Connotations of words and word choices

I was writing a disclaimer on a post to try ensuring readers would understand that my calling female people “girls” isn’t an infantilization of female people, and it started becoming its own post.  Word-use caries by demographic, by region, culture, country…  This is something I’ve struggled with when writing book things because it’s far too easy these days to be “cancelled” over using a word that has never been offensive where someone is from, but that has become offensive where others are.  I’ve seen YouTubers “cancelled” for words they used a decade or more ago, when those words were common, but that have become offensive.  What words to we use today will get us in trouble in another decade, when they’re no longer acceptable to use as we use them today?  This can make speaking or writing at all incredibly stressful.  Far too often, our context is ignored, with new context applied to turn innocent things into offensive, bad, shame-on-you-forever things.

In short…or long…to start with “girl”, and then expand outward, since that is what inspired this particular post:

I alternate between calling female people girls and women, while also talking about how some things in a book are used to indicate if someone is “a good girl” or a “bad girl.”  In said post, there is a lot of slut-shaming and woman-hate used to denote who is supposed to be good and who is supposed to be bad.  At times I refer to gatherings of female people as just girls, without positive or negative qualifiers.  Each individual use, aside from “good/bad girl,” when taken in context, are innocuous.  Yet it’s too easy for someone out there to get horribly offended because in their personal world, the day someone turns 18, “girl” is no longer allowed, and the context doesn’t matter one iota.

In my social sphere, we also refer to ourselves as girls and to the men in our lives as “the boys.”  We don’t call them that in place of their names, like “Hey, Boy!” but we will talk about how the boys are going to see a movie this weekend, or let’s leave our kids with the boys so we can go do some girl stuff, and talk about planning a makeup night for us girls.  So not this post serves as the all-but-mandatory-in-2019 disclaimer that your area where “girl” or another word might be bad isn’t necessarily the same in my area where it’s not, and there’s literally no way to use words that can’t offend everybody.  I once lived in an area where calling female humans “woman” and “ma’am” were taken as calling someone old because they’re ladies and or a miss,(I had a customer demand to talk to the manager when I said “ma’am,” since she was offended I didn’t caller her “mademoiselle,” something not exactly used in common US vernacular), yet there are areas where “lady” is seen as insinuating a certain behavior stereotypical of the sex, “be lady-like” and such.

And another disclaimer, because 2019: The phrase “girl stuff” does NOT exclude people of the male sex who identify as women, or people of the male sex who identify as male who enjoy things like makeup.  It’s just doing stuff considered stereotypically feminine with a group of friends who can also share some general bitching about the way sexism still impacts us, how much dealing with birth control can be annoying [before saying that’s bigoted against transwomen, know that, in my group, not all of us can just toss birth control and get pregnant–I myself am infertile and needed IVF yet can still commiserate about the lack of viable alternatives for penis-havers other than condoms, which can break, and how stupid it is that medical stuff tends to be tested with men in mind, but when it comes to thinks like birth control, that’s “woman stuff”], and so on.  It doesn’t mean transwomen aren’t women, or that transmen aren’t allowed.  A friend’s young son enjoys makeup stuff, and would be hurt if she and a non-childed friend and my daughter and I went to Ulta without him, and so he’s free to join us for girl stuff, and he knows boys can do stuff called “girl stuff” and my daughter knows girls can do stuff called “boy stuff,” and both only get offended if something is said to be “for” one sex or the other.

But others might see it as being exclusionary based on their experiences, and there are people as well who think that we should literally eliminate every word that can be connected to a sex or gender, no matter how tangential, because they’re offended by not identifying with one or the other, with both, or sometimes they do, but think gender identity divides people in bad ways.  Yet still there are others who see it as important to have spaces for people of marginalized sex and genders (i.e. cisgender women, transwomen, and transmen) can freely converse without what can feel like oversight from the ruling sex (cisgender men).  It’s very easy to see how both sides can feel this way, but there’s no way to meet halfway on this.  So what do you do?

So take a deep breath and remember that different words have different connotations depending on where we are, and where you are isn’t necessarily going to be like where I am, and where I am isn’t necessarily going to be like where you are.  Keep in mind different connotations of different words exist, and that personal experiences factor in, and look at the total context of what is being said, instead of taking one word of phrase on its own and presuming it must be meant with whatever meaning is used in a different part of the country or world.

