*Discussion of the human body, including sexual characteristics, ahoy*
In the past year, I've gotten into Star Trek. I'm working my way through The Next Generation right now, and let me tell you, it's a great show full of interesting ideas and important social concepts. However, one episode has been niggling at me ever since I saw it.
In "Angel One," the team visits a planet occupied by a misandristic society, in which men have few to no rights. This society is depicted through a simple role reversal between men and women--and it's really, in my opinion, not at all accurate to what a misandristic society what look like. Sexism derives from a deeper and more complex base that would lead to many more differences between such a society and our own patriarchal culture. The very core idea of misogyny, after all, is that the feminine is inherently lesser than the masculine. What exactly we call "feminine" and "masculine" does differ between cultures, but I think that in looking at the biological differences between the sexes, we can get something of an idea of what a society that values the feminine over the masculine would look like:
*Discussion of the human body, including sexual characteristics, ahoy*
I've shared all of my top to-reads for 2017 now, so today, instead of a "Waiting On" Wednesday, I'm going to do a Wordy Wednesday in which I share one of the essays I wrote in school. This one is a short, informal piece about Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" that I did for a senior capstone class. Here we go!
Deadly Ableism: Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”
In his short story “Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut portrays a future dystopian society where everyone is “finally… equal in every which way.” This equality is thanks to the agents of the United States Handicapper General, who use a number of methods to bring those with greater skills or looks down to a baseline level: earphones that give off jolting sound to discourage intelligent thought, bags of weight to minimize physical strength, agility, and speed, and masks or other applied disfigurements to reduce physical beauty. These methods are referred to as “handicaps,” a term for disability that is now considered archaic and offensive. With the inclusion of such terminology, a key question in examination of the text becomes what of those who are truly disabled?
One part of being chronically ill that can be really difficult is eating.
First off, let's be clear: one of the most common microaggressions disabled people face is other people trying to tell them what to do. Everyone has a magic cure; everyone thinks they know how to fix you. And yes, most of it's well-meaning, but often the implication is that you don't know enough about your own illness, that you don't know your own body, and that you're not trying hard enough to get better. Furthermore, being told about someone's aunt's cousin's friend who got 100% better after trying this "magic water" can be very hurtful for chronically ill people--because there is no such thing as a cure. Many chronically ill people, like myself, suffer from disorders that do not go away. Ever. All you can do is manage the symptoms the best you can with the treatments that do help. We have to deal with that fact, and having people come up to us all the time insisting that an impossible hope exists just causes us more pain. It makes it harder to accept the truth. It also makes us feel like the person suggesting a cure doesn't believe us, which is a huge problem that chronically ill people face in society.
Plus, a lot of the time, these cures are scams. Even when they're not, they likely only have a limited impact on a limited group of people, because different bodies respond differently, even to properly tested, doctor-approved medications.
Now, most people who suggest "cures" for chronic illness focus on diet. No matter how long someone has had a chronic illness, how many doctors they've seen, or how well controlled their symptoms are, people will always comment on their diet. I've had people I barely know give me advice about healthy eating upon hearing about my disability, which, again, is insulting. The two things I've heard the most are a) go gluten free and b) eat more vegetables.
But no one ever said anything about corn.
I've talked in the past about my experiences with good vs. bad teachers, but today, I want to share the worst and most ridiculous thing to happen to me at school. This is the story of Kevin and his calculator.
Once upon a time, during my first semester at BYU-Idaho, I had a religion teacher whom I did not like. I didn't hate him either; I just found him to be a little too black-and-white in his thinking and a bit self-righteous. But, as usual, I did all my schoolwork and kept under the radar and got good grades.
Every week, on our own time, we took an online, open-book quiz. As a disabled person, I had a number of accommodations granted to me through the Disability Office. One was that I used a Kindle for many of my textbooks, in order to minimize the amount of weight I had to carry. My scriptures were one of these.
Then, on the second to last week of classes, the religion teacher called me into his office.
"You've been getting better grades than anyone on the quizzes," he said, "and you finish them quickly."
I nodded, unsure where was this was going.
"Have you been cheating?" he asked.
I can't say that I was very well-known by my classmates in school. Me and my best friends were somewhat on the fringe, with friends in various "groups," but not really in any groups ourselves. We had our own little side group, and we were happy that way. But my high school was small, so we all knew each other a little. The reputation that I did have was a simple one: I was the "innocent."
