And She Persisted: A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky is torn. Just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Source: GoodReads

This book takes place 107 years ago, but it is ridiculously timely to what’s going on right now.

Because it deals with women’s rights.

I think if anything can be learned from the past few years, is that while women have made it a long way since the time this book took place, we’re hardly in a place where we have equal rights and sexism very much exists.  We have to keep fighting for our rights every single day.

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Case in point, the whole thing that happened with Senator Warren this week.  In fact, Senator Warren has dealt with a lot of flak the gag order in the senate is only the latest one.  During many of these sham cabinet hearings (because the GOP decided to pretty much gut them to where no one could ask adequate amount of questions and then in turn gut the vote because they are smug little assholes) Warren was patronized multiple times and it was just disgusting.  Add the fact that Trump keeps referring to her derogatory as Pocahontas, mocking the fact that she comes from Native American heritage it just makes me angrier.

And I know I’m about to go on a political tirade, but it’s relevant to this review of the book because sexism does exist in this world and this book shows how we as a society have to fight it and combat it.  The reason I loved A Mad Wicked Folly so much is while it is a discussion of the suffragette movement and feminism, it is as much as a coming of age story.

Vicky really develops as a character and that’s refreshing.  The blurb made me think I’d be getting more or less a water downed version of Downton Abbey, but that’s hardly the case.  Sure, there are bits and pieces that I guess you could say were Downton Abbey-ish but I think this was more of a thought provoking book than fluff.  And it honestly, was sort of inspiring.

Honestly, the cover and blurb were sort of a disservice to this book.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a little depressed lately with current events, but this book sort of gave me hope that things could change.  Victoria had the deck stacked against her, but somehow she was able to make her end choices at the end of the book and get what she wants.  That was refreshing.

I also enjoyed reading more about the historical aspects of the period.  Briggs did a great job describing the time period and there were some things I learned about the suffragette movement that I did not know before.  It didn’t feel like she was spoon feeding it to me either, there was something ridiculously organic about the whole thing.

It was also how scary how some of the misogyny that existed in this period is very much prevalent in the present.    The same techniques and objections that were used to keep a woman from voting in the early 1900’s are still used today.  A woman is too emotional.  Her place is at there home or with the family.  That women with ambitions are evil and unnatural.

It’s just sickening.

And it really makes you want to say fuck the patriarchy and kick some ass.

As frustrating as this is though, it also left me feeling hopeful because progress has been made.  A lot of progress.  But we still have a long way to go, but this book gave me hope that anyone can make a difference.  So, that was a plus.

Overall, I highly recommend this read.  It’s thought provoking and relative.  This book exemplifies my reason for resisting.  I am going to fight for that progress that we’ve made in the past and further it again.  And damn right, I’m going to be persistent about it.

Oh, and yeah, fuck the patriarchy.

Overall Rating: An A.

 

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In Honor of the Women’s March: Ten Iconic (Well, In My Opinion) Feminist Characters

Unfortunately, I live in a city without a Women’s March and the nearest one is about a five hour drive away which didn’t logistically fit with all the IRL obligations that I have.  However, because I am inspired by the many women out there who are marching to show solidarity and voice their feelings that women deserve equal pay, quality health care, etc.  I thought I’d make a list of ten YA characters that I believe are iconic feminists-okay, some are more overt and  gritty nitty feminists than others and I’m sure I missed a few.  But I will tell you that there were a few characters on this list who inspired me to push myself and go into a filled where quite frankly there is a lot of sexism and fight the good fight.

