This is faintly disheartening…

“Cool”, I thought. “Zulily has a sale of Wonder Woman stuff”.*

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting quite so much stuff done by men, for men (and women who like looking at cheesecake images of heavily sexualized women) (not as many of those as guys, because, feminism). I wanted more “Super/Divine Power/Goddess”, and not so much “Boobs/Boobs/Men don’t understand that women’s bodies don’t actually bend like that/Boobs”.

In a genre where a lot of men think women don’t belong (sci-fi, comics, the internet), we suddenly have a superheroine that doesn’t make us think “oh, yeah, that character exists only for men to drool over and be rescued by the menz”. Even though there’s a lot more unpacking that can be done with Gal Gidot’s portrayal of WW, she, and the women who were Amazons, finally became inhabitants in a space that was created by women, played by women, and appealing to women. It hurts to know how seldom women get that.

And as a woman who has loved sci-fi, comics, and the internet since I was a kid, who went to Cons and made costumes, and wanted a female hero that was as good as, or better than, the male heroes around her, this WW is precious. I want girls to grow up loving the genre and not be forced to cosplay male characters because men still assume that women “just aren’t into that sort of thing”.

I love Lovecraft-genre short stories, too, and I have a number of anthologies and collected stories.  And there’s nothing I hate more than reading that a man thinks that there are no good female writers in the genre.**

I remember how much I was into all the same things the boys were into. I also remember the sexism, the harassment, the creeps, and the men who just dismissed my point of view because I was a girl, and “girls don’t get this stuff”. I cut my eyeteeth on John Wyndham (look him up), Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, and Lovecraft. As soon as I knew how to read, I was drawn to horror and sci-fi.  I still am. I love a good Charles Stross novel, or John Scalzi.  Hell, I even think Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters International series is fun. I re-read books over and over, savouring the good bits, picking up anthologies just to read a particular short story again (Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette’s Mongoose, The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward, and Boojum are among my favourites, found in various Lovecraft-themed anthologies). But every time I think we have moved on from this nonsense, it just comes back around again.

Wonder Woman is not a fucking Pin-up.

*I’m not linking. I refuse.  There’s some good stuff, if you want to find it, you can do it.

**I’m looking at you, S.T. Joshi. Twenty-one stories and only four by women?  Weak.

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Snow

The courtyard, and the black walnut behind the wood shed.

This is how “I’m going to quit smoking!” goes.

(That’s a link to Cracked.com.) #19 is probably the closest, helped right now by my attempts to cut down on the amount of anti-anxiety stuff I take.  For me, smoking isn’t about the nicotine rush, it’s entirely about the break I get to take where no-one will come near me and I can perform a soothing, repetitive task for 5-10 minutes (depending on how fast I burn that sucker down to the filter).  I’ve tried to substitute other things, and I’ve tried just taking the break, but neither work.  The flick of the lighter, the inhale and exhale, and the occasional attempts to blow decent smoke rings, they’re all part of the soothing process.  It even has a built-in time limit, which is great, because I know how long I can absent myself.

No, it doesn’t make sense to anyone else except other anxious smokers, and yes, I know the downsides.  I tried nicotine-free vaping, but the clove “juice” smell was nauseating (as is calling vape liquid “juice”. eurrrggggh).  Also, there’s no built-in end to the vape, and the need to check my watch/phone for the time just throws me back into anxiety.

I smoke when I’m stressed, such as this week, where I’m trying to put together new jewelry to sell at 12th Night (I’ll be selling jewelry at 12th Night!  I have lots of Czech glass earrings, only $2/pair!), or over Christmas, when we had family.  Or, further back, before Gardiner’s Muster.  Or Jamestown.  Or, or, or.  There’s always something, especially now that getting sick has a catastrophic effect on my energy levels, and all I can do is read on the sofa and sleep 10+ hours a night.  My list of things that I want to do (including, but not limited, to: Finishing that Damned Jacket, new patterns for RH!, hey, I had a book idea, and oh, I have no income, I need to put this jewelry stuff on-line so I can get funds) is getting so long that just revisiting it can trigger panic (short-lived, thank the holies, but still quite unpleasant), and an inability to do anything, as everything is important.

