July Favourites

Books

I turned 19 this month, and two fantastic books I got for my birthday are Cinder and The Three Body Problem.

Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is a dystopian fairytale that follows a young, put-upon Cinder that contends with being a cyborg, an evil stepmother, and being thrust into a political nightmare. Unlike a lot of YA, this book rejects the genre’s most irritating tropes while also centering on people of colour. Asian characters people the novel, and it’s refreshing to see them being taken seriously as humans (or cyborgs).

The Three Body Problem is a sci-fi novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin. After being disappointed by some of Kim Stanley Robinson’s most popular books, I’ve moved away from sci-fi. This book has 100% brought me back. Liu merges the aftershocks of the Cultural Revolution with his own brand of sci-fi, and it’s absolutely compelling. I’ve already reserved the rest of the trilogy at the library and I can’t wait to get my hands on them!!

Comics

Ever since I started uni, I’ve been feeling very disconnected from the LGBT+ community. Back in high school, I was surrounded by other lesbian and bi girls – now I’m studying in a different country where I’m the only person in my entire friend group that’s LGBT+. To stop myself from feeling all on my lonesome, I’ve been reading some LGBT+ comics!

Kabi Nagata’s autobiographical manga My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness was relatable in so many ways. She describes her experience with mental illness, how she grew to let go of her parents’ expectations, exploring her sexuality, and how recovery helped her become a full person.

Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband follows Yaichi, a single dad dealing with the aftermath of his estranged brother’s death. When his brother-in-law, Mike comes to visit him in Japan, he’s shocked by how much his brother kept from him. Over the course of the series, Yaichi discovers how his reaction to his brother’s homosexuality contributed to their estrangement, and begins to heal and become more open-minded about us LGBT+ folks. In my opinion, the manga is for straight people, thanks to Yaichi as an avatar for the homophobic but willing to change, and Mike’s eternal patience and willingness to put up with homophobia around him. That asides, I thought this was a really sweet story and I was so excited

TV

GLOW!!! Oh my god, I love this show. I’m writing this right as I finished the first season and I’m so excited. I was a fan of wrestling already (Stone Cold Steve Austin has an AMAZING podcast if you’re interested) and I was so excited to see so many women wrestle. I’m really excited to see them explore the issues and characters they brought up in the first season and take them further. Who’s your favourite so far? Mine is Carmen and how she overcame her anxiety. I’m curious about how the show will deal with the racial stereotypes they use for their heels, and whether the women of colour in the show will be able to break out of the boxes they’ve been forced into, and whether the white women feign ignorance. It’s out on Netflix right now, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Film

Okja is an American Korean movie about corporate greed, and environmental activism. It also left me snivelling and worrying what would happen if my dog was a super pig owned by a corporation.

Youtubers

I’ve already pushed Lindsay Ellis here before, but she really does make AMAZING video essays. They’re well-thought out, funny, and helped me think more critically about my own reviews.

Somebody else that I’ve mentioned here before is Maangchi – seriously, watch any of her videos on fried chicken and tell me you aren’t salivating.

Podcasts

Never Before with Janet Mock is brilliant. Thought provoking. Exciting. FABULOUS. Also, her interview with Lena Dunham made me see her in a new light, which shocked me too.

Life

In July I deleted all my social media apps, and only kept messaging apps. I still think I can cut down on the amount of time I spend tied to my devices, but I’m glad that I at least can’t aimlessly tool around on my phone anymore.

And lastly, a very belated favourite – the birth of Beyoncé and Jay’s beautiful twins!!

Featured image from Netflix.

This Week in Links: Subverting stereotypes, and real Korean cooking

Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee‘s latest photobook, XING, mimics and subverts stereotypes about east and south-east Asian women. She notes that

“The association between sex, sexuality and Asian women is almost inseparable – that’s not to say that it is wrong to consider Asian women as an attractive being, but it is more so the lack of agency that the Asian female is devoid of.”

Maangchi, aka Emily Kim, is a Korean chef that uses Youtube to make Korean cuisine more accessible. Watch her talk at Google below.

Folding Ideas analyses toxic masculinity in Fight Club.

Robert Chapman sheds light on the increased risks for autistic adults to become victims of domestic abuse.

White woman Barbara Harris targets women of colour addicted to drugs and pays them cash to get birth control. But it doesn’t stop there, folks! She pays them a lump sum of $300 to get sterilized. Modern day eugenics, anyone?

Director of First They Killed my Father, Angelina Jolie and her casting crew admit to taunting poor children with money in order to “garner raw emotion” from them.

Another short hiatus

Hi everyone! 

