New Paper Doll Outfit – Batwoman

And it’s yet another new paper doll outfit today! It’s been a productive day for me, so you get another outfit (which is more because I’m way behind on posting outfits than anything else)! This is the new Batwoman costume as seen in Detective Comics. Kate Kane’s Batwoman was also featured in 52, but I like this version better. It’s more practical (check out the boots) and has a little more personality, if you ask me. And Kate Kane is all about personality. I mean, the woman’s got some serious guts to put a bat on her chest without so much as a nod from… well… anyone in the Bat family. Granted, her timing is excellent. Given that Bruce normally kept a pretty tight grip on who was and wasn’t allowed to hero in his city, she may have just been lucky that she started just as he skipped town for a while and then just as he came back, she had to take a hiatus and is only able to get back to work around the time he dies (and, lucky for her, Dick is much more tolerant of new heroes). But I like Kate. I’d like to see her get hooked up, at least peripherally, with the female arm of the Bat family (Babs, Steph, etc.). The female members of the Bat-clan have always been pretty separate from guy-centered Batcave anyway (I read a great academic analysis about the Bat universe once discussing how the men work out of a womb-like cave underground while the women work out of a phallic skyscraper and the symbolic implications of that).

If you click on the image it will take you to Alana’s page were you can find the full sized version of this costume and the rest of her outfits, as well as the doll herself. I know this is yet another comic-themed outfit for Alana, but she got a ball gown this morning. Next I’ll have another outfit for Serena.

New Paper Doll Outfit – Supergirl

And finally poor, neglected Serena gets a new outfit! This is the Supergirl costume that appeared in the Supergirl strip in Wednesday Comics this past summer. The strip was drawn by Amanda Conner, who is also responsible for the really cool Power Girl costume Alana has. I’ve become a big fan of her art. It’s fun and she has a great attention to detail. She also clearly has some understanding of how girl clothes work, which really can’t be said for many artists in the comic book industry (sadly).

The Supergirl strip was by far my favorite from Wednesday Comics. It was funny and self-contained, so the audience didn’t need to know anything about the character or world to enjoy it. It also was one of the few to show a female character being heroic, active and in control (even as she tried to keep a handle on what was going on with the super pets). I had hoped for this from at least the Wonder Woman strip as well, but, sadly, it wasn’t the case. Since I’ve already written pages and pages about Wednesday Comics over on my Book Blog, I won’t repeat the analysis here. Suffice it to say, the female characters, by and large, were far from served by this project. But Supergirl rocked.

As always, the image will link you to Serena’s page where you can find the full sized version of this outfit as well as her other outfit and the doll herself. I know Serena doesn’t have much yet, but I have a large pile of outfits for her, so she will have more soon, I promise!

New Paper Doll Outfit – Jo March

Today’s first new paper doll outfit is for Alana. I’m hoping to get at least one more outfit up later today. This gown is what Jo March wears to go to the opera with Professer Bhear in the 1933 movie version of Little Women. Jo was played by Katherine Hepburn and the movie is a very melodramatic version of the story, but still one of the better movie versions if you ask me. Katherine Hepburn really gets Jo’s enthusiasm and how she’s very well-intentioned, even when her schemes aren’t very logical. I chose the ballgown mostly because it was one I could get a good view of to draw. I think it looks a lot like Belle’s ballgown from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and I kind of wonder if someone at Disney didn’t take some inspiration for that dress from this one (although why they would do that, other than the fact that it’s a very pretty gown, I have no idea).

The image links to Alana’s page where you can find this dress as well as her other costumes and the doll herself. I also reuploaded the Power Girl outfit after cleaning it up a bit, since it apparently looked like a mess on every computer but mine! My new computer seems to be better at displaying images for me (which is odd, but whatever), so hopefully I’ll be better about not letting that happen. I should have something up for Serena next, since she’s been slightly neglected lately!

In Defense of Words: “Censor”

A recent School Library Journal article stated:

“Don’t expect to see Lauren Myracle’s new book Luv Ya Bunches (Abrams/Amulet, 2009) at Scholastic school book fairs this year. It’s been censored—at least for now—due to its language and homosexual content.”

This statement was thoroughly backed up:

“But Scholastic says the book, released on October 1, failed to meet its vetting process because it contains offensive language and same-sex parents of one of the main characters, Milla.”

“The company sent a letter to Myracle’s editor asking the author to omit certain words such as “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “God” (as in, “oh my God”) and to alter its plotline to include a heterosexual couple.”

“Scholastic defended the move. “Authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs,” adds Kyle Good, a Scholastic spokeswoman, explaining that the title will, however, be available in the Scholastic Book Club catalog.”

