Books: Shelf-Talker Tuesday!

 

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I read this book back in my college days and loved it! Before Gregory Maquire, Helen Oyeyemi, Neil Gaiman and countless  YA writers others hopped on the “Reimagining of Fairy Tales” bandwagon, Marion Zimmer Bradley did it. And did it well. This book was published in 1982 and is still pretty freaking awesome. She takes everything you know about Arthurian myth (because… it IS a myth) and tells it from the point of view of Morgaine. It is a lot of fun and good reading.

“A retelling of Arthurian legend from a female POV. Lovely writing and required reading for feminists.”

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Books: 16 Feminist Books For Women’s History Month!

CharlottePerkinsGilman_HerlandWomen’s History Month has always seemed like a consolation prize, or rather a participation trophy given to “women” as acknowledgement that we exist, and are important. An entire month of acknowledgement is supposed to somehow make us forget that MEN are systematically taking away our rights. Women’s History Month is only necessary because women are still being held down, and held back. I don’t see a “Men’s History Month”, and you know why? Because every month of every year since the dawn of time is Men’s History Month.

But I don’t want a month. I don’t want a “special” anything. The world should be a place where there isn’t a second thought about a woman running for president, or running a country. Where we don’t talk about a woman’s appearance before her accomplishments. Where women and men can work and live together without sexism getting in the way.

But that day isn’t here. They threw us a bone called “Women’s History Month” so I’ll take it and run. The following list is made up of some of my favorite books which I would consider Feminist. I didn’t put any of the famous books on the list because… who wants to read the same lists over and over? Hopefully you will find some new, interesting and favorites among these. And yes. There are books written by men on this list. I hope you are not so ignorant as to think men can’t be feminists.

ENJOY!

  1. Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  2. The Temple of my Familiar, by Alice Walker
  3. A Bloodsmoor Romance, By Joyce Carol Oates
  4. Spinster, by Kate Bolic
  5. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
  6. Around the World with Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis
  7. The Mists of Avalon, By Marion Zimmer Bradley
  8. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
  9. Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit
  10. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
  11. Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
  12. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  13. The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
  14. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
  15. I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
  16. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

15 Feminist Halloween Costumes!

Amelia-in-costume-flyingHalloween is just three days away and once again I am without a costume. Not to fear! There are plenty of places for a gal to purchase the necessary items for a last-minute Halloween costume. I stopped by the Value Village on my lunch break and found more than enough choices. I could be a sexy nurse, a sexy witch, a sexy cat, mouse or rabbit, or a sexy Goth chick… as if that’s even possible. I ended up with some cat ears and a tail. I’m just going to wear everything I own with a cat on it and be “The Crazy Cat Lady”. So not sexy.

For a DIY gal like myself, Halloween is the perfect time for me to put together something cool and original. But for those ladies who are not so inclined, Halloween can be a cruel reminder that being sexy is the most important thing in life. Store bought costumes for such mundane professions as “Cop” or “Nurse” all come with a pair of thigh-highs, booty shorts, and stiletto boots. Because everyone knows that it is way easier to catch bad guys, or help the sick while wearing high heels and no pants.

I’ve put together a list of costume ideas that are still cool and sexy, but hopefully have more creativity and imagination than your average store-bought variety. And your ass won’t get cold. Each choice comes with ideas on how to make this happen on the cheap.

