Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banned Books Week 2012

I didn't prepare well enough for BBW this year. I have an idea of what I want to read, but I should've gone shopping at the library last week already so that I could have started today, instead of waiting to check them out tomorrow. Oh, well. So far this year's lineup stands thusly:

Junior fiction and nonfiction:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Alice series were on my list already as part of my job research.
I'll be reading this one, too, if I can get up to Salt Lake this week to borrow it from my lovely friend Megan who checked it out for me since Orem and Provo don't have it.

Young Adult fiction:

Might reread The Perks of Being a Wallflower, if I have time, since the movie is coming out soon.

Adult non-fiction / feminist / a book I've been meaning to read for years:

Are you celebrating Banned Books Week this year? What are some of your favorite banned books, and what are you going to read this time around?

Friday, September 28, 2012

So You Think Women Have Achieved Equality

Feminism was important in the past, but women can vote now. We aren't officially our husbands' property. We can have custody of our own children and get loans without a co-signer. Feminism did what it needed to do and now it's just about undermining the family and women's God-given roles. Right?

I saw this Huffington Post article on Facebook the other day, posted by Miss Representation (an organization you really should follow if you want to see all the evidence proving that the answer to that question is "no"). I re-posted it on my own wall, and a friend commented asking what we could do short of just canceling our own Facebook pages. I have no idea, but I feel like it's something we should talk about. And please read the article, because it gives a lot of information and makes a lot of points that I'm not going to go into here. This second one goes into even further detail about specifically rape-themed pages.

"The 12-Year-Old Slut Meme and Facebook's Misogyny Problem"
There's a group on Facebook called 12-Year-Old Slut Memes, where people post—can you guess?—memes about 12-year-old girls they think are sluts.

First there are your slut-shaming and judgmental memes, like the ones above. Then there are your generally gross and offensive memes, like the ones below.


This next one's my favorite, because it's about as blatant as can be in stating the beliefs of the people who appreciate this meme: People who behave  in ways that you don't approve of don't deserve respect. Good to know. Also, I really appreciate their ruining one of my favorite memes.

Then we have the ones that depict violence against pre-teen girls:


...and objectify them:

And there's the fact that they're posting actual, personal photos and status updates of twelve-year-old girls without those girls' knowledge, to make fun of them on the internet. Which is just a super classy thing to do, and not at all creepy from technically-adult men.


I think this last one sums up this entire situation pretty much perfectly:

This one almost makes me laugh, because he's actually answered his own question in the meme. No, let's not be angry with the society that markets Barbie to children, sexified Strawberry Shortcake and Dora and My Little Pony, and popularized toddler beauty pageants. Let's have some classic victim-blaming instead, and create an entire Facebook page devoted to memes hating on the little girls for having picked up on all those messages that society beats into their heads. Good call, guys. Good call.

There is obviously something very wrong here. But the problem is even bigger. In addition to 12-Year-Old Slut Memes, there are two different versions of a page called "Throwing eggs at sluts, brick shaped eggs, made from bricks"—one has over 46,000 likes and one has over 48,000. "How Dare You Call Me a Rapist!!! Jk, Get in the Van" has 266,000 likes. "You are a slut, get hit by a car" has over 90,000 likes. "Kicking a slut in the vagina and losing your foot inside" has over 11,000 likes. "Wiping makeup off your shoe after a long day of kicking sluts in the face" has 89,000 likes, and when members of that group found out that people wanted the page shut down, they counter-protested. "Lol offensive to who? Sluts? Lol sluts have no rights." That was one of the comments posted on the page by rapist-at-heart Greg Williams.

Then there are pages like "Roses are red, violets are blue.. I've got a knife, get in the van" and "I just want to get drunk and punch a slut in the face" that only have a few thousand likes, but have been protested and Facebook refused to remove them. Instead, to fix the problem, Facebook added [Humor] to the names of some of the pages. Some were labeled [Controversial Humor], like the 12 year old sluts page. Some are labeled [Satire]. You're right, Facebook. Problem solved.

