Fem-Rage

“Swords & Mutton”

While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

Well done to the New York Times, and most particularly to Ginia Bellafante, who have between them managed to insult and – not to put too fine a point on it, anger – lots and lots of ladies with their review of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones.

A review is, of course, an opinion – and everyone is entitled to one. However, there’s a line between a genuine and honest opinion, and emptying the scorn-bucket:

If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary.

Thank goodness, then, for the fantastic response to this review posted on the Geek with Curves site – a response which manages to be entirely fair at the same time as being beautifully snarky when I would have exploded into violently pink femrage. And, for extra added bonus points, it manages to create a whole new genre: sword ‘n’mutton.

The series is hardly “boy fiction.” Where does this phrase come from?  Is it automatically for boys because there are swords and mutton?

So, NYT. You want to tell us we can’t like epics? You seriously want to say that women don’t care about fantasy – or the stories the genre gives authors scope to tell? That we’re only interested in this sort of thing if there’s a bit of shagging in it? Really?

Put it this way- in which woman’s company would you rather pass a few spare hours: one who’s read, followed, inwardly digested and understood the sprawl of stories like Lord of the Rings or A Song of Fire & Ice… or one whose favourite film was “Sex & the City 2“?

Thought so.

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Pinch of Salt

I went all quiet again, didn’t I? Don’t panic: I haven’t been clobbered by yet more woe (although I have taken to walking along with one eye on the sky, one looking behind me and one looking at where I put my feet… just in case. You work that one out, because I can’t!) but instead I’ve been involved in a wonderful new project: Genre For Japan.

Driven by Amanda Rutter of Floor to Ceiling Books, the idea is to bring the genre community together to raise money for the British Red Cross’ Japan Tsunami appeal in the best way possible: by giving you a chance to buy Stuff.

And not just any old Stuff, either: thanks to the generosity of publishers, authors, agents and fans of SFF, this is Amazing Stuff. Stuff Which You Cannot Live Without, all with the genre fan in mind.

It’s humbling, seeing how many items have been donated, and also the phenomenal level of interest. If you spend any time on genre-focused websites, or you’re part of the same corner of Twitter as I am, chances are you know all about this already.

And if you don’t, the details are here.

Keep checking the site, too, as more information will be going up over the course of this week ahead of the auction launch next Monday. It’s an awesome cause, and there are incredible people getting involved. Please, please support us, and help us to raise truckloads of money for the Red Cross.

In other news, I watched Salt over the weekend. I was quite looking forward to it – when it was released, much was made of the fact it was a spy-action-chasey-shooty-thriller… but with a woman as the lead. And, let’s face it, there aren’t really as many of those as there should be: particularly given the main thread of the plot (without giving anything away) is a woman trying to outrun spies to protect her husband.

This is a neat reversal of the usual “spy races against the clock to save his impossibly beautiful, elegant, intelligent wife” – but boy, did it frustrate me. It wasted an opportunity to do something really interesting and ended up sort of making a hashed-up, mashed-up version of The Recruit meets Mission Impossible (perhaps not surprising, given that it was written by Kurt Wimmer and – if memory serves – was originally a Tom Cruise vehicle, rewritten for Angelina Jolie).

It could have said so many things about husband-wife relationships, gender-power balance, the role of women in dangerous places and jobs… but it felt like the rewrite went as deep as doing a search & replace, exchanging “he” for “she”.

And the ending just made me cross.

(Interestingly, my Other Half – sitting next to me and watching me seethe in the grip of femrage – laughed as discreetly as he dared, shook his head and said, “You’re getting worse.”)

And he’s probably right.

Chromo-same?

Suffragette poster

It’s International Women’s Day.

What does that mean, exactly – the whole “woman” thing?

What is it, to be a woman in the modern world? What’s our role, our purpose? What are our goals?

Well, presumably, to some people, that’s an easy question. And here’s the answer.