  1. Amelia Earhart – All you need for this is a pair of tan slacks, brown boots, a white blouse and some goggles. A white scarf, wig and other accessories will help sell it, but they are not necessities. Those of you who want to go all out can use a cardboard box to make an airplane!
  2. Morticia Adams 71a64d2c8146fe32d43468c3177623faBefore there was such a thing as “Goth” there was the Addams. Of course Morticia is just a TV version of the great Vampira,but she isn’t so well-known so if you dress as Vampira, prepare to be called Morticia or Elvira all night. Morticia is a great choice though, and if you are going with a group you can do the whole creepy family. All you need is a long black dress (with sleeves) and a long black wig. Accessories such as a severed hand, a rose, long cigarette holder or a family member will help sell this look.
  3.  Ghost Buster, or Janine Melnitz – If you want to be a Ghost Buster all you need is a tan jump suit. You should be able to find one at a secondhand store. Next fashion a Proton Pack, and, since my boyfriend insists, you need a ghost trap. tumblr_mw2otrYszz1qmp5efo1_500To make these you can use a backpack, or paint a piece of cardboard and add some hoses. It just needs to give people an idea. It’s Halloween, not Cosplay. Now, if you want to be awesome, you go as Janine Melnitz from Ghost Busters. She was played by Annie Potts and is going to get you crazy point for creativity and originality. Get a red wig and cut it into a bob. Next, get a leopard print coat, some big plastic beads and a pair of glasses. It would help to walk around with the Ghost Busters.
  4. Ms. Marvel 531dd786ecf4bNo, not the hypersexy Ms. Marvel of the past, but the new Ms. Marvel. She’s been updated and she’s super hip, super cool, super…super, and sexy without being a gross stereotype. Kamala Khan is “a teenage Pakistani American from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities, who discovers that she has Inhuman genes in the aftermath of the “Inhumanity” storyline and assumes the codename Ms. Marvel from her idol Carol Danvers.” (Wikipedia) All you need for this outfit is a black mask, (or old t-shirt cut into a mask)red tights or leggings, and a blue jersey knit dress. You can sew on a lightning bolt and add a red scarf and you are ready to save the world.
  5. Lydia Deetz (from Beetlejuice) – 9e420f480b2b9611674756888cd6afd9This one is sure to get you points for originality. All you need is a big black sun hat, a black blazer, and a long black dress. A stellar copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased would help. then do pale make up with dark eyes and some spiky bangs. If you are more ambitious, and have more money, go for the big red wedding dress. This is a popular idea in the Cosplay world, so you can actually find patterns for the red wedding dress and for the cover of the iconic handbook.
  6. The ladies of Mad Men – This is the perfect costume idea for a group of ladies going to a party together. Carrie, Charlotte and the gang are played out. These ladies are just as fashionable and more fun. Alone, these looks would just read as “60’s chick”. But together they spell out the whole story. Betty Draper, Joan Holloway, and even mousey Peggy and the glamorous 1a36799636c13dbb_ff178663-a8a8-298b-fbcd-867d4aa84525_Mad_Men_Stairs_Jon_Jessica_Elisabeth_January_Kiernan_Christina_1153_1182_V1.xxxlarge_2xMegan Draper are easy looks to achieve with the right accessories. Betty just needs an Aline dress and some pearls. Joan, a form-fitting dress, tight hair-do and heels. Peggy Olsen is conservative and should have on loafers. And that depends on what era you want to use. You can do 50’s, 60’s and even the 70’s! Have fun with it. 
  7. Suffragette – If you really want to go as a feminist this Halloween, then this is the look for you. Go to your local Goodwill or Value Village and find a high collared old timey dress. Or night-gown. If you sew, you can add details to help, if not there are places to find a costume dress that looks 19th century. Then all you need is a banner across your chest or a picket sign. And a hat. Those ladies loved hats.
  8. img_1910Frida Kahlo – First of all, yes you must do the eyebrows and the mustache. That is a deal breaker. There is nothing worse than a really pretty girl trying to be Frida Kahlo. The real Frida embraced her unique qualities and lived with them. So it needs to be part of your costume. And honestly, the eyebrows sell the look. Aside from that you need your hair slicked back, or in braids. You need flowers in your hair, a shawl, and about 40 necklaces, braclette and a big skirt. Done.
