sartorias: (reading chair)
In the Times there is an article about Emma Edmonds, who fought for two years as a soldier in the Civil War, dressed as a man.

As it happens, today is also the launch of P.G. Nagle's A Call to Arms, a novel based on Emma's experiences. I started reading it, and found myself seriously sucked in. Nagle not only nails the period, she convincingly evokes the sensibility of a woman of that time, but one who has chosen to step outside certain of society's supposedly iron rules while being faithful to others.
sartorias: (Fan)
I know, I posted this riff that Rachel Manija Brown and I wrote a few months ago, but that was when my brain exploded. I don't feel like I got to get into it.

So, anyone who wants to revisit the subject, let's discuss--and if it's old news, pass right along the ever-running stream.
sartorias: (desk)
Via [livejournal.com profile] supergee, a rant about fictionalizing life, about "creative journalism," about transgender, about when writers ought to be examining their own motivations and agenda, from Maria Davana Headley.

Gender

Dec. 16th, 2013 06:03 am
sartorias: (Fan)
Via [livejournal.com profile] supergee, a gentle and thoughtful riff on why we need more than three genders.
sartorias: (Fan)
Found this via "la_marquise_de", --first-hand experience in the past couple years has made this cause important to me.

Anyone who wants to talk about gender boundaries and self-identity, feel free, but anything I feel is hurtful is going to be deleted summarily. There are plenty of other places to express those feelings.
sartorias: (Fan)
Though authors, in interviews, are totally justified in beginning every sentence with "In MY books . . ." and making claims of artistic significance, astonishing innovation, character subtlety, profundity and surprise, I am justified in being uninterested, unconvinced, and passing on.

Might be a function of old age: patterns that seem freshly invented to someone who hasn't been reading as long as I have been familiar for an appreciable time. Knowledge that appears recondite to someone striking into new territory has developed a patina of frequent visitation.

Blah blah, I know. Anyway, I was caught by this interview with Kit Kerr, another of those smart female writers whose work has appeared in a variety of genres, and who always seems to go overlooked in those ever-present lists of "the great writers" (that I too often am prompted to mentally substitute "great" with "cis-gendered white male").

In the comments, I brought up a quote from another of those female writers who gets less attention than she deserves, Laura Mixon, who once said: Entertainment without meaning outsells meaning without entertainment, but both are outsold by entertainment with meaning.
sartorias: (Fan)
A fellow I know made what I thought was a reasonable post, but it's locked, so I can't link it. To which I replied to the effect of: I think the outrage and then die-down that we keep seeing is just skimming the surface, that behind every one of these outed guys is years of cultural programming, through media, behaviors of parents and elders, peers, conveying the idea that women are on display for men to choose, and if he chooses one, she should be grateful.

They can claim that the woman gave them mixed signals. Well, if so, many women give mixed signals in turning a guy down because a turned-down guy can get angry and suddenly a slightly uncomfortable social situation shifts into fear mode. She's trained to "be nice," not to rock the boat, to return a soft answer.

Over my years I have had countless conversations on this subject, especially in regard to het dynamics: women observing that guys can be so clueless and pushy, that they don't even perceive boundaries, much take a hint about crossing them, and I've heard from guys (especially younger males just venturing into the world) that girls will say one thing and mean another, that they seem to expect you to read their minds but they don't seem to know what they want, or they all hate men. I know I've asked these guys more than once, "Do you think she might have picked up your misunderstanding her cues as anger?" But I wasn't mad! Yeah, but how was she to know that your 175 pound, six foot frame looming over her five foot, 125 pound frame isn't exuding predator threat? Nobody, man or woman, wants to suddenly find themselves prey.

I've seen younger women, in general, being more forthright, and many young men taking it much better than guys of my generation, but as always, there are exceptions to everything.

As I too often am, I could be 100% wrong, so I thought I'd see if anyone wanted to discuss it. Without accusing individuals, or attacking them, or ascribing motivations to either of the persons concerned in the original brouhaha (which I am not linking to, if you haven't seen it; the subject can still be discussed, I think).
sartorias: (Madam Pirate)
[livejournal.com profile] jimhines's latest post plus the arrival of a guest through the holidays got me to thinking.