This goes not only for words regarding gender identity, but many other words.  Right now, I’m sitting in a country where “gypsy” is not a bad word, and when I asked a couple friends of mine who identifies as that, as in ancestral roots and all are gypsy, they both, independently, told me that refusing to call them gypsies is stripping them of their cultural identities and that refusing to say it is like saying their culture is so bad that it can’t be spoken of by name (so, like Voldemort versus he-who-shall-not-be-named).  One of them told me that “traveller,” which is a common term in the US now, doesn’t connect.  The other said not all Roma identify as gypsies, and using Roma instead is saying all Roma people have the same culture.  (Some latinx people feel the same about all latin cultures being lumped together as the same, and so prefer to be called Mexican, Cubano, etc.)  I can’t remember which, but one said that people who think the problem gypsies need to worry about is what they’re called need to try living in an apartment building of other gypsies that gets condemned to get gypsies out of the area.  Another thing pointed out is that it’s what is being said that will determine if someone’s being offensive.  “Filthy gypsy” is absolutely bad, or saying “gypsy” in a tone you use for something unsavory, but just a a general word, on it’s on, it’s not bad.  Yet in the US, you may as well be banned from existence for calling someone a gypsy, even if you are one, and even if the people spoken about are in Europe and want it used (one of my friends in America descents from this group, and it kills her that her own friends are afraid to use the name she identifies with for her culture), It doesn’t matter in the US that in other parts of the world, refusing can be seen as denying someone of their cultural identity.  Since I’m from the US, where we are a step away from calling it “the g-word,” I won’t use it unless quoting or in context of a post discussing the world, regardless of my thoughts, and regardless of having my butt sitting in a country where it’s not a bad word.  The words my country allows are offensive to a lot of gypsies here, but there’s nothing I can do about that.  So, because of where I’m from, I will be stripping people of their cultural identity until my personal society can start looking at context.  To make my personal society happy means hurting others.  Making those others happy means pissing off my society and expulsion.  It’s a no-win situation since context, in my society, is ignored.

An example of a word used in other places that is offensive in America is calling a person with something like autism, a person like my daughter, retarded.  In the US, it’s become pejorative, but in other places, it still means to be slow or delayed or otherwise have challenges, and that’s correct.  In those places, it hasn’t seen widespread use as an insult.  I’m not going to be bothered if a French person and I are talking about my daughter, and she is referred to as retarded, but if I’m talking with an American and the same happens, you better get the hell out of my presence before I punch your face.  In the US, the word “cunt” is seen as one of the most offensive words there is, yet in other parts of the world, like Britain and Australia, if you call someone a “funny cunt,” it’s positive.  But you won’t see me calling people “retarded” or “cunts” just because they’re okay outside of my culture.

In the US, frogs aren’t a big deal, and kids play leapfrog and can be compared to frogs jumping around, but it’s also a word that has been used in parts of Europe as an offensive slang for French people.  “Coconut” has been used as a slang in some places against people of Polynesian descent.  Some people were offended by the coconuts in the movie Moana (called Vaiana here in Europe) because of this, even though it meant the actual fruit.  Within the US, calling someone a Brownie can refer to the Girl Scout level of be used as a racial slur against people of Hispanic, Indian (from India), or Arabian descent, because of their brown skin, and some Native Americans consider Indian to be offensive, others don’t, and others do or don’t depending on context.  Context matters, as well as where someone is from.  So I will use those words in the ways acceptable where I’m from, just as people where I’m from need to accept others doing with how words are used in their cultures.

There are many other words like this, and I’m not going to get into all of them.  But can you imagine reading a word that is deeply offensive against your culture that isn’t in other places, and having to just deal with it and understand that it’s not the same everywhere?  We (this means my fellow Americans) aren’t going to nix talking about frogs and coconuts, yet expect the rest of the world, and even our own country, to not use words we don’t like, or in ways we don’t?  So don’t call people cunts, don’t call female humans girls, etc? (No, those aren’t on the same level anywhere in the US, but offensive is still offensive.)

We all need to keep in mind that what is okay or bad where we’re from and in our own infinitesimally small slice of the world is not representative of the world as a whole, and our slice may be very different than someone else’s slice, and we can only try to accommodate so many slices before there are no words at all we can use.  There are many, many, many cultures with many more different histories, even within the same country, which is a great thing, but it also means that word-uses are often specific to where each person is, and it’s conceit to expect the rest of the world to change to match our own slices.  We can all only do the best we can, and we all should be paying more mind to how other people aren’t going to share our spheres, and that doesn’t make them wrong and us right.  The best we can do is be mindful of our own choices while also looking at the context of what others are saying while remembering that where they are from might have different word-rules.

