Janeite Thoughts for an Evening: Mansfield Park I

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Hi everyone! I’ve decided to do a Jane Austen series. These aren’t real academic essays, I’m just spouting my thoughts stream-of-conciousness style & I don’t often go searching for exact quotes.

So, Mansfield Park. I was inspired by watching Ron Lit on Youtube (link at the bottom) and some of her analysis of Austen. She was talking about the hunkyness of Henry Crawford so that got me thinking.

I wonder, if Henry HAD waited for Fanny, and hadn’t been such a douche with Maria; would Fanny have fallen for him? Thing is, Fanny is not a very trusting sort, she is very timid. And she isn’t fully in touch with her own sexuality, so I think that Henry’s overt sexuality frightens her.

In many ways, I think that she loves Edmund because he is very proper and his affection is not sexualized. Fanny is NOT comfortable being sexualized. And, I get that. Fanny doesn’t like being forced into this role of sex object for men, where she will be paid for by her husband and then he will keep her. She has very little autonomy, and she’s protective of what she does have. Besides this, Fanny is emotionally stunted due to the neglect she’s experienced. So she’s even younger, emotionally, than she is by age. She’s just a young girl, she’s not ready for sex.

Fanny has been emotionally abused, and neglected for most of her life, and so she doesn’t trust affection until it has been proven. You can see how her female cousins have treated her, and especially her other aunt. Abuse works this way: the abusive people are nice to you one day, and nasty the next. So you come to feel unable to depend on consistency. Edmund is the only person consistently kind, and therefore all her needs for parental love & acceptance, familial/brotherly companionship, and just plain friendship end up being placed on Edmund’s shoulders. Fanny’s brother is in the navy, she never sees any of her family, she has no connection to them. At Mansfield, no one cares about her. All her needs are being met by Edmund alone. He’s her father, brother, and friend.

Edmund was attracted to Mary because she doesn’t have as many needs as Fanny. He can just relax and be a guy. He doesn’t have to play father with her. And she IS comfortable being sexualized. She sexualizes herself, and so Edmund doesn’t have to. Edmund is not very comfortable with sexuality himself. His brother is a real ne’re-do-well and I think that forces him into this role of being the Good Son and following the rules. Mary lets him break these rules in a comfortable, fun way.

Mary isn’t a villain, but she is a modern woman. She fits into the 21st century far more easily than her own time. In fact, I would argue that Mary is Fanny’s shadow self. All of Fanny’s hidden desires, her unattractive thoughts, her selfishness, her vanity, her sexuality, her confidence, her desire for control and power—they all are formed in the character of Mary. Because of this, Fanny is both attracted and repulsed by Mary. Mary is the embodiment of all the things that Fanny has either cast off because she thinks they’re inappropriate/unkind, or hasn’t been unable to attain because she lacks the experience/skill.

This is also the reason why there are many scenes between Mary & Fanny which are somewhat suggestive. Mary IS Fanny, so it’s only natural that they would have moments of intense sexual chemistry.

Because of the ideals of femininity during the Regency period, Mary cannot be the heroine. Fanny, though, can take on aspects of Mary. And I think she does so when she refuses to marry Henry, rejects Mansfield, and proves that she is an autonomous human being.

She will not openly become Mary, but when Mary disappears from the story, and Edmund falls in love with Fanny, I would argue it’s because Fanny has accepted more of her own true character than she had in the past. Not perfectly so, but she has grown up.

P.S. I have taken some ideas that Veronica mentions in her video about Jane Eyre, as well as Austentatious —and then I’ve kind of just run with it.

Knock Knock Knocking on Reddit’s Door

English: Simple but elegant old brass door kno...

Yesterday I got into a fight on the internet. Wellllll three fights, but they were all in the same place and they were all the same argument, it just so happened that it was with three different people.

Anyhow, it was about sexism in the publishing industry and how that can, unfortunately, help to foster sexism in readers. Basically, someone created that list I shared yesterday of 100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women. And oh boy was there a tither from the male peanut gallery:

Redditor1: [Seriously as the reader I could care less about the race or gender of the author of a book. Is it a good book? If yes then I am happy to read it, other than that I could care less about who wrote it. Am I supposed to lower my standards for books just because the author isn’t a strait white male? No that would be silly and frankly condescending to the author that they would be held to some sort of different standard because of their background.]

Redditor2: [The author’s gender is irrelevant. If you care about the author’s gender then I question your ability to judge the writing.]

Redditor3: [It isn’t just the publishers tho, our genders tend to write differently too. So then you gotta consider the audience and who’s gonna serve it. For example, women generally don’t write hard sf. Nature or nurture? I dunno. Think about hormones and classic gender roles. Nesters and penetrators. Yin and yang. There’s more to gender than genitalia. Maybe it’s spiritual.]

