In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Her blog post throbbed with the disdain of a woman who’d never contemplated her own breasts

I walked into the room with a confidence that would have been alluring on a more attractive woman but, unrelentingly average as I am, could only be read as arrogance. My oversized tank top skimmed over breast-shaped breasts, hiding feminine curves that still have to be mentioned even though you couldn’t even see them. I wore tight pants that said “workout,” stretched over a generous ass that said “work me out,” and he might have been tempted to take me up on my unmistakable offer had I not been, tragically, in my late thirties. Above my neck, there were other body parts.

Oh No It’s Award Season Again Thread

Share your thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs here, for whatever production and whoever’s performance, and feel free to go to town with subtext and meta-commentary. Just please be spoiler-aware for those readers who haven’t managed to catch up with various books/movies/TV yet.

I’ll get you started. Consider going to see The Dressmaker.

Feministe Book Review 2: The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker

If you are a leftist, a feminist, or an enthusiastic lover of NYC history, the 1909 Shirtwaist Strike is or should be an event of major importance on your historical radar. If, like me, you’re all three, it’s practically one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

In 1909, the mostly immigrant, mostly Jewish and partly Italian, almost entirely female workers in the shirtwaist manufacturing industry went on strike. They were a group that had to fight and advocate for themselves. Established Americans didn’t much care how these immigrant workers were treated, and the labor unions weren’t interested in organizing women–girls, they thought, didn’t have the grit it took to go out on strike and hang tough in the face of deprivation. The exploitation and sexual harassment in the industry was appalling, and after a workers’ meeting at Cooper Union on November 22, 1909, 15,000 women walked off their jobs. Within hours the number had grown to 25,000 (depending on whose numbers you read, the strike has also been known as the “Uprising of the 20,000”). It also spread outside of NYC, as women walked off the job in Chicago, Cleveland, and Rochester. The strike did not end until February 15, 1910. In the meantime, dozens of employers settled, and their employees were able to return to work victorious (the Triangle company held out and never settled; their name was destined to be written in NYC and labor history in letters of fire and blackened bone). The workers put out and sold a special edition of the New York Call, a local newspaper, to spread the word about their situation and demands. They picketed ceaselessly, despite the fact that they were regularly brutalized by cops and antagonized and set on by gangsters and sex workers paid by the shirtwaist bosses. They were sent to the workhouse and came back and picketed again. Amazingly, wealthy women became interested in their cause and came downtown to walk the picket-line alongside of the shirtwaist workers, where they were also attacked and arrested. Of course, this alliance did not last, as the workers did not appreciate the condescending attitudes and stingy contributions to the strike fund of the “mink brigade,” as they were called, and the wealthy women were alarmed and horrified by the heavy socialist bent of many if not most of the workers. Still, there was a brief moment when gender solidarity crossed class lines.

Theresa S. Malkiel, who wrote The Diary of a Shirtwaist Striker was one of the socialists. She was a Jewish immigrant who had been one of the workers in this industry before she married out of it (she married a lawyer who also bought and sold real estate). She wrote a pretend diary of a striker who is radicalized by the strike and converts to the socialist cause (at the time it was originally published, I don’t believe that it was known to be fake), and in turn is able to convert her previously unsympathetic boyfriend. If you’re me, which I am, it was practically required reading once I found it.

The edition I read was published by Cornell University Press and has an extensive introduction by Francoise Basch (please forgive me; I don’t know how to do the cedilla under the “c” in Francoise here). It’s a pretty good introduction to the strike, the different streams of history that come together in it, and Malkiel herself. Basch does make some questionable choices, in my view, as when she portrays the strike as largely a failure–dozens of employers settled! Every other source I’ve read portrays it as a success if not a triumph! It demonstrated to the established labor unions that women were indeed tough enough to take on a huge industry and stay true to the cause! What more does Basch want? What strike would she consider successful? But OK, she makes a case. It’s not one I agree with, but it’s a reasonable case. In another place, she goes on and on about why Malkiel made her narrator a “native-born” American rather than a more representative Jewish worker, blathering about how this enables the reader to learn about radicalism along with Mary (the narrator) (Jews were more likely to have already been radicalized prior to immigration), allows her to have her narrator talk about how “noble” the Jewish women were, and tells labor leaders not to give up on the established American workers before finally admitting, in one sentence, that hey, Malkiel just might have been trying to garner sympathy for the strike by circumventing the anti-Semitism of the non-Jewish reader. Y’think?