I’m going to use “girl” and “boy” and “lady” and “guy” and “woman” and “man” in the acceptable ways for where I’m from, and I use them as gender, not as sex.  I’m going to still talk about frogs and coconuts and still call my daughter a Brownie for the rest of the short time that she is one, and do on, but I also don’t ignore that someone referring to an autistic kid as retarded or to a woman as a cunt may just be socially acceptable and not at all offensive where the speaker is, and so I will accept their words without being offended.  How we Americans feel about that four-letter c-word is how some feel about our seven-letter c-word.  It’s sooooo not a big deal to us, yet is to others, and what is sooooo not a big deal to others is to us.

So remember you aren’t the entire world, I’m not the entire world, and that context of how speech is used needs to be the determining factor over individual words and phrases.  So, while I will absolutely modify my speech to the best of my ability when I travel (I can’t know all things offensive in all cultures), when I am writing, whether online or in a book, somethings that can go to more places than I can physically be, I will use words the way my culture allows, and not use words in ways my own culture doesn’t, and will respect that others do the same, instead of being ready to be offended in an instant.

So I shall recap and comment on After by Anna Todd

Posts will be listed and linked as written:
After Recap Chapters 0-15 (not much happens in them)
Chapters 16-20
Chapters 21-25

A few years ago I heard about a book that had been written on Wattpad and had a lot of followers.  Cool, I thought, and hoped for something good.  I really love when there’s a good book or book series so I can jump on the fandom-bandwagon.  Few things are as fun as anticipating the next thing with millions of people.  I was a major fan of Harry Potter back when there was only one book and everyone asked why adults would read children’s books, back when there was no big fanfare for the second and third books being released, and so got to experience the sudden explosion.  I was a major fan of Tolkien back when the Lord of the Rings movies came out, and loved seeing people dress up to go stand in line for hours for new releases.  This stuff is FUN.  Not feeling the same passion isn’t fun.  I wanted to like After and to be part of something fun again.  Well…  Let me back up.

The Hunger Games books have a lot of fandom, but the fandom around it isn’t the same.  There isn’t that die-hard love where you can quote one thing, and everyone knows what you mean, the way there is when you say “my precious” or “avada kedavra” or parody a line and say “I’m never late–I arrive precisely when I mean to,” or draw out “always.”  (Love Snape or hate him, it’s hard not to sympathize with unrequited love and missing and still loving someone for years upon years after they’ve died.)

Twilight was a let-down.  I had hoped for some fun vampire books.  Obviously HP and LOTR fans enjoy supernatural stuff (and probably Supernatural…those Winchester boys are like a fine wine…).  But Edward’s treatment of Bella was anything but romantic, and Bella’s supposed love wasn’t believable when she was so focused on becoming a vampire so she’d stop visually aging.  Edward seemed to be just a means to her desired goal.  And when one of the vampires we’re supposed to like was a major in the confederate army, which fought for the right to continue owning black people…  No.  Absolutely not.  The first two and a half movies are hilarious, though, and I admit I enjoy watching them because they’re so unintendedly bad.  And I know many of the places used for filming since it was in the area where I live, and most of the forest scenes are in the state park by where I went to high school.

Then along came Fifty Shades, and I’m not against fanfic, per sé, though I do get annoyed when something is just a retelling, and not subtly.  It’s like paraphrasing and taking credit for the story.  But I was willing to give it a chance.  I didn’t expect it to be so full of abuse that people would defend because “he had a hard childhood” and has lots of money and can give orgasms easily.  Money and orgasms don’t matter when someone controls your every move, violates your body, frightens you, tracks you across the country when you said you were going away to take a break from that person, obsessively follows your every move and dictates where you can go and who you can see, etc., to the point that you fold and abide by the orders since it’s not like you can get away from someone who managed to access your bank account and sell your car without your permission, meaning somehow getting the title paperwork to it.  And no, hard childhoods don’t cut it.  All his memories of time with his mother were sweet, like her singing when happy, or baking him a birthday cake.  There was nothing to actually indicate she used drugs.  Her being a prostitute doesn’t make her a bad person (the treatment of prostitutes in this book inspired the occupation of one of the mothers in my current WIP).  She did what she could.  Her pimp put out a couple cigarette butts on Christian, and that would be traumatic, but he was adopted at the age of 4 by extremely wealthy people and given every privilege in life.  Even if he had been actually abused by his mother (her being poor and a prostitute doesn’t mean abuse), that doesn’t excuse abusing people later.  It doesn’t help that EL James has no idea what BDSM actually is, and has led to millions of women thinking they now know, and they think they know better than those of us who have actually been a part of it for real, and she and they have made it out to be something for the mentally troubled.  Abusing someone and calling it BDSM doesn’t make it BDSM.  You can be a sadist, but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing is covered under BDSM.