Just for kicks here are a few of my IRL women icons: Hillary Rodham Clinton,  Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Queen Elizabeth the I, Ida B Wells, Susan B Anthony, Sacagawea,  Marie Curie, Corrie ten Boom,  Elizabeth Warren, Frida Kahlo,  Harriet Tubman, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen,  Princess Diana, Harper Lee, Audrey Hepburn,  Meryl Streep,  Meg Cabot, my mother, my sister.  I know there are a lot of heavy hitters on that list, and some people who you’re like why are they on there, and some you’re like who is that…well, I only listed a few.  In fact, I could probably do a post on iconic real women alone.  You’d be surprised when you think about it there are a lot of female role models out there.  Often under looked.  Women’s history really needs to be taught more in the schools, unfortunately with the ignoramus who thinks that grizzly bears are in our schools being nominated as the secretary of education…it looks like it’s a pipe dream at the moment. Still though, the more you look into it there are a lot more female role models than you originally would think of.  And there’s some good fictional ones too which brings me to this list:

10) Elle Woods (from the movie, Legally Blonde)

Yep, she was going to get on this list.  She actually really helped me get through last year’s bar prep for Louisiana.  I really didn’t have any support where I was living so watching that movie (well, having it on for background noise), listening to the broadway soundtrack-over and over again-throughout the study process helped with that stress.  Also, the movie though exaggerated in part did prepare me for some of the more unsavory parts of the legal community.

Hard truth being a lady lawyer can suck.  Your faced with sexism often for both genders.  I experienced this very early on in law school because my Mac was covered with a pink hard case-big whoop dee doo, it was pink.  I like pink it doesn’t make me a dumb person, it’s just who I am but some yahoo laughed and was like there’s always one “Elle” in the class.  Well, honestly when the dick said that I smiled and acted like it didn’t bother me and I just thought in  my head everyone underestimated Elle Woods and look how she turned out at the end of the movie.

Honestly though, showing that you can overcome people’s perspectives of yourself isn’t the only thing that I got from Legally Blonde, it’s being true to yourself.  While it’s true I probably wouldn’t wear some of the outfits Elle wore to court, she didn’t try to change herself in order to fit such a rigid community.  And that’s something I try to take in with me to my practice.  Yes, I am going to be a professional and follow the guidelines that my profession has for me, but am I going to change myself to  satisfy the dick who made that remark about my Mac’s cover.

Hell no.

9) Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot):

In my brief mention of IRL superheroes, you might’ve saw that I stated Meg Cabot’s name.  That’s because in some ways Meg was the first person to really introduce me to feminism through her books.  I actually wrote an essay for my senior project in high school over female empowerment and Mia was one of the characters I used to show how feminism has evolved into what it is today.  While Mia was privilege (okay, ridiculously privilege) she has to struggle with making several choices throughout the series that requires her to embrace the power that she has.  In particular, I think the latter books of the series show this-which I really wish were out when I wrote that essay back in high school because I would’ve had a lot more things to quote.

8)  Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer):

She’s a princess, lead a revolution, and can pretty much fix any machine.  At this moment we definietly need a Cinder to defeat that Queen Levana wannabe.

7) Nancy Drew (The Nancy Drew Series and its various incarnations by Carolyn Keene):

Because she was solving mysteries long before you were alive.  And she has been an enduring symbol of lady  power so to speak.  Seriously though, Nancy has been around and she has evolved with teh times.  What I really like is that her stories are all about the mystery, not about boys (even though she is in a realtionship with a very cardboard character named Ned, should dump him for the delectable Frank Hardy but I digress) with Nancy its always about the mystery.

6) Jane Eyre:

Another pick from that high school  essay.  I actually picked up Jane Eyre because of The Princess Diaries (it was referenced a whole lot in that book) thinking I’d enjoy the romance aspects of the book.  However, when I read the book the romance was the thing that I LEAST loved about the book.  Jane Eyre worked for me, because of Jane’s journey of becoming a self assured woman.  I actually liked the fact that she and Rochester were separated for awhile.  He had to get his shit together and Jane knew it.

5)  Wonder Woman (from the DC Universe):

Wonder Corgi not Wonder Woman, but close enough.

Wonder Corgi not Wonder Woman, but close enough.

Okay, so if you look into details about her origin story not the most feminist-a bigamist came up with the idea for her.  But Wonder Woman has evolved into one of the most powerful super heroes in the DC Universe.  Is the portrayal, perfect, no.  But she has become an iconic figure.  Quite frankly, I think a lot of women superheroes need to be portrayed better than what we got, still waiting for that Black Widow movie.  But Wonder Woman is iconic and I remember as a little girl being impressed that hey a girl can be just as powerful as Superman and on the same page as the Bat.  Runner up superhero/antihero I guess in her case goes to Catwoman, who I just adore.  However, given the fact that Wonder Woman is much more known, I’m giving Diana the spot.