Smoking is so much more than nicotine – if it was just that, I’d save $50 and buy Marlboro lights (ugh). It’s calming, it’s a stress-reliever, and it keeps me sane, especially when I feel overwhelmed by noise or crowds.  I used to be able to keep it to Pennsic, but in the past three/four years, it’s become harder and harder to let it go, even for a week.  Even when I hate the taste and smell of old cigarettes (technically they’re cigars, but we all know they’re cigarettes, Djarum), even when I chew masses of gum to get the taste out of my mouth, even when I know they’re so very, very bad for me, they’re essential to my mental health.

I don’t drink to excess (I hardly drink at all; months will go by without a taste of alcohol), I only take the drugs I am prescribed, and I don’t go in for dangerous things – I’m generally pretty risk-averse. I wish Parkour was as calming, I’d be in much better shape (I’m thin, but flabby).  But it’s not, and I can’t find anything else that works that magic.

Pity me, but don’t lecture me.  I know what I’m doing, and I know the risks.

I run into things

I have massively poor proprioception. The big fancy word simply means that I run into things. A lot. I can’t tell where my body is in relation to furniture, people, or random door frames.

At any given time, I am sporting two to five bruises, mostly on my legs. Before Bob put night lights in the bedroom, I managed to walk – at full speed – into the wall right next to the bathroom door. I thought I knew where I was, but nooooo. I rattled an expensive print in its frame (and left nose prints on it), and skillfully bruised both my chin and my forehead.

The night blindness would be enough on its own to cause me issues, but with the clumsy, it just gets slightly comic, if painful.

What the hell, bruises and wounded dignity heal.

Just don’t be surprised when I curse and start rubbing my shin.

I Can’t Do It, I Just Can’t.

I keep trying to watch the “Twilight ” movies; Bob’s youngest granddaughter loves them, and they made a ton of money, and women all over the US have been endlessly creepy about the male stars.

Oh my God, I hate them. A lot of better writers have written reams about why the movies suck so very, very bad, and there’s not really anything new I can add, but I have to add it anyway. I’m a decade late and a Pentagon’s  budget-worth of dollars short, but whatever.

The writing is bad. Not much of a stretch to say. Kristen Stewart is more wooden than a Pacific forest, again, hugely original, I know. I have a friend who has a theory that women over 18 who love the books and/or the movies have unsatisfactory relationships, and I can kind of see why. The only way the relationships could seem romantic is if you’ve either never had a good relationship, or you’ve not had any relationships at all. Again, not really news to anyone who has been following popular culture for the past ten years.

I love the “Harry Potter” movies, even though I’ve never read the books (and probably won’t, barring being stuck at a hotel with nothing else to read). I didn’t see any reason (at first) why the Twilight movies would be different; after all, movies often don’t bear much resemblance to the books they’re based on. Get a good director in, a couple of re-writes, and lackluster stories can become quite entertaining.

I don’t really care if I think they suck; I’m definitely not the target audience for this stuff. I’m not in the position of being jealous that an inferior writer managed to create one of the blockbuster hits of our time.

(If I ever managed to write more than a blog post, I’d have a leg to stand on. As it is, hey, if she can do it, maybe I can, too.)

But one thing I must speak to, and I speak to it from a position of strength. People who are deeply, intensely in love don’t act like that. Even if one of them is fighting against it, people in love act like they’re in love, dammit! Even if they’re trying to hide it from everyone, they can’t help being obviously, madly, in love.

The thing that drives me crazy is that neither Stewart nor Pattinson seem even vaguely interested in each other. Taylor Lautner runs rings around both of them without even trying. If I was at a party, and I was trying to figure out who was in love with whom, I would never believe that Bella and Edward were engaged. If you told me they were in the throes of a love affair for the ages, I’d laugh disbelievingly. Jacob in the middle of a miserable crush that makes him cry himself to sleep every night? Oh, totally, poor guy. But those two? Nah.

When you’re in love, deep, true, believing it will last forever, love? It shows. You can’t hide it, it’s like trying to hide a klieg light with a sieve. You glow, even when you’re trying not to with all your might.

