I absolutely loved this little book of short stories when I first read it in the early 2000s and was surprised that it was written in the 1970s. It wa...moreI absolutely loved this little book of short stories when I first read it in the early 2000s and was surprised that it was written in the 1970s. It was required reading when I was at school and is responsible for most of the books that I now own.
The stories are a rewriting of a few of the old fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard but with adult themes. We had to read a couple of the stories out loud during one lesson at school and let’s just say that there were a lot of red faces especially when it came to that naughty C-word!
I would recommend this if you'd like to see pre-Twilight supernatural horror/fantasy mixed in with the original pre-Disney fairy tales.
Definitely not for small children, or the faint-hearted. 5 stars.(less)
It's been a few years since I read this so forgive me if I get something wrong. As a woman I found this terrifying because of the possibility that thi...moreIt's been a few years since I read this so forgive me if I get something wrong. As a woman I found this terrifying because of the possibility that this could happen. I live in an all-female household in the UK, we're independent, I could never see myself ever being able to rely on a man for everything I need. We've fought for the rights to work, spend our own money and enjoy the same freedoms as men.
Offred, stripped of her husband who may have been murdered and separated from her daughter, watching her being raised by strangers was horrible. When she is forced to have sex with the Commander I wondered why she had to, couldn't they do the turkey baster thing instead? Or was this just another way to degrade women and for the men to get their jollies - even if the wives had to be present? If they got pregnant, having your baby taken away from you is even more dehumanising. To be treated as an object and one that is not particularly valued is awful.
But then even the men were emasculated, like Nick, he had very little power and if you stepped out of line your head would end up on a pike on the fences. The Commander himself was a coward, despite his greater freedom he didn't seem to like how things were and taking her out to that secret club was for his benefit not hers - he wanted to alleviate his guilt by trying to keep this handmaid from suicide. His wife didn't approve either, who wants to watch their husband have sex with another woman and have their reproductive rights taken away from them? Though I know fertility problems amongst the people were one of the main issues here.
I think in a post-9/11 world this book is even more terrifying. There seem to be many more extremists (religious and otherwise), gender inequalities in other cultures have been highlighted as have corrupt governments and dictators who run societies where violence and persecution are apart of everyday life. So if this sort of society exists elsewhere, it could happen here too.
When I read this as a teenager this book did more to scare me than any blood and guts horror book ever could. An incredibly disturbing and shocking read.(less)
Reading this shortened children's edition once again along with the full version in The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. The only real...moreReading this shortened children's edition once again along with the full version in The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. The only real difference is the violence. Here, the old witch is 'killed' by the soldier with his sword, the soldier is imprisoned for periodically kidnapping the sleeping princess each night before summoning the three dogs for help who scare the king's men into fleeing, and the king and queen are 'seized' by the dogs who then run away with them, the royals never to be seen again. Whereas in the full version, the witch is beheaded by the soldier with his sword, he's about to be hanged before summoning help, and the King and Queen - along with the judge and all the council members - are tossed many feet into the air by the dogs, dying when all of their bones are broken upon landing.
As for my thoughts on the tale itself, well, the lesson appears to be: Murder and selfish greed can get you everything you could ever want, if you have an Ace up your sleeve.
Killing the witch for simply refusing to tell the soldier what she was going to do with the tinder box is extremely petty and immoral since he was paid handsomely to retrieve it. We're not told whether greed played a part in his life-ending decision - it's not implied, and for some reason when the soldier ran out of gold he never thought to return to the three treasure chests full of coin - one gold, one silver, and one copper - guarded by the dogs. Perhaps he didn't have the witch's apron to place and placate the large dogs anymore and evading them was too dangerous to contemplate. Anyway, as he's a soldier returning home from the wars the price of life may have been cheapened in his eyes having probably seen many lives extinguished on the battlefield and by his own sword - what's one more, and an old witch's life at that. Christianity's 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live' springs to mind.
Alhough the soldier's now a murderer of a seemingly innocent and exceptionally generous witch (though when she got her hands on the tinderbox she could've ordered the dogs to kill him and take the riches back), he may not be responsible for the royal and judicial deaths, for all he asks of the dogs is help: "Help me now, so that I may not be hanged." He never explicitly orders murder, however this show of power clears the way to kinghood and marriage to the princess.
Ah, the princess.
'And so the soldier married the princess, which pleased her very much.' (children's version)
"The princess came out of the copper castle, and became queen, and she liked that well enough." (full edition)
These outcomes imply different things. The children's version says the princess is happy she married the murderer of her parents. Why? Is she pleased they're dead? Were they not good parents? Is she simply attracted to her new husband, forgiving him his sins against her? The castle is made of copper and not gold, was her family not as rich as the soldier now?
