Subject of Towels
|The varied and miscellaneous thoughts of an interstellar hitchhiker.|
I don’t know if some of you have been to these live reads at LACMA, where a classic film is read live on stage by actors who just sit and read the script. We did one recently of American Pie, but we reversed the gender roles. All the women played men; all the men played women. And it was so fascinating to be a part of this because, as the women took on these central roles — they had all the good lines, they had all the good laughs, all the great moments — the men who joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren’t used to being the supporting cast.
It was fascinating to feel their discomfort [and] to discuss it with them afterward, when they said, “It’s boring to play the girl role!” And I said, “Yeah. Yeah. You think? Welcome to our world!"
The feminist movement is generally periodized into the so-called first, second and third waves of feminism. In the United States, the first wave is characterized by the suffragette movement; the second wave is characterized by the formation of the National Organization for Women, abortion rights politics, and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendments. Suddenly, during the third wave of feminism, women of colour make an appearance to transform feminism into a multicultural movement.
This periodization situates white middle-class women as the central historical agents to which women of colour attach themselves. However, if we were to recognize the agency of indigenous women in an account of feminist history, we might begin with 1492 when Native women collectively resisted colonization. This would allow us to see that there are multiple feminist histories emerging from multiple communities of colour which intersect at points and diverge in others. This would not negate the contributions made by white feminists, but would de-center them from our historicizing and analysis.
Indigenous feminism thus centers anti-colonial practice within its organizing. This is critical today when you have mainstream feminist groups supporting, for example, the US bombing of Afghanistan with the claim that this bombing will free women from the Taliban (apparently bombing women somehow liberates them)."
…the use of the term Mary-Sue comes with an obvious assumption attached: if characters like this are simply unacceptable by definition, then there must be other types of characters out there that are OK. After all, not every single female character ever written can possibly be a Mary-Sue. Even the people who cling to the term Mary-Sue as if it was their long-lost twin would not dispute that.
The Mary-Sue is a ‘fake girl’. A plastic girl, an unrealistic girl, a perfect girl. Her opposite number in that case must be a real girl. A human girl. A realistic girl. An imperfect girl. Fictional ladies whose failures and flaws are right there on the page. Ladies who cannot be dismissed as ‘too perfect’ or ‘wish fulfilment’. Let’s call this type of character a Sarah-Jane.
Now, because Sarah-Janes are in total contrast to the Mary-Sue, defying all the traits that are supposed to make a Mary-Sue unacceptable, then the Sarah-Jane, by definition, must be acceptable. I mean, obviously they’re not as tightly defined as the Mary-Sue type, and because their major trait is that they’re realistic, they’re going to vary a lot. But they must be the kind of character that readers want to see. The kind that readers will embrace. The kind that they will at least give a chance.
Yeah. No. It turns out the vast majority of talk about Sarah-Janes - realistic, flawed, prominent female characters in fiction - *still* centres on what is wrong with them, and all the reasons they are SO ANNOYING for… not being perfect?"
“You should date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.”
You’ve heard of this girl before, her name is Summer or Alaska or something else that sounds cutesy and different because she’s always trying to define herself as not being like ‘other girls’. The girl who reads doesn’t shop, watch sports, play video games or anything else that she deems to be beneath her. She buys books instead of clothes because who needs to be dressed, she is obviously lying if she says she understands Ulysses and doesn’t find a strange man sitting down beside her in a coffeeshop and buying her a drink even though she doesn’t want one to be predatory behavior. It’s okay to lie to or fail her because she confuses real life with fiction, wanting conflict right before the climax and then a sugar-coated happy ending.
She isn’t a girl at all. She’s an idealized portrait of the already idealized trope of the manic pixie dream girl who only exists to serve as a love interest and teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life’s many mysteries. Women do not exist to complete you or give your life meaning. It is not our job to get you to see the world with ‘renewed eyes’ and we certainly do not live just for you to project your half-baked obsessive fantasies on us and then call us foul names when we don’t fulfill them because excuse us if they’re your visions and not ours.
And the Girl who Reads is one of the more toxic incarnations of the MPDG because it tells girls that if we like clothes, boys, being around our friends , taking pride in our appearances or anything else that doesn’t seem ‘deep or intellectual’ that we’re catty and jealous. We’re constantly trying to tell ourselves that we’re not like the other girls as if there’s something wrong with them. We all want to seem special and different and quirky so that we’ll eventually find someone whose personality quirks align with ours and create a lasting love affair. The girls who are not like us are called horrible names and treated like they’re worthless as if what they choose to do with their life is our decision. And as girls we cannot help tearing each other down; we see another girl on the street and think ‘oh she’s prettier, skinnier, smarter, more popular, more athletic’.
With the Girl who Reads we measure a person’s worth based on how many John Green books are on their shelves or if they enjoy Bukowski. You do not have to be widely read or able to wax poetic about your favourite author for hours on end to be intelligent or interesting. But it is not the Girl who Reads who looks down on the girls who don’t and labels them as stupid, catty, vain, promiscuous or boring, it is the people who created the idea of her, they believe that because she is so deep and mysterious that her special snowflake syndrome will prevent judgments from being passed at her. Everybody wants to be different, everybody wants to be special but let me tell you something. You are exactly like those other girls; you all are made of the same atoms that make up the solar system but do not think that because you have nebulae in your bones that you are better than anyone else.
I am sick and tired of people romanticizing this belief that if you don’t read that you’re not worth being loved. There are countless people I know who don’t like reading and who are still worth being loved the same amount as the people who do. Tumblr users say that they want to live like the Girl who Reads and be suffocated by the amount of literature they own because clearly book hoarding is the best way to go. Great for you if you want to find someone who likes the same things as you to be in a relationship with, you should want that. But if being a hollowed out shell of a manic pixie dream girl is your ideal life then you need to think more about what it means. I refuse to be a blank canvas on which you draw out all your delusions of what life and love should feel like according to you. I do not exist to counterbalance you.
Stop looking for the Girl who Reads because you won’t find her. There are girls who read but they are not singularly formed archetypes constructed for your approval. Stop looking for someone who fits your 27 point idealized criteria of a person and find someone who’s real. Nobody ends a date by saying ‘wow I think you’re great and all but you’ve never read A Farewell to Arms so it’s not going to work out between us’. That’s just ridiculous. Date someone who makes you laugh so hard that you snort soda out of your nose and even when your shirt is soaked with carbonated bubbles they will still find you and your laugh cute when nobody else does. Date someone who understands when you’re upset with them that you are not just waiting for the plot to advance because the hero always fails at one point or another. Do not fail her, do not lie to her, because she won’t think ‘oh boy this is some conflict before the resolution’ she’ll just think you’re a jerk. Which you are. Date someone who you can love as a human and not as a fairytale. A Girl who Reads may be able to give you a world full of adventure and imagination but you know who could do that even better? A person who actually loves you .
And pardon if I’m more than a little irked by the fact that we can’t even love each other as humans anymore, pardon if I am a ‘raging feminist harpy’, pardon if I don’t want to be the dramatic backdrop to your trials and tribulations, pardon if I would rather people to see me as a person and not a walking, talking library . But I am 50 shades of done with the elitist belief that reading makes you worth more as a person and why is that? Because I am a girl who reads, I am a girl who writes but most importantly I am a girl."