malafrena: (Default)
Thank you, Dreamwidth admins, for making it possible for me and everybody else to move our blogs over here. I've only left up a few of the posts I had, on the grounds that if I expect anyone to read a post that is seven years old, it had better be interesting!
malafrena: (Default)
Hi anybody who's reading this, I came from LiveJournal but haven't posted there in a while, since most of my friends left. But since I'm here, I thought I'd take a look at what's going on in the communities. I hope the sudden influx of people from LJ will lead to interesting conversations here.

I left over the change in Terms of Service that imposed censorship on posts relating to LGBQ issues (not trans, apparently), political, and miscellaneous artistic topics. The First Amendment is non-negotiable to me. Also, I have a bit of a grudge over the Russian secret service, after the interference in our election. So yeah.

I'm a feminist science fiction writer, currently working on a time travel novel, and I enjoy reading and writing fanfiction and meta about Doctor Who. I've watched every single episode (but one) of the classic and New Who.

Politics are a huge issue for me, but I talk about them elsewhere. Sometimes I just need a dang break.

I'm in the queue for getting my posts moved over, so until then this will have to do for an introduction. If you're interested in connecting bloggishly, leave a comment!
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One of the most broken aspects of contemporary society is the lack of community. People often give lip service to the word "community" without knowing what it was, and I did not know what it was until I had children and suddenly understood its lack. When I joined the co-op preschool system, I began to feel what community could be - people looking out for each other, people working together on a long-term common goal. At the same time, I saw its limitations: for one, it would be a community I would have to exit when my children entered kindergarten.

So where do we look for examples of community? Here is a perspective from bell hooks, from her time growing up in the fifties and sixties, where home was a place to develop critical consciousness and a foundation for black liberation struggle. She's talking about the nuclear family as well as the extended family, and linking what happened in the family space to what happened in the broader black community.

This task of making homeplace was not simply a matter of black women providing service; it was about the construction of a safe place where black people could affirm one another and by so doing heal many of the wounds inflicted by racist domination. We could not learn to love or respect ourselves in the culture of white supremacy, on the outside; it was on the inside, in that "homeplace," most often created and kept by black women, that we had the opportunity to grow and develop, to nurture our spirits. This task of making a homeplace, of making home a community of resistance, has been shared by black women globally, especially black women in white supremacist societies. (pp 42-43)

She goes on to talk about the breakup of families under slavery and under apartheid - it was no accident, she says, because undermining the family also undermines the site of struggle - and that capitalism, consumerism, sexism, adoption of white middle-class ideology are doing the same thing today.
Masses of black women, many of whom were not formally educated, had in the past been able to play a vital role in black liberation struggle. In the contemporary situation, as the paradigms for domesticity in black life mirrored white bourgeois norms (where home is conceptualized as politically neutral space), black people began to overlook and devalue the importance of black female labor in teaching critical consciousness in domestic space. (p 47)

So, the first step to a liberatory strategy - for families of any color - would be to rebuild that politicized domestic space, that "homeplace." To bring critical consciousness back into the home through feminist struggle.

I'll agree with that but also say it's only a first step. One home with a critical consciousness, disconnected from the rest of the community, is not going to be effective. Critical consciousness has to be shared with the broader community. For that to happen, we have to strengthen community ties. And for that to happen, we need to know what community really means.

Well, what does it mean?

No, I don't have the answer. But I do know that to build community, you find a common goal, shared work. For me it was the shared work of our co-op preschool. For the community hooks spoke of, it was building a black liberation struggle. Regardless, it goes farther than cultural criticism, farther than standing in a circle holding hands and singing. It has to move into practical action and material change too.

Of what sort?

That's the question.

hooks, bell. Yearning: race, gender, and cultural politics. Boston: South End Press, 1990.
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Going back to a work I studied in college -  Yearning: race, gender, and cultural politics by bell hooks - I found this:

