Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Diamond Age: Nell's Big Brother

There was point in this book that I almost started crying. On page 243 when Brad is talking to Harv and Nell about runaway gang members and Harv just goes "'Nuff said" and runs off, I literally was tearing up.

I grew up with two older brother and I always felt like they would give me the moon if they could, and I feel like Harv attempts to do this for Nell. It is always hard, from my observation, for an older sibling to observe a younger sibling being hurt or not being taken care of correctly. I think this is a focal part of Harv and Nell's relationship. Harv is always the protector and it's basically his only redeeming quality.

When Harv leaves Nell I think that is was such an important thing that HAD to happen. As someone who always had big brothers looking out for her, I did not really learn to stand up for myself until I did not have my brothers there to do it for me. And I think that this is something that Nell learned quickly.

I think that hiding behind Harv was always something that Nell clung to, but without him she flourished. When Harv was sleeping Nell was more than capable of protecting herself from a stranger, but she couldn't when Harv was around/awake.

I just love their relationship so much. I love that Harv abandoned feeling safe and a having a good life just so Nell could have it for herself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Diamond Age: Motherhood

Having it been somewhat hard to get through this book there have been quite a few things that have crept out of the pages and really gotten to me. One of those things is the portrayal of mothers in this book.

If I ignore Nell's mother for a minute since I hate her and I do not necessarily care how she is portrayed, I would like to look at Princess Nell's mother. Page 124 says this:

He took the babies back to the cottage and presented them to his wide, who swooned for joy. They lived happily together for some time, and whenever one of the babies cried, one of the parents would get up and comfort it. But one night father did not come home, because a storm had pushed his little red fishing boat far out to sea. One of the babies began to cry, and the mother got up to comfort it. But when the other began to cry as well, there was nothing she could do, and shortly the monster came calling.
When the fisherman returned home the next say, he found his wife's body lying beside that of the monster, and both of the babies unharmed. His grief was very great, and he began the difficult task of raising both the children.
Now, I am all for men raising babies, I think it's good for them to have the elbow deep in diaper experience that I feel mothers have no choice to go through. However, it bothers me that the mother cannot comfort two babies at the same time. I realize the man is hard at work and the mother is home taking care of the kids, two kids, who are apparently both very young although when they are older Harv is much bigger than Nell.... Anyways, she doesn't even try. And it bother me that the mother does not try to comfort the other baby, yes she gives up her life for her children but I feel like she just took the beating because she felt like she had no choice, she dies uselessly in my opinion. In this short story there is no time that the mother picked up the other baby in her other arm and attempted to comfort it, but the dad was able to raise them all on his own. 

I feel like Neal Stevenson goes out of his way to make mothers out to be awful. Like obviously no one can raise a child as well as Harv or the father. Every mother in this book is either mean or stupid. The only redeeming female character seems to be Miranda. And that is only because she cares about Nell and is trying to help her. Good thing she didn't have any kids though... Because apparently once you have kids you become an awful human being whole dates people who molest your children and burn them with cigarettes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness Round Three: The Issue of Sex

While reading this book sex has been brought up quite a few times, but in a context that I am not very used to. It was talked about in passing, and in a way that was not how I am used to it being talked about. Many times sex is a very taboo subject, somethign that you only talk about with close friends. However, in this book it seems to be talked about quite a bit and without limitations. Just because they called it something else really does not change what it is: sex.

That being said there is a quote that related to this that I wanted to talk about. Page 177:
"Abstinence is entirely voluntary; indulgence is entirely acceptable. Sexual fear and sexual frustration are both extremely rare. This was the first case I had seen of the social purpose running counter to the sexual drive. Being a suppression, not merely a repression, it produces not frustration, but something more ominous, perhaps, in the long run: passivity."
passivity - the trait of remaining inactive; a lack of initiative (freedictionary.com)
Just for those of us who were not really sure what that word meant! I think it is very interesting that Le Guin has brought up the fact that in this world abstinence is entirely voluntary. I find this interesting because this world seems to have many more limitations than our modern world, and yet they seem to have more freedom with their bodies. While one can say that the choice to remain abstinence or not is a choice, I would have to disagree.

