A Year of Reading Women

I want to start my post today by apologizing for missing the first Tuesday of this month and not writing until now. The shift from April to May caught me a bit off guard and I did not manage my time well. Life got a little bit hectic and I couldn’t seem to get it done.

As I type, I realize we’re already in the 20th week of 2017. Is there a better time to initiate a reading challenge? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway! I would love for people to join me, yet I also want to see if I can personally do it. From my title, you have likely figured out that I want to read books written exclusively by female authors this year.

Honestly, barring book club picks by other members and assigned reading for my courses, I don’t think this will be a difficult challenge. I read stories written mostly by women anyway; looking at my bookshelves it’s an easy 3:1 ratio. However, with recent events around the world concerning women and those who identify as female, I want to make a point of it.

And I won’t be reading just fiction because obviously women write much more than that. I’ll be adding poetry, drama, essays, memoirs, and all the other good stuff out there. Too readily, certain governments and individuals with power are trying to silence the women who don’t agree with them. I might not be anyone important, but this shall be one of my means of resistance.

I was reluctant for all of a minute to take up this challenge. The only reason: one of my favourite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay, will be a guest of honour at When Words Collide this year and I had wanted to read all of his books I currently own. At this point, all I can do is shrug –they’ve sat there for years and a few more months won’t hurt them, or me.

So, as I look above my laptop screen at my calendar called “Women Reading,” I shall admire the artwork then shove my nose in a few more books. I hope you join me!

Interesting Finds

Since March is a woman-focused month, what with International Women’s Day happening on the 8th, I decided this was a great excuse to be women- and feminist-focused myself. Please enjoy these great reads.

This professor took her students to see the inimitable Roxanne Gay in person. If you haven’t read anything by Gay, you need to remedy that. I loved Bad Feminist, and I’ll be reading Difficult Women very soon. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2017/02/23/watching-personal-meet-political/

I really really like Roxanne Gay. And Simon and Schuster not so much right now. http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/02/roxane-gay-calls-out-book-publisher-simon-and-schuster.html?mid=facebook_nymag

I genuinely detest any person who thinks they get to have a say over another’s body, so I won’t get started on certain laws in certain places. I hope this particular Viagra law goes far so that the unenlightened members of society understand how intrusive those certain laws are. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/law-proposed-kentucky-restrict-access-viagra-married-men-permission-from-wives-abortion-mary-lou-a7589026.html

Feminists have boobs?! In all seriousness, though, this is ridiculous about Emma Watson. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/emma-watsons-boobs-prove-why-we-still-need-feminism_us_58b8bd55e4b02b8b584df9f4?

And before we place Watson on a pedestal, here are two posts you should read. This http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/fashion/emma-watson-white-feminist and this http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a9101840/emma-watson-beyonce-feminism/.

This list about the emotional labour people expect of women –even other women– really hit home with me. http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/women-femmes-emotional-labor/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=expect%20constant%20emotional%20labor&utm_campaign=What%20Just%20Happened%20-%20A%20Day%20Without%20A%20Woman

And lastly, this article on white feminism and the movie Get Out underscores why all feminists need to be intersectional. https://bitchmedia.org/article/get-out-movie-white-feminism?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=%C2%A0insists%20they%E2%80%99re%20not&utm_campaign=The%20Weekly%20Reader%3A%20February%2026-March%204%2C%202017

 

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It Is Still Tough To Be a Woman These Days

The week of March 20th to 26th was a tough one for me, not to mention the globe. Between the bombings in Turkey, Pakistan, and Belgium that saw mostly women and children slaughtered by extremists, to the outcome of the Ghomeshi trial, to more misogyny spouting forth from the constantly gaping maw of Trump, and hearing about yet another sexual assault on UBC’s campus, I was ready to throw in the towel, to shut the damn door.

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

Why the fuck is life so hard for women? Still?

As my Prime Minister has said, it’s 2016.

Prove it.

I can turn the TV on practically every single day and see that some woman anywhere has been the victim of some horrible violence at the hand of some monstrous man –and yet it always seems like these women are on trial. Stories are always a dissection of “how did this wholesome young man turn to this action” or “how can a culture condone this” instead of focusing on what matters: what and who he took from the world or the woman.