Lastly, I gathered this group of essays under the heading Yearning because as I looked for common passions, sentiments shared by folks across race, class, gender, and sexual practice, I was struck by the depths of longing in many of us. Those without money long to find a way to get rid of the endless sense of deprivation. Those with money wonder why so much feels so meaningless and long to find the site of "meaning." Witnessing the genocidal ravages of drug addiction in black families and communities, I began to hear that longing for a freedom to control one's destiny. All too often of our political desire for change is seen as separate from longings and passions that consume lots of time and energy in daily life. Particularly the realm of fantasy is often seen as completely separate from politics. Yet I think of all the time black folks (especially the underclass) spend just fantasizing about what our lives would be like if there were no racism, no white supremacy. Surely our desire for radical social change is intimately linked with the desire to experience pleasure, erotic fulfillment, and a host of other passions. Then, on the flip side, there are many individuals with race, gender, and class privilege who are longing to see the kind of revolutionary change that will end domination and oppression even though their lives would be completely and utterly transformed. The shared space and feeling of "yearning" opens up the possibility of common ground where all these differences might meet and engage one another. It seemed appropriate then to speak this yearning.

There's a ton to pull out of this. The whole concept of yearning and longing resonated with me. And then there's this: "Particularly the realm of fantasy is often seen as completely separate from politics." I agree. Since I'm a science fiction / fantasy writer, I especially like the word "fantasy." Because to me it means, "what if?" Radical politics try to transform society, but without the "what if," where exactly, do you want society to go? There's important visioning work to be done, and fantasy and science fiction certainly does it. But my critique of fantasy and science fiction is that it does visioning work and then stops there - there may be no explicit connection between the world a F/SF writer or reader wants to see and the change it takes to actually get there.

This resonated with questions of privilege and oppression. I'm white. I don't like racial oppression. I don't want it. Nonetheless, I have white privilege. What can I do, other than wallowing in guilt? So this - "Then, on the flip side, there are many individuals with race, gender, and class privilege who are longing to see the kind of revolutionary change that will end domination and oppression even though their lives would be completely and utterly transformed. The shared space and feeling of 'yearning' opens up this possibility of common ground . . ."

I like that possibility. Good. Possibility is better than closed options. But I think that a lot of radical texts point to possibility and stop there. But if we really do want to transform society, we can't step there. We have to take the next step. Which means, I think, finding out what the next step actually is.
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 One of the blogs in my reader had a post that got some wheels spinning in my head. There are some number of people living with mobility issues, who would benefit from a house designed specifically for them. Like this:

- level entry
- clear access to entry
- wider corridors
- toilet on entry level
- reinforced bathroom wall to allow future railing
- step-free shower

So wouldn't it be cool if new house construction incorporated these elements?

Now, let's suppose that ten percent of households have someone with a mobility issue. Or whatever percent. Ideally, what percent of houses should incorporate an accessible design?

(BTW, this is a trick question.)

Read more... )
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Here is my calendar's Rumi this month. It is a riddle. Anyone care to try to guess it? I have my own guess.

You had better
run from me.
My words are fire.

I have nothing to do
with being famous,
or making grand
judgments, or
feeling full
of shame.

I borrow nothing.
I don't want
anything
from anybody.

I flow through
human beings.

Love is my only companion.
malafrena: (troughton)
After spending the better part of an hour sitting on my front steps, watching my daughter meticulously covering the same small area with sidewalk chalk, again and again, I suddenly deduced the origins of fire.

Adult: Quit that kid, you're getting on my nerves!
Kid (putting sticks down): Okay.

(Later)
Adult: If I've told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't play with the sticks!
Kid (putting sticks down): Okay.

(Later)
Adult: Can you pleaase stop that awful squeaking noise? It's been a hot day and I'm very thirsty and you're really getting on my nerves!
Kid: What?
Adult: Put. The sticks. Down.
Kid (putting sticks down): Okay.

(Later)
Adult: This is the last time I'm going to tell you --
(Stick bursts into flame)
Kid (waving stick about): Lookit my new toy!



Image from shoreacres.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/sprinklers-and-sparklers-and-mayo-o-my/trackback/
malafrena: (Default)
We had a four-year-old over yesterday, and when she got tired I started singing Mary Poppins songs out of our Walt Disney songbook.

Four-year-old: Mary Poppins is not silly.
Me: Not silly?
Four: Right.
Me: How about when she floats down from the sky with her umbrella? Is that silly?
Four: No.
Me: What about when she pulls a hat stand out of her purse. Is that silly?
Four: No.
Me: Maybe she'll be sillier when you get older.
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I'm chatting with another mom on the playground. A kid runs up to me.

