Catherine, by Chris Wind

Catherine, by Chris Wind (from Snow White Gets Her Say)  www.chriswind.net

 

That you don’t recognize me by name is but the first of my complaints about my tale. Oh you know me alright. I’m the main character—in a tale titled with the name of one of the men in the story. But what’s in a name? A lot. Especially if it’s a man’s name. This man’s name is the answer to the question upon which rests the fate of myself and my newborn child. So his name is very powerful, it is very important. My name apparently is not.

Nor is my life. For whether it is to be filled with joy and delight from being with my newborn, or empty with grief and loss from separation is to be decided by a mere guessing game.

Nor are my words important. I denied my father’s boast. I told the King I most definitely could not spin gold out of straw. But he didn’t believe me. Of course not. He chose instead to believe the words of an immature, egotistic, vain man. And I suffer the consequences.

The consequences. To pay for my father’s ridiculous lie, I lose my sanity, my freedom, and my dignity for three nights—and almost my child, forever. (And one sentence—one sentence in the whole tale is devoted to that ‘choice’, that decision to give up my child in return for my life.)

Because I ‘succeeded’ on the third night, I was ‘rewarded’ with marriage to the King. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I also lost my life. Can you imagine what it is like to be married—legally bound to honour and obey until death, and socioeconomically bound with little option but to stay and make the best of it—to a man who didn’t believe me, a man who locked me in a room for three nights, a man so greedy that he said three nights in a row he’d kill me unless I did as he wanted? And that was before he owned me.

But as the tale says, I am shrewd and clever. And I have learned the force of threat, and the importance of a name—especially if it is male. Proud fathers want very much to pass it on. But royal fathers—dear husband, aging Highness, what would happen to your precious lineage if my, your, only son were to suddenly—

Since I am not dead, and am living still…

 

**

Catherine is the name I’ve given to the woman in “Rumpelstiltskin”. One day a vain and proud miller boasted about his beautiful and clever daughter to the king, telling him that she could spin gold out of straw. The poor maiden denied it, but the king locked her in a room full of straw and insisted that she spin it into gold or else she’d lose her life.

Once in the room, she began to cry; then “a droll-looking little man” appeared and, after hearing her story, offered to do it for her if she’d give him her necklace. When the king returned and saw that the straw had indeed been spun into gold, he locked up the maiden with another roomful of straw. This time she paid the little man with her ring. The third time, the king added the promise of marriage if she succeeded, but she had nothing left with which to pay the little man. He asked for her first child, and having no other option, fearing death if the king returned to find straw and not gold, she agreed.

So she was married to the king, and when her first child was born, the little man came to collect. Appalled, she offered him instead “all the treasures of the Kingdom”—but he wanted the child. Eventually he softened his terms and said that if within three days she could tell him his name, she could keep the child.

For the next two days, she guessed all the names she knew and sent messengers all over the land to gather new ones. Finally, on the third day, a messenger returned with the name ‘Rumpelstiltskin’—which was indeed the little man’s name. She was therefore able to keep her child, and everyone laughed at the little man, Rumpelstiltskin, as he made his way away.

Brunettes, Blondes, and Redheads

So the other day I started reading iron shadows by Steven Barnes.  He’s apparently a bestselling author.  Which is really disturbing.

Because four sentences in, he describes a woman as “a small wiry brunette”.  Seriously?  Does anyone actually identify women by their hair colour any more?  That’s so—1940s.  Isn’t it?  I check.  The book’s copyright is 1998.  Okay.  Guess not.  Guess the tradition of objectifying women lives on.

We don’t do that with men.  We don’t objectify them by their hair colour (or anything else, for that matter).  Their hair colour for godsake.  She’s a brunette.  Or a blonde.  Or a redhead.  As if all women with brown hair are what, interchangeable?  Because they’re completely defined by—the colour of their hair?

Not only that, but he had to mention her size.  Small.  Of course.  If she’s going to be a heroine, she has to be small.  I’m surprised he didn’t tell us how large her breasts are.

And whereas she’s small, he’s “enormous”.  Of course he is.

Could we just reverse the description with nothing odd happening, that test for sexism?  “The man, a small, wiry brunette with an ugly bruise on his left cheek, wore a yellow unisex utility uniform.  The woman was enormous, but barely conscious.”  Not only do you find it odd to hear a man called “a small, wiry brunette”, you no doubt found it a bit disgusting to hear the woman called “enormous”.

I am, goddamnit, still a little forgiving, so I read on.

But the very next woman—or maybe it’s the same woman, since the next bit happens two months earlier—the very next woman “nibbles” on dry wheat toast.  Because we can’t have a woman actually eating with guilt-free enthusiasm.

