Thursday, December 27, 2007

How To Be A Postfeminist In 5 Easy Steps/many many links

Some time ago now Verte began musing on 'postfeminism': I went back to that now because of the way the word is used in the introduction to this book which I am reading. It's a collection of women's Telegraph obits - fun, quirky read so far, but here's how the two editors (both women) used the word 'postfeminism' in the intro:

As they explored new opportunities, some women went a little over the top in their efforts to prove that they could be as good as their male counterparts. [...] The sex war is only a s mall part of the story. With one or two exceptions (notably the splendid battling feminist Bella Abzug) few of these women had time for 60s-style Women's Lib. [...] Almost to a woman our subjects would have been horrified by today's 'victim culture' and would have taken a dim view of introspection. [...] Nor is there any whingeing about male chauvinism, though most of them faced it to a degree that would be almost unimaginable now.

But this collection is not some worthy litany of women's achievements played out to the accompaniment of shattering glass ceilings. In these post-feminist days we can welcome the fact that freedom for women means not only freedom to be good, brave or clever, but freedom to be mad, bad or dangerous to know - sometimes all three. [...]

None of the women whose lives are chronicled here had their careers mapped out for them. They could not follow their fathers into the family regiment - or inherit a title. No rich uncle would take them to his club to introduce them to his contacts in the City. As a consequence their stories often have a free-wheeling, anarchic quality, full of surprises and sudden changes of direction.

5-step recap there:

1. We're the Telegraph, dummy. It's like printed Fox News.

2. We want women to continue to be special cases of people rather than people, just as things have always been.

3. We are poutywahwah with everyone who has tried to make the world otherwise, and will make disparaging comments about them at every opportunity.

4. We will make vaguely feminist sentiments - freedom to be mad, bad or dangerous to know - but we will use a magic word to make these sentiments safe rather than challenging to the white guy overlords.

5. This word is 'postfeminism'.

This is just one instance of the word, and an instance with a particularly strong dose of wingnut behind it, but these things are starting to pile up. I've seen Tricia Sullivan's works referred to as 'postfeminist' too. They are not. They are feminist. Perhaps 'third-wave' was the adjective the reviewer was looking for. I do not know. Is postfeminism an attempt to pretend feminism (like punk) never happened?

Now, links: The Debate Link: Why is the Only "Good" Civil Rights Leader a Dead One? makes many interesting points that I think run parallel to the whole postfeminism hoohah in one sense; privileged people desperately trying to deny that the civil rights movement was what it was but at the same time having to give brownie points to what it was because if they didn't, they'd look like the assholes they really are.

Irshad Manji explains why Benazir Bhutto sucked all along.

RenegadeEvolution comes bearing win: Creepy Dudes and
Creepy Chicks.

Qaequam on intellectual property. I love this topic, because it's unusual in human history, completely broken and also the backbone of the popular culture industries. One of my favourite instances of it is the Rider-Waite-Smith Copyright FAQ, which should generate much fun in 2012, but that is by the by.

David Wong et al explain in gruesome detail why we should all pretend 2007 never happened. I for one would cheerfully do that.

And, Erin at projectdownload has found an unexpected happy ending. Which is great but it didn't have to be that miraculous and the only reason it is is because a bunch of cruel, violent assholes with pretend respect for human life decided it should be so.

Friday, December 21, 2007

circular firing squad: set lasers to 'snark'.

Fact: all internets firing squads are circular. All real arguing tends to happen between people who basically follow the same principles. If you're going at someone you truly disagree with, you're not a firing squad, you're a crack team of snipers.

With that said, this kinda pissed me off.

The whole thing? About stereotype threats etc? Good to see explored and discussed out in bloglandia. But Amanda let her slip show again; she talked of the 'rationalisation' (one of those Freudian words I'm not deadly keen on using in sane conversation) of 'choices made under [patriarchal] oppression'. The post up til then was all about educational stereotypes (azns good; girls suck at maths; you know), so to illustrate what she meant about rationalisation she said...

