Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nasty Women by Various Authors


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher and the authors.

It was a feast. Not quite everything I'd hoped for, but most of it, and even from the articles I was not keen on, there was always something to learn.

It's by an assortment of authors, only one of whom I'd heard of before, and every one a women. It's about women and women's issues, and it ought to be required reading regardless of your race, gender, or orientation. The women are of different backgrounds and circumstances and with different perspectives, which in a way is what makes it powerful since they do tend to speak with a common voice. That's not to say that once you've read one of these essays, you've read them all. Far from it.

Since it was written by a variety though, it's a bit patchy and uneven, and there were a few issues I had with it, so while I enjoyed it, I felt it did not make for the strongest voice it could have had. One issue is that it's quite insular in some respects - it's very much a Scots thing. Fortunately, I love Scotland, and have been there more than once.

That said, the voices came from women of a variety of backgrounds and even a variety of nationalities, but it made it seem quite provincial for so many voices to hail from Edinburgh and very few other places. Additionally, the cross-section of society they represented was rather narrow at least in the regard that these women were all writers, so we got only that perspective (although one was a writer interviewing a musician).

They were mostly white, and mostly young, and giving only their own personal opinion of their own experience, which is fine, but we need to keep that in mind as we read their words. The ones who wrote about the musical world - which were well-worth reading, please note - were seemingly all from the punk segment of what is a vast musical world, so even there it must be noted (pun intended!) we got a slim cross-section.

So overall it bears keeping in mind that this did not come off as a representative sample, but one facet rooted in intense personal experience. That doesn't invalidate it. Far from it. It makes it very personal and for me it was enough. Here are my thoughts on the articles.

  • Independence Day by Katie Muriel is a perfectly understandable opining as to why the US elected a misogynist president. For me as a US resident, it made perfect, if nauseating, sense that he was elected. I was not at all surprised by it, but with regard to this essay, I felt it lacked a vital component, especially for a feminist perspective. Muriel's essay completely ignored Trump's opponent, who was a woman! Why Muriel didn't feel any need to explore this is a mystery to me.

    I know this essay was focused largely on her own personal perspective vis-à-vis her family, all of whom supported Trump (who won not on a popular majority vote but upon an electoral majority vote, let it be noted). I have to ask why Muriel didn't want to explore the fact that Trump's opponent was Hilary Clinton or why four million voters, who could have kept Trump out of office, failed to "man" up on the day.

    Was the country so afraid of Hilary Clinton that they would rather have a misogynist than her? If so, why? Are they merely afraid of any Clinton? Or any "liberal"? While I appreciate that this was an up-close-and-personal story for the author, there is so much more to be said here, and so many more questions to ask. I enjoyed the essay, but felt it lacked some teeth.

  • Why I'm No Longer a Punk Rock 'Cool Girl' by Kristy Diaz was an exploration of musical addiction and pigeonholes, and how women are treated in the punk world. It felt a bit juvenile to me because it is such a juvenile thing to try to classify a person by musical genre. It can't be honestly done, but music is such a huge part of young people that this fact tends to be overlooked. There is nothing more shallow than introducing yourself to another person by asking them what kind of music they're into, as though that's all they are or can be, and nothing else matters!

    I think the essay might have benefited from the perspective of the US, where everything is micro-labeled and rigidly pigeon-holed, most probably, in the final analysis, for purely commercial purposes. I haven't lived in the UK for a long time, so this author's perspective was interesting to me, but when I did live there, it was one chart, and that was it. All music failed or succeeded in competition with all other music, and the variety was magnificent.

    The essay was also interesting for me because as a teen and a young man I never was - nor felt- categorized by my musical taste, probably because I didn't have one specific kind of music I was interested in. Music was music - not some genre or other, and I liked it or I didn't like it not because it was 'my genre' or 'my band', but because it appealed or it didn't on its own merit.

    It was engaging to read about Diaz's experience, though. In some ways I felt bad not that she was labeled for her clothing and appearance, which is an awful thing to do to anyone, but because in some ways she seemed to be limiting herself when there is so much more to be had. but it takes all kinds and I enjoyed her story and learned from it. That's never a bad thing.

  • Black Feminism Online: Claiming Digital Space by Claire L. Heuchan really reached me. It was a light touch which carried a heavy weight, and it was a joy to read. You can't properly understand what these events in a person's life are like unless you've lived them, but you can get an inkling from reading a well-written essay like this one. The only sour note for me was when I read this: "Samantha Asumadu, a Black woman, is the founding editor of Media Diversified - a news site with content written entirely by people of colour."

    In an essay about racism, that appalled me. It really struck sour note that a business named Media Diversified employs only people of color. How racist is that? Racism isn't something that's just done to black people by white folk. It's any skin color lording it over any other skin color, and for the author to write something like that uncritically, and apparently not see the hypocrisy in it was quite shocking.

    You can't fix a pendulum in society that's swung too far in one direction by ramming it just as far in the other. You have to halt it in the middle and never let it move again. That said, the rest of the essay spoke volumes to me - and in a much better way than that one sentence did.

  • Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception by Jen McGregor was a heart-breaking history of one woman's ill-fated exploration of contraception. This is one more thing that guys expend little time upon, but which in all its ramifications, occupies a large part of every woman's life, if only through problems with the monthly red tide.

    In this case, Jen McGregor's co-dependent relationship (as it seems she's describing it!) with Depo-Provera is told in an informative and very engaging way, and it makes for a sad, sad reading experience not because it's written badly, but because it's written only too well. This author is a very creative writer.

  • These Shadows, These Ghosts by Laura Lam was an oddity because I didn't see how this was specifically about women's issues. Yes, the story she told was about a female relative of yesteryear, but the things which happened to her grandmother are not things which are specific to women. They can affect men, too, and spousal abuse isn't solely something that's done to a woman by a man, so I'm not sure what this contributed except in that it was written by a woman about women.

    I guess you can slap the label 'Nasty Woman' on a woman who purposefully shoots her husband (and this author had two relatives, both of whom did this: one merely shot him in the leg, but the other woman shot her husband to death and ended up in a psychiatric institution (She got better!). The story was interesting, but it's hardly something you can generalize to all women! I guess you can in a vague way, but this seemed not of the same hue as the previous essays I'd read to this point.

  • The Nastiness of Survival by Mel Reeve was a hard one to read, but it has to be read and understood. And probably more than once. Horrors like this one (although they're all individual) are the reason I wrote Bass Metal. You can't put a label on this and neatly file it away in an appropriate category. It doesn't work like that and anyone who thinks it does or that it should isn't getting the message. I can't speak for anyone but me, but as I see it, the message is that unless you have a clear, positive, unambiguous, willing, sober, mentally competent, age legal, un-coerced, un-bribed, unforced consent, the answer is a resounding "NO!" It's that simple, and everyone needs to fully internalize this.

  • Against Stereotypes: Working Class Girls and Working Class Art by Laura Waddell was a great article with some interesting and observant things to say. I've never been big into paintings or sculptures, but this author has a way of writing that engages the reader and brings her point home. I liked and appreciated this.
  • Go Home by Sim Bajwa

    Errata: I had probably wouldn't have had access to the opportunities that I've taken for granted." One too many words here! I suspect it's the second one in that sentence.

    This sentence caught my eye: "I'm scared and grieving for anyone in the US who isn't white, straight, cis, male, and able-bodied. The terror is bone deep." While I probably live in an area which is more liberal (even if in a more conservative state), I have to say that there isn't any terror here, despite this state being home to the third highest number of hate groups in the nation. That doesn't mean it isn't happening at all, just that Bajwa's sentece is a bit panicked. Hateful crime - mostly graffiti, but including threats - has increased since Trump's election, but to make a wild blanket statement like this is inflammatory and scaremongering.

