Do you watch Scandal? On the whole, I’m not always sure how I feel about the show. Ashamedly, I am still a fan of the sudsy and possibly too-long-running Grey’s Anatomy because sexy times is a central theme at the expense of medicine and I’m OK with that. It’s possible that I am not as committed to Scandal as to Grey’s Anatomy because I can not suspend my disbelief that Olivia would be in love with Fitz. He is whiny, not particularly in touch with anything happening around him and kind of annoying. What does she see in him? She is literally too good for his nonsense. Also, I cheered when Mellie gave Fitz her ultimatum and went through the tunnel I cheered. I love Mellie like I love Sana Stark (more on her later) in that I appreciate women who shamelessly fight for themselves.
On the other hand, New Girl has completely sold me. I have abdicated my seat as president of the Zooey Deschanel hater club. First she started talking about feminism in media and then she starting playing a character that didn’t make me want to gouge my brain out and I had to surrender. This show has had such a strong season compared to season one, where the three male roommates were the only reason I didn’t bounce.
I am very fascinated by midwives and nurses. This is obviously because they do really important and often-over-looked work in the medical system. It also because they are centrally important to women having control over their medical treatment. As such, I am really enjoying the BBC series Call the Midwife. I found it on Netflix (Aashish performed magic and now our Netflix is American and this might be illegal — ? — but it’s so good). It has all the elements that I love in British television — clipped accents, restrained acting, shout outs for socialized health care and women who look like normal people. Do watch it.
Iron Man 3. I know this movie has been very divisive but I enjoyed it. Tony Stark is sexy and Pepper Potts has a great moment at the end of the movie where she levels up hard/becomes better than Iron Man and I cheered and was the only one in the movie theatre to do so. This is probably because I spend a stupid amount of time analyzing the representation of women in comic book movies. (Don’t ask me about The Avengers, Joss Whedon failed me.) Unrelated, I subscribed to goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s weirdly precious newsletter, and it’s actually got good recipes?
Game of Thrones is breaking my little heart. There’s no way Jon Snow and Ygritte end well. She keeps going on and on about how they’re only for each other and they’re in it together, which is pretty much the verbal death knell for love on this show. However, let’s hear it for Khaleesi? She was starting to grate on me when she was wandering around and whining and listening to old guys with dubious advice, but I’m excited to see she’s actually doing something cool now. And I don’t care what anyone says, I still hope for a happy ending for Sansa Stark. She was the stupid little girl who any of us could have been and she’s finally becoming aware of her own selfish naiveté. I feel that not all is lost for her. I’d also like to see something good and permanent happen to Arya for once.
What are you watching?
Yesterday I had the pleasure of going up to the Banff Centre to speak at the annual Creative Non-Fiction Collective Conference. Now, if you don’t know anything about the Banff Centre, you should know that it’s one of the premiere hubs for creativity in Canada. The campus reminds me of a summer camp for adults — except more polished and sleek than the basic wood cabins of my youth — where creative people can come stay for a one-month (or more) residency to work on whatever project they’ve got going. You have to apply, and it’s very competitive, but poets, musicians, journalists, writers, actors and other creative people live and work in this amazing space. They have a literary journalism residency that I would love to do one day. Unfortunately I need an idea first.
This was my first time speaking at a conference as an “expert.” Fortunately I’ve seen a few presentations on digital media and I’ve worked in magazines long enough that I had a sense of what I could talk about, but I was pretty nervous. I was scheduled to speak on the plenary panel about “What the heck is going on” in digital media. I focused on magazine publishing and spoke about digital editions and websites. I was pleased with how it went.
After my panel I joined the conference attendees for lunch and then took in an afternoon session on travel writing. Now, when I think of travel writing I think of the service-oriented pieces that tell you where to go and what to see when you’re there. I actually have a food-oriented travel piece on Mexico coming up in the May issue of Avenue. Holler! However I quickly learned that there’s a lot more to travel writing, and it seems like the kind of writing I’d like to try.
Our panellists were Glenn Dixon and Marcello di Cintio, both travel writers who have written several books. They spoke a lot about writing about your travels with a moral perspective and focusing on the people. They believe that travel writing that tells the reader “this is where I went and this is what I saw, let me describe it you” is over. People are more interested in reading a book that takes them to a place and tells them something meaningful about the culture and the people. Of course, this requires a lot of research. If you’re going to make judgments on a place, you better know what the hell you’re talking about.
It’s a risky proposition to me — it could be very easy to accuse someone of ethnocentrism if they’re a Canadian white dude writing about Africa — but I think there’s some merit to it. If you position yourself, as Dixon and di Centio suggested, as an honest and well-researched narrator, you are entitled to your opinion. It’s just one opinion. Assuming that you’re not a racist, it could actually be a very interesting reflection of how outsiders see a culture. di Cintio was quick to say that he’s tired of the trope that we’re all the same, because we are not, and that’s the beauty of travel.