And she has “an oval face framed by a cascade of small soft blonde ringlets”.  Small again.  And soft.  And blonde.  And ringlets.  Ringlets?!

In case we missed it, “Her habit of peering out from behind them sometimes made her resemble a mischievous child peeking through a fence.”

In 1998.  And published by Tor.

No wonder women can’t get published.  As long as this insulting crap is deemed worthy.  Is bestselling.

When will men finally get it?  When will they finally get it right?

Robert J. Sawyer.  He’s the only one.  The only male sf writer who’s smart enough to create a non-sexist world.

 

Toller Cranston on Janet Lynn

[Obviously written a while ago, and yet … this shit keeps being said.]

 

Toller Cranston, as Janet Lynn takes the ice: “You wouldn’t know by looking at her that she’s a housewife and mother of three.”

What?

Would he have said of Kurt Browning, “You wouldn’t know by looking at him that he does stuff around the house and is a father of three”??

I think not.

Clearly Cranston thinks that – well, I don’t know what the hell he thinks.  That doing stuff around the house is somehow incompatible with – skating?  I’ll grant that being a parent could deplete one’s energy to the point that maintaining an elite level of athletic performance is unlikely, but that would apply only if the kids were a certain age and only if one didn’t have any assistance – and it would apply to men as well as women.

I suspect he has some stereotype of housewife and mother in his mind that Lynn didn’t fit.  Perhaps that of a ditsy simpleton or an unkempt troll.

The Academy Awards – why sex-segregated for acting?

Why is the acting category of the Academy Awards sex-segregated (Best Actor in a Lead/Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Leading/Supporting Role)?  We don’t have separate awards for male and female directors. Or screenwriters, cinematographers, costume designers, film editors, soundtrack composers, or make up persons.

Is one’s sex really relevant to one’s acting ability? In a way that justifies separate awards?

Of course not.

My guess is that it’s because the award isn’t really for the actor/actress, but for the character portrayed.  Probably partly because most people can’t distinguish the two.  I’ll bet George Clooney still gets asked what to do by moms whose kid has a fever.

Even so, why do we have separate categories?

Because if we didn’t, women would never win.  Not because they’re worse actors (remember the award isn’t for acting ability), but because we honor the heroes.  And women never get to play hero.

 

Gender and Sex

Gender and Sex

Do you know the difference?

Do you understand the consequences of getting them mixed up?

Do you understand the consequences of thinking they’re related?

 

Mentoring

Studies show that people who have had mentors, who have had someone to provide “sponsorship, exposure, visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments – activities which directly relate to the protégé’s career” do indeed experience more career advancement than people who have not had mentors [1].  In a study of 1241 American executives, 67% of all respondents said they had a mentor [2].  Which just goes to show  – it’s who you know.  That’s how, why, they are executives.

Given that it’s a 1979 statistic, presumably the respondents are referring to an informal mentorship, which arises spontaneously, as opposed to a formal mentorship, which is arranged by the organization as part of a mentoring program.  The problem in both cases, however, is that most people who are in a position to mentor, a position of power and prestige, a well-connected position, are men.  Still.  So sexism keeps women from becoming protégés – because even if the guy’s wife is fine with it, everyone will wonder whether she’s sleeping her way to the top and that’ll handicap her, essentially cancelling any advantage of the mentorship.  Furthermore, women who could be mentors avoid mentoring other women because they fear being labelled feminist troublemakers.  Why don’t men fear mentoring other men for fear they’ll be labelled – what, part of the old boys’ network?

All that aside, it seems to me that mentoring is unfair: it makes ‘it’s who you know not what you know’ true.  Merit becomes not the sole criterion for advancement.

Though perhaps mentoring counters chance.  Chance is unfair too.  With mentoring, those who do get doors opened for them are those who deserve it.  But to say ‘All A are B’ doesn’t mean ‘All B are A’: to say ‘All those who are mentored have merit’ doesn’t mean ‘All those with merit become mentored’.  And, of course, I’m not sure mentors choose their protégés according to merit.

So why do mentors choose who they choose?  Why do mentors mentor at all?  I wonder if it isn’t just some primitive lineage impulse in action.  You know… men need a son, someone to carry on the family name.  And since it’s more and more unlikely that men have actual sons in a position to be their protégés …  Do mentors tend to choose sons of friends when available?  Do they tend to choose people who are twenty to thirty years younger, in the ‘son’ age bracket?  What about women who mentor?  (More likely, their motive is social justice, not personal legacy.)