    Here's another sentence I take issue with: "He said very clearly that he would ban Muslims and refugees from entering the United States. With the Executive Order he signed in January 2017, he did just that. People's lives, security, and families snatched away, for no other crime than being an immigrant."

    This is a blanket statement which unfortunately mixes crackdowns on illegal immigrants with legal immigrants and residents, thereby muddying the water, with ridiculous suggestions that all people of color are being turfed out! This kind of wild accusation helps nothing, least of all the case this author is trying to make. Is the author arguing that that illegal immigrants should not be deported? I've noticed this 'reverse' viewpoint often in this kind of rhetoric - where the illegality of what's been going on is never addressed. You cannot trust an author who writes so indiscriminately, so the power which this article might have had was lost for me.

  • Love in a Time of Melancholia by Becca Inglis

    This is the name of a song by Prolyphic, but here it's a paean to Courtney Love, who has never been a love of mine, so this fell completely flat for me! If a person wants to write about someone who helped them, that's fine, but it;s also a very personal thing. As for me, I'm frankly tired of reading stories about people who somehow fell off one wagon or another, and later reformed (whether permanently or not) and then having praise heaped upon them. Where are the stories about people who never fell off the wagon and helped someone? I think those people show greater heroism, and for that they are sadly under-served, so this story really just rubbed me the wrong way. But it's not my story and maybe others will see things in it I did not, so I have nothing else to say about it. You either like ti or you don't - or worse, you're indifferent to it!

  • Choices by Rowan C. Clarke is a great story about her unhappy childhood, her constant 'at odds' status with regard to the utterly absurd and downright evil 'standard' of beauty we as a society forcibly impose upon women almost right from birth. This is another reason I wrote Bass Metal. It's also the reason I wrote Femarine.

    You cannot go into supermarket without being paradoxically bombarded on the one side of the checkout aisle with fattening candy, and on the other side of that same aisle with magazines aimed at women, every one of which obsessively-compulsive tells women they are fat, ugly, and useless in bed and they'd better get with the program or they never will get a man (the LGBTIAQ-crew don't count for squat in any of these magazines, please note).

    I'm not a woman, I don't even play one on TV, but half my genes are female, so I think that gives me some sort of a voice, and that voice has to say that those magazines - the ones available in open public sale, and visible to children, are far more pernicious and abusive to woman than any amount of porn if only because they are out there, insidious and so very "innocent" aren't they?

    So I was with this author all the way from "You can distill a life..." to "...my story was just one of them."

  • 'Touch Me Again and I Will Fucking Kill You' by Ren Aldridge

    This author argues that "...we're not brought up to feel that we're entitled to other people's bodies.", but this is exactly what advertising does - to make people feel that the body you see in the ad, and by extension, the body you see on the modelling runway, on TV, and in the movies, is that one you ought to have instead of the one you're stuck with, and if you only spend enough money on our products, you can have it. Really.

    This pressure, from birth very nearly, forces far too many women to chase after a dream which may or may not, in any individual case, be attainable, and people chase this without questioning whether it's realistic, or even a sensible thing to do. This plays into the culture where unless a woman is thin and pale and dressed like she's ready to get it on, she's not worth shit.

    This is pounded into our heads, men and women alike, and even into children's malleable minds on a daily basis. This in turn plays into the idea of male privilege - that these are the women who need to be available to men, and if they fall short of the standard, there's something wrong not with the men, but with the women who fall short of what men think they should be.

    If you want to take the wider perspective - and several of these writers have argued that - then you need to really take in the bigger picture, not just focus on a few tiny jigsaw pieces, mistakenly thinking that in this microcosm, you have it all. You don't. I'm not sure I agree that there's a rape culture out there, but there's most assuredly a male privilege ethos, and perhaps a part of this can be described as rape culture.

    I'm a male who has never been raped, never been ogled or fondled. Well once I was fondled, in Israel, and by a man! And when I was a lot younger! Does that give me any idea of what it's like to live with this day in, day out? No, it doesn't, which is why I need to read articles like this one, even if I don't get it all or don't always agree with viewpoints. We don't need to read these until we agree with all viewpoints. It would be a sad world if we all always agreed on everything, but we do need to read these articles until we get some real understanding of what it's like, and put our asses in gear to end this evil ethos which is all around us.

    The author argues that, "What needs to be fought for, is survivors' rights to define and position our own experiences on this continuum." I don't think anyone in their right mind is seeking to deny that, but this statement confuses two different needs: the absolute right of a person who has suffered to define it in their own terms, and the need to define it in legal terms for the sake of not only prosecuting the law but of identifying and reporting the problem. It's a mistake to conflate these two things in my opinion.

    I get where this is coming from: "They don't try to prescribe what sexual harassment, assault or any other form of gendered violence is, but leave it open to the survivor to define their own experience," but that doesn't help to make this a thing that's illegal and/or unacceptable, nor does it make it something that can be taught to others to be on guard against, and to cease perpetrating. It has to be objectively defined for those purposes, but that doesn't mean a person upon whom this violence was perpetrated cannot define it in their own terms as well! But this was a great personal testimony.

  • On Naming by Nadine Aisha Jassat was one of the few essays in the collection which fell a bit flat for me. On the one hand I can see where the writer is coming from, but on the other, it felt like a baseless rant in many respects.

    The author writes, "I look at my signature and sigh, enjoy the full sight of it next to the name of my organisation making clear who I am, what I do, and what I stand for. I feel a certainty that I will not accept anything less going ahead. People need to know who they are dealing with." Having read this, I have to say that I do fully empathize with the author. I'm one of the white males who are railed at so often in these articles, that the writing itself comes off as racist at times, but I get Ian (ee-an) pronounced as "eye-an" often, and I also get 'Wood' with an extra 's' added on the end, like there's more than one of me, and I live with it. You know why? It's because I am not defined by my name. My name isn't all that I am. Realistically speaking, it's an insignificant part of me when you get right down to it.

    It's not even my name. I didn't choose it. I didn't have any say in it, and that last name came from my father, not my mother. I had no say in that either, and if I had been a girl, I would have lost my mom's name! But wait, it wasn't her name, it was her father's! That's why I find it so hilarious that so many women chose to keep their "maiden" name given that it's far from a maiden name - it's a male patriarch's name! This is why I read this article with a certain amount of wonderment at this author's rather strident protestations.

    While I do believe anyone is entitled to be called whatever they want to be called, and certainly they're perfectly within their rights to protect that name from mispronunciation, I'd advise keeping in mind this fact: it's a serious mistake to confine yourself in a box where your name is all you are.

    Now that may well be the wrong impression, but it is a distinct impression I kept getting from this essay, and I think that's a bigger insult to yourself than any mispronunciation of a name could offer you. You are more than your name and while you're obsessing over that, you're missing so much else in life. So yes, please do make a point of correcting people who get it wrong, but remember there's more to life than it, and you make yourself seem very small when you focus so tightly on that one thing.

    I found it curious that this author wrote: "Even now as I write at my computer, a red line zigzags under Uzoamaka, whilst Tchaikovsky goes unchecked. A subtle reminder, programmed in, of who the system works for and who is out of place."

    I'm sorry, but I found this to be entirely wrong-headed! If Uzoamaka had been a famous composer (or artist, or sports personality or movie star), then you can bet it would be in the spell-checker, but no word processor can possibly accommodate every variation of every spelling of every person's name out of seven or eight billion on Earth! I'm sorry, but that's quite simply an idiotic expectation! It truly rendered this into a juvenile rant rather than a reasonable argument, and for me it didn't help her cause one bit.