Obviously I didn’t like the books, and still don’t.  And no, “It’s just fiction” doesn’t cut it.  When the behavior of even fictional characters is held up as ideal, what does that tell people?  it tells them that this behavior is acceptable, and that normalizes abuse.

So I’d heard about Anna Todd’s After book, and how popular it was, and how it had affected the life of 1 Direction band member Harry Styles.  “Can’t be as bad as Christian Grey,” I thought, and so decided to give it a try.  I don’t care for the bank 1 Direction and couldn’t name a single song, but did feel bad that fans were treating him very, very badly because of this book.

In some ways, he’s even worse, and it doesn’t help that this is explicitly targeted at the teenage crowd.  Harry, who became Hardin in the published version, doesn’t even have the non-excuse of a hard childhood.  He’s just an asshole from the start.  From his first meeting with Tessa, he’s a jerk, to put it mildly.  At least Christian “merely” made some inappropriate innuendo.  He didn’t refuse to leave when a girl he just met was naked and wanted to get dressed in peace.  When I’m able to say “At least Christian isn’t a bad as,” something is very wrong.  Getting through the rest was all downhill from there.  Even ignoring the horrid writing that makes EL James look like a master of the craft, even ignoring how Todd tells us every damned detail of things we don’t need to read about and that don’t affect the story or tell us anything about anyone or anything, even ignoring how Todd knows as much about college and James knows about BDSM (as in, nothing), the story itself was horrid and the characters meant to be the protagonists are both rotten people.  Hardin is an abuser, and Tessa slut-shames women and looks down on anyone who doesn’t dress like they’re extras in Handmaid’s Tale.

Like Twilight and Fifty Shades, After got a movie deal.  I expected it to peter out the way so many deals do.  Rights are bought all the time, but usually studios decline to use their option, and the rights are released.  (A deal doesn’t mean something will become a movie, just that that studio is buying the right to get to be the one to do it if they decide they want to, and they usually have a set time to decide.)  Well, it’s coming out next month.  Since it’s more of Fifty Shades fanfic using the band members from 1 Direction, and is aimed at teenagers, and since I’m against putting abuse on a a pillar and insisting that it’s romance…

I started writing books because I was tired of abuse being hailed as romance.  And here we are, in a just-post-#MeToo society, still praising abuse and sexual assault.  This is why nothing changes.

 

Being busy and wanting to write!

One of the worst things about being a writer is wanting to write, but having other stuff that is more pressing.  It feels like suffocating, like there’s breathe in me that can’t get out to left fresh air in.  Then, when I get to sit down and can start, there are so many scenes in my head trying to get out at once, and they bottleneck and can’t.  How do others deal with this?

Writer’s Toolbox

Something I do is make notes about what I’m feeling to refer to later when a character has a certain emotion, and I try to think about all the senses, no matter how stereotypical you think a description is.  It the end, this will help give you rawer descriptions of what different scenarios feel like, and if you note it while you’re going through it.  Let’s use this example, and what to do with it since there are some commonly used descriptions:

Mourning:
Breathing feels difficult
Taking a breath in hurts
Achy from crying
Like something is squeezing your heart and trying to rip it out
Trying to imagine the world without that person is impossible
Tired, but unable to sleep
Eating causes stomach, then nausea
Feeling disconnected from body
Feel unable to move sometimes, frozen
Entire face, especially teeth, throbbing while and after crying
Confused about basic things, like the date
Waking up crying, hyperventilate until back to sleep
One nostril clear, the other stuffy but runny
Uncertain
Confused
Forgetful

We all know about the heart-punch feeling, but have you ever felt like your body is on autopilot and you can’t feel your fingers because your brain just isn’t there?  Or had your back and chest muscles ache from the force of crying?  Or the throbbing teeth?  You probably have, then don’t consciously remember.

When going through something hard, it also lets you go into some denial about what’s happening.  Suddenly it’s like a bit of research.

