eruthros: Ivanova from B5 saying "boom boom boom boom" to Londo -- angry icon!! (B5 - Ivanova boom)
eruthros ([personal profile] eruthros) wrote2010-11-07 11:35 am

two things I've read recently that have pissed me off

1. [personal profile] helens78 sent me a bunch of knitting books that she was done with, some of which are pattern books and some of which are books about knitting. Mostly I have been flipping through pattern books and going "ooh" or "hmmm." And so I was flipping through one of the prose-and-patterns books called The Joy of Knitting and noticed this, partly because it's right at the beginning of a chapter:

    From prehistoric times, knitting, like most other fiber-related activities, has been women’s work. [...] [E]arly human societies could only afford to rely on women for those forms of labor which were compatible with childcare, since breastfeeding routinely continued until children were two to three years old. Women’s work was whatever could be performed without danger to small children, what could be interrupted and resumed easily and without damage. Thus spinning, weaving, knitting, sewing, and most other tasks connected with clothing were women’s work, as well as most aspects of food preparation -- but not, for instance, hunting, mining, or smithing.
Yeah, seriously. And that’s in the chapter titled "A Feminist History of Knitting." As if rigidly defined gender roles that explicitly link gender to sex are feminist. Gender essentialism = totally awesome!

And also as if anything should start with "From prehistoric times..." -- freshman who try that in the openings of their essays get cranky comments.

2. I only just now got N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms -- I’m never really good at getting new-releases when they’re, you know, released. And so I was reading happily along, enjoying the worldbuilding, when all of a sudden:

    "Sky is both very large and very small, Lady Yeine. There are other fullbloods, yes, but most of them waste their hours indulging all sorts of whims." He kept his face neutral, and I remembered the silver chain and collar Scimina had put on Nahadoth. Her perversity did not surprise me, for I had heard rumors of far worse within Sky's walls.
... and later it turns out that the people who indulge in all sorts of whims are also rapists. Oh, and pedophiles. 'Cause those things always go together!

And it’s not like that’s exactly new or unusual in fantasy -- fantasy novels often mark the villain as evil because zie’s kinky, or enjoys pain too much, or whatever. Perversity is evil, and evil is perverse. (I read more fantasy in high school, and at the time my friends and I used to refer to a whole genre of fantasy novels as "everyone wears leather, but the villain likes it.")

So it’s not that it’s uncommon. It’s just that I was unprepared for finding it here, in this highly-reviewed best-selling popular-in-fandom fantasy novel. Both because it’s fucking lazy broad-strokes villainy and because it’s that you-don’t-belong-here slap in the face.

Oh, and btw, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? If there isn’t a same-sex relationship in the novel other than the one that turns jealous and possessive and starts a war that kills billions? Yeah, I’m going to be pissed.
cypher: (city of night)

[personal profile] cypher 2010-11-07 04:43 pm (UTC)(link)
And it’s not like that’s exactly new or unusual in fantasy -- fantasy novels often mark the villain as evil because zie’s kinky, or enjoys pain too much, or whatever. Perversity is evil, and evil is perverse.

Yeah, I. Too much this. >->

I was not nearly as thrilled by The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as most of the people I know in fandom who've read it; for every thing it did that I really appreciated, there was something else that made me feel sort of "...seriously? you're just going to put that out there without interrogating it, huh?"

I keep starting to point out specific examples and then deleting them again, because I am not sure how strongly you feel about spoilers. But yes. I have thoughts on this topic!
cypher: (sugar and spice--er. sticks and stones--)

[personal profile] cypher 2010-11-30 03:21 am (UTC)(link)
It has been a few months now, so this is all somewhat hazy! But.

There were a few places where I felt like things really were cool and interesting -- like where she explores how really unlike mortal sex it is when you hook up with a being of divine power.

But I felt like there was also this gender stuff happening that annoyed me; sure, in Yeine's culture they've flipped the confining gender roles around and come up with a "reasonable" justification that follows different lines of reasoning than people use in our world. But that's really not new ground, you know? And it doesn't fix any problems, or create any more space for -- read, acknowledge the existence of -- anyone who doesn't fit the binary. And, you know, it would have been nice to see queer relationships that weren't either a footnote (warrior women apparently have bonds with each other?) or world-shattering. ...And you've already covered the issues with kink-as-shorthand-for-depraved-and-horrible pretty well.

...Apparently this is something I needed to rant about! I could probably go on. *cough*
cypher: (chosen by gods)

[personal profile] cypher 2010-11-30 04:17 am (UTC)(link)
And why would Mr God of Order Whose Plans Are Too Vast For You To Comprehend, Mortal spend the whole book hanging around in human form so he could scheme on a mortal level and gloat about his brother being at the mercy of the cartoon sadist lady?

