analyticalalex

Critical. Opinionated. Occasionally Literary.

Fact Links on Ferguson and Some Words on Equality (From a White Person trying to Talk to their family this Holiday)

Heavy Trigger Warnings in this letter and the links for Police Brutality, Violence, Murder, Hate Crimes, Racism, Lynching, Violence against women and children of color, violence and rejection of LGBT* people, the KKK

This is a facebook comment I wrote to a cousin, who expressed irritation at the uprising from the lack of a trial for Darren Wilson. She called for people to not be angry, to teach their children respect for police and to respect each other and claimed that our society is equal racially, genderwise, and in sexuality. This is my response with a number of links and arguments I have found over the last few days regarding those subjects. The only subject I spoke on from myself was sexuality and gender, which as a queer trans* person, I have experienced these slights and done my best to support my friends in their struggles.

As a white person, I often feel hesitant and at a loss on how to talk about racial violence in our country (the U.S.), I worry about mispeaking or screwing up. I also struggle with how to talk to family members about these issues, I was raised on the importance of family and to this day having a dissenting opinion and voicing it gives me the screaming mimis. But as a white person, when these are the worst things I face dealing with race, I can suck it up and keep trying, because people of color and right now black Americans particularly, do not have the luxury to opt out of dealing with race.

Here is my letter, family names removed. I hope that maybe others struggling with providing evidence this holiday conversation time, or unsure of what to say might find this helpful.

Actually cousin,

Sorry to dissent on a day of gratitude, but the thing people are so riled up about in Ferguson and all over the country is that the court didn’t even think Darren Wilson should be put on trial, they found that no crime happened.

Also a lot of the evidence Darren’s defense presented was unstable, the stories don’t all match up.
http://suzeart.tumblr.com/post/103641296726/solidarity-on-a-global-scale

Frankly the evidence for the accusation against the unarmed Mike Brown that he even stole anything doesn’t even match up. http://jamfisher.tumblr.com/post/103654189693/anarcho-queer-ferguson-police-conveniently

This isn’t about all cops being good or bad, this is about how some officers take advantage of their power to abuse those at a disadvantage. This is about how officers who try to speak out against these injustices being silenced or ignored. http://dajo42.co.vu/post/103650105804/drankinwatahmelin-mogulcity-in-case-you

This is about how a black police officer on Darren Wilson’s same force who ended a confrontation without violence and with the civilian still living was treated way harsher than Wilson was for his confrontation with Brown and what the implications are of this. http://jamfisher.tumblr.com/post/103663871078/therudecouture-but-remember-they-said-it

This is about how the forensics team didn’t take photos of Mike Brown’s body because they ran out of batteries in their camera. This is about investigative apathy and negligence.

http://holycrapitsbags.tumblr.com/post/103670119532/softboycollective-cosbysweaterparty

http://chekhovandowl.tumblr.com/post/103670891559/t-ii-civil-rights-attorney-msnbc-legal-analyst

This is about a problem of brutality against young black men and women in our country. http://princelesscomic.tumblr.com/post/103652524040/k-i-l-l-a-p-a-m-msnbc-from-2006-to-2012-a

This is about how Ferguson a community that is 66% black is policed by a 88% white force, who may be actively connected with the KKK. http://robaemea.tumblr.com/post/103669698718/catastrophicblog-frank-ancona-leader-of-the

This is about how the court system didn’t fairly represent the community of Ferguson, and ignored evidence rather than indict Darren Wilson and hold a trial.

This is about police officers being given military combat grade munitions and equipment to be used against civilians, but not front facing cameras to keep them accountable.

This is about people infiltrating protests and starting aggressions in an attempt to invalidate protesters’ messages. http://zeekubeast.tumblr.com/post/103632277822/codyjohnston-thisiseverydayracism

http://jamfisher.tumblr.com/post/103665220048/swimsquads-devastyle-so-my-cousin

This is about media portraying protesters as violent and aggressive, while ignoring the majority of peaceful protests and the many who are coming together to clean in the aftermath of violence. http://jamfisher.tumblr.com/post/103624187023/shmurdamagicalgirl-socialjusticekoolaid-the

http://palaceoftheprophets.tumblr.com/post/103625599539

This is about a global show of solidarity from places struggling for equality.

http://suzeart.tumblr.com/post/103641296726/solidarity-on-a-global-scale

And we are all far from equal in this country, in terms of race, gender, or sexuality. There were nooses hanging from trees here in Texas the day Obama was elected. Facebook and twitter have seen a resurgence of people using racial slurs against protesters right now. Violence disproportionately affects black communities and other communities of color, who are often targeted by those who have entered the police force to abuse their authority. We cannot claim a post racial America, when these and many other such cruelties still exist.
http://zeekubeast.tumblr.com/post/103678486147/thisiseverydayracism-nativeamericannews-cop

http://jamfisher.tumblr.com/post/103675356418/permguerrero-maghrabiyya-raw-r-evolution

http://zeekubeast.tumblr.com/post/103632160597/mangoestho-blackfeminism-mangoestho-we

