100 sci fi women #83: Ginevra Weasley

Because I couldn’t say it better myself, this is taken entirely from Feministing. Thanks to Misha for the link.

Ginny Weasley Harry Potter series JK Rowling

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An unabashed love letter to Ginny Weasley

Dear Ginny,

Last week the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, and that’s given me an opportunity to think even more than usual about how much I love the series. And as I was thinking about that, I realized that you, Ginny Weasley, are more awesome than Viktor Krum is surly. You are more excellent than Peter Pettigrew is cowardly. You are a badass feminist witch and I am so glad that you are around as a heroine for young women reading the Potter series.

Let’s start from the beginning. When you first got to Hogwarts, you had a huge crush on Harry Potter. You even sent him a singing valentine. Remember, “I wish he were mine, he’s really divine, the hero who conquered the Dark Lord?” Yeah, that was embarrassing. And he wasn’t interested because he was, like, 12, and despite being a hero, he’s actually kind of socially inept. Then, you were possessed by a bit of Voldemort’s soul and started petrifying people, and when that bit of soul realized it could use you as bait to get to Harry, it nearly killed you. But Harry saved you, and made sure you didn’t get expelled from Hogwarts, and things got even more awkward because that’s what happens when the boy you have a crush on saves your life but doesn’t like-like you back. Hermione noticed you were mooning over Harry and advised you to go out with some other guys, partly because she thought you might be able to loosen up around Harry if you weren’t constantly thinking about how into him you were.

 

So you went out with other guys. Lots of them. You even went out with one of Harry’s classmates, Dean Thomas, in your fifth year. Your older brothers gave you a hard time about dating so many guys, but you refused to let them slut-shame you. When two of them tried to hint that you were “moving through boyfriends a bit fast, don’t you think?” you told them that it was none of their business who you went out with. When Harry and Ron walked in on you kissing Dean it was a huge to-do – Harry was jealous because he’d developed a thing for you, and Ron was jealous because he’d never kissed a girl at that point. Ron said some really slut-shamey things and you were having none of it. You told him that there was nothing wrong with sexuality (well, I think the word you used was “snogging” but personally I think that sounds like a Scandinavian winter sport). When you and Harry finally got together later that year and Ron said that he could revoke his “permission” for you to date him at any time, you set him straight: you don’t need anyone’s permission to date, or to snog. And all those guys you dated, you broke with for really good reasons. You broke up with Michael Corner because he was a bad loser, and you broke up with Dean because he was always treating you like you couldn’t do things for yourself.

You’re also a great athlete. In your fourth year, you tried out for the Gryffindor quidditch team after training in secret because you were afraid your brothers would laugh at you (by the way, it must be really tough being the only daughter in a family with six brothers. I don’t know how you managed that). And it turned out that you were really good at quidditch. You even subbed in for Harry when he got kicked off the team just before the tournament final, and you led the team to victory!

You’re politically aware, too, and a bit of a rebel. In your fourth year, when the Ministry of Magic was interfering at Hogwarts and students weren’t learning how to defend themselves against dark magic, you joined Harry’s secret Defense Against the Dark Arts study group, where you learned to cast some seriously good spells. When Harry left Hogwarts, you were one of the students who kept that group going, trying to sabotage the people who were trying to take over Hogwarts, and risking punishment by torture to do it.

Finally, you’re really courageous. You weren’t afraid to stand up to the Ministry when it interfered at Hogwarts, and you threw yourself headfirst into battle with dark wizards on several occasions. Hell, when you were 16, you took on Bellatrix Lestrange, the fiercest and most deadly of Voldemort’s supporters. Well, you would have if your mother hadn’t stepped in at the last minute to finish Bellatrix off herself with that unforgettable line: “Not my daughter, you bitch!”

All that said, I’m not thrilled with the way you’ve been depicted on screen. I think they make you out to be way less self-reliant and way less gutsy than you are in the book. And I don’t know why they had you tie Harry’s shoes in the sixth movie; it was really out of place. Maybe they meant it as a fellatio metaphor, but let’s be honest: you’re Ginny Weasley. You probably give real blowjobs, not metaphorical ones.

In the books, though, you are an inspiration. Ginny, I am so glad that I got to read about you and your adventures when I was growing up. I am so glad that other girls and young women will have you as a fictional heroine, as well as Hermione and Professor McGonagall and Luna Lovegood and all the other great women that Rowling created over the course of this series. And I’m glad that Harry ends up with you; it’s nice to see the smart, brave, unashamedly sexual, athletic girl chosen for a change.