Scholastic responded to this article quickly. Their response gave the impression that they were having a very visceral reaction to having been called out for censoring a book:

“School Library Journal inaccurately stated that we censored the book. We review thousands of books each year and only a limited number can be carried in our channels.” – Kyle Good commenting on the SLJ article and the same comment was repeated verbatim on the Scholastic blog with pictures of their Book Club catalogs featuring the book to reinforce the statement

“Scholastic does not censor books. We review thousands of titles each year for our book clubs and book fairs, and we are committed to a review process that considers all books equally regardless of their inclusion of LGBT characters and same sex parents. In an interview with School Library Journal, Scholastic stated that we are currently carrying Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle in our school book clubs. We also said we were still reviewing the book for possible inclusion in our book fairs. Having completed our review of Luv Ya Bunches, Scholastic Book Fairs will carry the title in our spring fairs for middle school. Scholastic is proud of our long history of providing books that will appeal to the wide range of interests and reading abilities of children in the many diverse cultures and communities we serve. Luv Ya Bunches is just one example.” – On the Scholastic blog later, after much outcry arose in response to the SLJ article

The controversy over the book has been covered all over the internet, so I’m not going to go into it. Besides, as much as I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a really important issue, I don’t think that the reasons the book were censored are the most interesting part of this whole thing. I think that Scholastc’s knee-jerk reaction to a word is the most interesting part.

Scholastic repeated and vociferously claimed that they do not censor books, that they did not censor this book. But they have not countered or refuted any of the specific claims of the article, despite being repeatedly asked and given the chance to do so. Given that, it’s hard not to assume that they are, in fact, true statements concerning what occurred. And if that is the case, than Scholastic needs to dig out their dictionary (they publish several, so they must have some laying around they could check).

The word “censor” has a few meanings, but two particularly apply to how it is being used in this context. Seeing as I don’t happen to have a Scholastic dictionary on hand, I’ll provide examples of definitions from multiple other sources. The first is it’s meaning as a transitive verb.

- “to examine and expurgate” (American Heritage)
- “to examine and act upon as a censor or to delete (a word or passage of text) in one’s capacity as a censor” (Dictionary.com)
- “to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable or to suppress or delete as objectionable” (Merriam-Webster).

The second is one of the word’s meanings as a noun.

- “an authorized examiner of literature, plays or other material, who may prohibit what he considers morally or otherwise objectionable” (American Heritage)
- “an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds” (Dictionary.com)
- “an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter” (Merriam-Webster).

So now that we’ve got a good definition, let’s look back at the evidence stating Scholastic was censoring Love Ya Bunches.

1. The publisher has a “review process”, which rejected Love Ya Bunches on the grounds that it had “offensive language and same-sex parents”. According to our definition, any “review process” that rejects a book on the basis of “offensive” content of any kind, whether it offends them or not, is censoring.

2. Scholastic says “authors are often given the opportunity to make changes in the books to meet the norms of the various communities that host the fairs”, which implies that they want the author to “expurgate”, “suppress”, or “delete” whatever it is that the “review process” determined needed fixing. Again, that matches our definition of “censor”.

If a censor is someone who “examines” media “for objectionable matter” (such as offensive language and same-sex parents) “in order to suppress or delete” said objectionable material (like, for example, asking the author to change it or refusing to carry it in a certain venue), then it seems that Scholastic has no leg to stand on in their claims of not censoring. In fact, it sounds like Scholastic censors everything they carry, it’s just that not everything is found to have “objectionable material”.

Words matter, and as as publishers and proponents of education Scholastic should know that. In fact, they should be among the first to stand up and defend language and encourage proper usage and respect for words. You can’t pick and choose – if you’re going to be a champion of something, you have to defend it even when you don’t like it. That means that even when you come up against a word you don’t like, if you claim to care about language the way Scholastic tries to through it’s educational publications and programs, then you have to accept and even defend it anyway.

That’s not to say that review processes and boards don’t have their place, because they do. But don’t rail against it when someone accurately calls them on being censors. Being a censor doesn’t have to be a bad thing A mom censors a TV show when she decides her three-year-old shouldn’t watch The Sopranos and changes the channel, but that doesn’t make her wrong for having done so.

Words are important and it’s worth defending them, even the ones you don’t like.

Woman: Belva Lockwood

Name: Belva Ann Bennett McNall Lockwood

Dates: October 24, 1830 – May 19, 1917

Place of Birth: A farm in western New York

Why is she interesting?