I’m sorry for the lack of content recently. The internet at my house is capping out at an astonishing 0.01 mbit/s. I can rarely load WordPress or Google Docs so that’s why I’ll be taking a short break. By next week I’ll definitely have internet, and I’ll continue posting as normal!

What I Learnt After 4 Months of Blogging/Advice to Other Newbie Bloggers

1. Draft, draft, draft!!!

Quicker things like my This Week in Links posts, I can usually just write, spell-check and then publish immediately. But with longer posts (like my Wonder Woman series) I will write several drafts before I can finally pummel my writing into something coherent.

2. Fact check EVERYTHING

Ideally before you write a full draft. I found out a couple hours before I published my post on Themysciran femininity that the majority of the Amazons were real athletes and my assumptions were completely off. It’s boring, but fact-check and save yourself some online embarrassment.

3. Make photo editing easy

I wanted to make my cover photos more personal, so after struggling to use Gimp I finally found Befunky.com. Its free software lets you crop, add text, filters, and borders easily.

4. Know the difference between bad writing and writing that doesn’t interest you anymore

If the writing feels wrong, go back and do it again. But if you’re struggling to write because you are bored out of your mind, perhaps it’s time to look at it from a new angle or scrap the piece entirely.

5. Ask a friend to read your work

This really shook up my arguments and helped me write more clearly. If you don’t have a friend or family member that can look over a post for you, join a local (or online) writing workshop.

6. Write everyday

When I just started my blog, I avoided writing and only got into it when I felt motivated.

I got sick of jotting down all my big ideas but then just letting them get stale. I’ve worked up from a minimum of 15 to 25 minutes a day, and my goal is to continue until I get to at least 40 minutes daily.

Getting into this habit has actually made me look forward to writing. Even if I am struggling to write, I know that by the end of the day I made progress.

Now I just need to bring this same level of dedication to my coursework

7. Follow people whose work you enjoy

Reading the work of experienced, sharper writers helps me see the flaws in my own writing, and lets me see what works.

Some of my favourite creators right now are Ijeoma Oluo, Hannah Witton, Anita Sarkeesian, Lauren Orsini, Ira Glass, Felicia DayLindsay Ellis, and Esme Wang.

Who do you look up to? Tell me in the comments section below!

7. Pace yourself when writing a series

My Wonder Woman series was fun, but by the end I’d lost interest and writing the last post was a struggle. I think this was partly to do with the time between posts – about one per week.

If I did it again, I would bang out drafts much faster so I could preserve my initial enthusiasm, instead of making it a long slog for myself.

8. Write down all of your ideas

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Once something comes to you, scribble it down somewhere so that you can come back to it later and see if something will develop out of it.

9. Consider whether you want a theme

Having a single, solid theme helps attract a readership that shares your interests.

For example, on my other blog, What in Tanknation?!, the theme is just the tanks that me and my boyfriend build and paint.

Here, I struggle to have a coherent theme because it’s really just stuff that interests me. That’s why when I was gaming more heavily a couple months ago, my blog featured mostly video game reviews, but recently I’ve been focusing more on feminist film reviews, and I’m going to branch out into some interviews and posts on chronic pain.

As I’m not heavily into one particular topic, I struggle to build up a followers list as there’s no consistent content. If you’re looking to gain more followers, I recommend finding a theme and sticking to it.

10. Write drafts in Google Docs, and then move them to WordPress

I’ve found writing drafts in WordPress to be nowhere near as easy as writing them in Google Docs, just because there aren’t enough features that help with editing.

I installed the WordPress for Google Docs add-on that lets you export docs to WordPress’s drafts, and now the entire editing process is much more streamlined.

Images originally from Toei Animation. 

This Week in Links: The new Dolezal, corporate feminism, and being called exotic

Torre DeRoche describes what happened when she broke up with her partner…after writing a memoir about their relationship.

Solange speaks with her mum, Tina, and writer Judnick Mayard about A Seat at the Table.

I’ve hated The Secret since I was a kid. Mark Manson made the sacrifice of explaining why it’s terrible.

Former CEO of Thinx accused of sexually harassing her employees.

Irritating white man wishes he would be seen as Chinese. Kimberley Yam encourages him to take a seat.

At Asian American Comic Con, panelists discuss how they deal with being exoticized.

Image from Pri.org

 

This Week in Links: All-American Ancient Greeks, care homes, and anti-Asian racism

After looking into production details, Screen Rant predicts that the Wonder Woman sequel will centre around the Cold War. And in WW3, Diana takes off for Iraq!

Reply All’s latest episode explains how care homes fail the elderly, and how it can be fixed.