Like getting breast implants could be considered a rational choice (it improves your social status, which is still mainly based on the good opinion of men), but then the patriarchal blather after the fact about how it’s an improvement to “self-esteem” (as if a woman’s sense of self is not inseparable from her physical body, because in a patriarchy only the latter counts anyway) is actually believed. Or your soon to be husband makes it quite clear that there will be no peace in your marriage unless you take his name, and then after you cave to it, you sincerely and completely believe that it was for the best, and the tradition is a good one. Because it’s easier to believe the nonsense you go along with than constantly feel like you’re the victim of the world.

Amanda isn't even slightly obsessed with breast implants. Not at all. I think it's actually been almost a month since she last told us how 'desperate' women with breast implants are. She did even better last time - she went almost two entire months without criticising the 'painful, expensive advantage' that is breast enhancement surgery. You'd think someone who reminded us of their opinion on the topic on a regular basis would have some kind of personal experience to relate here, but no, Amanda just doesn't like saline and doesn't like any woman who does.

I don't have any personal experience to relate there, so I don't intend to pontificate about it. Instead I tend to prefer listening to what women who do have that experience have to say about it. (And about people who don't listen, too).

But that other thing? The surname thing? That's a me thing. And it's not an Amanda thing - iirc, she doesn't believe in marriage. (My beliefs concerning marriage - and lack thereof - I have yet to discuss here; I may come back to that in a few months). So I've had to face this down in my own life, not because anyone else wants me to but because I had to: I have an appalling non-relationship with my father, I have no mother to tie me to any other family, and I am getting married to the person who walks through the world with me. None of these three things are true for Amanda, and it is likely that none of them ever will be. (well, it's likely she'll one day also be motherless but she'll never be a person who grew up that way).

Commenters chime in to say that any hard emotional/identity work I have to do over this is merely 'cognitive-dissonance reduction', and that any way in which this issue is more fraught for people with father problems is 'irrelevant'. Also, lots of hypothetical, supposedly normal, descriptions of a world which is not the world I live in; a world where name-changing is a "show of love" (that's never been how it is in me-land), where it's an expectation (quite the opposite, if anything - I think he was initially expecting to wind up with my name), where someone in your family has put pressure on you about it (there are eight adults called Ms A____ in his family already and funeral gatherings are getting pretty confusing. And I haven't discussed this with anyone in my family except Kathie, who is confused enough as it is).

And oh, Amanda:

It seems frightful to me to be like, “My father is abusive so I’m losing HIS name and taking THIS GUY’S name,” because you still buy into the idea that women don’t and can’t have names of our own.

I mean, why do I never hear men say, “I dumped my abusive father’s name?” Because as men, they get to say it’s their name, not their fathers.

I prefer the Tina Turner method. My name, wore it, made a name for myself under it, etc. Belongs to no man.

Three paragraphs there. The first involves perfectly simple acceptance of fact; in the conventional world that most people live in, women do not have surnames. They just rent them for a few decades at a time. Surnames are shining lights of masculinity, passed from fathers to sons by uninvolved female hands. You can buck the trend, sure (though Amanda will not do so, because she is childfree - not that that stops her talking about labour pains in that thread, not at all), but the trend is still there. Not even just in your culture, but in most others too.

The second is outright untrue. I said that, too, told her I knew a few men who've done just that. She called these men 'myths' because she hasn't met any, and passing judgement about people you've never met is a big Amanda thing.

And the third....oh fucking hell, where do I begin?

Tina. Freaking. Turner. An abused woman. A (in terms of background) poor woman. A woman of colour. Who made a hard choice about the name thing. Keeping a name given to you by someone who hurt you is a choice non-survivor, middle-class, white Amanda approves of. So she will take this abused, poor woman of colour and say that all people who've had to make this choice should make that choice, because it's the only right choice - Amanda says so, and if one poor abused WOC agrees it must be true for all people in that situation.

A brief step aside; there's this bright spark, zombie z, who talks about how her feelings regarding her name and identity have shifted over the course of her life (a cool read, that - I had the same name-avoidance as a child, and I'm not sure if that's related to trying to get distance from my father or not), and how she's now planning to change her surname in the future to a name of her own choice. I've never come across this person before, and I don't know anything much of her other views and writings, but this one made my brain bleed. Her changing her name is awesome, because she's got this whole story behind it and it's a fitting identity for her! But me changing my name would be bad and would be, as she quotes Amanda saying, 'trying to rob other women the right to own their given names'!