Nonetheless, Basch establishes the context of the strike and the major players in it, and doesn’t forget to include my favorite piece of the strike lore. When, at the Cooper Union meeting, Clara Lemlich leapt to the stage and called for a strike (depending on the source, she either said “I’m tired of all this talk! Strike, strike, strike!” or “I am tired of listening to speakers….What we are here for is to decide whether we shall or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike shall be declared–now.” I prefer the first version, but I am given to understand she was speaking in Yiddish, so it might just be a matter of translation.):

The Souvenir History of the Strike tells us that “the chairman then cried, ‘Do you mean faith? Will you take the old Jewish oath?’ and up came two thousand right hands, with the prayer, ‘If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither away from the arm I now raise.'” (31)

Anyway, the “diary” itself is fascinating, in my opinion, as Mary learns about the living conditions of her worse-paid immigrant co-workers, becomes a socialist, is arrested, goes to the workhouse, falls out with her family and her boyfriend, and reunites with her boyfriend as he is inspired to become a better socialist sort of person. It’s particularly touching if you have a soft spot for traditional leftist rhetoric, which I do. Mary comes to the realization that the socialist fervor must cross all lines in the interest of class unity, “man, woman, Jew, Gentile, dark and white alike” (137). She also experiences a feminist awakening, rebelling against her father telling her that unions were a good thing but never meant for the ladies, and noting that she and other women were carried under a mother’s heart, just as men were, and “What’s the difference between men and women when it comes to work? I walk under the same sky and tread the same earth as men do” (68).

This awakening to commonality makes the two instances of flat-out racism all the more jarring when they occur; they don’t come until late in the book, after more than one proclamation of the sort I describe above. The first concerns lynching, when the newly converted Jim is deeply upset at the way Mary and the other workers are being treated and says “In the South they put a noose around a man’s neck for insulting a woman. Here we’ve grown so callous and cold-blooded that we take it as a joke” (164). One could argue that this is mere ignorance on Malkiel’s part of what lynching really was, but why should she have been ignorant? Ida B. Wells had been active and on the lecture circuit in NYC, though it’s true she was first speaking in the years just active Malkiel’s immigration to the US, when Malkiel was working in the factories and unionizing her workplace in her spare time, but Wells’s activism continued for decades. Malkiel seems to be making the white feminist move of gesturing toward inclusion without actually paying attention to what black women are saying (though Malkiel would not have qualified as white at the time, of course, which is no excuse for that sort of behavior, anyway).

The next incident occurs just a few pages later and has even less relevance to the plot or the issues of the strike. Mary is on a train to somewhere-or-other for Reasons, and she goes to use the ladies’ room but gets lost:

…[I] landed in the porters’ quarters instead. It gives me a chill even now when I think of the half a dozen dark grinning faces. In anger I rushed back to my seat. (171)

Why is she angry? Why is she chilled? Because black working men have the temerity to smile in their own rooms? It’s a bizarre interlude: it make no difference to the action or plot, and if anything should have been an opportunity for Mary to expand on her previous realization that dark and white makes no difference in the eyes of socialism (obviously, this is untrue, but this is the ideology of the book). Instead, it’s a gratuitous insult. Why is it there? Well, I think it’s there specifically because of those earlier musings on socialist brotherhood. Don’t worry, it’s saying to its white readers. Mary and her Jewish and Italian sistren, they’re good white girls. They’re disgusted by black people. In other words, I think it’s an unconscious move to make sure no white readers are put off by the putative racial equality the book suggests.

Other choices Malkiel makes are interesting as well: Jim, Mary’s beau, becomes a socialist and devoted to the strike despite utter intransigence for the first half of the book. Basch convincingly argues that this is because Malkiel is ultimately a traditionalist when it comes to relations between men and women and doesn’t want readers to think that becoming a socialist means losing the opportunity to wed. I buy that, but I’m still unsure why she chose to have Jim come around rather than to have Mary meet some other nice young socialist man, maybe while she was canvassing the established unions for donations to the strike fund. It’s as though Malkiel is playing out a form of “the divine feminine urging man ever upward” vis-a-vis socialism. Mary’s pure example and steadfastness changes Jim’s heart. The transformation is quasi-divine–she doesn’t give him anything to read and think about, they don’t have a reasoned debate about it. He just one night randomly sees that it’s wrong for children to have to beg in the street (NYC was full of homeless children at the time).