And yeah, the gender roles, for the gods especially. Yes, these god roles make sense, they're really archetypal and all, but also...they're really archetypal? Which is to say they're easy to buy because they're old as the damn hills. "Two brothers fight about a woman" is kind of not a new trope.

idk, I feel like I am not quite her audience. (Did you read "The Effluent Engine"? What did you think of that?)
gloss: (Losers: Aisha unamused)

[personal profile] gloss 2010-11-07 04:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Ugh, knitting discourse is so disgusting about gender. In the user community, there's an obsession with making sure items for men are quote-unquote "manly". Cables are not manly, apparently. Baby vests can be. I hate it so much.

Also, lol "prehistoric times". The oldest piece of knitted fabric is ~2500 years old.
anatsuno: Rose Tyler in the crosshairs of the last Dalek (caught)

[personal profile] anatsuno 2010-11-07 05:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Cables are not manly? CABLES? Are they throwing overboard all the fishermen sweaters? SOME KNIT BY THE FISHERMEN THEMSELVES BY THE FUCKING WAY.

oh my god they all need to shut the fuck UP. D: D: D:

*clings to you*
gloss: woman smirking at the man in the background (Iris is amused)

[personal profile] gloss 2010-11-07 05:17 pm (UTC)(link)
geeksdoitbetter: (knitting = no killing)

[personal profile] geeksdoitbetter 2010-11-08 06:55 pm (UTC)(link)

i hate having to wade thru silly interpretations of gender appropriate ness in my knitting!

when i was coming up, cables were the only stitch that *was* manly - but only if you had a story about fucking crazy masculine fishermen getting washed overboard, in a plain off white sweater (ok, *maybe* grey, but only grudgingly)
anatsuno: tiny death of rats will steal your pie (death)

[personal profile] anatsuno 2010-11-07 05:10 pm (UTC)(link)
UGH. The first pisses me off without, sadly, surprising me (though like Gloss says, LOL PREHISTORIC, that whole thing is so factually untrue it burns). The second is very sad-making; I'd only registered good things about the book by fandom-response osmosis. I'm pretty fucking fed-up with that narrative shortcut of kinky = evil, and it's not even only because it kicks me in the groin every time but also because it is //so fucking LAZY//. Plus, when you contrast it with the RL stories where, you know, pregnant women in kinkster circles are pretty much the only ones who GET ASKED if they're okay with getting their bellies touched - I mean, really! The people with the consensual rape role play Are Note The Fucking Rapists Okay. Just. AUGH. So fucking ugly.

Otoh, that "everyone wears leather, but the villain likes it." descriptive makes my day completely. I'm adopting it. Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

I need an icon of rage.
blushingflower: (Ianto's sex life)

[personal profile] blushingflower 2010-11-07 05:21 pm (UTC)(link)
It's funny, there's this common narrative about how "in a perfect world, a woman could walk around naked and not get raped, but in the real world, that's not how it works."
Except that I've walked around my local BDSM club naked many times and never once been touched by someone who didn't have my consent. I mean, sometimes it's implied consent based on our relationship, but it's never been someone who shouldn't be touching me. So it is possible to create a society in which a woman can walk around stark naked without fearing for her safety.

And yeah, my kinky friends always ask my pregnant friend before touching her belly.
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)

[personal profile] sasha_feather 2010-11-07 05:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Good point about fantasy in general.

blushingflower: (Default)

[personal profile] blushingflower 2010-11-07 05:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, that completely ignores the societies in which men are the ones who do the weaving.

And yeah, nothing like having your sexuality used as code for "evil" to fuck with your head. I mean, I have enough of a non-con kink to enjoy scenes where the villain kidnaps the heroine, but in real life I like my SM to be consensual. And you know, you can use non-consensual kink as a code for evil: this person takes what they want, regardless of how it affects other people. But consensual sex or power games? Not evil, just hot.
blushingflower: (Default)

[personal profile] blushingflower 2010-11-07 07:51 pm (UTC)(link)
It is lazy. And really, the more realistic (and terrifying) villains are the ones who appear to be upstanding citizens in every other respect. You can be evil and not be a rapist.
chagrined: Marvel comics: zombie!Spider-Man, holding playing cards, saying "Brains?" (brains?)

[personal profile] chagrined 2010-11-07 05:23 pm (UTC)(link)
#1 also reminded me of that book I read recently for class, which talks about how weaving and knitting are traditionally male tasks for the Zuni. But hey! Obviously what the author of your book lazily assumed is accurate for all the world (since "prehistoric times," lol) based probably solely on assumptions grounded through contemporary cultural rememberings/stereotypes must be true.
chagrined: Marvel comics: zombie!Spider-Man, holding playing cards, saying "Brains?" (brains?)