"If I wanted you to talk, I'd take my dick out of your mouth." "If I wanted you to talk, I'd have unzipped my pants." There are several versions of this page still up. One of my favorites is "I Kill Bitches," with a profile picture of a gun pointing at the viewer's face. (Can you imagine the same group with a word like fags or niggers or Jews in the name being allowed to remain on Facebook? No, you can't, because it wouldn't. Yet here we are; the group was started in May of 2011 and is still up. Also, one of the most recent posts on its wall is a video of Patrick Bateman killing a prostitute in American Psycho, with the caption "gddmn hoze.") And then of course there's the classic "Shut the fuck up and make me a sandwich."

I felt really sick for a while after having written all of that out (and having searched for the pages to verify for myself that they're still up. All of the ones I listed are). I'm kind of disturbed knowing that Facebook has rules against content that is "hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence"—and yet apparently feel that these groups don't fit that description, because they're about women.

Do you know what this is called, friends? It's called rape culture. And it's a feature of patriarchal society. "A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent... A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm" (—Melissa McEwan, Shakesville; see the link over the word "rape" above). It's what happens when for thousands of years men have had all the institutional power, and women have been important only in terms of how they are useful to men, and been identified by the men to whom they're connected. The most extreme example of this is that, in some cultures, widows are burned alive with their husbands' bodies. Much lesser examples are practices like a woman marrying her brother-in-law when her husband died, or—a modern one—women taking their husbands' names (especially when they are called Mrs. Robert Chiltern, or whatever).

Here's how we know that we are in fact living in a rape culture: Because most of you probably looked at those memes and thought that they were totally disgusting and offensive and inappropriate and you would never condone such a thing—and yet, the sad thing is that they have a point. Right? Many of you have probably even seen similar (but much less offensive) memes like these, and thought they were wonderful.


Did you know that the more common version of that middle meme is, "Maybe more men would stand up and be gentlemen if more women would sit down and be ladies"? Not quite as lovely, is that one? (But it's at least a little more honest.) You probably don't think of these memes as being even remotely the same as the ones above. But the truth is, they're just a different, more tame spot on the rape culture spectrum. [9/30: This was updated to add the chivalry meme when I came across it today.]

All three of these memes claim that women bear responsibility for how men act toward them. That's one of the basics of patriarchal gender relations—that women are the guardians of virtue, and if they are harassed or assaulted by men, it's their own fault for having tempted them. Women are not supposed to enjoy sex, and they are valued according to their "virtue"—which is why women who enjoy sex are called sluts and vilified in ways that men never have been. This is why people feel justified in calling people "sluts," when really, it's none of anyone's business what a woman chooses to do with her body. And this is why when women are raped, they are generally the ones put on trial. What were you wearing? What were you doing out by yourself? Why were you walking in that area? Had you been drinking? Had you been flirting? Have you ever had sex with him before?—the implication being that if women don't adhere strictly to all the rules society sets for them, they bring these things on themselves. If you dress "immodestly," the natural consequence is that men will give you unwanted attention. There is no expectation for men to choose not to harass a woman who is dressed in a certain way, or that their choice to harass them is in fact a choice. It's just a natural consequence, the way if you toss something in the air, gravity pulls it down.

That's rape culture. And that's the culture that allows groups like "It's not rape if you yell 'surprise'" to go unchallenged on a website that claims violence is not allowed. When it's someone's religion, these kinds of statements are no longer tolerated. But when it's women, Facebook labels it "humor." 

I don't know about you, but I'm not laughing.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I have always imagined that paradise will be some kind of library...

Two weeks ago I got offered my dream job. It doesn't pay enough for us to live on it alone, even now while we're paying no rent, so it isn't perfect. But it's perfect for me. It's exactly the job I would have chosen if I could have picked any job in the library. I'm at the reference desk, so I'm the one people come to if they can't find something. I give recommendations, help with research, choose the books that go on the displays, straighten the books on the shelves, help people figure out what the name is of that one book they used to love. And when I'm not helping a patron, I can sort and shelve books—which is one of my favorite things to do at the library, and the reason I also would have been happy if they'd hired me for the page job (I applied for both), even though it pays minimum wage and really wouldn't have been enough of a source of income for us.