Or, is she pleased/content that she's now queen, as the full edition suggests? Women didn't always inherit the throne even if they were the first-born child and they didn't always marry first-born princes of other kingdoms. Has she meekly accepted her fate or is she plotting revenge? We're not told how old the princess is, whether she's an only child, nor anything of her personality, although it's safe to assume she's under 21 as she's unmarried.
These deaths also result in the death of the old regime, the destruction of the ruling elite, getting rid of the exclusivity of the blue-blooded monarchy in which no commoner can infiltrate by marrying a princess, the demolition of a judicial system with the power to snuff out a man's life, and the soldier's transition from riches to rags when he runs out of money exposes the superficial and conditional nature of friendship with members of the aristocracy who flock to him when he's monied and fall away the poorer he becomes.
The soldier kills everyone - directly and indirectly - who tries to order him around. Killing them returns control of his fate to him. As of the end, he's free to do as he likes just as the king before him did.
As a child, I remember enjoying the first part of the story, the adventuresome quest-like nature of seeking the tinder box in a cavern under a tree, carefully handling three increasingly large dogs each guarding three chests full of gold, silver and copper by placing them on the old witch's apron so you fill your pockets with their treasure.
*I read this as part of The Dead Writers Society's Around the World challenge for Northern Europe authors - Hans Christian Andersen is from Denmark.(less)
Is America a dystopian society when it comes to its neglectful and abusive nature towards its women?
I ask this question honestly, not to shock or offe...moreIs America a dystopian society when it comes to its neglectful and abusive nature towards its women?
I ask this question honestly, not to shock or offend, but because I genuinely want to know. I'm not saying America is the worst country in the world for a woman to live, just that the 'virginity movement' comprising of powerful conservative, Republican and Christian groups, have a worrying number of ideals in common with Al-Qaeda.
As a Brit, I'm spoilt. I take my country for granted for its forward-thinking laws and policies concerning women. I'm extremely lucky to be living here; my mother's parents could've decided to travel west in the 1950s instead of east from Barbados. Thank you, grandparents. The state of equality in the UK is better than I realised, though far from perfect. And of course, we still get the ridiculous comments spouted by those who should know better.
Defining virginity and sex is difficult, but the former's invention seems to be about determining paternity, placing value on and commodifying a woman who's never had sex. Tell that to this 15 year-old Saudi girl who barricaded herself in her bedroom after being married to her 90-year-old groom for a £10,000 dowry. This kind of thinking encourages paedophilia, human trafficking and prostitution.
Fetishizing virginity implies that any woman who has had sex is less important, less discriminating in her choice of partner, because she's seen as "dirty". But there's still hope for them. 'Secondary virginity' was invented for those that've sinned to redeem themselves by pledging abstinence until marriage. For many pledging abstinence isn't a choice, expectations from parents, peers, church and/or the local community, puts pressure on the child to conform.
Language used in the father's pledge to help their daughters stay chaste and the daddy/daughter dates, yes dates, are unbelievably pseudo-incestuous. That the girls are supposed to replace a sexual partner and relationship with hugs and dates with their fathers, is unequivocally creepy inadvisable.
As 95% will have pre-marital sex, it behooves us to teach factual sex education and methods of contraception, unfortunately the pervasiveness of federally funded abstinence-only sex education sees children being taught to 'believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV, and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy,' that all contraception is ineffective against STIs, abortions are harmful, and shaming them into doing their will. Not surprisingly, STI rates have increased since abstinence-only's inception.
I fail to understand why grown adults will spread false and misleading information to children who will ultimately have sex, will do so without being armed with the information to keep themselves and their partners safe from pregnancy and disease, and feel ashamed about it afterwards, as they were taught.
Confoundingly, if they don't use contraception, they may have an easier time obtaining an abortion (which is difficult in itself) than the morning-after pill. Sigh. I was pleased to read that parents and pupils are fighting back by complaining to school boards, setting up Facebook groups and surreptitiously filming these "lessons" and posting them on YouTube.
I believed we British were completely safe from abstinence education and was momentarily frightened by Nadine Dorries' abstinence bill which was thankfully withdrawn in January 2012. Phew. I'm not surprised this came from the woman known for abandoning her job as a Member of Parliament to eat ostrich anus in Australia for a few weeks, and yet I am surprised and horrified to see it had reached a second reading in Parliament before the outcry quashed it.
'In 2006, Playboy listed Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov's novel about a pedophile who falls in lust with his landlady's twelve-year old daughter, as one of the "25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written."'
