sqbr: pretty purple pi (Default)
Thursday, December 11th, 2014 01:34 pm
One review praises the way it uses "she" as the universal pronoun then goes on to describe everyone as a "he".

Another is a list of squeeful things, including both the anti colonialist message and the fact that everyone drinks tea (except servants and anyone else the colonisers/upper class want to make feel like dirt, of course, but they don't count)

*closes the Ancillary Justice tag*

(I reviewed it on my other blog. Overall I quite liked it!)
sqbr: WV stands proudly as mayor (homestuck)
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 11:10 pm
Overall: very interesting, makes some good points, I didn't understand everything and didn't agree with everything I did understand but feel like I learned a lot.
More general reactions )

Now my rough notes on chapters 4-12, taken as I went, neatened up only a little. I may try for a more thoughtful response later. These are all his opinions, aside from some asides from me.
Thoughts on chapters 4-12 )
sqbr: WV stands proudly as mayor (homestuck)
Saturday, January 18th, 2014 10:05 pm
I'm listening to the audiobook of "Debt, the first 5000 years" by David Graeber while I play video games and it's fantastic, exactly the modern left wing exporation of economics I've been wanting, and legally available for free.

My dodgy take on some interesting ideas so far (up to chapter 3):
Read more... )
sqbr: me cosplaying the bearded dwarf cheery longbottom, titled Expressing my femininity with an axe (femininity)
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 04:49 pm
(First post)

I've been dipping in and out for ages so decided to just sit down, put on some music, and finish the damn thing. And then the last quarter turned out to be references and notes so the task wasn't as hard as I thought it would be :D

Some notes on the last third or so:

If there is a physical brain difference, it is that small brains (which tend to be female) are wired differently than large brains (which tend to be male), probably for practical reasons of space. And while DNA determines some things, your brain (and hormones/mental capacity etc) changes dramatically based on the way your life plays out. So even if there was a proven difference between male and female brains, it wouldn't prove nature over nurture.

But as it turns out, such proof does not exist. There are very small studies that show a difference, but what that difference is varies from study to study (though it regardless always "proves" that men are thinkers and women feel-ers) A quote:

"Using standard statistical procedures, they found significant brain activity in one small region of the dead fish's brain while it performed the empathising task, compared with brain activity during "rest"."

Huge difference in behaviour towards children of different genders from parents even ones who think they are showing no difference. Kids will prefer things based on how they are coded not what they actually do eg classifying a spiky tea set as for boys and a ribbon bedecked truck as for girls. Implicit attitudes like body language affect children's learned attitudes much more than adult's stated opinions. If you subconsciously hate black people chances are so will your kids.

And of course even the most "egalitarian" parent may pause at buying their son a barbie.

Children police each other pretty harshly, and are very susceptible to in-group stereotyping and bias eg if you randomly divide them into blue and red then say "good morning blues and reds!" and make them line up by colour etc for a few days they will start to identify as a "red", want to play with other reds etc.

All of this adds up to me pondering sending a complaint to Cottees about their Boys vs Girls campaign.
sqbr: me cosplaying the bearded dwarf cheery longbottom, titled Expressing my femininity with an axe (femininity)
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 02:03 pm
I've been slowly working through this book, it's fairly light but still a bit dense for my foggy hard-science-oriented brain.

Basically it's about demolishing gender essentialist pseudoscience.

The first part is a whole bunch of examples of how amazingly easy it is to affect people's decisions and abilities by "priming" them with stereotypes, either by putting stereotypes into their heads or just by reminding them of the stereotypes they've already been exposed to. Just putting a gender tickbox at the start of a maths test lowers women's scores, since they go "That's right, I am a woman. Women are bad at maths." (And thinking "I AM NOT BAD AT MATHS DAMMIT" still takes up valuable mental energy that could be spent calculating) And of course there's all the examples of exactly the same resume being judged differently depending on the gender/race etc associated with the name attached. People THINK they're being objective but really aren't, and will come up with complicated justifications for why their choice is logical, eg if you swap the "male" and "female" names on a pair of different resumes suddenly the traits that were unsuitable for the job when they belonged to a woman make a man the perfect choice.

