Roundtable Post: Another look at literary classics

August 8, 2010

Have you ever read a ‘classic’ or best-seller that really pissed you off? Or something taken to be a major work in some genre but you found to be really off-putting (for whatever reason but could be due to objectification, racism, etc?).

A friend was telling me about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and how she could not finish it due to the sexist main character, but most of the gentlemen I know who have read it RAVE about it. Read the rest of this entry »


Applying to Graduate School

July 31, 2010
How can I choose just ONE?

With regard to your ethnicity, do you consider yourself Hispanic or Latino? | Question 1b: If you indicated above that you consider yourself Hispanic or Latino, please select the ONE category that best describes your background.| Question 3: California State University often needs to report ONLY ONE summary race/ethnicity description for a person. Please select your reporting preference...

How do I play this game? By their rules or decline to state. How can ONE ethnic category describe anyone “best”? Are you more related to your father than your mother?

Growing up

July 15, 2010

When I was a young girl living with my grandmother, I recall her special room filled with mannequin heads wearing fancy hats, and Barbie dolls with clothes she fashioned herself. I believed there was hope for adults after all: that grown ups do not have to grow out of the world of play and pretend.

Lately my sister and I have been cleaning our garage, essentially a storage facility for our family. From my father’s old army fatigues and an out of tune piano to rusty tools and broken door knobs, we are unearthing nearly fifty years of history, determining what has some use or value from that which has past its utility in our hearts or lives.

Mary's box of playthings.

A few days ago I opened one of my own boxes: stuffed animals.

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Dispatch from India – Ladies on Trains

April 28, 2010

After graduating from college last fall, I decided to take a gap year to do some traveling before graduate school. Currently, I am backpacking in India with my best pal Anita, another 25 year old, single woman from San Francisco.

In two months now, we have gone 3,933 kilometers, the majority of our travel, via the Indian Railway system. For the country’s booming populace, foreigners and freight, the train system is one of India’s signature features.

As deep-rooted as the rail lines, the traditional distinctions between genders are preserved and strong. Read the rest of this entry »

Reclaiming “Slut,” “Whore,” and Other Such Terms

February 19, 2010

There was a recent post on Feministing about reclaiming the word “slut,” and I have to admit it struck me in the wrong way, which used not to be the case.  When I was a teenager, I used “slut” and “bitch” frequently to refer to myself, which I considered reclaiming.  Now more power to you if you still want to do so, but I kind of get the heebie jeebies when I hear it.  Why?  For some reason, those words seem more steeped in the patriarchal culture than other reclaimed words like “queer” or “dyke.”  They just seem inherently hateful.  Of course, no word has inherent meaning, but I wonder if others get this sense as well.  With all the fake, anti-feminist “girl power,” the weird combination of purity balls + “slutty” grade school girls’ clothing, etc., I wonder if the “reclaiming” really is that, or if it’s just part of a mainstream attempt to use feminist language to keep girls firmly rooted in patriarchal thought.  Ideas?

Feminist Book Recommendations?

February 12, 2010

What are the books you’d recommend either a) to someone new to feminism or b) to feminists to get a broader perspective on the movement or an idea about a topic that tends to get ignored?  Here are some of mine:

Andrea Smith, Conquest: I just blogged about this one, but I’ve finished it now and would wholeheartedly recommend it as an alternative to the white feminist “canon.”  It’s also especially helpful for identifying areas where the progressive movement (especially pro-choice and environmentalist) has wronged indigenous people and women of color.

Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards, Manifesta: I like this book as an intelligent, in-depth discussion of feminist issues.  It’s not particularly good for young readers (it’s a little dense) and it doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a good read for those who have the basics of feminism down and want to go a little deeper.

Inga Muscio, Cunt: There are a lot of things I disagree with in this book, but I have to admit it’s a great little read for a personal perspective on feminist issues with research thrown in, and there’s a great resource guide at the back.  Muscio has a very powerful voice, and this book is accessible where more academic texts are not.

Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti (eds.), Yes Means Yes: Not a feminist primer, per se, but so much of why feminism is necessary is wrapped up in rape culture, and this anthology is absolutely mind-blowing even for someone who has been exposed to feminist ideas.  I recommend this book to every woman I know.

Megan Seely, Fight Like a Girl: This is my favorite recommendation for young readers.  It goes through a number of issues, making it a good third-wave feminist primer, and it’s activism- rather than academic-centric.  It’s also got some great resources for teens and young women.

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: A little more topic-centered, but this book does provide a broad overview of what Levy calls “raunch” culture.  It links patriarchy to pop culture, the purity movement, pornography, sex work, etc.  I don’t agree with everything in the book, but for the most part I like what she has to say.

Consent, Violation, and Indigenous Peoples

February 8, 2010

I spend a lot of time thinking about rape and sexual violence.  These are topics that I am particularly interested in as a feminist and an activist.  Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the use of the word “rape” to mean something other than, well, actual rape, and I haven’t been quite sure where I come down on it.  I just read something, though, that parallels this discussion, and I think is particularly relevant when we’re thinking about how to conceptualize rape and, more broadly, consent and violation.

In her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith talks about the many (many, many) ways native people in North America have been seriously fucked over by colonialism and modern (especially U.S.) government policy.  She includes a quote from a Native woman who belongs to a tribe that the government non-consensually experimented on by placing a nuclear reactor on tribal lands to see how much environmental radiation people can safely take in through “food, water, milk, and air.”  The woman describes the harm to her people, principally in the form of cancer cases, and then says “Is this what it feels like to be raped?”

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