Belva Lockwood lived in a time of turmoil and change in the United States (and much of the rest of the Western world). She never lived to see women win the right to vote, but she fought hard for the cause. She ran for president of the United States twice and while she wasn’t the first woman to do so, she was the first woman to run a full, serious campaign for the office. She traveled the country giving speeches and answering questions. She had sponsors, a campaign manager and a budget.

During her campaign, Belva suggested that it would be a good idea for all of the candidates to get together for a debate to discuss the issues. She invited the other candidates to join her at a specific time and place for just such a debate, which would benefit all of them and be a useful thing for the voters as well. None of the men even bothered to send her a response, much less show up.

Belva Lockwood studied the law at a time when women weren’t supposed to do such a thing. She completed all of her coursework and filled every requirement to graduate from National University Law School, Washington D.C., but the school refused to allow her to graduate, saying that they had not studied long enough. She and the only other woman in the class were required (and that, only after much negotiation on the part of themselves and lawyer friends of theirs) to sit an extra several days of grueling oral examination by a special bar examination committee. There were two rounds of this and the other woman finally quit when it became clear the committee didn’t intend to let them pass. The committee kept delaying it’s results until it became clear that they never intended to give any.

Belva decided not to take this lying down. The President of the United States, then Ulysses S. Grant, was the honorary president of the university. She wrote directly to him, twice, to demand her diploma. She explained that the school had enrolled her as a student and that she had studied seriously and passed all of the same exams that the male students had (in fact, she had been required to take more exams than they had). It was an injustice that her diploma was being refused her and she demanded that he rectify the situation. She never received a reply, but two weeks later she did receive her diploma!

Mrs. Lockwood became the first woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court and achieved much in her law practice. Probably the most remarkable case in her history was when she represented the Eastern Cherokee Indian Nation. She won them a five million dollar settlement from the U.S. Government as retribution for the forced relocation known as the “Trail of Tears”.

Why do I admire her?

Mrs. Lockwood was a remarkable woman. She believed in justice and she fought hard for it. She was smart and worked hard. She lived in a time when women just didn’t do things like demand law degrees and run for president, yet she did them. She went into everything she did with her homework done and her resources accounted for and marshaled. As optimistic as she seems to have been about the world, fighting for women’s rights and sponsoring a southern black man to become a lawyer in the U.S. Supreme Court, she also seems to have been a realist. She saw the world around her for what it was and didn’t waste her time mourning the fact that it wasn’t what it could or should be.

Belva Lockwood had a personal life full of tragedy, but also full of love. She was left a widow with a young daughter within a few years of marriage and had to find ways to support them. Then she was forced to leave her daughter with her mother for a time while she attended college and after that ended up supporting herself, her daughter and her sister, all on a teacher’s salary. Eventually, she married again and had a son. The son died a year later. A few years later, she lost her husband. Her daughter and granddaughter moved in with her, which Belva loved. Unfortunately, her daughter died suddenly and Belva had to bury her only remaining child.

Although she fought hard and could envision a better future, Belva never lived to see many of the things she fought for. She imagined an international organization that could help broker peace all over the world, but such a body never existed until well after her death. She fought hard for women’s rights and her campaigns brought enormous attention and interest to the cause all over the country. She broke down barriers by not giving in, by demanding what was rightfully hers, like her diploma and the right to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I admire Belva Lockwood’s ability to see a better future and strength to fight for it. I admire her ability to always have and show respect for her critics and opponents. I admire her wisdom in helping people to see what she saw, but not pushing them too fast, not asking too much. She knew she wouldn’t win her campaigns and didn’t expect men to react well to them, but she knew that every political cartoon and newspaper article and discussion in a town hall meeting meant that more people were thinking and talking about women and how they fit into the political landscape of the country. She understood that even when they make fun of you, they are thinking about what you said, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to write or laugh at the joke in the first place.

I admire that she understood the importance of details. Little things impact the way the world works and the way people think, which seems to be something that a lot of people don’t really understand. She very clearly understood it, though. When she had her campaign photo taken, the photographer asked her to sit in a chair. It wasn’t a bad chair, but she refused to sit in it. She asked to sit in a different chair, the chair all the other candidates had sat in for their photos. The photographer laughed and told her that was the “presidential chair”. She said she would have her photo taken in that chair. And she did. She knew that if she was the only candidate who wasn’t portrayed in the “presidential chair”, that would visually undermine her in a very fundamental way, and she was doing everything she could to wipe away anything that did that and show that being a woman didn’t make her different in any important way.