Blatant sexualization of children. My guess is they'd approve of the legal online kiddie porn showing child model photos in bikinis since they basically founded the modern porn revolution in the 1950s, and was accelerated with the help of the internet, video cameras and webcams.
Usual complaints about the degrading and debasing nature of porn against women are present, and to combat this, woman friendly porn is something Valenti is very much in favour of, but objectification and dehumanization has taken on a new face: Real Dolls -woman replacements for the men who buy them. They're tailored to a buyer's exact specifications and can basically do whatever they want to them without consequences. An interview with a repairman is disturbing: 'he spoke about badly mutilated dolls with their breasts hanging off, their hands and fingers severed.' Whether they're men turned off real women by porn, simply intimidated by independent women, or unable to attract a woman for their misogynist attitudes, isn't clear but the danger they might represent to a real woman in future, is.
An antidote to porn culture are Disney's purity porn stars like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus who embody the 'desirable virgin'. The 'desirable virgin' is sexy, young, white, skinny, passive, middle class, girl-next-door. So if you're fat, of a low income, independent, disabled, a lesbian, or a woman of colour -you are not desirable.
In fact, lesbians don't exist to those of what Valenti calls the 'virginity movement', perhaps because most involved in it are conservative/Republican and/or religious (Abstinence Clearinghose and the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) are the major players), viewing homosexuality as "unnatural". Sex for pleasure also doesn't appear to exist to those of the movement, only pro-creative sex with your husband is valid or allowed. Most feminists disagree, and therefore they're the natural enemy of the virginity movement, by promoting equality and sexual liberation (i.e. casual sex).
I was shocked by the mistreatment of some pregnant women and the antiquated prioritization of the life of a foetus before the life of the mother and the tragic consequences. The reverse is true for the UK. The former risks the life of mother and baby, while the latter risks the life of the baby alone. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
One woman in labour had her legs shackled together and an unnecessary c-section was performed on her against her will. Though devoutly religious and pro-life she gave a talk to a pro-choice audience declaring she had been "raped by the state." I completely agree with her. That's a reprehensible way to treat a pregnant woman.
When I started reading Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming Are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis the author quoted Valenti (multiple times, I later learned) which prompted me to brush off my copy of this book to read before continuing, and the Public Punishment chapter is what I was waiting for. Women and children punished and blamed for their own rapes. Both Valenti and Rape Is Rape reference the Cassandra Hernandez case, the Air Force airperson raped by three colleagues who were all given immunity for sexual assault if they testified against her on an indecent acts charge, which included underage drinking. 'In effect, she was charged with her own rape.'
'Women get raped because someone raped them' and for no other reason. Alcohol and clothing aren't factors, 'the presence of a rapist' is. Sickeningly, a 'judge in Philadelphia ruled that a sex worker whom multiple men had raped at gunpoint hadn't been raped at all -she'd been robbed.' It was "theft of services."
The Department of Justice estimates 'half of all victims will not call what happened as rape.' As long as it was against your will, forced or coerced, it's still rape no matter what the victim thinks. Or a judge. One judge disallowed the use of the word 'rape' because it was prejudicial. 'In a heroic move (if you ask me), she refused to abide by the judge's rule: "I refuse to call it sex, or any other word that I'm...encouraged to say on the stand, because to me that's committing perjury. What happened to me was rape, it was not sex."'
"The tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough." ~ Germaine Greer
"Femiphobia" - the fear of being feminine, is often used to punish men e.g. forcing male prisoners to wear pink to offend their hypermasculinity, because 'nothing is worse than being a woman.' Some men 'revel' in the never-ending struggle for 'dominance and "seduction," which can become predatory -is par for the course among young men. And it's not just what's defining their sexuality, it's what's defining them as men.' But this is deforming men, narrowing their emotional range and depth and reinforces the purity myth because they're defining themselves through and controlling women's bodies and sexuality.
Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture was critiqued by Valenti. She agreed with me when she says, 'she fails in that she seems to have little sympathy for the women she interviews' and 'telling young women they're being taken advantage of isn't necessarily the best way to effect change.' And she goes on to say 'there is a middle ground between rabid antiporn Dworkinizing and Girls Gone Wild vapidity.'
Girls Gone Wild - a popular example of deplorable "humilitainment" and exploitation Valenti condemns as one of 'the most sexually predatory groups in America today...it's a roving band of would-be rapists and assaulters who get treated like celebrities wherever they go.' Here, it's shown a few of those employed by GGW were in fact criminals, one of which was a serial rapist.