I was raised religious, and this country was founded on religious freedom. That be said, there are very few religions that make abstinence a choice rather than a requirement. Also, the choice of these people remaining abstinent is also interesting in the context that these people cannot even join in the kemmering until they are 17 (i believe that is what it said...). That means if you consider a 17 year old basically an adult: there is no underage sex. There is no sex before marriage since in this world you can not have promiscuous sex like you can in our world. So abstinence is a choice in the purest form of the word. When looking at how many religions are against birth control, that is one way to see that abstinence is not a choice. Some religions believe that birth control should not be administered because there is really no basis for it since sex before marriage is unacceptable. Whether that is the case or not is not something that I even want to touch. I want to look at the fact that we do not have freedom with out bodies, as much as we believe that we do. In high school we are given sex-ed, however this is abstinence based sex ed. We are bombarded with situations that show how destructive sex can be when youa re so young/unmarried.

The other thing that is discussed is th fact that "indulgence is entirely acceptable." In our culture it seems that it is the opposite. When people are "indulgent" in sex they are usually labeled with names like "whore" and "slut" especially if you are a woman... does not seem to be a problem in a world with no gender....

The other thing about this quote that I found interesting was the use of the word "passivity". The definition I found states a lack of initiative. I found this interesting... In a world where sex is something that is routine, at a certain time of the month, with no persecution, there is a lack of initiative.... That in a way makes me thing WHY sex is such a big deal in our culture. Is it perhaps because it is taboo? Would sex be as good if it wasn't seen as so bad? I hate to quote Rihanna... but her song says "I may be bad but I'm perfectly good at it." Why is the word bad associated with sex at all? Is sex not something that is used to procreate and used to show deep affection for someone that we love? If it was just that instead of this taboo thing, would it be seen as bad still?

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness: Round Two: The Children of Gethenian

So, I was really excited that we did not talk about this in class because I really wanted to blog about this. So, that being said...

Reading this section was a bit easier (except for Chapter 12 because I have no idea WHAT was going on....) and I started to understand the world that Le Guin was trying to create a little better.

The passages I wanted to talk about is when children were discussed. The first one is one page 98-99:
"It was my first chance to see much of Gethenian children... the clan looked after its own; nobody and everybody was responsible for them. They were a wild lot, chasing about over those fog-hidden hills and beaches. When I could round one up long enough to talk, I found them shy, proud, and immensely trustful.
      The parental instinct varies as widely on Gethen as anywhere. One can't generalize. I never saw a Karhider hit a child. I have seen one speak very angrily to a child. Their tenderness toward their children struck me as being profound, effective, and almost wholly unposessive.Only in the unpossessive does it perhaps differ from what we call the "maternal" instinct. I suspect that the distinction between a maternal and a paternal instinct is scarcely worth making; the parental instinct, the wish to protect, to further, is not a sex-linked characteristic..."
The other quote is on page 115:
No child over a year old live with its parent or parents; all are brought up in the Commensal Hearths. There is no rank by descent. Private wills are not legal: a man dying leaves his fortune to the state. All start equal."

Ok, so, that being said. I think these statements are really interesting. As of now I have quite a few male and female friends that are in the middle of a custody battle with their child's other parent. When I look at how the court proceeding is going there is always favoritism towards one parent over the other, and I never understood it. As far as I know there is no factual evidence out there that states that a mother loves their child more than the father, or vice a versa. That being said, why are mothers always the parents who are portrayed to love their children more? I think it is unfair, and complete gender stereotyping. As women we always hate when guys diminish us in any way, but it always seems to be a mother who always implies that it is her who loves her child more. I know fathers who have to raise their children by themselves because the mothers ditched too. It is not a male only characteristic.....