Mary is dismissive of the mink brigade and listens for a while to suffragist speeches before concluding that the class war is more important than the ballot, and the latter will have to wait. Heartwarming, if you’re into it, which I am.

All in all, I’m very glad I read this book; it’s been on my list for a while. If you’re interested in labor history, women’s history, Jewish history, NYC history, it’s work getting a hold of. If you are interested in reading more about the strike, I recommend Triangle, by David von Drehle, which uses it as context for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Interview with Debbie Reese

After I did my last post, about representation in children’s literature and Debbie Reese’s blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, it occurred to me…why not interview Debbie? She’s incredibly smart and well-read and knows what she’s talking about in ways I can’t even begin to. And she said yes! I am incredibly grateful for the time she took to give such thoughtful responses. Thank you so, so much, Debbie. So, here is the interview:

1) Let’s start with the good: what are three books you would recommend, fiction or non-fiction, adult or children’s, to readers interested in finding nuanced, respectful, accurate depictions of American Indians?

Because most of what children bring to school with them is a stereotypical, monolithic, long-ago-and-far-away idea of Native peoples, my first choice—for children or adults—is Cynthia Leitich Smith’s picture book Jingle Dancer. It is tribally specific, set in the present day, shows dance as something reverent (for Native peoples, dance has significance beyond American society’s concepts of dance as entertainment or performance), conveys the significance of extended family, includes a traditional story presented as a normal part of our experiences, and with the character who is a lawyer, shows us as more than artists and storytellers.

In his The People Shall Continue, Simon J. Ortiz gives readers an expansive history of the continent that came to be known as North America. He names many Native Nations, starting with our creation stories and moving to our trade networks and conflicts, and then he moves forward in time to colonization and what that meant to our nations. He doesn’t flinch from brutal federal policies like the boarding schools that sought to destroy our nationhood by taking our children and though it was published in the 1970s, its ending is applicable to today’s society. He points to the destruction that capitalism is doing to all of us, and calls for all of us who have been marginalized and oppressed to stand together to fight greed so that, of course, humanity will continue. The People Shall Continue is also a picture book but its message is one that readers of every age can—and should—embrace.

A third book that comes to mind is Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. Too many people in the U.S. are not aware that Native Nations (there are over 500) have diplomatic agreements (treaties, contracts) with the federal government. In practice, this means that we are sovereign nations, and that we have police departments and court systems on our reservations that impact who is prosecuted and where that prosecution takes place. In The Round House, a crime is committed. But where it happened is the crux of the story. Who has jurisdiction? Erdrich’s powerful story helps readers understand our sovereignty. Though she has written for children, The Round House is for older teens and adults.

2) How did you come to start AICL? How has it changed and blossomed since you first began? How have various readers—librarians, teachers, children, parents, Native American or not, responded? (I’ll ask about writers later)

I launched it the summer my daughter was away for the first time. Learning the ins and outs of blogging occupied my mind during her absence, but the decision to blog was based on an interest in two things.

First, I had reviewed for Horn Book and got into terse conversations with editors about two of my reviews. One of those conversations was revisited a few months ago at Read Roger , the blog of the editor at Horn Book. That recent conversation captures why I think blogging is important. In short: my perspective has value and ought not be edited so that it conforms to language and frameworks that overtly or subtly marginalize diversity of experience, culture, and history.

Second, as a former schoolteacher, I know that teachers—who are already underpaid—use their personal funds to buy a lot of the items in their classrooms. Memberships in professional associations are expensive! Few of my fellow teachers (Native ones at the Native schools I taught at, or Latino/a ones at the public schools where I taught) could afford to join or attend professional conferences. That means they don’t have access to the research and writing that can help them in their professional development after they graduate from college. A glance at attendees at any professional conference tells us that, in particular, people of color are notably absent. With a blog, I could make my work available at no cost to anyone.

3) You state beautifully why this work is so important (Dr. Fryberg’s research etc.). What other kinds of changes need to happen to address falling graduation rates and high suicide rates, as well as negative self-image, among NA youth?

Stephanie’s empirical research is very important because it documents the impact stereotypical images have on Native and non-Native people. In the U.S. we tend to laud science, and that ought to prompt publishers, writers, booksellers—anyone, really—who is involved with children’s books and textbooks, to change course in terms of what they’re doing. Instead, the response is to cry censorship and violation of the First Amendment, as if a shift to factual portrayals is a threat to the country and to freedom.