RMJ describes the construction of fat women in Mad Men.

Raul of Turma de Vovo Raul mocks K-Pop group KARD, and invites the audience to join him in making racist jokes. They do.

 

(Wo)men in tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman

 The Amazons were created by a man to teach men love. In this heteronormative fantasy world, this means that the most important, Amazonny Amazons look like this.

Yup. Thin, white, cisgender, and in outfits of varying degrees of impracticality. Image source.

Now, I want to be clear. I’m not here to attack these women for how they look. What I’m interested in is the transparent fact that the Amazons with the most screen-time tick almost every single box for conventional, rigid beauty. By choosing leading ladies that conform to patriarchal beauty standards, Wonder Woman contributes to a mindset that codes beauty to goodness, and worthiness. This beauty often excludes fat women, women of colour, trans women, and women with physical disabilities. Women who don’t fit this mould do not have the opportunity to be seen as three-dimensional characters.

Funny how that happens, on a magical island completely isolated from everything else.

What really surpised me was how many women of colour there are in this film. It’s disappointing that none were really pivotal to the plot (you can see some of my thoughts on that here, and here), but director Patti Jenkins clearly did make an effort to diversify the cast, so props to her.

However, this diversity doesn’t extend into body types. Although there are both thin, and muscular women, there aren’t any fat Amazons.

Jenkins cast real-life athletes, yogis, farmers, personal trainers, and even Olympians to play the Amazons. It was so fucking hardcore and empowering to watch a bunch of women hold their own in a fight, and for their skill, not their beauty, to matter.

It would have been so frustratingly easy to cast a bunch of women who have the mildly unrealistic task of being slim, lightly muscled, but with super-secret nano muscles that allow them to beat the shit out of people much heavier than they are. Which is…kind of what happened.

My superpower is that I’m crazy strong AND skinny enough for boys to like me! From DC comics.

Despite her slim appearance, Diana can easily hold her own with the male power fantasies she calls coworkers. Because….goddess magic?

Gendered beauty standards play into this – the male superheroes are unrealistically beefed up, whereas Diana is smaller and looks more delicate. Not to beg for realism in a movie about superheroes, but it follows a much larger pattern of women being expected to be everything.

We have to be thin and curvy in all the right places, beautiful, perfectly styled, and now physically strong without any evidence of muscles.

And this brings me to Diana’s hot mess of an outfit.

Standing next to the rest of the Justice League, hers is the most impractical and skimpy. Sporting a boob tube (yes, in 2017), a miniskirt, and an expensive blowout, Diana storms into battle in the most horrifying and dangerous conditions.

Honestly, this is probably why she’s so popular as a Halloween costume (full disclosure: I went as Diana last Halloween). There’s no way Batman would want to party in that stuffy suit. But Diana? She’s down. She already has her heels on, for God’s sake.

This versatile boot is appropriate for the office, as well as a fun night out! Image source.

But I digress.

It just isn’t enough for Wonder Woman to be Wonder Woman. She has to become sexualised, a caricature of what society thinks beauty is. This was Jenkins’ intent – “I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time…my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” She’s a superhero, somebody to aspire to, but somebody that few of us could hope to become. This fantasy of the woman that does it all while looking perfect is exciting, but it stops us from giving female characters more depth and diversity.

Wonder Woman just ends up being pretty hypocritical. By casting real-life buff, hardcore ladies, but making sure that Diana is palatable enough for audiences to think she’s hot, Wonder Woman wavers between embracing female power and beauty outside of gender norms, but traps our leading lady between both.

More on this

Another of Feminist Frequency’s videos on how clothing is used to sexualize female characters.

Ann Wolfe discusses her role and experience as a woman of colour in Wonder Woman.

Jenavieve Hatch highlights to more Amazons.

Anne Cohen tries to run in heels, Wonder Woman-style.

This week in links: Erotica, real trans media, and 90s black girl magic

Jessica Slane reviews Rocky Flintstone’s debut novel, Belinda Blinked

Tired of seeing trans people’s stories erased and stolen for profit? More Than T is a documentary that interviews 7 trans and gender-non-conforming people. Watch the trailer below.

BBC’s documentary Q***r Britain  follows LGBT+ culture and strife in the United Kingdom.

I was a huge fan of Daria back in the first few years of high school. Buzzfeed’s Cocoa Butter analyses Jodie Langdon’s character, and the way she comments on the systemic racism.

I love a good video essay even more than I love a shitty Disney movie. Let the unnecessary analysis begin!

Created by Alex Nguyen, and edited by Chau Bui, this video essay analyses the role of Asian men on American television.