The other thing that I loved that this pointed out is just the characteristics of the children. "shy, proud, and immensely trustful." I thought, trustful? That is how kids are! But then I thought of a world where children could be trustful... where children could be children. I remember when I was a kid, my mother had to go through my Halloween candy. We were told to only go to houses, if we needed help, that had the neighborhood watch pictures in the windows. We were not to go too far from home. We had to have our phone number memorized. And then I think about the fact that I am 22... and I can not imagine what kids now a days have to go through. I realize that some of these things are the fact that parents are overprotective, however, there is some reason to it. What if we lived in a world where our children could be children? Where the could run around and do what they please and just have fun? They didn't have to worry about worries that only adults should worry about? I think that is a world that I would love to raise children in!

The other thing that I really liked that Le Guin brought up was the fact that all children start equal. While it is hard to imagine a world where children are not raised by their parents, it is a breath of fresh air to see something where children are not punished nor advanced for their parents actions. It would be such a good thing for every child to have the same opportunity. Obviously, no matter what anyone in our world does, that would never be possible, but it is something that would be nice to imagine. A world where literally no child is left behind.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Textual Vamperism in the Twilight Saga Drawing Feminist Life from Jane Eyre and Teen Fantasy Fiction by Kristina Deffenbacher and Mikayla Zagoria-Moffet

So, I am still reading through the "Bringing Light to Twilight" Book, and there is a ton of seperate articles that I want to write about. So today I chose this one. Going through the book I marked a lot of places that I liked what the writers were saying, and this was the section in the book with the most marks!

The authors start by discussing the similarities between Jane Eyre and Bella Swan. Another thing that is discussed at length is the helplessness of a human female versus the strength of a vampire female.

Throughout the book horrible things seem to happen to the girls while they are human: Rosalie gets raped, Bella and Alice get attached and almost killed (by the same vampire no less), and obviously there are countless other times that Bella is nearly killed. However, all of this changed when they are changed into a vampire.

When I was reading this section I related it a lot to growing up.As a child (and even a teenager I suppose) girls are often in the position of being saved. Growing up, I had two older brothers and a father, and they were always there to save me. They were there when I needed them to protect me in many ways. However, as I grew up, I needed them less and less. I no longer needed them to do things like open jars or lift heavy things. I grew into a woman who was capable of doing those things myself.

That being said, that is how I look at Bella. Bella is always the helpless victim and always in need of a man to save her. However, when she becomes a vampire she grows up, as does Rosalie and Alice. When Bella became a vampire she grew out of the things that held her back when she was a young girl/human.

At the end of this section the authors say something that I really like, that I wish other people would realize about Bella:
"Bella's characterization is read by many fans of the saga as actualized from the beginning--she knows what she wants, pursues that goal in spite of obstacles, and does not have a crisis conscience along the way.Her ability in the end to maintain a loving, sexual relationship and act as a self-reliant, fearless agent, to be a devoted mother and community defender, endows Bella with a heroism desired by many young readers and feminists alike." (Page 40)
I love that the authors realized this angle of the story. Most times when I read about Twilight someone is always bashing Bella as a cowardly person who is love crazy. However, I think that she is a strong woman. She knows what she wants and she goes for it. Just because what she wants is not to become president or rule the world, that does not mean that she does not go for what she wants. She realizes she wants Edward, and she goes for it. What is more feminist than that?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness: Round One

So after reading the first section of this book I was, needless to say, REALLY confused. There were times where I just powered through the text and just read, and eventually I somewhat understood what was going on... Hopefully. I am one of those people who hats highlighting and writing in books (because I feel like they look like this picture) , however, there were a few times when I was reading this book when I was like "holy banana's this is really smart!" So, that being said, I was going to talk about them...

