Valentine’s Day 2016: Get Home Safe

Previous Valentine’s Day Posts

2015: 14 movies with strong female characters to watch on Valentine’s Day

2014: 28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter gifs)

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An open letter to Anastasia Steele (and others)

Dear Ana,

dear anaYou don’t know me, but I met you recently. And I realized I’ve been surrounded by girls like you for my entire life.

I haven’t read the entirety of your story yet. I read 370 pages of a book written about you, called Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m going to read the rest of it soon, but by the time one a.m. rolled around, your story was making me a little nauseous and upset. I spent my mostly-sleepless night thinking about you, with a knot of worry churning in my stomach. And I realized that since I’m not your friend, that I can’t text you or call you, I needed to write you a letter. There’s a lot of things I want to tell you, Ana.

We have a lot in common. We’re close to the same age, we both love classic British novels, don’t have enormous amounts of money, and live quite simply. We both have the ability to trip over empty air and we both blush when confronted.

We both have never been in love or a relationship, and we both don’t really see it in our near future. We, along with millions of other women, have succumbed to society’s unwritten rule that to be desired we have to be as beautiful as a twentysomething A-list Hollywood actress.

On page 24, you say “I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.” When Christian Grey leaves after you have coffee together, you think “What was I thinking?” assuming that someone good looking and upper class wouldn’t be attracted to you. On page 92 you say, “God, I hope I don’t let him down. He’ll find me lacking in some way.” Page 188: “Could I feel any more inadequate?” These are just some of the many, many, many instances, Ana, where you express your insecurities about your worth as a woman in the first 370 pages of the book about you.

Like you, there are millions of girls who think they aren’t good enough based on their appearance and/or their previous sexual/romantic experience. Modern culture has constructed a timeline of milestones that need to be followed in order to be considered normal: first boyfriend(s) in middle school, first broken heart(s) in high school, lost virginity before/during/after prom, first one-night stand during frosh week. These are basically designed to make us feel left out if none of these happen to us.

By the time we reach our age, Ana, without having a significant other, we are faced with the horror of the next ten years’ worth of our friends’ Facebook engagement announcements. Judging from popular movies, TV shows, and books, our reaction is supposed to be distraught, bitter, alcohol-induced, and followed by a series of one-night stands.

Being single in our society is portrayed as a terrible omen. And you’re not the first, or the last, to wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you aren’t being chased by mobs of Colin Firths and George Clooneys–or anyone at all.

fiftyshades-gallery_0 copy
They made a movie about your book, Ana. I wish your story had warranted THIS tagline.

Ana, just because you’ve never had a boyfriend doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. Of course you are. From what I know about you, you’re nice, generous, smart, and it’s relatively fun to be your friend.

Please don’t validate, or invalidate yourself, based on your relationship status, Ana. You are an individual, not an extension of someone who wants to have sex with you.

Regardless of whether people flirt with you, want to date you, want to have a one-night stand with you, you are a person. One entire human being. You are not less of a person because you are single.

It’s okay to be single and happy. It’s okay to be single and lonely. It’s okay to fall anywhere in between, with happy days and lonely days tossed together like trail mix. It’s okay and normal to be insecure, but this does not mean you are unworthy of good things.

Like many young women, Ana, I’m worried you fell for the first man you are insanely attracted to regardless of his personality. I’m worried that movies, TV shows, and books have too greatly romanticized the idea of a young woman falling for a broody, hot-and-cold-mannered, rich man who inexplicably turns out to be marriage material. We’ve grown up in a world of Mr. Darcys and boys who pinch you in class because they “like you” but this doesn’t mean falling for a now-rude, now-polite person is healthy for us.

Of course there’s something magnetic about a man who is charming and warm one day and cold and distant the next. He’s dangerous to like because you never know if he’ll like you back–and when he does like you, oh, that’s the best feeling, isn’t it Ana?

But he’s not always the healthiest man to love, especially for women who have never been in love before.

This is what I’m worried about, Ana. Unlike most young women, you are the main character in a franchise that has (for some reason) become incredibly popular. It seems as though you jumped into a rocky relationship with a man based on sexual desire, and his behaviour on nearly every page is very, very, questionable. I’m not talking about his sexual tastes–honestly, the healthiest times you two interact is when you’re getting it on. It also seems like it’s the only time you actually like him. Maybe this will change over the course of the books about you, but even if your relationship does get healthier it doesn’t change the fact that it’s unhealthy in the first 370 pages. This is why I’m writing this letter.

I really hope you learn to love yourself, Ana, and make healthy choices for yourself.

Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robes copyYou aren’t worth any more or less by being single or being in a relationship. Need I remind you that Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, and according to their Wikipedia pages, Anne and Emily Brontë (whom you mention you enjoy), never married? They remain some of the most famous women in history. They’re totally valid and worthy, right? So why do you think you’re not?

I think that more emphasis needs to be put on female strength rather than the apparent innate need for a significant other to validate our very existence. I love that you get to have lots of orgasms, because let’s face it, the media doesn’t really show female orgasms as a real thing, just an elusive myth.

But no offense, Ana, you’re kind of a disappointing role model. I wish you were’t, because there are so many women who feel the same way as you. I really want you to be strong, autonomous, independent, and healthy. And I want you to know what is good for you and what’s not, and when to walk away from something that is unhealthy and harmful. These are the kinds of women we need to be spotlighting in “romance” novels/movies.

It’s important to be your own best friend. Think of your closest friend. You know how beautiful and kind and smart they are from your perspective? I want you to learn to see yourself this way. I want you and women (and everyone else), to be content with yourself, to know you are more than your relationship status, and to be able to look at yourself naked in the mirror and think yes, I am pretty dang beautiful, and I am totally a human being worthy of happiness, whether or not that means being in love or in bed with someone or being single.

I don’t need someone to tell me I’m beautiful to know it. Yes, it’s nice to hear it, especially on days I’m feeling sad or lonely, but most days, most days I already know I’m beautiful–not to mention awesome.

So, dear Ana, and all of the women like you, I hope you grow to love yourself as you are, and not wait until your Colin Firth (or Jamie Dornan) comes along to sweep you off your feet. He might never show up, anyway, due to lost connections or unfortunate coincidences, so it’s best to love yourself as you are now. And if you don’t, maybe it’s time to start.

Thanks so much for reading this, Ana. I’ll be thinking of you. And when I meet the Anastasia Steeles of the world, I’ll be trying my best to show them what I have tried to show you in this letter.

Love,

Libby

14 movies with strong female characters to watch on Valentine’s Day

(Alternate title: 14 movies with strong female characters to watch on Valentine’s Day instead of Movies that Portray Women as One-Dimensional, Subject to the Sexual Dominance of Toxic Masculinity, and Lacking Physical/Emotional/Sexual Autonomy.)

Welcome to my third annual Valentine’s Day blog post.

To summarize what I have said in years past, February 14th is a commercialized “holiday” that celebrates the societal pressure of exchanging expensive objects and/or feelings and/or bodily fluids. Basically I think it’s dumb.

I’m not hating on celebrating love here, don’t get me wrong, but I think commercializing love and creating a culture where happiness is based on whether or not you have a significant other is downright ridiculous.

It creates an environment where love and sex are glamourized without being discussed in educational ways.

Valentine’s Day is a great time* to talk to the people you love (and/or random strangers!) about consent, healthy relationships and safe sex. Have discussions about feminism, marriage equality, intersectionality, and LGBTQ+ issues. These are vital when it comes to maintaining the healthy relationships the media keeps telling us we need.

Love and relationships are more diverse than the media lets on, and it is important to bring these discussions to the table with your partners, parents, children, friends (and almost literally everyone else).

With movies like Fifty Shades of Grey hitting theatres on Valentine’s Day, it’s especially important to talk about consent and the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. For this movie to be released on Valentine’s Day–the most “romantic” day of the year–it should not go unnoticed that this film (and its sequels) is causing debates about manipulation, abuse, consent, and BDSM.

These are good conversations to have.

Valentine’s Day is also a perfect day to support portrayals of women in media that are actually, you know, awesome.

So instead of spending $50 to see a movie where women are yet again diminished to nothing other than a submissive, vulnerable, materialistic, sexual being, why not watch a movie starring some strong women in the comfort of your own home?

People are perfectly capable of existing without a romantic relationship, in case you thought you were going to crumble into dust because you’re single. No worries. You are not going to crumble.

So as per internet tradition, I’m providing you with some alternate ideas on how to spend your V-Day, whether or not you’re spending it with your partner, your parents, your friends, or your cat.

This year I’m going to throw some movies at you starring badass ladies who don’t need no man.

Or even if they have a man, they are not entirely dependent on him for literal survival.

1. The Hunger Games

Katniss not only faces the physical and psychological challenges of the Games, but also society’s obsession with beauty and romance. She kicks ass (literally and metaphorically), fights perceptions of material beauty, and literally overthrows a government with the help of some very badass female and pro-female characters.

2. Mary Poppins

A business woman who takes no crap from no one, Mary is a sharp-witted realist who don’t need no man and just enjoys their friendship. (Suggested by Cassie.)

3. Little Women

Jo March, her sisters, and Marmee have been my heroes from childhood. Unconventional, independent, and unafraid to defy society, they are all talented, autonomous, and role models to those around them. Ripe with female relationships and highlighting female strength, just watch it. Please. (Suggested by Cassie.)

4. Elizabeth the Golden Age

She’s a warrior. She’s unmarried. She doesn’t need sex, romance, or a man in order to rule as the greatest monarch in British history and kick patriarchy’s ass in the process.

5. The Messenger

How often do we see a woman pull an arrow out of her own chest?

6. The Help

I don’t recall any moments where these women backed down because the patriarchy told them to. Not to mention teaching girls about self-esteem and the value of treating others as equals. (Suggested by Jordan.)

7. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

In which total of three (THREE) female characters are formidable business women who balance sky-high careers with relationships, family, marriage, and politics. (Admittedly they are all white, heterosexual, and cisgender women…but I mean, it’s a start and still deserves a pat on the back because this is still far too rare a sight in film.)

8. Mulan

Because Mulan.

9. Frozen and/or Brave

Yes I went there. No you cannot see Frozen or Brave too many times. And Elsa, Anna, and Merida make up quite the matriarchy if I do say so myself.

10. Jane Austen movies

Because who doesn’t love sassy, fierce, independent women ahead of their time? (Emma suggested by Sarah.)

11. The Iron Lady.

Because female politicians. (This is on my personal to-see list.)

