Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Wheel of the Year: Winter Solstice and Yule

'Solstice gathering', by Anne Stokes (Ironshod on DeviantArt)

  • Neodruidism mindset:
"Alban Arthan (light of Arthur), the winter solstice, around December 21
Physically: Taking stock before the "hungry months"; using up any excess that will spoil
Magically: Witnessing the darkness in the longest night; celebrating the rebirth of the sun; taking stock at the darkest time; seeing what you are incubating.
Activity: Relighting a candle for the returning sun.
Deity form: The magical child. "
The Path of Druidry. Walking the Ancient Green Way (Penny Billington)- chapter 4 
                                       

Yesterday's Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the day that marks the beginning of Yule, caught me out of home for nearly whole day, so here comes a belated Yule post to celebrate the Solstice and the season! 
Given that yesterday I was too busy eating chocolate cake and fangirling about Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game along with my mum - a very good way to spend the Winter Solstice, nonetheless! - it was today that we put up and decorated the Yule tree (which we don't do every year, I hate being pressured and forced to do something, so I don't see festivities as activities and rituals I'm forced to fulfil). I also made my little ritual of cutting some small branches of plants of the season in our garden and decorating my 'altar space' with them. That's basically what I do in Yule (And my agnostic druidry resolutions about new goals, new inspiration and sloughing off the old). I usually choose these Wheel of the Year festivities in order to convince my procrastinating mind to bake a cake from time to time, as well xD. 

Regarding the gift-giving part of the festivity, both Christmas and Neopagan, I have to say that I strongly dislike all the Christmas consumerism vibes and general pressure to buy, buy, buy, and to reunite with the family in compulsory dinner events (as an INFJ, I strongly dislike such gatherings and all the small talk and falseness they entail as well), so I generally ignore all those parts. Depending on the year, I will choose to gift something to my inner circle, but only because we all want to, as the fancy strucks us, and never as an obligation. We humans have enough on our plate to add ridiculous guilt-processes such as society telling us we don't love people unless we spend lots of money on certain events (Christmas, Valentine's day, Mother/Father's day, you name it) :/. That's so ridiculous.

 Apart from the fact that I deeply dislike all the consumerism and mindset values forced on us at this time of the year (yes, I believe religious stuff should not be forced upon us, that is personal, let people do what they wish in their homes but don't bombard me in public spaces with carols and religious motives, jeesh), Yule is special for me because it means that the light will begin to grow from now on. Not only do I like all the Sun symbolisms in Neodruidism and Neopaganism, but I also consider it  a hopeful time because I favour light and get pretty depressed in the darks days of Autumn and Winter. Knowing that the days will begin to be longer from now on makes me happy :).

"The apples represent the sun, the source of all life. The evergreens are symbols of immortality. The stalks of wheat represent the harvest - the triumph of the forces of light and life."
A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, chapter 4 (Ellen Evert Hopman)

 My Yule tree, representing an evergreen pine tree, with apples, wheat adornments and yellow to represent the Sun :) Plus the violins (which remind me nicely of Sherlock BBC, although I've been using them for years), and the pagan-ish gnomes:

"Hollyivymistletoe, and other greens decorate the house. A house so recorated is prepared to welcome the nature spirits who may be seeking safe shelter from the cold and dark outside. A sprig of holly is retained all year for good luck."
A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, chapter 4 (Ellen Evert Hopman)

My 'season altar/adornment' for Yule: With evergreens (pine, holly/holm oak (we have both) and ivy) and fir cones. And the oak leaves from Mabon as an offering of thanks to the pine who gave me the couple of branches for the adornment. I like to dispose of the last season's leaves and branches in this way:

I thought I'd also post some pictures and info about this festivity, so here goes. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Doctor Who feminist reviews - 'Rose'

UPDATED April-May 2016!  Added gifs and pics, changed some of my former views and added a lot more text and detail (damn it, INFJ perfectionism xD)

My first Whovian feminist review is going to be about the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who ('Rose'). There will be SPOILERS about the plot of this episode.