[personal profile] chagrined 2010-11-07 05:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Haha, WELL THEN. I take it all back, if she had the care to look up that one resource to support her position, it is obvious she knows what she is about. Heh.
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

[personal profile] damned_colonial 2010-11-07 08:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I was about to mention that book! It's actually a pretty interesting read, but yeah, the author is a textile archaeologist, not a feminist, you know? And IIRC she makes some errors on the textiles front too when it comes to knitting/naalbinding/other non-weaving techniques. But I found it interesting, anyway. Google Books link.
livrelibre: DW barcode (Default)

[personal profile] livrelibre 2010-11-07 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
*snorts* Priceless! And I just got The Broken Kingdoms so I'll try and note if that sort of thing continues.
helens78: A man in a leather jacket, seated on the ground, looks up hopefully. (Default)

[personal profile] helens78 2010-11-07 07:16 pm (UTC)(link)
That first one does not make me sorry to be done with that book, I have to tell you. Ew! *shakes head*

And oh, man, that is horribly disappointing about N.K. Jemisin's book. :( I really, really, really hate it when fantasy novels (or anything, really), does the whole "perversity is evil, and evil is perverse" thing. :(
theleaveswant: text "make something beautiful" on battered cardboard sign in red, black, and white (Default)

[personal profile] theleaveswant 2010-11-08 05:13 am (UTC)(link)
I have spent about two hours looking at this post, trying to comment, deciding that indignant sputtering is not constructive, wandering off to do other things, coming back, sputtering some more, wandering off . . .

People tell me all the time--because apparently being a young woman knitting in public is almost as big an invitation for strangers to talk at you and touch you or your stuff without permission as travelling with an animal or a small child or being pregnant--that they wish they could knit. Sometimes, if I like them or if I'm feeling polite, I will ask why they can't, though quite often I won't have to (they'll tell me). Very rarely my interlocutor will have an actual good reason (pain or limited mobility in hands, for example); more often it's a poor excuse like "I don't know how" or "my grandmother tried to teach me a hundred times but I never practised." I feel no sympathy when I hear this, just boredom and irritation. One "reason" that I don't hear often but that makes me sad and angry when I do is, "I'm a dude." That's bloody absurd. Neither gender nor sex should have any bearing on a person's ability to knit. "Historical" arguments like the one in that book are ridiculous in so many ways. First, while people may have been knitting for longer than we can prove (taphonomic factors; absence of evidence is not evidence of absence), we cannot extrapolate from contemporary biases in the gendered division of labour (or leisure) to presume who was doing the crafting. As other commenters have pointed out, this varies significantly across cultural contexts. And then, even among contemporary craft culture, we have this bizarre hypocrisy where there are plenty of men employed as knitwear designers or in publishing knitting magazines and proportionally fewer (but still a respectable number of) consumer-practitioners, but the overwhelming bulk of the commercial and "peer-to-peer" media I see is not only addressed to "teh ladeez" but assumes that these ladeez will be knitting for menz and babbies and small furry animals and quaintly decorated homes while the little bit of knitting that men are believed to do is supposed to be for themselves (or very occasionally for their pets, homes, or beloved inanimate objects). How often have I seen the suggestion, "here is a sweater for you ladeez to knit for Your Man?" and how NEVER have I seen this balanced by "here is a sweater for you anybodies to knit for a woman you like"? Even worse, the insistence by so many professional and hobbyist designers that every pattern must have a gender--I mean yeah, particular bodies feel comfortable in and are flattered by different things and gender is only a tiny part of that anyway--but FFS, socks! Toques! Scarves and mittens and electronic gadget cozies! And that "men's" patterns are the specifically marked ones in Ravelry searches while "women's" patterns are the assumed default . . . I suppose in some ways that's a refreshing change of pace, and it makes some sense as a search filter given the number of patterns in the database, but it still annoys me every time I see it.

As for whether the (false) proposition that knitting is, always has been or should be "women's work" is feminist . . . I can agree that reclaiming activities which tend to get ignored or looked down on for being feminine is still valuable and necessary (and that doesn't have to simplify to blunt essentialism). But feminism can't end there! I would have less objection to the quote above, though I'd still roll my eyes over "from prehistoric times" and frown at the conviction of the language and the vagueness with regard to time and place, if the book had then gone on to interrogate the suggestion that, whether or not the hypothesis that the origins of knitting were somehow linked to gender via childcare practices holds any water, knitting should continue to be thought of as "women's work" . . . but I'm guessing from your annoyance that it doesn't. Then again, that's the feminism I'm growing up in now; I don't know how old the author is, but she may be holding on to a more limited understanding of the concept? I think I'm still failing at articulation, here.

This comment is too long and I haven't read the novel, so all I have to say about that part is: UGH. That is obnoxious and tiresome and hurtful and it really is lazy writing.

[identity profile] 2011-01-16 04:17 am (UTC)(link)
Just wanted to thank you for posting about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms; the homophobia and stereotypes in the book (especially the conflation of pedophilia and homophobia, and the destructive same-sex relationship that starts a war that kills billions really bothered me. Your post made me realize how intrinsically those are connected to the anti-kink trend in the book (and both of them to the way the book treats gender). So thank you for making me think harder about what was troubling me here!