12. Clueless

It’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma who is one of the most badass female characters in classic literature. Sooo. (Suggested by CassieSarahJordan. I haven’t actually seen it, yet. If this many different people suggested it…the people have spoken. Also read this article).

13. The Color Purple

“It’s a movie with such strong female characters and how strong they freaking are. The support they give each other defines the way women should treat each other.” * *

14. Thelma and Louise

“So many feminist overtones. It re-scripts typical gender roles of society and it’s in general a great film about strong and capable women, and the struggles they face.” * *

*It’s always a good time to talk about these issues!

**Jordan kindly offered these brief descriptions since for some reason I have yet to see Thelma and Louise or The Color Purple and I feel like these are important to include.

~

I only posted 14 movies…well, because Valentine’s Day is the 14th. I know there are more movies out there, so leave them in the comments below or tweet them to me @LibbySometimes!

2014’s V-Day Post: 28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter Gifs)

Women’s rights — and omg look at her butt.

This is the kind of blog post I have to pump myself up to write, so at this point I’ve watched Nicki Minaj’s music video for Anaconda approximately fifteen times (and counting) and needless to say I’m getting a little crazy, cranky, and tired.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I want you to watch Nicki’s Anaconda video. You might be scarred, fair warning. Then come back and we’ll talk about women’s rights and butts.

Back? Okay. Timeline.

Beginning of time-1900s: Female sexuality has long been stigmatized by society, and seen as an evil and shameful, preventing sexual freedom and promoting continued sexism.

1907: Annette Kellerman was arrested in 1907 for wearing a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit at a beach.

1916: Kellerman was also the first major actress to appear nude in film, in the movie A Daughter of the Gods.

1920s: Flapper girls illustrated sexual freedom, seeing non-marital sex as natural and normalizing the idea of casual courtship – flapper girls were some of the young people who attended the “petting parties” of the 1920s and popularized the idea of foreplay.

1925: Women were by law unable to divorce their husbands on the same grounds as men were able to divorce their wives until 1925.

Wartimes: As the majority of the male population went to war, the number of women working in Canadian industry went from 57 000 to around a million within five years.

Pre-1969: Unavailability and illegality of birth control prevented women’s control over their own reproduction, and birth control was illegal in Canada until 1969.

1989: The Supreme Court of Canada decided that sexual harassment was a form of sexual discrimination (for reference as to how recent this is, 1989 was also the year Taylor Swift was born — that is way too recent).

2010-2014: In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her advocacy of women’s right to education.

From the time they are in Grade Six to the time they are in Grade Ten, the number of teenage girls who identify themselves as self-confident drop 22%, and half of all girls wish they were someone else.

Of all reported sexual assaults, 82% of victims are girls under the age of 18.

One poll in Amnesty International UK in its Stop Violence Against Women campaign was reviewed by the Daily Mail:

A third of Britons believe a woman who acts flirtatiously is partially or completely to blame for being raped, according to a new study.

More than a quarter also believe a woman is at least partly responsible for being raped if she wears sexy or revealing clothing, or is drunk, the study found.

One in five think a woman is partly to blame if it is known she has many sexual partners, while more than a third believe she is responsible to some degree if she has clearly failed to say “no” to the man. 

Let that sink in, and then back to Nicki Minaj

Women have worked their asses off (no pun intended) for the right to drive a car, wear pants, own land, have a career, divorce their husbands. Women are still fighting for these simple rights all over the world. Women are dying.

Women have fought society for decades for the right to their own sexuality. It wasn’t so long ago when fathers, husbands, and brothers literally owned a woman’s sexuality. In many places, they still do.

The fact that many women in the world can sexually express themselves is wonderful. I am very pro-sexual freedom, confidence, and expression. I think women of all ages should be able to be happy with their bodies and have control over their sexuality. 

But here’s where the area gets grey. 

There’s sexual empowerment, the act of having the power and confidence to use one’s sexuality for personal enjoyment/equivalent.

And then there’s sexual objectification.

Everyday Feminism blogger Melissa Fabello writes about the difference between objectification and empowerment: “Sexual empowerment is active. It’s ownership. Autonomous. Self-serving. Objectification, on the other hand, is a passive relenting of control. It’s powerless. Self-sacrificial.”

Some will argue Nicki Minaj’s racy music videos are her exercising sexual empowerment. Maybe she is. It’s great she’s confident enough in her body to share it with the world, especially a world where for so long skeletal models were the most dominant “role models” (I use the term lightly). She isn’t the typical tiny, thin-hipped, rib-showing singer/model/actress. Great. Go Nicki.

Some will say she’s being objectified in her Anaconda video, but not by men, so it doesn’t matter, right? 

This isn’t about Miss Minaj. She’s a public figure. Millions (billions!) of people around the world can watch her videos. The fact that she might be exercising her own sexuality is kind of irrelevant at this point since everything she creates belongs to the public. It’s how art works. It belongs to the people.

When Nicki, and others in the industry, portray themselves in ways that turn sex into a commodity available to buy (buy the music! buy the music video! buy her concert tickets!), it’s taking us back too far in the history women have had to overcome. Commoditized sex isn’t healthy. Nicki’s video isn’t portraying her or any of her backup dancers in a sexually-free way. They have become nothing more than sex objects, human sex machines designed to bring in views and cash and apparently pleasure men.

How does this affect girls and women around the world?