I can be fired for being a member of the LGBT* community in my state. Until recently, if someone chose to kill me for my sexuality, they could have plead they were so shocked by me being bisexual that they lost their mind temporarily–and gotten off. There have been several trials here in Texas in the past three years where a trans* person has been assaulted and the courts refused to consider it a hate crime. It took over a year to finally prosecute the murderers of a young lesbian couple here. Over 40% of homeless youth are LGBT* when we make up 10% of the population. These kids are being turned out from what should be the very foundation of love in their lives because of who they are and who they love. I have had acquaintances, friends and significant others who all have faced this rejection. I myself have been told I am hell bound for loving someone. I have had members of the family cry when I came out, out of fear for my life. That is not safety, that is not equality. And Also, if I wanted to marry a woman I loved, I could not, nor would I be able to visit her as my wife if she were ill, or bestow on her all the rights of marriage. So we are far from equal in many ways, we are still working towards equality. I do not mean that progress hasn’t been made, but we cannot be comfortable with only progress.

I agree we do all need to come together. We need to learn empathy, compassion and to be good and just to each other. We need to respect the differences that our lives have and how those differences can bring out the best in our society. But we cannot walk forward in that good work if we all pretend we are equal when these struggles are an everyday occurrence for many of us. There are many things we cannot see if we are not of these communities. A straight person cannot know what things go said and unsaid to a queer person, a white person cannot know what is said to a person of color, a cisgender man cannot know what is means to be a woman in this society. These truths are not failures on the part of those of us who cannot know each other’s experiences, but they are a call for listening, for empathy.

Please, I know you may be frustrated, you may be angry and upset and think those who are protesting this verdict now are acting wrongly. I for years, didn’t want to listen, didn’t know how to listen or understand a difference and pain that I will never experience. Only after hearing people many times talk about discriminations and cruelties I could not see, did I finally really listen. And it hurt, it hurt to hear people I care about were being hurt by systems that protected me. But it also hurts to be on the other side even more so. To have to tell those I love that the systems that benefit them, hurt me as a queer person. Knowing both sides of this pain push me to listen as much as I can, to help however I am asked and able. Please step back and when you can, listen again. I am sorry if I sound preaching, if I have come off as shaming or condemning or arrogant I apologize. But please try to listen even when it hurts, cousin, because they may be saying things we cannot hear any other way. “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

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They’re Just So Crazy, You Know?

Trigger Warning: Mental Illness, ignorance thereof.

Sticks and Stones break bones, but words build thoughts.

Sticks and Stones break bones, but words build thoughts.

This past August, the worst panic attack of the summer happened during one of the best experiences of my life to date. I was at a writer’s retreat, after a tumultuous summer following the end of a four year relationship among other major life changes. That Friday in Los Angeles, in a room with twelve skilled writers I spent a week striving to feel worthy to talk with, I fought a panic attack as the word crazy ricocheted off the walls. Crazy came out to discuss the main character having a mental breakdown in the workshop piece.

After a week of struggling with anxiety at a writer’s retreat every insecurity screamed at me I didn’t earn my place at, I found myself at a loss. The bullet points I’d written to talk about blurred in front of my eyes as I tried to calm down. It wasn’t my piece being workshopped, and it wasn’t me they were talking about. How could I justify objecting to the language used? In reality I rapidly lost the ability to speak at all that session. I bolted from the room at the end, then ended up fleeing the lunch cafeteria as if pursued, unable to face the crowd. In reality, I was being pursued as far as my body was concerned, it urged me to run, screaming anyone in the area would attack. Years of conditioning kicked in and flight mode carried me right into my room and into one of the loudest panic attacks I’d had in months.

I am grateful that this event had a positive outcome, thanks to the receptive, compassionate fellows and faculty at the retreat. From my roommate, who offered to bring me food when they ran across me fleeing the cafeteria, to the retreat faculty member who was experienced enough to catch my harried express as a request for help, and finally to my fiction fellows, who the next day, when I asked them to listen, obliged ears, minds, and hearts open.

Crazy, isn’t the worst way to describe a situation, event, or object. It isn’t the best, but not the worst. When people, when their words or behavior are called crazy, I get that prickle on the back of my neck. That creeping feeling that the only thing between me and whoever that “crazy” person is, is that the speaker has never seen me, sobbing and gasping to breathe in the middle of a panic attack. They have never witnessed me repeatedly checking every cabinet, corner and door in my apartment out of fear there is something there. They have never heard me give myself a pep talk before driving somewhere new, or making a professional phone call. They have never been struck by me when they try to prank me with a jump scare. If they did, maybe then I would be crazy.