  9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – This one is all about props and accessories. Any Buffy fan will tell you she didn’t go anywhere without Mr. Pointy, her favorite stake. So you’ll need to make one of those. Next, you’ll want to try for an iconic Buffy look: Leather jacket, black slacks, jeans or red leather pants, tank top and hair back with bangs. You’ll need black boots and a cross around your neck. full_30102010218_1298118365You could also do a big pink prom dress, but you’ll need to make sure Mr. Pointy is always in hand.
  10. The Bride AKA Beatrix Kiddo, (Kill Bill) – This is easy. Get yourself a yellow track suit and a plastic samurai sword. You’ll need some yellow running shoes as well. If you are not blond you’ll need a long blond wig with straight bangs, Then spatter yourself with blood. Or soak yourself. It’s Tarantino and Halloween. Go crazy with the blood. The more the better. Soak it up.
  11. Agent Scully 86442-b1a60045dc8ced2a443097c43aad5192The hottest FBI Agent this side of Agent Mulder. Dana Scully is all about the black skirt suit and pumps. Add to that a red wig ( a must!) and make yourself a FBI badge. Extra accessories can include a flashlight, an outdated cell phone, trench coat and a gun.
  12. Pussy Riot – This is the easiest, the most timely, the most feminist and the most badass choice you can make. Extra points if you dress your daughter like this. grid-cell-28985-1413567743-5Gold star if your daughter asks to go as one of The Pussy Riot girls. These chicks define what it means to be a badass, and what it means to walk the walk. First you’ll need a stocking cap that covers your face. Now cut holes for eyes if there are none. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Next get some bright-colored tights and a (different) bright-colored jersey dress. Write some stuff on your arms in black marker and you are good to go.
  13. Xena Warrior Princess 2This one is a little harder to make at home, but there are plenty of places to buy a full Xena costume or accessories. What I would do is buy a brown corset and fashion a breast plate out of something. trial and error would have to come into play. Foil? Fabric? Who knows. For the skirt I would probably find a spartan skirt at a costume store and use that. Then add boots and make a Chakram by cutting a frisbee and painting it. I’d need a black wig and better abs, but that would ba a pretty convincing Xena Warrior Princess costume if you ask me.
  14. Princess Leia – So the trick here is to go with Leai from the first movie. That is “A New Hope”. You know, white dress, laser gun, cinnamon bun hair do. I was Princess Leia when I was a little kid and my brother was Darth Vader. My mom made the costumes. She made the Vader helment with a pair if sunglasses, an army helment and card stock. That’s how you do Halloween. Don’t go for the Gold Bikini look. 5959268c0bb885a28894d64af0bf0e12It’s played out, and the Cosplay chicks who do it, do it really well. So instead go for an easier, more comfortable and more iconic look. You’ll need a long white dress with a turtle neck. If you can’t do that, a long white dress with long white sleeves. Or a white bathrobe. White boots. A thick silver belt. you can make one of these if necessary. It’s a recognisable part of the look, so it should be there. And now, the hair. It’s a must. If you have long hair, you can actually do this with your hair. If not, the options are endless. Actual cinnamon buns. Ear muffs dyed and styled. Knit caps that have buns on the sides. Panty hose fashioned into a Leia’s Hair hat. Store bought Leia hair buns. They all exist. I promise.
  15. Mary Poppins – Who is more iconic than Mary Poppins? Nobody. If you get this look right nobody at the party will ask, “Who are you supposed to be?” keikolynnThey’ll know right away. The outfit is fairly simple. You’ll need a shin length black skirt and a button down white blouse. You’ll need white gloves, a scarf, and black boxy shoes or booties. Now for the accessories. These are important. Of course you’ll need an umbrella. A black umbrella. Next a black hat with daisies and flowers on it. You’ll need a big carpet bag and a little red bow-tie. Boom. Mary Poppins.