I had someone, two feminists on Tumblr actually, tell me that there was basically no point in engaging these people. Redditors, especially male redditors, are ridiculous. Except, that’s pretty problematic itself. To say that you shouldn’t even bother to engage sexists because there’s no point in trying to change minds? I mean, isn’t that the very point of feminism itself? To be an activist and work, against the odds, to change minds? (I also don’t like the implication that there’s places I shouldn’t go. That’s like saying women shouldn’t leave the house at night, etc.)

The fact is, I argued for hours. Round and round with these guys. From probably 1pm in the afternoon to about 6 o’clock at night. It wasn’t pleasant. It was frustrating. It was exhausting. At 4:30 I realized I’d broken out in a cold sweat and as I typed my hands were trembling from both stress and over-caffeination.

This isn’t preaching to the choir, this is once more into the breach. And it’s exhausting. It burns you up and, long term, it can burn you out. I don’t even want to know what my blood pressure was. Eventually I had to go to my own private corner of the internet and just reblog animated gifs for a while, to get my mind off it.

But guess what? Sometimes, once in a while, you get a win.

There was no response from Redditor1, but I ended up as a moderately high comment by being upvoted by other users. When other people are listening, it’s always encouraging to me.

Redditor2: [I see your point. I didn’t consider the social implications, just the quality of the writing.] –This actually amazed me. But I’m really glad to have changed his mind.

Redditor3: [No doubt we can transcend all that gender-induced mindwarp if we try. The best probably do.] –This guy was basically arguing that women are biologically less able to write hard scifi/men’s fiction. So I think him finally caving and saying that actually that isn’t the case was significant even if his final comment was odd.

Some people, its true, WILL never change. But can’t know who they are when we start off, only after we engage them. here’s no way to know who is open and who is closed until you knock on the door.

Keep knocking.

100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women

100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women

Did you know that science fiction was invented by a female writer? I didn’t when I first started out. Somehow, the women of scifi were sidelined. It happened pretty early on. And even know, we see the fake geek girl meme going around the internet, claiming that girls only like scifi in order to sleep with a geeky dude. This just isn’t true.

It is also a fact that Publishers, in tune with this societal norm,  that this genre fiction is so male, that female authors are told to take male pen names, or use only their initials. In order to hide from the general populace. And especially from men. Because women don’t read science fiction, you know. And men won’t read books by lady authors:

The 19th century saw an major acceleration of these trends and features, most clearly seen in the groundbreaking publication of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein in 1818. The short novel features the archetypal “mad scientist” experimenting with advanced technology.[31] In his book Billion Year SpreeBrian Aldiss claims Frankenstein represents “the first seminal work to which the label SF can be logically attached”. It is also the first of the “mad scientist” subgenre. Although normally associated with the gothic horror genre, the novel introduces science fiction themes such as the use of technology for achievements beyond the scope of science at the time, and the alien as antagonist, furnishing a view of the human condition from an outside perspective. Aldiss argues that science fiction in general derives its conventions from the gothic novel. Mary Shelley’s short story “Roger Dodsworth: The Reanimated Englishman” (1826) sees a man frozen in ice revived in the present day, incorporating the now common science fiction theme of cryonics whilst also exemplifying Shelley’s use of science as a conceit to drive her stories. Another futuristic Shelley novel, The Last Man, is also often cited as the first true science fiction novel. (Wikipedia)

So please, in remembrance of Mary Shelley, let us all read as many of these works as possible, and remember that this genre belongs to everyone.

Throwback Critiques: Thinking About Old Movies (Possession 2002)

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Today I watched a movie I hadn’t seen in years; Possession with Gwyneth Paltrow & Erin Eckhart. This is probably a pretty random movie to review, partly because it’s so old, and partly because I don’t believe it received much critical acclaim.

I personally love this movie because I adore Jennifer Ehle (Pride & Prejudice 2005) and Jeremy Northam (And Paltrow, sorry but I think her acting is great even if some of her personal values are a bit wacked out). I know, I know, it’s heresy but I don’t much care for Eckhart at all. I don’t think the man is a very good actor. I think Eckart’s best movie is Thank You For Smoking.

Sorry, tangent there. Anyway, I hadn’t seen this movie in probably five years at least, if not longer, and I remembered it being a favorite. I didn’t expect to change my  mind.