Me. Robbing other people of the right to own their names. Because I spoke up to say that for people who've been slapped around by their fathers, that one is frekking complicated and is not just readable as your name vs your spouse's name - it instead takes you back to that original purpose of surnaming, that denoting of a masculine lineage. (btw, as I am robbing other people of the right to own their names, Amanda is assuring me that the name-changing men I know are mythical, and don't even own their own existences). While it's not the same situation and can't be mapped onto it point for point, I was reminded of a certain Alas post: Q: Since When Is Being Criticized Like Having Your Limbs Blown Off by a Landmine? A: Since That Criticism Came from Someone with Less Privilege Than You.

Monday, December 17, 2007

left, right, left, right, links, invite.

I was watching the snooker on BBC2 with my sister on Sunday night (boring, but Saturday's was good) and because of some comment from the teevee ppl about right-handed and left-handed play, plus a bit of questioning of my super-righty sister, I realised something I'd never known before; I play pool left-handed. I can't imagine doing it the other way, with my right hand behind and my left hand on the table. I didn't know that, but it wasn't a surprise - I instinctively do a lot of things left-handed.

hmm, list:

Writing - right-hand only. I've tried learning to use the left but can't catch the trick of it.
Mouse - right for preference, but I can easily use the left if the right is hurt. (Though I still really want a nice concave foot-mouse. <3 feet!)
Skating, netball, pool - left.
Hockey - left hand above right. I don't know which 'way' that is.
Cartwheels - preferably right hand first, but I can at least try to go with left, and I've heard most people can't bear to throw their heads at the floor in their non-dominant way.
Splits - right foot forward.
Fencing - both; initial preference for left, but often moving to right when tired because my right arm is stronger. I haven't done any LARP in forfeckingever (I way prefer P&P) but with nice light pretend metal, I was one of those aggravating ambi people.
Jilling - left. Right just doesn't feel the same.

I am not good at picking a side and sticking with it. ;_;

Links: Rumble in Gotham: Two Guys in an Asylum, or, The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, or, best. Batman. S_D. ever. I'm not a great Batman geek - I've read hardly any of his canon, just dipped in here or there, mostly on S_D or while browsing bookshops - but I love watching the fandom chatter about him, because a) he's one of we motherless freaks, b) he's a single father, and c) Bats/Supes OTP is, like, canon. These things are part of his iconography. So watching people talk about the dear boy and how crazy he is (or is not), and occasionally derailing such talk, is my win.

The Moonbat explains why Bali is made of fail, Al Gore is full of shit and everything sucks. Today is one of those days when Moonbattery is terrifying to contemplate; if he is right, we are all screwed, and the boy has sure done his sums. I don't know how he remains as optimistic as he is, given all the sums he has done. But doom-prophets are not a new phenomenon.

Invite: The Anti-Christmas Carol Service. I have been a muppet in recent years and never attended the previous version of this event, which was a blatantly illegal, unauthorised protest in favour of Christmas, peace and love that took place in Parliament Square in the week before Christmas. No arrests were ever made because the police seemed to think it was not a protest, so this year a near-identical event is being held, save only that it is a formally registered protest against Christmas.

This year's anti-Christmas protest will, therefore, provide legal clarity to the situation; if this demonstration format (candles, carols, etc) is granted a permit, and thus given the status of a legal protest, all subsequent events with the same format (candles, carols) but without authorisation will be proper illegal protests.

Gordy has promised to repeal the no-protest zone law. Well, he mentioned it a while ago but nothing else has been said since. Humbug.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Screw. You.

[this is me thinking aloud about drinking, living, and Somebody Else's Problems.]

I haven't drunk alcohol in around 17 years, but I do remember how it goes - and now it's just so much fun to watch Brits self-medicating. Especially at this very special time of year - holly, migraines, in-laws, that bloody partridge up a gum tree, spewing its ring. We work hideously long hours, our weather is getting worse, our savings may be worthless by next Tuesday and our individual debt repayments would each sustain a Latin American state, we are distantly, hopelessly at war, we're tired of God but confused about praying to Dawkins - of course we find it tricky to relax. So we medicate with prescribed medication, we medicate with illegal medication and we chug down a licensed drug that makes the government millions every month. (Lucky coincidence, here - after all, would we ever vote for any of them, if we weren't either mashed or hung over?)