Then I compile papers for each type of emption, mark off the common things written down, and look at the ones I only described once.  Those are more likely to be words not seen much, and that do more than the stereotypical  terms:

She felt like her heart was being ripped out of her.  It all seemed so wrong

Sure, I guess.

Her face throbbed from the force of her tears, tears that escaped so rapidly and profusely that her back hurt from the effort of trying to keep her upright instead of letting her crumple to the floor.  The back of her hand wiped one stuffy, yet runny, nostril.  Breath.  She had to remind herself to just breath.

Okay, not the greatest example, but I am sitting here in mourning with tears clogging my vision.  Didn’t need the commonly used heart-ripped-out, and you know more about just how much crying she’s done.  Whether you’re describing an emption or an experience, look into yourself while going through your feelings.

If anything in this doesn’t make sense, it’s because this is being typed from a cafe while I’m actively in mourning.

Sometimes life happens

In October 2017, I neared a mental breakdown, seemingly out of nowhere, and it wasn’t good.  It took a while to get me to a level place, and then I went off to Paris for a couple months to basically try to reset my mental system.  My hypothesis was that the rush of chemicals and hormones that come with the stress and excitement of somewhere new might be enough to scramble everything and let it all settle back down to a more typical place.  And, for me, it worked.

Since then, life has gotten easier in some ways, and there have been some very hard losses. One is my oldest dog, Emma.  She got very sick, on top of being very old.  You can tell by her silhouette that she wasn’t doing so great anymore.  By the way, I didn’t edit this photo.  I used a wide-angle lens, wide aperture, low ISO, and I can’t remember the shutter.  That it came out this well means something to me, like I was somehow meant to have a beautiful memory of her.  It’s still hard to think about her or talk about her without crying.

My girl, Emma, and her last sunset at the beach. Copyright me, don’t steal my photo. That’s just plain evil. This picture means a lot to me.

This last week has been rough, and I’m not yet at liberty to discuss the worst of it.  My daughter getting measles isn’t a big deal (she’s fine, seriously), but it sucked getting t-boned when I was on my way to see an author I admire.  Still waiting on the insurance stuff.  It wasn’t fun having someone run into an intersection and into the side of my car.  My trip to Paris may be cancelled.  One thing after another.   I’ll talk more when I can.

Among other things, my daughter was cast as an angel in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker for the 2017-2018 season.  Here she is in her makeup and hair done, waiting to get into costume.   She’s a beautiful little dancer.  In the photo of her in blue, she’s at Northwest Dance Project.  She’s a tall, leggy child who lives for ballet so much that it’s hard getting her to ever take her dance stuff off.  When we do, she usually puts it back on when she thinks we won’t notice.  Well, I am almost always in dance wear, so I guess it’s fair.

I did some travel.  I spent two months in Europe.  London was something I decided on sporadically, and was heading there fifteen minutes later.  If I’d have thought it through, I would have thought to check the weather and take gloves.  In my current manuscript, there’s a scene in London that I will admit is directly lifted from when I went there.  It was just so cool, but so cold!  My bad for not preparing.

In Paris, I got caught up in a big protest-riot thing.  The French are precious.  They considered that riot to be bad and dangerous and such.  I was like, really?  I mean, where I come from, that is mellower than a typical flea market/swap meet.  It really was fun.  They’re so progressive there that Macron, who American’s conservatives tend to have for being too liberal, is so conservative there that they hate him.  That really demonstrates how far apart the US and France are in politics.  Macron gets to be hated from both sides.

Their riot police do get spiffy hats, though, and look like they belong in a video game more than they look like they belong on the streets watching the big, bad rioters.  Oh!  And we were barricaded in.  I was thrilled.  Part of me wanted to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”  But I thought that, if I did, no one would be too thrilled.  Well, they might have been if I told them I know Les Mis is about the June rebellion, not the revolution.  While so many Americans rue King George III not continuing his battle and want Queen Elizabeth II to take America back, the French are incredibly proud of having beheaded their last sovereigns.

Among other things, after Emma died, we added this little poppet.   Her name is Ella Ophelia, and allow me to share the meaning of her name.  We had Emma, after Jane Austen’s Emma, and Luthien after Elrond’s great-grandmother in Lord of the Rings (you have to read History of Middle Earth to get that).  Juliet, our small dog, is after the Shakespeare character.  When we got Ella, we wanted to incorporate all three of their names into something bookish as well.  E for Emma, and an L for Lu.  Elle didn’t work.  Sounds like the letter.  So…Ella.  Also Ella Enchanted.  And Ophelia for the Shakespeare character as a nod to Juliet.  Out cats are named after gods and a goddess: Thor, Ares, and Diana.

