Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Introduction to Aunt Flo

"For perhaps the first time in your active, tom-boy life, you must accept the fact that you are a girl. ... You're a girl and you are getting ready for the special role of childbearing. ... You may think you were intended to be a Hollywood star, or a scientist, or a great writer. But your body ignores all this ... When you know the happiness of childbirth - you will be acting the role you were created for." -- On Becoming A Woman (1958)

Yes, that's 1958, folks. Women can't be scientists or writers in Eisenhower's America. Gotta get with the procreation.

I'm reading Stein and Kim's FLOW: The Cultural Story of Menstruation and so far it has made me really, really angry. I want to go back in time and bitch-slap the two women who wrote On Becoming A Woman (yes, women authors) for trying to make a generation of girls feel they were the sum of their genital parts.

But as a militant feminist I suppose I should cut the authors some slack as brain-washed puppets of the oppressive male hierarchy. Reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale where the wife enjoyed the power she had while getting her husband installed as leader, only to realize afterward that their ultra-conservative views restricting women included her too.

Here's another thing that sent the anger meter spinning: the adverts for "feminine hygiene" douches. Want to know one of the products advertising its ability to provide women with "appealing daintiness"?


Yes, really. Lysol. As recent as the 1950s. "For complete Feminine Hygiene rely on Lysol. A Concentrated Germ Killer."

Scrub out the toilet and your vaginal canal! So economical!

There was also Zonite - "For newer feminine hygiene". Wanna know what Zonite was? Tough, I'm going to tell you anyway.


Apparently internal scalding was fine with the FDA, as long as not too many women die.

I tell you, I'm going to hit someone before this book is finished.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace, Joy and Pug Love

In the spirit of the season, I offer you this -


May we all have plenty of peace, joy, and pug spit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spread of Technology

So, I've been seriously restricted in my access to the interwebz this week (a source of much chagrin and many conniption fits, lemme tell ya), and I started to wonder how humanity ever survived without being able to tweet about cat antics or lint or the contents of one's coffee to the world.

And then I was reminded of all those classic sci-fi episodes of Doctor Who and Blake's Seven and Star Trek where the Highly Advanced Technologically Dependent Civilization were all just a bunch of big heads because their reliance on technology had caused their unused bodies to wither away.

Remember those?

And then it occurred to me that those episodes were obviously written by active young men who did not actually ever sit around all day in front of a computer.

Because any woman will tell you, letting technology do the walking does NOT encourage bodily withering.

In fact, sitting in front of a computer all day encourages the body to cushion-up the whole seat area, so the sitting experience is more comfortable. So those aliens really should have been massively pear-shaped.

Do I have a point? Am I saying that my days away from the computer, days spent actually locomotivating my body around the house have been a wonderful break and shown me the value of incorporating an exercise regimen into my life?


I'm saying, having to go to the library rather than having the library come to me over the web is Big Time Annoying.

And coming up with activities that allow me to Avoid Actual Work is way harder without access to LOLcats and Twitter and Facebook.

Which reminds me, I really must get to Farmville - my crops could be withering.

What? No, I don't want to go outside and dig in the dirt, I want to harvest my crops. Yes, I know they're pixels. But they're withering, I tell you!

Ah, very funny. I heard you say, "At least something's withering." Shut up and send me a sheep.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pugs Are Everywhere

One of the points I make in my book PugSpotting is that pug owners like to involve pugs in everything they do.

If you can put a pug in it, pug owners are there and have done it.

Random insertions of pugs in books and artwork? Check.

Pugs on utensils, inkwells, match holders, cigarette cases, and finials? Check.

Pug-shaped teapots, pounce pots, and salt-and-pepper shakers? Check.

If you can take your pug with you, pug owners have done that, too. And not just out for a walk or to a restaurant.

Pugs exploring the Old West? Check.

Pugs circumnavigating the globe? Check.

Pugs going to staff an embassy in Afghanistan. Check.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In 1879, Maj. Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari, K.C.B. C.I.E., Bengal Staff Corps, brought his pug with him to staff the Kabul Embassy.

Since this was during the 3rd Afghan War, you might perhaps think this was not the most secure place to take a pug. And you would be right. The Kabul Mission was massacred down to the last man - and there had been about 100 of them.

The sole survivor of the massacre was Cavagnari's pug.

The British would re-enter Kabul, of course, and the resourceful little pug was rescued and sent home to Lady Cavagnari. Amazing, right? True story.