Worldwide accessibility to technology like the internet and television makes witnessing sexual objectification of women in media unavoidable. The social implications of such exposure to male-controlled displays of impersonal sexuality are severe. Girls from a young age are faced with these men-pleasing sex machines in media, in their movies and television shows and music videos.

How can a girl live up to sexual standards of society, while the public think she deserves to be attacked if she is seen in a sexual or vulnerable manner?  It has become normal for a girl to receive unwanted sexual comments and advances from acquaintances and strangers alike. 

With song lyrics like “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun,” a depressing amount of music is telling young women what is desirable and what isn’t. Speaking as a young woman, it’s very normal to desire to be desired — and with music videos, movies, and commercials describing and showing us what’s hot and what’s not, it’s easy to see why low self esteem, eating disorders, and dangerous thinspiration movements are rampant among women, especially teens.

So the fact that maybe Nicki is expressing her own sexual confidence doesn’t really matter. She can exercise that right on a less public platform where she won’t be subliminally telling millions of girls that to be sexually desired by men they have to have massive butts they need to shake in people’s faces. You are more than a butt, ladies. You are more than sex appeal and “something he can grab”.

You are a person. You are a personality. You can express yourself sexually and otherwise. And women have come a long ways to say that. Let’s not spoil that by telling our girls that to be desired they have to be Nicki Minaj.

 

 

 

Notes: as always, my opinions. You’re free to share yours. I also very pointedly didn’t include a picture of Nicki Minaj in her Anaconda video because I don’t want to spread the message of seductively shaking your butt makes you beautiful.I have the references for all the stats I wrote above; if you want them I’m happy to provide them if you leave a comment below. I’m not a professional historian, so if I have a stat wrong, I apologize and will fix it if it comes to my attention. I’m very pro-female sexuality and male sexuality. I believe in equal rights for both genders and I think both men and women need to be more aware of what effects sexual overexposure in media have on children, boys and girls. You’re all awesome. Xox.

 

#YesAllWomen: Feminist jokes aren’t funny

Since I heard news of the UCSB massacre I’ve had a hard time putting my feelings into words. I think I’ve passed from an emotional response and into a sort of numbing phase of confusion, anger, and defensiveness. I’m deeply disturbed by Friday’s events on top of the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls more than a month ago. The trend #YesAllWomen over the last few days has unveiled a massive outpouring of tweets spreading awareness of discrimination, violence, and sexual violence against women, and while I’ve been re-tweeting a storm, I’ve only composed one #YesAllWomen tweet thus far.

I have plenty of things to say, experiences to share, but I haven’t been able to put them into words, and like many other women, I’m afraid to put forth an opinion on the internet that may be too “big” or “bold” or have repercussions on my life (the woman who started the #YesAllWomen trend has since privatized her Twitter account, which I have both utter respect and sadness for). This fear alone, of expressing an opinion that may be construed as “feminist” and could result in backlash and even online attacks from strangers,  is an example of the long journey women still have towards the world of gender equality. We shouldn’t be afraid to express opinions, to be labelled as the dreaded f-word, to be made fun of, looked down on, or seen as overreacting or ridiculous.

Normally I’m pretty tolerant of my friends making “feminist” jokes, because I know they’re not terrible people and simply taking advantage of my good sense of humour, but these last few days have been different. I was horrified. Did they realize what happened only days ago? Did they know one man felt so sexually entitled to have women that he killed six people over ten crime scenes and left a haunting YouTube video detailing his hatred towards women? Did they know someone made a Facebook fanpage for the killer (which I along with many others have reported for removal to no avail)? Have they seen the reactions from women (and men) around the globe? Why is it funny to make fun of a group of people who are fighting for gender equality at any time, let alone in this time of tragedy? Why is it humourous to jokingly insult someone who believes in women’s rights, improvement of women’s standing in the social scheme, who openly talks about the media maltreatment of women and girls and proudly calls herself a feminist? There are certain things you can poke fun at, and advocating women’s rights and opposing hatred and violence against women is not one of them.

And why didn’t I tell my friends this? Why did I paste on a half-hearted grimace like I usually do? I brushed off a jab that “jokingly” demeans a massive human rights movement and insults the memory of the victims of the UCSB attack. Feminism is not funny. Societal attitudes towards women as objects, sex toys, submissive wives, and men-pleasers are not funny. Mass murder is not funny.

I recommend taking the time to read through some of the #YesAllWomen tweets.

she's someone

The Truth Will Out: The Age Closet

Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, by their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.

~Oscar Wilde

Greetings, Internet! I’ve recently had a bit of an online identity crisis. This has happened before: flashback to 2012, and then my super long extended blogging hiatus in which I abandoned Let Them Grumble and created this blog/website/thing in August. Since I started blogging two years ago, a lot has happened to me.

I’ve been published in three anthologies. I self-published my first collection of poetry and short stories.

I have met some wonderful people online and in person, and haven’t followed any of your blogs nearly as diligently as some of you have followed mine.

I’ve changed my main blogging topic from Anne Boleyn to writing to feminism and everything (and I mean everything) in between.

I’ve switched countless themes and two domain names and attempted a character blog.

I’ve grown in the last two years. Every post, comment, like, and follow has impacted how I perceive other writers, history fans, feminists, bloggers, and people in general. And I wanted to thank you all for that — goshdarnit I don’t care how cheesy I’m being. I know I sound like Bilbo Baggins at his one hundred and eleventh birthday party, but I swear I’m not going to pop on a magic ring and disappear again.

