Last week’s random thinks.

Here be thoughts that stuck in my brain over the last week. They aren’t quite big enough for their own posts but too big for me to ignore, so I’m sharing them here together.

One

I got into a great conversation with a friend about Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series. (IT’S AMAZING OMFG GO READ IT IF YOU CAN.) Specifically, we chatted about the characters Breq & Seivarden, & our different take on their genders.

I read both of them as male in my head, or at least as “not female” despite the default pronouns of the dominant culture in the book being she/her, and despite descriptive cues in the text that show Breq is not male. (It’s complicated. My research indicates she’s agender.)

Seivarden is described w/facial hair and other physical/traditional male characteristics, so I’m sticking with that being a reasonable take, but how do I get from a character being called “she” to a read of “he?”
Is my internalized acceptance of patriarchy that sneaky? Am I that brainwashed?

NOPE. It’s the Q. The name Breq is unisex, but (in the US anyway) names that end in a hard K sound are assigned to boys far more often than girls (350+ to <20) so my brain migrates to “boy name” in the absence of overwhelming description. Regardless of pronouns. Otherwise I generally default to reading characters as female/agender — my mental visuals for most characters in that trilogy are…androgynous like the pyramid aliens in Stargate. Now that’s a thing you know about me.

TWO

Presidential elections are different.

I can have nice, rational discussions about politics and principles right up until people start talking about “voting their conscience” by not choosing a candidate or going with any third party candidate in a presidential election.

Think your favorite local libertarian should be school board president? Great! Vote’ em in! Want to be represented by the Green Party in your state legislature? Brava! Check that box. Really want representation to take off? Start pushing ranked-choice voting at all levels of office.

But presidential elections are different. The existence of the Electoral College plays merry hob with our already-weighted “most votes wins” system, and THAT means when it comes to presidents, you either pick one of the two leaders, or you might as well vote for whichever of that top two has less support going in.

It’s math, and numbers, and I’m not explaining how it happens here, I’m just venting. If all this is totally new to you, I recommend fairvote.com as a good starting point and also all the Schoolhouse Rock America Rock videos. Yes, really.

If we end up with a United States dictator in November, I’ll blame very frikking person who didn’t vote because their candidate “got cheated,” and every joker who thought it’d be hilarious to vote for Kanye because “sure, Trump’s bad but Biden’s a rapist and they’re all equally awful, it doesn’t matter who’s in charge?”

I’m gonna be permanently pissed off at alla y’all if the US ends sliding into civil war and full-on civic collapse like I wrote into my Restoration series, because that IS what will happen if we let the kleptocrat-in-chief steal our country out from under us.

Vote. Vote like the future depends on it, because it does. It always has. Now ‘scuse me, I’m going to chase some kids off my lawn.

Text: On Undecided Voter​s: "To put them in perspective, I think​ of being​ on an airplane.​ The flight attendant comes​ down the aisle​ with her food cart and, eventually,​ parks​ it beside my seat.​ “Can I inter​est you in the chick​en?​” she asks.​ “Or would​ you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broke​n glass​ in it?”

To be undecided in this elect​ion is to pause​ for a moment and then ask how the chick​en is cooked.” 

--David Sedaris
this is about undecided voters, but it has bearing on the 3rd party/conscience voter argument too.

Three.

I have spent my whole life being uncomfortable with feminist organizers for reasons I had a hard time pinning down.

Once I hit college I flat-out refused the label because I really didn’t see eye to eye with the students who ran those groups there. They called homemakers/stay-at-home-moms traitors to the feminist cause, women who enjoyed their sexuality in the “wrong” ways sluts, and women who didn’t want to do it all weak. Basically, they had this weird idea that “equality” meant “we get to decide what’s right for ALL women,” which meant they got to define whether other women were “feminists.” And…uh…NOPE.

I didn’t get around to reading a lot of pivotal feminist texts until my 40s & 50s because I was so turned off by the exclusionary snobbery, judginess, purity tests and racist bullshit that floated around the movement like a toxic cloud.

And that pisses me off on the regular, because feminism is critically, objectively important. Societies should guarantee women the same choices and opportunities as men at every level and in every forum. So if someone wants marriage and kids and a career, or one, or the other, if they want to flaunt their sexuality or wrap themselves in chastity, ALL those options should be open. THAT is feminism.

I’m glad that younger & older, wiser, more energetic women than me stuck with it, kept shoving aside the bullshit spewers and are redefining the movement.

TL;DR: I’m really bad at being a nice white lady feminist.

That’s all for now. Until later. Next week, probably. Unless I get excited about how well Sharp Edge of Yesterday is coming along and decide to gush about it.

