Long overdue Adieu

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Dearest DDPeople,

I have not been very active as an author for DDP in some time. In that interval, I have finished a PhD and successfully defended a dissertation, gotten divorced, moved across the country, and switched careers entirely. This has left little time for writing.

And while I find myself called/drawn/convicted to begin writing again about these topics dear to my heart, I find that my perspective and values are no longer in sufficiently sync with the present active editorial board of DDP, and it has become time for us to officially part ways.

I’d like to thank the crew here, both the author/editor community as well as our active, articulate, curious, and moving commentariat for the support, feedback, education. And for your precious trust as you shared your stories with me in response to some of my own.

I will continue/resume writing at rosiefranklin.net. I hope to see some of you there.

Best,
Rosie

black and white, woman, looking down

photo credit: Jessica Keener Photography takes excellent portraits.

YA Heroines of Color Every Girl Should Read About

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One day I was chatting with my women friends about the heroines from fantasy and science fiction books that inspired us when we were kids. We talked about Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series, Sabriel from the Abhorsen series, Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest series, and many more. We agreed that these heroines set us on the path toward feminism and self-empowerment.

But one of my friends in this conversation said, “I read all of those books when I was a kid, but then one day I looked in the mirror and realized that none of those heroines looked like me.” What my friend saw in the mirror was a black woman.

My heart broke when I heard that. The fantasy heroines of my childhood were so important to me. When I saw girls treated unfairly, or was treated unfairly myself, it was these fictional girls who gave me the courage to resist, and support other girls as they fought to resist. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have no heroines from my books who I could identify with.

So, in the interest of fighting back, I present to you a list of my favorite heroines of color from YA fantasy and science fiction. Read them to inspire yourself, or more importantly, buy them and recommend them for girls of color who you know. You could make a huge difference in their lives.

1. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

If your mental image of Katniss Everdeen is represented by Jennifer Lawrence, you may be wondering what I’m talking about. The truth is, the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies is a gross case of whitewashing, turning a character of color into a white character in an adaptation. This is how Katniss describes her friend Gale and her own family in The Hunger Games.

He could be my brother.  Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same grey eyes.  But we’re not related, at least not closely.  Most of the families who work the mines resemble each other this way.
That is why my mother and Prim, with their light hair and blue eyes, always look out of place.  They are.  My mother’s parents were part of the small merchant class that caters to officials, Peacemakers, and the occasional Seam customer… She must have really loved him to leave her home for the Seam.

This is clearly a system where paler people in District 12 have an economic advantage on the basis of their skin color over the Seam, Katniss’ people, who are poor and hungry. Later on, Katniss describes Seeder, a woman from District 11, which is clearly coded as an analog to the American South under slavery, as looking just like a Seam woman except for her eye color. Katniss reads to me as multiracial, or perhaps Native American. (For more thoughts on this, read here.)

Fanart of POC Katniss

What Katniss actually looks like. Art by Zombie-Sasquatch on deviantArt.

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Subverting Sexism through “Chandelier”

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Early on New Year’s Day, after a moderate but enjoyable night of celebrating, I settled down in front of my computer to catch up on a couple of songs I had been meaning to download. One of them was Sia’s “Chandelier” – a song which I had heard snippets of here and there for a while but did not take real notice of until a short car ride a few weeks before. A week or so later, a video my sister shared with me made me realize that the really cool video I had briefly seen parts of during a sleepless night of jet lag overseas coupled with the song I had enjoyed in the car. So I decided I should go ahead and download this song.

The first thing I did, though, was look up the lyrics. And what I discovered sent me down such a delightful spiral of surprise. The song that I had admired for all of its classic pop-empowerment-ballad characteristics was, actually, incredibly sad.

In its most simple form, “Chandelier” is about alcoholism, and is, apparently, partially autobiographical. The lyrics tell the story of a typical night lost to acute intoxication (“one two three, one two three – drink, one two three, one two three – drink” make for a gripping chanting rhythm before Sia launches into the chorus), filled with both desperate grabs for glory and the harrowing fear of failing; or, in this case, the lyrics invoke the imagery of falling.

Yet the depth of “Chandlier,” I would argue, goes far beyond an exploration of a particular substance abuse problem. Indeed, it seems like the very trick the song pulls – the trick I fell for – is manipulating the celebratory sound of an explosive composition to actually reflect on the sadness most of us, in some point in our lives, try to run away from. Moreover, in writing a song about the possible consequences of non-stop partying, Sia’s song implicitly critiques the limitations of the kind of models most young women are offered for both feeling successful in their social life (the opening verse of the song has Sia talking about how everyone calls her to come out and party; “I feel the love, I feel the love,” she sings) and expressing themselves in the same sphere. As Sia explained, “I wrote the song because there’s so many party-girl anthems in pop. And I thought it’d be interesting to do a different take on that.”

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Real Live Trans Adult

This is one of the best posts I’ve read on what we need to do to make the world better for trans people period, let alone posts responding to Leelah Alcorn’s death. It is, as the author points out, a cobbling-together of things other trans people have been saying for years, but it is, nonetheless, a concise, intelligent, powerful piece of writing and well worth a read.

I do take issue with one thing Binaohan says in this post, though–the assertion that the RealLiveTransAdult hashtag on twitter is “a hashtag that popped up on Twitter as a way, it appears, to give hope to young trans people that — and this phrasing is intentional — it gets better.”

