Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Beauty

I know I talked about this before -- this impossibility for a woman to opt out of the sex object thing; and many people agree and yet the beauty ideals are still... difficult to discuss. So let me start with a few thoughts and see how they congeal. Also, I want to make it clear up front: I understand why and how women absorb and internalize the demand for beauty. In this case, I feel that the onus is on the society to stop demanding those things rather than on women to simply get over the demand.

"Every woman deserves to feel beautiful". I saw that sentiment expressed on FB and in general media, and I kind of hate it. Because what they mean to say, I think, is that "every woman deserves to feel worthy". It's just that we only allow women to have one kind of worth, and this is the limiting part, not the narrow beauty ideal. (NB: One deeply problematic area of narrow beauty ideal is its whiteness that has spread way too much due to the Western cultural imperialism.)

And yes, the beauty ideal is narrow. It has always been! I'm not exactly comfortable with people rebelling against the limiting view of beauty as very thin and tall by proposing no less limiting version of curvy Christina Hendricks and Marylin Monroe, often sprinkled with a dose of body-hate and misogyny in the form of "Bones are for dogs, meat is for men". Leaving aside that Christina Hendricks' body shape is no more achievable or inclusive than that of Kate Moss (or any less white, for that matter), I object to the idea that women are object for consumption. "Meat", really? And that's the cry of empowerment?

Female competition sadly often goes back to the patriarchal divide and conquer mentality. If they convince women that their only worth is as objects of beauty, to be consumed by men, and that women have no worth outside of this realm, than arguing who's the fairest of them all is understandable although no less problematic. The struggle should be not to make the beauty ideal different, but to tell the world that we are not obligated to feel or be beautiful. Because when they tell you "every woman deserves to feel beautiful", they mean "You MUST try to be beautiful to prove your worth to us."

So then there is a whole ridiculous thing about models. It is often interestingly lumped with other things, like demonizing of eating disorders and transphobia. Take this article for example:

"To me, selling women's clothes using a teenage boy's body is the ultimate cynicism. It's as if the fashion industry is saying, 'Here is the perfect woman for our clothes: a boy!' " says style guru and "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn in his forthcoming book "Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet." (He is talking about Andrej Pejic, pictured above.)

(Because clearly non-binary gender constructs have no place in the world today. Androgyny boo.) Also, showing clothes on a certain body type really says little about who should wear their clothes. If you want to encourage more body diversity in fashion, it is easily accomplished. Here: HEY DESIGNERS! CUT YOUR CLOTHES IN SIZES BIGGER THAN 8! Here, done. Lack of body diversity in fashion is not to be blamed on models but lack of sizing ranges.

I don't mind that models look the way the do, as long as it is not expected of ME to look that way. I hear women complaining about magazines with models and actresses and how hard it is to not get jealous and to not hate your own body. And sure, it is hard if the expectations of beauty has been internalized, and I am not blaming them. And yet I wonder, if you see an article about a doctor, should you hate yourself for being unable to do surgery? Of course not. Different jobs, different requirements. Actresses and models are paid for looking a certain way. Just don't expect EVERYONE ELSE to want to look like that for FREE. (Because to do most other jobs? I can be the most hideous troll and a successful scientist! Or a teacher! Or a construction worker!)

And beauty is an imposition. It requires a lot of maintenance, lifestyle changes, expenses. Demanding that an average woman engages in all this extra activity and expense just to prove her social worth is unconscionable. And the irony of course is that people like Tim Gunn, who lament the anti-woman stance of fashion industry are also the same ones who engage in the whole advice regarding body flattery and creating socially acceptable shapes rather than telling women, "You know what? You are a human being with inherent worth not tied to your appearance or style or weight or interest in fashion. You can love clothes and makeup, but you are not required to; you can make yourself beautiful, but you are not obligated to, and we won't think less of you if you are ugly, fat, indifferent to fashion and not seeking male approval every waking minute."

So on balance, I feel that people who tell fat women to "create a waist" with a belt (looking at you, Tim Gunn!) or to never wear short skirts if over 40, can shove it. So can people who complain that models are too thin (their body type is certainly not common, but neither are Marylin Monroe's) and say clever things about men liking meat (because this is what you are, ladies: a product for male consumption). And maybe, just maybe, everyone should just stop telling women what to do, or be, or aspire to. Because the tricky thing about humans is that we all have our desires and interests and inherent worth, and in 2012 I think we can all agree that women are a part of humanity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Russian Harry Potter Fandom is Awesome!

So  blades_of_grass  linked to this amazing Table of Contents, posted here, and authored by (c) sadcrixivanfrau_derrida_palka. This is meant to be a ToC for ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FEMINISM ACCORDING TO HARRY POTTER. Of course, as it’s third wave, there are quite a few intersectional articles. What I want to know is why is this not real!