Probably everybody here is aware of the fundraiser, since together Jim and Scalzi cover the greater portion of the online sf world, but in case: as a fundraiser for a good cause, Jim agreed to do more silly poses from cover art, challenging Scalzi to match him. Which Scalzi did. You can see the poses linked in Jim's post.

But somehow, as the links proliferated wider into the world, the commentary apparently shifted from the ridiculousness of the poses to the ridiculousness of men dressing up as women. What made the posts funny originally, I thought, was how any real person looks ridiculous when assuming those poses--as I recollect, a woman once posted a series of photos of herself trying to bend herself into cover art poses. It was hilarious.

This is not meant to be shaking fingers at people. I'm thinking more about the everyday language we use without thinking about it, and also about eye signals and our hindbrain. It's not like transgender is something new. I was rereading The Wynne Diaries, as I mentioned in yesterday's "What are you reading?" post. Betsey and her sisters knew just about everyone, but not the famous Chevalier d'Eon (at least, not in the exerpts published) but the diaries are chock-full of incidents of cross-dressing. It was far more popular, at least on the continent, than many might be aware, judging from how often they attended parties where Papa dressed up as a lady, or they dressed up a footman to pretend to be a lady to fool visitors, or Eugenia donned "a trousers and a hat" for a dance, or to take part in an impromptu play. This was all in fun, but it sure seems to have happened a lot.

Then there was this entry, i July 1815, I was much amused with Mde. de Blesies, a Chouannne, who fought in La Vendee and was shot through the thigh--she is veyr clever and is writing the Life of the Georges. She assured us that thousands of women had fought with herself and that the wife of La Roche Jacquelin was quite a heroine.

It doesn't say that these women fought while pretending to be males, but probably enough of them did, maybe for no reason other than safety. Certainly women desperate to earn their living at something besides prostitution, who had no other skills, used to dress as males and sign up as sailors. They lived and fought besides their crewmates as men.

What I want to know is, is it easier for a woman to live as a man than for a man to live as a woman? Is it merely a matter of eye-signals, as someone was insisting when we talked about it last summer: that a transgendered woman can look sort of neutral, or non-gendered, and so the brain picks the default male. But I think there is something more going on, something in the visual and auditory confusion, maybe, when we meet a person who signals both?

I remember meeting a woman for a drink at a con some years back. It was a crowded place. I kept having to intellectually remind myself I was sitting with another woman. My eye, my ear, kept sending me "male" signals, so I ended up confused enough to be constantly weighing my words, trying to avoid pitfall words and subjects so that at the end of our meeting I walked away knowing how very boring I must have been at the very least. At worst, I was insufferable, my inward struggle ill-masked.

Jim's post called up this uncomfortable memory, and also these Remembrance victims, nearly all of whom had transitioned from male to female. They were killed not only violently, but far too many in horrible ways that had to do with sex. What's going on here? Are women seen as weaker than men? Lesser? Disquieting questions.

We obviously have a long way to go if we are to survive as a species, but meanwhile, I need language to express the many varieties of being human without falling into culturally habituated pits.
sartorias: (Fan)
The other day someone referred on their blog to the Bechdel Test.

This is a simple test of a movie, show, or book for the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

This particular test, and this discussion, has popped up now and then on LiveJournal and other places I visit. I always think it's a good thing. I'm also glad to see lists of books that readers feel pass the test, though in the last year or so, I have noticed that such lists too often contain comments by writers who feel that their names should be added, and little discussion thereafter.

This made me feel like such posts are kind of noticed by the choir, but lost in the noise of everyday life going on outside the walls built by the believers.

And yet it was pointed out that not discussing these things doesn't help the long uphill battle to get our culture to cease regarding the male gaze as the general gaze. And yet it is still the general gaze. When we see males and females in action movies, for example, it is almost guaranteed that the female is going to be wearing fewer clothes than the male. The man is more likely to be in comfortable shoes when running from villains, while the woman is going to be dealing with high heels because those make her legs look sexier.

This observation is nothing new. I think that was the problem, I felt that in discussing the test, and naming the same names, I would not be contributing anything new.