I’m not saying people shouldn’t seek, or give, advice and guidance.  That’s not what mentoring is all about.  A mentor does more than that: a mentor introduces you to influential people in the organization, facilitates your entry to meetings and activities usually attended by high-level people, publicly praises your accomplishments and abilities, recommends you for promotion, and so on.  But see here’s the thing.  Introductions should be unnecessary.  Meetings attended by high level personnel shouldn’t be open to others.  Everyone’s accomplishments and abilities should be praised publicly.  Only your immediate supervisor or some named designate should be able to recommend you for a  promotion.  And so on.

In any case, the need for mentors means the organization isn’t structured to advance based on merit.  So shouldn’t mentors’ efforts instead be directed to making sure that it is?  To making sure that mentors aren’t needed?  You shouldn’t need a mentor to open doors because the doors shouldn’t be locked.  You shouldn’t need a mentor to give you inside information because there shouldn’t be any inside information: an organization’s policies and procedures should be written out for all to read, perhaps even presented at a new employee training session (and there should be no unwritten policies, no under-the-table procedures); any preferences for application materials, be it for a job, a promotion, or a grant, should be stated on the application form itself, or perhaps explained in a separate ‘Tips for Applicants’ sheet; and knowledge of any available job, promotion, or grant should be freely accessible to all.  Influential people should use their influence only in formal channels; their authority should only be that vested in them by the terms of their job description.

Men are so proud of not mixing pleasure and business, of separating the personal from the public.  Bullshit.  Aren’t a lot of critical connections, let alone decisions, made on the golf course?  At the bar?  Between conference sessions?  It seems that by ‘personal’ and ‘pleasure’ they just mean women – wives, daughters, sexual liaisons.  They leave the women in their lives out of consideration.  But their relationships with their buddies and their sons – these are very much brought into the workplace.

 

[1] “Formal and Informal Mentorships: A Comparison on Mentoring Functions and Contrast with Non-mentored Counterparts,” Georgia T. Chao and Pat M. Walz  Personnel Psychology 45.3 (1992)

[2] “Much Ado about Mentors,”  B. Roche.  Harvard Business Review 5.7 (1979)

“What is Wrong with this Picture?” – short film script

This film consists of a collage of scenes, five to ten minutes in length), in which women are always the superordinates and men are always the subordinates.  Dialogue isn’t that important, so once the scenes are decided upon and roughed out, the cast can probably improv rather than follow a script.

 

Suggested scenes:

Office: Woman in executive office summons her secretary, who is a man, who enters and politely inquires “Yes, m’am?”  She says something like “Ask Ms. Jordan to come to my office, then bring us coffee, please, and hold all calls.”  He nods in subordinate fashion and exits.

Boardroom:  Seated around the table discussing important matters are, every one of them, women.

Hospital scene: Female doctors and male nurses and clerks.

University: Female faculty and male support staff.

Bank:  Male tellers; occupants of individual offices are all women.

Courtroom: Judge, lawyers, and security are women; clerk is male.

Golf course:  Only women are playing.

Office:  Woman executive directs her male assistant to call her husband and tell him she’ll be late for dinner.

Home:  Househusband answers the phone, surrounded by cloying, annoying kids, and shows irritation at the message.

Fancy restaurant:  Several women dine together and discuss business.

Doctor’s office: Female doctor giving embarrassed man a physical, which includes a close examination of his penis as well as a rectal examination.

Househusband taking kids to the dentist: The waiting room is full of fathers and kids; the receptionist is male, as is the dental hygienist; the dentist, who breezes in for the authoritative final check of the hygienist’s work, is female.

Househusband grocery shopping:  All of the other shoppers and all of the checkout cashiers are men; a woman is in the manager’s office.

Home:  Husband sets the table and brings out the dinner he has prepared; kids and mother sit waiting; perhaps the woman offers to help, but the offer isn’t really genuine and is brushed aside. with a smile.

Guests for dinner: Two male-female couples are sitting at a dinner table; the conversation is dominated by the women who talk about politics; the two men are silent, though they look supportive from time to time and interject supportive comments, questions to let the women shine; one of the women says something like “Let’s let the boys clean up, shall we?” and the two women retire to the living room for drinks and more conversation.

Office lunchroom: All and only men sit in small groups talking about their kids, the need for an on-site daycare, their failure to obtain promotions, their bosses; a sweet male voice comes over intercom “Danny, Ms. X would like to see you right away”, at which Danny grimaces but gets up and leaves the room.

Car:  Woman at the wheel, man in the passenger seat.

Women Discover Life on Mars

“Should we fund a mission to Mars?  Sure.  Give us a bit of time and we can make that planet uninhabitable too.”  (jassrichards.com)

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching MARS.   Why?  Because the three astronauts who walk out onto the planet’s surface at the end to discover life on Mars are all women.  Not a token one of three.  Not even a remarkable two of three.  But ALL THREE.  All three are women.

