Archives for the month of: August, 2014

Is there anything more perfect than a book about female bildungsroman for a 25th birthday gift to me? I hardly think so. So, I’d like to thank dear Clarissa for her wonderful gift to me, her latest book, autographed with an encouraging message inside. 

Clarissa has been much more than a fellow blogger to me for several years now. She’s been a friend, a mentor, an inspiration, and the big sister that I never had but always longed for. Throughout these difficult years as I moved to Canada and faced a number of difficulties, she’s been a constant presence reminding me that it is always worth it to improve your life and keep hold of your dream and ambitions. 

I can think of no better genre for her to write about than bildungsroman, because she is a model of living a bildung, and has inspired me towards constant emotional, intellectual, and psychological self-improvement. Thank you, my friend. I promise you I will have that book ready to offer you, in due time. 

One of my favourite shows to binge-watch on a Saturday night with Haagen Daz is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I’ve been a Law & Order fan since I was 7 years old, I used to watch the original with my father, and when I discovered SVU, I was overjoyed by the presence of a woman detective, Olivia Benson, a cynical old Jewish detective, John Munch, and a Native American detective, Chester Lake. I was hooked and it became my favourite Law & Order.
I hadn’t watched any incarnation of Law & Order in a while, when I decided to give Special Victims Unit a spin again after I figured out how to get American Netflix and downloaded the missing seasons.
As an adult and a feminist, I was a bit more aware and critical of the show. I noticed that the production values were much lower than on the original Law & Order, the plots more sensationalist and the tone more campy and preachy than I recalled as a child. But I still loved it and ate it up.
I watched the later seasons that had aired after I’d stopped paying attention to SVU, and I noticed a definite shift in some aspects of the show, some of which were great, others, I was definitely not to keen on.
The biggest positive changes in my book included several stabs at being more trans and queer friendly. Having Dr. Huang be openly gay (and played by the openly gay B.D Wong) helped greatly, and Huang often proved to be the voice of reason and compassion for a lot of issues, especially sex work, trans issues, children’s rights. There were a few episodes involving trans women that didn’t involve them being perverts or murderers (or murdered), which is a low bar to set, but that’s what the majority of television has set. I loved the inclusion of Sister Peg, a no-nonsense compassionate nun who does street involved advocacy for sex workers. I also noticed that as the seasons went on, there were a great many more interracial families portrayed, with no commentary or awkward big deals being made about them being interracial.
But the bigger changes were much more awful and much more difficult to ignore. The writers seemed to enjoy amping up the amount of suffering and tribulations that Olivia Benson in particular had to go through, but enjoying showing her pain in graphic detail. Elliot Stabler (fan nickname, “Unstabler”) who always had a violent, uncontrollable streak, became not only more physically violent, but more willing to cross the lines even with people who weren’t suspects. The greatest and most awful difference that I noticed was a huge escalation in the number of times the detectives, attorneys, and others would casually rely on the threat of prison rape in order to intimidate suspects, witnesses, and others.
I’m still watching, but I’m keeping myself confined to the older seasons. My cutoff point, my opinion of exactly when the show jumped the shark, is the episode where Elliot Stabler goes undercover as a crooked airport security employee who wishes to make extra money smuggling exotic animals (Yes, that happens).

The most notable change in myself, before and after I became a feminist, is how I compliment other women.
Before I became a feminist, I treated compliments to other women as a weapon. It was to be used selectively, and my main thought wasn’t whether the compliment was genuine or deserved, but how it could benefit me. Could I use it as a passive aggressive insult? Would complimenting her help me get ahead by me looking like the better woman?
Now, as a feminist, I compliment other women endlessly and honestly. I compliment their work on a project and mean it. I compliment their writing and offer my help in editing. I compliment their outfits, their scholarship, their dreams and goals. And I mean all of it.
I’m happier this way. I can still compete with other women and I do my best in my own work, but I no longer engage in cloak-and-dagger strategies that, in my own mind, are meant to undermine others.
In other words, becoming a feminist made me less paranoid about other women. It was a truly great gift.

When I first got to university, I was overwhelmed by how many of my professors were strong, smart, confident, accomplished women. They became my role models, my mentors, my inspiration.
Now that I’ve spent five-odd years in university, I think the most valuable thing that I’ve learned is that I now have the tools and perceptive to seek out strong, smart, accomplished women wherever I go. I’m old enough now to mentor the ones younger than me who wish to become academics and activists, and motivated enough now to not just passively wait for the company of inspiring women that I can learn from. I don’t expect them to fall into my lap, I seek them out now.
That’s one of my favourite feminist lessons of the past five years, is the importance of creating your own space of inspiration. You won’t become your aspirations if you passively expect them to seek you out to mentor and teach.

My politics have radically changed in the past three years. I wouldn’t say I’m more cynical, or more judgmental, but I am considerably more left-leaning and more transnational-minded than I was before.
What hasn’t changed, however, is my commitment to keeping friends who’s politics are different from my own. Partially because I tend to find other radicals who only keep other radicals for company annoying and self-righteous, and partially because one of the people I most admire in my life, my father, was a conservative Republican who kept a wide circle of friends of many political ideals. Not to mention, I recognize that my political views rose out of my own individual circumstances, and that I can learn a lot not only from people who had different lives and therefore different outlooks from me, but ones who had similar lives but still came to different conclusions.
For many people, the change in my politics has been met with encouraging words. A friend from my old university (a white gay man) who I hadn’t spoken to directly for a couple of years thanked me for sharing an article on queer objections to hyper-focus on gay marriage and military service as yardsticks for queer rights in the United States, and asked me for similar articles, since he’d never thought about the issue before.
Other people, explicitly and implicitly, haven’t been as keen on on it; I noticed several people deleted me on Facebook for innocuous things.
I realized what the difference was almost immediately. The people who are thanking me and asking me my opinion on issues or taking an interest in my new politics were people that I met in social/casual settings. Old schoolmates, people I met at parties. The ones who deleted me in a huff were people I met in political contexts.
This taught me a valuable lesson about who is valuable to offer my loyalty to and how and with whom I should cultivate my closer friendships.