Crazy invalidates whoever it is applied to. It dismisses them as delusional, as unhinged, or mentally unstable. Crazy implies they seek to harm, they are violent, or morally weak. Crazy and its heavy baggage, kept me in the closet with my mental illness for years.

Crazy and its baggage keep millions in the U.S. alone in the dark with their disease.

Even now, this far along in therapy, in building healthy thought patterns, working to break the abusive conditioning I experienced, I still hesitate every time I reach out for support. Before I tell someone I had a bad day, or text someone that my anxiety is bad, or my depression has been rough lately, I hesitate. Because what if that admission brings me down in their estimation? What if I’m deemed incompetent at my job? What if my friends decide I am a burden? What if they decide I am too much drama?

I work for a nonprofit with mental health as one of its major tenants. Many of my closest friends have a mental illness of their own to cope with. If ever there were safe spaces. But when so much ignorance persists about mental illnesses, when villains are cast as sociopaths, as bipolar, when someone with depression is depicted as given up, when the person with major anxiety disorder is a punchline, hesitation comes first.

High cholesterol runs in my family, so does type two diabetes, cancer, and hyperthyroidism. These are genetic predispositions, if at some stage in my life I am faced with this unfortunate inheritance, no one will blame my character. No one will say it’s my personality. Or that I developed my condition because I was weak. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addiction in various forms also run in my family. But any of these manifesting in me, are my own fault. They are a sign of failure, that I have not done all I could to be happy, that I am overthinking things. That I just need to try a little harder and I’ll be fine. As a society, we take the genetic predisposition for chronic illnesses in the rest of the body for granted. But if the disease is mental, we treat is as a phase, as an imagined ailment of the afflicted.

This ignorance only perpetuates the struggle for myself and everyone like me. I have the privilege of education about my illness and freedom to speak on it. I take advantage of this as often as I am able to change people’s knowledge about depression, about anxiety, about PTSD, about what people with these conditions look like.

Anyone can have mental illness. No matter how accomplished, how rich, how competent, how high functioning. There is no one face.

This week, October 5 through 11, is mental illness awareness week. This week, examine how you think about people you call crazy. Think about how you look at mental illness, how you see people with mental illness. Don’t dismiss what you don’t know, seek out understanding, please. Remember that sticks and stones break bones, but words build entire systems of thought.

I Did Join a Queer All Inclusive Sorority

moonwolfgrl copy

I helped found the Kappa Chapter of Gamma Rho Lambda at University of Houston. I had never been interested in going Greek, everything I heard about sororities—hazing, required miniskirt day, the hive mentality—sounded like a cult I did not want a part of. In 2010, I showed up to an information session held by our founding president and I stared at a table of ten people who looked way cooler than me and asked, “This isn’t a cult, right?” Those ten people all looked around the table with the same face of concern I had. I knew I was in the right place.

Tonight, is Theta class’s, our eighth class, Night of Prophesies (NoP). It’s an event the new class puts together to show the active members they care, but also to show who they are as a class and what GRL has come to mean to them. It’s an important event and one the Thetas have worked hard on in secret from the actives. Yes, it’s a tradition, but it’s a positive one. It makes me happy to watch over the semesters as the new members smile to themselves when NoP comes up and all the actives want to know. It makes me smile to see them excited for it, to see them taking a traditional event and making it into whatever they want. Because yes, we do have traditions, we have things that come every semester, but those traditions don’t have to be the same thing every time.

GRL is a living organization, it changes with each new member who joins. We do not adapt to our traditions, our traditions and values adapt to us. Watching this happen over the semesters is one of my most valuable experiences as a sibling.  I have watched us shift from a group of ten, to as small as six, to up to fourteen. I have watched as our average age went from mid-twenties, to under 21. I have watched as we went from a group going hard, doing events every weekend, always volunteering, always fundraising, always planning to one that takes a step back and remembers we’re a sorority—a family and we’re also college students, we need sleep sometimes. I have watched us go from no involvement with other Greeks, to participating in homecoming, to helping out other sororities raise money for Make-a-Wish (and winning second place in the penny wars).
Our ideologies change, when I came out as nonbinary, and we started to get in more nonbinary members and trans* masculine members, we realized our rituals and constitution were very cisnormative and very woman focused. We changed the language to be gender inclusive. When we have members who work, or have curfews, or religious services on certain days or nights, we schedule around them. Our traditions adapt to us. We don’t adapt to our traditions.

A sorority or fraternity is what the siblings of that chapter make it. Yes, you have some rules and restrictions to follow, but you have leeway in how you do that. Yes, there are the old money, hundred year old frats and sororities who party and violate FIPG (our insurance guidelines) left and right, but there are also Greeks who joined frats and sororities that raise money for sick kids, or go out and build houses, or stay home and study, or have LAN Parties—because that’s what they were looking for in Greek life.