I love this. I'm glad I found it right when I was trying to line up all this stuff in my head. It is Christmas and I have, as recently mentioned, living space issues, I have family issues, and I have, to be specific, other people's alcohol issues. For Christmas I get a special bumper pack of issues tied with a big red ribbon. I am hoping, almost expecting, that this is the last time I will spend Christmas with my father. We don't go to his house - he comes to ours, and he brings his way of life with him (folded up in a suitcase. and he came much sooner than usual, this year, because he is recovering from brain surgery). I hope it's the last time he's ever in the same living space as me, and that's a liberating concept; it means I no longer have to be cold, or cruel, or kind, to this half-infirm old man. He will be in the hands of another soon enough. The success of the surgery has made him happy. I can let that make life easier.

He moved the corkscrew.

The corkscrew lives in the kitchen, because nothing containing alcohol would ever get opened outside the kitchen, unless it's somebody's birthday or the green fairy is here. A corkscrew on the living-room table is bad. It's someone living in a hurtful way, in my house. You know how it is when you can't even stand the smell of someone? When finding their laundry mixed in with yours is just hateful, when you can only feel at home by pretending they're not in your house - preferably by pretending they don't exist?

Alcohol isn't even the most potent part of this mix. It's money. I have seen him drink more money in the last week than I like to spend in a month, on everything. And sometimes money isn't even more potent than symbols. It's a corkscrew, just a corkscrew - a folding one with penknife on the back and a bottle-opening tool on the end. It's not mine. It's like the tin opener or the pastry brush. It's not for getting mashed with and it shouldn't be outside the kitchen drawer.

I've contemplated many improv homicides over the years, with tube lights and pestles and fire, but corkscrew through eyeball has been a favourite mental image since June 2004. The Corkscrew (not the one that lives in the kitchen, the one that lives in my head) looks kinda like this; I've never owned an athame, or particularly wanted to, but if I did.... So my hand starts curling as I walk about the house, imagining horn ridges and a twist of iron that, fortunately, is not there.

And then he said it. Right after I'd got done whining on the phone to the blue person about it all. He'd brought spirits into the house for the first time in a year, literally replacing almost-empty bottles purchased last December; I made some cocoa and added a dash of cointreau, because it was there, commenting that I'd not had any in about three years. And he just said, in the amicable way that many things have been said lately; "I drink too much."

Never happened before, that one. Not outside that couplet, you know the one-
"You drink too much."
"That's your fault - you drive me to it."

-that every kid who ever had an addict in their family knows about. This time, he just said it. (The green one and I got talking a while ago how, in his age group, alcohol abuse is pretty normalised).

I was probably meant to say something kind. Something gentle of the we-love-you-and-want-you-to-get-better type. What I said, and I said it amicably, was was 'Yes, we know, we knew ten years ago, back when we had no one else in the world, but it's different now, we've got our own lives and...' I stopped before the 'and it's not our problem any more, so I. Don't. Care.' Maybe I have a heart after all. Maybe I'm not done untangling 'I care' from 'This is fucking hurtful to me'. Maybe I expect my siblings will be mired in this even after I'm gone - I tend to be the appointed communicator in this failed excuse for a family unit, as she gets too down and he gets too angry when they try to communicate with him. I am half telephone, half human shield. I am the reason she does not have to deal with the reason she's scared of answering the (real) phone. When our father actually asked why the youngest never calls him and does his best to make it impossible for him to be called, I was the one who didn't say 'Why didn't you worry about that five years ago?', and got on with playing intermediary instead.

He said it a couple of days ago, went out to buy more of it yesterday, and nothing more has been said about it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Sacred', innit?

Mandolin at Alas has brought my attention back to that precious right-wing handwringing that says 'human life is sacred!' (Not). Orson Scott Card's exact words on the subject are:

Bush never backed down. He had compromised as far as he could, without bending his understanding of the principle of the sanctity of human life that civilization depends on.

