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review 2017-07-26 18:01
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects - Barbara G. Walker

A wonderful work on the study of symbols and sacred objects as they relate to the female. It's an excellent companion to the marvelous "The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images" offering insight on the feminine roots of many of our symbols.

 

Just as an example, one such symbol is the fish, widely accepted to be the symbol of Christianity, but which is actually FAR older. Ichthys was the offspring of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems as Tirgata, Aphrodite, Pelagia, or Delphine. The word also meant "womb" and "dolphin" in some tongues, and representations of this appeared in the depiction of mermaids. The fish is also a central element in other stories, including the Goddess of Ephesus, as well as the tale of the fish of the Nile that swallowed part of Osiris' body (the penis), and was also considered a symbol of the sexuality of Isis for she had sexual intercourse with Osiris after his death which resulted in the conception and birth of his posthumous son, Harpocrates, Horus-the-child. So, in pagan beliefs, the fish is a symbol of birth and fertility.

 

Before Christianity adopted the fish symbol, it was known by pagans as "the Great Mother", and "womb". Its link to fertility, birth, and the natural force of women was acknowledged also by the Celts, as well as pagan cultures throughout northern Europe.

The Romans called the goddess of sexual fertility by the name of Venus. And thus it is from the name of the goddess Venus that our modern words "venereal" and "venereal disease" have come. Friday was regarded as her sacred day, because it was believed that the planet Venus ruled the first hour of Friday and thus it was called dies Veneris. And to make the significance complete, the fish was also regarded as being sacred to her. The similarities between the two, would indicate that Venus and Freya were originally one and the same goddess and that original being the mother-goddess of Babylon.

 

The same association of the mother goddess with the fish-fertility symbol is evidenced among the symbols of the goddess in other forms also. The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshiped the pagan goddess. And in ancient Egypt, Isis is represented with a fish on her head.

Great stuff. Wonderful for those of us who do dream work, and who look for the deep plumb line of the Sacred that runs through all time, all people, and all place. More evidence the world is full of wonder, magic, and miracle.

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review 2017-07-20 21:21
Overwhelmed in a Good Way
Bad Feminist: Essays - Roxane Gay

I don't know what else to say about Roxane Gay besides run and find all of her books and sit down and enjoy. I loved her collection of essays. Some of them were humorous, some sad, and some just made me want to sit in a room by myself all day and not talk to a person. She has a way of drilling down on an issue and just making you realize that someone out there has the same thoughts as you and you don't feel wholly alone.

 

I will say one thing though, the flow of these essays does not go from point A, to point B, etc. seamlessly. Instead it feels like we get dropped in at various times when Gay could be just talking to a friend about a subject she wants to discuss.

 

The book goes from broad topics such as Gender & Sexuality, Race & Entertainment, Politics, Gender, & Race, and then goes back to Gay speaking about herself and what makes her a "bad" feminist. Within these topics she has some essays speaking on things. I will say that if you haven't read some of the books she is discussing (she dislikes Fifty Shades of Grey as much as I do) or watched some of the movies, you may not get what she is talking about. Since I have read the books in question, or at least heard of them, and watched all of the movies, and television shows I was better off than most of the other readers who I saw had comments about that. 

 

I also think that according to the modern day rules I am probably a bad feminist. I don't think my being a woman equals I cannot criticize another woman. If anything, I hope, that most women's comments are more constructive than what most men say about us to our faces and behind our backs. 

 

I also know that even though I am black, I too do not care for Tyler Perry's movies and just like Gay think his messaging needs to be fixed. 


Things I highly encourage potential readers to review:

 

"The Careless Language of Sexual Violence", "Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them", "The Trouble With Prince Charming, or He Who Trespassed Against Us", and "1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help".  

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review 2017-06-08 05:04
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
The Friday Society - Adrienne Kress

The Friday Society is set in London in the year 1900 and stars three different girls: Cora, Michiko, and Nellie.

Cora used to sell flowers on the streets but now has a comfortable and endlessly interesting life as Lord White’s lab assistant. Unfortunately, it looks like Lord White might be planning on replacing her.

Michiko ran away from home when she was 11 and spent a few years as a retired geisha’s servant before running away yet again and becoming a samurai trainee. Frustrated at her teacher’s unwillingness to give her her own sword, she agreed to go to London with a man named Callum and work as his assistant. Callum was nice enough, at first, but it soon became clear that he was using Michiko’s skills to trick rich Londoners into paying him enormous fees for his self-defense courses.

Nellie used to work at a burlesque house and is now a magician’s assistant. She’s strong, flexible, and never forgets anything. She’s also incredibly beautiful and hates the attention this attracts, even as she is aware that her looks help draw a crowd and add to the Great Raheem’s act.

The three girls’ paths cross when they meet at a ball and discover a severed head. They gradually realize that this murdered man may be connected to other recent deaths, so they decide to team up and find the killer.

I picked this up a while back on the basis of its cover and vague memories of reading a couple positive reviews of it. I was expecting it to be fluffy and action-packed fun. Unfortunately, it turned out to be utterly terrible.

First, the good. Let’s see… It was a really quick read, despite its many problems. The cute young police officer that Nellie fell for was really nice. Michiko had the potential to be one of the most interesting girls in the book. The action scenes near the end were okay. And there was parkour!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Now for the bad.

I generally interpret steampunk books to be alternate history. If a book says it’s set in London in 1900, I want it to feel at least vaguely like it’s actually set in that time and place. However, history was one of my worst subjects in school, and I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of historical romances that are really only historical-ish. My standards for historical details aren’t very high, and yet this book had me checking the Oxford English Dictionary by page 18, when Cora used the word “skeevy.” On page 17, Cora had been thinking about how a particular opium den “freaked her out.” Had this book been set in the 1960s or 1970s, this would have been more appropriate, but the language didn’t work at all for something supposedly set in 1900. I had the sneaking suspicion that the author’s “research” for this book was limited to a handful of Wikipedia pages and some Buffy the Vampire Slayer binge-watching for dialogue inspiration.