I wander off on a guest-posting adventure

If you aren’t reading Jen Ponce’s books & following her Oogy Monsters blog yet, you should be. I was honored with an invitation to write a little something to post there, and this happened. I might have ranted a little. Big surprise.

This Monday, author KM Herkes talks about her brand of strong women. You’ll want to give it a read!

via KM Herkes–writer of kickass heroines with power. Part One! — Jen Ponce

Not Like The Other Girls?

This is a phrase that gets cyclically dissected in social media these days. The last time its bones got picked, I saw it being portrayed as a phrased used by women to men as a defensive measure to make themselves look better. It was said to be a distancing tool, wielded to earn better treatment. As in, “I’m not like other girls, so don’t treat me the way you treat other girls. Treat me with respect.”
Okay. That is clearly true for others in situations outside my experience. But this is my blog, where I talk about me, and that narrative doesn’t match my life. So, let me tell you my story. Not interested? That’s all good. I am hardly a mainstream example of anything. Except, y’know, white, married, educated, employed, not-poor privilege. I’m all that.
 I’m only saying, I did say those words, and I meant them, but it was never said(and I doubt was ever interpreted) with the meaning stated above. Bottom line, though: I’m not speaking for anyone else.
When I used that phrase with men (and I haven’t in over 25 years)  I was saying it to reassure guys who were afraid to trust me. These were guys over whom I held all the power of acceptance or rejection in the social dynamic. They were accustomed to dismissal and outright derision from women who were not interested in scruffy-haired comic-reading, math-obsessed, Monty-Python-quoting fantasy-RPG playing men. I was saying to those men, “I know the rejection you feel, for I, too, am a social outlier.”
And in an aside, those same women were the ones who actively, vocally refused association with me because I was a scruffy-haired, flannel-wearing, moisturizer-indifferent science-obsessed weird girl. Just saying.
And back then when my overwhelmingly male social circle said disparaging things about women followed by, “but we don’t mean you, you’re not like them,” I called them out on it, oh, yes I did. Mostly by pointing out that I was indeed female and emphatically did identify with the “girls” they were dissing. Sometimes by simply tugging my collar and doing an ostentatious boob check.  (how often? usually? always? I can’t judge from memory. I know I had a whole repertoire of comebacks memorized by junior year in college.)
I never felt “better than” other girls. I was measurably isolated in my differences. I had damned few compatriots in my limited peer group and fewer adults as role models. Until college, I knew three women who read SFF. My physics teacher, her daughter, and one classmate in a high school class of 700.  (And four I met in summer camp. We shared two unforgettable, brilliant, giddy weeks fighting light saber flashlight battles and talking about The Dark Is Rising, but we had no internet to hold us together when the dream weeks ended, and we never saw each other again. The end.)

I met a couple more women SF gaming nerds in college. By which I mean two. TWO.  But sure, there were always some other girls like me. When I said “I’m not like other girls,” to guys I was never declaring myself a unicorn who should be revered, just a member of a shared minority. And it was accepted in that same sense by guys who were not like other guys. Our geeky awakening was a shared, culturally alienated phase where all of us were truly wasn’t like almost any other people we knew.

The men I hung with, back in the day (and now) treated women with respect. No, really. They tried, to the best of their ability and experience and blind privilege. And when they didn’t get it right, they got read the riot act (and told me I was being emotional, got read MORE riot acts until they eventually learned.)
We stuck with our passions, me and my guy-exclusive social circle, the world turned around us slowly, nerd culture became mainstream, and I no longer had to reassure men I understood difference. These days I can’t swing a cat without hitting nerdly women and men in every walk of life.
 If I was 20 years younger, I would’ve had girl friends who didn’t turn away from magic stories in junior high and start shunning me. I would’ve had Harry Potter-raised, video-gaming adept girl buddies. I never would’ve said I wasn’t like other girls to men, because my sisters in nerdliness would’ve stepped up beside me and I  would’ve been like them all along, loving nerdy guys and girls right back.
The glory of nerd passion is that it can be discovered and embraced at any age, by anyone, so women of my advanced age have discovered SFF and video gaming and comics over the years too. (When curiosity meets ubiquity, magic happens)   I am now like so many other girls it makes my heart sing and my head spin with giddy joy.

But. I do still use equivalents of that phrase with women to this day. These days, it is a different defensive shorthand, explaining in the language of the groups I move through that I don’t enjoy things they assume (nay, insist) I should and must like because of my gender. What I actually say is something more like, “I know <X> is a popular thing, but it isn’t my thing.” They’re the ones who nigh-invariably translate that to “well, you’re not like other women.” Which is patently not true, and I will call it out when I have the energy, but there’s only so much ingrained prejudice I can fight. If they want to think me different, well, then, bless their hearts.

Battles. I pick them.