But the funny thing is that they put me in children's, which is probably the area where I have the least expertise (and I even told them that in the interview). I have read some junior fiction that I really love, and I've read more children's books than most people who don't have children have read (example: I created this list on Goodreads several months ago, long before I got a library job). But the vast majority of my reading is adult and YA, and after just a couple days working in children's, I realized that I need to start doing some research. So, in the last week, I have read 65 books checked out from the children's and junior sections. I thought I'd share my favorites with you. 

I started, for no particular reason, with junior nonfiction—children's biographies. On my second day of training, one of the librarians showed me that section and said it was one of her favorites. Just at a glance I saw several books that looked really interesting, so I decided that was where I would start. And guys, if you didn't think children's biographies could be interesting—well, I wouldn't blame you, because neither did I—but we were both wrong. 


Galileo and Charles Darwin were done by the same author, Peter Sís (who also has a couple autobiographical ones), and I was really struck by their style—not just the lovely illustrations, but that they included quotes on almost every page from Galileo and Darwin themselves, which is something that children's books often don't bother to do. Some of these books are notable for their absolutely stunning illustrations, like Saint Francis, Mermaid Queen, Odetta: The Queen of Folk, and John Muir: America's First Environmentalist. And some I thought were amazing just because of the variety of subjects you can find now. When I was a kid, children's biographies were pretty much just former presidents and civil rights activitsts. Now you can find beautifully-illustrated books on Pablo Neruda, Hypatia, Frank Baum, Vivaldi, Charles Dickens, Marcel Marceau, Sarah WinnemuccaSarah Breedlove Walker, Noah Webster, Shakespearethe prophet Muhammad, Maria Anna Mozart (Wolfgang's older sister who was a child prodigy before he was), Black Elk, John James Audubon, Sequoyah, Margaret Chase Smith, and Ida B. Wells—and these are just the ones I've read in one week.

I've also picked up some picture books, with no particular pattern here except that I've been looking for ones with really fantastic illustrations. Many of them are ones I saw on the reshelving cart and looked through before putting them away (which, it turns out, is a pretty good way of doing things). I didn't include a picture of The Conductor because the shape wouldn't fit with the others here, but it's an especially beautiful one.



These three that I found while straightening the junior nonfiction section are some of my favorites. World of Faith is a book written by Peggy Fletcher Stack, religion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, in cooperation with the Inter-faith Roundtable of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games. It's essentially a dictionary of important world religions, with lovely illustrations depicting things that are particular to each faith. Red Sings From Treetops is a poetry book by Joyce Sidman, who is one of my favorites right now because she has several of these books of poetry and they are all just gorgeous (each done by a different illustrator, and they all won the Caldecott). And Remember: The Journey to School Integration is Toni Morrison's first children's nonfiction, I think. It's full of huge, fantastic photographs of schoolchildren in the 60s, and each page is written as if from the thoughts of the child in the photograph next to it. It's so, so brilliant. 


Kind of mixed in to each of these categories are the 2012-2013 Beehive nominees I've read (some picture, some nonfiction, some junior fiction). The Beehive Book Awards are done each year by the Children's Literature Association of Utah, and the winners are chosen by children who vote as they read them.

The last category—and, I have to admit, my least favorite—is junior fiction for second and third graders. I think this age group is probably the hardest for adults to read, because it's not beautifully-illustrated like the picture books are, and it's not as well-written as teen fiction. This age group is where we're talking about things like Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and so on. But based on the number of times it's come up with patrons, I decided this was a category I needed to do some research in. So I am. I'm not going to do the book covers because I've already spent probably an hour writing this post, but so far I have read:
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (not at all like the movie)
The Capture by Kathryn Lasky (book one in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series)
Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger (the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which I actually read a couple months ago just for fun, and which is actually really great)
Trouble Magnet by Nancy Krulik (book two in the George Brown Class Clown series)
I Was a Third Grade Science Project by Mary Jane Auch
How to Survive a Totally Boring Summer by Alice DeLaCroix
Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
and up next on my shelf I have (yes, at this point you don't even get links anymore, because I have to go eat lunch (and by lunch I mean breakfast) okay?):
Moon Pie by Simon Mason
From Russia with Lunch by Bruce Hale
Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight
The Forests of Silence by Emily Rodda (book one in the Deltora Quest series)
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Mr. Mysterious & Company by Sid Fleischman
Leprechauns Don't Play Basketball by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones (book four in the Bailey School Kids series)
Starting with Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
So there you have it. When I'm reading books at this pace, I'm not going to be doing full reviews of them here (you're welcome) but for most of them I'm trying to include at least a quick sentence or two in my review on Goodreads. If you have any suggestions, let me know, and if you want to know more details about a particular book, feel free to ask! Cause, you know, that's my job now.