Heather Alexandra interviews creators of knock-off Amiibo’s, and their reasons for doing so.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s twins, Rumi and Sir Carter, turned a month old this Friday. Congratulations!!!!!!!

Featured image from Beyoncé’s Instagram.

 

This week in links: Bad satire, education, and kitchenware

Clarkisha Kent notes the irony of Sofia Coppola’s erasure of black women in her film adaptation of The Beguiled in an attempt to focus on “gender dynamics…not racial ones.”

Want to accuse women you don’t like of exclusionary white feminism? Hard Times has a handy guide.

Lydia Brown is an autistic disability activist and educator. See their work here.

Did you miss Belinda Blumenthal’s amazing keynote speech at the O2? She’s got you.

The Toronto Police make a heart-felt plea to be let back into Pride.

Alex Santaso explains the origin of some common English idioms.

 

Dark side of the moon: Black Women in Wonder Woman Part 2

Welcome to the last installment of my first mini-series!

Here, I’ll be discussing Artemis, played by real-life boxing legend Ann Wolfe.

Artemis is a fierce warrior, second only to Antiope, the leader of Themyscira’s army.

Physical strength isn’t usually celebrated in women – athletes, and regular gym rats are mocked for their appearances, and for ‘looking like men’. Heaven forbid we open a door for ourselves!

Artemis is muscular and athletic, but not unwomanly – her face is framed by her tiara, her armour is more practical than Diana’s little off-the-shoulder number, but is still feminine.

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Alas! My shoulder is my one true weakness!

But I digress.

Again, Artemis’s power isn’t something to fear – it’s something to aspire to.

She’s set up early in the film as the strongest of all the training Amazons, and Diana proves herself by fighting Artemis, mini-boss style, before moving on to Antiope.

I’m not mad about her being hardcore. I’m concerned about the emotional stoicism she shows in her first appearances. Artemis doesn’t even flinch after getting wapped by some cowardly sneak attack – she just turns right around and gets on with her business. While admirable on the surface, this is a major aspect of the ‘strong black woman’ trope. Mel Perez, writing for Blackgirlnerds.com, dissects this trope and why it’s harmful:

“A strong, black woman is almost superhuman. She bears crippling burdens without a complaint. She nurtures everyone around her and fights for them. She weathers both physical and mental pain and comes through, intact on the other side…Perhaps, instead of superhuman, a better way to describe her is that she is barely human. This is the problem with this descriptor — it strips away our humanity. It makes it so that we’re not allowed to break down. We swallow our pain and try to ignore how we’re choking on it.”

Praising black women for their ability to quietly withstand pain is “a trap that keeps us from being able to express how these negative situations truly affect us.”

Fortunately, while Artemis totters precariously around becoming the “strong black woman,” she breaks through these barriers the next few times we see her. (I guess by the time she appeared on screen, the filmmakers were already preoccupied with pigeonholing Diana’s sitter).

Yes, she’s used to further Diana’s character development (and only as a mini boss)…Yes, she only has one line…

BUT!

At least for a moment, we see her existing outside of the white protagonists’. When she fights alongside the other Amazons to protect their home, we see her being as frightened and upset as the others as they decide what to do with Steve Trevor. The mask we see her using in the first fight slips, and she’s allowed what the strong black woman isn’t – vulnerability.

So, hardly a homerun, but not absolutely shit.

carrie-carrie-bradshaw-12928069-2250-1500
And so I couldn’t help but wonder…what if Hollywood took black women seriously?

Again, I really wish they’d done more with this character. What if Ann Wolfe and Robin Wright had switched places? The island’s most powerful warrior would make much more sense as a real-life athlete instead of somebody that, while lovely, is the Ancient Greek equivalent of a dried up old stick with a bad accent.

And speaking of unmuscular, slender women warriors – my next post (Wo)Men in Tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman will cover even more of this wonderful hot mess of a film. See you soon!

More on this

Monique Jones looks at women of colour in Wonder Woman‘s comic book history.

At Everyday Feminism, Kesiena Boom discusses four prominent misogynoirist tropes.

Also, what is misogynoir?

Ann Wolfe reveals how she got cast as Artemis, and discusses her career with The Ringer.

Disclaimer

I’m a white woman. I wrote this mini-series in the hopes that I could help other white women, and non-black women understand the problematic ways black women are represented in this film. If you’re a black woman and you disagree, or you just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to contact me either in the comment section or via my blog’s contact page. Comments are all moderated by me, and I endeavour to make this blog a place where people of all marginalized groups feel they can safely express their views.

Featured image from Comicbook.com. Others are from Comicbookmovie.com, and Thegloss.com respectively.