My Favorite Adventurers

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Osa Johnson

When we think of explorers, we naturally come up with names like Ponce Deleon, Megellan or Lewis & Clark. I say “naturally” because that’s what we have been taught. Not once in my American “education” was I told there were female adventurers and explorers. Most of us were probably not even told the whole truth concerning male explorers. I mean come on. Take John Smith for example. He took 500 folks to America and colonized in the name of England. Almost all of them died – 439 if you are keeping track. But, I bet all you really remember about Captain John Smith is his steamy affair with a young Indian girl named Pocahontas. Unfortunately that never happened. He made it up. Yep. The actual John Smith was a full blown liar and kind of a dick. The point here being: While we were being told lies and fairy tales in school we could have been reading about these real life women who changed the world for the better. It bothers me that schools would rather teach lies about men than teach anything about women.

My hope here is that you learn a little bit about people who helped make history and who did things that no one else thought they could, or should do. And maybe it will inspire you to go make some of your own.

  1. Osa Johnson – Osa Johnson was my inspiration for this list. I am currently reading her book called “I Married Adventure” which she wrote in 1940. The book chronicles her life with her husband Martin. Together they traveled to Borneo, Kenya and the Congo taking pictures and filming everything they saw. The book is a glimpse into what travel used to be like. Imagine doing all of that … on a boat. The book is filled with pictures of Osa feeding wild animals, making friends with the natives and even holding a big ass rifle at the ready in case of stampeeding rhinos. From 1917 to 1937 she and Martin were visiting and filming cannibals in the New Hebrides, orangutans in Borneo, and the rich gamut of wildlife available on safari in Kenya and the Congo. Osa Johnson was one brave woman. 
  2. Amelia EarhartImageEverybody knows who Amelia Earhart was. Or… do they? Yes, she was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. Yes she “disappeared” during a flight in 1937 and researchers think they have finally found evidence of her plane on an uninhibited pacific island. But did you know that she used to keep a scrapbook of women who had been successful in male dominated careers? Yep. She knew her road was a rocky one but it didn’t deter her. Amelia took her first flying lesson in 1921. Six months later she had saved up enough money to buy her first plane, a second-hand Kinner Airster two-seater biplane. She nicknamed it Canary because all badasses know that you gotta name your ride. She flew her yellow Canary to new heights. She set her first women’s record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet. Indeed.
  3. Gerlinde KaltenbrunnerImageThis young lady is still alive and kicking. She conquers mountains. Her quest was to climb the world’s tallest mountains and she has done it. Let me break that down for you in a different way: She was the first woman to summit all 14 – 8,000 meter (close to 3,000 feet) peaks without supplemental oxygen or porters. If you can’t quite grasp how big those are, then maybe some of the names will help: Mt. Everest, K2, Lhoste. She had many attempts that failed along the way, one even resulting in the death of a climbing partner on K2. She did it carrying her own stuff. She did it when she was 40. I know some 40 year old women who complain about having to carry their own luggage.
  4. Louise BoydImageBefore Val Kilmer was “The Ice Man” in Top Gun, Louise Boyd was ‘The Ice Woman” in real life. But she wasn’t nicknamed that because of her cool disposition. She was called that out of respect. This woman explored the arctic – annually. In 1928 she financed and led an expedition to find lost explorer, and friend Roald Amnudson (who was lost while on expedition looking for another explorer named Umberto Nobile.) Boyd traveled roughly 10,000 miles (16,100 km) across the Arctic Ocean, exploring from Franz Josef Land to the Greenland Sea.  She never did find any trace of Amundsen, but she was awarded the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav by the Norwegian government. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds super impressive and kind of heavy. Between 1928 and 1955 Louise Boyd explored Greenland and Norway numerous times. She flew over the North Pole in 1955 – she was 68 years old and the he first woman to fly over the North Pole. The flight was 16 hours.
  5. Kira SalakImageI put Kira on the list because she is a writer, an adventurer and a journalist. If you add “singer” to that list then we match up! “I want to travel in a way that lets me have a really intimate experience with local people,” she explained. She is super cool. New York Times called her the “Real life Laura Croft”. She has traveled SOLO to almost every continent, concentrating on remote areas. She prefers to travel lo-tech and solo. She wants to really, really see what life is like in other parts of the world. And how could you not want to know that? How could you not want to see for yourself what else is out there? She was the first documented person to kayak solo 600 miles down West Africa’s Niger River. She was also the first woman to traverse Papua New Guinea. And a 700-milencycling trip carried her across Alaska to the Arctic Ocean. She also got kidnapped in Africa at age 20, has a PhD in Literature, and she says that when people doubt her ability it pushes her harder. Yep, bad-ass. I want to meet her and be her protegee. I’m totally serious. If anyone knows her, let her know I am willing to learn if she is willing to be my Yoda.
  6. Gertrude Bell –  ImageEnglish writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy (!) who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her skill and contacts. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq. Yeah, I didn’t learn about her in school either. Honestly, I had to learn about Christopher Columbus who, in my opinion didn’t do much but lie, but I never heard of Gertrude Bell. Aside from her many travels and writings, she was a major component in establishing the modern state of Iraq. People didn’t like her much, but they respected the shit out of her. She was one of the few women of the time who had any real power.
  7.  Nellie BlyImage First off, her nick-name is Pinky. How awesome is that? Her childhood and adolescence pretty much sucked. Her dad was a mean drunk and even meaner when he wasn’t drunk. Her mom divorced and Nellie was sent to school in order to be a teacher. She had to drop out because of money. They moved again, and stayed in Pitsburg for seven years. While she was there Pink found work as a writer, sticking up for women in the work place. She wrote articles about the conditions of young working women, divorce reform and she impersonated a crazy person in order to get first hand knowledge of the brutal beatings and other mistreatment’s in the NY mental institutions. (It was a LOT like last seasons “American Horror Story” plot line. Just sayin’) In the years ahead, she exposed corruption all over the country. Folks were scared of Bly. Her biggest claim to fame though, was her trip “Around the World in 80 days”in 1889. She set out to beat the fictional character from the novel of the same name. Traveling by ship, train and burro, she returned back to New York in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes as a celebrity, cheered by crowds of men as well as women. RESPECT.
  8. Isabella BirdImageSo pretend you are a young lady in Victorian times. You are small and riddled with illnesses, not the least of which are spinal tumors. After an operation removes said tumors, Dad shells out some cash and tells you to do whatever you want. You are suffering from depression and insomnia, and the idea of staying in the country as an invalid don’t thrill you. So you do what any badass chick would do. You travel. Isabella Bird took Daddy’s money and set off for North America – alone. She traveled all over north America and back to england. She wrote books about travel and being a woman who does it. She wrote “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” about her time in Colorado and it reads like an HBO series. She meets a charismatic one-eyed outlaw, Jim Nugent, a fan of poetry and casual violence. Together they climbed Long’s Peak and explored the Rockies. Isabella caused some unintended controversy by yeah, you guessed it – wearing pants. She even threatened to sue the Times for accusing her of dressing ‘like a man’. Sing out Sister!
  9. Annie Smith PeckImageWhat a total badass. She was the first woman to study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. She earned a degree in Greek and Classical Languages before getting her Masters degree in Greek. That was in 1881. That’s a big deal. After she was finished with school Annie set out to conquer mountains. And she did. She climbed all sorts of mountains, gaining notability when she climbed the Matterhorn in 1895. But she wasn’t famous for being a mountainer perse, she was famous because of what she wore: a long tunic, climbing boots, and a pair of pants. Back then, women were being arrested for wearing trousers in public. Annie’s peculiar climbing costume was talked about in the press, but also prompted public discussion and debate on the question of what women should do and what they can be.
  10. Jane Goodall – ImageJane Goodall was brave, fun, smart, adventurous, humble and beautiful. Wiki says she was a “British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 45-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.” Damn. She might not have been an explorer in the same vein as Jack London, but she was a mountaineer none the less. She explored animals and nature and she was an avid activist for animal rights. She took her passion and turned it into her life.