When I started blogging, I made the decision to remain somewhat anonymous. The main reasoning for this (other than online safety) was because I wanted to be taken seriously as both a blogger and a writer. I know I’ve posted some very non-serious things, but I didn’t want who I was to impact how people thought of me and my writing.

I was afraid of being stereotyped because of my age.

Of course some of you knew how old I was, or guessed, and obviously I wasn’t a 95-year-old woman judging by my profile photos, but I didn’t want my age to become relevant to my content, even if it was a compliment. I wrote my first blog post just before I turned sixteen. Now I’m eighteen.

I know those of you who take the time to read, like, and comment on my posts don’t care how old I am because you’re fabulous anyway, but there would have been those skeptical to read the blog of a sixteen-year-old rambling on about the validity of Anne Boleyn’s reproductive organs or researching for novel-writing. I didn’t want to be labelled as a “teenage blogger/writer.” I wanted to be a blogger. I wanted to be a writer. Period. No stigma of teenagers attached. I didn’t want anyone to think, “Oh that Libby. She’s so cute thinking she’s a writer, and she’s only 15-18.”

So, the little italicized voice asks, why are you coming out of your age closet, Libby? 

And yeah. I take selfies.
And yeah. I take selfies.

Since I joined Twitter I’ve interacted with several “teenage bloggers/writers” and these are the ones that inspired me to come out of my age-caged turtle shell. Not only are they successful at both blogging and writing, but they have a certain pride regarding their age. They don’t care that they’re XX years old, but it is a part of their life and it is something many of them talk about in their social media outlets. I loved “meeting” them online. There’s an entire online community of teenage writers that I had no idea about. They were fascinating. I wanted to support them because I understood. I had things in common with them, things I wanted to say “Me too!” at, until I remembered I was keeping my specific age locked away in a dungeon so none of my adult followers would judge or label me, consciously or unconsciously.

I want to be able to relate and reach out to other writers/bloggers/feminists who happen to be in their teens. I want to support them and swap experiences with them.

Do I want my age to suddenly become centre stage? No. But if my age makes it easier for others to share their experiences or for me to share mine, then I will happily add the phrase “teen writer” to my online bio.

I’m tired of hiding in my age closet. It’s unnecessary and inconvenient. If I want to tell you about the time George Elliott Clarke visited my Advanced English class, I will. (Sidenote: it was fantastic.) If I want to give advice on how to apply for scholarships, I will. (Sidenote: user discretion is recommended.) Where I previously avoided talking about age-related activities, I will embrace them.

So yes. I am a teenager, and it does take up a considerable amount of my life. Unlike some writers I have tests and exams to study for, research papers to write, and preparations for university to make. I haven’t seen a whole lot the world yet, but I will. I like teenage things and adult things. I’m afraid and excited for the next stages of my journey — writing, publishing, attending university, and otherwise. I want my work to continue to be taken seriously, and hopefully more seriously as I accomplish more in the coming years.

My name is Libby, and I am an eighteen-year-old writer, blogger, feminist, and chocolate addict extraordinaire.

Evolution of the Nine-Year-Old Feminist

Today I encountered a rather angry and defiant nine-year-old girl. Maybe she was ten or eleven, but regardless of the number, part of her attitude reminded me of myself at a similar age. She proclaimed her disdain for flowers, dresses, and other “girly” things. She loudly announced, “I hate princesses. They’re ugly,” while the four-year-old girl next to her drew ten crowned princesses and purple kitties on purple paper.

From my perspective at first this seemed insensitive and harsh, and perhaps downright wrong of the outspoken, opinionated nine-year-old. I tried explaining that liking princesses was okay, and you can like both girl and boy things, or one, or neither. Of course this didn’t sink in — what nine-year-old girl listens to someone trying to explain that other opinions are right too?

Some girls are angry at boys, and some girls are angry at girls. Click for source.

But she reminded me of me. I was that girl, the one who hated admitting affection for dresses, the colour pink, and swore to wear jeans and rubber boots to her wedding. Especially at school, where there were boys around, I would play tag, partake in spitting contests, and look down on the girls who openly obsessed about girlish things. While this in part was a facade (I enjoyed playing Barbies as much as the next girl), my expressions of contempt for femininity was most likely my first feminist act (albeit a little narrow-minded).

I was probably subconsciously angry about being part of the gender that received the lesser end of the power battle I witnessed between men/boys and women/girls. The boys at school were the ones allowed to get in trouble, do rough things, do well in class, and have the opportunity to have really cool career options like astronaut, carpenter, soldier, or police officer. Most of the elementary school teachers were women, and the principal for many years was a man. All of my friends’ fathers were the breadwinners of their families, and nearly all the adult women I knew were mothers. Like the nine-year-old girl I met today, I knew something was unbalanced in this gender division, and I was angry about it.

Of course at home and school they taught us girls that we could be anything we wanted, too. We could be astronauts as well. But hearing it and seeing it and becoming it are entirely different things. The message we received was something along the lines of “Astronaut is a male occupation that girls can aim for.” They never said this, but that was what we understood. Instead of astronaut being just an occupation, it was so obviously a male occupation that women could attempt (girls can be astronauts, too). We all knew how important astronauts were, and for it to be a male occupation meant (subliminally) to be male was more important.