                                            New!Who, 2005 series: 'Rose'

                        

-Doctor: Ninth 
-Companions: Rose Tyler
-Episode: 'Rose' (New!Who, 2005, Season 1 episode 1)

 Brief summary of the episode in Wikipedia 

      1.   Overall:
  • Things I liked:
 -The whole time-travelling idea of Doctor Who, and the TARDIS design.

 -Christopher Eccleston's portrayal of the Ninth Doctor is pretty likeable and sassy.
Fantastic!
 -Rose's empowered traits (iniciative, wits and sass). In this episode, she is really the one to stop the Nestene Consciousness, plus she saves the Doctor and outwits him (making him consider his former patronizing mode).
You go girl! Rose smashing stereotypes down
  • Things I didn't quite like:
-The special effects. But then again, their budget wasn't very high, so it's understandable :)  
...Yep
-Sometimes the percussion parts of the soundtrack are too loud and it's hard to hear the dialogue.

-The bin-burp. I really don't find those things funny, and I think the world would go much better if we didn't teach children (and men) than it's 'funny' to be disgusting. Sue me, RT Davis.
  • Things I didn't like:
  -Mickey's interaction with his girlfriend in this episode shows a number of questionable traits, some of which can be explained by acquired sexism.   

Mickey does have character development later in the series, and never again shows this level of (acquired) sexism (the possesive moment in the car, or the "*slaps ass* 'Kit off'" demeaning comment), so I'm going to assume that the relationship portrayed in this episode is an 'objective' depiction - and even a critical view, explaining why Rose feels rather dissatisfied by it-, and not something that is condoned. Because Mickey really isn't a bad guy, so I'm going to be positive and say most of it it's acquired subconscious constructs
Mickey feeling possessive 
-The Doctor's patronizing/race-bashing comments which arise from time to time.

   Thankfully, his comments are never overly mean, and his character develops quite a bit in that respect through the first and second seasons, especially with Ten.
That's enough with the 'humans are stupid apes' nonsense, Doctor!
 -I don't like how they portrayed Rose's mother Jackie very much, even if they meant to be critical. In this episode she's shallow (but I'm not at all against her wish to date people casually, fyi - I'll talk about that problematic scene later), self-centred, conventional, and seems pretty careless when it comes to the wellbeing of her daughter (demeaning comments, not encouraging her to retake her studies, not bothering to find a job to help support her daughter, etc). 

   Although she does have good qualities - we know that she actually does care about her daughter a lot-, and she has some important character development and more depth through seasons 1 and 2. 
Gossip ahoy!
-I quite like Nine/Rose (friendship and well, yes, also ship - the romantic subtext is very clearly there, and I don't dislike that, even though I sometimes harbour a little bit of resentment over the fact that they made the first companion  of New!Who a love interest). But I hate triangle clichés - Mickey/Rose/Nine- (and unnecessary romance plots that only give the female character grief), and they didn't resolve the Rose/Mickey relationship until mid-series 2, which irks me immensely.  

Apart from the fact that I'm against the portrayal of unresolved. ambiguous relationships and potentially cheating scenarios, because that's not 'liberation' or 'equality' or 'empowerment',  people could also be getting the idea that every time a female character goes off on her own (meaning without her heteronormative boyfriend), she's going to flirt with other people  and end up either cheating on him or breaking her relationship with him. And that's a pretty problematic way to see it  (this scenario will reappear with Amy/Rory - to a lesser extent - and Clara/Danny in future seasons).

-Feminism:
   About the Bechdel test, I think that it isn't that exhaustive in terms of feminism. There are films with empowered female characters who don't happen to interact with other women a lot. Are we going to compare a film with really empowered female role-models who don't really talk with other women with a film where two women (not necessarily awesome role-models or anything) happen to have a few lines of conversation together about something other than men? Not that I don't appreciate that people are beginning to worry about female representation, female communication, female bonding and female friendship (I think all of these are really important), but the test is a bit flawed, imo.
  •    Number of female charactes: 3 - Rose Tyler, Jackie Tyler, Caroline (Clive's wife). Main role for Rose, secondary role for Jackie and a minor role for Caroline. All three white and heterosexual
  •    Empowered traits in at least one female character? Rose is active, inquisitive, and shows agency in this episode (deducing where the Nestene Consciousness is and actively saving the Ninth Doctor).
  •    Level of sexism:  Mickey shows quite a lot of acquired sexism in his interactions with his girlfriend Rose (I'll be talking about that later). Potential sexist aspects in the portrayal of Jackie.
  •    Bechdel Test and female bonding: Yes - Rose and Jackie talk together about the explosion incident, plus jobs and other trivia. Mother-daughter relationship and interactions (if criticisable) .
                                     

