite effect.  She draws herself up and asserts her authority as the one who has killed a devil and therefore, has more expertise on this subject than Sir Steven.

When they reach the capital city, Steven’s attitude has changed and he treats her as equal.  He has seen her leadership grow, witnessed her wisdom. It is her determination to get through, and her insistence on continuing to fight when too many have died and others have given up, which leads Steven to fight more equitably alongside her.

Even Brother Tone who for two books did everything he could to kill Heloise and her village because of her questions regarding the Emperor’s governance comes to accept, and follow, her leadership.

In one of the pivotal scenes of The Killing Light, the reveal literally drives Tone to his knees, and makes him question everything he has ever believed.  He becomes vacant and only continues the fight at Heloise’s insistence. His knowledge is the key which will lead to stopping the war between Devils and humankind.

Tone goes from murderous devotee to thoughtful follower, all due to Heloise’s mission to settle things once and for all.  Most of the characters, male and female evolve, becoming more self-aware and thoughtful about their actions and the effects those have on the bigger picture.

Teenaged Onas is not completely immune to this, but  his maturity will come only through time.  Myke Cole’s writing shows he’s attentive to what makes the most sense for the entire cast, including keeping Onas true to his male teenaged arrogance.

The Killing Light is the satisfactory and logical ending to this trilogy.  Heloise becomes what she’s destined to become after all the pain and death she’s been witness to.  Heloise remains the hero we need for today.

New to the Stacks: A Rich and Versatile Collection

In Cold Type by Leonard Shatzkin

In Cold Type by Leonard Shatzkin
From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne – Drink Tank
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells – Drink Tank
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin – Literary Theory
The Hugo Winners Volume 3 – edited by Isaac Asimov – Drink Tank
Challengers of the Unknown by Ron Goulart – Drink Tank ~ read
The Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara
Feminisms and Womanisms edited by Susan Silva-Wayne and Althea Prince ~ read
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker

In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker
Feminisms and Womanisms edited by Susan Silva-Wayne and Althea Prince
The Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara
Challengers of the Unknown by Ron Goulart
The Hugo Winners Volume 3 – edited by Isaac Asimov
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne

 

The Clutter

Clutter

When I have two day weekends, Sundays have become the day for beating back the clutter.  Last week it was finding my desk amongst the stacks of books so I can read and write more comfortably.  Today I’m beating at the overflowing email filled with a few requests for reviews, links to stories I’m following, and the daily ephemera which creeps in reminding me there are adulting things to be taken care of.

My day job affords me the opportunity to make up hours for days I’m forced to miss (as a contractor I don’t receive pay for company holidays).  I’m also afforded overtime to help keep the finances in better shape.  Of course, this cuts into time for my own work, which includes finding a balance for it all.  But I have to have my #moneyhoney.

Yesterday, I took colorful pen in hand and opened my book journal to make the somewhat definitive list of projects and writing I’m working on.  It is a lot.  With deadlines.  I’m not here to join the chorus of every writer saying it’s hard.  That much is obvious.  But when I dedicated myself to this work nearly a year ago, I knew going in it would be tough to keep up and get it done.  That commitment remains foremost in my mind.

As my work on the Three Books continues (not writing, reviewing), I have taken some side steps into womanism.  The woman’s studies reader has some of the classic essays from founding mothers, making this an opportunity to explore my own feminism.  I was probably in my mid-fifties when I started recognizing feminism as a thing in my life, and the sexism which is so rampant in every woman’s life.  I want to learn more in order to continue my own healing process.

Attacking the clutter is another way I’m taking care of myself.  I can’t nap myself through it.

The best piece of advice I’ve received is, “Just finish the thing.”  So that’s where I am.

New to the Stacks: Hugos and Theory

On Moral Fiction by John Gardner

On Moral Fiction by John Gardner- Theory ~ read
They’d Rather be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley – Hugo ~read
A Case of Conscience by James Blish – Hugo
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Alberto Manguel
The Big Time by Fritz Lieber – Hugo
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak – Feminism
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton – Genre

They’d Rather be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley
A Case of Conscience by James Blish
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Alberto Manguel
The Big Time by Fritz Lieber
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
What Makes This Book so Great by Jo Walton