Taunts were thrown around: you’re such a girl! you’re such a sissy! Never was you’re such a boy! hurled as an insult. To the young mind, being more masculine and hating feminine things meant being “better,” and we adapted to this mindset to surpass our delicate butterfly-loving fellows through angry and often wrong outbursts of opinion.

As I grew older and more perceptive, I moved my anger away from feminine things and towards the gender imbalance itself. Instead of hating on girls who adored pink flowered dresses, I questioned the reasons for it. I was still angry. I remember vividly my grade seven gym class where the teacher offhandedly mentioned that boys can throw balls farther and harder. I took this personally as a female — were my abilities biologically going to be less superior than that of my male classmates? Was I doomed to be less important because of my gender?

I guess I was a pretty intense pre-teen, still upset about the gender gap without knowing why or how or what I could do about it other than poster-We-Can-Do-Itprove to the boys that I could be as good at everything as they were (or better) and to prove to the girls that they could, too.

But that angry pre-teen developed an interest in feminism and gender equality, and turned her anger into passion. She still gets frustrated at people who think (or pretend to think) that a woman’s place is in a kitchen, nursery, or classroom, but that is expected. She likes things that are classified as both feminine and masculine, and tries to blur the lines between gender-based categories for the children she works with. Boys can like princesses, and so can girls. Girls can like tractors, and so can boys. Maybe you like neither, or both.

Whatever it was that first made the nine-year-old I met today angry about femininity in herself and her classmates, I hope that like me, she turns her anger into something a little more balanced and productive. Who knows? Maybe one day she’ll identify herself as a feminist, just as I do.

Has any one else experienced the evolution of the nine-year-old feminist?

28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter gifs)

I admit, it can be cute, and I love individual aspects of Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate, for one. And roses. And love. Those are all nice things.

**warning: next paragraphs are over-exaggerated, melodramatic, and full of gifs**

Buuut, it’s basically a holiday that boosts the greeting card industry, lingerie sales, risk of diabetes, attendance at bad romantic comedy films starring Taylor Swift, and stress (which in extreme cases over time can cause health problems and even death).

We single ladies/men are expected to moan about being alone, sitting at home eating ice cream from a container and watching The Notebook in our pajamas. We single ladies/men are expected to be unhappy.

See this BuzzFeed post. While it’s funny, it’s sarcastic implications are concerning.

I’m not going to dwell on this, because of course everyone knows Valentine’s Day is a great time to be single. While all your attached friends are out having awkward dinners and forgetting to take their birth control, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. It’s like Christmas, but without the loud relatives and Michael Bublé music blasting from every radio station.

Here are some suggestions for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

1. You can go out.

Alone or with friends. Or with the Dark Lord. Source here.

2. You can stay in.

…we probably have similar definitions of staying in. You know, pajamas, friends, etc. Source here.

3. Chocolate. I mean, it’ll be on sale tomorrow so you could wait. But you probably shouldn’t.

Filch it. Filch them all. Source here.

4. You don’t have to shave your legs. (You don’t have to shave your legs, ever.)

Even Snape is happy about this. No more Venus razors for me, suckers. Source here.

5. Watch endless episodes of Simon’s Cat.

This is why they invented internet, for ancient Egyptian cat worship. Source here. 

6. Dance to your playlists from highschool in your underwear.

Pretty sure I have the Lovegood dancing gene. Just let loose, man. Dance. Source here.

7. Invite your other single ladies/men over and play board games — because playing board games with your friends is highly underrated.

I’m no chess wiz. I’m more of a checkers type girl. Source here.

8. You can do nothing. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to exist. You can go about your life as usual and ignore consumerist attempts to get you to buy heart-shaped pillows that match absolutely nothing in your house.

Harry is talking the talk. Source here.

9. Buy your cat another bag of Temptations (because I’m sure you already have at least one bag).

Especially if he eats ears. Give the cat some treats. Source here.

10. Send your mom an embarrassing collage of all the selfies you’ve taken together.

harry-potter-selfie

No source necessary. We all know where this came from.

11. Rearrange your Harry Potter books.

Because you’re the only one who knows how to do it correctly, and with love. Source here.

12. Send terrible jokes to Facebook friends you don’t really know.

How many wizards does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Source here.

13. Cuddle.With a pillow, a cat, a dog, a friend, your favourite stuffed animal left over from childhood. Cuddle.

Nothing is better than a long hug. I’m sirius about this, guys. Source here.

14. Blast Serena Ryder.

Dumbledore knows what’s up. Source here.

15. Stalk cute people on Twitter even if they live in a different country.

Twitter flirting is the best flirting. @LibbySometimes 😉 Source here.

16. You should probably be nice and share your chocolate with others. Sharing is caring (even if it’s hard).

chocolate

Bless her heart. I could never do it. Source here.

17. Spend hours on IMDb planning all your trips to the movie theatres for the next year.

Research is important. Source here.

18. Reminisce about your exes. Laugh at all the poor attached people having to suffer through dates and other assorted pressures.

Gotta love uncomfortable social situations. Source here.

19. Eat lots of food for no other reason than because you can.

My life. Source here. 

20. Write a passive aggressive blog post/Facebook status/Tweet about Valentine’s Day.

Vent your feelings. I am. Source here.

21. Watch Jurassic Park.

And do you best raptor impression. Source here. 

22. Watch V for Vendetta.

Hugo Weaving causes excitement where ever he goes. Except future British governments. Source here.