Yes, there is the reality that you may not love all your siblings equally, or you may not get along with them. But you learn to make it work, because even if you don’t get on with a sibling, you’re both here because you love your siblings, or you love what your sorority or fraternity stands for, what they do. You learn to work together for the group, for the organization and for your siblings.

Yes, Greek life can be expensive, yes you have to pay, but that money goes back to you. GRL’s dues are extremely low and of what we pay, a majority of it goes to pay the insurance that allows us to exist. The rest goes back to the members, to buying t-shirts, or swag, or supplies for events. We fundraise a lot of the money we save. And when someone can’t pay, we work with them, we fundraise the money to support them, we go to the local community for sponsorships, we seek donations from alumni. We don’t just take the money and run, we don’t stop being family because someone can’t pay.

Yes, we go to drag shows, we have bake sales. But those aren’t our required events. We go to and perform in drag shows because we think it’s fun, but if a sibling has stage fright, or just doesn’t like drag for any reason—we don’t force them to attend. No one has to attend every event we go to, host, or help with. Yes you have a certain number of volunteer hours, of hours for attendance, but there are options for how you get those. A sorority or fraternity is what you make it.

Kappa chapter is my family, my siblings who I stay up late texting, that I cook for, that I eat with, or go roaming bookstores, or sex shops, or the queerborhood with. They are what I care about. The rituals, the rules, those events you are required to go to are just a trapping that let you get to know one another. Driving way out to one of our sister’s parent’s houses for a barbeque, having a sleepover at a sibling’s house where we play Rockband til it’s so late no one can remember the words, going paintballing and everyone cursing out the sister with military training, planning rush events that are a party throughout time—these are what we make of our requirements.

Those philanthropic and volunteer events? Helping out with Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial service, ushering for the Vagina Monologues hosted by the Student Feminist Organization; helping kids at Texas Children’s Hospital make picture frames; or organizing a campus wide photo shoot supporting positive body image—those events provide a vehicle for supporting and giving back to the wider community.  When we founded this shindig we wanted to give back, we weren’t required to volunteer as much as we did, but it’s what we wanted to do, it became a part of Kappa chapter and it’s a part that draws new people looking to give back to us.  Greek Life is what you make it.

When I joined GRL I was in a sea of questioning, questioning my sexuality, my gender, my own self-worth in a lot of ways. I had been in a lot of bad situations when I was younger and didn’t have a healthy support system. I have had a lot of toxic relationships and friendships where people loved me on the condition that I was useful and compliant. My siblings in all this time, have never put me down, have never called me worthless or been angry when I couldn’t do something. My siblings thought I was competent enough to be president in Beta semester when we had an emergency. They thought I was competent enough to reelect me. They also accepted my limits, when I came to them saying I needed help,  that six officer positions were about five too many.

They accept my tears and my panic and my anxiety. They are there when I need someone to talk to. And I am there for them. We are there for each other. We have spent hours in emergency rooms or on phones, we guard dog to make sure those who aren’t out aren’t outed. We have emergency codes for when someone needs help. We look out for each other, we love each other. We’re a family. Sometimes we’re a family for people who might not have an accepting one. That’s why I have never wavered in wanting GRL to be here. That’s why I know people will join a queer sorority. Even when times are hard and we’re stressed because we have too many eggs in way too many baskets, or we’re mad and fighting with each other. We’re still a family. Families work it out.

If Greek life just isn’t for you, not even queer Greek life—that’s okay. I have plenty of friends I love just as dearly outside GRL, who are family to me just as much. I have friends who have rushed and not joined, and I understand it completely. It is not a casual commitment joining a sorority, even a smaller one like GRL. We have lots of people who love us and what we do who don’t join us and we love them back. But please, don’t disparage us because Greek life isn’t your digs. Hell, don’t bag on any sorority or fraternity just because they’re Greek. If you don’t like how they operate, that they haze, or that they require a dress code, or look down on non-Greeks—call them on that BS. But don’t hate on them for wanting a bigger family or to be part of a tradition. And yes, a queer sorority is still a sorority and sororities are part of a traditional system that can have a lot of nasty classist, racist, cissexist, misogynistic, heteronormative crap in it, but there’s more than one way to disrupt a system. You can steer clear of the system entirely, you can fight it from the outside, or you can mosey on in and set up shop and refuse to leave. There isn’t only a single true path to disrupting the power system. Queering Greek life helps change the face of what Greek life is, it challenges those negative institutions in the system, it creates shifts and takes away the power of gatekeeping and exclusion wielded by some Greeks. It says: We can be Greek too. We can have family and tradition in this system. We are valid. Again: Our traditions adapt to us, we don’t adapt to them.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

                           https://i2.wp.com/rainbowrowell.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/FANGIRL_CoverDec2012-300x444.jpg

 

