Check out The Learned Fangirl

I guest posted over at The Learned Fangirl this week. Go check it out! And while you’re there, read through some of the other awesome stuff on the blog. It’s full of great posts and I highly recommend it!

Power Fantasies

Power fantasies are a big deal these days. As much as videogames might come under attack from the media and activist groups, they also draw in new players from all around the world every year and many games are understood to be such fantasies. Tons of research has been done on power struggles in social interactions and communications (Deborah Tannen is the best writer I know of on this subject) and superheroes like Spider-Man and Superman are often seen as healthy male power fantasies. In short, we understand that men want to be strong and able to beat up bad guys and save the world. And if you think about it, the appeal is pretty easy to see. Why wouldn’t a guy want to be someone who’s able to be always in control, always able to protect the people he loves and unquestionably always on the side of right? So here’s the tricky question: what is a woman’s power fantasy?

The feminist answer would be “the same thing”, but the reality is always more complicated than that. Yes, women want those things too. That pretty much goes without saying. Except, sadly, it needs saying because many people don’t understand that a woman would want to protect her loved ones and be able to retain control of a situation and be always doing the right thing as well. So the question becomes, why do women want those things too? More than that, why do women need them?

Something that I forget a lot of times is that while women live lives always having to be somewhat on alert, always careful, men not only don’t have to do that, but they very often aren’t even aware that women do. Jennifer de Guzman wrote a brilliant post on her LiveJournal about this that really articulates it well:

As I wrote in my reply, I am kind of astounded that some men don’t see why physical empowerment would clearly be attractive for women. I think it’s intriguing to note that women often like the hot women who kick ass as much, if not more, than men do. Here’s what I think is behind that: As women, we are nearly constantly aware of physical threats. And those threats often are of being violated sexually. When I used to go to campus for night classes and people warned me to “be careful,” what they are saying was, essentially, “avoid getting raped.”

Now, what if, what if, as a woman, you could walk around, be sexually attractive and not have to feel threatened? What if all the rage you feel about women being victimized and brutalized could be channeled into pure, righteous ass-kicking? And, because you’re a woman, you could possibly do that ass-kicking without being seen as a testosterone Steven-Seagal-esque meathead. Ass-kicking fantasies for men are more about proving and retaining power, I think. For women, they’re about finding and asserting power when they’re not expected to have any.

That’s exactly it. That’s a really big reason why women, and even little girls, need power fantasies and superheroes of their own. But as brilliant as this post was, what made me really think about this was the reaction it elicited from Michael May over at Amazon Princess:

That makes so much sense I’m ashamed I never thought of it, at least not in those terms. I’ve been operating under the hypothesis that the attraction of Wonder Woman for women has a lot to do with confidence (and argued that that also makes her attractive to men – or at least to men like me), but Jennifer’s thoughts go deeper than that and explore at least one of the reasons why Wonder Woman can afford to be so confident. She’s gorgeous and she can damn well take care of herself.

So, yes, women do want and need superheroes. Little girls need superheroes. This isn’t to say that boys don’t need them, but why can’t we have both? If there can be three ongoing comics at the same time about Batman’s adventures in Gotham, surly there can be a little more room for real superheroines! There are so few comics highlighting superheroines (and at the rate Marvel’s going, fewer all the time) and the ones that do exist often feel like the neglected side projects that either got hastily put together while the writers focus on their real stories or are assigned to second-string artists and writers and never promoted in any way, giving them no chance to gain a real following. Even flagship characters get dropped and forgotten (how many times has Spider-Girl lost her book? when was the last time one of the DC editors even mentioned Wonder Woman’s book publicly?).

Women deserve more heroes. We deserve more games with heroes we can see ourselves in (and yes, if you read the above you’ll see that we do like them beautiful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all have to be naked and have DD-cup breasts, beauty is more complicated than that). We deserve more comics with kick-ass heroines. We deserve heroines with real female friendships, since women do occasionally interact with each other. I’d love – *LOVE* – to read a comic that passed the Bechdel Test, but since Birds of Prey ended I haven’t found one. I’d love to see as many little girls running around pretending to be Batgirl, Spider-Girl, Wonder Woman and Supergirl as I see little boys running around pretending to be Spider-Man, Superman, the Hulk and Batman. Maybe if more guys saw that girls could be heroes, more women would actually be safer in real life too. You never know.

I’m the New Austin Children’s Book Examiner

I am now the Austin Children’s Book Examiner! I’ll be writing articles for Examiner about all things related to children’s books and any kid’s book related happenings around Austin, TX. Come check out my articles at my page at Examiner! So far I’ve only got two articles up there and both are news pieces, but hopefully I’ll start putting up reviews and recommendations soon as well. I’m excited about this new venture!