-This Tumblr post also addresses this episode from a feminist point of view. We agree on most points: http://dwfeministwatch.tumblr.com/post/33815708431/rose

-Other equality issues:
  •    Level of racism and/or speciesism: 
-Appearance of a black character, Mickey, treated as a human-being and not a 'stereotype'. Interracial relationship between Rose and Mickey. 
                                          

-Some patronizing comments from the Doctor about  humans. Rose is remarkably open-minded when it comes to class and race/species, though, and she doesn't mind that the Doctor is an alien (Rose: "Are you alien?" Doctor: "Yes. Is that all right?" Rose: "Yeah"). Mickey does have prejudices: "Don't. He's an alien. He's a thing." (understandably, he has just been attacked by aliens, so he's not exactly trusting of them, but it can still qualify as offensive).
  •    Level of heterosexism: I think the Doctor is being descriptive rather than offensive when saying "That won't last. He's gay and she's an alien".
  •   Level of classism: Representation by including a main female character who's from a middle-low working classThe Doctor doesn't mind Rose's class status. Jackie questions Rose's ability to get a good job due to her upbringing and (lack of) education, though (suggesting that she find a job at the butchers because the shop was giving her "airs and graces").
-Empahty and integritySubstantial-to-high. 

-The Doctor doesn't seem to show as much empathy as in other episodes, being rather dismissive of humans, but he still tries to stop the Nestene Consciousness in order to save humanity, and his current gruffness and closed-off manner can be explained by the fact that he's more or less recently regenerated after the end of the Time War. 
-Rose saves the Doctor (and humanity). 
-Rose worries about Mickey being in danger and the possibility that he was killed. 
-Rose is sickened to hear that Wilson was killed ("That's just not funny. That's sick!").
-The Doctor helps Rose escape the mannequins. 
-Rose phones her mother to warn her about the mannequins. 
-When Rose is assimilating all the information about the TARDIS and Mickey being attacked by aliens and she breaks down, the Doctor says "That's okay. Culture shock. Happens to the best of us".
- The Doctor, following his pacifist and anti-genocide oriented mindset, also tries to negotiate with the Nestene Consciousness instead of killing it outright ("I'm not here to kill it. I've got to give it a chance"). 

     2. Character analysis, from a feminist point of view:
  (All the transcript quotes come from this site: http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/27-1.htm)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Where are all the nerdy t-shirts for women?

                                                         [Traducción española en cursiva, al final, después del salto]

This past Tuesday I was shopping for Winter jumpers with a friend and I entered a C&A shop to take a look. I usually stick to the women's sections, not because I particularly prefer women's fashion over men's (I actually favour a lot of "traditionally-made-for-men" styles and clothing) but because it is very likely that nothing in the men's aisle will fit me. But to the point: That day I felt curious (or maybe disheartened) and decided to take a look at the men's aisle for a change. Well, I did, and this is the very first thing that I saw:

    A Star Trek: Into Darkness T-shirt featuring John Harrison aka Khan. As a nerd girl, a Trekkie in the making, a very hardcore fan of the newest movie, and a Benedict Cumberbatch admirer - well, the first thing that I did was leap around a bit in geeky exultation. Then I realized that I was in the men's aisle, and that the smallest of these shirts was probably wider than me and way longer than I would have liked. There were no geeky T-shirts in the women's aisle at all (and no, Disney doesn't count).
   This isn't the first time this happens to me. The Superman and Big Bang Theory T-shirts at FNAC didn't come in female sizes. The T-shirts that came to the stores as part of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey merchandising didn't come in female sizes. And I came across some great R2-D2 T-shirts last year, and guess what - they didn't come in female sizes.
The Hobbit T-shirts, all with the male symbol. The only ones available at the store. When I asked one of the shop assistants why that was...He shrugged as if it was no big deal and looked at me as if I was mad :/
   
  Summarizing:
                                       

Or to be more specific: 99.9 of the nerdy/geeky T-shirts on the stores are made for men.
   Not cool.
Apparently, geek girls don't compute to the majority of the clothing making/nerdy merchandising industry. 