I read the excerpt for Fangirls on Goodreads and the very next day I bought it for Kindle. I read it in one night.
This book is well-written, engaging and does well juggling Cath’s world, her fanfiction’s world and the canon world of Simon Snow. As a teenager fanfiction was incredibly influential for me and my friends, and the novel captures that feeling of community, of connection with a fictional world and others who love it very well. Fandoms are still a part of my life and a bonding point for many of my friendships now into my twenties.
I really enjoyed how Cath’s dedication to the fandom is portrayed here, that it’s an escape but also and outlet for her to explore her skills and emotions, as well as develop her writing. Another great thing I thought was the development of all the characters throughout the story. Even with unlikeable characters, or characters that Cath disliked, they weren’t flat villains. I also liked that even though I was firmly on Cath’s side throughout the novel, I didn’t feel like she was blameless. Her anxiety and avoidance behaviors have consequences for her and she isn’t always right in a fight. The entire portrayal of mental illness, of anxiety and bipolar disorder in particular were well handled, honest and didn’t attempt to sugar coat it. Again, Cath’s behavior, her avoidance has consequences. As someone with anxiety problems, that were particularly bad my first years of college, I appreciated that.
I also really adored the characters the dialogue had me cackling at several points and I adored Reagan, not only for her bluntness and sarcasm, but also for her honesty about mental illness. I also enjoyed the fact that a larger woman was portrayed as confident, beautiful, sexual and while she was important for Cath, she also had her own life. That’s just awesome.
I also really enjoyed the novel’s pacing, it’s over 400 pages and never dragged for me, I never skimmed (I am an antagonistic reader, I am terrible truly) I was eager to flip to the next page by the last sentence of the current one. I also was genuinely surprised several times, which is rare for me (I am the jerk who accidentally guesses whodunnit all the time in movies). I loved that, I loved being set up to expect one thing to happen by foreshadowing and be caught by surprise.
There were a few moments towards the end that I wanted more from, particularly the fight between her and Levi. I felt like Cath’s realization and moment of change was built up to, but thought Levi’s response was too easy, it did keep in character though, so I may be nitpicking. I also admit I wanted more from the ending, but I think that’s mostly because I was really enjoying Cath’s fanfic myself and wanted more of it.

Also, Emergency Kanye Dance Party.

All in all, this really is a good book, I related to the freshman experience, the struggling with anxiety and the experience of creative writing classes. (The comeuppance for a character in the class there is a thing of beauty) I do recommend this.(less)

Quickie Review: Savage She Hulks: Hunt for the Intelligencia

Above: Cover for the Book, She Hulk and Savage She Hulk are engaged in battle (which doesn’t happen in the book) Savage She Hulk falling upon She Hulk from the right, fist raised, yelling, She Hulk juts her rotund breasts out in a kind of defense display, opposing fist raised. Both of them bear muscular arms and thighs, which do not alight properly with their hips. Their belly buttons are clearly visible through vacuum sealed suits. Their hair is the largest part of their bodies. And in the background, Hulk’s growling visage takes this entire scene in, adding a nice layer of creepy, considering everyone here is related.

Plotwise, She Hulks is not particularly impressive or terrible.

(Spoilers Follow) It follows She Hulk, Jennifer Walters and Savage She Hulk, Lyra, who is Hulk and Thundra’s daughter from the future as they live in New York at the behest of Bruce Banner.

They fight bad guys, make one liners, go on shopping sprees, and Lyra is made to attend high school like a “Normal Girl” creating a certain amount of drama as she works to fit in. This all felt tired to me though as it followed the plot of many teen romcoms and hell, even a lot of young hero comics now, but it didn’t bring anything engaging to the table or really fulfill the potential of the material. Lyra comes from a dystopian future where men and women all fight each other (I’m dubious on the battle of the binary theme, but haven’t read the material to have an opinion.) She’s set up as a warrior, as someone who’d rather punch things than talk–but we don’t get to see that come through in her interactions with her peers much at all. When we do see it–in a brilliant exchange with two footballers who try to pressure her into sex and in an emotionally jarring dodgeball scene–it works well and brings something engaging into the story. But these moments are infrequent and the spaces between are filled in with dress shopping and Jennifer lounging in a bathtub, reuniting with an old flame and behaving pretty irresponsibly for someone who’s supposed to be an ace attorney. I’m hoping that’s explained in outside volumes, because here I didn’t get much contest for her behavior. The story also frustrates me because after Lyra makes a mistake in trying to pass herself as a “civilian,” Bruce jumps on Jennifer saying if she doesn’t shape up she’ll have to go back to the headquarters with him. This frustrates me in the fish out of water stories, because it often comes immediately upon the first mistake of the fish in question and when said fish has received no guidance or training in how to behave. Bruce is the one who says Lyra needs to be with her peers, but he doesn’t try and offer her any advice, neither does Jennifer, they just drop her in High School and expect her to adjust to a time period and culture that’s entirely alien to her. Gee, I wonder why things went wrong? It’s always struck me as a weak plot device that makes competent characters logically blind for the sake of a weak conflict point.

But overall, the story isn’t bad, it’s entertaining watching the She Hulks knock out bad guys when they aren’t pretending to be civilians, there are some genuinely good moments when they are in civvies and the book passes quickly. Though this volume ends on a rather brutal note which harkens back to the Marvel Universe’s “Civilians hate super heroes/mutants Rawwwr Go home!” tendencies, which I’m not crazy over..

My biggest problem with this book is the art–this book initially ran in 2010, but its art bears a hearty nineties influence.Hulk is absurdly massive in comparison to his female counterparts, who in their Hulk forms put on little visible muscle mass or height, despite the fact that the book cites She-Hulk at 700lbs. Instead they appear green and statuesque, the most growth their Hulk forms show is in their breasts, an aspect which is highlighted through several inappropriately sexual panels–which is disturbing considering Savage She Hulk is scarcely 15.

This unfortunately is a pervasive problem in mainstream superhero comics, the heroines, even ones who are meant to be heavy hitters, are often designed to look more scintillating than intimidating. This is actually worsened in the bonus issue celebrating She-Hulk’s anniversary at the end of the book, where several “haw haw, She Hulk’s so Sexy” jokes are dropped and worse, on the ending splash page both her and Red She-Hulk’s nipples are visibly poking through their costumes.

This is the unappealing and demeaning cherry on top of the gratuitous amount of cleavage present on this page (again including Savage She-Hulk, whose nipples are thankfully not present). It’s also anatomically incorrect, which is a huge beef of mine with big name comics. Okay, you want to draw the women sexy, that’s annoying in itself when you make every character sexy, but it’s way worse when you break the laws of physics and anatomy to do so. The artist has their nipples canted downward and too far off to the side just for the sake of putting them in there, while maintaining the perfectly spherical shape of their breasts. It’s layers of anatomical inaccuracy in the name of titillation (sure, pun intended).  This feeds into the disturbing notion that women heroes cannot be sexy if drawn as powerful as they’re meant to be, or even anatomically accurate. The ridiculous attempts at sexualizing the She Hulks, to the detriment of depicting them as muscular or  daring giving them waists wider than their heads, ruined this book for me.

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time Review: Gaslighting for Kids

So Last night, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for the first time. This is supposed to a children’s classic, it has a Newbery award, I had heard about it being one of those childhood books that’s awesome, but my reading of the text left me uncomfortable and deeply disappointed.

A Wrinkle in Time sends some extremely problematic messages about gender roles, intelligence, and who is important or valuable to society and what makes them valuable. At its core, the book is the story of thirteen year old Meg, her five year old brother Charles Wallace and their newly made friend Calvin O’Keefe’s quest to find Meg and Charles’ scientist father, who disappeared roughly a year ago doing a government experiment, leaving Meg and her three younger brothers (she has ten year old twin brothers Sandy and Denny, who do not come along for the adventure) with their scientist mother who is the picture of composure around her children. Sounds promising doesn’t it? Well, the trouble’s in the execution and following there will be spoilers.

Throughout the novel, Meg is constantly belittled for her intelligence and her attitude. She performs poorly in school where her teachers call her stupid and lazy, she is told by her principal she has a bad attitude when she is angered at his suggestion that her father abandoned her family for another woman, and the entire town gossips about her father’s absence and how her two intellectual parents had two “moron” children, Meg and Charles Wallace. The twins call her a moron for fighting a boy who calls Charles a moron, saying that girls shouldn’t fight. Her sudden love interest Calvin repeatedly insists he will take care of her and at one point exclaims  that she’s “backwards” and is no match for the big bad. Possibly worst of all though is baby Charles, who at five years old, is not actually a “moron” as the town calls him, but is extremely intelligent and possesses a kind of psychic gift (His father and Calvin have this gift to a lesser extent, which also creates problematic implications) which he uses to “take care of” his sister Meg and mother, because they cannot take care of themselves. Yes, this five year old outright says that his mother “Can take care of herself, Physically, that is.” Implying that his mother lacks the psychological and intellectual capacity to care for herself so he takes up the slack.

Meg and her mother are the only human women that this text deals with in depth and the texts treatment of them both is exceedingly patronizing. The mother is a scientist, with two doctorates in the sciences and she is infantilized by her five year old son as well as the alien who comes to take Meg and Charles on their quest, who refers to the woman as a lamb and makes her pull off their boots. Regarding Meg, she feels like an outcast from the town and from her home for being a “moron” as she is repeatedly referred to, but the text makes it clear she isn’t. She understands complex mathematics far past her age and helps Calvin, who is several grades above her, with his homework, but this ability is never used constructively in the text to empower her and in fact is attributed to her father teaching her math at a young age, rather than her interest and inclination towards the subject. Even in her field of expertise, she is robbed of agency, while her male plotmates intelligence is an innate gift in them that is vital to the plot. Similarly, her mother’s intelligence is never valuable to the plot and she ceases being anything more than character motivation for her children after they leave on their quest for their father. We see her doing experiments, but they are never given any value other than to show she is a scientist, much like we see Meg doing math, but only to show that she is good at it. These character traits are set up, but never used, which is poor plot planning and creates the implication that women’s intelligence is not important in this world that places a lot of value upon intelligence.

Which brings me to the theme of intelligence in this novel and how intelligence is used as a signifier of who is important and who has agency in this story. In a conversation about Charles, Meg’s mother tells her Charles is special, that he is more involved and gifted in intelligence, even more so than their father. When Meg, in awe, asks if her mother is also different in that way, her mother laughs and says no, that she just has a little more brains than most. The only characters in Wrinkle who are this special kind of superintelligent are male: Charles Wallace, Calvin, and Mr. Murry, Charles and Meg’s father. Meg, Charles says is neither like Charles nor an ordinary person, somewhere inbetween, but throughout the novel she is portrayed as lost, scared, and above all confused in comparison to her male travel companions. This divides the text’s power dynamic not only by intelligence, but by gender because Meg is only female human on this journey and she is also the only ungifted one. This means throughout the novel as the characters are led by the aliens through the fifth dimension, Meg is the only one to suffer pain because her brain is not advanced enough to move through the fifth dimension without pain, she is also the one who struggles the most to understand what the aliens are telling the children, and Charles frequently must explain things to her. Then she is possessed by evil and nearly killed because her brain is not advanced enough for this kind of travel—and when she is terrified and angry over this, her anger and fear are scorned and treated as irrational. The novel builds a world where those who are not super intelligent suffer, are more susceptible to control, and are dependent on those who are super intelligent for their survival and guidance. This creates a disturbingly elitist power dynamic that becomes additionally insulting when it is only applied along gender lines.

Furthermore, Meg has internalized this kind of rationale and repeatedly berates herself for being a moron, for being ugly and for being angry as opposed to pretty and serene like her mother and smart like her family and Calvin. And the text does nothing to correct this. Meg is never empowered by her own ideas or thoughts, she is never reassured that her intelligence is not subpar and even her love interest calls her “backward,” meaning unintelligent. At the end of the novel, she is the one to save her little brother from the evil, but not through her own plan, or her skills with math, but because she loves him and the evil cannot stand that. Now her saving the day through love is not in itself a bad moral, but the way its carried out does nothing to correct everyone’s assertion (the aliens, Charles, Calvin, the evil, her own father) that she lacks the intellectual might to outsmart the evil. The story ends with her saving the day through the power of love, sending the message that her love is her power and everyone was right to say she lacked intelligence and worst of all: that it was acceptable behavior for her five year old brother to patronize her, for her father to say she lacks intellectual power, and for her love interest to call her moron and backwards.

On top of the repeated dismissal of Meg’s intelligence, her emotional validity is also repeatedly dismissed. In school, she is charged with being angry and stubborn and having a bad attitude, despite the fact that her teachers have already dismissed her as unintelligent and now pick on her in class and her principal and several adults in the town make repeated implications that her father is an adulterer who’s abandoned their family. Rather than attribute Meg’s anger to her peers bullying, the town’s gossiping, and her teacher’s disinterest, she is instead deemed a problem student with a bad attitude. Yes, the text makes it clear that Meg is flawed, she’s dogmatic, impatient and stubborn, but the text uses these character flaws to dismiss her valid feelings of disorientation, anxiety and anger over the possibility of losing her father and then her baby brother all while traipsing through an alien galaxy fighting a primordial evil she never knew existed. Then when she is almost killed by the evil when her father escapes with her and Calvin to an alien planet whose inhabitants nurse her back to health, she is scolded for her anger and her terror. She blames her father for leaving Charles behind and is filled with anger at her lack of power and disappointment at her father’s fallibility and both the aliens who initiated the journey and those who cared for her are cold and scornful in the face of her anger and blame it on the lingering effects of being possessed by evil. Forgive me if I think a little fear and anger are valid for a thirteen year old, or anybody when they nearly die and lose their baby brother after being thrown into an intergalactic quest with little guidance from their alien benefactors.

That its acceptable to call anyone a moron or to condescend to them because they aren’t as intelligent and that it is acceptable to dismiss someone’s feelings as irrational or invalid when they are afraid or in pain is a terrible message to send to young children. The fact that this is all done to a female character can be even more damaging considering the frequent dismissals and verbal abuse young girls and adult women face in everyday life. A book that sends the message that this is loving behavior, that insisting a girl must be taken care of by her male family members and that she is less intelligent and irrational than her male peers, is incredibly damaging.