I think it’s sad that she died before ever getting to vote. I think she would have absolutely loved getting to participate in the political process like that. She never accepted less than she deserved and it seems like it must have hurt to live in a world where you don’t have a voice in the most important matters. I wonder if she died hoping that her granddaughter would get to vote someday, never knowing if it would happen soon or keep getting blocked. I wonder how long she thought it would take our country to elect a woman as president? She impacted the cause and the country in so many ways. Her campaign gave the fight for women’s rights a visibility that I don’t think it had on a national level before that. The cases she fought were so interesting and many were significant. She definitely made the most out of that hard-won diploma!

Belva Lockwood was a remarkable woman and I wish she was more remembered than she is. I think her impact was significant and I think it’s sad that history has overlooked her so much.

New Paper Doll Outfit: La Princessa Dora

Today I have a new outfit for Carmella! This is Dora the Explorer’s princess dress from the double-length epsiode “Dora’s Fairytale Adventure”. In the story, Boots (Dora’s monkey companion) eats a banana that a witch has cursed and falls into a magical sleep. Dora must become a true princess and give him a hug to wake him up before the last leaf falls off a talking wall or Boots will never wake up. There’s a dragon who’s really an enchanted prince, a giant with singing stones, and a king and queen at the top of a tower. Dora becomes a true princess and even uses a magic brush to give herself Rapunzel-length hair at one point! Needless to say, Boots is rescued by a hug from his good friend, Dora. It’s a cute story and kind of a fun mash-up of fairy tales and fairy tale themes.

This is the dress that Dora wears as a princess. It’s yellow. In the show, her magically lengthened hair comes out of the top of the hat like a scarf might, but since my doll has short hair I decided to leave it off. The dress and the doll (as well as the rest of Carmella’s outfits) can be found on Carmella’s page or by clicking on the image. I know that Serena has been getting a little neglected lately, but I promise that she has some cute outfits coming up soon!

An Argument for Smaller Game Peripherals

I’m a small woman. In many ways I like this. I fit in airplane seats comfortably. I can buy kids’ t-shirts, which are always cheaper. But being small isn’t always easy. One problem that isn’t serious but is very annoying is that I am unable to comfortably play the vast majority of videogames for very long. Most controllers, computer mice, headsets and even keyboards are not designed for hands and heads as small as mine. My hands are not unnaturally small, either. They are proportional to my size (which means they are larger than those of most children and you can usually buy gloves that fit me without having to look too long). And my head is normal too. I can walk into a store and buy a hat that fits without a problem. Yet electronics remain an issue.

I have become increasingly convinced that more women need to be in the business of designing and creating videogame and computer hardware. I believe this about most electronics, actually. The reason I say this is that the vast majority of these things are designed for people with large hands and large heads and in our culture men tend to be larger than women. Since the vast majority of computer engineers are still men, I’m guessing that one part of the problem is that they are designing for themselves. What’s comfortable for me is usually not comfortable at all for my husband and what is comfortable for him is often either almost unusable for me or gives me hand cramps pretty quickly.

Now, this could also be fixed by the companies that market and sell these products realizing that women (and children and even smaller men) use their products as well and might buy more of them if they were more comfortable to use. I honestly believe that more women might game if it was easier to get smaller game controllers. I’m not saying that all women are little or that game controllers are sexist or even that women are consciously not playing because the controllers are too big for them, but I do know that I’ve met more than one woman who lists among her reasons for not enjoying videogames “they make my hands hurt”. I think it’s more an issue of the people creating and selling the products not thinking about it.

The most common reason I hear for not designing videogame electronics with smaller people in mind is that the core market for the videogame industry is young men, who by and large don’t have a problem with the size things come in now but would have issues if things were designed for smaller people. I find this argument to be kind of dumb because it is based on the assumption that you can only make things in one size. Console controllers, computer peripherals (mice, keyboards, controllers, etc.) and headsets can all be unplugged and interchanged without it making any difference to the system itself or to the game. So why couldn’t there be different sized peripherals to choose from?

It is possible to find smaller PC peripherals these days, but they are still very much in the minority (in a wall of mice at Best Buy I found two mice small enough for me and both were basic “laptop mice”). They are often of lower quality as well. I have yet to find a headset that fits my head that is of a higher quality than those I had with my discman in high school. This may have something to do with the fact that I have yet to find a headset priced over $25 that fits my head. But it is possible to at least find some options. When it comes to consoles it becomes nearly impossible. To find a smaller controller you must locate a third-party company that makes one, since none of the actual companies that make the consoles make smaller controllers, and then hope that it is both still being made and available somewhere. To get me a small XBox 360 controller, my husband had to go on eBay and pay more than $50 for one because only one company ever made any and they aren’t making them any more.

