On Martha Jones, unrequited love and female empowerment

The other day I was reading a blog post about Amy Pond, the first companion to the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who. The blogger’s contention was that although Amy was awesome, in and of herself, the plotlines she was given were awful because they all rotated around Amy as Woman — a love triangle, a marriage, a baby.

I’ve seen this argument made many times and I’m inclined to agree, although I still really enjoyed Amy and Eleven. (Rory was a bit wet, but he grew on me.)

In the comments to this post, the consensus was that the superior companion in the reboot was Donna, because she wasn’t defined by her relationship to the Doctor, unlike Rose (who he fell in love with) and Martha (who fell in love with him). These comments were all written back before Clara and Twelve, so she didn’t factor into the debate.

Now, Donna is far and away my favourite, because of her strength of personality, heart, and the amazing character growth she experiences. Of all the companions, she had the most tragic end to her story. I mean, Rose’s was sad as far as it went, but then she got a clone of Ten to shack up with, and who wouldn’t be happy with that?! Donna lost everything. All that growth. All those experiences. I honestly think she would’ve preferred to die. *sob*

On the other hand, I think Martha deserves a little more credit. She was fiercely intelligent in her own right, stubborn and brave. Sure, she fell in love with Ten, but have you seen David Tennant? Besides, he swept in, saved the day and pashed her in the course of the adventure. My ovaries would have exploded on the spot!

BUT.

Martha didn’t just swan around after the Doctor and sigh. She didn’t pine (unlike Rose). She loved him, but once she realised he was never going to love her, she was independent-minded enough, smart enough, to realise that continuing to be around him was actually bad for her. Because she knew she wanted a partner — which not all women do, I grant you, but she did — and he would never be it.

I found Martha’s departure from Doctor Who to be uplifting, unlike all the others so far. Every time I see that scene, I clap. Because she did it with dignity.

You go, girl!

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Martha Jones Ten

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Kickstarter, Stacey Jay, and sexism…

Warning: this is a long post. I have my rantypants on.

So there was a(nother) scandal in the YA world this week. An author going by the pen name of Stacey Jay — I gather she writes romance too, under another name — set up a Kickstarter project to try and fund the second book in her YA series. She apparently published her first book traditionally, but the sales weren’t enough to make the publisher want to go ahead with the series. However, they were  enough that she could make a viable go of the sequel if she self-published it.

So she set up a Kickstarter, attempting to raise enough money to cover the costs of a cover artist, editing, layout, etc. As part of that, she also included the cost of her time to write the book. She did this because writing is her sole source of income, and because if she was going to take time out from other paying projects to write the sequel, she’d need to be able to feed her kids. You can see the Kickstarter here.

This started a bit of a storm on Twitter. I didn’t see it myself at the time, but I’m told that there was some discussion about the struture of the Kickstarter rewards, some about the idea of wages vs advances vs preorders, some on whether Kickstarter is the program to use at all, and some about the ethics of asking for the cost of living as part of the price of writing a book.

Regardless of the intent behind some of the discussion (I spoke to one person who said it was mostly a discussion about the system), some of it was vitriolic (“who does she think she is?!”), and Stacey Jay took it as an attack. She cancelled the Kickstarter. Her blog post went viral, and a lot of big names latched onto that last point of discussion, about writers being fairly remunerated for their work. Chuck Wendig and Laura Lam blogged about it. Maggie Stiefvater retweeted the blog with a comment saying she agreed 100%.

Then Chuck Wendig tweeted something I’d seen others tweet, although not in the same words:

Chuck Wendig Kickstarter

He was accused of sarcastically subtweeting a group of women, and of being sexist.

This left me scratching my head, because I hadn’t been aware that the bulk of the discussion about the Kickstarter had been by women. I suppose if I’d considered it, I would have realised, because most YA authors are women. But until then, it didn’t seem to have been a factor.

Still, the subject of authors being paid (in money, not “exposure”) isn’t exactly a women’s issue, so the gender makeup of the two sides of the debate shouldn’t be a barrier to others taking part in a discussion arising from it. The fact that the bulk of the discussion was on one issue, rather than the full spectrum of the original discussion … well, that’s just how conversations work. They don’t always go the way we want them to, especially online.

