Thursday, March 29, 2012

I May Have Had a Tiny Change of Heart

...regarding a couple people who, only months ago, I confessed made me not want to see movies they were in. The first change of heart was already underway even as I made the original confession; after seeing Charlie Wilson's War, I was not at all sure I didn't want to turn right around and take Philip Seymour Hoffman off the list. As I have just seen Pirate Radio, it is now official.

The second is slightly more tenuous, and significantly more embarrassing. It comes with a second confession: namely, that I saw One for the Money, and I liked it.

If you have been around my blog for a while, you might remember a particular bit of book snobbery I engaged in shortly after becoming a shelver at my local library. In said show of snobbery, I felt especial antagonism toward a series of books written by one Janet Evanovich. Books about which they made a movie, starring Katherine Heigl, so that when I first saw the trailer I announced loudly and firmly that this was a movie I would not be seeing. Mike said he was fine with that, and I thought no more of it.

And then we saw it. I don't know why, really; Mike didn't even have to bug me the way he usually does. (He has this movie-watching thing, you see, so that we often end up seeing movies we don't even particularly care to see, just because he wants to go to a movie. I think it's possible that in the four years since we've been married, I've seen more movies than I had in the previous ten years of my life.) We usually try to go to a dollar movie on his day off, because that's what he likes to do with those; yesterday he just... suggested it, and I just... agreed. So we went. And I liked it. A lot.

I liked the plot, because it was a movie about a woman, and because that woman wore clothes that were, for the most part, generally suitable to the things she was doing. I liked Katherine Heigl, maybe because I just like her better as a slightly frizzy brunette. It also may have been the New Jersey accents in the movie, because I'll be honest, that was a thing that made me consciously feel more friendly toward it in the beginning. Made it feel less "rom-com" (a term I hate) and more, I don't know, regular non-pretentious movie. It was actually a lot of fun to watch.

So here's the next question: Do I read the books now? Because I don't want to, but I don't know if this is leftover stubbornness that is silly. My thoughts about it are numerous.

  • I already have a thousand things on my to-read list (literally—973 on Goodreads, 23 of which are on the bookshelf in the headboard of my bed right now). 
  • They're obviously light reading, and frankly I think the movies (I'm assuming they're going to make more) will fill that role just fine. 
  • I really, really do hate the cutesyness of the titles. 
  • But on the other hand, I'm kind of a person for doing things on principle, and since I'm not sure that my resistance to reading them isn't still snobbery, there's a party of me that feels like I need to read them as a matter of principle. (Does that make sense?)

Anyway, everyone, tell me what you think. And try not to mock me too much for having to eat my words on two different counts. Snobbery is not something I give up lightly. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Some songs I am especially loving lately (aka I listen to them on repeat):

[Update: I'd forgotten that you have to sign up for Grooveshark, so I changed all the links to YouTube videos to make it easier for you to listen. Incidentally, though, you should also sign up for Grooveshark!]

Mumford & Sons - "The Cave"
Inara George - "It's Raining"
Melody Gardot - "Our Love is Easy"
Lana Del Rey - "Driving in Cars with Boys", "Video Games", "Blue Jeans"
Scala & Kolachny Brothers - "The Blower's Daughter"
Azure Ray - "November"
Jump Little Children - "Say Goodnight"
(that's a live performance; it's okay, but I prefer the recorded version which you can listen to on Grooveshark)
Fiona Apple - "Paper Bag"
Keren Ann - "Not Going Anywhere" (and "End of May" and several others I haven't distinguished by name yet because I just added them all to my Grooveshark playlist at once)

Seriously, these songs are amazing. Listen. Especially Inara George, Melody Gardot, Keren Ann, and Scala & Kolachny Brothers—a female choir that does covers of popular songs. I also really like their cover of "Creep", by Radiohead, but this one is absolutely my favorite.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Activism vs. Negativity

I've been getting accused a lot lately of being negative (and lest any one person think I am writing this post directly in response to them, don't worry; I really have heard this from multiple sources. This isn't a veiled jab at you, I promise). I can understand this; sometimes I feel that way myself. And I will freely admit that I often do feel quite negative when I think about the issues I'm facing in my life. When you're trying to effect change, that involves a lot of pointing out what's wrong with the system. And it's very hard to make criticism sound positive.