    I invite this author try a few more names before she counts her sampling complete. How about Sacajawea? That get red-lined? I thought not. What about Basquiat? Nope? Aung San Suu Kyi? No red-line there, either (not in Word, but Google can;t handle it as I write this! How about Uhuru? None there! Malala Yousafzai? Not an inkling of red ink. Imran Khan? Nope! Whoopi Goldberg gets in even under her original name: Caryn Johnson! Even Li Nguyen made it past the red-line and that's a fictional character in another review I wrote.

    So no, I think the issue here is whether the name is one likely to be used - just like it is with every other word in your word processor dictionary! Try English spellings of words in Microsoft Word when it's set for American usage, and see how many red-lines you get! It's not racism. It's not bias. It's not misogyny. It's not an attempt by da man (that didn't get red-lined!) to keep you down. It's just a matter of what's practical and what isn't.

    As I write this, neither Nadine nor Aisha is underlined, only 'Jassat', but that gets no praise from this author that two out of three ain't bad! Seriously, The final joke of this essay was that never once in this entire rant does Nadine Aisha Jassat actually tell us how her name is pronounced, so for me this essay was one of the very few complete fails in this whole collection.


  • Laura Jane Grace in conversation with Sasha de Buyl-Pisco

    This was an interview with a mtf transgendered musician. I found it curious that the author had nothing to say about a couple of articles I read in the British newspaper The Guardian which indicate on the one hand cluelessness on the part of the subject of the interview, and on the other, cluelessness on the part of the guardian writer!

    Here's the first:

    ...[Laura Jane Grace's] fear that she wouldn't be able to cope with raising a son ("knowing I wouldn't be able to be the proper male role model he would need")"
    - because no child can possibly grow up healthily without a male role model? That's an appalling thing to say!

    Here's the other:

    Grace doesn't look like a woman, but then she only began taking hormones a month ago. There's a subtle feminity [sic] in her posture, though, and in the way her features soften as she talks.
    Excuse me? She doesn't look like a woman? What does "a woman" look like, exactly, Decca Aitkenhead? In my expert opinion (as a man!), Laura Jane Grace looks just as much woman as Aitkenhead does, so does she consider herself not looking much like a woman? That aside, what a lousy thing for a journalist to write. Tell it like it is my ass. You have to have a decidedly warped sense of what a woman is to write something like that, and from a woman writer too?

    That rant aside, I have nothing to add to this. I have never heard of this band (which is quite a successful one), and there really was nothing new here except in how public Laura Jane's 'coming out' was, so the article really didn't deliver much to me.




  • Adventures of a Half-Black Yank in America by Elise Hines was less of a woman's issue than it was of a race issue: of finding oneself in a very insular, and lets call it what it is, downright racist culture after having grown up in a much more accepting community. It was another one that will make you (hopefully) uncomfortable (if you're white), or sadly make you nod your head familiarly (if you're not). It needs to be read. And we need to ask why people are forced to consider themselves half-black instead of half-white. Aren't both terms equally applicable? If not, why not?




  • Foraging and Feminism: Hedge-witchcraft in the 21st Century by Alice Tarbuck

    This is the only author I've heard of out of this collection, which is sad because this article fell flat for me. I've never been interested in foraging, and it can be downright dangerous unless you know what exactly what you're doing. While I do love nature, I've never been a fan of immersing myself in it, especially not in the USA where there is so much that can sting, bite, poison, or eat you. Finding a scorpion in the bathtub one night was closer than I ever honestly want to be, and personally, I think it needs to be left alone as much as possible. Enjoy it, but please don't mess with it! We have no entitlement to rape and pillage no matter how great we think we are.




  • Fat in Every Language by Jonatha Kottler is in some ways tied-in with Ren Aldridge's essay which touches on appearance and judgment. This author writes, "I have weighed between 140 pounds to 267 pounds" which tells us little without knowing the author's height! Maybe that was intentional! That is a wide range, but really it's not helpful without any reference to the author's lifestyle because for me, it's less about appearance than health, which is the only sensible way to look at it, and this author tells us nothing about her eating habits or exercise or general well-being, so she deliberately makes it all about skin-depth, which I think was a mistake.

    Out of curiosity, I looked up this author to see how she looks and she doesn't look fat to me - or any of the euphemisms we employ to avoid the three-letter word: corpulent, plump, curvy, rounded, or whatever. She looks fine. It's a pity that we live in a society which calculatedly makes people see themselves in the worst light for the sake of our advertisers unloading some product on them.




  • Afterbirth by Chitra Ramaswamy is about pregnancy and birth. Every man should read this or something like it if they haven't already - and even if they have, let's face it, it's worth going through again since it's nowhere near the journey every pregnant woman takes. Don't be a baby! I think I can say without fear of contraception that this is definitely a women's issue, and it was nice to read something educational and real - and entertaining - about pregnancy and childbirth when all Americans seem to be fed is the ridiculous caricature that seems to pervade every American sitcom - usually written by men - that I've ever seen where a woman is giving birth. This was so refreshingly different and welcome.




  • Hard Dumplings for Visitorsby Christina Neuwirth was a very personal story about an assortment of incidents from her life. While I found it interesting, it didn't really have a huge impact on me in the way some of the other stories here did. I'm not a fan of memoirs and this felt rather like one. Perhaps that's why it didn't really resonate with me.



  • Resisting by Existing: Carving Out Accessible Spaces by Belle Owen was great. It was about accessible space for people who are not your 'standard' human being which is all society seems interested in catering to. naturally they can't cater to everyone, but in this day and age of technology, there is no reason extraordinary lengths cannot be gone to. Her story of her being bodily ejected from a concert because they couldn't cope with a woman in a wheelchair has to be read to be believed. While, on the one hand coming from a company which has a tight focus on safety, it also has a tight focus on security, so while I can (if I squint) see their point of view, there was no excuse whatsoever for their behavior and attitude. This is why this essay is so important to read. Put yourself in someone else's wheels for once.



  • The Difficulty in Being Good by Zeba Talkhani


  • he thought it would be funny to joke about how I will no longer be allowed to enter America (while it was already quite disturbing then, it hurt even more following the January 2017 order to temporarily ban citizens from predominantly Muslim countries from entering America).
    This is another case of misleading writing and why this essay didn't impress me. Trump's executive order, while execrable and ridiculous, banned individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and for 90 days following the signing of the order on Friday 27 January. This is seven countries out of almost fifty which are predominantly Muslim, so the statement made by this author is simplistic at best and downright dishonest at worst. It took away from a much more important message that she touched on only tangentially. I think that was a sad waste of an opportunity.
  • The Rest is Drag by Kaite Welsh while ostensibly about butch and femme lesbians felt to me more like an article about fashion, which has never been an interest of mine. I liked her message and found her writing interesting, but I wanted more that she seemed prepared to give on this topic. I would have liked her to get into it over why fashion is such a hassle for women - what is it about society that dumps this trip on us all, male or female, and why so few of us realize what's been done to us? One thing she didn't get into, which seemed like an obvious route to explore was how easy it was for her to be free to adopt a variety of clothes - or costumes, or disguises, however you might classify it, and so hard for men to do the same. A woman wearing trousers isn't anything these days, especially if those trousers are jeans, but a man wearing a dress? There was so much more to be said here and I missed not having it.
  • The Dark Girl's Enlightenment by the amazingly-named Joelle A. Owusu was a sad way to end this fascinating display of essays, but it was a necessary one in many ways because again it went into how being not only black, but female, gives a woman a whole different perspective on life. This was a strong way to end this collection because it was so sad and so anger-inducing.

While some bits were less than thrilling for me, and the whole was a bit uneven, Overall this was an awesome collection and worth reading - even the patchy bits. I recommend this to anyone and everyone.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Level The Playing Field by Kristina Rutherford


Rating: WARTY!

Note that this was an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. Note also that this is going to be a lot longer review than I usually give to a book of this short length, because this is an important topic and I don't think it was covered adequately or ironically, equitably here!