During this entire time I’d been working on outlines.  I have so many stories outlined.  So, so many.  But when one has fallen off the face of the planet for a while, it’s easy to feel as if that one shouldn’t exactly exist in the writersphere anymore.  Since I’ve been gone long enough, I’m going to use this as something of a chance to restart, and pick a new pen name.  I let a group of people pick my pen name as a dare, and they picked a name that is made up of three references to some books I really don’t like.  The name I would most like to use is a name incorporated into my current works in progress, which makes that kind of a NO.  I’ve actually given serious consideration to legally changing my name to that name because I have since found out that very few people have ever heard of it.  Also my legal name is now one of the most popular baby names in the US, and a very popular name to use for things like makeup colors.

I guess this is a long way to say…look out, Planet Earth.  I’m back!

Being a full-time everything is tough

A peril of being an independent writer is that you have to do it all yourself.  Everything from writing (of course), to correspondence, to finding events, to figuring out marketing, to making book covers, and so much more.  This all takes a substantial amount of time.  But if we pay, then we need to come up with the money, which means working, which cuts into the time to write or revise or do anything else.  Add in parenting for those of us who are parents, time with friends, other activities…

In addition to being a writer, I am also a mother of a 7-year-old who is partly homeschooled and who takes ballet multiple times a week in a professional school in the next state over, and I take ballet, and I’m on the board of a regency society, a Girl Scout leader, a volunteer for many things, and we haven’t even touched on me being a wife or having friends.  Oh!  I also have a small business, and that means doing everything from website work to Facebook page stuff and Easy, fielding commission requests, doing those commissions, shipping, and on and on.  I don’t sleep much.

Writing a blog, after all the other typing I do, just makes my hands tired.  I’m thinking about attempting a vlog.  There’s so much I want to write about that I get overwhelmed.  I’ve had so many questions from here and there and everywhere, some which I think are very important to address (such as would I consider writing a book through the POV of a non-white or LGBT person?) and writing tips I’ve learned along the way.  I think this is what I will do.  Since I need some breaks here and there anyway, why not do some work that won’t feel like actual work?  I’m sure that any vloggers reading this are laughing at me.

I think I’ll do this on Wednesday mornings since my daughter has campus classes those mornings.  So, I suppose, watch out next Thursday. 🙂

Systemic Sexism

I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve last written.  I will address this tomorrow in a post I already have written.  I wrote this post on Facebook, and it’s relevant here, and so I’m sharing it:

Best Seth Meyer segment I’ve seen to date. Sad, sad reality is that this shit happens so often that we women more or less accept it as a sort of tax on being women. I was first molested at 5, an incident when I was 11 that I still can’t talk about, a classmate tried to force himself on me when I was 17, spent five years in a relationship that turned abusive not even one year in (physical, sexual, and mental), I can’t even begin to put a number on how many assholes have groped me on BART trains in the Bay Area or forced themselves on me at clubs. The reason only the molester when I was 5 was reported is because who would have believed me the other times, and, if someone did, it’s not like the police would do anything more than ask me why I stayed with an abuser, or how can I prove anything.

That at least 25 women have been assaulted and raped by Harvey, 51 women by Cosby, I don’t even know if we can count how many women Trump have pushed himself onto, at least 7 for O’Reilly, “just” 3 for Clinton (that I could find in a 5-second Google search)…83 women whose names are known…and yet those cretins suffered no consequences for years because the word of women isn’t taken at face value. Those women stayed around and stayed quiet because they had everything to lose. The men held all the power, and they had none. So the men saw, and still see, women as their property.

By the way, when you hear the stat that 1 in 3 women have been sexually assaulted, and think to yourself, “But 1 in 3 men aren’t rapists and wouldn’t assault,” just remember that those five men are responsible for at least 83 women. If each man was responsible for just one, which is what would be needed for 1 in 3, then we’d need a group of 249 men so that 1 in 3 are bad. But if you take those 249, and have those five assholes be in that group, well, you’re got 244 good guys who would never assault or rape a woman. There are far, far, FAR more guys out there who would never rape, but those who do are extremely dangerous and rarely stop at just one. They have no reason to. We women are their property because they have the power. This is male privilege. Thank goodness most men will not take advantage of it, but that they could, and could get away with it, just scratches the surface of this major problem.