But that is precisely what I am trying to do—I am trying to bring about change. I always knew there was a lot of inequality and oppression in the world, but I didn't know how much of it exists right here in the United States. Since I've become aware of it, I've felt the need to do what I can about it. And part of what I can do is talk. Before there can be change, there needs to be awareness. I'm trying to help with the awareness.

I saw something the other day that explains perfectly what I'm experiencing now. I thought I'd share it with you:
I took three years of Spanish in high school. Before freshman Spanish 1, I was barely aware when Spanish was spoken within my hearing. It blended into the background, a part of the white noise that hums along unnoticed. Once I started learning the meaning of those words and syllables, Spanish jumped out of the white noise. It suddenly had meaning. I heard it everywhere. In fact, it was everywhere. Similarly, have you ever learned the meaning of a new word and suddenly begun hearing it all over the place? Did everyone learn that word at the same moment you did? No! It was being used all around you the whole time, but you didn't know what it meant, so you didn't notice it.

Learning about sexism and other forms of discrimination is akin to learning a new language. You learn what it sounds like, what it looks like, what it feels like. You learn the common usage first (say, sexual harassment in the workplace), and move on to more advanced topics later (understanding the scope of the patriarchy and rape culture). As you learn, your eyes are opened. You see what "wasn't there" before. What used to be unremarkable business-as-usual jumps out and proclaims its true meaning to you. In reality, it was there the whole time; you just didn't see it. As you become more fluent, you see sexism everywhere (because it is everywhere). With time, you start to see that it is inescapable. It is our world. It is in the air that we breathe.

So here I am now. I see sexism everywhere. I feel like Neo, who has recently discovered the matrix. Oh, I saw a few flaws in the matrix before I took that red pill (why have I never read a book in school written by a woman? Why do all the ladies in young women's look uncomfortable when I talk about becoming a geneticist?). But now that I'm fully unplugged, the world looks different to me than it did before. It looks different to me than it does to those who have not learned the language, who still think the matrix is reality. And you know what? The view from where I now stand is profoundly frightening, infuriating, depressing at times. I'm not going to lie, it's hard to be a feminist and stay positive. I often feel like I'm the only one who is aware, who speaks this language, who sees the matrix for what it is. I feel like everyone else is content to live a virtual life, to be hampered in by the patriarchy. I feel like I'm struggling against an insurmountable enemy.

This is why I don't write shiny happy unicorn and rainbow posts. I do see good, but I can discuss that with anyone, anywhere. That is not the purpose of this blog. I write in the hopes of finding people who speak my language, who notice the green tinge of the world. I write so I can at least pretend that someone understands me - so I can express my thoughts and feelings somewhere. I write to show the world a small portion of the inequality I see in't, in the hopes that someone else will start to see the matrix for what it is.
To be honest, though it didn't start out that way, this has kind of become the purpose of my blog, too. I'll probably always write book reviews and tell you about commercials I hate and share ridiculous/awesome memes I've come across on the interwebs. But my reason for blogging has always been to write about my thoughts—and these are my thoughts. This is what I'm thinking about now. This is what concerns and interests me. This is where I feel needed.

In the blogosphere I already have found people who "speak my language", and I'm always hoping to find more. I have found people who understand me, and I've found out that many of my friends—even if they don't understand me—will love me anyway. This is even more special now that I've learned that were others who won't (love me anyway), and who chose not to. So hey, if you've stuck around: Thanks for being awesome. I'm sorry if it's frustrating for you to still read sometimes, because I'm sure it must be. If you feel like you need to avoid me online so you can just remember me the way you know me in real life, that's fine, I totally understand.

