Category Archives: Uncategorized

2009 Reading Stats and 2010 Reading Goals

I read 100 books in 2009, which was pretty decent, but I was kind of curious about the makeup of those books.  So I put together some pie charts and various statistics under the cut.  They’re pretty self explanatory; N/A usually means there were multiple authors for a book and so I couldn’t do author data.  For 2010, I’d like to read more authors of color, more queer authors (though I’m doing pretty well on that), and more authors that aren’t British or American.  I don’t think I’ll actually join the 50 POC authors challenge or 50 queer authors challenge, but I’m moving in that direction.

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My Master Reading List

Since Geocities is dead, I’m importing all my reading lists here.  I started this page as a challenge to read 50 books in a year.  As you’ll see below, I failed in 2007 but succeeded in 2008, and so in 2009 I’ve just been keeping track of everything I read with no particular goal in mind.  Below that are some other challenges I’m trying.

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Three Feminist Book Recommendations

Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards: I finished it last week, and I would definitely recommend it to those who want a good Third Wave overview.  There’s a lot of emphasis on feminist history and the relationships between generations, which to me is more interesting than a simple timeline of waves.  They do a good job at showing, not telling, interweaving stories throughout the book.

Our Bodies, Ourselves (the new edition): This is a bit of a mixed review.  I recommend it, because it’s huge and comprehensive and has a lot of great charts that lay out things we need to know about everything from anatomy to nutrition to STIs.  What I don’t like, and it’s not really a complaint because these things are important to women, but… well, what I don’t like is that the book made me feel quite isolated.  A lot of space is dedicated to menstruation (I don’t menstruate), sex with men (don’t do that one either), and pregnancy/children (not interested).  They do make an effort to be very inclusive, which I like, but there were things that got to me, like the separate chapters for relationships with men and relationships with women.  The organization didn’t make a lot of sense, and it was odd the way they did the sections.  That said, it’s a great reference guide to keep around for your body-related questions.

Bitchfest (anthology): Oh, hells to the fucking yeah.  This collection of essays includes cultural criticism from a feminist perspective over ten years of Bitch magazine’s existence (1996-2006), covering all sorts of topics.  I love the women who submitted essays, and I love the range of topics included.  There are plenty of things you wouldn’t necessarily think about, but it’s accessible to someone who isn’t a big pop culture fan as well.  It covers topics from lesbian novels to slash fanfiction to the Guerilla Girls, and is a must read for young feminists.

In the Reading Queue

I haven’t actually finished that many books since the last update, though I am currently reading five.  Of the books I did finish, I liked a few.  Hero by Perry Moore is a novel about a gay teenager dealing with homophobia and questions in his family’s past while auditioning to be part of a superhero league in his city.  I thought it was fun and at times insightful.  I’ve wanted to read Alan Hollinghurst’s most popular novel, The Swimming-Pool Library, for a while now.  I thought that it was good, yes, but not as intriguing as Line of Beauty. This one takes place in a pre-AIDS world and it seems a little jumbled, meandering at times.  I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love on audiobook, and I really like her reading style, as well as the book itself.  Maybe it’s just that I’m a fan of travel memoirs, but I found it a really nice relaxing read.

So right now, as I said, I’m on five different books.  I’m about halfway through A.J. Jacobs’ The Know-It-All, a book about reading the encyclopedia that is rather boring and self-involved.  I don’t recommend it.  On audiobook, I’m listening to Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre.  I loved her first novel but I’m not quite into this one.  Then on e-book, I’m reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which is really intriguing so far.  I like it a little bit better than the Earthsea cycle.  To continue my feminist education, I’m about fifty pages into Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardener and Amy Richards.  It’s one of the better Third Wave books I’ve read, maybe a bit of a repeat on things I already knew at times but well-written.  And finally, I’m maybe 75 pages into Marlee Matlin’s autobiography, I’ll Scream Later.  I like how she breaks the chapters into short chunks, and I was surprised to find that it is a proper autobiography, not just a tell-all book, after all the press about her molestation and drug abuse.  She’s my favourite actress, so I’m glad to find that I like the book.

Finishing Lord of the Rings & Audiobooks

I finished re-reading The Lord of the Rings yesterday.  I had forgotten some of the more fabulous moments towards the end of Return of the King, so it was really nice to read them again.  I think Faramir/Eowyn is a bit contrived, but I love the Faramir character and I especially love the way Aragorn goes about reclaiming the kingship.  Also one of my favorite funny moments is the Warden of the Houses of Healing going on and on about all the names of aethelas and Aragorn’s response when Merry wants pipeweed.  Those books are always worth a re-read.

On another note, I thoroughly do not recommend audiobook reader Kate Reading.  I just finished her narration of Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? and though the book itself was positively awful, that horrible grating voice made it even worse.  I almost wonder if her accent is faked or at least exaggerated purposefully.  Bleh.