Anyway,  blades_of_grass kindly asked for permission to translate this gem on my behalf, because I feel everyone should see this. With many thanks to the talented authors, here’s my translation:


The Practice of Female Separatism in Daily Life of Luna Lovegood

Hermione Granger on Liberal Feminism

Female Empowerment in Academia Through the Eyes of Minerva McGonagall

Women in Politics: The Dilemma of Dolores Umbridge

Women in the Military and Psychological Violence: The Case of Bellatrix Lestrange

Consequences of Limiting Abortion Rights: The Tragedy of Lily Potter

The Death Toll of Unpaid Labor: The Duel of Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange

Replication of Violent Family Practices: Family Strategies of Nymphadora Tonks

The Duality of Economic Strategies for Women: Narcissa Malfoy

The Internalized Misogyny Among Successful Women: Rita Skeeter

Woman as a Scapegoat in Political Processes: Marietta Edgecombe

Forced Marriage as a Conduit of Classism: Pansy Parkinson

Fatphobia: Millicent Bulstrode

Ridicule of Victims of Violence as a Form of Demonization: Moaning Myrtle

The Founders of Hogwarts, or Men are Always in Charge: False Equality

Hufflepuff and the "Virtue of the Working Class": The Silent Majority

Cho Chang: The Relations with Racial and Ethnic Minorities as a Casual Entertainment

The Marriage of Ginny Weasley: "Woman Exchange"

Good Homosexual is a Well-Educated White Men with No Sexual Liaisons: Albus Dumbledore

Polyamory and Childfree Lifestyle -- Self-Positioning of Bellatrix Lestrange

Ariana Dumbledore: Murder of a Disabled Person as a Social Necessity

Argus Filch: Even Harry and Ron Can Laugh at the Handicapped

Goblins: The Apotheosis of the British Antisemitic Tradition

Flitwick and Hagrid: Ethnic Minorities Will Always Clean Up After You, or Uncle Tom in Hogwarts

If the Protagonist is Fed, Slavery is Awesome: House Elves

Only Stupid Girls Fight Slavery

Hermione Granger: A Good Woman Defends Others' Rights and Provides Others' Lessons

Alcoholism and the Esoteric: Coping Mechanisms under Conditions of Discrimination

House Elves: Just Like Women, Only Ugly and Invisible

Pomona Sprout: Good Girls are Liked but not Noticed

Professor Vector, or Anonymity of Women in Mathematics

Poppy Pomfrey: a Subservient Suffragette, or the Outcome of Courses of Higher Women's Studies in St Petersburg

Bellatrix Lestrange and Luna Lovegood: Psychiatric Disabilities and Ableism in Hogwarts

Luna Lovegood, Tom Riddle, Harry Potter: Good Children Don't Get PTSD

Luna Lovegood: Forced Acceptance into the Family Strategies of Psychological Repression

Conventional Man is Allowed Anger but not Grief. Harry Potter: The Masculinity Trap

Remus Lupin and the "Good Cripple" Archetype

Rolanda Hooch: Professional Women's Athletics as Deviation

Molly Weasley and Fleur Delacourt: Differentiation Between Women as a Tool of Oppression

I hope you all enjoy!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Con or Bust!

Con or Bust is an annual auction, which helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SF conventions. This year, I have three items for auction:

1) A signed copy of The House of Discarded Dreams;
2) A signed copy of Heart of Iron;
3) and a Wardrobe Refresher, where you have a chance to hire me as a virtual personal shopper.

Bid, and raise money for a great cause!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ukrainian Designers FTW!

I meant to do this post for a while now. Refinery29 recently did a post on seven emerging European designers, and among them they mentioned Sasha Kanevski. Ignoring their strange wording ("it’s the fusion of the modern feminist meeting the ultra-hip Eastern European cousin" -- what is wrong with this sentence?!), I was really glad to see his name. While his esthetic is a bit too youthful for my middle-aged self, I do admire a lot of his clothes, especially knits:

A tad Alexander Wang with a more avant-garde/military sensibility, well cut and clean-lined.

However, Kanevski is only the tip of the iceberg. In recent years, Ukrainian design really has been emerging as a great force, with many tending toward avant-garde but with frequent nods to classic cuts, with feminine estehtic that still managed to skew away from overtly sexualized. In other words, gorgeous stuff.

So I wanted to mention a few of my favorites. First, Fedor Vozianov. Talk about Scandinavian minimalism/clean-lined avant garde that still manages to stay wearable and dare I say pretty?

Yeah, I do. And of course I do especially dig the grey, white and black palette with occasional corals and yellows. And the shoes shaped like paws. Oh heck, just everything!

Then there are Natalia Kamenskaya and Olesya Kononova, the designers of Kamenskaya-Kononova. Their designs are more traditionally ladylike, with rich and sophisticated colors, refined midi silhouettes, and shredding.

Then there are vivid colors of Nadya Dzyak:

Small unexpected details and interesting colorblocking make this traditionally drapey silhouette not quite so.

And last but not least, Liliya Litkovskaya. I just am so enamored of her severe and beautiful esthetic.

I am so impressed with this group of designers. I hope that for some of you this is new info. There is really nothing more I like than introducing people to creative minds I admire. Now, if I could only get Tilda Swinton to wear Vozianov and Litkovskaya!

New Anthology

I am extremely pleased to announce the project that's been under wraps so far: I am editing an anthology for Constable&Robinson, WILFUL IMPROPRIETY: 13 Tales of Society and Scandal (to be published in the US by Running Press). I will post the cover as soon as it is available, but for now, enjoy the ToC:

Introduction by Ekaterina Sedia

THE DANCING MASTER by Genevieve Valentine


AT WILL by Leanna Renee Hieber



RESURRECTION by Tiffany Trent



FALSE COLOURS by Marie Brennan



MERCURY RETROGRADE by Mary Robinette Kowal

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Caroline Stevermer

I am really pleased about this one, even though YA is not something I do a lot of. But here's an excerpt from my intro anyway!

"Recently we saw a great rise in both Victorian and Young
Adult categories of fiction, and to me these two go hand in
hand. If being a teenager is about disobedience, the notion of
Victoriana (at least the way it is perceived by a modern reader)
is often centered around propriety and convention, rigid social
structures, and impermeable class, race and gender barriers.
Yet, where there is convention, there is also defiance, and the
opposite side of this Victorian coin is the realization that as long
as there are barriers and conventions, there will be those who
will rise up against them."