4) You’ve done a lot of important work, from this blog to your years as a professor at the University of Illinois to your years teaching elementary school. You must have gotten significant pushback. What kind of resistance have you met with, and how have you addressed it and coped with it, both practically and emotionally (if that’s not too personal a question)?

People resist my critiques by defending some aspect of the book they think is more important. One example is Touching Spirit Bear. It misrepresents Tlingit people but because it is about a bully who faces his bullying nature, people choose to look away from the misrepresentations. Ignoring them means that Tlingit—and Native people—are thrown under the lets-not-bully bus. There’s a fleet of busses like that. The Weetzie Bat bus (LGBTQ), the Mosquitoland bus (mental illness), The True Meaning of Smekday bus (biracial protagonist), the Walk Two Moons bus (coming to terms with death), The Miseducation of Cameron Post (gay conversion camps)… There are others, but those are much-acclaimed and award-winning books that elevate one topic, people, or theme while looking away at misrepresentations of Native peoples.

I counter defenses of those books by not backing away from my critiques. We count, too. More importantly, our children count, too. One coping mechanism is to keep images of my daughter, her cousins, and their children in my head. Knowing that they’re likely to be asked to read these books gives me the tenacity I need to keep going.

I also have a circle of friends who I turn to when I need to blow off some steam, and I often have to walk away from my computer for a while before responding. Another coping mechanism is the emails I get from readers thanking me for the blog itself, my perspective, or, a specific review.

And I got a huge boost in July when Cree Metis artist, Julie Flett, wrote to me about an illustration she was doing for an article in Teaching Tolerance. The article is about Native history. Julie read the interview, saw my name in it, and wrote to tell me she wanted to include an illustration of someone reading to children. That someone is me! As I read her email I was stunned—in a good way. I have no words to describe how that felt. I’ve said delighted, and tickled, and humbled, and honored, but none of those convey what it meant to me. As we talked more, she asked about a book that I could be reading, and I thought of Simon J. Ortiz’s The People Shall Continue (described above). The article with the illustration came out last week.

5) I’ve always been impressed how open you are to dialogue with writers. I know you’ve had a variety of responses from them over the years. What is a typical response? Do any stand out, for better or for worse?

They range quite a bit! Some will doggedly rebut my critiques, while others clearly think about what I said and respond in a way that signals a change in their thinking. An example of the former is the extended dialogue I had with Rosanne Parry about her book, Written In Stone. As that dialogue shows, she was not open to my critique, but I think the entirety of the conversation offers a lot to other writers who read it. An example of a better response is the interactions I had with David Arnold about his book, Mosquitoland. At first he blocked me on Twitter, but later, unblocked me. He responded to my critiques, and—I think—changed the title of one of his songs, based on our exchange. Because his book was out, he couldn’t change it but did say he is talking with fellow writers and editors about it. I don’t have evidence that he is actually doing that, but I hope he is. I have a tag at my site for posts that include an author’s response:

6) Have you noticed any trends in the literature you review regarding gender? Or gendered trends in the responses you get from readers and/or writers?

I haven’t studied either one in the work I do on my blog. I did find, in my dissertation research, that most depictions of Native peoples in the children’s books I looked at (for the dissertation) were male. Even if the character was a girl, she was shown being a male. And of course, it was a stereotypical depiction. A good example of that is the image of Grace (in Hoffman’s Amazing Grace) as Hiawatha—Longfellow’s Hiawatha, that is! There was, in fact, a person named Hiawatha. He is a key figure to the Iroquois people and is nothing like Longfellow’s Hiawatha.

7) One very selfish question–for those of us who are not NA and do have children, what resources do you recommend if/when we have to speak to a teacher about a racist reading, or Thanksgiving-related activity, etc.?

Like so many Native people in Education, I feel weary just thinking about that holiday and the questions I’ll be fielding! A few days ago I got the first one for this year. A librarian wrote to say that teachers in her school are trying to do a better job with the way they re-enact the first Thanksgiving. They want to move away from stereotypical costumes the kids wear. They want accuracy in the costumes. At first glance that seems a good move, but it strikes me as similar to all the efforts to make mascots better by having them be more accurate in how they represent a particular Native Nation. Both (Thanksgiving reenactments and mascots) are creations borne of a White point of view. Both mean well, but both ask Native people to come onto a White stage, to perform in a White story. Another example: when the Lewis and Clark bicentennial rolled around, people wanted to reenact that, too, and wanted Native Nations along their route to dress up and greet Lewis and Clark.