On page 70 Genly is talking to the Foretellers about foretelling and they say:
"The unknown... the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion... But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion...Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable--the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?"
"That we shall die."
"Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer... The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
When I was done reading that I was like WOW. There are so many aspects of this passage that are true. Whether you are religious or not, you believe in something. Whether it be love, a god, hope, whatever. But what if there was no reason to have faith in ANYTHING? What if we were given the answers to everything? We knew the day that we were going to die, the day we were going to get married and who we were getting married to. We knew how many children we would have, we knew what they would be like, etc. How would our life be different without the mystery of what is coming next?

I related this more to faith, because I am religious. (I am really going to attempt not to preach at you but attempt rather to relate it to faith) I think about the faith that people put in God. They believe that he exists, they believe that he can perform miracles, they believe that he came down to Earth and walked among people (depending on your religion of course). People have that much faith in something that they can not physically see. How would they feel if they knew definitively that God existed or not? 

In some ways I think that part of the appeal of religion is the mystery. People can say that they know for sure God is up there, but do they really? There is always that mystery of having spent an entire lifetime devoted to somethign that isn't there. And that is faith. What would our lives be without faith? If we did not have faith that someday we would find the person that we would love and would love us in return, how different would our lives be?

I remember back to when I was a child and I used to play with my friends and we would all sit around and talk about what it would be like to be married one day. If we knew that we were for sure getting married, and who we were getting married to, there would be no mystery in life. There would be no hardships on one hand, but there would also be no excitement. Life would be a series of events and actions that we went through just to get the the next thing. One of the reasons that I think the Foretellers are so vague in this book is because they was life to have mystery. They do not want life to be "ruined".

And on the Mystery note... I must share this =)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Of Monsters and Men: Toxic Masculinity and the Twenty-First Century Vampire in the Twilight Saga by Tracy L. Bealer

So right now I am working on my research symposium stuff and am currently reading a book called "Bringing Light to Twilight-Perspectives on the Pop Culture Phenomenon". There are quite a few articles in this book that I really really want to write about but there is one that really stuck out to me. It is called "Of Monsters and Men: Toxic Masculinity and the Twenty-First Century Vampire in the Twilight Saga" by Tracy L. Bealer.

Usually when people talk about Twilight, especially from the view of someone who is pro-women, it is always to criticize Bella. Always to talk about how Bella is weak, boy crazy, and ridiculous. But I have never really thought of the book from the view point of Edward. Usually the main love interest in a book is very hyper masculine and has very little femininity to him. On the surface Edward has all of the characteristics. He is strong, he is unemotional, and he is always up for saving the damsel in distress. However, when looking beyond just the surface emotions, there is quite a bit more.

The author talks about Edward finding Bella too interesting to stay away from. I think this is a good example of why Edward is not SO masculine. Because of the way the book is written (I believe) people always talk about how Bella is obsessed with Edward and can survive no other way. But there is no indication given in the book that Edward does not also feel the same way. In fact, there are quite a few instance that Edward is in love with Bella just as much as she is with him. But is it okay in our society for a guy to declare their love in an emotional way? I really do not think so. There are quite a few guys who go out of their way to make emotional guys feel inadequate and like less than a man. However, girls do the same thing. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a guy say "she told me I was too nice and that she wanted a man." What? We want men to be more emotional and wear their heart on their sleeve, and when they do we are the first people to blast them for not "being a man". In one of my Sociology classes we had a talk about ballroom dancing. There were some women in the class who said that if they knew a guy who was a ballroom dancer that they would assume he was gay. WHY? What is hotter then a guy breaking out into a waltz. Any guy can stand there while you grind on him and stimulate sex, but it takes a real man to know how to tango =) Anyways, I think that when it comes to showing emotion Edward is an amazing example of what a guy should be. He is open with Bella about his emotions.