The overall impression I had of this book was not that of a reasoned and cogent argument, or of anything that went into any depth. It felt much more like a rant, and as such it failed to make a case. This is the kind of subject which all too often becomes emotional, but that serves no purpose in trying to get a the roots of a discrepancy like this, to properly understand the issues, and to determine how best to set them right - or even if they can be set right.

What disappointed me most of all was that the author seemed unable to recognize the issues even when she described them. For instance, I read:

Every PGA Tour event is televised and some tournaments draw more than 10 million viewers. Only select LPGA Tour events are televised, and even major tournaments draw fewer than 1 million viewers.
I don't get her point here. It seems to me that she's elucidated the problem perfectly: the viewership of the female tournament is one tenth that of the male tournament, meaning that the advertisers are not going to show-up in droves, meaning the money is going to be significantly less, meaning that the winner's purse is going to be dramatically reduced. The the root of the discrepancy, and therefore the problem to be resolved here is why the viewership is so much less, but the author evidently wasn't interested in pursuing this question, preferring instead to wave a hand at media coverage and mark it down as explained. Well, they had media coverage here, but the viewership was far less. Why is the author not asking why that's the case? I'll talk more about this later.

On the one hand the book makes some good arguments for equity in how women are treated when it comes to sports and it definitely highlights the discrepancy between how male and female athletes are viewed (and paid), but on the other hand it came across as rather whiny and preachy, and it seemed far more focused on money and celebrity than ever it was in trying to understand why there's such a massive discrepancy between how athletes of each gender (regardless of whether they're celebrities or not) are viewed.

The author never did distinguish between equality in how athletes are treated, and equality in how athletes garner for themselves a fan base. You can legislate equality, as the US did when Democrat Senator Birch Bayh introduced what became known as Title IX in June 1972 (a year before Roe v. Wade made huge strides in another direction related tomember of Congressr who co-authored it, but it's most commonly referred to as Title IX. Patsy Mink was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress

At the beginning of this book we're asked, of two basketball stars, "Why aren't athletes like LeBron and Maya valued and recognized equally for their talent?" There are reasons for that which we'll go into shortly, and I would have been much more impressed had the book gone after real answers like this instead of the route it took. I would have been more impressed still had it approached the subject as fairly as it expects male and female athletes to be treated! The only 'solution' on offer here seemed to be that if women are given the same media exposure as men, then everything will magically balance-out, but nothing was put forward to support this claim, and frankly I have a hard time seeing that happening for a variety of reasons, and especially not in the US.

The first issue is the question of whether sports really represents the same kind of workplace that other occupations, say in the medical profession or in businesses not tied to professional sports offer. Frankly it doesn't. No one in their right mind would argue that two people, regardless of gender, who were doing the same job to the same degree of skill should get equal treatment including pay, in any ordinary endeavor, but the question of how you resolve whether two people are doing the same job in sports went totally unexamined. There were some random potshots taken at it, but nothing substantial.

Instead, we were treated to a distinctly monocular view: that of men v. women, without any attempt to look at the issue using any other lens. In particular, the fact that sports is one occupation which is conducted in the full glare of media, and with huge audiences in attendance and dramatic financial considerations in play wasn't addressed at all. This is one reason why, at the risk of a pun, it's a different ball game when compared with other occupations.

The book opens with a mention of several female athletes, including Danica Patrick, a NASCAR driver, who is gushingly described as "the most successful female race car driver in history" yet this driver has never won a race on US soil, and as of this writing has had only a single win to my knowledge. So how is her 'success' being calculated? By the fact that she earned thirteen million dollars last year? What does that have to do with being an athlete per se, or with being successful at her chosen sport? Nothing! It pretty much has to do with her having a monopoly in being a high-profile female on one hand, and her not being a complete disaster at what she does on the other.

While I would not deny Danica Patrick, or anyone else the success she's had, however it's measured, I would balk at trying to use this as an argument for equality and the author strangely seems to agree with this because whenever she talks about other female athletes, none of those are championed as successful for having no wins! On the contrary, they're put on a pedestal as being very successful in terms of winning things.

So we immediately have a disconnect in what constitutes success, which then means we have a problem in determining how that success should be rewarded. Do we value a high earner who is not successful at least insofar as garnering wins goes, or do we value success in terms of wins even when remuneration is poor? What's the goal here?! It cannot be the double standard the author seems to have set up. This is important.

I also have to wonder why this book doesn't reference other people who are sports professionals, but who do not earn the big bucks. There are thousands of people in sports, men and women, and only the so-called top-tier ones get the big bucks. Most of the others are entirely unpaid or only part-timers, or full-time professionals earning only the lowest level of financial remuneration for athletes in their field.

Admittedly this can be significant pay, and much higher than most of us can hope for, but I think it would have served a useful purpose to ask why they - both men and women - are not as highly paid as the ones featured in the book, and to ask: does the reason for their inequality offer any clues to the reason for the inequality between men and women - and I'm not talking in terms of performance. This is sports, remember, and individual performance is only one factor - and a relatively small one as it happens, because this isn't your regular everyday occupation, especially not in team sports.

The natural response to what I've said here might be that this book was talking only about high achievers, matching high-achieving males with similar females, but if we apply the 'logic' employed here, but in this direction, can we argue that those people, too, would magically get pay raises and achieve equality if only they could get the same media exposure? You really can't, so I'm wondering how it is that we think increased exposure alone would magically improve women's lot in sports?

If you think I'm trying to make an argument here that female sports professionals are really only lower-tier, or poorer-grade, or second-rate performers, then you're misunderstanding. The argument I am making here is that it's really not as simple or as straight-forward as this author seems to be trying to argue. You can't make a case for equal pay without supporting it, just as you can't make a case for those lower-tier athletes (of any gender) to be on par with the top-tier athletes without supporting that in some way, too.

You can't argue that it has to be done purely from a bald claim that person B ought really to be remunerated at the same level as person A, regardless. You have to ask what is being contributed, because professional sports is about exposure and audiences, not just about personal performance. This is an aspect of the endeavor which the book doesn't explore. Yes, it complains about poor exposure for female athletes, but it doesn't offer any suggestions or real examination of root causes! It merely blames the media and leaves it at that.

The only argument the author seems to be able to make is along the lines of "Hey! Fair's fair!" but the way this system works, and has worked for far too long, really has nothing to do with how well a given athlete performs. The most widely-followed sports really aren't about that, notwithstanding all of the individual achievement awards and post-game MVP appellations. It's about blind team solidarity, sheep-like (or perhaps more accurately, wolf-like) adherence to pack mentality, and in-your-face aggression towards every team and every supporter who isn't "us". Individual players have no part to play in that aspect of team 'sports' especially given that at some point the individual will move on or retire, while the team continues on largely unaffected by the loss of any one individual.

It's not that women can't give attitude or be aggressive, or assertive as over-hyped TV cameras love. They can. It's just that women in general are not as overt as men are in this regard and this applies whether the male or female in question is a player or a spectator. Women are not as combative (that's not to be read as 'not as competitive', which would be a huge lie) as men, and while this is perfectly fine - in fact, I personally prefer it - it doesn't play well given the juvenile frat-boy sports mentality which is rife in today's male-soaked sports media, where it's entirely given over to a combative attitude.

The mentality is 'destroy or be destroyed', 'win at all costs', losers are useless, and so on. The Queen song, We Are the Champions sums it up: "We are the champions! No time for losers 'cause we are the champions of the world!" This is how it's seen. The US football Super Bowl winners are hailed as champions of the world even though no other nations competed!

Again, it's a winner takes all mentality, and it has nothing to do with how well individual athletes perform per se. It's that very psychosis: aggression, combativeness, posing, strutting, in-your-face rudeness, and asinine attitude, which completely turns me off sports, but it is this which appeals to the cave-man mentality that far too many team sports and media outlets seem dedicated to embracing, promoting, and perpetuating. There is no more room for equity and fairness here that there was in the Roman Colosseum.