Alicia Battles the Pink Princesses

ImageWhen I was a little girl I played with every type of toy. Sure, I had Barbie dolls and baby dolls, but it wasn’t limited to that. I also had Lincoln Logs, Play Mobil sets, games a plenty, action figures, books and paper dolls. And guess what? Little to none of it was pink. And I still knew I was a girl! The only Princess I knew about was Princess Leia, and she would have kicked your ass if you handed her a pink gown, or gun. But that was back before the Disney Media blitzkrieg took over. That was before every company in the world decided to start making things (anything!) pink, marking it up, and marketing it to girls everywhere and their mothers.

I have a HUGE problem with the pink princess syndrome. It is far more prevalent here in the states, but its pink, painted claws still managed to reach the Czech Republic. At one school in Prague we actually had to ban “Princess dresses” from school because the little girls would get upset and fight if they didn’t have one to wear. It’s worse here. I have one little girl (well, more than one) who wears pink every day, and only wants to do “princess” things. She told me she was going to be a princess when she grows up. I told her she couldn’t be, because that’s not a job. She cried and said her daddy said it was. Thanks dad. We needed just one more little girl who feels entitled, and calls herself princess. Do me a favor and call your daughter something else besides “princess”. How about Super Star? Kid-o? Sweetie?

When we adults think “there is nothing wrong with princesses” we are short siding the issue. Princesses belong in fairy tales – not on pencils, lunch boxes, costumes, boots, shoes, hats, sippy-cups, bedding, t-shirts, backpacks, games, dolls, socks, or even food. Nothing good can come of a little girl growing up with gender stereotypes forced upon her. She will have no choice but to be aware of her appearance. She will think that “pink is for girls” which is exactly what big business wants her to think. They now have you, your money and your daughter and her future money. Don’t believe me? Look at all the pink, princess shit out there for GROWN WOMEN!

But it’s not just females who are affected. Think of what this kind of mass marketing does to a boy, a boy who will grow up and become a man one day. When we force girls into little sparkely pink and purple boxes, we force boys to do the same. Boys at my school here in America think pink is “for girls” and make fun of any boy who wears it. Or colors with it. Every time I color a “boy” picture at work, I make sure that he is wearing a pink shirt, or purple pants. It starts a great conversation with the boys. It’s ok for boys to wear or like these colors, and it’s ok for girls to like Ironman, Star Wars and Spiderman.

I’m so glad that I grew up with strong female icons who never, EVER wore pink. I never thought about “being” a princess, and there was no pink in sight in my bedroom. It’s our job as adults to see through the marketing and decide to do better. There are plenty of fun toys out there that have zero pictures of princesses on them. There are plenty of fun activities that don’t incorporate gender stereotypes. If we act as the first line of defence, we can regulate the stereotypes our kids see and we can win the battle against the pink princesses.

(This is a GREAT article about Pink Princesses, and I agree with this dad and I relate to his struggle against gender stereotypes. You can read it HERE.)