Valenti postulates the virginity movement's repressed sexuality has unwittingly created the very thing it seeks to eradicate: raunch. Repressing sexuality and shaming people for having it creates a guilty hunger for outlets, like porn (oh, the hyporcrisy), thereby encouraging sexual liberation to fulfil those needs. And that the movement requires the prevalence of raunch to stay relevant, because if they succeed by sanitising the world and abolishing women's rights, what more do they have to campaign for, or against? If they no longer have a cause, they have no power. I'm not entirely sure about this last part. Maintaining the new social order of oppression (with dissemination of propaganda, and so on) would require effort and resources, and someone has to be in charge of that, right?
You didn't think I'd have any, did you?
*It occurs to me that when [vaginal rejuvenation] surgery is performed on women in Africa, we call it female genital mutilation, but in the oh-so-enlightened United States, we call them designer vaginas. You know, American women are empowered.
A footnote has never made me so angry. There should be no sarcasm or snark in that paragraph. American women ARE empowered. They CHOOSE to have surgery by TRAINED SURGEONS in CLEAN HOSPITALS. In Africa, the barbaric practice of FGM primarily consists of a clitoridectomy forced on millions of girls between infancy and age 15 often in unsanitary conditions by butchers, leaving them with long-term serious consequences. Tell me, what American woman would choose to have their clitoris removed? I recommend she read Alice Walker's The Color Purple.
Another footnote is also not quite right, critcising an anti-choice columnist 'who actually asserted that abortion providers and Chinese people eat foetuses!' This is true. Mary Roach visited China to find they actually do. Just because it sounds outrageous, don't dismiss it as untrue.
I wonder if Valenti has ever read Mary Roach because their evocative informal writing styles are quite similar, containing many, many footnotes and personal choices and accounts of their lives. Personal taste will dictate if readers will like this style, for me, it worked like a charm.
Bias. Although I've never encountered American abstinence-only sex education or the other explored issues, I'm sure there is some degree of bias. I can't say for certain how much because Valenti does a brilliant job of reinforcing her points with as much evidence as she can find, but her frustrations prevented her from researching my first two points of criticism. What else has she overlooked, or perhaps exaggerated?
There's no question Valenti makes an impassioned plea to the public to change attitudes. However, understandably, her use of exclamation points increases with her frustration and incredulity at the people, institutions and cultures she criticises. Snark becomes more noticeable, translating into an attack on the "enemy" rather than a call to open dialogue with them. Though it's quite clear previous clashes between sides show few are willing to understand the points Valenti makes and that this book is actually a way of bypassing The Enemy to the public, the very people she wishes to inform, hoping to ignite discussion and encourage meaningful changes throughout society.
Those in power to change the dynamic who are currently doing real damage are the abstinence teachers, well-funded organisations, judges, and legislators.
Ideally I'd like to see this book studied and discussed in schools and universities to combat the dangers this age-group faces from the outset. I'd advise them to read it over a number of days because I got whiplash and headaches from all the head-shaking and frowning I did in response to horrendous opinions on and the treatment of the women within these pages.
The Purity Myth is a passionately urgent and profound call-to-arms to all rational minds, male and female, young and old, to take up the cause of women and equality to finally give women power over their own bodies and sexuality once and for all. (less)
Good and bad. I don't know how to rate this. Amongst my GR friends this is Marmite -love it or hate, there is no in-between. I don't adore it but I do...moreGood and bad. I don't know how to rate this. Amongst my GR friends this is Marmite -love it or hate, there is no in-between. I don't adore it but I don't loathe it either.
To begin with, I was bored to tears by the writing, of Melinda's life and Outcast status so I skimmed but I was curious as to how everything was going to play out with IT. IT is Andy Evans, Andy Beast, Andy the rapist.
Then little things got my attention: this girl's sense of humour (sarcastic, pessimistic and cynical), skipping school, blind teachers -this is going to sound contrived but there were some things about her and her life that reminded me of my high school self.
Speak isn't a normal everyday book, it's literature -there to be studied, to interpret the symbolism, to see the reflections of this and that and derive the lessons learned by reading it. In essence, it's a school book. And who liked school? Not me...but then my favourite subject was English Lit, I never missed a class so that probably makes me a freak for liking it on that level.
For example, Melinda fainting at the sight of the dead frog's hands and feet being splayed and pinned symbolised Melinda's rape, overwhelming her with the memory of that night.
Lesson: It's better out than in. Don't let it fester. Speak up. Stand up for yourself. You can survive.
I didn't always like the delivery of this message. Why is it always the art or English teacher making that connection with the student in need? Maybe it's got something to do with the expression of self. Still, it would've been different if it had been any other teacher, or person in general. However, I did like the script-like dialogue fashion Melinda's silence was displayed:
Each character interprets her silence differently, usually in a way that benefits them and harms her.