Another reason that I think that Edward is not so hypermasculine is that he is constantly showing his weakness to Bella. Obviously he is a vampire so his weakness is blood. However, he is open with Bella about this weakness rather than hiding it from her. In many situations guys are told that if you have a weakness that it is considered less manly to show it. Why else would guys NEVER go to the doctor? I think it is interesting to look at the fact that Edward is open and honest with Bella about his weaknesses and insecurities because it is good for guys to see that you can be a guy and have weaknesses. Imagine that!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is the first book that I have specifically read for my research symposium, and to be honest it was like watching a scary movie. Which I discovered when I had to finish it before the semester started and I read it before bed. 

That being said, it was surprisingly interesting. The beginning of the book was kinda slow, but as I kept reading it got more and more interesting. The author uses actual pictures that "artists" find at rummage sales and flea markets and put in their displays. The pictures really make the book. They are basically sideshow pictures that are suuuuuuuuuuper creepy!

I am doing a presentation on current trends in children literature. Because this is such a popular book that is getting a ton of attention right now, this is one of the books that I read. 
One issue that I want to address in my presentation is that some childrens literature has gotten to a point where it is somewhat inappropriate for children.... that being said, this book is WAY too creepy for children.

When I first saw these pictures I thought they were creepy. Keep in mind that these books are written for "young adults" but I would say the story is more for 10/12 year old's after reading it. While it is a GOOD story, there are these bad creepy black monsters that chase peculiar children around trying to brutally murder them. Age appropriate? Not in my opinion... Now I am not by any means saying that children should read books like "The Babysitter's Club" and "Hardy Boys" until they are 18. However, these books are for younger kids. I do not care what kids learn from video games, R rated movies, and shows on television. Just because they have access to creepier, scarier things doesn't diminish the fact that this book is DARK. 

In the first few chapters of the book, Jacob, the main character, talks about his life as a 16 year old boy. He describes hating his job, and the fact that his life is quite boring. He also describes his close relationship with his grandfather who has wild stories, that are presumably fictional. I am going to try REALLY hard not to ruin this book, so if I do not succeed in that attempt I apologize. For a reason unbeknown to YOU (but I know haha!) Jacob runs across these children who are quite PECULIAR! They have weird traits about them, some of them are things that you would normally see in series like X-Men, but then some of them are just super creepy and weird. 

Through out the book Jacob is basically trying to avoid having a mental breakdown, something that I know 10/12 year old's sometimes experience, although, seriously? Come on... One of the main characters in the book is the psychiatrist! There are many situations in today's world where I feel children are thrust into situations that are far beyond their age, and this is an example in the book. People who have barely reached puberty do NOT need to be reading about mental breakdowns. That being said, I do like some aspects of Jacob. He is constantly feeling like he does not fit in, and is confused about what he wants to do in his life. I think this is something that is good for young kids to read about. Many of them are stuck between childhood and being a teenager and really have no clue where they belong.
I suppose there are situations where children can relate to feeling peculiar, although, I doubt it was because of things like walking on the ceiling, raising people from the dead, and seeing what can only be described adequately as demons....

What happen to the peculiar children that has super powers?!?!?! When I grew up children were fighting evil but it was much more animated and cartoonish... 

I never thought Wolverine, the Rescue Rangers, or Darwing Duck would come walking through my door to SCARE me before bedtime! I looked up to these super hero's (as unrealistic as they were) and I cheered for the bad guy that did not look nearly as creepy and scary as the GOOD GUYS in this book!

Another thing that was touched on in this book was an enormous amount of violence. Obviously if you read any young adult novels lately you would see that violence has become a HUGE trend in these books. Example: Hunger Games. Love the books, but CRAZY violent. In this book, people are brutally murdered. They are shoved into a ice freezer to be preserved until the authorities come (somewhat mob style...). They are brought back to life by a heart that is not inside their body, and they beg to be killed again because they cannot handle the pain that they are feeling over from the way they initially died. I know that kids have always been exposed to violence, I know that my parents were much more okay with me seeing violence then they were with my brothers and I seeing a sex scene in a movie. However, these situations, in my opinion, are NOT appropriate for children.