23. Watch Sherlock.

MY FEELINGS. Source here.

24. Watch The Big Bang Theory re-runs.

I applaud your nerdiness, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Roj. Source here.

25. Watch anything with Liam or Chris Hemsworth’s pretty faces and impeccable jeans genes.

One gif for Chris…

And one for Liam. Sources here and here.

26. Practice your axe-throwing. (Maybe start with darts. Or packing peanuts.)

You know, safety first. Source here.

27. Photobooth.

But I won’t judge you. Source here.

28. For each person you love, send them a single, anonymous red rose with a note that says “I’m watching you.”

That’s a special kind of love. Source here.

So happy Valentine’s Day, if you’re single or not.

Sources here and here.

Sorry for the personal content, but on behalf of small-breasted women…

Speaking as a member of the “flat chested” population of young women, I’m used to jokes about being smaller than the average B cup. (Or A cup, for that matter.) I participate in these jokes, too, because I’m confident enough in my own body to make fun of it. I make fun of my knees, too, all in jest*.

Society has it in our heads that women need breasts, preferably medium-sized to large ones. This is why $1.1 BILLION is spent on breast augmentation every year. Sure. That’s great. I have no opinion, positive or negative, on breast implants or the reasons women decide to get them. It’s not something I’ll ever do, but I am totally respecting any other ladies out there who want to enlarge their…ladies.

But here’s my issue. Being someone who is far from top-heavy, this happens a couple of times a year, usually by people who are an easy C or D cup — they express their feelings of sympathy for my “unfortunate” breast size. Things like, it’s okay, or don’t feel bad, or (my favourite) I’m sure you’ll find someone who loves you for you.

One, I’m sad that people think I’m sad about being “small.” They seem more sad about it than I do. Two, why would I feel bad? I love my body, as everyone should. And three, I really hope someone out there, in a world of 7 billion people, will love me for me and not how much my chest sticks out.

Why feel bad for small-breasted women? Expressing your sympathy about their bra size is not only unfounded (we carry less weight around, can run with more ease, and I’m sure we’ll have an easier time in our older years) but also could be detrimental to a young woman’s self image and self esteem. For me, that’s not the case, but there are thousands of other young women out there who would take a simple, careless comment like, “It’s okay you’re only a 32A, someone will love you for you” and interpret it as not being “good enough.”

The main purpose of breasts is to feed our young. Small breasted women can still perform this biological function with just as much efficiency as larger women. I know many males (and females) would argue the intrigue of the breast is much more than nourishing a hungry infant, but that’s a post for another time.

So don’t tell a woman who might be considered “flat chested” that it’s okay, or that someone will love them anyway. Of course it’s okay, and of course someone will love them! Sharing these feelings from a D perspective could make them feel undesirable, not to mention uncomfortable. There are a select group of people a woman will tolerate talking about the size of her breasts (normally restricted to mothers, embarrassing aunts, close friends, and romantic partners), and it might not be you.

On behalf of small breasted women, stop feeling bad for us. We’re fine. We’re better than fine. We can get away with things like running without having to change into a sports bra. Or maybe not wear bras at all. Aren’t we lucky?

And to quote an old saying in my family, “More than a handful is a waste.”**

*(Note the difference of poking fun at yourself and putting  yourself down.)

**That was not an invitation. Keep your hands to yourself.

Her breasts are pretty small. I don’t hear anyone expressing their sympathy for her being a beautiful piece of art.

I Am Not My Main Character

On this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, let’s be thankful to all the people who’ve ever asked an author, “Is Mary Sue’s story based on yours? You and her are a lot alike!” Without those people, I would not be writing this.

In the dozens of novel ideas I’ve had and started (most of them not making it past five chapters with few exceptions) I have not based my main character on myself. They were all their own individuals with their own quirks and flaws and habits and experiences.

But people just love asking writers if their characters are based on themselves. It has happened to me, and you see it all the time in author interviews.

And once an author admits that yes, my punk-rock ninja boarding school heroine is based on myself, it doesn’t ring the same. Mary Sue is based on the author? Well, that’s, that’s….that’s cheating! Why couldn’t she just write a memoir? Isn’t that, you know, pretentious? Wow.

Suddenly people are treating the author the same way people treat those unfortunate souls who announce their love for One Direction. “Oh, well, I guess that’s your choice…but we’re not friends anymore. I’m deleting you from Facebook.”

Very not cool.

The next step up (or down?) from this is when writers take themselves and make them better. Thinner, more confident, usually with added combat skills and some steamy romantic interest. This is even worse in the eyes of people who find this out. It’s just…weird to most readers.

But here’s the deal. My characters are not me, nor are they better, stronger versions of myself. That being said, a lot of the times the easiest things to write are things I know best. “Write what you know” mantra. That includes certain circumstances and certain reactions. First hand experience is the most accurate way to present the same situation in writing, and I incorporate this into my storytelling. It could be something small, like a joke I shared with a friend, or a similar reaction to the wedding of Will and Kate.

There are aspects of my life that make for good reading. So why not include it? It isn’t intended to be a reflection of my life or the way I live it, but it makes my characters’ lives a wee bit more genuine.

But these are far and few in between. Great Aunt Emily in my WIP, for example, is a total figment of my imagination. I never had such a great aunt (thankfully). There are a few exchanges between characters that are snapshots from dialogue with a friend, and little annotations about things like rural life (e.g., the smell of manure in July) or the woes of going to a small high school.