 This other pic I took at the store pretty much summarizes what these kind of shops usually look like: The girls' section features cute, 'feminine' clothing,  the boys' section is all about casual wear and (you can't find these in all the stores) geeky, fun T-shirts. I actually have a liking for short dresses and that sort of thing, even if I do hate a lot of the designs and motives the feminine section has, and the fact that there's often hardly any variety. But I also have a liking for nerdy T-shirts.

 It's the blatant sexism and gender bias which gets to me.

 Why can't both sexes have similar styles in their respective sizes, so that both of us can choose around a bit more? When is the merchandising industry and the society in general going to realize that there are actually a fair share of women who like fandoms and comics and miniatures and all the stuff that can be considered 'nerdy' or 'geeky'? And that the fact that 'geek girls' are still a minority is not because all those hobbies and fandoms are "meant for boys/men", but, to a great extent, because all the 'geekdom' is still blatanly androcentric and offers their products mainly to men?

   People often buy mainly what they are offered. Women who already identify as 'geeks' or 'nerds' will delve in online stores to find products and T-shirts that they can wear (this particular Star Trek T-shirt is actually available in women's sizes, but only online. Which is still discrimination, and includes shipping). But many others won't, because they aren't offered those products, and will stay oblivious to them or will think that because they are only to be found in the boys' aisle, they're not meant for them. Either way, they will loose the ability and the possibility to choose them.

  And now I'm not just speaking about the fact that it's sexism and discrimination and gender bias, and thus wrong and unfair. I also think that the managers who decide these things seem to be so brainwashed with sexism that they don't realize that they are actually loosing money. Let us focus on the Star Trek T-shirt. How are they so sure that only boys would like to buy it? What about enthusiastic geek girls (like me)? What about girls who do not call themselves 'geek' but who like to dress in this style? And what about girls who are not hardcore Star Trek fans but happen to admire Benedict Cumberbatch (and there are a few of those, not all girls like the shallow, unhealthy models that are Justin Bieber and sparkling abusive vampires, society!)? How are they so sure that women would not buy these kind of T-shirts?

    My friend had the idea of writing a customer complaint/suggestion form so that the manager would at least know that someone thinks that they're showing gender bias and discrimination, and maybe something will come of that, but unfortunately, I think that more than one person would have to write suggestion forms and in many shops, and even so, day-to-day sexism has a nasty habit of clinging on for a long time. This is of course not the worst example of day-to-day sexism, but in my experience it is irrational and mightily frustrating. I think that it is high time women were offered geeky T-shirts too, but I'm afraid this still seems to be a long-lasting 'Geek Girl Problem'.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Feminism is about equality

 [Traducción española en violeta y cursiva]

I found a great quote in Facebook yesterday, and I agree wholeheartedly with it:
 Ayer encontré un cita muy buena en Facebook con la que estoy 100% de acuerdo:



Here is my translation of it:

  "Feminist movements do not want to impose a matriarchy based on violence against men, just as patriarchy has done until now. They do not want to deny them a vote, or rape them in the wars, or mutilate their genitals to uphold a cultural tradition, or confine them in the domestic sphere, or kill them for commiting adultery.
   Feminist movements do not expect men to be the property of their mothers and then of their wives, nor do them wish that men earn lower salaries, and neither would they want to banish them from the media, business and political spheres of power.
   They don't want to traffic with male bodies for the enjoyment of the female ones, nor do they wish that the male children be malnourished or abandoned in orphanages, nor, of course, would they promote their social or economic marginalization.
   They would not ban male children from going to school either, or deny them access to health service and university.
   Understand that all these insane ideas are not what feminist movements promote. Feminist movements have always fought for the equality between women and men."

  Coral Herrera Gómez

Friday, 2 August 2013

Public space sexism: Egalitarian stickers on buses and bathrooms

          Gender bias in public signs: The "woman as nurturer" stereotype.