A fascinating look at Christian patriarchy

I wasn’t sure I was going to have time to read Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull before my move to Baltimore next Wednesday, but I’m so glad I did.  I’m only 50 pages in, but I’m finding Joyce’s study of the Christian patriarchy movement fascinating.  Most of what I’ve read about the religious right turns on specific political issues – abortion, gay marriage, abstinence and the purity movement, the ex-gay movement, the so-called “Christian feminism” – rather than on the more fundamental question of how patriarchy is being established and re-established in the evangelical movement.  Joyce delves into the origins of this recent trend in re-establishing the dominant husband/submissive wife model, as well as its position in the broader evangelical movement to bring American society “back to God.”

What I’ve read so far has focused on homeschooling and organizations that try to instill particular values in women so that they will desire to take on “Christian” gender roles.  I find this really interesting because I have a few friends who were raised in this model, and I never knew much about it, or understood how young women are taught to buy into it.  It goes beyond anti-sexuality messages, and extends to the whole structure of society – to patriarchy.  I have a vague idea that my (eventual) dissertation will focus on patriarchy, specifically on how education and media notions of gender and sexuality inform adult understandings of sexual violence.  Now that I think about it, religion also probably plays a big role for at least some men and women.  I’m looking forward to reading more.

Thoughts on Two Essays Related to Date Rape

I’m reading an anthology on date rape, edited by Leslie Francis, and I was particularly struck by the first two articles.  The first, by Lois Pineau, proposes a new communicative model of sexuality to replace the contract model frequently used in understanding sexual relations in rape cases.  According to the contract model, the idea is that if the victim consented, then a contract was established and the perpetrator did nothing wrong.  Pineau argues that this allows perpetrators (males) to get away with a lot because the evidentiary standard for showing consent is relatively low.  The alternative she suggests is a communicative model, where sexuality is thought of not as a contractual relationship but as something akin to friendship or conversation.  Under this model, the presumption would be nonconsent in the case of any noncommunicative, aggressive sexual interaction.  The defendant would then have to offer a reasonable explanation for his belief that the victim was consenting, despite the lack of communication between the two.  I like this idea, because it encourages communication and makes it more difficult to argue “I thought she was consenting.”  I also think, based on some psychological pieces I’ve read, that many men would be less likely to rape if the situation was not “blurry,” as I’ve read quite a few accounts of men who seem to honestly believe that their behavior was okay, based on certain actions or words of the victim.  In an open, honest, complete dialogue, they would have more trouble convincing themselves that it was okay to force sexual contact on the victim.

The second piece in the anthology, then, is David M. Adams’ critique of Pineau’s piece.  He has two main objections.  One is that verbal communication is not always necessary – that men might reasonably rely on other indicators such as body language and that given the difference in how the genders communicate we should not dismiss these indicia – and the other is that verbal communication is not always sufficient – in other words, a woman might say one thing and truly feel another.  I think that both these two objections could be met by a look at BDSM sexuality.

In arguing that verbal communication is not always necessarily, Adams points out that erotic communication is often complex and that a “checklist” would take away from the sexiness of it; that the most unambiguous form of expressing desires, literally writing them down and checking them off, takes all the romance out of the equation.  In fact, this isn’t true at all.  Many BDSM couples in fact use a checklist – before the fact.  This establishes some reasonable assumptions, because partners are aware of likes and dislikes in advance.  Further, the partners are not bound by these preferences – they are free to use a clear verbal communication, in the form of a safeword, to say no.  This kind of verbal system makes it very clear when non-consent is established.  The “she said no but I thought she meant yes” strategy doesn’t fly, because there is one word that means “I no longer consent, and this is not up for debate.”  Though it’s unlikely that all couples would establish a safeword, I do think a similar model of communication both before and during erotic encounters can make the experience both sexy and mutual.  I’m also bothered by Adams example of a man establishing consent based on a look in the woman’s eye versus the example of a woman deciding not to physically resist based on a look in a man’s eye that provokes fear.  He uses this example to argue that feminists can’t have it both ways – if option B is allowed, then so too option A.  I think this is absolutely ridiculous.  There’s a big difference between establishing consent based on a look in someone’s eye, and making the decision not to affirmatively ask, and feeling instinctive, gut, fear based on a look.  Any look at the way women are raised in this society, and the fears men instil in us from a young age, would prove this point.

Finally, I also think the BDSM model is instructive on Adams’ other argument, that someone can say one thing and mean another.  In any communicative system of sexuality, part of the deal is an implicit agreement to be open and honest in communication.  This may mean that things move slower, and one or both parties may have some issues to get past in developing trust and an ability to be open.  But I think such a model entails responsibilities for both partners – first, to ask questions and affirmatively establish the partner’s desire, which includes paying attention to any red flags that come up, such as discomfort in the conversation itself; second, to be open and honest about one’s own desires, and to refuse to go forward with a sexual encounter if one is unable to do so.  Of course, without such a system, the fact is that there will be cases where a person says “yes” in an affirmative, enthusiastic way, not really wanting a sexual encounter.  In such a case, it’s hard to blame the other party – and I think the communicative model accounts for this, in that when genuine communication and affirmative assent is established, there is no rape.  But I think what it means for the big picture is that as sexual partners we need to pay close attention to how our partners communicate consent, and be on the lookout for signs that it is not enthusiastic.  At the same time, as a culture, we need to work on making it easier for women, especially, to say “no,” and not make genuine feelings about sex something that women need to be embarrassed about or feel a need to keep secret.