Stating the obvious yet again:
a) Civilisation depends on no such thing, and frequently relies on the opposite.
b) People on the extreme right say human life is sacred when it supports their politics, and say human life is worthless when it that supports their politics instead.

Example: Project Download, which I came across on the M15M LJ yesterday. Project Download is so fucking ridiculous and tiny that I am still crying tears of frustration every time I even think about it. How much pure hate and cruelty does it take to put someone through this? How can you do that, say it's a-okay to inflict that kind of violence against a person's life, for the want of £750 (and I've had overdrafts bigger than that), and still say 'oh, but human life is sacred?' Of course you don't fucking believe that, you'll just say any old crap that keeps you up and everyone else down.

(And no, I don't care if you think Erin is fake; if human life were sacred, she couldn't possibly be a convincing lie.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

where the heart.

The ABC ladies are poking my head; Kyraninse on how comfort levels are for wet blankets: and V on faith, works, etc. The former reminds me that there is value in going over the things I'm finding hard to go over, harder still to articulate, even if it's only of use to myself; the latter - I could pretend she reminds me that there's no bloody point to writing anyway, but that's not true, the truth is that I agree with everything she said and I got there on a road I don't like, barefoot, but I am like Posy and can learn with my feet.

Speaking of, I made a Sex Pixie:

I believe that wisdom is in the body - wisdom, joy, sadness, truth, there's a physical accompaniment to all of it, and I often find it easier to connect to that than to the rest of it. I get distracted by the abstracts and dream-reals easily; I think that's how the world is, that if you're engaged with one thing you're inevitably drawn to its opposite. A foot on the ground is a head in a cloud, no disjunct.

Verte told me a while ago of a sweet group exercise in which people were asked to point to the body part in which their 'self' resided. Most went to the head; she to her heart; her sparkliness has said such things about hands; my More Pretentiouser Than Thou Pseudo-pagan self would've gestured to the spinal cord, but here in the real world life seems to come from my feet.

And where are my feet, lately? In limbo.

My new US visa arrived by courier on Monday - it is in a giant yellow envelope I am not allowed to open, that will not be opened until I reach the border; it came with an inevitable feeling of carefully treading in Orpheus's footprints. I run circles around my neighbourhood in old, broken shoes; I'm trapped, waiting for January, and ashamed of it. I really am. That shame is why a lot of things are hard to say - it's like navigating around a great pit, always worrying if I'll fall, if I'll be pushed -

I've been wanting to talk about what V said, about neighbours. I could call it something I learned from early-life Christianity - I mean, it's right there in Matthew 25 -

"Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me." Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?" And the King will answer, "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."

- but really, I think I feel that way because I learned it with my feet.

Those of you who've been reading a while will know that my adolescence was needlessly chaotic, that I was never a teenager like other teenagers, that I was sore and stupid about it the whole time - but that wasn't the start of the crazy by any means. It started with a house. The one my parents should've built, but didn't.

They met in London, where the eldest and I were born, but both had grown up in the same general area of the Pennines - I don't know why they moved back there, maybe for family, who died, or out of nostalgia. Maybe anywhere they settled would've been as much of a disaster. It was a quarter-acre plot of land with an old barn on it, in the middle of a village (a village of the 25-houses-1-pub-1-church model, with a river running through it and roads that led to three others like it, though I'm told that many decades ago it had a butcher and a baker). It was meant to be something - house, extension, garden, hearth and home; what it became was shame, stray cats, petty fights over never-enough hot water, a coal fire to huddle by, always a mess, never my space, never happy. Where it worked, it was beautiful. I sometimes made spaces, took the well-lit never-used upstairs living room, cleared it and turned cartwheels there, had a folding table and an inherited dining chair. It got good after midnight, or when I was skipping school, but in the evenings you could hear the television blaring through the thin wood floorboards, hear my father speaking to it as if he were trying to cow some petty demon. It didn't work. The house did not work.