But please stop complaining about how "negative" I am. Activism is not negativity. There is room for change in the LDS church, and there's even more room for change in the United States of America that is not at all what I was taught growing up. It freaking sucks to learn that second language, to find out that things have been happening all around you that you knew nothing about—I can tell you firsthand. I hate it, and there are times I wish I could go back to not knowing. But I can't; no one can. And for me the only way forward is to do everything I can to help others see too, so we can start making things better.

Withering Tights, by Louise Rennison—8/10

This is a really fun book. It's the start of a series that is sort of a companion series to the Georgia Nicolson books—which are some of my favorite YA books of all time, so if you haven't read them, you probably should. The protagonist of Withering Tights is Tallulah Casey, who is Georgia's younger cousin. And she is going off to drama school for the summer.

If you've read Dramarama by E. Lockhart, a good way to describe this book is that it's a combination of that and the Georgia books (only slightly less laugh-out-loud funny, unfortunately). Tallulah makes good friends at school, has very weird teachers, pines after boys, and wonders when her "corkers" will catch up with her legs.

The second book in the series is called A Midsummer Tight's Dream, and I just really don't think you can go wrong with a book series that's written by Louise Rennison and incorporates the word "tights" into the names of pieces of classic literature. And has an owl on the cover. In fact, there's an owl in the story, and it's occurring to me now to hope that said owl will become kind of the official mascot of the Tallulah books, the way Angus was for the Georgia books. This is strictly speculation... But I can hope.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Latina History Day (was Yesterday)

"Buried in Women’s History Month is a single day, March 9, marked by a single state, California, to celebrate Latina history. As a Latina from California myself, I confess that, until this year, I had no idea that my home state had set this day aside. But now that I know, I plan to urge everyone to treat it as a major national holiday."

When I saw the link to this article, my first thought was that there was something I didn't know about Women's History Month, and that maybe every day in the month was set aside for a different specific racial or ethnic group. Turns out that's not the case, although I still think it would be a really interesting way to do it. But I like the idea proposed by the article: that we make Latina History Day a nationally-observed holiday. In any case, even though it was yesterday and is only technically observed in California, I think it's a great addition to Women's History Month and I wanted to bring it to your attention. There's another great article here that spotlights some Latina women and the great influence they've had on art, literature, politics, civil rights, music, and movies.

"The 2010 census and Assemblywoman Torres’ story also remind us why things like Latina History day exists: to remind everyone that we are a people with a rich, complex, diverse, contradictory history in this country and in our countries of origin, and that we deserve visibility and representation." 

(Even if you don't read the rest of that first article I linked, skim to find Assemblywoman Torres's story—in the middle of the article, just before the beginning of the book list. It's absolutely heartbreaking.) I disagree very strongly with the Welcome to America—now speak English sentiment I hear so often living in border states. I think that is an unkind and imperialistic approach to take. America has been an immigrant country since its very inception, and I can't understand why, rather than embrace that beautiful and unique history, we would prefer to whitewash it all away and make everyone speak English. Yes, I understand that it makes things more complicated. I understand how frustrating it is to have to push 1 to get your bank's automated system in English (okay, that was sarcasm). But you know what? Living with other human beings is complicated. That's okay. That's just how it is. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy—8/10

In the first place, Wildwood is written by the lead singer of The Decemberists, which is a thing I did not know until I was almost finished (you know, the point when you have so few pages left that they pull away from the back cover and you can see the inside blurb that tells about the author). It is illustrated by the person who did the illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society, who is also the wife of the person who wrote the book. I thought those were pretty fun facts.

Wildwood is about a crazy forest in Oregon, a girl named Prue who receives her call to adventure via a flock of crows that steals her brother from the park, and a boy named Curtis who follows her into the forest.  It's essentially the plot of Labyrinth, minus David Bowie and plus hippies.

It's actually surprisingly violent, and I tried to decide the whole time exactly for what age level it was appropriate. It's sort of a mild violence, in that there are no descriptions of gore or anything; but it's also not tamed for kids the way violence often is (people actually die, instead of just getting knocked out, and the characters acknowledge the death and are upset by it... there are real weapons and blood and wars, and so on).