Binaohan is right to be critical of the It Gets Better campaign. Many people before me have discussed its shortcomings, but let me give you a brief rundown:  “It Gets Better” is a campaign begun by a white, wealthy, conventionally attractive, cisgender gay man who occupies a place of relative privilege in society. It is inappropriate for someone in that position to tell queer youth that it will get better, when for many, it won’t. “It Gets Better” ignores the structural inequalities of racism, sexism, transphobia and other kinds of marginalization that keep “it” from getting better for queer and trans youth.

The thing is, I never read the RealLiveTransAdult hashtag as an It Gets Better type of thing. The very first tweet I read, the tweeter just said “I’m 31 and I work in a bookstore.” That’s why I got on board. Because something missing from society is trans visibility. I didn’t even know any lesbians I could identify with as a young kid, let alone trans people. Leelah may not have mentioned trans invisibility specifically, but that doesn’t mean that trans kids aren’t suffering from lack of representation, lack of role models, lack of any sort of canvas on which to project their potential future life.

This real live trans adult likes playground truck structures.

My tweets have been about being employed, having friends, having cats and rabbits, having good days and bad days, and loving Melissa McCarthy. Nothing that’s particularly groundbreaking, and therefore nothing that’s especially out of reach for trans kids. Just a reminder, in a world that likes to pretend we don’t exist, that we do. And we’re everywhere.

So although we’ve got a lot of battles to fight, and adult trans people tweeting about their boring lives probably isn’t the *most* impactful thing we could be doing, more representation of trans people who have survived to adulthood is, undeniably, a good thing.

The Ad I Didn’t Want Me to See

I’ve mostly stopped watching Upworthy-titled videos. The ones that are mind-boggling and important but also have titles like “this puppy-child started crying, and you won’t BELIEVE what this politician did next!” The over-the-top titles simultaneously pique my interest and make me want to trash the email. However, every so often I get bored and find myself clicking through emails from political groups that send me stuff because I signed a petition of theirs 5 years ago. Today was one of those days. I opened an email and skimmed to the bottom, then clicked on this satirical Doritos commercial.

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An All-American Road Trip

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Happy New Year everyone! I love this time of year because despite the fact that many beginnings may end – that promise to go to the gym or give up sweets – some promises and ideals stick. I think there may be something magical, not so much with the first of the year, which in actuality is like any other day, but the idea of a beginning. A beginning is an adventure, an opportunity. So it gives me great pleasure to share with you a beginning that will hopefully touch each of us soon. This beginning is being initiated by this awesome lady who has decided to invoke on a physical and intellectual journey across America to ask a question that is near and dear to this blog: What is feminism? I love this, and other kinds of questions of this nature, because I can be sure that my answer may not match the person’s next to me, which gives the answer to a question like “what is feminism” depth and life and purpose.

So without further a due, I will let the words of this awesome lady speak for herself about her project.

 

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Why, Phylicia? Bye, Phylicia.

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byephylicia2

I am disappointed. Phylicia Rashad is a legend. She is graceful, beautiful, and a wonderful, Tony award winning actress. She played a black woman on television who was sophisticated and sharp, and who broke down feminism for the masses. She’s my Soror, and I like to think of her as my TV auntie, too. A lot of people do.

But Phylicia let me down. In an interview posted on Tuesday, Rashad is quoted as responding to a question about Bill Cosby’s alleged acts of rape by saying: “Forget these women. What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

On ABC news this evening, Phylicia elaborated on her statement. “…that was a misquote. What I said is, ‘This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy.’ ” Girl…. same difference.

By “these women” Rashad is referring to the at least 27 women (including three who came forward just today!) who have said they were drugged and raped, or almost raped, by Bill Cosby during his heyday.

Phylicia is asserting that the existence of a massive, decades long conspiracy where dozens of women from different circles falsely report having eerily similar assault experiences at the hands of the same man is so much more likely than a reality where Bill Cosby raped these women, that we shouldn’t even give the women’s stories a second thought. We should forget them. Now Phylicia, you know that don’t make not a lick of sense.

What we are seeing here is not new. It is a rerun. Black America, denied positive representation on everything from the Supreme Court to our television screens, finally got a piece of what we’ve been craving…. only to find out that the black man embodying our wishes ain’t shit and that success for him is not actually a triumph for black women. But, desperate for that representation, for the preservation of legacy, we decide to side with him anyway- as even inspirational women like Maya Angelou did during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. We place the responsibility for his tarnished legacy at our feet, and the feet of those he has hurt, instead of at his. This time we have the chance to do better.

Phylicia Rashad had the opportunity to say that the progress of black people in America does not have to happen on the backs of black women, and does not require us to be trampled and gagged into silence. She had the option of defending The Cosby Show, its critical contributions to American culture, and what it has meant to black people, without defending legacy of a man who is almost certainly a serial rapist and who has not even stepped forward to defend his own self. She didn’t take those opportunities, but we can.

Phylicia Rashad, ma’am, I will not forget these women. This is about them, and they will continue to be heard.

Wikipedia, part IV: Talk pages

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Happy 2015, disruptors!  Start your year off the right way by fucking around on the internet.

We’ve already gone over why editing Wikipedia is a social justice issue and touched on some of the emotional hurdles in the path of awesome people who want to take this on.  Today we are going to discuss how to use talk pages in Wikipedia.  I feel this follows nicely from our last topic, Wiki’s hidden pages, because Talk pages are one of Wiki’s most important features that are hidden in plain site (ba-dum pshhhhhh).

When you go to an article in Wikipedia, there are two tabs at the top Left of the screen: one for the “Article” page, the place where the article itself can be found, and a page next to it that says “Talk.”  You may find it helpful to open the page and click with me as we go:

Main page of Wikipedia "Feminism" article

Click to enlarge, but press the back button to return to this page because I’m not tech savvy enough to make this pop up in a new window.

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