4) President MacKenzie Allen (from Commander and Chief):

President Allen was portrayed by Geena Davis in a very short live ABC show about the first woman/independent president.  It was a wonderful thing to see, I really wish the show would’ve continued because Mac kicked ass.  But someone in programming f’d up the show when they put it on constant hiatus.  You can still watch the series on Hulu though, and I suggest you do.  Mac not only has to deal with being president, but with all the sexism that comes from being in US politics.  I sort of view it as a “What If” America didn’t have a fucked up electoral system and didn’t discount almost 4 million votes but…hey, I’m not bitter at all.

3) Celie (from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple):

The Color Purple is probably the most serious fictional work I’m putting on this list.  Again, I used this book as part of the essay I wrote in high school.  And this book pretty much touches on every single important issue out there that faces women and people of color.  The lead character,Celie, goes through so much in this novel.  If you haven’t.  Read it.  It’s a bit graphic, I remember reading it as a high school student and crying several times.  But it is so worth it.  In fact, IRL feminist HRC recently attended the broadway show.  If HRC thinks that this needs to be seen, it needs to be seen.

2) Suze Simon (from Meg Cabot’s The Mediator Series):

Another Meg Cabot character, and probably my favorite character (I think I’ve mentioned this already in lots and lots of posts) but Suze takes action and kicks ghost butt and is completely self reliant while wearing Kate Spade shoes.  She also makes mistakes, which she cleans up and then some which is another reason why Suze is on this list.  Best YA character ever.

1) Hermione Granger (from Hermione Granger  Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)

And bonus, she serves justice to bigots.

Okay, I know the book series might’ve been called Harry Potter, but can you imagine how much better the already fantastic series would’ve been had it been in Hermione’s POV.  She’s the only reason that Harry survived.  The one boneheaded move she made was getting together with Ron, but hey…no one is perfect.  But Hermione is pretty close.

Okay, I know I missed a whole bunch.  But these were the ten that immediately came into my head.  Feel free to add your own list in the comments.  And for all those who are marching, I am with you in spirit today.

Gender and YA Tropes

Believe it or not, a lot of YA tropes are tied to gender.  Having recently read a YA book that I felt relied on gender stereotypes and thus disrupted what should’ve been a talk about worthy book, I thought I’d take the time today to discuss some of YA’s most common tropes and gender.

 

1) The Bad Boy:

Have you ever noticed it’s always the bad boy not the bad girl?

Okay, I take it back.  Occasionally, there are a few bad girls in YA but the depiction between the bad boy trope and bad girl trope are quite different.

I’ll start by defining the bad boy:

He can act like an asshole and it’s perfectly okay, he has issues (bad childhood, bad breakup, daddy issues, wearing pants that fit a little too tightly) there’s always a reason.

With the bad girl, well, she’s just a bitch.  Got to reform that hag a la Taming of the Shrew style but add some more misogyny to it.

A part of me wonders if this is mostly because the bad girl is more often than not the protagonist, but then I read Walking Disaster in which Travis “Fucking” Maddox learned not one lesson.

It’s not only the supreme ass-holeness that is treated differently, but promiscuity is also treated different as well.  Having a male character who has had multiple partners as a certain mystique about him.  Oh, conquering the big playboy.  Having a female character who had multiple partners deems her a slut.

Double standards much?

If you look at the amount of bad boy vs bad girl books out there.  Bad boy books far exceed bad girl books.  Honestly, it’s a surprise when I pick up a YA  book and see that the love interest isn’t an asshole.  However, finding a YA book without a Virgin Princess is more difficult.  Oh, sure, you can find it.  But the book is going to be all  about how that character is redeeming herself for being an awful person that has had sex.

 

2) The Mary Sue:

Mary Sues are highly prevelant in YA.  And they’re all stinking perfect.  And they all fit within stereotypical gender roles.  Since she’s the most infamous YA Mary Sue, let’s use Bella Swan from The Twilight Saga to discuss this trope in more detail.