AND the bureaucrat back on Earth who makes the announcement?  Again, a woman.

AND none of this was presented as in-your-face feminist.  Not one line in the entire script made reference to their being women.  There was no male resentment, no resistance, no snide comment about quotas or reverse discrimination.  There was no undue praise, no celebration for having achieved the status of being the first humans to discover life on Mars.

They just were.

I can’t tell you how gratifying it would be to just be.  To be an astronaut if I wanted to be.  To be the one to discover life on Mars.  To be the head of a Mars mission program.  Just because I was qualified to do so and lucky enough to make it through the selection process.  And my sex had as little to do with it as my hair.

Furthermore, throughout the expedition, there was as much female presence as male.   Sure, okay, one of the women became leader only because one of the men died, but when the second crew arrived, its leader was a woman.  And if I’ve got this mistaken, it’s only because regardless of the actual hierarchy, women were as central, as important, as valuable, as active.

They were just living their lives. 

And yet, seven of the eight writers are men.  The director is a man.  All ten executive producers are men.  Even so, they had THREE WOMEN discover life on Mars.  Three women, all by themselves.  They didn’t need a man to go with them to protect them.  They didn’t need a man to go with them in case they got lost.

Amazing.  Truly amazing.

And so truly … gratifying.  To see this.  To actually see this.

Thank you.

Telling our Members of Parliament How to Dress

So I recently found this on the Parliament of Canada website:

While there is no Standing Order setting down a dress code for Members participating in debate, [84]  Speakers have ruled that to be recognized to speak in debate, on points of order or during Question Period, tradition and practice require all Members, male or female, to dress in contemporary business attire. [85]  The contemporary practice and unwritten rule require, therefore, that male Members wear a jacket, shirt and tie as standard dress. Clerical collars have been allowed, although ascots and turtlenecks have been ruled inappropriate for male Members participating in debate. [86]  The Chair has even stated that wearing a kilt is permissible on certain occasions (for example, Robert Burns Day). [87]  Members of the House who are in the armed forces have been permitted to wear their uniforms in the House. [88]

What could possibly justify this Speakers’ rule?

Could it be that our Members of Parliament can’t dress themselves?  The people we’ve voted into positions of power? Doubtful.  They’re adults.  Many of them even have a university degree.  (Okay, I know …)

Could it be somebody in a higher position of power is prioritizing appearance over reality?  What you look like is more important than what you are like.  That bodes well for, well, the world.

Could it be someone in a higher position of power is making a series of non sequiturs from clothing to behaviour and character?  If you wear a business suit, you must be honest, hard-working, mature – respectable.  Say what?

It is certainly that someone in a higher position of power is appealing to tradition and practice.  Philosophers rightly consider that fallacious reasoning.  Just because we’ve always done it that way, just because we do it that way, doesn’t mean we should.

And the other thing to note?  There’s no mention of what exactly female members must wear.  Because there’s no standard business attire for women?  No, that can’t be right.  To judge by the Speakers’ own criteria, tradition and practice, it is standard for women to wear shoes with high heels (that will be uncomfortable for standing, difficult for walking, and eventually cause postural pain), to wear a skirt or dress (that will ensure their legs are showing, because – men want to see women’s legs at all times?), and at the very least to not wear a jacket, shirt, and tie – because we MUST MUST MUST enforce the gender norms.  Our patriarchy depends on it.

(Oh, one other thing to note: “..male Members wear a jacket, shirt and tie” – what, no trousers?)

Another poem from chris wind – thought this one especially apt since it’s September and students are back at university…it’s from her book dreaming of kaleidoscopes

 

To My Philosophy Professors

 

Why didn’t you tell me?

When I was all set to achieve Eudamonia

through the exercise of Right Reason,

When I was eager to fulfil my part

of the Social Contract,

When I was willing, as my moral duty,

to abide by the Categorical Imperative

When I was focussed on Becoming,

through Thesis and Antithesis to Synthesis–

 

Why didn’t you correct me?

Tell me that Aristotle didn’t think I had any reason,

That according to Rousseau,

I couldn’t be party to the contract,

That Kierkegaard believes I have no sense of duty

because I live by feeling alone,

That Hegel says I should spend my life

in self-sacrifice, not self-development,

That Nietzsche thinks I’m good for pregnancy

and that’s about it–

 

Why didn’t you tell me I wasn’t included?

 

(Perhaps because you too had excluded me

from serious consideration;

Or did you think I wouldn’t understand?)

 

(I do.           I do understand.)

 

1987