                                                [Traducción a español en verde y cursiva, al final]


   For years, this had been the reserved seat sticker I had been familiar with every time I took the bus. The one informing us that the front seats are reserved to blind, old and injured people, pregnant women, and women with children.
   Then, a year ago, I noticed that this sticker was on one side of the bus' front rows, but that in the other one there was a variation:

                     
                                     (pics taken not long ago)
  Here the blind person and the old person are not depicted as males, but as females. And while the figure holding a child was female in the classic sign, now it was male. The pregnant figure, of course, continued to be female.
    Well, I was very glad to see this. Even if I haven't seen this variation in all the buses (I did see in the underground while in Austria, too, though).

   Because what was wrong with the first sign, equality-wise?  Gender stereotypes.

What does it matter that the blind/old/injured person, or the person carrying a child, be a man or a woman? Only in the case of the pregnant woman is the sex of the person relevant. And yet, the individual depicted carrying a child is a woman. Which means that apparently it is the women who always care after the children, only the women. It is no man's territory. The sign was perpetuating the classical stereotype of the woman as the nurturer, the one who has the obligation to care after the children, because, apparently, it is 'in her nature', all that biology determinism rubbish.  The blind person, the old person, the injured person, those don't really need to be recognized as females, they are either recognised as males or as standart human depictions  - which is the way everyone should be depicted unless sex is really relevant, in my opinion. But apparently the sex of the person looking after the child is relevant somehow. And it is always female.

Which bugs me, because:
 a) It is unfair that women be told that it is in their nature to have full responsibility in looking after their children, leaving the male partner (if we're talking about a heterosexual relationship) free of any duties in this respect.
 b) It is equally unfair to say that it is not in men's nature to care after children, because taking on a nurturing, caring role is 'not masculine'. And although things have gotten better, fathers are still being mocked and gaped at for caring after their children openly. You know, that stereotype which involves a man with his child in a park surrounded by mothers and feeling awkard (questioning his manliness, even) because they generally gape at him, surprised at seeing such a rara avis. Reactions go from 'He must be gay' (ie, a man with a nurturer side must loose his masculinity or be considered as homosexual, yet another stereotype, not to mention the homophobia of these kind of statements) to 'Wow, you're so cute and/or admirable, you're actually looking after children!'. 

   Gru in the first film (Despicable Me) comes to mind, for example:

                           http://www.anyclip.com/movies/despicable-me/ballet-dance-class/

   Men should have both the same rights and the same obligations as women when it comes to taking care of the children. They should feel that taking care of a child is not going to lower their masculinity, and that they should be able to enjoy showing care and affection, if they wish to. They should also know that caring for one's children is not only the mother's responsibility. The father had a part in it all, too, and should act accordingly.

 The new signs seem to take that into account, which is good. A step towards equality. Little things, but those also matter.

Update September 2016:  This bathroom sign in Cardiff's Waterstones subverts gender roles and shows equality by depicting the male figure being the one taking care of the children (the sign for the child-caring part of the bathroom, which was a shared bathroom in this case).

 I feel, however, that the fact that so many signs feel that they must specify the gender of the person depicted often only perpetuates gender steretypes. In the case of the first bus sign, they were perpetuating the 'women are the child-carers, not the men' stereotype. It can be solved showing both men and women, in alternate possitions, doing the same things, as they have done here. But is it really necessary to show all those skirt vs trousers variations? The skirt vs trousers issue is another rather unfortunate stereotype used to differentiate between men and women, although yes, it is hard to find a better alternative, and a stereotype-free one, unless it be by showing the genitalia in the stickers - which our society, highly used to hypersexualization and objectification,... might be scandalized about. Oh the irony. Also, the genitalia option is also problematic because it would be exclusive to trans people, for example.

   If the world were as I'd like it to be, signs like these would not need to make a difference between women and men, because we would be simply considered as human-beings, the sex would only be specified when it were really important (like, for example, in bathrooms signs and the like), and all the rest of the signs would only show human-stick-figures, representing both men and women.  There are quite a lot of apparently 'unisex signs' out there, true, although I sometimes wonder if they're supposed to be humans or just men/males. Because exclusive sexism has made "men" a synonim of "humans", something which is widely seen in literature and other writings. So in a way, I do like seeing "trousers" and "skirts" in equal measure...even if these differentiations can easily perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes when used incorrectly. But in an ideal context, I'd much rather see unisex stickers.

Miscelanea links: Useful pdf I have found (in Spanish) with guidelines about the egalitarian use of public signals: