Jan. 23rd, 2013

mayakittenreads: (Jelena Dokic Fist Pump)
I'm not entirely sure where this post is going, but I have deep thoughts swirling in my head, so maybe this will help me clarify some of them.

I've been listening to a whole lot of Galactic Suburbia recently, as I work my way through their back catalogue of podcasts. I'm not sure if I have mentioned them in previous posts, but in case I haven't, they are an Australian podcast that discusses speculative fiction and publishing news, as well as some more general chat. And it's pretty much all from a feminist perspective, even when they are not outright trying to be.

Anyway, not only do I now have an ever growing list of books and short stories to read, I'm hearing a lot of opinions about fandom and feminism in particular. In an episode I listened to today (from April last year) there was a comment made about a blogpost by a woman named Kirstyn McDermott (http://kirstynmcdermott.com/2012/04/08/bad-feminist-an-unexpected-case-study/ about being a 'bad' feminist online. Just the off the cuff comment that I heard, even before reading the article, made me wonder.

What kind of a feminist am I? Am I even really a feminist?

It's not something I talk about a lot. I'm not particularly analytically minded, something of which I am well aware (and secretly kind of embrace at times - the indirect boast of Charles Bingley in Pride & Prejudice). But do I consider myself a feminist?

In a way, I think the label 'feminist' is too narrow. I believe in equal rights and treatment for women, most definitely. But I also believe in equal rights and treatment for ALL PEOPLE. Regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion... everybody deserves to be treated with respect and with equality under the law.

Then I started thinking about my favourite books and authors. After all, this train of thought started while listening to a podcast dedicated to discussing fiction. I noticed something. Almost all of my favourite books are about women. They generally have strong female protaganists, who have agency or strength of some sort.

My favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. While it is certainly a book of it's time, it is about a woman who makes her own choices. Yes, she makes mistakes. She completely misjudges both Darcy and Wickham to start with. But she has decided opinions. Despite the precarious situation of her family, she rejects not one, but TWO proposals of marraige because she believes in marrying for love, and not to 'secure her own comfort' as Charlotte Lucas does. Many of my other favourite Jane Austen novels are the same. The women in them make their own choices. Fanny Price holds fast to her beliefs and refuses Crawford's proposals despite the pressue of her relatives, because she does not trust him. Elinor Dashwood holds her head up and is herself, despite her hopes being dashed. Marianne is fooloish, yes, but she is following her heart and making her own choices. Anne Elliot, submits to someone else's advice, but comes to realise her mistake and then follows her heart when the opportunity arrives.

If we go into the world of fantasy, my favourite author is Tamora Pierce, who made her career on characters who are both female and strong. In science fiction, going back to my teens, one of my favourite characters is Mara Jade - a woman who was stubbornly independent, who threw off the commands of her dead master once she realised that he lied to her and forged her way as the second in command to the smuggler Talon Karrde, as well as later becoming a trader in her own right. Yes, she married Luke, but for her own reasons, because she wanted to.

The other books that spring to mind as much loved favourites are the Anne of Green Gables series and Little Women. Both Anne and Jo are writers, forging their own way and using their intelligence while still being feminine. In fact, that is the basis of Jo's struggle. She's not Meg, a housewife, she's not Amy, a grand lady in waiting, though those are perfectly valid people to be. She's Jo and she wants independence. She refuses Laurie, because while it is a grand match by society's standards and he is her best friend, she knows that they would make an awful couple. She stands by her decision, even though Laurie runs from her and it breaks her heart to hurt him.

So I guess my conclusion is that my reading habits suggest that I am at least subconciously a feminist, but I am so much more than that, even if I am not always vocal about my opinions.



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