In conclusion, Ginevra Weasley, you are a badass.

Yours, with undying love and nerdy affection,

Chloe Angyal.

 

*image from Harry Potter Wiki

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100 sci fi women #82: Captain Curtana

Captain Curtana Terminal World Alastair Reynolds

Curtana is a tall, dark-skinned woman who is self-possessed, smart and not afraid of action. She is the captain of the Painted Lady, a dirigible which floats above a post-apocalyptic landscape filled with dangerous raiders who think nothing of launching themselves from their own craft onto hers intent on destruction and mayhem. While she inherited her captaincy in part from her father, she is an exceptional pilot and captain, possibly the best of the dirigible city called the Swarm. She is comfortable both out alone with her craft scouting the world for goods and enemies, or back in the fleet dealing with its complex politics – though she would always rather just be flying her ship. She is extremely loyal to her godfather, the leader of the Swarm, but not blindly so – she tells him what she thinks, calls him on his mistakes and challenges his decisions if she disagrees.She is a person of deep integrity who is willing to put aside historical differences and risk her life and her ship to save the lives of people to whom she owes nothing. She is brave – both in her convictions and in her actions and will stay aboard a burning airship if it means the possibility of saving other lives – and she keeps a cool calm head when faced with danger. Her decisions are made from a place of consideration – she listens to those she trusts and weighs their information. While she has a partner who she loves very much, she neither sacrifices her captaincy or asks him to put his aside for them to be together – instead enjoying the time they can be together while both living their own lives and carrying out their own missions. Curtana is a woman you would want beside you in a tricky situation and whose judgement you would trust every time.

“I’m a good captain,” he confessed to Quillon once, “but she’s better than me. Always will be. That’s no condemnation of my own abilities, though. It’s just that she’s Curtana and the rest of us aren’t. There’s only one Mother Goddess, and there’s only one Curtana…”

100 sci fi women #81: Professor River Song

Doctor Who has always had a spotty kind of relationship with gender – women are usually secondary, companions, often in need of saving. But, Doctor Who has always had female characters present, and many of those women have had clear story arcs of their own. They haven’t only been a foil for the Doctor, they have changed and grown and often become quite different people. Many of his companions have had strength and determination, as well as compassion and along the way they have taught the Doctor a few lessons. Companions like Leela and Romana have defied many female sidekick approaches, while at other times the Doctor has had more than one woman hanging out with him – such as when Nyssa and Tegan were haunting the TARDIS. But River Song was a very different kind of woman for the Doctor to meet. So in honour of 50 years of the Doctor, here she is.

River Song Doctor Who

471493-river_songRiver Song is smart. Not only does she end up becoming a professor of archeology, but she is also able to think her way out of pretty much any situation. Beyond brave, she has a willingness to throw herself into adventure and danger. She has a well developed sense of fun and whimsy. Growing up separated from her parents, turned into a psychopathic killer does stop her becoming a woman of compassion, great love and humanity – if just a bit of a troublemaker. River is equally as comfortable with a gun or a book, with technology and old fashioned secrets. She wants to be a partner for the Doctor, but she has her own life to live and won’t just give it up to follow him anywhere. She can fly the TARDIS better than he can and is a fellow traveller through time and space, but she does it on her own terms. Not conventionally beautiful with her wild curls, she is charismatic,  compelling and deeply sensual. All of space and time is much more fun with her in it.

Doctor Can I trust you, River Song?
River If you like. But where’s the fun in that?

100 sci fi women #79: Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve

Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar Jacqueline Carey

 

from Hot Cute Girly Geek

Phèdre no Delaunay de Montrève is a beautiful woman is was sold by her parents to a brothel (albeit a high class and reputable one) as a young child. Her intelligence, determination and compassion, as much as her beauty allow her to rise from these humble beginnings to become a trusted adviser of her queen and save her homeland over and over again. Phèdre also has the special gift of being an anguissette, someone who genuinely feels pain as pleasure, and sexually this makes her a formidable courtesan, in a country where this is a respectable profession. SHe is marked by the gods with a scarlet mote in her eye, signalling her role as an anguissette. However, there is much much more to Phèdre than her capacity to sexually enjoy pain. The patron who buys her from the place of her initial training ensures she is educated and teaches her the other skills which make her a valuable ally or formidable opponent. She speaks a number of languages, is observant, is excellent at deductive reasoning, inspires loyalty and can think her way out of many situations. She is also incredibly brave – willing to risk herself, her body, her sanity and her love for what she thinks is right. She has found her way through frozen wilderness and jungle, charmed the Master of the Sea with a song, devised and uncovered cunning plans, endured hideous prisons and horrible tortures and been kidnapped by pirates. She does not forget her debts or her friends, and is absolutely loyal to her Queen. She has a well of strength and determination which make her formidable. She also loves her partner deeply and has to learn how to make their relationship work. Phèdre is the kind of friend you would always want on your side.