This holiday season, I wish you all the luck of Cavagnari's pug. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Roasting Romance

If someone were to come up to you and sneer, "I don't write romance. I write a real love story involving real people grappling with real dilemmas*," is your response:

a) "Oh, so you do write romance, then?"

b) "Pretentious, much?"

c) "I assume this dismissal of an entire genre was reached through extensive primary research and authoritative secondary sources, or do you simply find unfounded, sweeping generalizations to be easier than actual cognition?"

It both angers and saddens me that romance - consistently one of the best selling genres - is still in this day and age consistently the object of ridicule - and by people who should know better.

[The "romance" genre] sucks all the oxygen out of the room. It sets up expectations and lays down rules of what "romance" should be and what great sex is like.*


That's your final answer?

You're saying romance readers can't differentiate between a romance novel, that is to say Fiction, and Real Life?

I'd be insulted, except now I'm wondering what the "rules" to "great sex" are than aren't actually involving of great sex.

I mean, are you saying that fictional great sex does not actually resemble real great sex? Because then I am .... confused. Isn't "great sex" by definition ... great?

I'm not seeing where the bad is.

It can't possibly be because great sex from a woman's point-of-view is less valid than the male's.

Because that might lead one to suspect the assumption that romance is read and written mostly by women is one reason the genre is devalued.

But that's just paranoid thinking, isn't it? Women's literary achievements aren't overlooked these days.**

But to return to the blog post that started this rant, lastly, there's this gem:

I don't do sex because I'm more interested in love -- and love takes place in the mind where it has to fight for its existence against all the other challenges presented by life.*

Some might say sex is one of those challenges, and as such needs to be addressed.

Some might say exploring the experience of love without a nod to sex is like exploring the Godiva store with your mouth taped shut.

Others might point out that if you're having sex without love, perhaps this is something you should discuss with your therapist.

Because, when you get right down to it, most criticism of the romance genre says a lot more about the critic than it does about the genre.

*actual quotes
**Publishers Weekly’s list of top 10 best books of 2009 contains no female authors. Not one.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Libellous Fiction

Nathaniel Hawthorne (who as you can see was somewhat of a hottie) also experienced libel accusations in regard to one of his most famous works of fiction.

In The House of Seven Gables, the name of the corrupt, evil villain is Judge Pyncheon. It just so happens that there actually was a Judge Pyncheon, and one of his descendents wrote to Hawthorne, complaining of libel.

Hawthorne responded:

"It pains me to learn that I have given you what I am content to acknowledge a reasonable ground for offense, by borrowing the name of the Pyncheon family for my fictitious purposes, in the "House of the Seven Gables."

It never occurred to me, however, that the name was not as much the property of a romance-writer as that of Smith, for instance...

I intended no allusion to any Pyncheons, now or at any previous period extant...

You suggest that reparation is due for these injuries of my pen, but point out no mode in which it may be practicable. It is my own opinion that no real harm has been done; inasmuch as I expressly enter a protest, in the preface to "The House of the Seven Gables," against the narrative and the personages being considered as other than imaginary."

The entire letter is very apologetic in tone, and it seems that this was enough to "pacify" the complainant.

As it happens, we know Hawthorne absolutely meant no libel toward any Pyncheons because we know precisely on whom Judge Pyncheon was based.

But that is a tale for another day. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Libellous Fiction

You may have heard how a Georgia jury found the author of The Red Hat Club, a novel, libeled her former friend by basing a character in the book on her - going so far as to even identify her actual neighbors - and adding that she was a right-wing, atheist, sexually promiscuous alcoholic.

Not a combination of adjectives you see every day.

Unsurprisingly, the victim was upset. Surprisingly, she won and was awarded $100,000 in damages.

This is surprising because normally in the US works of fiction enjoy great latitude - publishers are protected by the plausible deniability of having published the work "in good faith," plus there's that little disclaimer at the beginning of each novel where it specifically says it's a work of fiction and not to be construed as fact.

One news article pointed out that many famous writers based their characters on people they knew. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

That doesn't mean they got away with it.

In 1911 Britain, a "little-known actor" sued an author whose story was appearing in installments in a weekly paper. He felt one of her characters, an actor, was libelling him. She protested that the character was "purely fictitious."

He won and was awarded $1,000 in damages. (over $23,000 now)

The author decided "as a protest against and in ridicule of the English libel laws, under which it has become dangerous for an author or publisher to use the commonest names in fiction, lest persons bearing similar cognomens should take legal proceedings" to release her novel with all the names changed to famous people's. (After asking their permission, of course.)

G.K. Chesterton, author of the Father Brown mysteries (among many other things), thus became the name of the book's "fiery-tempered lover."

In fact, Chesterton responded to her appeal with, "You can rely on me to bring no libel action. You may depict me as a burglar, or as a man who steals pennies from the blind, or a beggar, or even as a politician."

Very cool dude.