Kid: Red apple.
Me: Red apple . . . ?
Kid: Green apple
Me: Green apple . . . ?
Kid: Green watermelon.
Me: Green watermelon.
Kid: Purple dinosaur.
Me: Purple dinosaur.
Kid: Purple nail polish.
Me: Purple nail polish.

With a look of triumph, kid runs off.

That kid will lead a fascinating life.
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My family got me a lovely bunch of flowers for Mother's Day. We have a local floral shop, and we've gotten to know the people who work there. So spouse got to hear the story about how flowers are done these days. With the Teleflora system, you can order flowers online. Once that's done, local flower shops scramble to do their best to match the arrangement exactly -- because if they vary too much, customers will be upset.

Personally, I'd rather go back to the old-fashioned way of having florists make their own arrangements (which they did do with mine). But poet May Sarton, who tended her own very large flower gardens, didn't like that newfangled approach. In her journal The House By the Sea, she writes:

I enjoyed the gardens and the delightful women who created them, but my hackles rise always at the attitudes of garden club members. I fear I am unregenerate, or simply old-fashioned, for I do not really like "arrangements" where too often a kind of ingenuity (using strange leaves or lettuce or a cabbage to be "interesting") replaces the simple joys of just plain old-fashioned bunches of flowers, which is what I love.
I'm guessing that she wouldn't shop for flowers online.

On the other hand, I bet she would have gotten a kick out of the daughter we saw who rode up to the flower shop in an electric scooter. That's one lucky mom, there!
malafrena: (troughton)
I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to be obsessed with Doctor Who through the end of the current season. Here is a lovely poll someone posted to the community. (Results as of May 8th, 2010.) My responses below.

Read more... )

And my response:

You missed TARDISexual!

The Eleventh Hour: "Oh, you sexy thing!"

OK. Changes with the Doctor.

One - Is a grandfather. Possibly het.
Two - Is pretty much a kid. Asexual.
Three - Paternal to his companions. Asexual.
Four - Is a kid. Asexual.
Five - Also a father figure. Asexual.
Six - Creepy. Tried to strangle Peri. Better be asexual.
Seven - Pal. Asexual.
Eight - WTF? The Doctor kissed a woman? Het.
Nine - Rose + Jack. Bisexual.
Ten - Rose and River. Fled from Jack, but propositioned the Master twice. Bisexual.
Eleven - Is a kid. But he's going to grow up fast. Het.
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All this month I've been pondering this Rumi poem on my wall calendar:

What makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right, it lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others and fall in.
I should be suspicious of what I want.
The accompanying picture is an old and venerable painting:

A Stupid Man Saws off the Limb of a Tree on Which He Is Sitting, to the Amazement of Onlookers
by Sa'di, 1522-1523, modern-day Uzbekistan

What do you think - profound, sacred, or funny as hell?

What does this evoke for you?

Does it contain a lesson for Scooby-doo villains?

If you've been reading this blog and haven't yet introduced yourself, come and say hi!
malafrena: (Default)
I'm on the hunt for substantive, feminist Doctor Who meta. It's on blogs all over the place, but it's hard to sort it out from the shorter response posts. Here's a start. Hope to find more.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100301/king-a.shtml

 "Fall of the Superhero in Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars" explores the implications of heroes who gain ever-greater power, as well as their relationships with others. 2010.


http://www.geekachicas.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=taoism-and-the-tenth-doctor.html&Itemid=55

Discussion of the Doctor and Taoism by Nightsky on Nov 17th 2009

"That his impulses are generally good--compassion, empathy, mercy--is kind of beside the point. In surrendering to them, he's giving in to power; and, in Taoism as in life, the people who want power are the very people who probably shouldn't have any.

"In short, the Doctor has lost his Way."{C}


http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2007/05/09/abws-tv-corner-doctor-who/

Discussion of the Martha Jones characterization by theangryblackwoman on May 9th, 2007

"So Doctor Who and Torchwood get a big A+ in my book. I love watching well-written SF shows. Add the excellent way in which they incorporate non-white, non-heterosexual characters makes them even better."

http://thingswithwings.dreamwidth.org/9471.html?thread=234239

Intersectional discussion of major themes of season 3 by thingswithwings on July 1st, 2007.