She also demolishes some of the specific claims of Bad Gender Science, like "girl babies look longer at faces therefore women are naturally more intuitive therefore men are better at hard sciences" and so on (and of course as gender roles change the arguments have to twist themselves into stuff like "Women are attracted to forensic pathology and microbial biology because they...like faces and people")

Overall I'm finding it really informative but I am annoyed by how it assumes the reader is a cis het woman living in Australia/the US etc who is probably going to get married and have babies. She does acknowledge trans people, intersex people, same sex relationships, people from other cultures etc but mainly for what they can teach us about heterosexual cis etc people rather than as examples of everyday people who have to deal with gender stereotypes themselves. And, ok, most of her arguments are statistical and so the "average" woman is what matters, but she could still do better on being inclusive and intersectional. She does mention assumptions about race every now and then, but not in a very meaty way.

I'm onto part two now and she seems to be implying that there is some evidence for men and women (and male and female primates in general) being biologically hardwired differently in one particular way: men care about fitting into the male gender norms of the culture they've been brought up in whatever those norms happen to be and the same goes for women(*). The nice thing about this theory is that it says that specific gender roles are socially defined rather than innate, but that gender identities and divisions themselves are hardwired enough to debunk radfem etc dismissal of the trans experience.

(Second post)

(*)Non binary gendered people seem to be entirely off her radar, though being a small and poorly defined/understood group I guess it would be hard to come to many useful conclusions right now.
sqbr: Faith holding a spray can next to "Buffy the Vamprie Slayer" with Faith scrawled over the top (faith)
Sunday, September 16th, 2012 09:02 pm
I like romance novels. I like fantasy (more than non-speculative fiction, at least). But somehow the combination of the two is always GODAWFUL. Like, every single supernatural romance has the protagonist being a Special Angsty Snowflake. All other women are soft weak victims while she is tough and powerful, but also vulnerable. She tries dating nice guys but they can't handle her Power, she needs an even more powerful man, one who is SUPER manly and strong and arrogant and probably despises all other women as much as the narrative.

Blech. I find arrogance and misogyny super unattractive, even in my escapism. Not to mention giant men bulging with muscles.

"Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong came strongly recced, but I had a bad feeling from her being The Only Female Werewolf. Sure enough, they see all other women but her as only useful for meaningless sex and babies (there are no gay or asexual werewolves, natch) Eventually I had to check to see if she gets back together with her smug stalkery ex AND SHE DOES. Of course, he's the most obnoxious and unpleasant man in the story, he must be the romantic lead.

It's pretty well written and I like the main female character (for a start, she doesn't hate other women, woo!), but hits too many bad buttons for me. Maybe I'll skip to the end and see if I like the feel of it.

Then maybe I'll reread my Marjorie Liu. She actually has some VARIETY in her manly supernatural men. And then I will sigh and wish for f/f space opera romance.
sqbr: (up)
Friday, March 30th, 2012 01:38 pm
This is a mix of great stuff which is ok about disability, ok stuff which is good about disability, and a smattering of stuff which is awesome in every way. My bookmarks aren't tagged to remind me how well stuff handled disability, so this list is pretty arbitrary.

Mostly the same fandoms as my post of fanworks I've made myself.
Read more... )
sqbr: me cosplaying the bearded dwarf cheery longbottom, titled Expressing my femininity with an axe (femininity)
Saturday, December 31st, 2011 11:25 am
It's very good, and very readable too, I've had real trouble concentrating on non fiction (or anything much) for the last few years but found this fairly easy to get into.

Russ makes SOME attempt at intersectionality, but there are some glaring omissions. She's also almost entirely focussed on American/British English Literature, apart from one or two examples. But regardless I think the silencing techniques she talks about are pretty universal and this book would be useful to anyone thinking about how marginalised group voices are suppressed.