Yep. Sorry about that.

Believe it or not, I actually saw that on the flight back from New York last December. The cabin crew had to forcibly drag me back to my seat as I screamed “Make it stop!” And to anyone who points out that I could have just turned it off, I would answer: I already had… but like one of Lovecraft’s unfortunate protagonists, the horror had burned itself indelibly into my memory, where it lurks and gibbers unspeakable things.

And to others…

 

 

 

Keep the Choos. That’s what I’m talking about, right there.

And that’s even without mentioning Elizabeth I or Aung San Suu Kyi; without bringing up some of my own idols Jane Espenson or Sera Gamble or Tina Fey; without getting close to talking about Emmeline Pankhurst or Emily Davison

From the sublime to the ridiculous, from the banal to the brave, there are many, many inspirational women out there (the Guardian is running a fantastic feature on their website to celebrate. It’s worth a good long look).

And because it’s still as awesome as it was all the other times I’ve posted it, you get the Team Unicorn ladies again.

Just because I can.

Ladies! Be all that you can be – because you can be anything.

 

(apologies if the sound’s stripped from a couple of the videos, by the way. The joy of youtube, eh? Put something stirring on in the background, I would. This would do perfectly.)

Comics for Girls II (or: We Are Woman. See Us Draw)

I threatened, didn’t I? And I do make good on my threats (even the ones involving sledgehammers. Especially the ones involving sledgehammers). So here’s a round-up of a few things I’ve come across re: women and comics.

Eden, who writes the Comicsgirl blog, left me this link in her comment on my earlier post: an interview with Hope Larson & Raina Telgemeier, the authors of “Mercury” and “Smile” respectively. Incidentally, I’ve seen both of these being talked about as great examples of both female-written comics (with female protagonists) and as very well-written comics, regardless of the gender involved… ticking plenty of boxes.

Hope also conducted her own survey on girls & comics (bearing in mind she’s a YA author, the results are probably slightly skewed towards the mid-teens) which bears out a lot of what we all suspected anyway: that girls care about characters (but not to the exclusion of art), that they want to see more strong, female protagonists, that they need to feel welcome in the comics community–and that the extreme attitude towards women in mainstream comics needs to change. Interestingly, the survey also picked up that a lot of teen girls don’t really have anything more than a peripheral awareness of comics. The full thing–complete with Hope’s caveats–is here.

See also the great interview with Hope on the topic here: She Has No Head!

Onwards.

Geekmom’s post on women in comics looks at the template for the comic-book princess. Her theory is that they’re hard to find unless you adjust the pattern slightly, and stop looking for stereotypical fairy-tale princess figures, and instead look for superhero princesses. In other words, take Wonder Woman as your exemplar and you’re away:

Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince is actually Princess Diana of Themyscira. But wasn’t her status as a princess that made Diana the ambassador to the outside world. It’s her physical and mental toughness in a tournament that leads to her becoming a hero for all the world.

In other words, while she’s a princess, she’s also a warrior woman.

And this seems to be the template followed by most other superhero princesses.

They come from all over the Earth, from galactic kingdoms, and from far-flung fantasy worlds but none of them seem to be waiting for Prince Charming.

Instead, they’re all fierce defenders of their friends and their countries.

What I learned about super heroine princesses is that they will kick your butt, especially if you happen to be an evil overlord.

Gin & Comics comes at it from an altogether different angle, but nonetheless raises a valid point–that of merch. And he’s right: why should I be stuck with baby-pink tees with characters I don’t care about as my only options? (I should point out that I’m not above nicking my husband’s Silver Surfer t-shirt, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could get a shirt that featured Deadpool, or Gambit, or any of the other characters that apparently Girls Don’t Like)

An interesting blog post over here, on the “5 Worst Things to Happen to Women in Comics in 2010” (as well as, to be a little less doomy, the 5 Best). It’s a little more character-focused, maybe, but there’s some valid points.