The other alternative was to wave the flag about my own work. While it is true that the very deepest impulse behind my writing, clear back at age eight, was to explore the adventures of a gang of girls because all the I read were about boys, I don't want to take such a large topic and make it All About Me. Then the discourse shrinks to friends loyally saying rah rah, and everyone else moving on in indifference.

What interests me more is the discovery of women finding their gaze—that is, their perspective, their goals, their limitations, the details of their daily lives as well as the extraordinary circumstances of remarkable and heroic women—of primary importance in a given work, and not always in relation to their acceptability as mates for men. Especially as sexually attractive mates, rather than, say, work mates, or spiritual mates, or friends.

This is something I noticed about Jane Austen a number of years ago. I remember a critic once saying that she never wrote from the male point of view. This is, in fact, quite wrong. Her books are written in omniscient point of view. She slipped quite frequently into the minds of her male characters, however most of the time--with exceptions, such as Henry Crawford wishing that he might have been put to the test the way William Price was in Mansfield Park – she gets into the minds of men when they are thinking about the women in their lives.

Without ever writing on the grand scale – that is, about violent passions, abduction, highwaymen, or war — Austen focused on the complexities of daily life primarily from the female point of view, and she made it important. Men have read and loved these books for two centuries, though they are written squarely from the female gaze. Their irony and satire is universal. The funny scenes cracked up mixed audiences when read aloud. But the gaze is female to the larger degree, even if men are still in the positions of power.

I have noticed in the past few years in particular that it is easier for me to put down the book, however well-written, when it is sold exclusively focused on the male gaze there is no room for women except as objects. Even as heroic objects, they are still objects.

I also have trouble with books aimed at young readers that are proportionately about active young female protagonists whose choices seem to be limited (between battles with demons, vampires, and wicked fae) to a couple of guys, their emotions and all their mental energy focused pretty much on them. It could be my age showing here, but I don't remember being interested in that kind of story even when I was young.

So I thought I'd throw these thoughts out there, see what others think.
sartorias: (Default)
The other day [livejournal.com profile] beth_bernobich was talking on her blog about the Bechdel Test.

This is a simple test of a movie, show, or book for the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

This particular test, and this discussion, has popped up now and then on LiveJournal and other places I visit. I always think it's a good thing. I'm also glad to see lists of books that readers feel pass the test, though in the last year or so, I have noticed that such lists too often contain comments by writers who feel that their names should be added, and little discussion thereafter.

This made me feel like such posts are kind of noticed by the choir, but lost in the noise of everyday life going on outside the walls built by the believers.

And yet it was pointed out that not discussing these things doesn't help the long uphill battle to get our culture to cease regarding the male gaze as the general gaze. And yet it is still the general gaze. When we see males and females in action movies, for example, it is almost guaranteed that the female is going to be wearing fewer clothes than the male. The man is more likely to be in comfortable shoes when running from villains, while the woman is going to be dealing with high heels because those make her legs look sexier.

This observation is nothing new. I think that was the problem, I felt that in discussing the test, and naming the same names, I would not be contributing anything new.

The other alternative was to wave the flag about my own work. While it is true that the very deepest impulse behind my writing, clear back at age eight, was to explore the adventures of a gang of girls because all the I read were about boys, I don't want to take such a large topic and make it All About Me. Then the discourse shrinks to friends loyally saying rah rah, and everyone else moving on in indifference.

What interests me more is the discovery of women finding their gaze—that is, their perspective, their goals, their limitations, the details of their daily lives as well as the extraordinary circumstances of remarkable and heroic women—of primary importance in a given work, and not always in relation to their acceptability as mates for men. Especially as sexually attractive mates, rather than, say, work mates, or spiritual mates, or friends.

This is something I noticed about Jane Austen a number of years ago. I remember a critic once saying that she never wrote from the male point of view. This is, in fact, quite wrong. Her books are written in omniscient point of view. She slipped quite frequently into the minds of her male characters, however most of the time--with exceptions, such as Henry Crawford wishing that he might have been put to the test the way William Price was in Mansfield Park – she gets into the minds of men when they are thinking about the women in their lives.