The cover contains a summary of her argument:
“She didn’t write it. But if it’s clear she did the deed… She wrote it, bit she shouldn’t have. (It’s political, sexual, masculine, feminist.) She wrote it, but look what she wrote about. (The bedroom, the kitchen, her family. Other women!) She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it. (“Jane Eyre. Poor dear. That’s all she ever…”) She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (It’s a thriller, a romance, a children’s book. It’s sci fi!) She wrote it, but she had help. (Robert Browning. Branwell Brontë. Her own “masculine side”.) She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly. (Woolf. With Leonard’s help…) She wrote it BUT…”

She wrote it BUT… )
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Friday, August 12th, 2011 09:39 am
You were right, that was awesome :D

I have Things To Do Today, so no actual review, and I can't tell how objectively good it is but where with the Theif I had a sinking feeling about a plot twist and was sad to be proven right with this book I was sitting there going "Could the plot really be that awesome? Noone ever writes that..." and was filled with glee when twists happened the way I'd hoped. Though overall I think her writing would benefit from not trying to so hard to have twists at all.

Now to get my hands on the next book...
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (happy dragon)
Thursday, July 28th, 2011 02:33 pm
When this first arrived from the library I thought "Wait, Newberry Award Honor Book? Am I reading young adult fantasy? Crap.". But then it quickly grew on me. It flowed very nicely and I liked the characters and story (no female characters, but that made sense in context), and the Greece inspired worldbuilding was understated but effective. It felt like a real country, I can't think of any other fantasy I've read with a convincing Mediterranean climate(*). Also the protagonist Gen is quite dark and no big deal is made about it. But apart from the fact that I liked Gen more when I thought he was a teenager rather than an immature twenty something (EDIT: oh, ok, he is a teenager), there was one thing that I predicted early on and knew would retrospectively really annoy me if it happened, and it did.

Major spoilers )

(*)Though this did mean that I kept imagining the mountains they crossed as the Darling Ranges
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Friday, November 26th, 2010 02:38 pm
Enjoying Lost Girl made me decide to check out some paranormal romance-y books…which has reminded me why I like Lost Girl and don't tend to read paranormal romance.

Some vague spoilers but nothing significant.
Read more... )
sqbr: And yet all I can think is, this will make for a great Dreamwidth entry... (dw)
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 08:17 pm
For anyone not subscribed to [personal profile] alias_sqbr: I am in Melbourne for Worldcon! I may at some point be up for visitors (though possibly not :/) and if you see me come up and say hi! (If you want :))

Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?
Lots of food for thought for me about my own (utterly miserable) childhood(*) and relationship with my parents (who were great at telling me I was awesome and giving unconditional love, but not so good at encouraging an open discussion of feelings)

Women Are Not Marshmallow Peeps, And Other Reasons There's No 'Chick Lit'

That post about women in maths

Marginalized folks shouldn't always have to be "the bigger persons" A corollary that occurred to me while reading this: a really simple way to be an "ally" (as much as that term makes sense) is to always try to be the bigger person, always give the benefit of the doubt to those you have privilege over in a given context. So, for example, when discussing sexism men should give women the benefit of the doubt and be more patient/polite etc. Not INFINITELY so, but more than normal.

(*)It belatedly occurs to me there's an element of appropriation in this since I've never been diagnosed with a mental illness. But I was definitely one of those sad shy children where the teachers take the parents aside and say "Sophie's a great student, but I worry...". Hmm. Shall ponder when not about to go to sleep.
sqbr: me cosplaying the bearded dwarf cheery longbottom, titled Expressing my femininity with an axe (femininity)
Saturday, May 29th, 2010 12:55 pm
There's been some very interesting discussion of violence in fiction recently, in Militarism, pacifism, fandom [personal profile] naraht has some links and very interesting thoughts about pacifism.