It may seem like this is a specialized concern, but it really isn’t. Women make up 50% of the potential market and children’s games come out on these platforms too. If it was easier and more comfortable for women to play, it’s likely that more would. It would also make family gaming more possible, since you could play games with your kids more easily on the same console you play Halo 3 or Mass Effect on. If consoles are more versatile, that makes them more marketable. I can imagine an X-Box 360 ad showing a guy playing an FPS with his buddies, shifting to the guy playing a cartoony adventure game with his kids and wife, shifting again to show the wife playing a puzzle game via X-Box Live with online friends and lastly shifting to the couple playing an RPG together. It could be a “build your own system” package that comes with a customizable group of controllers and a game chosen from a small selection or a push from Microsoft to show off the options their awesome peripherals give you. It won’t work if the controllers are only comfortable for the guy, though.

I also know that what I’m proposing costs more, but the potential gain could be huge. If the gaming industry really wants to reach a new segment of the market, a segment with incredible buying power and the willingness to spend a lot on entertainment if they feel it’s worth it, they need to do better than pink controllers and Pop-Cap game ports. Women are a huge potential market. HUGE. But even if you start making games for women (real games for women, not pink dress-up games), it’s not going to work if women can only play them for short periods of time before getting painful hand cramps. Think about how to take the basic building blocks of the industry – the very hardware the games are played on – and make it more accessible and fun for women. And that means not only getting more women to design the hardware, but getting more women in more shapes and sizes to play with it and give feedback.

New Paper Doll Outfit: Becky Sharp

Today I have a new costume for Alana and it’s NOT comic book themed! It’s from the absolutely horrible movie of Vanity Fair that came out in 2004 starring Reese Witherspoon. I have no idea why I watched this movie again, since I remembered it being awful, but I guess I wanted to give it another chance. Unfortunately, it was every bit as bad as I remembered. They tried to make Becky nice (probably so Reese wasn’t playing a conniving manipulator with little concern for anyone else) and the result was a story that didn’t make nearly as much sense. Becky isn’t a victim and you just can’t make her one. It doesn’t work. Not to mention the horrible costumes. They were really pretty, but this was supposed to be a period piece and there were side zippers everywhere and fabrics that hadn’t been invented yet and trims that couldn’t have been made (much less afforded by Becky if someone did manage it). It was a mess. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that Vanity Fair just doesn’t make a good movie (although there are some decent attempts). What makes it an interesting book is the snarky satire and it’s nearly impossible to retain that in a movie. Maybe they could manage it if they made the writer a character like in the movie version of Tom Jones, but I haven’t seen a version that attempted it that way yet.

Anyhow, feel free to color this if you like and I’ll post it (my email, since it’s been pointed out that I never posted a way to send these to me, is katie at pixiepalace dot com). This and all of Alana’s other outfits as well as the doll herself can be found on her page. Sorry for the long break between outfits, but my computer has died and I’m now using my husband’s, which is taking some getting used to. Hopefully mine will be working again soon!

New Paper Doll Outfit: Dorothy of Oz

Today I have a new outfit for Carmella! This is the dress worn by Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaption done by Eric Shanower and Scottie Young recently for Marvel. I loved this adaption. It was wonderfully faithful to the original book (yes, book, not movie), but also had it’s own very distinct flair. The art had a great feel with striking geometric shapes and large fields of color. This dress is the one Dorothy brings with her from Kansas and wears for most of the journey through Oz. It had a bonnet as well, but I couldn’t make that come out right and since she didn’t wear it all the time, I decided to leave it off entirely. I really liked all of the outfits Young drew for Dorothy in this series. I particularly appreciated the yellow dress she wore in the Winkie Castle, since I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another illustrator who gave her a specific outfit for that location!

All of Carmella’s outfits and the doll herself can be found on her page.

New Paper Doll Outfit: The Phantasm

Here’s a new costume for Alana! I recently watched the movie Mask of the Phantasm, which is tied into the Batman: The Animated Series, for the first time and I really enjoyed it. In the movie, the Phantasm always looks male, but I think my version works just fine. It was a good movie. I really love the television show, though, so it’s probably not too surprising that I enjoyed this movie! I particularly liked that Alfred got some awesome lines. Alfred is one of my favorite characters in just about any incarnation. Without him and Barbara, I’m not sure I ever would have come to love the Bat-verse as much as I have.

Alana does have some more normal clothes that I’ll put up, so if you’re waiting for those don’t worry. They’ll show up eventually. She also has some historical costumes and other things. She has more outfits than anyone else so far. Anyhow, this costume, the paper doll and the rest of Alana’s outfits can be found on her page.