Before we go any further let's be clear that there are inequalities. According to the Women's Sports Foundation:

  • Female students comprise 57% of student populations, but female athletes received only 43% of participation opportunities at NCAA schools.
  • Male athletes get 55% of NCAA college athletic scholarship dollars. Guess how much women then get!
  • Women's teams receive only 40% of college sport operating dollars and 36% of college athletic team recruitment spending.
  • Median head coaches' salaries at NCAA Division I-FBS schools are $3,430,000 for men's teams and $1,172,400 for women's teams.
These telling stats are not ones you'll read in this book, because the book isn't about making that kind of a case. It's all about individuals, and I think that approach was a mistake. I think that very approach played into the media status quo rather than challenged it, which is what is actually needed here. There is a real problem, almost half a century on, in Title IX providing true equality for females in sports. This is a fact, but whether, if there were true and complete equality, this would translate into the same thing at the professional and media level, is another issue entirely. Given the result of over forty years of Title IX, the answer seems to be that it would not make enough of a difference.

The problem with the stats just quoted is that all we get is the bald fact of inequality. There's no exploration of why it's so or why it's being allowed to perpetuate and exacerbate in the professional world. This disparity is nowhere more pronounced than in professional soccer as is highlighted in Newsweek. The US women's team has won three world cups whereas the men's team has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals, yet male players routinely "earn" three times what female players do! To earn their relatively meager compensation, the women must win all twenty of the season games whereas the men could lose all twenty and still get full pay. Is this fair? Not even close. This is exactly the disparity that Title IX sought to set right, so how is it that it fails so badly when these athletes actually get to the professional level?

On this score (at the risk of another pun!) I was sorry to see some sleight-of-hand in this author's reporting. Consider this statement regarding remuneration in the National Women's Soccer League: "The average salary in the U.S. based NWSL is between $6,000 and $30,000 for a six-month season. A top-tier player on the men's pro side makes more than the high-end of that average - in a single week" Note how we went from an "average" to a top-tier performer? The average isn't even an average, it's a range. Is the actual average halfway between the two values? How does that compare with the men's average? We're not told, but comparing an "average" to a top-tier man's pay isn't comparing apples to apples. That said, the two would still be discrepant, but when the numbers are twisted and mismatched like that, it's really hard to get a good picture. We can't begin to figure out how to narrow a gap when we don't even get to know what the gap is or why it really exists!

One assertion from the author, referencing what someone else has said on the topic, is that "the key to closing this gap is simple: People just need to see us play. When increased exposure leads to interest from advertisers, the amount of money involved can rise pretty quickly," but this is not borne-out by experience. According to Newsweek, the Women's World Cup final of 2015 was the most watched soccer match - male or female - ever in the US, but this garnered nothing for women's sports, not even for women's soccer in the year that followed.

It's been almost twenty years since the US women's team won the World Cup soccer final in front of a sold-out Rose Bowl holding some 90,000 fans. It was a stunning game every bit the equal of a men's game - in truth leagues better than a men's game. The US men's soccer team has never done this! Whenever there's such a win, and there have been three, it's all "we're world class" and "women's sports are on the upsurge," but the day after it's always "ho-hum! What's next?" You cannot blame female athletes for asking "What do we have to do to get recognition? You cannot blame the US Olympic women who carried home 61 medals to the men's 55 from Rio for asking the same question. The author apparently isn't interested in asking this kind of question or pursuing it as far as it needs to go.

There are important aspects to these discrepancies which the author doesn't touch upon too, and which in fact relate directly to her calling an unfair play on pay. Look at US basketball, for example: while fifty or so top NBA players earn more than the entire WNBA teams roster combined, the NBA brings in five billion dollars, whereas the Women's National Basketball Association is lucky to break even. This is a question which ought to have been explored, but was not. Why does the WNBA fare so poorly? Is it because the media is shunning it, or because it simply doesn't attract as many fans and global sponsorship as the men's games do, and if that's the case, then why is that so? The author seems content to blame media bias, offer no support for the claim, and leave it at that.

We'll get back to that in a second, but let's take a moment and ask why the author never addresses the fact of women being segregated in sports as they are in no other profession, not even in the military these days. She simply accepts this segregation as a given, and I have to wonder why that inequality isn't addressed. If the leagues were white players on one side and black players on the other, then I'm sure she would have found that worth questioning, so why no questions about gender segregation? The black basketball league would then be the one making the big bucks and the white league would be in the position the women's league is, more than likely, in terms of garnering coverage! It's not an inapt comparison!

I further have to wonder if this segregation is part of the problem: if women, instead of playing in the WNBA, played in the NBA, how would they fare? This isn't to try and set up an argument for saying that women can't compete on equal terms and therefore shouldn't get equal treatment. Women have proven repeatedly that they can compete on equal terms. This is to point out that this book really doesn't delve very deep. It makes a superficial argument that everything ought to be equal, but it never makes a case for why, and it never wonders whether this particular aspect also ought to be equal and if so, would it improve matters? It avoids that altogether. It also avoids dress code, which we shall look at shortly.

Back to the segregation. It's a fact the women tend to be smaller and less muscular than men, but is this a problem? Maybe. Women would be typically shorter and lighter than the men they played against were the basketball leagues to be combined. In the NBA, the average height is six feet eight inches, whereas the average height in the WNBA is six feet. Would this be a disadvantage given that half the NBA players are necessarily six feet or less, and basketball is in theory at least, a non-contact sport? Would the advantage that a tall woman has among less tall-women in her league translate to poor performance if she became a medium-sized person among many taller persons in a male league? It's an interesting question, but it went unexplored and ignoring this made the author's case feel more like special pleading than it did a call for fair play.

Dd you know that the ball is also different between the male and female game in basketball? It's slightly smaller and lighter. Why is that and why does the author not address it? Why do female basketball players use a smaller ball while female soccer players do not? There's no answer because the author didn't ask the question. These differences in equipment translate across many other sports - the women's javelin and the women's discus are both smaller and lighter than the men's, the shot is lighter in the shotput, LPGA courses are shorter than PGA courses, and so on. In basketball, while women shoot free throws on par with men, their 3 pointers from the field average lower even in their own league. So what does equality mean? What does parity have to hinge upon? Again, we get not a word on this from the author who seems to be arguing for parity in pay but not in anything else.

As a Washington Post article puts it,

As Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, told me: "The reason we have females separated in sports is because in many sports, the best female athletes can't compete with the best male athletes. And everybody knows that, but nobody wants to say it. Females are structured like a disabled class for all sorts of, I think, good reasons."
This is something else the author did not explore in this book. Is the problem that simple or is there more to it? She didn't ask. According to the NY times, "There has yet to be a financially viable women's mainstream sports league in the United States." The author would undoubtedly argue that this is because of poor media coverage, but although she argues that, she fails to support any such argument.

And take a look at the crowd in the image accompanying the article. That says it all right there. Women are not sports attenders in general - not on the level at which men are - or even at which women are when it comes to men's games. The attendance by gender at all of the major sports in the US shows males turning up at literally twice the rate of female attendees. We read a lot in this book about women who play the sports, but nothing about those who attend and thereby help pay the salaries of the participants.

It bothers me that the author doesn't explore these aspects as a reason for disparity and inequality, asking why the attendance is so poor. Advertisers are not going to want to pay much to have an ad at a game with seven thousand people when they can have one at a game which will be seen by twice that number of people (not even including the viewers at home), and without extra advertising revenue, there's less cash to pay the players. The author doesn't explore, either, whether men really ought to get more if they play eighty games in a basketball season, which is twice what female players play.