{C}

http://peterdray.blogspot.com/2008/12/doctor-who-feminism-and-jesus.html

Discussion of the 2008 Christmas Special:

"In the end, perhaps the episode was a critique of patriarchy and feminism. Feminism that become an inflexible meta-narrative is to be rejected as it threatens to become an evil ,oppressive (and Christianity-like) system; yet the tragedy portrayed by the episode is that a real heroine (a character called Rosita, who helps many children to be saved) ends the epsiode merely as a nanny."

{C} {C}

http://lizbee.livejournal.com/1097322.html

Commentary on "The Beast Below"

{C} {C}

http://lizbee.livejournal.com/1091493.html

Discussion of book "Chicks Dig Time Lords"

{C} {C}

http://blogs.feministsf.net/?p=373

Discussion of episode "Midnight" by blogger Yonmei on June 15th, 2008

{C} {C}

http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2008/05/09/dv-on-dw/

Discussion of Donna hitting the Doctor, as domestic abuse. By Daran, May 9th, 2008.

{C} {C}

http://geekgirlsrule.wordpress.com/tag/doctor-who/

Various Doctor Who commentary

{C} {C}

http://gendergoggles.com/2008/12/15/doctor-who-companion-comparisons/

Comparisons of different Doctor Who companions. Dec 15th, 2008.

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Some of my personal favorites: Jo Grant leaving the Doctor to feed the world by growing seaweed; Romana leaving for an infinite quest through E-space; Nyssa leaving to develop medicines for a leper colony. These three characters started off strong in their own right and then went on to follow their own destinies.

Some of my worsts: Adric getting killed; Peri getting murdered onscreen (true, it is later shown to be false, but that false ending is more convincing than the "true" one); various companions leaving to get married to some two-dimensional guy.
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Some people, on road trips, go to antique shops and scenic view pullouts and so forth. Well, I went to the Ellensburg public library and let the kids play with toy trains while I photocopied sections of bell hooks' Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center that I found interesting. Could I have stayed home and done that? Well, sort of. But I'm always up for a visit to a new library.

Intersectionality is a theory that multiple forms of oppression - gender, race, class, and all the others - are interlinked, and that it is a mistake to say that one form of oppression is the "primary" one. bell hooks is by no means the first feminist to introduce this concept, but she's just so clear and plain-spoken that she's a great starting point. So here are a couple of quotes. Eventually some of them will make their way into an essay I'm developing on collective liberation, but for now, just consider this "Intersectionality 101."

Source: hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, 2nd ed. Cambridge: South End Press, 2000.

(The first edition, BTW, was written in 1984. The theory of intersectionality has evolved since then.)

Here, hooks explains a prevailing attitude of the time that gender is the only important oppression and that all women experience it in the same way.

"Many contemporary feminist activists argue that eradicating sexist oppression is important because it is the primary contradiction, the basis of all other oppressions. Racism, as well as class structure, is perceived as stemming from sexism. Implicit in this line of analysis is the assumption that the eradication of sexism, 'the oldest oppression,' 'the primary contradiction,' is necessary before attention can be focused on racism or classism." (p 36)

But, she says, it isn't: "Suggesting a hierarchy of oppression exists, with sexism in first place, evokes a sense of competing concerns that is unnecessary." (p 36)

Here, hooks talks about the links between different system of oppressions:

"Since all forms of oppression in our society are linked in our society because they are supported by similar institutional and social structures, one system cannot be eradicated while the others remain intact.." (p 36)

And here, she talks about the problem of trying to end one oppression while ignoring all others:

"Significantly, struggle to end sexist oppression that focuses on destroying the cultural basis for such domination strengthens other liberation struggles. Individuals who fight for the eradication of sexism without supporting struggles to end racism or classism undermine their own efforts. Individuals who fight for the eradication of racism or classism while supporting sexist oppression are helping to maintain the cultural basis of all forms of group oppression. While they may initiate successful reforms, their efforts will not lead to revolutionary change. Their ambivalent relationship to oppression in general is a contradiction that must be resolved, or they will daily undermine their own radical work." (p 40)
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I found a post in my RSS feed about a remark made by the Australian prime minister about women who ought to be having babies. (The article is here: "Women Owe Society Neither Babies Nor Excuses.") Chally writes about a "problem" they're having in Australia:

"Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a speech ‘about the ”crisis” of Australia’s ageing population and the various economic challenges we will face as a result.’ For context, Australia's birth rate has been below the replacement rate of 2.1 since the 1970s and Australia is strict on immigration."