When I whined about The Cement Garden, that was part of why; the physical isolation was a real force in my life back then, almost as real as death itself. The 'garden' was vast, untended, and full of the rubbish of construction - a bit of an adventure to a child, turning offcuts of wood into flimsy treehouses and playing with cats in the long grass - but to a motherless adolescent with a younger child to fail to care for, a household to slipshodly run, a thwarted want to eke out some kind of life in that grey place? Every stone was its weight in shame. Alchemilla molis overran the flower patch - I planted salvias, but the slugs took them within days, and any upkeep my mother had done was lost, though there were still roses. Compassions. I cut their withered heads off when necessary.

I remember walking to the river that Saturday night, taking off my shoes and putting my bare feet in the water, talking to the half-moon, trying to make myself and my life over in response to the crisis in my mind; if I'm back there any time soon, as I sadly think I must be, I am going to do that again.

I remember breaking a toe on the pitch-pine stairs that snaked all around the hallway.

It was too wrecked and shameful for friends - I rarely asked them back. My gamers came, but strange-smelling ruins are cool for PnP. I never felt I could just say 'this is my space, I want to share it with you' to anyone - it wasn't anyone's space, it was a monster. Once I wanted to share my place with a friend badly enough that instead of asking him there, I asked him to my sister's home in London, 250 miles south. (Thus began the unholy triumvirate, a merry thing that violates all your nuclear-family logic, but is another story, and not really mine to tell).

I didn't have many people anyway - I was difficult, angry, had nothing positive to offer but dreams, so there's no one to blame for that. One of the few who was consistently kind and welcoming to me, who noticed when I was sad and such, turned out to be a complete and crazy prick to everyone else in the world, and is still being hurtful to others I knew then, six years later; what am I to make of that, that he terrorised good people who, themselves, wouldn't've given me the time of day?

Did I mention my sister's home is the same one my parents used to have? It's a small place (well, it's dandy for us, even when all three of us are here, but didn't do for parents with three young children), and the lease was controlled, and they made their own house so had no mortgage, and our father talked his company into making use of it sometimes and paying some of the rent - they didn't want to let it go. Now we live here, behind a mountain of unsolicited mail from Foxtons begging us to move the hell out. I'd planned to move in the day after I finished sixth-form; what happened is that a month before that, a rooftop fire destroyed the attic above these four rooms and the burned-out roofspace fell through into two of them.

It was a trauma, especially after all the other living-space issues we'd had, but I confess that I am glad we had that one clean break from the past; I remember standing in the soot and broken tiles, on a treasure hunt a few weeks after the fire, and seeing a shard of that aggravatingly low glass light fitting, the one he was forever banging his head into, and laughing. I'm glad I got to see the sky inside this place, got to know how insubstantial home is. I don't know about the rest of us, but to me that was worth the cost - in fact, the cost was worth the cost, if you get me. Home shunted from place to place during 2003, and somewhere in the middle it slid into the space-between-spaces that swallowed the bulk of that year, but that is a story for another day, or maybe never.

Having a place to live in, to me, means having a place to share. Dignity is an uncluttered floor with a rug on it; a kitchen I can cope with being in; spare blankets for my friends. I've a craving to give and to care and to shelter friends from the cold - and that does not make me a good person by any account, abstract arguments about true altruism aside, because it's too satisfying and it too easily makes up for something I formerly couldn't have. So I give - sure, sometimes I have to come up with dinner for seven on the fly, and I never know where to keep all the duvets, but to be prepared to love, to have such tools and raw materials at hand and to keep a tidy workshop for the craft of loving, is not my gift to you. It's your gift to me. It's proof that I escaped and that I can do better now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Carnivals etc.

Just SFnal links today.

The 18th Carnival of Feminist Sci-Fi and Fantasy is up: Part I (Women, Gaming and You!); Part II (These Things We Love, And How We Interact With Them; Part III (Reviews, Reactions And Recommended Further Reading). It is a lovely carnival, in spite of the fact that I appear twice.

Helen Keeble is making a Weird writeup, which is way better than my Weird writeup. Here is part 1, which is about Lovecraft, Narnia and the tension between worlds - the discussion has veered towards Harry Freaking Potter. [addendum: part 2 and part 3.]

(Oh, and I think I never linked this before: the Alas thread about the whole sex-workers-in-sci-fi thing, which I briefly resuscitated t'other day with a link to my last post. It has been a fun conversation).