There's an interesting, and sad, article here about this disparity in attendance related to Syracuse University's performance in the 2016 basketball season (and on the topic of inequality do compare the men's basketball page for Syracuse in Wikipedia with the women's! This makes a better argument about inequality than this book did, in my opinion!). Women had a far better season than the men (losing in the final whereas the men lost in the quarterfinals) yet their attendance was averaging less than a thousand, while the men's was almost twenty-two times as high.

Keep in mind that roughly thirty percent of the attendance at the men's games - that would be 6,000 to 7,000 people - was women. Where were these women when it came to games played by their own gender? ESPN is on record as saying that men accounted for 66% of its WNBA audience in 2013. Where were the women? Why are they viewing women's games at roughly the same percentage as they're viewing men's games? Why are so few men viewing women's games?

None of this is explored in the book, yet all of it is relevant to the case the author thought she was making. Is the lack of interest in women's sports not just from the media and from men, but also from women themselves? Apparently so, and this is one thing Title IX cannot legislate. They can compel equal opportunity (to more or less success as we've seen), but they cannot compel fans and supporters into existence or into attendance.

There are sports where women compete on perfectly equal terms with men, but where women are highly underrepresented. The author never explored this. For example, Danica Patrick has extremely high visibility and is highly rewarded for racing in NASCAR, but as mentioned, she has never won a race (as of this writing) on US soil, and has had only one win elsewhere. The author mentions Danica Patrick but never explores the details. Patrick earned about thirteen million in 2015, whereas Dale Earnhardt earned almost twice that, with no wins! Kyle Busch, who won at least five races earned less than Patrick did! There is no justice or parity anywhere in this particular story, yet no one seems to complain about that!

What do TV advertisers advertise at women's games? At men's games it seems to be cars, beer, power tools, and financial and retirement opportunities. What do advertisers want to offer to women, and do they have the same advertising budget to offer it with that the car and beer advertisers do? Again, this is unexplored, but it does have a bearing on the subject. More to the point is what happens in comparable situations.

For example, a new TV show is very much like a sports event. Because of the intensely capitalistic system the USA operates in, the show needs viewers to survive. If viewership goes down, the show is cancelled. We've lost a lot of quality shows because of this, while crappy so-called "reality' shows thrive. Why? Because this is what idiots watch on the idiot's lantern. It's that simple. Quality often fails were the lowest common denominator wins every time, and this is the issue: it all comes down to what makes money for the media. It has nothing to do with parity or equality, fairness or gender rights. If the female sports events don't attract viewers and sustain the attraction beyond world cup events, then advertisers are not going to be interested and the media is not going to cover them, yet this author doesn't ask why attendance is so poor. She just blames the media for it.

Let's talk about equality some more - in this case, equality of dress. Has anyone given any thought to how male athletes dress as compared to female ones? Probably not, but I think it's part of the problem. Take a look at your average male track athlete in the last Olympics and note how they dress for the track. On men, the shorts may be tight or loose fitting, and the shirt may be sleeveless or not, but they are wearing a shirt and shorts. Now take a look at the women who are, for all practical purposes, dressed in bikinis. Shotput? The same. Javelin? The same. Why is that? For beach volleyball, they wear even less! The men don't though. Why is that?

Consider this: swimming is the only event I can think of in the Olympics in which men wear less than women. Maybe it is literally for all practical purposes that women dress so skimpily, but if that's the case, then why are men not emulating them in terms of wearing an abbreviated top and bikini shorts? Now look at soccer or basketball. What do women wear? Very much the same as men do! Why is that? It seems to me that if you want to be taken seriously as an athlete, you might want to reconsider wearing bikinis for every event! Is this a valid argument? We don't know, because once again, this is a highly visible aspect to sports which this author completely ignores.

I didn't like this author's overall attitude either, quite frankly! At one point, she says, "But it's female athletes who most consistently give us representations of women who embody qualities like toughness and power and tenacity." How disrespectful is that to women who work in other professions? Are female firefighters not tough? Are female law enforcement disempowered? Are female soldiers, sailors, air personnel, and the Coast Guard lacking tenacity? Are female industry leaders powerless? Are teachers not tenacious? Are female nurses not tough?! The single-minded focus on athletes here, notwithstanding this was the main purpose of the book, was an insult to women working in other fields.

In conclusion, this book felt far more like a cult of personality than an honest exploration on gender inequity in sports. The bottom line, though would seem to be popularity: does the media really shun women's sports or does the media simply show what's most popular because it's from this that advertising revenue will derive, regardless of what gender is involved in the sport?

This question should have been one to explore, but we don't get that here: who attends? Who pays to watch? Is the female game perceived, by those who pay the entrance fees, just as worthy of admission price as the men's game is? As reported in late 2016, "The WNBA registered its highest attendance (1,561,530) since 2011 and the highest average attendance (7,655). For comparison, the average attendance at NBA games is over twice that, at around 17,000.

Are people simply voting with their feet not for which gender is worth supporting, but for which game is worth viewing with their limited budget? Which has the best atmosphere? Which one their friends will be going to and talking about the next day? Maybe it's just that simple, maybe it isn't, but we won't know the answer to that from reading this book, and I cannot recommend it because not only does it not achieve what it claims to aim at, it doesn't even pursue what it claims to be chasing! If you want to write a book about leveling the playing field, you need to be on the level in what you write.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Going Through the Change by Samantha Bryant


Rating: WORTHY!

This novel is different! Four women who are going through menopause discover that they've developed super powers! Is it the menopause, or is it the alternative medication they've been taking - all of which comes from the same source? Or is it a combination of both? Or neither?!

This novel was original, gorgeous, and a true joy to read. It's the kind of novel which makes you comfortable with going through all the crappy novels that Amazon unloads cheaply, because you know that if you persevere, you'll find one like this once in a while - a diamond in the rough as they say - and it makes it worth reading the crap just to get to it.

Patricia O'Neill, who is a lifelong friend of the herbalist, Cindy Liu, seems to be growing scales on her skin. Jessica Roark discovers that she can fly - or at least float. Helen Braeburn learns, uncomfortably, that she can create fire - and survive it. Linda Alvarez changes, rather abruptly, into a man - although how that's considered a super-power is a mystery This man does have unusual strength, but what kind of message is this sending - you can only be strong if you're a man?

That's about the only negative thing I have to say about this novel. That should have been re-thought. Aside from that, and other than that it needed a final spell-checker run through before letting it loose on Amazon, I have no complaints at all. Waiting is not spelled "waitign" and every spell-checker knows that! And it should have been "while the early birds were still sleeping", not "before the early birds were still sleeping," but those are all I noticed and they're relatively minor quibbles.

Some might find the build-up a little slow, but for me, the story moved intelligently and at a fair clip - not too fast, not too slow. People behaved like people - not super-heroes(!) and not like dumb movie action "heroes". These girls grew into their powers as you might expect someone would and as we grew to know them. The whole story was smartly plotted and written. I'm fully behind it! If the author wants a beta reader for volume two, I'm right here and available! I recommend this story for originality, freshness, good writing, and realistic female characters (within the super hero context!), who live and breathe. I'm not a big fan of series, but once in a while one comes along and I can say, honestly, that it's great work, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.