I’ll still be writing here at Pixiepalace, too, but my focus here is probably going to shift a bit. I guess we’ll see what happens as I settle into this and figure out how it’s all going to work for me. I’m excited, though, and I think this is going to be great!

Carter Stands Up for Equality

On July 15th, a position paper by former president Jimmy Carter was published that discussed his reasons for severing all ties to the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s an amazing piece and I highly recommend reading it. Mr. Carter explains that he can no longer be a part of a religion that views half of the population of the world as inferior to the other half. He explains that this institutionalized sexism is used far too often as an excuse for atrocities.

There is a whole section of the paper briefly touching on some of the ways that sexism around the world is affecting lives and he states that “It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society.” He goes on to say:

“It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.”

Carter acknowledges how difficult it is for current leaders to challenge such deeply ingrained social mores, but he calls on them to work to change these truths anyway. He calls the cherry-picking of bible verses to justify sexism selfish and “in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God.”

To be honest, I never thought much about President Carter before. I knew that he was involved in human rights issues and that he won a Nobel Prize, but he was out of office before I was born and so I never paid that much attention. This kind of a call for action is well worthy of attention, though. I hope that it helps to make the difference in the world that it asks for. It certainly made a difference to me.

If Edward Stalked Buffy Instead of Bella…

Buffy Summers is probably one of the strongest female characters ever written for television (and I don’t mean because of her supernatural strength). She’s a teenage girl who goes through perfectly normal teenage girl experiences, but she also fights real monsters. She doesn’t let herself be manipulated easily and never lets anyone else direct her life for her. She is her own master, even at sixteen. She is definitely her own person and has her own distinct personality.

Bella Swan of Twilight is not really any of these things. Not only is she passive to the point of being almost unable to do anything on her own, but she’s got so little personality that it’s hard to describe her without mentioning at least one guy. I don’t think she fell for Edward because he was special (he wasn’t unique in any way other than perhaps his ability to stalk disturbingly effectively). I think that she would have fallen for any guy who paid attention to her, and who could have paid her more attention than obsessive Edward?

So what would have happened if Edward had obsessed over a girl like Buffy instead of the willowy nothing Bella that he did? Through some creative editing, Rebellious Pixels has given a likely answer to that question.

Hmm… picking a girl with a backbone doesn’t seem to have gone well for Edward, does it?

The commentary this video makes is really interesting. While Bella seems unaware of the inherent creepiness of Edward’s behavior, Buffy notices it right away. She is bothered by him from the moment he walks through the door, although perhaps the moment when he introduces himself (something people do every day without being creepy) best illustrates how off-putting even the most innocent of Edward’s overture’s can seem. Buffy seems to decide that Edward is harmless, if annoying, and pretty much tries to ignore him.

I noticed two pivotal moments in this video. The first happens when Edward comes to talk to Buffy at the dance club. She makes it very clear that she doesn’t really want to talk to him and that he’s being creepy, but he really doesn’t seem to understand (or maybe he just doesn’t care) and he persists in talking to her. Here’s how I read the scene (Edward’s dialogue is unchanged):

Edward: I’m on a… special diet.

Buffy: Duh. Vampire. Now why the hell are you talking to me? You’re creepy and weird, even for a vampire. Go away. I’m letting you live, but only because you’re pathetic.

Edward: I feel… very… protective… of you.

Buffy: (Oh my god, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This guy is even more pathetic than I thought. This isn’t even worth my time.) *gets up to leave*

Edward: Don’t leave. I…

Buffy: *walking away* (I can take care of myself and if you’re too stupid to figure that out, that’s really your problem, isn’t it?)

He later follows her at night and she tells him flat out that being stalked “isn’t really a big turn-on for girls”, but he just storms away. Clearly he’s not getting the message. Buffy confides in Willow, her friend, a couple of times and both of them decide that this guy is bad news.

The second major pivotal moment, however, is when Buffy wakes up and finds Edward sitting in her bedroom watching her sleep. She, understandably, reacts very strongly to this and tells him to get out or she will “drop [him] out head first”. He seems to think this moment is sweet and romantic (reading his facial expression, body language and tone of voice), even after the threat is made. Of course, he’s thrown out the window. Edward is clearly not used to a girl who can hold her own.

He tries once more, telling her she’s like his “own personal brand of heroin” and that he’s never wanted a human’s blood so much before. Buffy points out that this is childish, overblown and a little disgusting. She also expresses boredom at all the drama. At this point, since Edward has proven himself to be not as harmless as he seemed (he invaded her bedroom if nothing else), Buffy stakes him. It’s a nice, neat ending to a very creepy stalker story. I have to say, this version was much more satisfying for me than Twilight actually is. I found Edward’s insistent stalking more than a little creepy and disturbing, as Buffy obviously did too.