Without ever writing on the grand scale – that is, about violent passions, abduction, highwaymen, or war — Austen focused on the complexities of daily life primarily from the female point of view, and she made it important. Men have read and loved these books for two centuries, though they are written squarely from the female gaze. Their irony and satire is universal. The funny scenes cracked up mixed audiences when read aloud. But the gaze is female to the larger degree, even if men are still in the positions of power.

I have noticed in the past few years in particular that it is easier for me to put down the book, however well-written, when it is sold exclusively focused on the male gaze there is no room for women except as objects. Even as heroic objects, they are still objects.

I also have trouble with books aimed at young readers that are proportionately about active young female protagonists whose choices seem to be limited (between battles with demons, vampires, and wicked fae) to a couple of guys, their emotions and all their mental energy focused pretty much on them. It could be my age showing here, but I don't remember being interested in that kind of story even when I was young.

So I thought I'd throw these thoughts out there, see what others think.
sartorias: (Default)
Yesterday BVC was down all day, so today my post is up with some ideas on cross gender writing.

Today I leave the mountains for the long drive home. Tomorrow some pictures of Yosemite, which is beautiful in any season, but yesterday we had a perfect spring day. The park was absolutely packed, as it was the last day of National Park Week so entrance was free, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, out in the clear air in this beautiful place.
sartorias: (Default)
Yesterday BVC was down all day, so today my post is up with some ideas on cross gender writing.

Today I leave the mountains for the long drive home. Tomorrow some pictures of Yosemite, which is beautiful in any season, but yesterday we had a perfect spring day. The park was absolutely packed, as it was the last day of National Park Week so entrance was free, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, out in the clear air in this beautiful place.
sartorias: (Default)
The latest issue of the poetry magazine that intersects strongly with science fiction and fantasy, Stone Telling, is now out.

The issue is dedicated to QUILTBAG, so the poetry explores gender as well as the liminal borders of fantasy and philosphy, science and scientifictions. Tastes in poetry can be highly idiosyncratic, but I didn't think any failed, all had strengths. The one that stood out for me (and I mean really stood out) was "we come together, we fall apart" by Lisa M. Bradley.

Then, at the end, is this interview with the poets. Wow. The questions are exactly the right ones for each poet, the whole causing my head to resonate with ideas. I should have been at work hours ago, but I've spent the morning enthralled.
sartorias: (Default)
The latest issue of the poetry magazine that intersects strongly with science fiction and fantasy, Stone Telling, is now out.

The issue is dedicated to QUILTBAG, so the poetry explores gender as well as the liminal borders of fantasy and philosphy, science and scientifictions. Tastes in poetry can be highly idiosyncratic, but I didn't think any failed, all had strengths. The one that stood out for me (and I mean really stood out) was "we come together, we fall apart" by Lisa M. Bradley.

Then, at the end, is this interview with the poets. Wow. The questions are exactly the right ones for each poet, the whole causing my head to resonate with ideas. I should have been at work hours ago, but I've spent the morning enthralled.
sartorias: (Default)
The speculative poetry zine Stone Telling is trying to do a queer-themed issue, but is getting fewer subs than they expected, and so the editors are casting the net wider. Here are guidelines. If you've written speculative poetry that explores gender boundaries, give them a try.
sartorias: (Default)
The speculative poetry zine Stone Telling is trying to do a queer-themed issue, but is getting fewer subs than they expected, and so the editors are casting the net wider. Here are guidelines. If you've written speculative poetry that explores gender boundaries, give them a try.
sartorias: (Default)
At least in cover art. Take a look if you are in the mood for a chuckle!
sartorias: (Default)
At least in cover art. Take a look if you are in the mood for a chuckle!
sartorias: (Default)
I know I posted on this the other day, but because the discussion was so interesting, and because I hope that people might respond--and make suggestions of good books to read--I modified the post a bit and put it up at BVC.

I am trying to reach another circle of readers--and if one or two people link, and/or suggest some good reading or post a quick review, then the word gets out.
sartorias: (Default)
I know I posted on this the other day, but because the discussion was so interesting, and because I hope that people might respond--and make suggestions of good books to read--I modified the post a bit and put it up at BVC.

I am trying to reach another circle of readers--and if one or two people link, and/or suggest some good reading or post a quick review, then the word gets out.

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