Since the infamous trial ended my social media has been rolling posts about sexual assault and harassment. Woman are mad. We’re tired, we’re fed up, and we’re full of rage. And you know what we’re tired of, fed up with, and full of rage towards? The status quo that always says we should take more precautions when it comes to men who aren’t taught any damn respect!

It’s only April 3rd at the time of this writing and I’m still in the mood to flip the world off.

I’m tired of the excuses. This is our world too and enough is bloody well enough.

A 30 Second Preview of Quantico That Made Me Cringe

I admitted last month that I spend far too much time watching TV, and I still have no intention of changing that. Besides, I find I’m learning a lot about the basics of storytelling from watching what’s done really wrong and really well.

September and October are the Fall Preview months. That’s when all the awesome shows that ended in spring pick back up, and where the new prime time ones are tried out. A new show that will be making a splash during the preview until Christmas, Quantico, has been building up since August. At first, the previews made it seem exactly like my kind of show: it involves a crime element with the FBI, there’s a female lead who looks highly skilled at her job, and there’s some big intrigue with the lead at the centre. I was kind of excited.

Quantico

But as the premiere got closer and closer, the tone of the show changed. I saw a 30 second preview that made me cringe, roll my eyes, and decide I wasn’t watching the show without someone I trusted telling me I’d like it.

Here’s what happened.

This preview started with the lead character huffing and puffing while sitting on some guys lap in a car. It cut to them meeting in a hallway surrounded by the other trainees at Quantico and the car guy putting his hand out to introduce himself. The lead gives him a dirty look and says (me paraphrasing here): “We had sex in your car six hours ago. I know who you are.” He turns sheepishly to their audience and announces, “I didn’t think you wanted everyone to know that.” She cuts him off with a suitable, why should I be ashamed look and comment.

Months of good setup lost me in those 30 seconds.

My problem is not the fact that she had sex with some guy she just met and wasn’t ashamed for others to know it. All the power to her and women who choose to do that safely.

My problem is that that’s supposed to be a defining moment of her characterization. And no one can convince me that that’s not a gender reversal moment where she’s given a commonly perceived male attitude towards sex in order to make her appear tougher and more capable as the centre of an FBI show.

My problem is that this woman is in my age group, a fellow millennial, and while I know what people in my era are like, these writers are using the stupidest aspects to try to convey it and make the show relevant to people my age. Actually, I think they’re just attempting to portray a millennial when they have no legitimate idea of what it’s like to be one beyond all the party anthems that make up popular music.Quantico 2

What kind of attitude and perceptions are viewers supposed to go into this show with about this woman when that scene is going to be a defining part of her character? Why does a woman’s sexual encounters always have to say so much more about her than it would a man in her position? If she was a male lead the scene wouldn’t even be relevant because it would be expected.

So, the show has lost a viewer. Maybe I’ll watch it at some point, but the subsequent previews are not making me itch to get into the story. I’m tired of young, strong, smart, career driven women being portrayed in this manner. Yes, I know it’s one little innocuous sex scene that I’m making a big deal of, but they started it. Gotham, Arrow, and Criminal Minds, just to name a few, don’t have previews detailing the sexual lives of their leads.

These 30 seconds show a lazy, uninspired, and sexist way to try to convey a female character’s foundation to a potential audience. I sure hope someone condemns me if I ever do the same without a legitimate basis. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to extend Quantico the benefit of the doubt at this time to see if they have one. I’m too annoyed.

If you’ve watched the show, please convince me that I’m wrong about it and this preview was just a poorly executed mistake.

 

*All images care of IMBD.com

An Evening with Jane Goodall

journey beyond the jungleOn April 8th, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a presentation put on by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada (and other fantastic sponsors) at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium. And, you guessed it, the speaker and person of honour was none other than Jane Goodall herself!

This was my second time listening to Dr. Goodall speak about her work around the world. I enjoyed it just as much as the first -and the third, fourth and fifth, however many I am able to buy tickets to. Because I am an animal lover and primatology nerd, Dr. Goodall is something of an icon for me. Which is a significant statement for someone who can count the people they would consider overall inspirations on one hand. With fingers to spare.