People who are in love should expect so much more from a relationship than depressed glances and manipulative crises caused by a complete inability to think logically. When you love someone, it shouldn’t hurt all the time. If it does, something is seriously wrong.

And we should want better for our young people – remember, Romeo and Juliet aren’t role models, they’re a cautionary tale. Bella and Edward aren’t romantic, they’re sad. Vampires might be cool when you’re a powerless teenager and you’re afraid of never being loved, but real love is so. Much. Better.

So much.

But Then I found Rapier…

The day rapier fighters moved into the barony, my life changed forever. I didn’t know it at the time, mind you. I barely noticed.

At first, I was just interested in learning how to fight. There was no way I could ever have fought armored; even if I managed to get the knights to talk to me (a feat in itself), I could never have been any good. But rapier, that I could learn. It even looked like the stuff I grew up on, and the books I loved (at that particular point, The Lord of the Rings and the Amber novels). I might have been short, fat, and almost entirely sedentary, but I wanted to swing a sword.

So, rapier held some promise as a skill I could learn. It took me a little longer to realize that I had found a bunch of guys that laughed at my jokes and actually seemed interested in the things I had to say. They were funny, and clever, and cute, and they liked girls. And not just for dating, but as friends. It was life-changing for me (in more ways than one).

It was the laughing at my jokes that first won me over, though.

I had found my tribe.

I No Longer Look for Narnia

The thing that really gets to me is that when I’m sick, it comes on top of the various things that are already wrong. So, when I get (again) a strep infection in my lungs, it’s not just strep, it’s also headache/migraine, chronic pain, and the fatigue from immune issues. Consequently, I spend a significant amount of time on the sofa, reading.

(sudden segue goes here.)

When I was young, I spent a lot of time investigating the backs of wardrobes (you guys call them something else, sometimes, but they’re the thing you hang clothes in when you live in a house built before closets were common ).  I refuse to admit how embarrassingly old I was before I admitted that Narnia was a fictional creation, and I have to say that I only really admitted it under duress. I really hoped it was real, because my actual life was sadly wanting in awesomeness, mostly because I was fat, weird, and bullied. I wanted options, and (let’s be honest, here) magic.

I had not actually read the Narnia books for many years, though I own a set, so last week I thought I’d read the entire series, seeing as how I was on the sofa anyway.

It was *excruciating*.

I remembered that there was casual racism, but I had forgotten how pervasive it was, and just how absolutely stupid. The “bad” guys are not only dark-skinned, but they’re brutal slave-owners.

(Meanwhile, back in reality, white Europeans have won the “brutal slave-owners” cup hands down, and I don’t believe C.S. Lewis was unaware of that.)

And then there’s the casual sexism,    where the girls don’t get swords, nor do they actually fight in any of the battles. And one of the girls doesn’t even get to go to heaven, apparently for the mortal sin of… lipstick.

(It’s the rare book in which “rocks fall, everybody dies” is the *happy* ending; Bob points out that Susan is the only person left alive of all the main characters, therefore she actually wins.)

I never thought I was the princess; I was too fat and way too interested in weird things. If I ended up in a tower, being rescued by a prince, I’d drive him insane, telling him how everything he knows is informed by outmoded patriarchal mores. No, what I wanted was to be a warrior; if there was no way anyone would mistake me for the pretty girl, then maybe I could be useful. But when I was little, there weren’t any fighting girls, not cool ones, anyway. My choices were Princess or witch.

Neither fit.

The thing about being female and wanting to be “one of the guys ” is you find out eventually that no matter what you do, the guys will never let you in. It’s a bitter lesson; you can’t be the princess, and you can’t be the hero. The Fellowship of the Ring will never let the chicks belong.

Modern movies and fiction are way more healthy for girls; Wonder Woman and Dora the Explorer both show women who do things, and don’t wait around for men to do it for them.

I think it’s a good idea for us put writers like C.S. Lewis up on a high shelf marked “Classics: DO NOT READ”.  It’s time to close the wardrobe door and go looking for a world where women are treated like human beings, and not delicate fragile flowers too precious to wield a sword.