Anyway, it's a lot of fun to read, and I really enjoyed it. It's a fun story, full of talking animals and mystical hippies and beautiful illustrations. I especially liked these (the first one is an underground coyote prison):

I think most adults and teenagers would like it, and story-wise I think it'd be great even for pre-teens; I'd just recommend that, if the violence concerns you, you read it to gauge for yourself before giving it to a kid.

Happy International Women's Day (+ Full Moon)!

(The full moon's not relevant... I just saw them sharing the square on my calendar.)

It's International Women's Day! Take the opportunity to check out 150 Women Who Shake the World; click on any of their pictures and it will give you a short bio. Some suggestions to get you started:
  • Atifete Jahiage, Kosovo - President of Kosovo and the first female leader in any of the Balkan states
  • Sunitha Krishnan, India - rescuing women from servitude in India's brothels, both personally and through the organization she started
  • Kori Cioca, U.S. - one of the many American military women who have been raped by their supervisors and colleagues and are finally demanding that the Department of Defense do something about it
  • Other familiar names you'll see on the list: Sheryl Sandberg, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Kristen Wiig, Jaycee Dugard, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Close, Elizabeth Warren, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Meryl Streep, Angela Merkel, Angelina Jolie

You can also watch some of Miss Representation's videos on YouTube. I especially like this one:

The UN theme for IWD 2012 is Empower Women—End Poverty and Hunger. And if you'd like to be a part of helping to do that, you can look for programs like Kiva (microlending that helps people in poor countries start or grow their own businesses) and A Thousand Sisters (which works to help women in Somalia and the Congo who are victims of horrible sexual violence).

How are you celebrating women today? I'm reading a biography of Coretta Scott King—Martin Luther King, Jr.'s wife—that I found on a library display a couple days ago. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Internet Diet

The internet is hard on my head lately, and I think I'm going to need to take another break.

I'm usually pretty good at participating in online discussions, but more often than not right now I seem to be too angry or bewildered to form constructive responses. I haven't been able to figure out how to talk to someone who is defending Rush Limbaugh's most recent assault on humanity, for example, because I was under the impression that anyone with a shred of decency and respect for women understood that it was an abomination. (The general argument seems to be that yes, he shouldn't have said it, but the real problem here is that everyone's making a big deal out of the words as an excuse to ignore his message. Well, (1) his "message" was inaccurate garbage, and (2) do people really not know that when you speak to the public for a living, your delivery actually does kind of matter? His choice of words makes a statement, and his use of offensive misogynistic words is absolutely deserving of attention.)

I just can't even count anymore the times I've read a comment, tried to respond, and ended up deleting everything I wrote. Am I losing my ability to analyze a statement? Is it just that these comments are based on such faulty "logic" that analysis isn't useful anyway? I really think it's some of both. In any case, I'm getting tired of feeling like an idiot because I can't put a decent response together.

I was considering another internet fast anyway, or at least an internet diet of some sort. I've been spending too much time online, and I need to clear my brain. I think I'm going to have to impose some kind of no-reading-the-comments kind of rule if I want to be able to keep up on the blogs... And I'll probably have to just avoid Facebook entirely (since there isn't really a way to avoid the comments there). It'll be nice to focus on things like book reviews again for a while, which I think is what I ended up doing the last time I did an internet fast. Pinterest and Goodreads okay... Feminist websites not. Blogging okay, Facebook not. Reading blogs okay, reading comments not. The news... we'll have to see.

Yeah, actually, this is sounding really good. I think I'll start tomorrow.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tradition... Tradition!

(Can you tell what I'm doing here?)

I've been thinking lately that there are a few traditions we could stand to get rid of in the LDS church, partially because we often aren't very good at distinguishing between tradition and doctrine, and that can cause problems.