Dr. Goodall is a woman of slight stature; she was nearly hidden behind the podium. A stuffed Jersey cow and a chimp holding a banana were her only on-stage companions. Her voice floated softly out of the surrounding speakers as she rearranged her shawl. None of this diminishes her power in the least, when her mouth opens you hush up and listen.

Jane Goodall: Conservationist and Humanitarian

Newsflash, Dr. Goodall is big on saving the planet. Her entire professional existence has been devoted to educating humans about animals, specifically, acknowledging them as creatures to be respected and the importance of protecting their habitat. That is simplifying her work extremely.

However, Dr. Goodall is also a promotor of eradicating human poverty. Save the people, save the animals, save the planet. It’s pretty easy to connect those dots, right?

I want to paraphrase a comment that really stuck out to me: “People, looking at the global problems we face, feel hopeless to solve them. Except youth. They see a problem and tackle it. When I look at global affairs I myself feel sad. But there is hope and we can change things for the better.”

Sometimes watching the news makes me want to hide under a blanket with my cats and cry. Hopeless is how I feel 90% of the time when I take care to learn about what’s going on around the world. One hour of news provides an enormous dose of despair. But maybe if I can be the change I want to see it’ll catch on and hopefulness will become my 90%? I’m not saying this will happen overnight but I would love to see it over the long term. We need more idealism in this world.

At any rate, her comment is something for me to think about. It’s inspiring. And can even apply to my own professional life.

I work a day job I enjoy but am not 100% devoted to. As it takes up more and more of my time, I start to feel hopeless because I’m not in the place I thought I would be at this stage of my writing career. Heck, I’m not even where I thought I would be in my personal life.

All the negativity, even in my own meagre existence, gets heavy. I need to look at the smaller pictures that make up my life and start positively influencing the ones I want to have a stronger presence.

My first Jane Goodall book.

My first Jane Goodall book.

Jane Goodall: Scientist and Woman in the World

Another newsflash, Jane Goodall is a feminist and believer in women’s rights! Not only did she open the doors of science with her initial study of chimpanzees, she opened the doors for women in science.

No one at the time thought that the three women Dr. Leaky sent out to study apes, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas would accomplish anything. Now they’re household names.

One of my favourite parts of the evening was listening to Dr. Goodall speak about her mother. Her mother who fostered her curiosity from a young age; who even travelled to Africa as 23-year-old Dr. Goodall’s companion when no one else would. How much more supportive could any mother get?

Of course, this made me think about my mom. I sing my dad’s praises a lot because he’s never treated me any different than my brother as far as perceived girls and boys skills go. He’s never told me I can’t do something because I’m a girl. He’s never treated me like a dumb china doll.

Neither has my mom. Some part of me believed that because she’s a woman she shouldn’t inherently treat me like I’m a second class citizen or teach me such values. My entire life I’ve taken for granted that my mom is a “forward thinking” woman because that’s the right way to be.

I now know that that’s hardly the case around the world and I am eternally grateful.

My mom is the one who taught me how to play sports, how to laugh at life even when it’s kicking you down, and to never let anyone trod over you. Our big mouths have gotten us both in trouble but we’re not silent wallflowers when it’s imperative we speak our minds.

gorilla

I own a gorilla, not a chimp.

Moreover, like Dr. Goodall, I’ve found in my mom one of my biggest supporters. And not just because she has to be. My mom is the only other person who’s heard my poetry. She’s read most of my stories –even the one I wrote, illustrated, and bound with staples at the age of 8. She’s read essays about Agrippa, Elizabeth I and the Faerie Queen, and short stories I’m sure didn’t interest her in the least. But I needed a second set of eyes, so she said to send it her way.

I may not be a woman of Dr. Goodall’s stature in the world but I don’t know that I would be the person I am with the dreams I’m striving towards if another woman had raised me.

My evening with Jane Goodall was eye opening and entertaining. I left feeling a renewed hope that maybe humans will see the error of their ways in time and having learned a few things about myself.