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review 2018-07-10 21:40
Bitch Doctrine
Bitch Doctrine - Laurie Penny

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Hm, OK, this is a little difficult to review, because… I pretty much agree with Laurie Penny in general in this series of essays (I can’t tell about their other writrings, as I haven’t read them at present). Most of what I’ve just read here, are things I was already thinking on my own anyway.

Maybe I also feel this hits closer to home because of Laurie’s gender identity. I, too, was born sexually female, but I don’t identify as a woman (nor as a man)… yet society insists on treating me like a woman nonetheless, so no matter what, whatever women in general have to face, I have to face it, too, with the ‘bonus’ of not even fitting in properly.

Political essays notwithstanding, Laurie makes fair points about quite a few things that may not be so apparent at first, but do make sense. For instance, the fact that Siri & al. are given female voices, making them closer to the stereotypical ‘female customer service rep (preferably with low wages, yes I’ve worked that job, too, can you tell?’). I don’t recall ever having heard a male voice used in that context. Except on my GPS. But then, I’ve uploaded Darth Vader’s voice to my GPS for the lulz.

While I usually tend to be moderate, or try to be, all the more on internet where just about anything can degenerate into flame wars… Well, I do understand anger. I do understand calling a spade a spade, because subtlety can only take you so far. Subtlety is also the perfect excuse we can serve to people who don’t want to acknowledge what we have to say, and can then easily pretend that they didn’t get the point, that we weren’t ‘clear enough’, that we ‘can’t express ourselves.’
(Note: I mean ‘we’ as in ‘people’, not necessarily women.)

So, at times, enough with subtlety. Enough with double standards and with a good deal of human beings having to shut up because otherwise they’d be threatening the ‘current order’. If people behave like turds and then feel offended to be called up on that, maybe they shouldn’t behave like turds for starters.

Perhaps it’s even more valid now, being angry and refusing to shut up: because we’re in 2018, and perhaps feeling that our Western societies have progressed much (I can’t speak for other societies, I’ve only lived in Western Europe so far). And there comes the false, lulling sense of safety: ‘surely things have changed by now?’ Yes, they’ve changed, but they could revert back insidiously if enough people start shutting up and be content with the status quo, which in itself is not equal (I completely agree that, once you’ve scratched the layer of varnish, it’s still about white men, most often older men, who keep hoarding power).

The essays here aren’t perfect; they won’t bring you that many new things if you’ve already read a lot on the topics they deal with; and sometimes, I felt like they were dragging in circles. Nevertheless, Laurie’s writing is powerful, and deserves to be read.

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text 2018-06-26 06:36
Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 360 pages.
An Old-Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott

"I don't know whether it is meant for a saint or a muse, a goddess or a fate; but to me it is only a beautiful woman, bigger, lovelier, and more imposing than any woman I ever saw," answered Fanny, slowly, trying to express the impression the statue made upon her.

(...)

We could n't decide what to put in the hands as the most appropriate symbol. What do you say?"

"Give her a sceptre: she would make a fine queen," answered Fanny.

"No, we have had enough of that; women have been called queens a long time, but the kingdom given them is n't worth ruling," answered Rebecca.

"I don't think it is nowadays," said Fanny, with a tired sort of sigh.

"Put a man's hand in hers to help her along, then," said Polly, whose happy fortune it had been to find friends and helpers in father and brothers.

"No; my woman is to stand alone, and help herself," said Rebecca, decidedly.

"She 's to be strong-minded, is she?" and Fanny's lip curled a little as she uttered the misused words.

"Yes, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied; that is why I made her larger than the miserable, pinched-up woman of our day. Strength and beauty must go together. Don't you think these broad shoulders can bear burdens without breaking down, these hands work well, these eyes see clearly, and these lips do something besides simper and gossip?"

Fanny was silent; but a voice from Bess's corner said, "Put a child in her arms, Becky."

"Not that even, for she is to be something more than a nurse."

"Give her a ballot-box," cried a new voice, and turning round, they saw an odd-looking woman perched on a sofa behind them.

"Thank you for the suggestion, Kate. I 'll put that with the other symbols at her feet; for I 'm going to have needle, pen, palette, and broom somewhere, to suggest the various talents she owns, and the ballot-box will show that she has earned the right to use them.

 

Ahhh, Alcott! Sometimes, I get to these bits, and I remember encountering her writing as a child, and feeling such a wonder at these peaks into proto-feminism. There are ways to go here, but she was steering well.

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review 2018-06-04 15:08
Rereading Junot Díaz in light of recent events - the cycle of abuse harms us all
This Is How You Lose Her - Junot Díaz

Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

Reread these after recent revelations by both Junot Díaz & women who were victimized by him. I was interested to see how this would affect the reading.