David and Ivy were interesting supporting characters and potential BFFs for Melinda. David in particular was quite fascinating. I wish we'd seen more of them, and I'll grudgingly admit Mr. Freeman, the art teacher did good too. He wasn't too hard or too soft, or too creepy in his efforts to get Melinda to open up and express herself and her emotions in art and life.
The ending wasn't quite enough for me. After the very long build up, we see the turning point but not the consequences. I needed to witness everyone's reactions, whether positive ("I'm so sorry for how I've treated you") or negative ("You lying attention-seeking whore!"). What happened to Andy the rapist? Where does Melinda go from here?
After writing this, I think I know my rating: 2.5 stars. Melinda and her school life were well developed, perhaps a little too developed possibly overlooking other angles and characters in the process. (less)
Thank you for this book. I see you're growing beyond the boundaries of paranormal romance and straying into urb...moreDear Ms. Laurenston (A.K.A. Ms. Aiken),
Thank you for this book. I see you're growing beyond the boundaries of paranormal romance and straying into urban fantasy and horror (See, I added this to my horror shelf). Some may say you focused a little more on the war than the romance, but I valued the descriptions of that war and the further character development of Annywl, Eibhear, and the children (Talan, Talwyn and Rhianwen) far, far more than the very funny but not all-consuming romance.
Never have I admired a female warrior, hunter or assassin more than Annwyl. She stole the limelight away from Rhona and Vigholf in this one. Focus and determination; pushing beyond her own physical and mental limitations; the willingness to torture, lopping off limbs and penises (of rapists); sacrificing the few to save the many, even the safety of her own children, an incredibly tough decision to make, all for the welfare of her people, human and dragon alike.
"It means she's amazing -and terrifying. Annwyl kills without question, rules with an iron fist, and has little patience for anyone. She can be cruel, she can be loving, she can be heartless, and she can care too much. She is blindingly loyal, but demands the same loyalty from everyone and is devastated when she doesn't receive it."
Annywl may seem more batshit crazy than brave, and also appears incredibly arrogant and unlikeable to some but if I could be any fictional character Annwyl would be one of my choices, despite the hardships she's suffered.
'There was a time Annwyl would laugh at that kind of reaction. She was only as crazy as she needed to be to get the job done, she's often tell her mate. But these days, Annwyl was beginning to feel as crazy as everyone thought she was. Probably the loss of sleep. She was pretty sure one needed sleep, to function properly. How could she expect to function properly when she couldn't sleep? When they wouldn't let her sleep. Why wouldn't they let her sleep?'
Annwyl's reunion with her mate and then her children brought a tear to my eye. She's not one to cry or bitch and moan so when she finally broke down after all the pressure she was under, I completely understood and sympathised.
Feminism is a strong theme in many of your books, Ms. Laurenston, and never have you addressed that theme in a manner so right than in this book, where I see true equality between the sexes compared to the age-old ways of the Northlanders' recent-ish past.
The children, oh how I love them so. Their uniqueness, idiosyncrisies, and inherited family traits put together with their youth (6 and 7 years old) innocence (haha, they've all ready killed!) and secret abilities made them adorable and fierce, like their mother. They'll be a ruling trio when they're older and woe betide anyone who gets in their way, with the twins' power of the sword and Rhianwen's mighty power of magic they'll make formidable for formidable enemies. I desperately want to follow their stories, watch them learn and grow.
Eibhear, I felt so sorry for him. He has the biggest conscience and what happened was not his fault. We have never seen him angry, he's a softie which the Northland dragon warriors deplored. Killing wasn't in his nature despite his enormous size, big even for a dragon, until an unforeseen incident, and then pure, unadulterated rage saw him do the uncharacteristic, cutting down every single enemy soldier he could find and even that wasn't enough for him. Rhiannon's attempt and comfort and his conversation with Izzy at the end was supremely sad. I hope Izzy can rouse him from his "emptiness" and make him feel again. Only a few more days to go until their long-awaited book.
I hope you one day write an urban fantasy or horror book, if you do, I'll be first in line to read it. I've very much enjoyed the story arc in your dragon books, and as always your ability to create lovable and distinctive characters who form the most caring and loyal of communities of which I'd love to be apart.
Thank you for becoming a writer and giving me the joy of reading your books which brighten the most crappy of days. Your imaginative sense of humour is much appreciated. (view spoiler)[Vigholf punching the horse unconscious and his battle of wills with the stallion -LMAO! (hide spoiler)]
A Most Devoted Fan["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Gotta be honest; I don't like contemporary romance, but just look at my rating. And my shelving. Says it all, doesn't it?
What an emotional rollercoast...moreGotta be honest; I don't like contemporary romance, but just look at my rating. And my shelving. Says it all, doesn't it?
What an emotional rollercoaster! For hero and heroine.
Jacqueline's a positive female role model, Lucas, a worthy tortured hero, together forming a healthy but not-without-problems relationship, which gradually develops after the hero saves the heroine from an attempted rape and helps her cope with the aftermath of both this and her prior breakup with her boyfriend of three years. Panic. Fear. Grief.
Every possible angle is covered on the topic of rape without lecturing readers, although not entirely free from cliché. By that, I reference Legally Blonde and say 'sorority sisters' and leave it at that. Standard reactions to rape included here were the common misconceptions, animosity, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and disbelief from the community, to unexpected support and genuine anger aimed squarely where it belongs -on the rapist. As it should. Message loud and clear. And happily received.
Jacqueline's growth and emerging strength and empowerment with the help of her roommate and Lucas see her attending self-defense classes and learning to squash down her panic in order to think clearly for long enough to protect herself. Knee that attacking rapist in the NUTSACK!
Along the way, she reevaluates her relationships and life path, realising the mistakes she's made, settling for an unhappy, stifling relationship with ex-boyfriend Kennedy, and decides she deserves better. She womans-up and gets on with pursuing a happier future. You go, girl!
But Jacqueline's not the only one with problems. Lucas has a devastating, harrowing event in his past he feels undeserved crippling guilt over, showing reasons for his behaviour, his multiple jobs -both paid and unpaid- the force with which he uses to protect Jacqueline. Heart-meltingly sad. Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.
An unbelievably sweet and tender relationship forms between these two that had me on the edge of my seat, cheering for them, hoping for a happy ending. Every bump in the road was a painful one. If Easy had been a dead tree book nothing in the world would've stopped me from peeking at the ending. Luckily, it wasn't, and I'm glad I didn't spoil it for myself. It was totally worth waiting for.
Emotional ups and downs, fully developed characters, important themes and a clear message all should understand. It could be perceived as an anti-Twilight or anti-Beautiful Disaster. In any case, recommended reading for older teens and those in their early twenties, girls in particular.(less)
Did you know Barbie dolls were modelled after blonde German sex dolls called Bild Lilli? Disturbing to know I played with a sex doll as a child. o_O
C...moreDid you know Barbie dolls were modelled after blonde German sex dolls called Bild Lilli? Disturbing to know I played with a sex doll as a child. o_O
Chapter One: Raunch Culture Published in 2006 one would assume Female Chauvinist Pigs would be fairly up-to-date, but it becomes obvious quite quickly that much has changed in the six years since this was written. Here, Levy focuses on the late nineties and early noughties, in the days of Sex and the City, Sexcetera, and Eurotrash, producing nauseating examples of raunch, harassment and coercion of women, exploiting them and their insecurities for entertainment and profit. Playboy's hypocrisy is maddening.
I could almost picture Levy's lips curling with distain and hear the disgust in her voice as she makes judgements about what women do with their own bodies. Framing her concerns in terms of self-respect and self-worth would encourage these strippers and porn stars she castigates, to listen to her arguments. Her angle seems to be to comment and complain rather than influence change to the status quo, therefore FCP appears at this stage only marketable to conservative types, or at least those that keep their private parts private.
Nevertheless, she does tell both sides of the story by using, as examples, the women who embrace, participate and perpetuate raunch culture, and Hugh Hefner and Playboy, letting their own words and actions speak for themselves. However, there is no mention of disadvantaged backgrounds or anything else that could lead them women to turn to raunch. [She rectifies this in Chapter 6.]
Chapter Two: The Future That Never Happened Less relevant to me as a non-American was the description of American feminist history, most of which was completely new and confusing to me, though, in the end, I grasped Levy's messages.
The ultimate (ideal) feminist goal:
“Women as a class have never subjugated another group; we have never marched off to wars of conquest in the name of the fatherland ... those are the games men play.We see it differently. We want to be neither oppressor nor the oppressed. The women’s revolution is the final revolution of them all. [...] The goals of liberation go beyond the simple concept of equality.”
Feminism diversified and splintered into the anti-porn feminists vs. sex-positive feminists, the former believing porn degrades women and feeds rape culture, while the latter thought porn empowering; evidence of sexual emancipation and freedom to pursue active sex lives, like that of men.
Raunch culture was pervasive, unrelenting. At its emergence, when it wasn't instantly rejected, it's subversive nature, working in the background until those you'd expect to denounce it embraced it instead, even feminists. That's when it became socially acceptable. The saying, 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile' comes to mind.
[Levy's thoroughly ruined "sexy" for me. She'd probably like that since we agree it's been co-opted as a slang term for "cool".]
Chapter Three: Female Chauvinist Pigs
'Why worry about disgusting or degrading when you could be giving - or getting - a lap dance yourself? Why try to beat them when you can join them?’
‘Them’ being men. Joining men meant taking part in male activities i.e. forgetting the feminist cause upheld by your forebears and participating in the un-sister-like behaviour of denigrating your fellow woman by acting like a man. In effect, they switch teams and start actively working against feminist goals and promote male ones. ‘FCPs don't bother to question the criteria on which women are judged, they are too busy judging other women themselves.’
In turning ‘traitor,’ FCPs can be interpreted as Uncle Toms. ‘An Uncle Tom is a person who deliberately upholds the stereotypes assigned to his or her marginalized group in the interest of getting ahead with the dominant group.’ Upholding sexist stereotypes and mimicking male behaviour by positioning themselves as the exception to the rule, setting themselves apart from other (inferior) women –‘the girly-girls’, ingratiates FCPs to men by showing them they share a similar mindset, thereby reinforcing anti-feminist views once the subject of them (women) accepts them.
So Levy theorises there are two types of FCP:
(1) ‘acting like a cartoon man-who drools over strippers, says things like "check out that ass," and brags about having the "biggest cock in the building"' (2) 'or acting like a cartoon woman, who has cartoon breasts, wears little cartoon outfits, and can only express her sexuality by spinning around a pole.’
Both involve pleasing and seeking the approval of others rather than being true to individual wants and needs.
Chapter Four: From Womyn to Bois Lesbianism and the transgendered are the examined in this chapter.
Butch (masculine lesbians) and femmes (feminine lesbians) I've heard of, bois is a new one on me. They seem to be characterised as behaving similar to teenage boys: unsophisticated, immature, letting their id control their actions.
[There is] 'another camp of bois who date femmes exclusively and follow a locker-room code of ethics referenced by the phrase "bros before hos" or "bros before bitches," which means they put the similarly masculine identified women they hang out with in a different, higher category than the feminine women they have sex with. This school of bois tends to adhere to almost comically unreconstructed fifties gender roles. They just reposition themselves as the ones who wear the pants-they take Feminist Chauvinist Piggery to a whole different level.'
I'm in complete agreement with Rosskum on finding 'the idea that there are two distinct genders and nothing in between constricting and close-minded.' Physically, genetically, hormonally and psychologically -One person can be a different gender in each of those categories (intersex). XX and XY are not the be all and end all to gender identification.
'Women are actually becoming men' and 'Elective cosmetic surgery - implants for straight women, mastectomies for FTMs (female-to-male transexuals) - is popular to the point of being faddish. Non-committal sex is widespread, and frequently prefigured by a public spectacle.'
Why so much body modification (or mutilation)? Genuine need for plastic surgery to aid reconstruction after injury or cancer, psychological requirement (e.g. gender dysphoria, severely impeding quality of life), or fear of dangerous situations (e.g. revirginization of girls worried about repercussions from religious community) -Those I understand, but to make possibly life-altering decisions when succumbing to peer pressure or to conform for acceptance is profoundly sad.
Almost exclusively focusing on specific subgroups of women in two metropolitan areas (San Francisco and New York City) of one country, such as the career woman, the stripper, masculine lesbians (butch and bois), FTMs, serves to highlight extremes among minorities some of which the global media may have made popular and as a result, socially acceptable, to the detriment of the feminist cause (i.e. equality with men) and the benefit of masculinism by reconfirming the superiority of men.
Unrepresentative of the larger population, these generalisations based on small groups aren’t necessarily indicative of a larger problem and treating them as such may hurt Levy’s message when some of us haven’t experienced or witnessed the examples given (but just because we've not encountered something doesn't mean it doesn't exist), and fail to see or understand the relationships between certain behaviours, causes and effects detailed.
Culturally speaking, on the whole, this is only directly applicable to metropolitan America, and to a lesser extent other developed countries, because feminism isn't always recognised or is oppressed in the developing world.
Chapter Five: Pigs in Training By far the best chapter, describing the feelings and actions of teenage girls, and the ineffectual sex education they receive.
A girl's self-worth is derived from the attention of boys, competition with other girls for a boy's attention results in dressing provocatively, flirting, the flashing of 'assets', performing oral sex on boys, intercourse and publicly documenting nudity or sexual acts and sharing them to increase one's popularity. Sadly, peer pressure seems to dictate when girls lose their virginity rather than thrill-seeking curiosity and the pursuit of pleasure.