Women are not prey to be tracked and bagged, which is how Bella is treated by Edward. They are people in their own rights who deserve privacy and respect, as Buffy shows in this version. This remixed version of Twilight was excellent and I hope that it illustrates to more people some of the problems with the story Twilight tells.

What Superhero are You Quiz

I really enjoyed this quiz. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with the results (my husband thinks I’m a little more like Batman than the quiz thinks I am), but I was happy with my result and happy to see that I scored so close to Robin and Supergirl too. Too bad only three female superheroes were included here. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty fun quiz!

Your results:
You are Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
90%
Spider-Man
80%
Supergirl
80%
Robin
75%
Superman
70%
Iron Man
55%
Green Lantern
50%
Hulk
50%
Catwoman
45%
The Flash
45%
Batman
40%
You are a beautiful princess
with great strength of character.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

I found the quiz through Kelly from Big A little a. Thanks Kelly!

New Pixel Dolls: Shackled City and Book Characters

I know that it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted any pixel dolls, but I have some new ones today. Some have been sitting on my computer waiting to be posted for a really long time while a few are pretty recent creations. Madam Mim is probably the oldest, but she was certainly fun to do. I always loved Madam Mim as she’s portrayed in the Disney version of “The Sword in the Stone” and I just couldn’t resist doing a doll of her! After that I did a few more American Girl dolls (Kaya, Elizabeth and Addy). They’re fun to do because of the historical costumes and cute details. I’m sure I’ll do more of them at some point! Superwoman there is Lois Lane from one of the many times that she got superpowers (I can’t believe how often that happened). I was mostly amused by the heart-shaped Super symbol on the costume! Lois is always fun to do, as well. The lovely lady in blue and green is Beauty from “Beauty and the Beast”. The dress came from a picture book version of the story that I have and I just kind of liked it, so I decided to try turning it into a doll. The colors presented more of a challenge than I anticipated and she’s rather brighter than I planned, but in general I like how she turned out.

The last two dolls here are by far my favorites. They represent my character from a past roleplaying game – check out the Shackled City wiki for details on this game and the characters from it – and one of the NPCs we interacted with regularly. In the blue is Verana, my rogue character. She was a great character and dear to my heart. I spent a lot of time on her and am extremely proud of how she turned out. The cleric in white is Jenya, who saved the party more times than I would care to remember! I’m not good at shading white, so she was challenging, but the mace was fun and I generally like how she turned out.

As always, if you click on the dolls they will send you to the sites of their basemakers and they will all be represented on the appropriate doll pages of my website from here on out.

Madam MimMeet ElizabethMeet AddySuperwoman Lois LaneBeautyVeranaJenya

Thoughts on the Cybils Winners

Cybils LogoI’m thrilled that the winners have been announced, but I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled with all the choices. I adored The Professor’s Daughter, which won the Teen Graphic Novel award, but I actually really disliked Artemis Fowl. I’m not saying it was a bad book, it wasn’t. It just wasn’t anything remarkable. I thought that it fell really far short of special while some of the others not only achieved that but went beyond. How it won is something of a mystery to me. Lucky for me, some of the judges are posting about their thoughts on the whole thing as well!

J. L. Bell over at Oz and Ends has a couple of posts starting the day the award was announced.

David Elzey has a great piece over at Fomagrams (and not just because he apparently agrees with me).

If I notice more judge comments from the graphic novel committee I’ll be sure and update this post! If you see more, let me know!

Cybils Winners Announced!

Cybils LogoThe winners of the 2007 Cybils have been announced over at the Cybils Blog! The panels picked some pretty amazing books, so definitely go check out the winners. I’m especially pleased to see the Graphic Novel winners, since I worked so hard to help narrow down that category at the end of last year with the rest of the wonderful Graphic Novel nominating panel. I can’t wait to get reading on some of the other winners now! The Science Fiction and Fantasy winners are both books I’ve had on my “to read” list for a while and now I’m all the more eager to check them out! Thanks to all the judges for working so hard to decide between so many great books!

Cybils Shortlists Announced!

Cybils LogoAll of the Cybils shortlists for 2007 have been announced at this point, including the graphic novel list that I helped put together! All the lists are great and I can’t imagine how the judges are going to choose final winners, but I’m certain that they will do a great job. Go check out all the lists at the Cybils blog!

Graphic Novels
Young Adult
Nonfiction Picture Books
MG/YA Nonfiction
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Fiction Picture Books
Poetry
Middle Grade

The awards will be announced on February 14!

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