After you have heard me complain about this book quite a bit, I probably should say some good things. I really actually enjoyed the book, surprising from all my complaints I know.... I thought that it was really interesting, and the fact that I was scared to read it before bed just shows how vivid the descriptions were in the book. I liked the fact that when there was a hard thing to explain (like the child with the head on a dog body) that there was a picture to show me what he was talking about. I have never seen a book that used actual pictures, which is what he did. Obviously they were altered and these were more than likely optical allusions... but still! So... if you are looking for a new book, that is very different and a page turner, this is one i would recommend!

BTW: I do not own the rights to any of these pictures... and thank God SOPA did not go through =)

"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler

YAY! So I am required to write a blog for one of my classes on what I am reading in class. Since I am doing a reading project in addition to that, I figured I probably should blog ANYWAYS. So. 

Okay, first story we read in my Sci-Fi (a term that apparently is quite offensive to "S.F." Snobs) Women's Lit class is "Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler.

SUPER weird story! At the end of the story I felt like I had bugs crawling through my skin and it just made me cringe. Anyways! The story is basically about how humans have traveled to another world (because earth has been destroyed... so conveniently!) and have become people who carry alien's babies. The main person of the story is Gan, who is a boy on the verge of "manhood". He is chosen by one of the aliens (I pictured a overgrown centipede in my head during this entire story because the author is constantly referring to the multiple legs) to be the human who carries their child. In the story he witnesses a "birth" gone wrong on another human male and becomes scared. Gan and his alien fight like they are high school lovers and eventually she ends up injecting him immediately after their fight, much like a high school relationship.... Get in a fight? That's ok! Let's make babies!


I found this story extremely interesting because of the way that the birth of the aliens are described. The only examples in the story of humans who are carrying the aliens young are those of men, and at one point there is a man who is basically being eaten alive by his alien/lover's young. He is pretty much cut open while an alien digs around his organs to find the babies... yeah... gross....

So Gan gets scared after seeing the horrific account of a birth gone bad and doesn't know if he wants to do it. But then there is the issue of whether he REALLY has a choice or not. This seemed to me to be EXTREMELY similar to the way that women in our society seem to be portrayed... sometimes.

When women give birth it is VERY graphic. There is blood and goo and guts and bleh. So, that being said, we (or me and other women) still choose to have children more than choosing not to have children. When the situation is straight out explained is gross and sounds like it hurts immensely. When looking at a baby, even a newborn, it's amazing to think that they came out of a hole that could not have POSSIBLY produced it... yet... it did. In this story Gan doesn't know if he wants to go through the experience and the pain, and the alien just says "ok, I will go elsewhere". But as women of this time/age/pick a word, if we chose not to have children we are constantly badgered. Quickly after marriage young couples are bombarded with the question of when they are going to have kids and start a family. If a woman chooses not to have a child, people are immediately wondering WHY. So do we really have a choice? Yes, technically, no one can force us to carry a child. However, if we chose to be nontraditional that is constantly thrown in our face, even by just using the term nontraditional! In the story Gan is basically an alien baby incubator, is that not how women have also been portrayed as and are still portrayed as sometimes?

That being said, I am ALL for being a mother and a even housewife. I am getting married in May and plan on start popping kids out right away, which kind of makes my argument seem silly. However, I have made that choice. I have friends who are in their 30's who are married and have CHOSEN not to have children. They enjoy traveling and independence and spending their money that they work hard for every day on themselves. That being said, I have heard numerous times people ask them why they are being so selfish. "So many people are out there who want to have kids and can't and you are just deciding not to". This statement makes me SO mad! If there is a man who is like "nope I am not having kids" it is PERFECTLY fine and acceptable. Women, however, obviously have something wrong with them if they chose to take this route.

I suppose my frustrations that this short story bring up is the fact that at the end of the day in many ways, we are a slave to childbirth. Let me be clear... I am not saying that having children is bad. I am saying that being EXPECTED to have children is bad. When I have kids I want them to know that they were my choice, not my requirement.