The #YesAllWomen Tag on Twitter

I know I don’t have sufficient energy to discuss the shootings in Santa Barbara or get into the hatred towards women that has poured over the internet in response to women finally speaking out in force against the misogyny that exists in our culture today. But I wanted to say that I am proud to read through the #YesAllWomen tag and see the courage in the posts, both women for speaking out, some for the first time, and men for admitting that this whole experience has taught them aspects of being female that they never knew. And I want to step up and add my voice, sharing my experience of marginalization and fear, but I find I don’t know where to begin. Because it is so deeply ingrained in me, to constantly be aware, to depend on my being married to protect me from unwanted attention without wounding a man’s pride and angering him, to depend physically on my husband and male friends to watch out for me, to not feel safe being alone some places even in daylight, to always be guarded on elevators and streets and stores, to always try to have escape routes planned in public places, to perfect being oblivious to unwanted attention, that I don’t know if I can really pull out specific incidents.

There was the time I was 13 and two carloads of college boys pulled up and cat called me for the first time in my life and invited me to go with them while I was standing on a street in Cape Cod with my mother and sister, and all my mother could do was laugh and tell me it was a compliment. And the time I was chased three blocks down a busy city street in broad daylight by some scumbag I had never seen before, and the only way I escaped him was by darting into oncoming traffic. The kid in college who asked me out on a date, and when I tried politely to refuse, took it as a yes, asked me if I carried a knife with me, and when I said no but I do have pepper spray, his response was ‘Good, I’m immune to that’. These are just a handful, and I’m sure I could come up with many more.

Bottom line, I shouldn’t have to feel proud that my husband is a decent man and becoming more and more of a feminist daily in response to our horrible culture. I shouldn’t be glad that I’m married because I can banter with my male friends and let out my bawdy sense of humor and just be myself without risk of anyone expecting me to have sex with them. I shouldn’t be afraid that I’m eventually going to get catcalled in front of my son and have to finally respond to the men for his sake. I shouldn’t feel safer in the knowledge that I met my life mate at 18 and avoided singlehood in my twenties.

I shouldn’t have to live a life of prey, going about my daily activities with constant awareness of my fragility in the back of mind. But I do. All women do.

We have a title!

A novella title, that is.  And it is (drum roll…) Penumbra.  Here is the dictionary definition, if you need it:

pe·num·bra

[pi-nuhm-bruh] Show IPA

noun, plural pe·num·brae [-bree] Show IPA , pe·num·bras.

1.Astronomy .

a.the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body, as a planet, where the light from the source of illumination is only partly cut off. Compare umbra (  def 3a ) .
b.the grayish marginal portion of a sunspot. Compare umbra (  def 3b ) .
2.a shadowy, indefinite, or marginal area.
Origin:1660–70;  < Neo-Latin,  equivalent to Latin paen- pen- + umbra  shade
I also have a tentative idea for the cover that I am going to sketch out tonight.  I’m thinking of one that’s more graphic-oriented than picture-oriented.  But we’ll see how it goes.
In further updates, my illustrations are coming along finally!  I don’t know how long it will take to finish, since I have a set of eight to complete and I want them to be very detailed, but I’m going to see what I can get done this week.  I may need to make the decision to get Penumbra out before The Little Book of Insurrection, or the Poetry of my Discontent, but we’ll see.  I really wanted to release both ebooks simultaneously and then both paperback versions side by side as well.
I’ve also been thinking about my next big project after that, which will be attempting to raise money to complete my first music album including the songs that are included as part of the poetry collection.  I worry that if I stick with songs only in the vein of the ones in my collection that people will get really depressed listening to the album, but if I include any upbeat songs, it will detract from my message.  Maybe play around with some of the music behind the lyrics?  I feel like I need to include SOME songs of beauty and hope, but a lot of what I write lyrically along those lines comes across as schmaltzy or preachy, and I do NOT want that to happen.  But I’ve got some time to percolate.
Also, I’ve got a post brewing about violence towards women and rape and our current culture, but that needs time to percolate a little too.  It kept me up a while last night thinking about it though.

Book Review: Margaret Atwood’s “The Robber Bride”

I finished Margaret Atwood’s “The Robber Bride” this past weekend, and I’m left with conflicting feelings on the book.   I had read and enjoyed “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Cat’s Eye” in high school, so I was looking forward to this book.  (Warning: some spoilers ahead.)

The good from a structural standpoint: Atwood is a master at balancing prose and poetry.  She has a wonderful ability with phrasing.  You can take a single sentence or paragraph out of context and allow the words to roll around your mind for a while.   I was engaged enough by the story to not be brought out by her style, but I enjoyed the rhythm and cleverness of it all the same.

The bad structurally: I felt like she confined herself too strictly to a self-imposed cadence.  Maybe she was influenced by the fairy tale structure she pulled her source material from (“The Robber Bridegroom”) or maybe she just did it as an exercise in self-restraint, but at times the flow of the story seemed hindered.  I also did not enjoy the ending of the book.  I felt it dragged on.  I see what Atwood was going for, but I’m not sure it served the rest of the story or her characters well.

The good from a character and plot standpoint: The story was engaging.  I found myself sucked into the downward spiral of the characters despite my slight disgust.

The bad from a character and plot standpoint: I did not feel connected with any of the characters in this book.  The men were all manchildren, simpering and whiny and ridiculous.  The three main female characters clung to their men in a ridiculous way, all while trying to come to terms with their own selves, and the villain Zenia had no redeeming qualities but rather was a stock character.  This was probably what Atwood was going for, as again she was pulling from fairy tales, but it made for a rather two-dimensional character.  Also, I feel like Atwood at this point in her life felt disgust for the entire human race.  She writes from a feminist lens but simultaneously was mocking feminism through her characters.

And here is my utterly personal emotional response.  I read literature occasionally because I like to challenge my mind, and I feel that it is healthy to be uncomfortable by what you read/view occasionally.  But I hate that each of the main characters had such horrible childhoods.  I hate reading about children being abused sexually and beaten.  I’m someone who cries when I read a news article about babies and children and animals that die tragically or are hideously scarred (physically or emotionally) by an adult’s hand.  It’s unnatural.  But it happens.  So reading books like this help me to acknowledge the dark side of humanity, the side that I would love to see us as a species rise above but I’m not sure we ever will.  So while this bothered me, it was like choking down medicine that I know needs to be taken occasionally.

But I am also bothered by feminist authors who don’t bother to make any redeeming men in their stories because I know several good men personally and feel like dismissing that potential is a bad road to travel down (and I feel the same way when male authors marginalize women – if you can’t write for the opposite sex, then stick to only writing about your own!).   Characters need to be more than paper dolls, and when you have one gender well-fleshed and the other flat, it takes away from the effect of the book.

I enjoyed this book in some ways, but I will probably never read it again.  When I want challenging, poetic, feminist literature and poetry, I will continue to turn to Deena Metzger’s body of work instead.

Anyway, final thoughts – this is a well-crafted novel and worth the read, but overall I’m left feeling less than satisfied.