Or maybe a flamethrower…

Being sick sucks

We had totally intended to go to parties this weekend, but we both got the creeping crud and we figured everyone would be totally cool with us NOT giving out viral invaders as the world’s worst party favour.

So, we are at home, and I have turned the red sofa into a pillow and quilt-laden nest, from which I am watching the snow fall. It’s pretty.

The house is now decorated for Christmas, as it is now after my birthday, and therefore Christmas may start. When I was little, I avoided the whole “this is your birthday AND your Xmas present” nightmare because my older brother’s birthday came 6 days after mine, and he was adamant that Xmas and birthdays could not be combined.

Yay, older brothers. I was never confident enough as a kid to demand that sort of concession, so his determination benefited us both.

The house does look really nice; it’s not quite enough at the moment to make up for missing a fun weekend of seeing beloved friends, but the snow helps. Also, the soft sofa nest, and the bacon/avocado macaroni salad Bob has made for lunch.

And the snow. I love snow.

The Helper – From 9/19/2007

Do any of you teach?  You’ve probably run into The Helper.  Or, as known to the rest of us, “God help me, they’re in my class”.

The person who knows everything you’re teaching, but rather than get a class of their own, prefers to attend yours and comment endlessly on everything, offering advice, answering questions for you, and generally making everyone wish they would lie down and die right then and there.  They divide into two kinds – the one that wants to impress you, and the one that wants to show everyone else that they’re as knowledgable as you.

STOP HELPING!
I did not ask for help, I don’t need help, and 99 times out of 100, it’s actually no help at all.   Don’t.  Just don’t.  If I need help, I’ll ask for it.  If you want to impress me, take what I’m teaching and turn it around into something wonderful.  If you want to show everyone else you’re as knowledgeable as me, teach your own class.  Find your own students, AND DON’T CONFUSE MINE WITH IRRELEVANT INFORMATION.

Seriously, if you’ve ever felt the need to help any more than “come sit here”, “here’s a pencil”, or “she said do it this way”, shut up.  The teacher doesn’t need an assistant, a co-teacher, or an echo.

There are also reasons why this behaviour is bad that have nothing to do with offending the teacher:

1.  You disrupt the flow of the class.  If you think the teacher has forgotten to mention something important, wait until the end of the class and ask about it – don’t just jump in and start talking in the middle of an explanation of something else.  The teacher may be coming to it, or it may not be relevant to this class.  Starting a big discussion about tangential information takes time out of the class, excludes the other students, and wastes everyone’s time.  It doesn’t make you look smart, it makes you look like a jerk.  Especially if you use that “I is naow the teeechurrrr!!!” voice.  It’s disrespectful to the other students.

2.  You will probably confuse the other students.  Bringing up information that is not relevant, or worse, wrong, means that the students are now wondering what they should be paying attention to; was the class about left-handed widgets vis-a-vis the last days of Tsarism, or has it become a class about the economic conditions that led to the storming of the Bastille as a result of elitist widget-maker conspiracies?  And was Marat stabbed in the bath, or was he brained by a widget while reciting poetry naked to Marie Antoinette?  What the fuck?  The teacher has a plan for the class (side note:  Teachers, you should always have a plan for your class), and if they haven’t shared it with you beforehand, they don’t want you to help.

3.  Too much information is worse than no information.  I see this one particularly in fighting – one person is talking to/teaching another, and some random person comes up to “help”.  What was a session between two people has now become a discussion group, and it only gets worse from there.  It is extremely unlikely that random Joe has anything useful to add to a discussion about a fight they neither participated in nor witnessed; don’t jump in.  The teacher knows who to ask for opinions; unless the fighter asks for feedback, don’t offer.  This also applies to one-on-one discussions with artisans; I don’t care how interested you are, don’t butt in to a conversation unless both parties make it absolutely clear that your input is welcome.  If you just jump in and start offering random blobs of knowledge, the student will get confused about what they’re supposed to do; should they be concentrating on stabbing with widgets, or should they be throwing the widget in a manner that completely contradicts what they were just told to do?  Respect the teacher, respect the student.  “Help” is not help if all it does is show off how much you think you know.

