Reindeer from the Cairgorm herd walk through heavy snow in Aviemore, Scotland | image Jeff J Mitchell
It’s John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday! If you haven’t seen it yet, today’s Google doodle marks the occasion with illustrations of a bunch of his books, including Grapes of Wrath, which, in case you didn’t know, a lot of us are reading for the very first time.
So, first of all, happy birthday Steinbeck!
And, secondly, a reminder to our fellow GOW book clubbers: We’ll be gathering on Monkey See on Monday, March 3, at 3pm EST to talk about the book’s first 10 chapters. (Turtles, rabbits, cotton fields and a lot of deep thoughts about human nature!)
Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics. Virginia WoolfHappy International Women's Day, from our bookshelf to yours.
This is rad.
I also just only recently learned this about Rosa Parks from a history podcast: the reason her situation gained so much attention was that the Black community was actively looking for a test case to use to challenge segregation laws, and she had no inane ‘fault’ (not trying to cast any shame on single mothers, not at all) in her personal life that opponents could latch on to in order to derail the conversation. She was definitely not the first or only person to be arrested for a bus protest — she was just in the ‘right’ place & time and was already connected with Black political organizers in Montgomery.
Also, the time everyone remembers her being arrested was the second time she was arrested for not giving up her seat for a white person; the same driver called the cops on her both times.
Something else I learned: sadly enough, she had the most trouble finding a job for most of the rest of her life, which sucks.
The problem that needs to be fixed is not kick all the girls out of YA, it’s teach boys that stories featuring female protagonists or written by female authors also apply to them. Boys fall in love. Boys want to be important. Boys have hopes and fears and dreams and ambitions. What boys also have is a sexist society in which they are belittled for “liking girl stuff.” Male is neutral, female is specific.
I heard someone mention that Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON would be great for boys, but they’d never read it with that cover. Friends, then the problem is NOT with the book. It’s with the society that’s raising that boy. It’s with the community who inculcated that boy with the idea that he can’t read a book with an attractive guy on the cover.
Here’s how we solve the OMG SO MANY GIRLS IN YA problem: quit treating women like secondary appendages. Quit treating women’s art like it’s a niche, novelty creation only for girls. Quit teaching boys to fear the feminine, quit insisting that it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.
Because if I can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and want to grow up to be an archaeologist, there’s no reason at all that a boy shouldn’t be able to read THE DEMON’S LEXICON with its cover on. My friends, sexism doesn’t just hurt women, and our young men’s abysmal rate of attraction to literacy is the proof of it.
If you want to fix the male literary crisis, here’s your solution:
Become a feminist."
I rang the literary editors of a few ‘respected’ papers and asked them how much space they were giving to women writers in their ‘review’ sections. Perfectly predictable response. They all said the allocation was fair. One said it was equal, and one prominent editor went so far as to say women are dominating the reviews!
… What happened when I asked who was doing the talking in mixed sex conversations? Well, it was the women of course. And then when you get to measure it you find that women get to talk about 10-20% of the time in conversations with men. A woman who talks about a third of the time is seen to be dominating the talk.
And what happened when I asked teachers who got their attention in class? Well, it was all equal, wasn’t it? No preferences there. And you measure it and find that girls get about 10-20% of the teacher’s attention. Any more, and the boys think it unfair - and go into revolt.
So what do you think I found with the reviews?
I would have predicted about 10-20% of the space went to women’s books. Well, it is less than 6% of the column inches. And the reasonable editor who thinks that women are getting more than their share is one of the worst offenders. Poor boys! It really tells you something when they think only 94% of the review section is not enough, doesn’t it? When 6% for women is too much you get some idea how much men think they are entitled to - as a fair deal."
This past weekend, a group of activists blanketed the National Mall with a monument to rape survivors made out of 100 quilts.
Many nerdfighters have asked for some historical and political context to help understand the crisis in Ukraine. I gave a go at an introduction in this video. For actual news, I’m following the BBC’s Ukraine Crisis hub.
EDIT: Of course I messed up east and west. Of course. Because I always do. Is there a real disease wherein people literally cannot imagine directions or maps? If so, I have it.