Monday, September 17, 2012

"I can save myself."

“Everyone wants to save the Muslim woman. Some want to put the hijab on me and save me; some want to take hijab off me and save me; some want to bomb us and save me. Just give me a break, man! I can save myself! I don’t need Western imperialism to save me or Western feminism riding on the coattails of Western imperialism to save me. I can save myself.” 

Pakistani activist Uzma Shakir. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Takes My Pain Away

I haven't listened to any Jimmy Eat World in a long time, but I like to have variety on my running playlists, so there are a couple songs on there and tonight "Pain" came up just after I got home. That song has a lot of very specific memories for me, from one particular semester in college that was a really, really hard time. I'd gotten a deferment, so I wasn't taking classes—I can't remember why, but it was probably because I wasn't going to be able to pay tuition in time. (I didn't have one single semester of college that wasn't a struggle to get my financial aid, with things going wrong and requiring more paperwork and money not coming in time. Those were very stressful years for me.)

I was working at Toys R Us, and it was the Christmas season, so I was working way more hours than I'd ever worked and was even more stressed all the time. I'd been dumped at the end of the summer by a guy I wasn't even really dating, and I felt really crappy, probably because the person he'd dumped me for was my former very best friend with whom I'd always had an on-again-off-again relationship because she never seemed to have as much invested in our friendship as I did. There was crazy intense emotional trauma in my apartment, and toward the end of the semester I was in a new relationship—only my second ever—which was also stressful at times because I was only beginning to discover some of my own fairly intense emotional problems.

So sometimes when I was going crazy, I would get in my little Corolla and just drive around listening to a playlist that included Avenged Sevenfold, Foo Fighters, The Used, My Chemical Romance, some other bands I can't remember because it's been years since I listened to it and I don't think I even have that playlist saved anywhere anymore—and "Pain." In particular, I remember one day when I wanted to drive faster than I could on State Street, so I got on I-15 and just drove north for a while, until I got to the point of the mountain and turned around. It's funny that this semester was actually the same one in which I started this blog... I hardly wrote back then, so I probably never even posted about it. But I listened to that playlist a lot that year. Funny how music brings things back.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today is a Beautiful Day

Some terrible things have happened on this date in the past. Eleven years ago we lost almost 3000 lives in the northeast. Thirty-nine years ago in Chile, dozens of people were killed and tens of thousands arrested in the CIA-backed military coup that overthrew the elected president. And 155 years ago, over 100 men, women, and children were killed in the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah. It's important that we remember things like this, to pay tribute to the lives that were lost, and to learn what we can from tragedies that give us a different perspective on life.

In 2012, today has been a beautiful day. It's the first sweater day of the year (the high is only 72). It was raining in the morning, and it's supposed to rain again tonight. It's the last day before I start my new amazing job at the library—the beginning of what I've finally realized is going to be my career—and the last day I'll be working on the closed captioning job that has caused me a lot of stress since the end of June when I began it. It's less than two weeks until Banned Books Week, which is something I look forward to every year as an enlightening, inspiring experience. It's the day our internet at home is working again, and the day that the internet on our phones is supposed to be working again, too (a cell phone tower was down) (and if you ever want to remember the internet as a luxury, just come share my life for the last few years). 

I started looking around online to see what banned books I'm going to read this year, and if you have any suggestions, I'd appreciate them. My overall reading theme for the year is feminism, so I'd like to find banned books that are as directly related to it as possible. Options so far:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies, by Nancy Friday
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

I was kind of hoping to find some actual feminist theory books that have been banned, but I haven't seen any on the lists. Anyone have more ideas?