My issue I guess with these posts is with the dichotomy between pro-military and pacifist. Because I love stories about violence, but my gut sympathies are very anti-military and while this is sometimes problematic, I think it's not inherently self-contradictory. This came up in the comments to [personal profile] naraht's post but I'd like to poke at it some more.
And now some examples )
sqbr: I lay on the couch, suffering an out of spoons error (spoons)
Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 09:29 pm
This is a somewhat expanded version of the presentation I made about Disability in Science fiction.

Note: Don't take my word for any of this! I'm still figuring this stuff out. Corrections and other input very much welcome!

I've reached a point where I Just Can't Think About It Any More, I may edit again later. Make sure to check to out the comments for other people's additions.

The fantasy examples are very much tacked on, I'm sure there's fantasy specific tropes I'm missing, plus links to the relevant Disability Tropes. Mental illness and cognitive impairments are underrepresented too.
Read more... )
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Sunday, December 20th, 2009 10:20 am
When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"? does a good job of going through why the "White person helps lead Oppressed Native People to freedom" plot is at it's heart all about white supremacy. (But don't read the comments)

But I've been thinking about how a lot of ostensibly anti-oppression narratives take this form.

  • You have the aristocrat who leads the working classes to freedom, as in the stories described in the beginning of "Historical AUs and race" (which inspired this one a bit)
  • The able-bodied person who saves the poor disabled people eg "Children of a Lesser God".
  • The man who saves the poor victimised women eg a lot of Dollhouse.
  • I'm having trouble thinking of any to do with sexuality but I'm sure they exist. EDIT: "I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry"?

And not all of these stories are bad individually. After all, history does have a lot of people who did good works helping those they had privilege over, and their stories are as worth telling as anyone else's.

But what's a problem is
a) that this is seen as the only sort of story worth telling
b) The way this story is generally told

If your intention is to fight an oppression, surely you should act contrary to that oppression, not to reinforce it's biases. The Kyriarchy says that white straight able-bodied upper/middle class men are natural leaders and better than everyone at everything. So having a story where such a character joins a group of non-white/GLBT/disabled/lower class etc characters and immediately proves himself better than them all at everything and their natural leader, not to mention having their POV the only one worth seeing the story through..is not so anti-oppressive a message in my book.

See also why Glee only seems anti-racist if you only identify with the white charcaters.

EDIT: Please note that comments to this post are screened, though so far at worst I've delayed unscreening a comment until I can come up with a good explanation of why I think it's problematic.
sqbr: pretty purple pi (Default)
Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 04:07 pm
SPOILERS, obviously. WARNING: brief references to creepy sexual stuff.

In short: Racism, angst, homophobia, angst, racism, angst, sex, ANGST, they lived happily ever after, the end.

But other than that it was pretty good.

sqbr: Are you coming to bed? I can't, this is important. Why? Someone is wrong on the internet. (duty calls)
Friday, October 2nd, 2009 04:32 pm
So perhaps watching Dollhouse to distract me from the offensiveness of this novel wasn't the best idea (not that's it's particularly bad so far, for Dollhouse. The season premiere of Lie To Me squicked me more(*). But it's still...Dollhouse-y) And the episode of Xfiles I started watching was about a bunch of carnival freaks and I just didn't have the energy to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Ranting about this damn book some more )
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Friday, October 2nd, 2009 11:58 am
I think the main reason I feel like posting is that lj is down so I can't post there :)

Anyway: once it became clear that I wasn't getting anything productive done today (eg when I fell suddenly alseep after Cam went to work and didn't wake until 11) I was planning on spending the rest of today reading the book I bought yesterday. It's "The Hidden Heart" by Laura Kinsale, author of "Midsummer Moon" (a regency romance I read and enjoyed lately) But on the FIRST PAGE is "She..generously informed the Indians that the jungle monsters with holes for faces were no longer in pursuit..They had escorted the white woman out of Barrio do Rio in order to save themselves from the supernatural beasts that she had said would surely descend upon them if they hadn't."