The way that Thanksgiving story is told is deeply flawed. It is a feel-good story about America’s beginnings, but it one-sided and glosses over the violence that Native people experienced. Teachers think kids don’t have the wherewithal to hear that story in its completeness, and they think kids will get the truth later. Some will; some won’t! Some will feel something akin to betrayal. James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me gets at that, but so do the words of Taylor, a 5th grader whose teacher shared with me (with Taylor’s permission) something she wrote: Do you mean all those Thanksgiving worksheets we had to color every year with all those smiling Indians were wrong?

By November of each year, a teacher has had about three months to work with children, teaching them about points of view. By then, the teacher could have read to children, or had them read, books by Native writers that give readers solid information about who we are. By then, the teacher will have students using specific names for tribal nations, and the students will know that we’re still here (I hate saying “we’re still here” but it is necessary). They may even know that we’re very politically engaged, fighting against companies that want our resources and/or pollute our lands! The students in those classrooms will be ready for a more accurate look at Thanksgiving, and they’ll share that new information with others, and there will come a day when the question won’t be a question anymore. It will be the way-it-is. It may be a long way into the future before we get there, but I am optimistic. It will happen eventually, and opportunities like the one you’ve given me with this interview, are a step in that direction. Thank you!

Racism, Representation, and Children’s Literature

I teach children’s literature, specifically Golden Age children’s literature (1865-1926), aka Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Winnie-the-Pooh), and you might notice that those dates in the parentheses coincide with the height of the power of the British Empire. So while students may register for the class expecting light reading about happy children, what they get is heavy reading and detailed discussions of racism and imperialism and its manifestations in the Empire’s children’s literature, including some of the classics we still read today.

One of the books we talk about is J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, originally published under the title Peter and Wendy in 1911. I loved this book as a child—I read my copy to shreds. I’m talking literally; my childhood copy is now held together with packing tape. I still love many things about it: the quality of the writing, many of the things it has to say about childhood and adulthood, the ambiguity of the narrative voice. And it is racist as fuck. And its racism is both unacceptable and inextricable from what it has to say about childhood and adulthood, and the racist ideology on which it rests is a large part of what justified—and continues to justify—the genocide of Native Americans. What is a Native American kid supposed to think about this book, about its status as a classic? When I was in sixth grade, my elementary school staged the 1950s musical as the school play, calling the Indians “Leaf People” in an absurd effort to mask the racism. What was a Native American kid supposed to think about that, that one of the best public schools in NYC would do that? And what did it teach the rest of us? It taught me that adults couldn’t actually address what was going on. Not once did any of the teachers try to engage us in any discussion about how the play portrayed Native Americans.

Questions of representation, particularly in children’s literature are never just academic. And one blogger I particularly admire who always maintains that thought front and center, is Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian woman, who is a founding member of the Native American House and American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois. She’s taught at public elementary and Indian schools and on the university level. She holds a PhD in education and has earned numerous honors for her publications, teaching, and other achievements, and is a consultant for groups that wish to improve their understanding of and approach to NA issues and texts. She runs the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, and is as kind as kind can be. On this blog, she specializes in promoting children’s and YA literature that has accurate, respectful, nuanced portrayals of Native Americans, often written by NA authors. She also engages in cultural criticism, discusses classics that are still read and recommended for children, like Little House on the Prairie, and critiques contemporary children’s and YA literature that perpetuates the harmful anti-NA stereotypes and ideology that justify genocide, that contribute to, well, let me give the floor to Debbie and quote from AICL:

I believe that these seemingly innocent books actually play a significant role in the lives of Native children. Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, a research psychologist, has conducted studies of the effects of stereotypical images on the self-esteem and self-efficacy of Native students. She’s found that these images have a negative impact on Native students.Research studies on the graduation rates of Native students show that Native students drop out of school at greater rates—and increasingly greater rates—than other population groups. Dr. John Tippeconic and Dr. Susan Faircloth published a study in 2010 in which they state that over the course of their years in school, Native students gradually disengage from school. In their discussion, they suggest this happens because Native students do not see themselves reflected in the school curriculum. More recently, studies have shown that Native youth commit suicide at much higher rates than white students. As I write, many tribes are launching initiatives to address the sky high rate of suicide among Native students. Given these studies, I believe the books Native students read in school play a significant role in how Native students fare.