EDIT: THE GOOD

Forgive me, yesterday I was in such a hurry, I forgot to go into what I enjoyed about A Wrinkle in Time, which made this review rather brutal.

Before the children go into the town on the evil ruled planet, their alien guides give them each a blessing and a word of caution. To Charles, the aliens warn him that he is the most vulnerable to the evil’s attacks because of his youth and his arrogance, that he should not assume he is safe and too smart to be caught. They explicitly tell him this. And Charles does not listen, he stubbornly leads the children straight into the evil’s lair and then walks his mind directly into the evil’s power, because he believes he can come back and he ends up trapped in there, possessed by the evil. I really enjoy this moment because it is really the only time this character is shown as fallible and is called out on his arrogance. It’s also the only time he really feels like an actual five year old, with his snootiness.  I actually would have liked to see this carried a little further when Meg saves him and see him eat some humble pie and apologize for ignoring her plea for him not to do it and remember the warning, because he assumed he knew better.

While Charles is possessed, he tries to win Meg and Calvin over to the evil’s side and at one point says to Meg that the evil’s world is everyone like everyone else, they are all equal and that Meg hates being different. Meg’s comeback is what’s brilliant, she acknowledges the truth in the statement, that she hates how she’s treated for being different, but that doesn’t mean she wants everyone to be the same and that everyone being alike is not the same as everyone being equal. Meg doesn’t magically become okay with everyone bullying her or think her unusualness is fantastic in the face of this argument, but she clarifies her beliefs about what’s important about life and what bothers her about her treatment. She doesn’t defend against the evil’s argument by dismissing it, but by acknowledging where it deviates from what’s true for her, coming to a realization herself about what she wants to be, accepted, not the same as everyone. It’s a small moment, but it’s a strong one that I think feels more believable than her going into some kind of “You’re wrong, I never felt bad about being different/I realize I was wrong to hate feeling different” speech.

I like the fact that religion and science coexist in this text, for all the awkward implications that come with every alien planet believing in the same god. I’m not religious at all, so there may be tons of symbolism that I missed out on in this, but I was able to handle the bible references and alien angels because this book is primarily focused on science and the truths science brings. Meg repeatedly says she trusts her mother’s judgment because her mother is a scientist, living in a world of facts. Even when the text is heavy with religious context, the science parts, atoms, experiments, scientific theory are not compromised, Meg does not have blind faith in what she can’t explain, she has faith in what can be proven. I appreciate that representation of Christianity when the one I personally come across and the one the media loves to promote, focuses on fundamentalism and is strongly antiscience, a different representation is refreshing.

Finally, my favourite moment in this text is between Meg and her father before she goes away to defeat the big bad. Apparently purged of the evil, Meg apologizes to her father for blaming him, saying she wanted him to be able to fix everything and now realizes he can’t. Her father in turn says that it’s okay and that he wanted to fix everything for her, that every parent wants to do that for their child and he volunteers to go in her place. The aliens refuse his volunteering, saying he will not deprive his child of this privilege. This for me is an important moment in Meg’s life and one I kind of wanted a little more of. This is the moment where she acknowledges, understands, and accepts that her parents are human, are fallible, and will not always be able to fix everything for her. That is a big moment in a child’s life, it’s a part of that movement towards adulthood and independence and at least in mine, occurred when I was around Meg’s age. Her father acknowledging his own desire as a parent to fix everything is also important, he’s saying he wishes he could do that, be that super person and I think that’s a desire many parents can have, sometimes to the detriment of their children and the aliens intervention points this out. The aliens call Meg’s going to defeat the evil a “privilege” that her father would be wrong to deny her, I don’t know if I agree with the word choice, but the meaning is there.  Meg’s father going in her place would do her a disservice, it would undo the understanding that there are some things she must do for herself and rob her of the one moment of empowerment she really gets in this book. And that moment of empowerment is very important in stepping away from her childhood vision and dependence upon her parents and towards her adulthood. The alien’s intervention and word choice acknowledge the weight this fight has and how her father does not have a place in it.

 

From a structural standpoint, the novel’s pacing is terrible. A Wrinkle in Time was L’Engle’s first novel and it shows. Everything is rushed, within twenty minutes of meeting Calvin and Meg are romantically connected with little dialogue between them other than Calvin clarifying that she and her brother are supposed to be a morons and showing surprise at her mathematical prowess and her brother’s hyper intelligence. The final confrontational scene is equally rushed, happening in the last three pages of the novel without explaining the consequences of Meg’s actions, leaving the reader with the implication that either an entire planet has been left enslaved by evil, or an entire planet was murdered in evil’s destruction. We don’t know and apparently shouldn’t care as our protagonists are whisked home for a happy ending.

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Fatshionelle

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