Taking this another step deeper, I like telling stories that are “real” and “relatable.” I mean, who doesn’t? That’s the obvious goal of every writer. I grew up in a small town — a village, technically. The cow to person ratio is something like 6:1. You always get the “small town girl/boy” protagonist dominating YA stands, but this always bugged me; if they have their own high school, or more people than cows, then I don’t see it as “small town” simply because of my own experience. I relate best to 6:1 cow-to-people communities. I want to read about them.

So I’m writing one.

It’s not my life. I am not Ingrid Fletcher. Her story isn’t mine. We share similarities and some characteristics, but if I wanted to write my own story I’d write an autiobiography or start a hardcore diary. I’m a bit of a bookworm. Ingrid is 100x the bookworm I am. Ingrid is 100x shyer than me. Her friendships are different, her opinions are different, her habits and flaws are different, her deepest darkest secrets are completely her own. I’m just helping her explain everything to the reader in the most accurate way I can, without, you know, going skydiving so that one scene is all the more genuine.

No sir. I am not going skydiving for Ingrid’s sake.

Do you incorporate aspects of your own life to your writing? Is your protagonist a slightly different version of you?

Somewhat random, but hey. So am I.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jobs for Writing are Non-Existent

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been told this at least once, or some variant of it. Perhaps it hasn’t been said directly to your face. Maybe it was the look in their eye when you mention a new short story or novel attempt. Maybe they snort or laugh, thinking you’re joking when you say you’re a writer.

My mental reaction. 😉

Well, that italicized voice in your head growls, thank you for your love and support.

Oh, we know they don’t say it to be mean or rude or to crush our dreams (if they did, I suggest new friends). They had benevolent intentions in saying it . Probably because they don’t want us to end up stubbornly writing poetry in a box under a bridge across from a MacDonald’s with a big NOW HIRING sign on their billboard.

Because really, JOBS FOR WRITING ARE NON-EXISTENT. How how are we supposed to support ourselves, and possibly families, with silly words our brain makes up and our fingers spit out? That doesn’t sound plausible. Like, writing as a job? Excuse me while I try not to laugh in your face.

Please.

And then you wonder, did they tell me this because they think I’m a terrible writer and are too nice to say it outright? Are they jealous about my writing skills? Am I suffering from delusions? Do they not want me to be happy? Are they so unhappy that they want me to be unhappy with them? Does no one love me? Why do I exist? 

We writers, especially young and new writers, tend to have vivid imaginations and rather tender egos when it comes to our writing. Please kick cautiously. We might break. Questioning our writing, ability to write, and future in writing is akin to insulting our purpose for living. You did NOT just say that. You didn’t. I’ll pretend you didn’t, because otherwise I’ll have to curse your family. You threaten what makes me happy and I’ll write you into a dead character so fast you won’t be able to repent your lifelong overuse of exclamation marks.

Yes, writing as a career is tricky and trialing and yes, sometimes it doesn’t work out. We all know the odds of us becoming the next  JK Rowling or EL James John Green are very, very slim. We don’t expect our stories to hit the big screen starring Johnny Depp and Zoe Saldana. We don’t expect to sell millions of our very first novel. Heck, we’re lucky if we e-publish a short story and someone decides to pay the $0.99 for it.

But there are jobs for writing. The only job for writing is not titled BEST SELLING NOVELIST. There are plenty of jobs out there. You may have to look. You may be rejected (well, you will be, multiple times). You may cry and scream and pull your hair out because, man, deadlines and expectations and I have no knowledge about the eating habits of earth worms and gaaaaaah.

But they exist. THEY EXIST. (Can you hear me screaming?)

Journalists, reporters, screenwriters, commercial writers, speech writers for politicians, freelance journalism, magazine contributors, bloggers, songwriters (hook up with a local band!), travel writers, biographers, poets, advertisers, playwrights, spoken word writers, campaign writers (social, cultural, political), e-zine writers, university professors, GREETING CARD AUTHORS, comic book writers, video game writers.

Heck, edit essays for students. Tudor Tutor someone. Write reports for companies or businesses. Be a ghost writer, if that’s your thing. Some people are too busy to run their own websites. Design posters. Make word art. Team up with a couple people and start your own magazine addressing issues you care about.

Writing is often the principle part of our being. If we didn’t have that part of ourselves, what would we have? I, for one, would be lost. I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be as happy.

I’m willing to set aside the dream of BEST SELLING NOVELIST if I can only be content and you know, live in a house of some kind. I want to be writing. It might mean writing articles about the eating habits of earth worms, but I’m okay with that. It’s writing. Writing is what I breathe for. It provides me with the most amount of self-fulfillment I could imagine.

Sacrificing that would be, frankly, stupid.

Maybe I believe too much in personal happiness, but to me happiness is the purpose of life. And the first step to being happy is being happy with yourself. And I’m my happiest when I’m writing, thinking about writing, reading, thinking about reading, and talking about reading and writing.

I’m not willing to give that up because “jobs for writing are non-existent.”

To everyone who has ever told me this, this isn’t a direct jab at you. I’m just ranting in general. You helped me write this. So thank you. 🙂

Yes, I should be writing because it increases my happiness. It would be stupid to not write. Always listen to Gaiman.