Monday, November 28, 2005

My recent absence
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been posting very much recently. Yes, I'm a bad blogger. Mea culpa and all that.
There is a reason, though. My fiction-writing muse seems to have returned, and knowing from experience that she could depart just as quickly as she arrived, I'm taking advantage of the inspiration and concentrating on my fiction for now.
Some of you may also have noticed an increasing obsession with Japanese pop culture (I'm trying to reign this in and not bore you guys to death with it too much). Again, there is a reason for this - the male lead in the piece I'm working on is Japanese. Which brings me to a favour I wanted to ask - is anyone who reads this blog at all familiar with Japanese culture? Has anyone ever lived in Japan? If so, I might want to enlist you as a beta reader at some point.
Also, since I note that we have a few sci-fi fans here, I have a hypothetical situation that I could use some input on. The story that I'm working on has somewhat of a speculative fiction slant to it. Specifically, it has a couple of lead characters who have exceptionally long lifespans and may in fact not be entirely human. I'm not talking about vampirism - frankly I think that whole vampire theme has been done to death recently, and I'm not remotely interested in going there. However, this does leave me with a bit of a problem, in that I have characters with unusually long lifespans and no easy, pat explanation for why that should be the case. So, the question is, if you as a reader were to run across that in a book would you feel the need for a pseudo-scientific explanation involving DNA,gene mutations etc? Or would you be able to accept the idea that the people themselves might not know the reason for their long lifespans? Would it really bug you if no clear explanation was given, beyond "there are a few of us who are this way, and nobody really knows why"? Or would no explanation be preferable to a crappy pseudo-scientific "explanantion" that doesn't really make any scientific sense anyway?
I'm at a point where I could probably cut out that element of the story or create some kind of work-around, but I don't really want to. I tend to think that my first instincts as far as how to structure a story are usually the right ones. It would be interesting to hear other people's input, though. So, any comments?
Sometimes I really hate my homeland...
I'm assuming that everyone has heard about the recent British survey that found that 34% of people thought that a woman who is flirtatious and is raped is partially or totally responsible for what happens to her? I'm also guessing that I'm not the only one who's mighty pissed off about this. Why must my countrymen display the emotional and intellectual development of 12 year olds? Why the persistance of the cultural myth that any man who finds himself in the presence of a woman who does not appear to be an 80 year old nun simply cannot be expected to control himself?
It's always puzzled me that more men don't object to this myth. Guys, when you see yourselves portrayed as barely civilized neanderthals ruled by your dicks don't you find that offensive? It would offend the hell out of me.
Also, about the idea that women "send messages" via their choice of clothing...can we please give this idea that burial that it so richly deserves? As someone who used to be part of a subculture which tends towards rather overtly sexy clothing, I can tell you beyond a doubt that my wearing a short skirt and thigh-high boots was NEVER intended as a message saying "I'll fuck anyone, just ask!". Quite the opposite, in fact, it was intended more to say "if you don't belong to the same subculture as I do, don't even bother talking to me, I'm not interested". Indeed, this is not an uncommon thing. To the extent that clothing is intended to communicate with others, what it is often saying is "I identify with subculture X, so if you do too then come talk to me! And if you don't, get lost". The really dumb thing about the "women's choice of clothing sends a message" idea is this - even if it really does send a message, what the hell makes you think that message is aimed at you, random guy on the street? Or that you know how to "read" that message?
Also, it's a sign of how completely fucked-up British (and American) culture is that people are incapable of comprehending the fact that flirtation does not equal an invitation to have sex, right here and right now. The complete inability of the nations of the British diaspora to grasp how the concept of flirting works is a continual dissapointment to me, and as this stupid survey shows it's also a source of danger to women.
So, I know it's been said before, but just for the record I'm going to say it again. If I'm wearing a short skirt, that doesn't give you the right to rape me. If I'm smiling and friendly, that doesn't mean that you can assume that I want to fuck you. If I'm drunk, that also does not mean that I'm looking for sex, and even if I am in fact looking for sex, that does not mean that I'm looking for sex with any guy who happens to wander past. Women do in fact possess the power of speech, and if we want to have sex with you, trust me, we'll let you know. If we don't let you know and you decide to fuck us anyway then guess what? You're a rapist. I'm tired of mincing words about this. Apparently my countrymen need a good slap in the face to acquaint them with reality, and right now I'm in the mood to provide one.
Damn, people are dumb.

Link to an article about the survey in question below.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Memento Mori
I'm feeling very sad today because I just learned that former Shonen Knife drummer Mana "China" Nishiura, who was on tour with garage rock band DMBQ, was killed in a car crash on November 3rd. China meant a lot to me because I adored Shonen Knife as a teenager. In the days before Riot Grrl, it was pretty rare to see a female band that weren't overly-sexualised fembots, and Shonen Knife were wonderful - punky and poppy and quirky and wierd and gloriously real. "Quiver" is still one of my favourite songs about love and lust from a female perspective. They were also responsible for introducing me to the world of Japanese pop culture, for which I am profoundly grateful.
It's strange how the death of someone you never even met can make you feel so sad. When I first tried to write this there was a power cut while I was writing, which seems entirely appropriate. A few moments sitting in the dark thinking back on the past seems like a good way to honor China. Of course, seeing someone being so maudlin would have probably prompted her to crack a few jokes and smack me in the head with a drum stick.
Sweet dreams, China. You will be missed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The politics of identity

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of identity recently. Specifically, I've been pondering the notion that we all have multiple identities, that identity is a multi-faceted thing.
This all started with an argument I got into with a feminist fellow-traveller over at Twisty's blog (Thomas knows what I'm talking about). She basically accused me of being anti-feminist (pause for a moment to savour the irony there) because I objected to her labelling the practise of BSDM as inherently anti-feminist, and implying that women who participate in such activities are patriarchy-worshipping puppets. It's funny how much that pissed me off, especially since I really haven't been actively involved in the BSDM scene in over 10 years. I think that the reason it pissed me off is that, even though I'm no longer an active participant, BSDM is still an important part of my identity. It's part of how I define myself. So is goth, which the woman in question was also attempting to label as anti-feminist (without any indication that she actually had any knowledge of either scene, by the way).
So, this got me thinking about identity. Specifically, does one's devotion to a particular political ideal (in my case feminism or socialism) mean that one is required to eschew all the other parts of one's identity? The idea that it does seems to be tragically common in feminist circles, and slightly less common but still not exactly unfamiliar in socialist ones. This idea annoys the hell out of me. Firstly, there's the "it's not my revolution if I can't dance to it" element. Why should I let someone else decide for me what is and is not an acceptable part of my identity as a feminist, or a socialist? Does that not go against the whole spirit of both movements? Does anyone else see the irony in a feminist attempting to tell another feminist that an activity which she perceives as wholly positive and as something from which she derives sexual pleasure is in fact unnacceptable, and that she is deluded in thinking that she enjoys it? Is there anything more fundamentally anti-feminist than telling another woman that her actual lived experiences are not real, that her perceptions are not to be trusted? I wanted to smack her, and I don't mean that in a fun way.
Secondly, telling members of a political group that there is a standard of ideological correctness that they must adhere to, and that they are not competent to judge for themselves whether or not they are meeting that standard, is a crappy way to build a movement. It's less like inviting someone into a movement than inviting them to join a cult. Everyone's identities are multi-layered - there's gender, race, culture, class, religion, sexual orientation, pop cultural affiliations, political beliefs, and a whole host of other things. It's never as simple as "feminist" or "socialist", ESPECIALLY for those who are not white and middle class.
Thirdly, one's multiple identities, preferences and cultural affiliations are part of what makes life interesting. Indeed, it's a big part of what makes PEOPLE interesting. Have you ever met one of those people who have made one part of their identity into their sole cause for being? Since I'm into goth I meet the "vampire" version a lot, and they annoy the crap out of me. Must you really wear your fangs to the grocery store, or the DMV? Am I actually supposed to pretend that I think they're real when we're in line to get coffee? Tully's doesn't sell blood lattes, you know.
Lastly, why are my choices in terms of how I construct my identity any of anyone else's damn business? Or anyone else's choices? And why are some people so resistant to the idea that identity is multi-layered?
For myself, my identity includes the categories "feminist" and "socialist". It also includes punk, goth, BSDM, a love of anime and sci-fi, a generalised sense of intellectualism and a love of academic theory, a fascination with Japanese pop culture and Russian history, a love of swimming, and a strong sense of myself as not belonging to any particular culture, but being able to move between cultures with ease (many TCKs would recognise that feeling). All of these things are a part of my identity. Some of them are more significant than other, and which ones are most prominent is a thing that varies from one time to another, but all of them are in there. Not one of them should require abandoning any of the others. Is that really so difficult to grasp?