The way to help effectively:

In a Class:  If you think there is something the teacher missed, wait until the end of class to make sure.  Make a note to yourself to ask about the issue in the Q&A at the end, and ask respectfully then.  Ask, don’t tell!  Sample question:  “When you were talking about left-handed widgets, you said that the worldwide widget conglomerate eventually led to the collapse of Tsarist Russia; is there any evidence that the widget conspiracy had anything to do with the French Revolution?”  This leaves open the opportunity for the teacher to either expand upon the idea or to say that there is no evidence as such, and the whole idea was a put-up job by the editors of the Wikipedia entry on widgets.  The bonus in this method is that if you turn out to be wrong, you won’t look stupid, since you didn’t state it as fact, and if you’re right, you’ve given the teacher a graceful way to recover, and they’ll like you for it (and be impressed by your knowledge and tact).

In One-on-one Conversation:  If you know lots about the subject two people are discussing, read body language, and since you’re kind of eavesdropping anyway, try to learn before you say anything whether this is a private discussion between teacher and student, or whether the floor is open to anyone with input.  Such key phrases as “I want you to concentrate on this particular thing”, and “Fight/work with only certain people so you get the maximum benefit” are big massive clues that this is not the time to jump in with your experience with left-handed widget-fu.  On the other hand “Talk with lots of people to get a range of opinions” is a clear sign that your words will be welcome.

…Even so, don’t just jump in with “This is how you do it!”.  Start by introducing yourself.  Mention that you heard they were interested in left-handed widget throwing.  Say “I am interested in widgets myself!”; and “are you interested in chatting with me about widgets sometime?  Now?”.  Don’t be offended if they say no; you might have misinterpreted what you overheard while pretending to be interested in the 12th century Polish widget embroidering display on the next table.  Respect the wishes of the person you’re trying to help; maybe they know of your work and want to go in a different direction, but don’t know how to politely tell you so, or maybe they are awed by your widget ability, and want to get their act together so you won’t think they’re a moron.  Be sensitive to their reaction, and trim your teaching sails accordingly – they may not have time for a full lecture now, but would be encouraged by a quick “I like your work, let’s get together when you’re not on your way to pick up your kids from day care”.

Help is a funny thing; sometimes it’s welcome, sometimes it’s not, and it’s not always clear when and which (though helping the teacher teach?  Always not welcome.  You can rely on that one).  In any case, situational awareness and respect for everyone involved means you’ll never be The Helper.

Thus endeth the tirade.

 

Post from April 9 2007

(I wrote this blog post 10 years ago this month.  I have not changed my views at all, except to be more relieved that I never had children, and I still really like kids.)

I believe that children aren’t my future.

Quite a tiring weekend, and would have been even without the cold.  It went well, though, and I think much fun was had by all.

Much fun was had by me and Bob, anyway.  Him perhaps more so than me – the man has a way with a dress and a cigar.  I did get to sing the opening bars of “Smoke on the Water”, though.

(Quick, name that band.)

Part of my tiredness this weekend has been recovering from the surgery I had Monday.  It wasn’t a massive thing, and at least one person I know has also had it, but it took a bit out of me, since it’s the first time I’ve had actual surgery since I was four.  The side effects are still with me, and will be for a bit longer.

I won’t go into detail, but the end result of the surgery is that my always questionable fertility has now been completely and fully laid to rest.  There will be no children in my future.  There quite possibly never would have been, since I had some physical issues which pretty much guaranteed my infertility from the get-go, so I came to terms with a non-childed life a long time ago.  Indeed, for many years, I have been very glad of it, and it is perhaps a blessing that the lack of desire for progeny coincided with a lack of ability to bear the same.
I know I have readers who desperately want children, and others who have one or several, and wouldn’t have it any other way, and I feel sad and elated as appropriate, but to me, the idea of children has been a non-issue for a long time.