What really stood out to me on rewatch is that I have learned a lot more feminist jargon than I had when this movie was first released on dvd (I did not see the film in theaters). I’ve also come to view, I think, films in a far more critical manner when it comes to my feminist ideologies (realizing far more quickly if a film fails the Bechdel Test, how much of the film is just about the male gaze, and whether heroines exhibit personal agency or if they’re simply accessories for their male counterparts).

Within the first three minutes of the film there is a very obvious anti-feminist jab at directed at the main female lead: “So when will your little suffragist trinkets come up?” –they’re at an auction.

Now those who have seen the film, and enjoyed it especially, will argue that the speaker is something of a villain in the film, and we’re supposed to take his words as a portrayal of that. He’s anti-feminist, and he’s the bad guy. This is what I thought at first too, but in many ways Possession uses this rhetoric to uphold anti-feminist values because it comes up again and again—and not always from villainous characters.

Further into the movie: “”Listen. Let me ask you. Do you know a Dr. Maud Bailey?” “Yes. I know Maud very well. She teaches gender studies at Lincoln.”” This sounds ordinary enough in text, but there’s a hit of disdain when it’s spoken.

The third most obvious quote was against feminism directly: “I was accused by feminists at a conference of dyeing it to attract men.” Though Maud teaches gender studies, and is in appearance a feminist, the film seems quite stubborn in setting her apart from “those” types of women. Feminist aren’t egalitarian, they’re man haters who pick on other women for conforming to the male gaze.

But it’s obvious that Maud is being portrayed as something of a straw feminist, even while condemning stereotypical feminists. Earlier in this same conversation she refers to the poet Ash, Northam, as a “softcore misogynist.” So it’s quite obvious that Maud is not only a gender studies professor, a strong female academic, but she’s familiar with feminist jargon. She’s also our heroine, so what makes her an anti-feminist character?

It wasn’t until a little while after I was nearly finished rewatching the film that it dawned on me how much of a strawfeminist Maud is meant to portray:

  • She wears thick, heavy turtleneck sweaters so that there is no extra skin shown on her body, and she wears pants for the entire film. The pajamas she wears are also shown to be full length pant and sleeve pajamas that button all the way up the neck
  • She wears her hair tightly pulled back in a bun every single day—and explains the reason is in part because of feminists criticizing her
  • She is portrayed as very cold, if not outright frigid.
  • Unsmiling & stern
  • Very critical of her male colleague (Eckhart) and never breaks rules
  • Once she begins something of a romantic relationship with Roland (Eckhart) she begins to “loosen up” –as though a little male affection were all she needed to alter her personality

Oppositely, Roland (Eckhart) is portrayed as:

  • Constantly smiling
  • Friendly
  • Warm
  • Upbeat & friendly
  • Easy going
  • Not a rule follower
  • Adventurous
  • “Good Guy” –in that he doesn’t want to sleep with her on the “first date” to prove his motives regarding Maud are honorable and loving rather than simply sexual

Yes, these differences are framed as a theme of English Old World vs American New World. But these are stereotypes that you can see in many different films, which are predominantly made up of American characters entirely. Women are the unfun rule enforcers and Men are the fun, lackadaisical adventurers.

Finally, now that I have more experience with the portrayal of queer culture in the media, I find it strange that a film/book would choose to have a lesbian woman (Jennifer Ehle) fall into a heterosexual passion (with Northam). It is mentioned in the film that Christabel (Ehle) may have been bisexual. And this is not meant as erasure of bisexual identity. Certainly, bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation.

My quibble is simply with the fact that these are not real people, they are created characters. Which means that those who wrote the book, and then adapted it into film, decided that it was important to show a woman who was in a very open (for the 1800s time period) relationship with another woman.

She is shown to, in many ways, reject her queer identity that she had embraced in the past. She is shown to cause great heartbreak to her female lover and abandon her emotionally for a short, sexual relationship with a male partner.

Ash (Northam) is discussed as cheating on his wife. But it is never mentioned that Christabel (Ehle) is doing the same thing to her spouse. Ash & his wife do have a short conversation regarding their marriage and lack of sexuality—though it is not explained why they are unable to have sex. So his desire for Christabel is shown to be understandable. He NEEDS her because he can’t have sex with his wife.

But why does Christabel need Ash?

Christabel’s lover is shown committing suicide due to heartbreak over the infidelity and Christabel is shown to never be in another romantic relationship again. She dies a spinster. Why? It’s not explained.

Overall, I would say that there are many troubling messages in the film. The chemistry between all of the actors is very good, the cinematography beautiful, and finally the period costuming is lush and inviting for those who enjoy costume dramas. Not to mention, forbidden love.