It was written in 1986 so there's quite possibly a magical anti-racist learning experience later in the book but I'm not sure I can bothered waiting to see (especially since even if there is I'm still going to have trouble liking her as a protagonist), and googling about to check is more effort than I really feel like. Dammit. I was just thinking yesterday about the difficulty of writing historical/fantasy etc settings without buying into all the classism /racism/sexism etc. But there's dodgy subtext and then there's "LOL RACISM".

EDIT: And googling "racism Kinsale "The Hidden Heart"" got me lots of reviews of the book which happened to have unrelated references to racism elsewhere on the page, including one by oyceter, one of the creators of "International Blog Against Racism Week", though it is from several years ago and I remember her saying she used to be much less aware of this sort of thing. HMM.
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Sunday, July 26th, 2009 04:42 pm
These are two Marjorie M Lui "Dirk and Steele" supernatural romance novels.

So far there are two common themes in this series:
1)The love interests are soul mates and are drawn to each other pretty much the moment they meet, thought they tend to fight against it out of a mix of cynicism and hard-won self defense based on Bad Past Experiences.
2)To some extent the male love interests tend to feel like they're fulfilling different ever-so-slightly-furry-ish supernatural creature fetishes.

Soul Song was sexy fish-man
The Wild Road is basically sexy Goliath from Gargoyles
The Last Twilight is sexy black African man who turns into a cheetah (which is imo a bit problematic)

The Wild Road
So clearly I wasn't the only teenage girl watching Gargoyles thinking "You know, he's kind of cute for an animated non-human."

This was fun. I liked the protagonists, though both rather hardened by difficult circumstances they weren't as irritatingly angsty as the previous lot, and I found the plot quite engaging and thrilling. The female protagonist has lost her memory, and I thought the "redefining and rediscovering yourself when you don't know who you are or were" thing was done pretty well.

Note:This is explicitly set after "Soul Song" and has some spoilers for it's plot.

The Last Twilight

I started reading this at the shop and ended up buying it because I wanted to know what happened next. The main character is a CDC disease specialist, and her life dealing with epidemics was quite engaging if rather gross for a romance. Being a Marjorie M Lui book the plot quickly shifted, and it was a bit less engrossing in the middle, but overall quite an enjoyable fantasy thriller and I liked the relationship between the two leads.

I'm not the best judge of this sort of thing, but I've seen enough criticisms of the way people of African descent are associated with animals/predators etc to be a bit uncomfortable with the way the male lead was exotified by the female lead, although he is a quite well rounded and engaging character.

On the plus side we got lots of interesting African characters, and distinctions were made between different African countries and cultures (eg the male lead is Kenyan, and misses the plains while in the jungles of the Congo).
sqbr: A happy dragon on a pile of books (bookdragon)
Saturday, July 18th, 2009 07:41 pm
No really, that is my theory :)

Basically I am increasingly sick of male writers justifying(1) their creepy exploitive objectification of women by the fact they're being "thought provokingly shocking" yet consistently shying away from the slightest whiff of m/m(2) sexuality (especially on the part of their protagonists omg) even when the plot would naturally lead there, and even though it's a really easy way to shock a (typical) audience.

Unlike a lot of women people I don't get any particular kick out of m/m sex scenes or romance, but I've read enough slash that they no longer stick out at me as being any more unusual than any other sort of sex/relationships. And as a result I've begun noticing how glaringly absent they are from mainstream science fiction.

The flip side of this problem, and they seem to pretty much always go hand in hand, is men never being seen as sex objects for women either. Women may be enthusiastic about sex, but the camera/narrator lingers on their body and hotness, or at most has them talking about how totally awesome the main character is.

(Another thing these sorts of stories tend to do, as part of their fairly strict gender hierarchy, is not having anyone who doesn't fit into neat male/female boxes. Also I've avoided talking about representations of f/f sexuality since I think that has a whole different slew of problems)

Warning: contains discussion of creepy deliberately shocking writing. Also spoilers for Dollhouse )