I've shared myleast favorite tropes before, but every so often, I come across a trope that I find particularly upsetting. Today, as part of my Kill the Trope series, I'm going to examine the "crazy telepathic woman" trope and explain to you how it combines misogyny and ableism so horrifically that it needs to be abandoned. *Comics spoilers ahoy*
Once upon a time, there was a woman with telepathic powers. She could read minds, control them, maybe even undo them. Despite the enormous mental and emotional pressure that having such a power would exert, she managed to eke out a life as a hero. She used her incredible gift to protect lives, and even though it was a pretty scary power that was sometimes hard on her, she became a real force for good in the world. Then, one day, something terrible happens--a death, usually, or some kind of accident that breaks her powers loose.
She goes insane. Not just your regular old "wow I have a mental illness" insane, but "I am going to literally murder everyone" insane. She loses all sense of morality, all sense of boundaries, all sense of self, and wreaks terrible havoc across the world until someone finally stops her, usually by killing her. (Because she's a superhero, she will probably come back, but even once she's her normal self again, everyone will be wary of her and will constantly bring up that one time she went crazy, if not outright reject her.)
It's time for another speedlinking post, in which I share some cool stuff I've found on the internet during the past year. Allonsy!
Someone managed to capture photos of Paul Bettany (aka Vision) on set filming The Avengers: Infinity War, and I am about to die I am so afraid what's going to happennnnnnnnnn?!???!?!! (Yeah, those photos aren't that exciting, but they remind me of the fact that there's a movie. With Vision. And Wanda. And it's probably going to be devastating. QUICK, THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS!)
*Spoilers for The Phantom of the Opera; long post ahoy*
I recently read Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, the classic novel upon which the musical (and the movie musical) is based. I'd heard that the book was much darker, but in my opinion, the musical actually followed the novel quite well. The main difference, which leads me to prefer the movie musical, is that the musical focuses more on Christine's perspective, whereas the book focuses on Raoul's. In fact, the musical gives more focus and importance to all the female characters, compared to the novel.
It got me thinking, again, about how The Phantom of the Opera musical lends itself to a feminist interpretation. In fact, in watching the 2004 movie, I've always seen one of the central meanings as being focused on the difficult choice that women have faced throughout history, and many still face today: what role to play.
As I said in last Saturday's post, it matters a lot to me that I get to share my experiences with fibromyalgia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I want there to be greater awareness and understanding. I want people like me to be able to look out into the world and see that there are ways to survive.
With that in mind, I'm creating this master post which links to all my posts related to fibro, OCD, and other chronic conditions. Further resources are listed at the bottom. I will regularly update this list in the future so that it can remain the central hub for my disability experience.
Chronic Illness: General
Wordy Wednesday: Two Poems 4/8/15
On Alternative Medicine 5/6/15
Thoughts of a Struggling Fibromyalgic 9/11/16
Thoughts of a Struggling Fibromyalgic, Pt. Two 11/19/16
Facing the Pain 2/18/17
My Body Is an Aggressive Roommate 4/29/17
The Joys of Eating With Chronic Illness 6/24/17
My Mayo Clinic Experience 8/12/17
Fashion Tips for Chronic Pain Sufferers 8/26/17
Chronic Illness: Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia: My Story 9/21/12
Fibromyalgia Awareness Day 5/15/13
My LDS Youth Trek Experience 1/8/14
Video: Fibromyalgic Beauty Routine 10/24/15
My Chronically Ill Life Is Hard 11/14/15
Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today's topic is a general back to school theme. I've posted a couple of times about my concerns with the lack of diversity in the classical canon, so I thought today I'd share my Top Ten Classics Not Written by White Men. Here are some diverse picks to round out your English education!
(Because in my education I lacked the proper exposure, most of these books are by white women, not people of color. I am always looking for recommendations for PoC classics. Also note that I'm including an asterisk by the titles that I was exposed to within my formal education for your reference.)
1) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. All of Austen's work is fun and clever, a great addition to the classical canon that presents a more feminine and romantic angle. (Seriously, Austen's sass is inspiring. Not to mention, she turns the tables by repeatedly failing the reverse Bechdel Test--her books are all about them women.) Pride and Prejudice* is the obvious choice, and I'd recommend it for sure, but Mansfield Park is my personal favorite!
Now that I'm essentially done with my schooling, I figured it was an appropriate time to revisit this post, where I analyzed my Goodreads "school required reads" shelf for diversity. I came up sadly lacking then, which was very frustrating to me. This past semester, I returned to school totally worn down by the prevalence of the white male voice in my education--but luckily, thanks to the fact that three of the classes I was taking focus mostly on modern literature, it wasn't as bad this time.