That makes the anti-feminist and anti-lgbt messages of this film all the more disturbing. You don’t even necessarily realize they’re there. They’re not outright hatred. They’re shown to exist, but then you’re shown a better way. An alternative.

Maud & Roland are shown to save the day by breaking rules & loosening up emotionally. Roland even tells Maud—“You should wear your hair down.” It’s important to him that she not hide her sexual appeal.

And Christabel ends her life pretty unhappily—almost as punishment for not following societal norms of marriage.

Welche? Wo?

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Having grown up all over North America, and moving from place to place approximately every five years, “Where are you from?” has become a rather loaded question for me. Though easy enough to explain in person, my history doesn’t lend itself easily to one word answers. I still sometimes feel like Facebook’s question: “Where is your home town?” is something of a conundrum. The other day my husband asked me, Oh so you’re from Hawaii, are you?

I am. I am not.

The fact is, I have had experiences everywhere I’ve ever lived. No one place can be called my home, though some I remember far more clearly and some I simply have more fondness for. Hawaii being one of them. And of course, it takes more to make a home than a house.

I married a boy from California, one who has lived in the same place practically his whole life–the exact opposite of me in more ways than one. But he still has an old home, two in fact. The one he moved away from with his family, and the home he moved away from to live with me.

So while the presence of so many old homes may be something that only other itinerants can really understand,  everyone  has a connection to their history. Sometimes as you’re moving forward, through occasions that might be considered life events, you might feel yourself in the shoes of your forebears. Or you might wonder what these people, family, and places mean in their connection to you.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I found a picture of my dad and me to share on FB–as you do. When my husband asked if it was me and my dad, seeing just the photo of us with no explanation, he said–“Wow he looks a lot like your bother.” And I said, “I know, that’s because he’s our age in this photo.”

I’m lucky to have a good father, one whom I love, and who I know loves me. I’m also lucky to have  a father that I can be proud of. And his father was a good man as well, whom we loved, and are able to be proud of. I am grateful.

I’m currently reading The Himmler Brothers by Katrin Himmler. It’s a biography (with memoir aspects) of Ernst, katrin himmlerHeinrich, and Gebhardt Himmler. Heinrich Himmler the Nazi, leader of the SS. Heinrich Himmler the monster.

Katrin Himmler writes that her family turned a blind eye to her own grandfather’s (Ernst) involvement in Nazism and WWII. He had died long before Katrin herself was born. He had not been Heinrich (her great uncle) and so his history was erased for a time in their memories. It wasn’t until she had her own child, and was thinking of his future, that she began searching through her family’s past. In fact it was her father who first encouraged her.

This month a study came out that the adult experiences of our ancestors can leave genetic marks on us.

Where are we from?

Always almost dreaming

I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog for quite some time, but to be totally honest I wasn’t real sure what I ought to write about. I’ve been in a bit of a limbo for the last few months and I think I’m starting to get back into the creative spirit. 

For those who don’t know, I’m lucky enough to live in the lower end (read: cheaper end) of Historic Riverside. While I’m not blessed with an old Victorian, I do live on a great street with tons of trees and old houses. Many were built in the 50s-60s, but if you continue to Mission Inn Ave, 3rd Street, and a few others, you can find some really lovely architecture.I bring this up because I made an amazing find this past weekend. It was my dear friend Kat’s 25th birthday and we celebrated by going on an Instagram scavenger hunt all over town (taking photographs of pre-selected items). On the way I discovered a building was built in 1903. It’s located on Main Street, my close up is below.  

ImageSadly, you can’t see the inside, but it’s a wide open room with brick and plaster walls on the interior, to give it that awesome rustic vibe that I love so well. My friend Kat and I fell in love with it immediately. Even my fiance thought it was an amazing building, but due to his cynical nature, said there was no point in fawning over it at the window. We’d never be able to afford the rent on it. (He was right, it’s something like $120k per year, so sad. This is why we can’t have nice things.)

I continue to dream, though. Right now my dream is to open a beverage bar. Maybe something with a jazzy 1920s feel, or even possibly Mid-Century Modern. This is a recent idea of mine, but maybe one day it will come to fruition. 

Overall, the idea is to have a shop with good music and awesome drinks: a dazzling array of teas (hot & cold), boba, organic juices, coffee, milkshakes, smoothies, lassis, shave ice, Italian soda, craft beer, wine, sparkling & flavored water, lemonaids, and eventually cocktails. 

I personally think it would be brilliant, and a lot of items could be sold pre-made which takes a lot of guesswork out of it. This gorgeous building has been unoccupied for a while–pretty obvious from the dirt & dust we saw through the windows. I just know someone is going to snatch it up. It’s really an amazing old place. 

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