At no point does it occur to these girls to request reciprocal oral sex, and have difficulty recognising, expressing and experiencing sexual desire, and sex education doesn't teach 'sexuality as a larger more complex, more fundamental part of being human.' Instead guilt-ridden Christian America has spent $1bn in ten years teaching abstinence while ignoring contraception or lying about its effectiveness. The message children receive is:
'Girls have to be hot. Girls who aren't hot probably need breast implants. Once a girl is hot, she should be as close to naked as possible all the time. Guys should like it. Don't have sex.'
Chapter Six: Shopping for Sex Levy's highly critical of Sex and the City, Carrie in particular, because she 'rarely evaluated her own happiness' and instead 'measur[ed] men's interest' which is a 'flawed guide to empowerment.' I loathed Carrie's unchecked materialist obsession with expensive shoes when she needed money to pay her rent. She regularly offended my practical sensibilities and her frequently 'complicated' love life because she made it so.
As a teenager I watched the show with fascination and surprise. It was a source of sex education, an insight into the fashionable American woman, and covered important subjects I'd never considered before, like abortion. Miranda and Charlotte were my favourite characters, though I respected Samantha's refusal to be embarrassed about anything sex-related, to her it was a fact of life, which it is.
I'd argue with Levy about Samantha's mannish approach to her sexual exploits as Levy emphasises FCP's requirement for quantity of sexual partners over quality, knowingly robbing themselves of satisfying sex, whereas Samantha made a concerted effort to get as much enjoyment and pleasure out of every conquest she could, exploring the different facets of sexuality along the way, without fear or judgement. She doesn't comfortably fit the mould Levy's created, though she does match a few of the criteria.
An underlying inferred theory for the reason women act like men by seeking unemotional, non-committal sex, is the possible prior rejection and hurt experienced after what turns out to be a one-night stand, encouraging women to take out emotion from the equation when they recover and decide to move on to the next man, and use sex as proof of future desirability to soothe the insecurities that arose from that injury to her pride.
Pornography is documented prostitution, and Levy argues stripping falls under this category as well, for the commodification of a naked body. She goes on to use successful porn star Jenna Jameson as an example of the damaging nature of porn:
'Jameson thinks that women outside the sex industry have internalized its spirit and model their sexuality on porn. [She] presents life in the industry as marked by violence and violation: She tells us she was beaten unconscious with a rock, gang-raped, and left for dead on a dirt road during her sophomore year of high school; she was life-threateningly addicted to drugs before she was twenty; she was beaten by her boyfriend and sexually assaulted by his friend. She also writes, "To this day, I still can't watch my own sex scenes."
Not once does she use the word 'pleasure' to describe her sexuality. 'Like most employees of the sex industry, [she] is not sexually uninhibited, she is sexually damaged.' Being a sex worker further damages these vulnerable people, and Levy suggests these inappropriate erotic role models are suffering PTSD from past sexual abuse, 'It's like using a bunch of shark attack victims as our lifeguards.'
Conclusion We've adopted and conformed to the sex industry's representation of sexuality, which dictates what's desirable and worthy of fantasy. 'We have to ask ourselves why we are so focused on silent girly-girls in G-strings faking lust,' must we also fake it to the detriment of our own personal tastes and sexual satisfaction?
'Why have we fallen sway to a kind of masculine mystique, determined that to be adventurous is to be like a man, and decided that the best thing we can possibly expect for women is hotness?’ The 'prevalence of raunch in the mainstream has diluted the effect of both sex radicals and feminists, who've seen their movement's images popularized while their ideals are forgotten.
‘Sexual power is only one very specific kind of power,' we should be looking at other types of power, breaking through the glass ceiling and pursuing higher female representation in politics and the boardrooms of big business for which previous generations’ feminists originally strived.
Men are all evil, sexist pigs! Well, no. They're not. As Levy shows men so unfavourably throughout, I do wish she'd included a caveat in her introduction stating that not all men act in negative, stereotypical ways. Kind and respectful men do exist, though you wouldn't think so from reading this book.
Occasionally, I was uncomfortable with taking Levy's chosen quotes from other people, whether from printed sources or her own personal interviews, as a truthful representation of that person's opinion. It would be so easy for Levy's bias to influence the way she edits and presents others' words. Although this was based on my own inexperience and naivety with regards to certain viewpoints, e.g. having had little knowledge of the ins and outs of lesbian and transgendered culture and communities, etc.
Warning: Don't read this book if you're easily offended, or partial to feeling shame or guilt for falling into one of the groups Levy criticises, it will only make you feel worse. Both Christianity and politics are also discussed and criticised.(less)