Let the warriors clamour after the gods of blood and thunder. Love is hard, harder than steel and thrice as cruel.

100 sci fi women #77: Mako Mori

[yes these are out of order. But life isn’t always a straight line!]

Mako Mori Pacific Rim

Mako_Mori_3Mako is Japanese. She is intelligent and respectful, but not blindly obedient or arrogant. She has exceptional physical skills in addition to her formidable intelligence, and knows how to pilot a giant jaegar as well as anyone else. She is haunted by the traumas of the past, but can overcome these to ultimately use her abilities to serve the greater good. She is also unstintingly brave, whether it is standing up to giant alien monsters or to a man she deeply respects. While she is beautiful, her beauty is irrelevant to her strengths. When she makes a mistake, she does not flinch from its consequences, but does not let it stand in her way of successfully smashing some kaiju later. Mako is the type of pilot you ultimately do want to take into the drift with you.

It is not obedience, it is respect.

 

 

Six sentence review: Kushiel’s Dart

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Kushiel’s Dart  Jacqueline Carey

I found this book extremely readable, despite some doubts about some of the choices around setting and religious notions. The world of the novel has deliberate references to our own world and religious mythology but the purpose of this referentialism is not particularly clear. Despite this, the characters are engaging and the story is emotionally compelling, even if soem of the politics of the world is overly complicated and not actually that interesting. In the end, the most interesting part is the story of Phedre and her discovering of herself and her capabilities. It also comes with a fair dose of reasonably well written BDSM eroticism as Phedre’s  position as an anguisette means that she gains genuine pleasure in pain. Despite my intitial doubts, I enjoyed the ride and am looking forward to reading the second novel.

Six sentence reviews: Django Unchained

Django UnchainedDjango is very clearly a Tarantino film with its clever dialogue followed by ultraviolence, but it also captures and reflects Taratino’s love and knowledge of film with its fabulous pastiching of the spaghetti Western and blaxploitation genres. The open titles with set that tone which is followed through in many of the details including the spectacular use of music. Dr King Schultz is a fantastic character, and ther performances are strong – Samuel L Jackson is almost unrecognisable. I feel that critiques that pose the film as one of white-rescue-of-black man are unfair – Django clearly has agency and it is he who rescues himself. My only concern in the racial politics is the idea that Django is “that one man in 10 000”, which ignores the strutural, social reasons for the answer to Candie’s question “why don’t they just kill us?” But the film’s political edge does extend to a kind of revealing that behind the privilege and the fancy-ness of existence lies great exploitation, and that the greater the fancy, the greater the exploitation.

 

WWBKD? What would Brian Kinney do?

So it was terrific news this morning that the English Parliament has passed a Bill on marriage equality, and certainly something that our Australian Parliament should get their arses into gear and do too. And David Cameron did well to support it as the leader of the Conservative Party…or wait. My thoughts about this changed when AM reported that one of the reasons that Cameron felt strongly about supporting marriage equality is because he felt that marriage is the best institution in which to bring up a child. OK, then. Hmm. Which led me back to my fundamental question, what would Brian Kinney do?

One thing that Queer as Folk (the US version) was quite good at doing over its run (except perhaps in the end of the last season), was exploring the vexed idea of what does “equality” and “acceptance” mean to queer people. Is acceptance and equality just the right to “be as boring” as everyone else? Does acceptance mean having to be like everyone else? Is equality really assimilation? While the show had an underlying theme of the struggle for equality and acceptance as a them, Brian’s character was carefully used to problematise this struggle, particularly where queers were expected to ‘mainstream’ themselves to achieve this acceptance.

While I think it is fundamentally wrong that any group of people are denied the rights another group of people have, and if boring, middle class straight people can get married, why should queer people also be entitled to this right? But does it then make them boring and middle class. Is what David Cameron doing saying, we can’t pretend they don’t exist, so let us make them as much like us as possible? If we make queers like us, can we then deny or hide to ourselves that which makes us uncomfortable about them?