I just can't get my head around this. Last night I got together with a bunch of moms and we griped about our problems of overcrowding in the elementary school system. The Seattle School District is struggling simply to find seats for all its kids - a problem exacerbated by school segregation, lack of funding for basic school services in poorer neighborhoods, and the phenomenon of families actually MOVING to get into "the good schools." In general, the people I talk to on a daily basis, here in liberal, middle-class America, are all worried about climate change, overcrowding, and so forth.

Now here, Australia has solved this problem. However they did it, they got the birth rate down. Good news for women! Families! The environment.

But . . . bad news for capitalism, business, development. So it's got to go. Australia, apparently, needs more people. But for some inexplicable reason, the problem cited in the quote (low birth rate) can't be solved with the solution staring me in the face (loosen immigration requirements). No, the prime minister has to go to women and ask them to have more kids.

Is there anything more frustrating than to see a solution to a problem that plagues you daily, and then see an official government figure undercut it - by insulting women, no less?
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So I picked up bell hooks' Teaching Community at the library. bell hooks is the most helpful feminist author for the issues I'm thinking about these days and will ultimately be writing about. I took feminist theory classes in college during the height of postmodernism - which means obfuscated thinking. There was so much focus on reinventing language that the underlying truths were hard to find. I was so frustrated personally, both because I didn't understand everything I read and because I was working as a technical writer and could see how the gobbledygook could be stated more clearly. But the books I'm reading now by bell hooks are so clearly and directly stated that they give ready access to important ideas.

I can't read the whole book. I simply don't have time. (Especially since I am tempted to make a post every time I crack open anything she wrote.) So I opened it to a chapter that immediately interested me: "What Happens When White People Change." I wish I could say my thoughts here, but I simply don't have time. Instead, I'll point to a few paragraphs that made me think:

"Racial integration ushered in a world where many black folks played by the rules only to face the reality that white racism was not changing, that white supremacy remained intact even as it allowed black folks greater access. To many black people who had dreamed the dream, who had believed that racism could be changed by law and interaction, this was cause for despair."

I knew about the ways racial integration did and did not live up to its promises, but I haven't seen this point of view before. It's important for an understanding of where racism is now.

"Rather than focusing on the individual heroic struggles of white folks who committed themselves to anti-racist justice, many black folks dismissed their effort as though it could have no transformative meaning given the collective world of white racism."

I have noticed that many white people tend to believe in racism as a sort of "original sin," one that we can't eradicate.  And I would also like to point out that sometimes people in the feminist movement (men and women too) discount the efforts of men to be feminist.

"All people of color who suffer racial exploitation and oppression know that white supremacy will not end until racist white people change. Anyone who denies that this change can happen, that one can move from being racist to being actively anti-racist is acting in collusion with the existing forces of racial domination."

Okay, now to the happy part. This is what I find most helpful about bell hooks: she does bear a message of hope and give constructive ideas for change:

"All white people who choose to be anti-racist proclaim this truth. Challenging racism, white supremacy, they are transformed. Free of the will to dominate on the basis of race, they can bond with people of color in beloved community living the truth of our essential humanness."

Thank you, bell hooks.
malafrena: (face)
Here's a quote I love from a magical book, Shibumi and the Kitemaker by Mercer Mayer. Please enjoy.

Shibumi
It is delicate with immeasurable strength
So refined it cannot be measured
It is authority without domination
It is eloquent silence without compare
So true it cannot be expressed
malafrena: (face)
Saw Sherlock Holmes last weekend, enjoyed it pretty well, but during the credits, I noticed with dismay that the Humane Society notice that accompanied their "No animals were harmed" seal stated that they monitored only some of the animal action. What's up with that? So I went to the Humane Society site and got the facts, which are:

"American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ were unable to directly supervise all of the animal action in Sherlock Holmes because some of the animal action was filmed outside the U.S. and the production did not establish a contract for our oversight. American Humane did not monitor some of the dog action or any of the horse, camel, bird, fly and maggot action."

Okay, I had to laugh at seeing they didn't monitor the "maggot action." The picture that comes to my mind? Dueling maggots, swords flashing, threatening each other with little squeaky voices.

But . . . it seems to me that the Humane Society shouldn't have put any kind of seal on the movie at all. Because the moviemakers could have paid for the Humane Society to come watch the filming in another country.

And, had I known ahead of time, I would probably have chosen another movie.
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