One of the things that has always struck me about Debbie’s site is how positive it is, and how she is always open to dialogue with the authors whose work she praises and/or criticizes. When authors respond, she always elevates their comments to the body of the blog post, so that the reader has immediate access to the author’s perspective. She is unfailingly generous of spirit, in my opinion, anyway.

But voicing objections to racism make you a target, and Debbie’s come in for her share of targeting. Authors in particular can be incredibly publicly defensive about their work, and she’s been called “too angry,” told she has “too much power.” Sound familiar? Any time a woman, a PoC, a Native American takes issue with white supremacist or patriarchal ideology, we’re “too angry.” Criticizing texts is read as “attacking.” And “too much power”—what power is that? The power to speak up and on occasion, be heard? Merely not being silent is too much power. This reads as projection to me, and always has: Disproportionate anger, attacks, unjust power—whom do these qualities really attach to? Who are the real aggressors here? The representatives of a settler state/way of life or the NA woman bearing witness to what is happening?

Here’s another example of a NA woman refusing to be silent about NA genocide. Despite her behaving like a model student: doing research, citing facts, and disagreeing intelligently, civilly, and firmly with what her professor had to say (I have no problem with a student disagreeing with me as long as they are doing so based on research and/or textual analysis rather than gut feelings), her professor found her voice so threatening that he dismissed the class, accused her of “making him look like a racist,” and tried to expel her from the course. What an embarrassment to a profession that is supposed to be about intelligent debate! I don’t say this often, but I hope he isn’t tenured, because there are any number of deserving scholars who don’t fear a smart, passionate student and who could make the most of that position. I daresay some of them are Native American.

So this is a post in support of all the NA women—and men, and children, and all NA people—who keep fighting the genocide of their people and the lies used to justify genocidal policies and actions. Even speaking up is hard.
I also admire Debbie’s teaching. You can read an article in which she and an equally excellent colleague, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, talk about ways of teaching problematic texts. I’m a very traditional teacher—it’s me, a blackboard, chalk, a book, and talking for an hour and fifteen minutes after I take attendance. I deeply admire teachers who are more inventive than that.

Me, I barrel ahead with the direct method. I assign a relevant chapter from Kate Flint’s The Transatlantic Indian, about Edwardian ideologies about Native Americans and how they dovetailed with the genocidal policies of the US, and we discuss the way those ideologies support Peter Pan’s narrative about childhood. And I try to always keep in mind whom I’m teaching for. I teach Peter Pan the way I do so that when the NA students Debbie is thinking of get to college, if any take my class, they’re not driven away from or alienated by the education they’re offered. And because the way I teach Peter Pan gets to an important truth of the text, too. There’s a hard truth in there about how our classics are often underpinned by the ugliest, the worst our society or culture or nation has done, and I don’t want to be one of those adults who can’t discuss it.

Dragon Con followup: Female heroes and femininity

On Saturday, I sat on a panel in the American Sci-fi Classics track at Dragon Con, talking about female heroes in classic sci-fi. One question from the audience stuck out to me as being insufficiently addressed in the time we had available, so: Young woman in the front row, stage left, ’bout three seats from the end, if you’ve followed me here (which is totally cool and appreciated), here’s the answer you deserve.

Question: Seeing as how “femininity” is really just a social construct, don’t we need to see more heroines who eschew traditional signifiers of femininity?

Quick hit: Duke freshman refuse to, can’t wait to read Fun Home

On the one hand: Several Duke University students have publicly announced their unwillingness to do the suggested freshman summer reading. They refused to read Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her experiences with her father and her relationship with her sexual identity, because it offends their Christian values. On the other hand: Other students, not locked into a fearful, fundamentalist view of the world around them, are excited to read Fun Home and gratified to see it on the reading list.

Fifty Shades of Whatever, I Don’t Even Care Anymore, Life Is Meaningless: Grey

In a bid to wring every last cent out of the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon, author E.L. James has released Grey, the story of Fifty Shades of Grey as told from Christian Grey’s perspective. Some readers, both fans of the series and critics, were curious about Christian’s thought process during the original books, since the story we see from Ana’s point of view was so deeply creepy that dear God, there had to be something, something, something redeeming in the backstory to make it more of an edgy, kinky romance and less of an episode of Law & Order: SVU with a private helicopter.

Terry Pratchett, RIP

Terry Pratchett, a kind man and wonderful writer, died this morning. He had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007.

Why is his death, the death of a white, male satirist and fantasy writer, worthy of note on a feminist blog? More than one reason, but let me begin with his books about witches.