It is interesting how this can be seen played out in popular culture. In Modern Family, Mitchell and Cam are a white middle class couple, parents to an adoptive daughter whose lives revolve round family, worrying about appropriate school and the balance between being a stay-at-home parent vs a working parent. Sure, Cam likes to take photos of their young daughter dressed as famous pop divas, but overall, their eccentricities are mild compared to those of their straight relatives. While it is good that mainstream American television now regularly includes queer characters, there is something about this mainstreaming which lends itself to a reasssurance that queer folk are Just Like Us.

Actually, lke the Nice Ideal Us. Not the poor, deviant, challenged, messy us. For a long time I have wondered whether the emphatic emphasis on marriage equality may actually do harm to the diversity of queerness, and potentially to diversity more generally, as the married-with-children-mortgage-and-dog model becomes further entrenched as an ideal. At this point I should declare that I am not queer-identifying (well, mostly), and that I am (upper) middle class and white and probably boring. But I am not married though I do have a long term partner and three children. And , despite it being the 21st Century, I am often amazed at how rare the non-married thing is.

The thing I wonder, and have wondered for some time (and thanks to Mathew for being the first person I explored these ideas with over one of our very many long lunches) is whether this kind of approach to marriage equality might create a two-tiered system of queerness – those who can “pass”, who are like straight middle class folks with their nice families, and those who do not, who choose to live their life in a different way. While the term “homosexual lifestyle” is offensive, their are aspects of non straight middle class culture which are excluded from the idea of nice, married life. And queer people are not the only ones who live outside this ideal. Do these things which unsettle the centre of society get more hidden? Brian Kinney loathed queer people who tried to be straighter than straight folks to gain equality.Because is it really acceptance is you have to be someone else to be accepted. Many queer people genuinely want to get married and live quiet suburban lives and more power to them, they absolutely should be able to do so. and it is not a surprise that they would desire that too, as overwhelmingly from our childhoods we are exposed to this as an ideal. But let us not think that is the only model of being and let us not exclude the single parents (queer or straight), the polyamorous, the celibate, those who want to live their own lives in their own ways. Let’s make sure acceptance is not only on straight-people terms. Let’s make Brian proud.

Misogyny Blues

I never read Puberty Blues nor have I ever seen the film. I am not entirely sure how I missed both of these. Of course, I knew what the book was about broadly – girls in the surf culture of Sydney in the 1970s and the implications in terms of sex and other things. Nonetheless, it means that coming to watch the series I have very limited preconceptions.

The series was beautifully acted and directed for the most part and I thought the writing was very strong. I really enjoyed it. But that didn’t mean that it was without its moments of discomfort. In fact, the moments of discomfort were its strongest feature. Puberty Blues confronted the sexism and misogygy face by women of this subculture – particularly young women, for whom joyless sex was a compulsory rite of passage. One had sex because it was the entree card to being cool – as long as one didn’t do it too soon, or with too many different people. And this role of women to be used as objects for sex in order to gain acceptance, was reflected in the ways their mothers acted – except in the case of Debbie and her mother the school principal.

For me, the characters one really feels for in Puberty Blues are the girls on the periphery – Cheryl and Freida in particular. Cheryl is the chief “mean girl” dictating permission to enter the “cool” group. But her role in this group is tied in a complex way to her relationship with the boys. For most of the series she is not “going round” with anyone, but she is expected to provide sexual services to the boys, while they also dismiss her as a “moll” when she engages in what the boys deem is socially transgressive behaviour such as getting drunk. Meanwhile Freida is repeatedly gang raped by the boys, and then is shunned socially when not being used sexually. Freida’s plight is ultimately what moves Debbie and Sue to act decisively against the established social order.

What is interesting though is the timing. A version of Puberty Blues has not been made since 1981. It is thus possible to see the production of Puberty Blues at this time politically, particularly given the bleak depiction of teenage sexuality and the treatment of girls and women. To me it says that the debate about the treatment of women has been reopened in this country – before Julia Gillard made her speech about misogyny, before Jill Meagher’s murder sparked Reclaim the Night marches, before we looked on in horror at the recent events in India. The way Puberty Blues approaches these issues does not indicate to me a view that these are closed topics or the past. The series calls into question the treatment of women, the dismissing of their sexual needs and the exercise of power that is involved in the sexual degradation of women. Puberty Blues is about power relationships, and the exercise of power, and speaks to the need for women to work together to support each other and increase their power.