For example, women wearing skirts to church. This actually isn't something we're supposed to do, did you know that? It's just a tradition that's still hanging around because until 50 or 60 years ago, women mostly wore skirts. But people kind of make a big deal out of it—for example, I have friends who've been asked by their bishops to stop wearing pants to church when they were Young Women leaders, because they were "setting a bad example". Now here's a question to ask ourselves—what exactly does wearing pants say that is a bad example for teenagers?

This is what my sisters and I wore to church most of our teenage years.

This is what I looked like when I wore pants to church yesterday (for the first time! Eek!).

Which would you say looks more respectful? More "Sunday best"? And yet, while a teenager might be chided for wearing flip flops to church, her righteousness wouldn't be judged, and no one would see her and assume she must be a visiting non-member (which is actually what I thought any time I saw a woman in pants at church when I was a teenager). And if an adult woman wore a denim skirt or flip flops to church, no one would say anything. Adult women would be (and have been) called in to talk to their bishops for wearing pants, though. Why?

How about boys wearing white shirts to pass the sacrament? In my ward growing up, they weren't allowed to pass if their shirts weren't white, and even adult men who weren't passing the sacrament were kind of stigmatized when they wore a colored shirt—as though wearing a white shirt signaled that one was worthy and ready to be called upon at any moment, and wearing anything else was a statement of the opposite. But the weird thing is that the church handbook specifically says that white shirts are not required to pass the sacrament. Whence this restriction, then?

Did you know that some temples don't allow girls to perform baptisms for the dead if they're on their periods? The Dallas temple is like this, and it was always a pretty humiliating experience for me when that week happened to coincide with a temple trip (we were told we should go anyway, because we could still do confirmations. So we just sat there on the benches while everyone else did baptisms, praying fervently that the boys wouldn't know why we were sitting them out). But this isn't a church rule. Many temples don't do it, and many temples that do do it don't even do it consistently—because it's only enforced by temple workers who think it's a rule. This is a demeaning tradition we could definitely do without.

I read a comment on a blog post about the BYU Honor Code the other day that is pretty perfect for this conversation. "The Pharisees were so afraid of breaking the commandments that they created 'hedges' around the law. These hedges were extra rules such that if the hedges were observed, nobody would get even close to breaking the commandments. Over time, the hedges became viewed as commandments themselves. When Jesus came, he disregarded the hedges and was thus viewed by the Pharisees as a sinner even though he kept all of the actual commandments."

We need to make a conscious effort to remove these hedges for two reasons: because they don't work for everyone, and because obsessing about Pharisaical rules is actually detrimental to our spiritual growth. ("The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism." —Hugh Nibley) If wearing skirts and white shirts has always made us feel more in tune with the spirit, that's great. But we need to acknowledge that while we feel a certain way, everyone doesn't. We shouldn't be tying any kind of judgment to people's clothing. Standards of worthiness should not include things that are only tradition, so we just need to make a point of knowing what's tradition and what's doctrine. And, since we know that this is a problem, I think we need to make a point of ignoring these traditions whenever we can if we care about making the church a more welcoming place for people who don't fit all the regular Mormon molds.
Ask yourself some questions about traditions. Are there some traditions in your Relief Society or Elder’s Quorum that perhaps were very functional a few years ago but just aren’t meeting people’s needs now? Are there some things we need to do in our wards because that’s the way we’ve always done them? Do we have stereotypes and attitudes about things that are left over from other days? Could the work move forward more effectively if we rethought some of those traditions?

Are there traditions of the fathersand of the mothersthat represented goodness in times past but that may no longer be appropriate? Yes, there certainly are. Are there some traditions that are still good ones and to which we should cling even more tightly? Absolutely!

How then, do we tell them apart? Or will the prophet and our priesthood leaders tell us? I think it is inherent in the wonderful law of agency that God doesn’t do our work for us and he doesn’t expect us to do each other’s work. The prophet’s job is to receive revelation for the Church, not for the individuals. Our job is to receive revelation for ourselves, not for the church. We have a responsibility to take our questions to God and struggle with those questions in the process of receiving revelation. Will my personal direction from God be the same as yours? I don’t think so. We’re individuals. God deals with us as individuals. This is the same God who made not just apples but pears and apricots and persimmons and grapes. He likes diversity. He invented it.