I took a trip to Berlin last fall and I’m writing it up for a service-oriented travel story. Maybe I’ll try to squeeze in a few observations about the people and the places that go beyond the general, “If you go to Berlin you absolutely can’t miss the Bundestag.” (Which is true. You really should check it out.)
One of the things that makes Game of Thrones most compelling is the constant threat of violence that pervades the show.
There are the obvious threats of violence — you’re either with the Lannisters or against the Lannisters and will be treated accordingly — but then there are the more subtle aspects. The way that characters who seemingly don’t mind each other, and maybe even like each other a little, threaten to harm each other. I’m thinking most recently of Jon Snow and his Wildling crew; Mance Rayder gives permission to his underling to throw Jon off the wall if he’s not helpful and last season, Jon and his soon-to-be Wildling girlfriend, Ygritte (I’m shipping so hard for them right now), discussed at length while trudging through the snow drifts all the instances in which the other could be killed. And it’s fair to say that Mance and Ygritte trust Jon Snow at least somewhat.
Generally speaking, the violence on this television program can be drawn along gender lines: the men tend to fall in battle and on the end of a sword and the women fall in the domestic sphere. I use the term “domestic” loosely, but the violence that the women experience on Game of Thrones is often confined to private spaces and comes in the forms of slaps, rape and other brutal forms of dominance.
What made this last episode so interesting was that they flipped it — the men seemed to be victims of brutal violence and the women were left largely unharmed. And the ways in which the men were harmed were distinctly lacking in bravery and valour. There was a distinct element of dominance to all examples. Without spoiling by getting into specifics, we saw multiple victims of crucifixion, someone nearly be sodomized and a hand chopped off. None of these victims were actually killed (although some are close to death) and if they live, will live with the after-effects of that violence.
It feels relevant because of the bumpy first season of this show. As I have written previously, Game of Thrones practically marinated in the titillation of female exploitation. And when the writers weren’t blatantly harming women for allegedly plot-advancing reasons, they were using them in a way that is now called “sexposition.” Meaning, crucial conversations that advanced the plot were had while in the midst of intercourse, often seasoned with an element of dominance and violence (See: any interaction that Theon Greyjoy has with a woman.)
I don’t know what this means for the show and for the development of the characters but slight shifts in the dynamics of sex and violence on this show are very interesting to me. We shall see what happens next.
After all, creator George R.R. Martin has said he’s a feminist.
Bonus reading: 9 ways in which Game of Thrones is actually feminist.
Today we’re talking about marriage.
Here are a few different columns highlighting why it’s a good idea for women to marry young:
- I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for?
- Princeton mom tells young women to get married (preferably to her son), angers feminists
- You should get married as early as possible, but no earlier (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? How am I supposed to follow advice I can’t understand??)
You should read these columns because they’re generally funny and absurd, sprinkled lightly with a few pieces of wisdom that are actually useful (example: looking for your soulmate might actually set you up for disappointment because the idea of a soulmate is problematic).
But mostly these columns are fear-mongering about how if women get too picky or self-centred they’re going to miss all the good men. Women shouldn’t worry about sacrificing their career or limiting their choices because if they pick the right person that won’t be a problem. They can grow into adults while they are married (as opposed to before) and they can even share a cellphone family plan!
OK. Fine. I agree that if you pick the right partner then you will be loved and supported and (mostly) free to pursue your dreams.
But what no one can actually articulate is why you need to get married. You can have a supportive long-term spouse with whom you’re in a common law relationship or domestic partnership. Hell, the government/your employers will still give you all the benefits (unless you’re gay in America, OOPS!) and you can even bank together if that makes you wild.
My problem is not with the idea of getting married young. My problem is that it’s still appropriate to tell young women how to live their lives and that (heterosexual) marriage is still the ideal for so many people. My parents were together but unmarried for like 4 or 5 years before they decided to tie the knot. It literally made no difference to me except for the fact that we had a sweet party and then I got to go to France.
This isn’t to say I don’t understand the attraction to or significance of marriage. I mean, at some point I’ll probably want to throw myself a gigantic party and get one of my friends to buy me a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer in an attractive colour. (That’s the entire point of a registry, right? Luxury kitchenware? Because it’s not like anyone needs this stuff for their very first home anymore.) Marriage is a lovely and time-honoured way to recognize your relationship with your partner. Also, many people report, it makes it you think twice before bailing on the relationship because there’s lots of paperwork involved.
Get married when you want, or don’t. I don’t really care. If you do get married, I will attend and buy you something nice from your registry. I will hang your wedding picture on my fridge and think nice thoughts about you. I will probably ask you to do the same for me at some point (I would like the mixer in Majestic Yellow, please, because I am Majestic) and be happy as a clam about it.
For now, I am going to focus on my career and summon all my courage not to worry about all the 21-year-olds locking down the last good men. But in case I get panicky and find myself needing to close a deal, Glamour magazine has helpfully posted a recipe for Engagement Chicken on its website (chicken that should you make for a man if you want him to propose, I shit you not).