Beauty and the Beast dropped the ball, BIG time

Yes, yes, I know, I keep waxing and waning when it comes to this blog.  It’s never far from my mind, but time is extremely illusive.  Soon, I will write a week in my life.

The rest of this post will have spoilers, but they’ve been confirmed by the cast and crew.

Tonight Disney confirmed that the character of LeFou will be gay.  On top of Belle being rewritten as a confident inventor who invents the washing machine (they said that we were never given a reason for the townspeople to hate her, even though we totally were, and now there’s a reason that they should all want to be her best friend), Maurice being demoted from inventor to senile old fellow, and Beast being a lover of literature (so being a bookwork is good enough for him, but not for Belle…?), we have another social commentary issue.  I’m not sure where on earth the story is anymore.  It’s buried under all the social commentary!

However, there are some HUGE problems with having LeFou be gay.

Who is the character who mentally and physically abuses him?

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Disney’s first openly-gay character is not only in love with someone who isn’t gay (meaning a dead-end…mercifully in this case), he’s in love with his abuser.  Rather than getting to hope LeFou finds happiness with the person he’s in love with (it could have been sweet if he and another man had eyes for each other and exchanged sweet, shy smiles), we’re left to hope that he’s broken–hearted because that’s better than ending up in an abusive relationship.

I really wanted to love this movie.  When I heard it rumored, I was excited, and when it was confirmed, I was thrilled.  But as more and more has come out about it, an extremely high amount, actually, that has been confirmed, almost as if they’re trying to justify some of these changes ahead of time, the less and less excited I am to see it.  The scenery and sets are stunning, the background characters’ clothing are wonderful, most of the main cast’s wardrobes are as well (Emma’s yellow gown is very, very modern, but that’s the least of my aggravations when it comes to Emma Watson, who has made it painfully apparent that she doesn’t understand the role of women and their clothing, namely corsets, throughout history, while painting herself as an expert on the very thing that is actually my career), but when it comes to the changes made to the characters themselves, and the super-secret change to the end, only said as Belle will be the one to save the day, I am no longer looking forward to this movie.  I’m actually upset.

LeFou being put into a position of loving an abuser, something it seems we’re supposed to root for, has made my anger explode.

Great job, Disney.  The first gay romance is once we need to root against because it’s a dangerous one.  FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC.

Carrie’s impact on me as a young girl

I keep choking up today.  See, when I was a kid, I loved math, and was told that that was s boy thing.  I loved science, and was told that that was a boy thing.  Being a leader was a boy thing.  To be blunt, it really fucking sucks when you’re a kid, and are told that building things and figuring things out are boy things.  I am so thankful we had Carrie and how she portrayed a young princess kicking ass and not bothering to take names.charlotte-as-rey

Leia was a hero in her very own right.  She wasn’t an off-shoot, like She-Ra was to He-Man, and she didn’t sit at the seat while the men did the major work.  Carrie could have made Leia a joke, but instead, from her first moment on the screen, she owned that role, and she made it clear that power was hers.  In that first moment, you could believe that she was the leader of those around her.  Her head was high, and she had a steely glint that showed that no one was going to be the boss of her.  As a little girl, that made an impact on me.   Here was a woman who was doing what girls weren’t supposed to!  Here was a girl who was just as strong as the boys, who could save people just as well as the boys.  She was smart and in charge!  She would fix things and solve problems!  She went against the grain and said that girls can do the “boy” things too helped me continue doing what I loved even as I was told by so many people that boys are the ones who are supposed to do math and science.  Carrie showed women (and girls) can be strong all by themselves.  Even in her iconic leather and metal bikini, she exuded bravery and confidence.  And that was pretty damned awesome.  That was Carrie.  How she played Leia is her.  A fighter.  A feminist.   A leader.  A problem-solver.  An advocate.   She was who we had. 

I’m glad that my daughter, Charlotte, is now growing up in a world where she has role models who are girls who are strong for themselves.  Even among a bevy of women and girls who save the day, she is drawn to Star Wars.  She loves Rey.  Rey is today’s Princess Leia.  Carrie showed that a young woman can be prominent in an action sci-fi film, and that audiences would believe it and want to have move.  In her way, she helped pave the road for The Force Awakens to center around a young female protagonist.  We are extremely lucky to have had her in our world.