A quick shout-out to the Ladies Making Comics Tumblr site as well as to the Laydeez Do Comics graphic-novel reading group (London-based). And I can’t miss out Selina Lock’s Girly Comic while we’re here, nor can I pass on the brilliant blog & website of Susie Cagle, which has just made me smile bigly.

It’s not entirely related, but it ties in with a different post I made on here a couple of days ago about The Vampire Diaries (and specifically the contrast between the female characters in the TV show compared to the books): yesterday, Alex Bell did her own post, and it’s a very good one indeed.

Thanks to everyone who commented and left me links: if I’ve missed something relevant, nudge me and I’ll update. I should add that I found several of these articles via the Fridge Dispatch site, which has been invaluable and comes highly recommended by moi (like that counts for anything…)

And yes, I know I’ve posted the Danger Maiden “Geek & Gamer Girls” video before, (and I accept it doesn’t exactly bring any sensible discussion to the table) but I like it, and you can’t be serious all the time…

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Alice of Abergavenny

The lower border of the third panel of the Ros tapestry shows Alice - complete with axe - seeking revenge for her lover's killing.

I’m still thinking about comics–and how they relate to women, and how women relate to them. And, god help you all, I’ve been reading about it.

Now I’m looking for them, I’ve found some fantastic blogs, articles and general geekery on the subject online, which I’ll come back to tomorrow once I’ve had time to organise the links (there will be many).

In the meantime, how’s this for Fem-Rage? The story of Alice of Abergavenny.

Her Welsh-Norman lover took her with him during the Fitzgerald-led Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170 and although the Normans were massively outnumbered on landing, their tactics enabled them to kill 500 of their opponents and take 70 prisoners. Unfortunately for Alice’s Marcher Lord, the invaders also suffered casualties–and he was one of them.

Alice’s considered response was to pick up an axe, and to personally behead each one of the 70 prisoners in revenge.

You go girl…

Sister-Stories

First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who commented on the rambling musings about women in the comics industry I posted yesterday. There were some really interesting points raised: things I hadn’t necessarily ever thought about and things I’ve thought about plenty of times and still can’t get my head around.

One idea I have been batting around is something that came out of Comicsgirl‘s comment, which I sort of got going on in my reply. It was a question of whether women are possibly more noticeable on the indie side of the comics industry because of the relative narrative (or artistic) freedom afforded by a smaller press environment, away from the juggernauts of DC or Marvel or Dark Horse. Are women drawn to different stories and different ways of telling them from those offered by the big players?

This isn’t just a comics question either: you can expand it to encompass all literature… all art. I remember discussing a couple of Kathryn Bigelow‘s films with a (female) friend a while back–probably just after The Hurt Locker won the Oscar–and her reaction surprised me. She said she didn’t understand why a woman would want to tell stories which were so fundamentally rooted in violence, because that’s not what we’re about. I’m still not quite sure what the right response to that is, but it feels somehow relevant to the discussion of women in the comics industry–particularly the mainstream.

Is it true, I wonder, or–accepting it’s a monstrous generalisation aside–is this a question we even need to think about? Ever seen that shelf in a bookshop: “Women’s Literature”? What is that, exactly? Books for, by or about women–or all three? What differentiates it from just plain old bog-standard “Literature”?

Amanda over at Floor to Ceiling Books covered the idea of sexism in publishing in a post yesterday, and brought up a recent online discussion of women in SF which opens the debate up even further: if we go back to the question of whether women want to tell different stories, is this simply a case of SF being less appealing to women–or, like Margaret Atwood, do they see their stories as being “beyond” the genre? As a card-carrying Friend of Geek, I can’t help but think this is going to twist my noodle round another half-inch–so much so that I’m probably going to take a day or two to think about it, and work out whether I should be activating the Fem-Rage.

In the meantime, I’m going to go read a comic. Well, it’s either that or a bit of Germaine Greer….