Bella physical description is of a relatively feminine looking protagonist who’s thin, but curvy.  Who doesn’t have really any opinions of her own in the world, other than the flavor of the book and wanting to be a vampire.  And who’s useless.

Of course, Meyer tries to argue that despite her weak state, Bella is actually the most powerful character in the book.  This whole argument is climaxed by ultra Super Sue Bella! in Breaking Dawn.

Running around in evening wear has to make you extra special.

But what did the Sue do to get her powers…nothing.

Well, die after having a child birth that made me pretty sure that if I ever want to reproduce I’ll probably either get a surrogate or just  adopt.

The point is, the character didn’t struggle. She did nothing in her struggle and representation of a traditional female character.

Which isn’t a terrible thing.

It’s just kind of archaic.

And here’s where people will be like just becuase you’re a feminist doesn’t mean I have to be one too.

True, you don’t.  And I respect the decisions that Bella made (even though I wholeheartedly disagree with them), but for the love of  God you should at least address that the situation is not ideal.   Why can’t this character be flawed physically, have goals that don’t involve her boyfriend or being turned into a monster, and if she wanted to go the traditional route have it make sense.

Of course, not all Sues are as extreme as Bella (well, not all have a demon baby), but almost all of them end up leaning on the significant other.  And give an unhealthy look on codependence.

 

3) The Virginal Myth:

Oh, dear lord.

If you lose your V card, girls, it’s not the end of the world.  The myth just started because of concerns of legitimacy prior before Maury Povich started telling men whether they were or were not the daddy.

However, many YA books would tell you that you’re going to be ruined if you have sex.

Okay, in recent years this trope has thankfully faded a little.  I credit writers like Meg Cabot for this.  Several of her Princess Diaries novels address the ridiculousness of this crap.

However, there are still certain books that employ this stupid trope.  Most recently, I read a 2006 novel (Ten Things I Hate About Me) that used this stupid trope to the point where I had to DNF it.  Grant it, the book had religious undertones but I’d say that sexism not religion made the bulk of the erroneous arguments in this sad excuse of a novel.

This trope is not only limited to contemporaries, but to paranormals as well.  Remember The Immortals series, well, virginity played a huge role into that obnoxiously long series.

4) Dresses!  Dresses!  Dresses!:

I sort of went off on this one in my review of The Jewel, but dresses seem to be a big marketing device in YA.

To be honest, I don’t mind being manipulated.

At least superficially because I love pretty dresses.

However, when the dresses are actually included in the book that’s where I have the problem.

To sum up my review on The Jewel and I guess on my review of the Selection trilogy-now omnibus series-is that the dresses are used to try to hide issues with the book.  And with both of these books, it caused more problems in good.

Plus, as a woman, I’m sort of insulted that an author/publisher thinks that a pretty dress can totally distract me.

Cover yes.  But a description of a pretty dress…well, I’d rather just look at them.

5)Slut Slamming:

You ever notice how dudes are never slammed.  This one, sort of goes back to trope number one.  But instead of focusing on the lead characters, I’ll be talking more about the side characters.

For example, I recently read Josephine Angelini’s Trial by Fire in which the main character’s crush ( a relatively minor character) turns out to be cheating on her.  Later, when she meets his AU he’s still a playboy but instead of faulting him for it.  She’s perfectly okay with it.

Now, skip about three hundred pages and and the main character is calling a bit character a slut.

The same goes with Alexandra Adornetto’s recent release, Ghost House.  Adornetto’s work has also been filled with slut slamming, and Ghost House was no different.  But what makes this particular book worthy of mentioning is that the character that was constantly being slut slammed was having an affair with the love interest.  And that character wasn’t blamed for anything. While all the blame was put on the other party.


Concluding Thoughts: To be honest, I could’ve continued going on about this but I thought for now this would give you a general idea about just how polarizing tropes can be in their views towards gener.  It’s sort of a shame, considering that a lot of YA is female oriented.  Do I think it’s something the publishing industry cook fix?  Absolutely.  Do I think it will be fixed anytime soon?  Probably not.