Monday, December 03, 2007

From The Whoreses' Mouth

[addendum: Helen Keeble has written some wonderful notes on the Weird Symposium, and I've collected the links here - my own, much inferior, notes are linked at the end of this post.]

This would be further to '1958'. Because, as I mentioned on t'other blog, I went to The Weird symposium, and then the Weird symposium went to a bar, and China MiƩville bought me a drink and talked with me about whores.

I shall now leave a few lines blank to give you time to get over how wonderful my life is.

By then I was suffering from brain-mush induced by lack of sleep and passive inhalation of Immanuel Kant, so there are two important things about the whores in The Perpetual Train that I didn't manage to bring up, but on the whole, I forgive him. The first thing he said when I mentioned the topic was that he'd thought through the gender politics of it and was prepared to stand by that part of the story, both its stance and its way of getting there; I think he'd had this conversation before, and that he'd had it with himself before that.

It's a bit of a duckrabbit: looked at through the lens of an SF-reading feminist, it's part of one distinct pattern; read from the point of view of a revolutionary socialist (I can pretend to have that POV for a moment, right?) it's a different picture. He said he was reflecting the history of railway-making, in which women do appear only as prostitutes or as slaves; given that, presenting the prostitute as a wage-labourer who can, like male wage-labourers, be radicalised by their experiences under capitalism, is (he thinks) a positive. He's well aware of the general SF reading, though, and says 'they do not have hearts of gold.'

The big thing I did manage to get out was that it seemed like his male characters had jobs - surveyors, gendarmes, railwaymen - while his prostitutes were their jobs. He said he felt he'd written them as people who were in control of their labour - they had rules, enforced them, went on strike. He pointed out that the prostitutes are at the forefront of the workers' radicalisation, and reminded me of one charming aspect of the story that I didn't mention last time; the Iron Councillors all, irrespective of gender, call each other 'sister' because the prostitutes refused to use 'brother'. (The other radical group in Iron Council, the Caucus, all, irrespective of gender, call each other Jack, which was really funny before Ori and Madeleina got to know each other). That explicitly identifies the rest of the wage-labourers with the prostitutes, which I think you've got to love.

I pointed out how invisible sex work is to women; how my young brother is far more exposed to the sex industry than I am, how very few women will encounter stripping and hooking (and those who do will mostly be those whose partners are consumers of such), while the industry is marketed at most men and part of the culture of many. How this makes writing about the sex industry excluding for women and entitling for men. (I don't think I said that part particularly clearly). He told me that that was a pretty recent thing - that 15 years ago it was a far more obscure part of male life than it is now. (That is the kind of information that women do not have access to, see?) It's weird that that's happened at the same time as women are becoming more economically powerful.

I didn't, and I wish I had remembered to, mention the problem Ide Cyan so eloquently described here:
"This is the kind of bullshit coming from leftist men that feminist women have been debunking since the invention of socialism. It presupposes that women's oppression is the result of industrial capitalism, rather a specific form of oppression with its own relations of production, and conveniently obscures proletarian men's role in the oppression of women. Obviously, leftist men still haven't paid attention, or do not care to integrate that particular analysis into their revolutionary approaches."

I don't think MiƩville has completely failed to integrate that analysis, but he's certainly putting it way second to capitalist oppression, because that's what the whole sodding book is about. (That his stance is ultimately abolitionist is related to this; yeah, he's imagining a post-sex work utopia, but that's because he's imagining the end of all capitalist wage labour).

The second thing I missed, closely tied to the above, is the point V raised here about the use of sex work as part of the 'story' of individual characters (Ann-Hari and Carianne, but also dozens of other SF characters - Molly Millions, Niki Sanders, several continuities of Catwoman, et cetera ad infinitum). It's extremely irritating when read as part of that group of male-authored SF about sex work; I'd imagine he'd again be writing it as a being about wage-labour rather than being about sex, but I would've liked to argue the toss about it, because I refuse to believe it's a coincidence that it happens with so very many strong female characters. It's also, I feel, touching on appropriation; using a real-world group (sex workers) to explain your politics, your stories, your world.

He told me to come say hello if we're ever at the same convention again, so you never know. My notes from The Weird, if you'd like to read them, are here.