|Well, yes. Then again, no.
||[Jul. 18th, 2016|06:47 pm]
Two things from Sunday's Twitter stream left me somewhat frustrated, as
I agreed a lot with one part of a discussion, and disagreed a lot with another.
Very different topics.
One was a familiar plaint that women writers are, in general, not reviewed as much, reviewed rarely by men even when they are reviewed, and receive less honor (defined in multiple ways, including being short-listed for awards, winning awards, being on lists of "100 best" or any other number of best [whatever] books, having their work used in schools/colleges, etc.) And that's true. It's also true that the same element is reviewed differently in a woman's book as in a man's book (what is considered "typical women's topic" and "too touchy-feely" in a woman's book is likely to be praised for rich characterization and emotional resonance in a man's book), and that more men than women read (or claim to read) only books by their own sex. As a woman writer, I know that; I've experienced that; I've discussed the problems (in terms of the practical matters that related to a writer's career, from submissions to communications with editors, to cover design, etc.) with other women on panels at conventions, etc.
However, the writer also complains that women whose books ARE reviewed or win awards, etc., write too much like men, about men, or with "masculinized" women characters, with the strong implication that women who are interested in what this author considers topics, tropes, ideas appropriate only to men are inferior as women, and women writers, and shouldn't be the kind of women they are.
And I can't go along with that at all. It's one of the reasons that, though I consider myself a feminist (in terms of wanting equality of opportunity for women, equality under the law, reproductive choice, etc.) I am not in accord with the purity-politics side of feminism, and strict feminists don't consider me a feminist. To me, recognizing that women are fully human means recognizing that women exist in a range of abilities, skillsets, talents, and interests just as wide as men's--that the distinction between "women's interests" and "men's interests" is culturally based, part of the patriarchal setup feminists claim to want to get rid of. I don't want to trade "a man's world" for "a woman's world" in which women are now allowed to have "masculine" interests, to be engineers, adventurers, field scientists, etc--still denigrated for being too "masculine." I want a HUMAN world that recognizes all humans as intrinsically and fully human, and opens all opportunities to those who find them attractive. Sexual identities are biological, derive from individual biology; feminine and masculine are cultural assignments, not derived from biological reality at all. I want women (whether they're anti-feminist or feminist) to quit trying to make all women fit their particular ideal mold of womanhood.
Second topic. A writer I follow on Twitter and admire often puts up a list of "10 Things about [X]" and these are usually witty, insightful, and well worth reading. Sunday's "10 Things" list was about play--its importance in development, in creativity and flexible thinking, etc. So far so good, and although I don't really like "play" being treated as a form of therapy (as in being touted for its benefit to the aging mind in stavig off dementia--when it works as therapy it's because it's spontaneous and fun, not because it's a prescribed activity.) I was nodding along, retweeting all and commenting on some.
But down my Twitter feed a ways was the apparent causus belli for the "10 Things" list. Someone had posted (not on Twitter; it was way more than 140 characters) his frustration and annoyance with people playing Pokemon Go and trespassing on his property in the process. The writer's response was (as typical for Twitter but not for her) to exaggerate what he really said, and attack him for being against a "harmless" activity that was at worse merely childish and playful. And there again I came to a mental standstill and was unwilling to go along. Yes, he thought the game was stupid. But what really bothered him, it was clear, was that the Pokemon Go players were trespassing, a lot of them, at all hours, on his property, which apparently maintains a small recreational space for tenants of the building. And that is not necessarily "harmless," to the property or to the persons who live there. To accuse him of saying "Burn, burn, burn them" is wild hyperbole; to accuse him of opposing "harmless play" is incorrect because trespassing and making a ruckus is not always harmless. Unusual for this writer, who--though she clearly has a temper--is usually very fair in her expression of it.
So while I agree that play is important, and adults should maintain (or re-acquire) the ability for spontaneous, unstructured, play, I do not agree that adults should, in the process, ignore the rights of other people who maybe have a need for their private space in which to daydream or chat quietly without being invaded by boisterous strangers. Who may have their own forms of play, not compatible with something basically commercial and run by a corporation. And I particularly do not agree that every activity someone calls "play" is in fact healthy play, for themselves or others. Children playing spontaneously in a field, perhaps with a ball, are playing....children on a team with an adult coach, either in practice or competing against a rival team, are not "playing" in the same sense. They may enjoy that; I have enjoyed team sports. But it is not play. Similarly, children making up their own make-believe, acting out their own story, are playing--those taking part in a school play they didn't make up, at the direction of adults, are doing something else. The effect on the body, mind, and spirit are not the same.
So...what's made you say "Well, sure, this...but then again, that bit there, no" lately?