Monday, July 13, 2015

The Pedestriennes: America's Forgotten Superstars by Harry Hall


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
"May Marshall could now lay claim to the world's to pedestrienne." (p81) I don't know what was meant here.
"In June, in she quit in the middle...leaving her manager in arreareages." (p82) The first part of the sentence makes no sense, and the last word should be arrearage or better, simply 'arrears'
"Von HIllern" (p85) Inappropriate capitalization in 'Von' (should be 'von') and with the 'I' in Hillern.
"When the man persited" (p93) should be 'persisted'
"...game leg..." (p154) should be "gammy leg"
"Madame Vestras" should be Madame Vestris - Lucia Elizabeth Vestris.
Laura Keene's name is misspelled as "Keane" at one point.
"...letting loose with a torrid of cursing..." should be "torrent"
"Fueding" should be "feuding" (p190)
"Seheduled" should be "Scheduled" (p227)

The description of "Madame" Ada Anderson's feat in Mozart Garden New York covers several chapters and not a bit of it is boring. It's really quite emotional and made me feel I was very nearly there. Her achievement was incredible. It was even more incredible that within a few months of her achievement, her record would be exceeded by May Marshall, and pretty much in tandem with it, Exilda LaChappelle would exceed Marshall's new record.


If there is one thing I do love it's quirky - as long as it's not endlessly, excessively, or mindlessly so. I especially like quirky when it comes to women and things they get up to that we may, rightly or wrongly, never have imagined them doing. One thing I freely confess never did cross my transom was "...a handful of late 19th century female athletes who dazzled America with their remarkable performances in endurance walking."

The blurb continues: "Frequently performing in front of large raucous crowds, pedestriennes walked on makeshift tracks set up in reconfigured theatres and opera houses. Top pedestriennes often earned more money in one week than the average American took home in a year." Female superstars in Victorian times? Quirky that's also pedestrian? How can a body not want to read that? So off we go!

These names will be unknown to you more than likely. They were to me, but back then, they were household names making newspapers headlines. Now at least they have a web site!:

  • Ada Anderson
  • Alice Donley
  • Sadie Donley
  • Fannie Edwards
  • Helene Freeman
  • Lillie Hoffman
  • Amy Howard
  • Exilda la Chappelle
  • Bertie LeFranc
  • Tryphena Lipsey (aka May Marshall)
  • Kate Lorence
  • Carrie Ross
  • Emma Sharp
  • May Bell Sherman
  • Bertha von Berg (aka Maggie von Gross)
  • Bertha von Hillern

These women were from a variety of backgrounds and an assortment of ages from their mid fifties to as young as seventeen years old in the case of Lillie Hoffman, yet whereas Captain Barclay walking 1000 miles in 1000 hours for 1000 guineas in 1809, and falling asleep literally on his feet gets a page in Wikipedia, virtually none of the women do. Some of these endurance walkers met or exceeded his feat, such as for example, Emma Sharp. Perhaps these women faded too quickly into obscurity. perhaps genderism played a part. And not all of the men merit a page either, it would seem. William Gale, who achieved several pedestrian feats (which were not at all pedestrian!) of his own, gets no mention either, and he was instrumental in aiding and abetting female endurance walking.

A man named O'Leary kick-started the women's pedestrian competitive sport by staging a six-day marathon between two willing competitors: Bertha von Hillern and May Marshall. From then on it was a roller-caster bi-coastal ride coasting to a standstill in the 1880's and thereafter fading into complete forgetfulness until this author raised heir profile tow here it should be.

This book isn't quite ready for prime time: I found numerous spelling errors, which a good spell-checker would have cured (apart from a couple of misspelled names, that is). I know this was an advance review copy, but spelling errors should never get through even to that stage in this day and age. That aside, the book was well written, exhaustively researched, and pleasantly enlightening. It comes with extensive end notes, a bibliography, and an index. It's a fast read despite being close to three hundred pages. I recommend it.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Story of My Tits Volume 2 by Jennifer Hayden


Title: The Story of My Tits volume 2
Author: Jennifer Hayden
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Rating: WARTY!

Note that there are two authors named Jennifer Hayden, so please don't confuse them! One, this one, is the graphic novelist and artist. The other isn't! It pains me to review negatively a novel about an important topic like this, but I cannot in good faith recommend this. The title, as it did with volume one, suggests this is about breasts, and as metaphorical as it might be, it really wasn't about breasts as much as it was about the author's life, which was plagued with family issues and with health issues not only for herself, but also for her mom.

I'm not sure how much more I can say about this pair of graphic novels that I haven't already said for volume one, so this review may be unusually short for me! Please read the review for volume one to get the bulk of my views and insights, such as they are. I think my main problem, apart from not liking the art work or the insanely crowded images, was that the topics discussed here were really rather mundane - as sad and tragic as they may well have been for those persons involved, so there was nothing here for me to learn, and nothing to entertain or engross me. Volume one was better than two, but both were largely the same - a simple biography about the every day life of a rather dysfunctional family, but these "revelations" were neither unique nor particularly unusual in the big picture.

This volume covers the author's later life, post marriage, and it's really a comedy of irritations - using comedy in the Shakespearean sense. I really had little interest in these stories because there was very very little here which I have not experienced in one way or another, even if only vicariously by reading about it. In addition to his, I am not into hippie or new age stuff, and cannot take seriously books laid at the feet of a goddess or dedicated to a husband who is evidently superior not only to all husbands, but to all possible husbands. That just seemed unnecessarily unkind to me - as though everyone else's husband is second-rate at best.

This volume covers later events in the author's life, and the deaths of some family members. This is fine and I am sure it has import for family and friends, but it's nothing that other families do not go through, including my own so there is, sad and tragic as these events are, nothing to move me about these events. Death is a part of life, and it's coming for all of us sooner or later, so while we need to acknowledge that, and be prepared for it, we don't need to dwell on it or take pains to write paeans to it.

As I mentioned, the art work wasn't very good, and the images were way too crowded, and dark and insanely detailed to get the best out of them. In addition to that, there was often way too much text, which meant it was too small and hard to read at times, so I found myself skipping a lot of it because it was rambling or because I didn't want to go to the trouble of straining to read all that tiny text. That said, the writing itself, apart form being too wordy, was decently done. There were no spelling or grammatical errors that I saw, so this author can write, but perhaps needs a better topic.

I didn't appreciate the bad language in this case. I don't have a problem with it in a novel where it fits, but in something like this, it felt out of place. It could have been avoided and thereby perhaps made the message accessible to a wider audience. For me, it contributed nothing to the story, and it may keep some potential readers away. That said, this novel is explicitly about female function and organs, so maybe the language would make no difference! Some people are just too squeamish no matter what.

In short, I cannot recommend this volume because I didn't feel it was the best the author could do, or that it offered anything really new and engaging. I feel bad about this because I know there are important messages to relay about such events, and I also know that these things are important parts of the author's life, but I also think authors need to grasp that not everything that carries weight with them has the same gravity for anyone, let alone everyone else out there. I think we need to pick and choose what to relate and how to relate it, and I don't think this was the best approach.


The Story of My Tits Volume 1 by Jennifer Hayden


Title: The Story of My Tits
Author: Jennifer Hayden
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Rating: WARTY!

Note that there are two authors named Jennifer Hayden, so please don't confuse them! One, this one, is the graphic novelist and artist. The other isn't! I really wanted to like this graphic novel, but no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get on its side, I'm sorry to say. I think there's both a need and a market for this kind of story whether it's autobiographical, semi-auto, or purely fictional, but this autobiography just didn't work for me. Your mammary-age may differ!

I was excited to get this and volume two from Net Galley, but I had to read volume 2 first because volume one flatly refused to download until the next day, and I didn't want to wait in case it never downloaded! At first I thought maybe I should have waited, because there seemed to be parts of volume two which were dependent upon the first one for better understanding, but when I finally read one this morning, it did not clarify the things I thought it would, so in the end it made no difference that I read them out of order.

I preferred one to two, but only marginally. For me, the biggest problem was that there were no insights or points of interest in either volume for me. There was nothing really unexpected, nothing I didn't know, nothing I found fascinating, and no ah-ha moments, so for me, it did not deliver.

What I did get was too much trope and cliché for my taste. It felt like watching one of those truly crappy TV sitcoms where the wife is pregnant, and the husband can't cope, and every tired joke is tediously retold. A story like this deserved better and this one is better than those stupid, clueless, pedantic, canned-laugh shows, but it still lacked too much for it to appeal to me.