Once, I wanted, or thought I wanted, children.  What I actually wanted was something to love, a reason for not working, a thing to occupy my days, a justification for my existence.  With the demise of that marriage, those reasons disappeared, and I fervently thanked the foresight of the deity that got involved to help me avoid a very nasty child custody battle as the marriage inevitably imploded.  If I’d had a child (as I thought I wanted), I would have loved it with all my heart, but I am glad I didn’t, and I hope in a vaguely spiritual way that my hypothetical child became a reality for someone in a much more loving relationship.

I have run into many people who think, because I do not have children, and because I do not express regret at not having any, that I must hate children – nothing could be further from the truth.  I love children.  I am not a fan of loud noises, nor of the various fluids and solids that come out of people, so my friends’ children are perfect to me.  I get to visit, to talk, to play, and then to happily go home to my cluttered and decidedly non-childproof home.  I really do *love* children; I find them fascinating, I feel great joy for their accomplishments, and I love it when they decide they like me and want to hang out with me.  I adored singing my friends’ babies to sleep, and I even love my spoiled darling monster of a nephew, who is absolutely gorgeous, and I am sure, very intelligent.  🙂

It’s just… not my own.  I normally don’t think about it much, except when someone asks; I don’t take offense at the question, as it’s sort of a rote thing amongst adults my age.  I’ve never had the lectures or harangues or rude comments other non-childed people report, and I don’t know if it’s because I don’t look like the kind of person that would put up with that, or because I hang with a higher class of person.  Perhaps it’s both; in any case, I’ve never had anyone be rude, or pitying.

I’m not having second thoughts or regrets; to do so now would be self-defeating, not to mention dumb.  I haven’t had second thoughts or regrets since I was 25.  Bob’s had two and raised three; he’s got grandkids, he’s done.  People at his office used to tell him I’d change my mind – funny, no-one’s ever said that to me.  Even my mother doesn’t push the issue.

I used to read the child-free boards, but it seemed like more of them actively disliked all kids; not a stance I had an issue with, but it wasn’t my stance.  I didn’t belong there, and I wonder sometimes if there’s any other woman out there who really loves kids but really doesn’t, even a tiny little bit, want one of her own.  I can get behind hating some parents; there’s some piss-poor parenting being done out there, but while I sometimes wish some kids were better behaved, I don’t hate them for it, I dislike their parents for not teaching them better manners.

Like when I’m getting kicked and kicked and kicked in a restaurant by the kid in the booth behind me, and their parent just gives me the hairy eyeball when I ask them to please make their kid stop; that’s annoying.  More often, though, it’s the behaviour of other adults I can’t stand.  Your average kid, if you ask him to share and tell him that it’s a good thing to share, he’ll take your word for it and share, at least as long as he remembers.  An adult will simply charge to the front of the register line without considering that other people might have been waiting longer, and will be rude to you if you say something.  They’ll leave crap around for store employees to clean up (the number of times I’ve seen trash left on store shelves when there’s a trash can nearby…), they’ll yell and stamp their feet until they get what they want, they’ll pee all over the toilet seat and be too precious to clean it up, they’ll lie, and cheat, and steal to get what they want, no matter how much it may hurt someone else.

Didn’t we teach our kids not to do all those things?  Wasn’t that part of the basic education?  Let the first people in line go first.  Don’t be mean to other people.  Clean up after yourself.  Don’t throw tantrums.  Don’t lie.  Don’t take someone else’s toys.

Kids, they get the basic kindnesses; I’ve been offered candy from precious candy stashes, french fries, small things, precious things.  Kids really get on board with sharing, once the concept has been fully explained.  They share the love, sometimes materially, sometimes metaphorically, but always wholeheartedly.  Once they’re old enough to pick up on what their parents want, they try really hard to obey the rules and make other people happy.

Find me an adult that does that, and I’ll show you someone who’s been repeatedly taken advantage of by a society that actively disvalues all the morals we’re supposed to instill in our kids.

Children understand mercy because they’re constantly at the mercy of others.  Children understand sharing and being kind to others because they depend upon it to survive.  Adults lose that visceral understanding somewhere along the way, and we have a planet full of people dragging their heels over needed social and environmental change because it doesn’t benefit them right now.

I love children; it’s the adults they grow into that scare the crap out of me, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m happy without them.

That, and the 3am feedings; I’m not so hot on them.