 

If you've missed the fireworks, a quick rundown:

  1. Junot Díaz publishes a personal essay in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma) revealing that he was the victim of repeated childhood sexual abuse by a man in his neighborhood, that he's paid dearly for it, can no longer write and has mistreated women tremendously while trying to hide behind a mask of machismo.
  2. Fairly quickly he is confronted by a number of women, notably women of color, other writers of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse.
  3. He decides (with the full blessing of the committee) not to take his place as Chair of the Pulitzer committee.
  4. Bookstores decide to remove his books from the shelves, others keep him on, nobody knows what the right thing to do is, and everyone picks a side.

 

All of this led to discussions - hell, thousands of discussions - around me, with women, with other survivors, with everyone but writers. I don't know any writers or I'm sure they'd have talked to me too. EVERYONE in the trauma community was afire with this discussion. Eventually some of us got around to his writing, and my response was that I hoped I'd still be able to read it, since I really have been a fan, and it made me sad to read in the NYer that he could no longer write. Then I grabbed these short stories off my shelf and read them. This is where I landed:

 

I loved these the first time I read them. I was just as uncomfortable with the over-flexing of what we now call toxic masculinity then as I was this time. In fact, I think my reaction was pretty much the same: the narrator's toxicity harms him and everyone else in his life, including his great love - but in the end, he's hurt himself badly (some great female writer might want to take the feminine perspective someday.) If only we could get people in real life to own up to how harmful toxic masculinity actually is for everyone.

 

The character in these stories is clear on how he's harmed himself, and while he may use bravado to try and mask his torment, it clearly doesn't work. Everything, including his body, breaks down.

 

Explanations are not Excuses. 

 

This is not to say that these fictional stories should be taken as an indicator of real life, but misogyny is a problem for everyone, and the pain in the voice of these stories spells that out. In fact, I think these stories might be used as an example of how badly misogynistic bullshit works out for everyone. Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

As a person who has lived through some stuff, I'm glad to have read these stories the first time and again now. They are excellent, and the message is probably more clear now than it was the first time I read it, though my history hasn't changed at all. I still react badly to the mind games, abuses of power and name calling, AND I appreciate the stories. They have a moral dimension I now see even more clearly, and it's about far more than diversity or a "unique voice." Yunor spells out how harmful his misogynistic buddies and lifestyle are to both the women and the men in his life.

 

Sexual abuse begets pain, anger, confusion, acting out and abuse - sometimes even more sexual abuse. The issue is not on whose side will we fight - we should all be on the side of protecting children and getting everyone (including rapists and child molestors) help before this cycle begins in yet another person. Otherwise we are doomed to an assembly line of horrors. I'd bet that if you spoke to the man who abused Junot Díaz, he'd probably have some horror tales to share about his life. None of this excuses anyone. It does show how harmful it all is for everyone, be it the abused person, the perpetrator or the many people who have relationships with either of them through lifetimes. Abuse is poison. It harms souls. It murders a part of us that we can never regain.

 

When we have no tools for coping with this existential terroristic threat, we often cope in tremendously harmful ways - both to ourselves and those we love. Interpersonal relationships are forever changed, and we're all the victim - everyone in society.

 

This is why "rape culture" and "toxic masculinity" must end. It's killing as many men as it is women. It's a way of acting out, and it's unacceptable, if understandable. It will reach us all eventually, and nobody comes through unscathed.

 

As for the stories, the final line "sometimes a start is all we ever get" rings just as poignantly as it did before I knew so much about Junot Díaz.

 

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review 2018-06-01 00:53
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Men Explain Things To Me - Rebecca Solnit

This book is a collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit, all more or less on feminist topics. The essays are well written, and I did get a bit of kick out of the story of the man who decided to tell her about her own book without realizing that she was the author. I'm not sure how much any of the essays will stick with me though, so I'm only giving it 3.5 stars.

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review 2018-05-29 19:30
Fun, insightful, and surprising
Yes Please - Amy Poehler

I wanted to shake things up a bit on my daily commute so I thought I would give a few audiobooks a shot. The one I started with is one that has been on my TRL for ages but for some reason I never got around to picking it up. Yes Please by Amy Poehler got some major press and accolades but was especially recommended to me as an audiobook and now I totally get why. This is the first audiobook I've read in a long time and I'm so glad that I chose this one to delve back into that medium. Having experienced it in this format, I highly advise you to do the same because it was so much fun. Amy had multiple guests join her in the recording booth (which she mentioned was built at her house well before she wrote the actual book). From her parents and Seth Myers to Carol Burnett and PATRICK STEWART it was like a variety show for the ears. I especially loved the parts where it was Amy exchanging dialogue with the people she had asked to record for her because it felt more authentic and like a gag reel. (It was hilarious, ya'll.) I learned so much about Amy from her childhood in Massachusetts to her creation of the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Amy's refreshing honesty coupled with the format she chose to tell her story...it almost makes me wish it didn't exist as a print book at all because I think audio is the way it was truly meant to be enjoyed. 10/10 highly recommend if you love awesome ladies doing awesome things.

 

What's Up Next: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Outsider by Stephen King

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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