I felt really bad to feel so negative about this because it's an important subject, but I can't in good faith recommend something which I don't feel gets the job done and this one didn't, starting from the title on in. I felt that the title was slightly misleading. I do get that the title was designed to shock, to perk interest, and to be metaphorical and to show how women all-too-often feel defined by their basic physical appearance, but the story was much more about the person than ever it was her breasts. I get that for a woman, living in a male-dominated world, it can become hard to differentiate yourself from your breasts. We're mammals, defined by our milk producing ability so they are out there, so to speak, and they have unfortunately become so representative of womanhood. This is wrong, obviously, but for now, it's what we have to deal with. It would have been nice to have had more observations on, and insights into that.

For me, it was hard to empathize with this character to begin with. I think that might have been one of my root problems. She doesn't come off as very smart. She seems like a slacker with little self-motivation. She's a smoker - although commendably she gives that up, but it's because she goes on the pill, not because there's a history of cancer in her family. She didn't get regular health check-ups. Although her honesty in revealing all of this is commendable, it just didn't appeal to me or make me feel like I was on her side. If she had been more proactive, she would have been more appealing. That said, she does take more charge in volume two.

This volume deals with her childhood and youth, up to college, and meeting the guy she wants to marry, and ends with them finally marrying, but I didn't feel like there was anything new here. There was a lot of old - a lot of addressing the same issues through which everyone goes, which seemed pointless to me. It's sad to think that any of this could be news to your typical modern women, but that said, there are unfortunately too many who have not been well-educated by parents or by schooling.

I think that what I found most annoying was how over-crowded the images were. Where there wasn't too much shading and scribbling, there was too much text. I read this on an iPad, not as a print book. I don't know how large the print book would be, but the iPad screen is fairly large, yet the text was often hard to read, and I found myself skipping lots of it because there was simply too much and it was too small to bother with, and it was rambling anyway with endless asides and footnotes. It was amusing in parts, but too often tedious to read. I did get the impression that it might be more fun to listen to the author talk about this than to read what she's written about it. Maybe she should try an audio rather than a graphic novel?

The art work wasn't very good either. It was all black and white line drawings with heavy, heavy shading and overwhelming detail, and the character depictions felt more like the weekend children's cartoons in a newspaper than they did a graphic novel. I can't recommend this as a worthy read, and I take no pleasure in that.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Y The Last Man Unmanned by Brian K Vaughan


Title: Y The Last Man Unmanned
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

This was an unexpected treasure! I went to the half price bookstore to see if I could find Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch (Barty's other son, no doubt). Failing to get that, I checked out the graphic novel section and found every single one of the books I recently checked out of the library - and only those! Weird. There was however, one more tucked away deeper back on the shelf and when I tugged it out, it turned out to be the very first issue in this series! How fortuitous was that? So here, completely out of order (which is my middle name), is how it all began.

It's the amulet! Yorick's un-proposed-to fiancée seems to be having cold feet (she fell in love with a kangaroo) and Yorick is covered in Monkey sheet monkey doo-doo. Meanwhile, 355 shows up - with the amulet! The Republican desperate housewives try to run the government out of town, and Yorick's sister Hero puts in an all-too-brief appearance.

So 355 rescues Yorick from the psycho Amazons and just about everyone learns that he's, why, the last man of course! But 355 has a plan. Glad that someone does. She takes Yorick to Dr Allison Mann who is utterly astounded - to discover that a male Capuchin survived.

So this was a bit choppy for my taste - running between one group pf people and another, and then have flashbacks and flash forwards, so it was very uneven and a bit hard to follow at times. However, it was a great start and I recommend it.


Y The Last Man Girl On Girl by Brian K Vaughan


Title: Y The Last Man Girl on Girl
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

This is one of my favorite volumes. Agent 355, Dr Mann, and Yorick are on a boat heading for Japan. The problem is that Yorick is in a crate in the boat's cargo hold. He's an escape artist so he's supposed to be able to escape, but the escape was predicated on the crate being stowed the right way up with nothing on top, so Yorick is trapped. When the crate is broken, the ship's crew discovers that there is a man left alive on Earth.

The crew seems friendly, but in end are revealed to be drug runners. The Royal Australian Navy is in hot pursuit in a rickety old submarine. One of its crew, Aussie Rose Copen, is already aboard the boat, with her distinctive eye-patch, spying on the drug runners. She relays information about their location to the sub. Meanwhile, Dr Mann and 355 get it on - or at least they try to before they're rudely interrupted by Yorick.

Rose ends up in the brig and slowly, Yorick and 355 change their minds about her - and about the crew, but the captain, Kilina, sweet talks Yorick and makes herself sound less of a villain than a woman acting out of desperation. They almost get it on, but are interrupted by the arrival of the sub.

There's a brief exchange of weapons fire, but the sub wins, sinking the boat. Captain Kilina evidently went down with her ship, but most of the crew were saved. Rose asks to come with 355, Mann, and Yorick. She seems to have far more of an interest in Mann than she does in man.

Here's a writing issue from this story. The sub's captain at one point says, "That's because less accidents happen...". This is grammatically incorrect. It should be "fewer accidents", but this is someone's speech and no one speaks with perfect grammar unless they're insufferably pretentious, so in this case, bad grammar is good writing!

I recommend this volume. The writing is excellent, the plotting wonderful, and the art work great. One thing I really liked about this one was that I finally got to meet Beth, Yorick's fiancée, who turns out to be an interesting character in her own right. I don't know why the focus has been so much on Yorick and so little on her. Yes, I get that it's about the last man, not the last man's fiancée, but still, I think she's been done a disservice. I hope I'll see more of her as I read more volumes.

One thing which has bothered about this series (apart from my not being able to read it in order from start to finish!) is that not only are there pretty much only women left alive, but very nearly every one of those women is drawn in male fantasy mode: young, curvaceous, long-haired and lax morals. Why is that? I think it's because this novel was written by a guy, and he has no interest in depicting women who do not figure in his fantasies. That's something that's just not right and is the one real blemish on this entire series, for me.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Y The Last Man Kimono Dragons by Brian K Vaughan


Title: Y The Last Man Kimono Dragons
Author: Brian K Vaughan
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WORTHY!

Penciler: Pia Guerra
Penciler: Goran Sudžuka
Inker: José Marzán Jr
Colorist: Zylonol Studios

I love the titles of some of these volumes. Kimono Dragons! Perfect! We start out here with Yorick, alas, looking like a reject from a remake of A Clockwork Orange. They're finally in Japan, and he and 355 are trying to track down Yorick's pet monkey (that's not a sexual as it might sound to some). Dr Mann is trying to track down her mom, but someone burned down her mom's lab - not her dog, her laboratory. Mann is with Rose and Rose is definitely with Mann.

The Yakuza is now being run by a Canadian cross between Madonna and Miley Cyrus, and it is she who has this Capuchin monkey, famous for its coffee. Or maybe not. The question is, will You who is now a purveyor of android pleasures by way of being a wakaresaseya and before that a member of the Ginza-Yonchome Koban police, actually help them retrieve & (figure it out) from the Takuza, or will she betray them?

355 has a bit of a breakdown after she realized that in order to further the mission, she was getting ready to blow the head off a young girl. Unfortunately, she hesitated and was lost. Meanwhile, both Rose and Dr Mann feel stabbing pains - and from the same Ninja katana, too.

Can the Israeli army drive their tanks to their destination in time and if so, where are they going, and what the hell are they going to do with them when they get there? Capture the twins? It takes two to tank-le! And is Dr Mann going to bleed her secret - all over the floor, as Rose once again lies - on a bed, injured? Still loving this series!