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Today we lost Carrie Fisher

While the world is mourning the loss of singer/actress/script-doctor/author Carrie Fisher, I beseech you all not to forget that Carrie did not end at Princess Leia.   In sharing photos of Carrie as a young Princess Leia, let’s remember that she grew up into General Organa, and had a life marked by struggles that she fought to turn into good for others.

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She spoke out against ageism in Hollywood. “Men don’t age better than women, they’re carrie-fisher-as-general-organajust allowed to age,” she retweeted last year.    It wasn’t always easy, and like any human woman, she struggled with this.  Rising above criticism for being a human in a time where the Fountain of Youth has not been discovered is difficult for anyone, much less a woman with a large fan base who continue to fantasize about a 27-year-old in a gold metal bikini who expect her to still look the same.

Let us honor her stance against ageism by acknowledging that she did age, and kicked a lot more ass by doing so.

It’s this older Carrie, an older Carrie, who had so much more that she taught us.  It’s this older Carrie who encompasses the younger Carrie, this older Carrie who had not yet dealt with the full depth of problems that younger Carrie would come to face.  Younger Carrie carrie-fisher-as-princess-leiawas always a strong woman on her own right, evidenced in how perfectly she portrayed Princess Leia as fierce and independent even in an era where women were still seen as much lesser than than today.

The Carrie we lost today had a life of great ups and great downs. She was born the child of a Hollywood golden couple, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  When she was just a toddler, her father left her mother, and Elizabeth Taylor became her step-mother.  Carrie became a vociferous reader.  After appearing in the Broadway, Irene, with her mother, Carrie’s schedule interfered with high school, and she dropped out.  But it would soon lead to a role in a silly-sounding movie that her friend joked must have been named after her parents fighting.

Yes. Star Wars.  Is there anything else that needs to be said about such a strong, leia-and-vaderkick-ass, take-no-prisoners princess who doesn’t know the meaning of backing down in the face of danger?  There’s plenty, however, to be said about the Star Wars Holiday Special, which will live in infamy, but which will now likely be endeared to many.

The special held a heavy hint of what would come for Carrie.  No number of takes would be enough to conceal the drug-use on the set.  The cast looked stoned on pot, but were instead high on something sinister.  Film reviewer Nathan Rabin described the special as “ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine,” and he wouldn’t have been far from correct.  By the time The Empire Strikes Back was rolling, cocaine was being used on the set, and Carrie was using the most.

carrie-fisher-in-blues-brothersThis didn’t stop her from a couple of Broadway appearances in 1980, and having a cameo in The Blues Brothers.  She choked on a Brussels sprout during filming.  Thanks to Dan Aykroyd’s use of the Heimlich maneuver, she survived.

After achieving sobriety for a short time in 1985, she nearly died from an overdose,  but not from cocaine.  This was due to prescription narcotics and sleeping pills, both which are much easier to obtain than cocaine.  After surviving that brush with death, Carrie went on to pen her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, which went on to be made into a movie of the same name starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid.  The story is semi-autobiographical in nature.

After this film, and around the time Carrie gave birth to her only child, daughter Billie Catherine Lourd, Carrie’s career took a turn.  She didn’t quite leave acting.  Oh, no, she’d never leave acting.  She became a script doctor.  Without her uncredited work, Hook and Sister Act would not have become what they did.  They are now classics, and are an unknown part of her legacy.   However, Carrie also worked on the dialog for the three Star Wars prequels.

When her good friend, R. Gregory Stevens, died in her home from a combination of cocaine and oxycodone, complicated by undiagnosed heart disease, Carrie dove back into the world of drugs, though she had been self-medicating her bipolar disorder since at least 2001.

In 2008, her outspokenness on addiction and mental health ticked up, and she found a Carrie Fisher at Harvard.jpgnew audience who saw her as a role model for recovery, honestly, and helping raise awareness of these issues.  Combined with her open agnosticism, Carrie was awarded the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard College and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics for “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”

Carrie never shied away from tackling her demons and never concealed her flaws.  As she aged, she became bolder, became more of the General Organa she still is.  In her own human way, she’s led a resistance against stigma, and became a beacon of hope for those fighting their own demons, whether drugs, mental illness, or body issues, and showed us that we can be flawed, but still be awesome people.  She showed that there is life and humor after walking a hard road.

Though death’s third attempt to take her from us ended her life too soon, when she still had so much she had left to do on this earth, she has not been taken from us, not as long as we remember what she had to teach.

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Be in peace, Carrie.