Chieko N. Okazaki, Disciples

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Women's History Month

It's Women's History Month again, and I am excited. My reading theme this year is feminism, so I feel good knowing that there's no way I'll let the whole month slip by without really delving into it as much as I'd like (as always happens with these recognition holidays). To start things off, I'd like to share a really fantastic blog post about the intersection between Women's History Month and Black History Month. 

"Ida B. Wells-Barnett organized the Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago, the first African-American women's suffrage group in Illinois."

Bessie Coleman, who kind of looks like Hayden Panetteire in this picture, was the first female African American pilot and the first African American to hold an international pilot's license. She died at 34 in a flying accident.

Of course there's Sojourner Truth, who was born into slavery and escaped. She traveled around the country as a kind of preacher for goodness and brotherhood; when she was introduced to abolitionism she began to speak in support of that, and when she encountered the women's rights movement she became a leader in it. She spoke at suffragist gatherings for the rest of her life. 

I learned something interesting and sad about suffrage, and I think it's an important thing to remember. When southern women began joining the movement, northern suffragists tried to encourage them by pointing out that giving women the votewhite women, of course—would prevent black people from gaining too much power politically, since there were more white women in the south than there were black men and women combined. The post I linked to above makes the disheartening point that when minorities struggle for their rights, they often become competitors. I wish it were easier for people to work together for equality, instead of pushing each other down; I wish we had a culture in which the majority fought for equality, too, instead of leaving it to each minority to fight for their own.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Miss Representation: or How I Took a Six-Hour Trip to Watch an Hour and a Half-Long Movie

Things that went right tonight, in chronological order:
  • I showered, shaved, got dressed, loved how my hair turned out and felt pretty.
  • I left at 4:30, on schedule to be there half an hour early, my route all planned.
  • I was really, really careful eating my tacos in the car and managed not, for once, to get any food on my clothes.
  • I didn't have any trouble finding the library even though I'd never been to the campus before and had parked in a different place than I'd planned.  
  • They had technical difficulties starting the movie, so even though I got there twenty minutes late, I didn't miss anything. 
  • The movie was amazing. Amazing amazing.
  • I got to see (/meet new) friends and chat for a few minutes after the movie. 
  • I didn't get ticketed for parking in a student lot. 
  • I didn't run out of gas before I got to a gas station. 
Things that went wrong tonight, in chronological order:
  • While in the shower I discovered that my razor is missing. No one knows where it went; I soaked the bathroom looking for it, and ended up shaving with an old-ish one (the only one I could find that didn't have a rusty blade). 
  • My route had been planned to avoid paying $8 in tolls, but in a Brain Fart of the Century, neglected to consider that I would be driving on 75 through downtown Dallas at approximately 5:00. It took me 45 minutes to drive ten miles.
  • When I finally got to Arlington, there was an accident directly in front of the precise exit I had to take, so that added another five minutes. 
  • Somewhere between that exit and my destination, I realized that I had no idea how long the gas light had been on. 
  • When I got to the UTA campus I realized that I had forgotten to get cash or change for parking. So I parked in a student lot and prayed I wouldn't get a ticket.
  • Ran from parking lot to library, so I'm sure my face looked like a tomato when I got there.
  • On my way home, drove for about two minutes before I hit traffic at a standstill. I-30 was closed; it took me 20 minutes to drive five miles. 
  • I pulled into the Chipotle parking lot and realized it was 9:58. Ended up getting Wendy's, where they forgot to give me the barbecue sauce and frosty I ordered for Mike.
  • Got home at 10:30.
It should tell you how fantastic that movie is that I still consider the whole thing having been worth it.

Update 10:15 am, 3/2/12: Now that it's not two hours past my bedtime when I have to get up for work at 5:30 in the morning, I can tell you about the actual movie.