But... it's still pretty darn bad. We can and we need to do better. I'm a supporter of We Need Diverse Books, and I think that campaign is particularly important when it comes to schools. What are we teaching children when we only analyze literature written from the white male perspective? Even if we're providing plenty of diverse books for students to read in their free time, this makes it seem as though diverse literature doesn't have any 'literary merit' (a phrase I hate in the first place because snobbery, but c'est la vie). We need to share and seriously discuss the perspectives of marginalized groups in our English classes, to show students that we know these perspectives matter and that they need to empower themselves to have empathy for all kinds of people.
Below are a bunch of charts showing the stats for all the book-length reads I was exposed to in the educational system, from elementary school through my undergrad experience at BYU-I. (There were many more individual poems, short stories, and essays, but I didn't keep track of all of those.) Author stats are based off of the available information I have for them, so they may not be 100% correct in the case of those who "pass." There is one data point for each book unless otherwise specified, with 136 books in total. If there are any discrepancies, I apologize! This took a ton of work, and I got lost a few times, haha.
Hello friends! I've talked before about tropes that I dislike, but there are a few that I think need more extensive examination, partly because they have important social justice ramifications. As such, I'm presenting you with Kill the Trope, a series examining problematic tropes! Today, as indicated by your votes, I'm kicking it off with the Strong Female Character.
*Long post ahoy*
How many characters in recent popular media can you name as "strong female characters?" There's been a major surge of this in recent decades, primarily through science fiction movies like Star Wars and The Hunger Games. These women kick butt, save the day, start revolutions, keep up with the best of the men, don't let their girly feelings get in the way...
...there's the problem. Do you see it?
*Sexual harassment and bullying warning. Long post ahoy.*
Every so often, people will tell me that my low trust level with men is reverse sexism. Or they'll say that I'll never find the boyfriend I want so badly if I keep being so picky. Other times, they tell me that feminism is no longer a necessary social movement, that sexism is over.
These statement are incredibly infuriating, because they so deeply invalidate my experience as a woman dealing with men in modern society. The fact of the matter is that men pose to a very real threat to women today, a threat that the very real sexism in our society encourages and ignores. I have been a victim of this. All women have been a victim of this, and because it's a reality, we have to act accordingly: with caution towards the individual and a justice-focused rebellion towards society. I've talked plenty about the second, and will continue to do so, but today, here's some thoughts on the first: here are some of the reasons why women like me have to be cautious of men.
Hello! I've had quite a couple of days here. So far I'm happy with the set-up for my final semester at BYU-Idaho, so that's good. I also have been provisionally accepted to grad school through San Jose State's online Library Science program, pending my final undergrad grades, and I was interviewed for the Ch1Con Blog Tour on Christina's blog yesterday!
Now, welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This is the topic last week that I missed: Top Ten Books That All _____ Should Read. Teen girls have to deal with a lot in their lives, and they deserve to be lifted up and supported. As such, I'm sharing ten books that Teen Girls should read for encouragement and inspiration.
*For links to all of my posts addressing disability rights, click here.* *Long post ahoy*
Ableism, like many other forms of prejudice and marginalization, is woven into our society. As such, each one of us has imbibed the rhetoric of ableism, each one of us holds ableist beliefs, and we're all prone to saying things that are wrong, even though most of us don't want to be hurtful or offensive. This holds true for disabled and mentally ill people as well as people with no experience in the area--that's how insidious and deep the effect is. When you're so surrounded by these prejudices, you're bound to be affected by it, no matter your station in life.
That's why it's so important that people listen to those who are underprivileged and marginalized, that they respect their stories and feelings, and that they acknowledge that each one of us knows only a limited amount about the human experience. One part of that human experience is how prejudice and marginalization feels and looks for different groups. That's why the language of social justice matters. That's also why it's so important to call out instances of prejudice, such as ableism. Society will not change, people's intrinsic attitudes will not change, unless pushed to do so.
Naturally, when ableist beliefs are widespread in a society, they also affect subcultures in that society. Religion is one example. Whatever the true beliefs and nature of any religion, the people practicing it will be affected by the prejudices of the society they are part of. As such, religion has its own set of ableist rhetoric that must be combated.
I'm an unpublished novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, on medical leave from my Master's program. I love music, psychology, cats, social justice, and love! I'm a huge fangirl. Basically, stories are my life.
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