Then there was the enormous and useless mess that was the investigation. Crime scene preservation was nonexistent. It was not uncommon for the girls to cart bodies away from crime scenes. They took one dead girl home to her family before reporting her murder to the police. Later on, they went to the extra effort of carrying a dead boy to the police rather than going with the much easier option of contacting the police and having them come to the scene of the crime. The only explanation I could come up with for this was that readers were supposed to believe the police would have just ignored the murder and let the body rot in the streets.

The girls did so little actual investigating that, when they finally met up with the villain, the person had to do a stereotypical villain monologue just so they’d know the whole story. They’d have missed out on almost everything important, otherwise. The one crime that I solved ages before them (seriously, the villain practically confessed to one of the girls), they didn’t manage to figure out until the solution had been spelled out for them and then basically underlined.

I wanted the girls to be more awesome than they turned out to be. They were all hugely dependent on their masters, and only one out of those three masters was worth squat (although I was taken aback at how casually he killed a man - okay, so the guy had been poisoned and was dying, but he just snapped that man’s neck like it was nothing). Two out of three of the girls had love interests who turned their brains to mush. All Cora’s love interest had going for him was that he was handsome, and their kissing scene came out of nowhere. Nellie supposedly hated the way guys reacted to her beauty, and yet she instantly fell for the young cop, apparently because he was the first young man to ever notice her looks and yet not grope her.

Kress didn’t make as good use of the girls’ skills as she could have. Cora had one invention of her own that came into play near the end of the book. Nellie’s flexibility and burglary skills turned out to be useful, but her memory was a throwaway detail at the beginning that never came up again. In fact, since Cora remembered something near the end of the book better than Nellie did, I have a feeling the author forgot that Nellie was supposed to have more abilities under her belt than being able to pick locks and break in and out of buildings. Michiko only had one skill, swordsmanship, although she was learning a bit of parkour on the side. She was at least a good fighter, and more focused than the other two girls.

Although I probably liked her the best out of the three, I have to talk about Michiko. The girl was a giant stereotype. From the age of 11 to 14, she lived with a retired geisha who taught her how to play the shamisen and perform a few geisha dances. She said she’d been with Callum for about a year, and all the girls were about 16 or 17 years old, so I’m guessing that her samurai training lasted from about age 14 to 15 or 16. I’m a little surprised that Kress didn’t somehow cram a bit of ninja training in there.

At any rate, the geisha training was brushed aside like it had never happened, even though Michiko had technically spent more years on that than on her samurai training. Despite having started her samurai training pretty late (a little googling seems to indicate that most started their training between the ages of 5 and 7), she supposedly became so good that the only possible reason she wasn’t given her own sword was because she was a girl. I...find that a little difficult to believe, although I’ll grant that she was probably much better than Callum could ever hope to be.

Even though she managed to learn all these things between the age of 11 and maybe 17, she somehow had barely learned any English after a year with Callum. For much of the book her vocabulary consisted of maybe a dozen words, including “apologies” and “death.” This unfortunately meant that she was excluded from most of Cora and Nellie’s conversations. This particularly bugged me during a sudden drunken sleepover that happened right after the first body was discovered (well, sort of the first). The sleepover was stupid to begin with, but I had to grit my teeth every time the text made a point of telling readers that the girls were trying to include Michiko in their activities but, well, they just couldn’t because she couldn’t understand anything. Later on, Cora mentally described Michiko as “all silence and mystery” (162), conveniently forgetting that Michiko didn’t have the language skills necessary to talk about herself.

I mentioned earlier that the author’s research was probably limited to a few Wikipedia pages. Most of those Wikipedia pages probably dealt with Japanese honorifics and samurai, judging by a few very odd little sections in the book. I can’t really judge the accuracy of the samurai stuff, although the repeated mention of samurai masks seemed a bit odd to me. Honorifics came up during one awkwardly long moment, when an elderly samurai in London lectured Michiko on her privately rebellious habit of calling Callum “Callum-kun” rather than “Callum-san.”

I seem to be in the minority - lots of people thought this book was at least decent. Personally, I can’t imagine recommending this to anyone. It wasn’t interesting enough to make up for its many faults.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-05-17 18:08
Plan of Attack
If We Were Villains: A Novel - M. L. Rio
The Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World - Lloyd Bloom,Ethel Johnston Phelps
The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero - Susannah Clements
Shadow Games - Glen Cook
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard - Laura Bates
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

So, I am once again overwhelmed with library books and I have to get cracking!

 

I should be finished If We Were Villains in one more evening, if the cat lets me and I can stay awake.  (Mr. Cat leaped on me in bed this morning at 5:45 a.m. to let me know he was ready for me to get up.  And he'd been such a polite bed-partner until then).

 

Maid of the North is an interlibrary loan which can't be renewed, but it reads fast.  I will finish it this weekend for sure.  Same thing with The Vampire Defanged.

 

Shadow Games has been put on hold far too frequently and I really want to finish it up quickly, too.

 

Then the next 2 library books to tackle are Shakespeare Saved My Life and The Three Musketeers.  I've renewed them both on at least a couple of occasions and I'll soon not be able to renew again.  Gotta get cracking!

 

My mission is clear.

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text 2017-05-01 16:29
The H Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness
The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness - Jill Filipovic

My first review for Bust Magazine is online today and featured on the front page! http://bust.com/books/19625-jill-filipovic-h-spot-review.html.

 

Pitching (and getting rejected) is finally starting to pay off!

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