Sidenote: The claim that Chuck Wendig has a big megaphone to broadcast with because he is a man is undermined by the fact that Maggie Stiefvater — who has almost twice as many Twitter followers — said the same thing. I’m not saying that his white male status hasn’t helped him along the way in his career, because there’s no doubt that privilege shortens your odds in the “luck” part of the success equation, but I’d suggest hard work, clever marketing and talent play big role in his success too. And Chuck is the first person to admit he has received “hetronormative white dude” advantages. His self-awareness earns him mad props in my eyes.

Anyway, yesterday, Stacey Jay tweeted the following.

StaceyJay1

StaceyJay2

She’s been doxxed.

(If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when someone hacks or does intensive research on a target and then publishes their personal details online. Wiki has a page defining it.)

I saw her tweets this morning, my time, and wanted to Hulksmash something. I feel sick. Really ill, and so bad for Stacey Jay that it hurts. Because this isn’t about the pros and cons of asking for money to cover your bills anymore, or whether Patreon is better than Kickstarter, or whether a $20 reward including promo material was poor form. This is about someone’s privacy being violated.

Regardless of what you think of authors using Kickstarter to fund writing a book, we can all agree that doxxing someone is a dick move, yes?

To be clear, I don’t think for a second that the person behind the doxxing was one of those involved in the original discussion. No doubt some “hacktivist” shit-stirrer saw the scandal and decided to make a name for themselves in the cyber community by targeting Stacey Jay.

And this is where I think sexism has played a part, moreso than in the original tall poppy syndrome or the commentary around it. Because doxxing someone contains an implicit threat. I know where you live. It’s been used a lot by the less savoury side of the GamerGate scandal, to try and shut up those on the opposite side. Usually, it must be said, it’s used to target women.

I hope Stacey Jay reports the doxxing to the police and they are able to find the perpetrator — although I’m not optimistic about that. I hope she can find some peace after all this. I even hope that she reactivates the Kickstarter to take advantage of the publicity all this has caused, although given the doxxing I doubt she will. If I were her, I wouldn’t.

And the truth is that I’m scared to post this, because I’m a female on social media, and I’m afraid of drawing the wrong sort of attention. Of having people leave vindictive negative reviews on my book, or of being doxxed myself. Because it has happened to others.

But seeing others doxxed and being cowed by that makes you collateral damage from the original attack. It’s completely messed up. This is what #YesAllWomen is about.

And that is my rant.


Privacy and victim-blaming

Warning: this is a ranty post. If you don’t feel like reading a ranty post, come back in a day or two. I’ll put up my review of Dancing on Knives by Kate Forsyth. We can talk books and drink coffee together.

Although I may be shouting into the void here — the points I expect I shall make have been made already, by other, more sensible folks — I feel like I need to add my two cents.

Dr Who bow tie

[COOLEST SUBTITLE EVER]

On my drive to work, after I’ve dropped my son off, I listen to one of three things: a) an audiobook, b) News Radio, or c) “old fogey radio”.

The old fogey radio station is rather inauspiciously called 666. It’s the local AM station run by the national broadcaster. They have a gardening show on Saturday mornings; it’s that kind of station. (I actually quite like the gardening show.) Mostly I enjoy it — it’s nice to have some local news, and during the day they do shows about the local art galleries, writers, cool ways to volunteer in the community. Good stuff.

This morning, however, I got WELL GROUCHY! The host was talking about the nude photo hacking “scandal” involving Jennifer Lawrence and a bunch of other female celebrities. He claimed taking nude photos of yourself was weird, and that he hadn’t been able to find anyone who’d done it. He made a disparaging comment about how maybe only celebrities did it, because (and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t remember his exact words) they were strange. One of the female hosts, who was doing a spot to talk about something else, agreed with him.

I had so much steam coming out my ears it’s a wonder I didn’t crash the car.

When I got to work, I sent him an angry text (which he read out on the radio, so I got to annoy everyone, I’m sure). I pointed out that the reason he hadn’t been able to find anyone that took nude photos of themselves probably had more to do with the radio station’s demographic than anything else. He got pseudo-offended that I was calling them old.

Now, in my defence, the average 666 listener has got to be between 40 and 65. And I listen, so I’m including myself in that “too old to take nude photos” category. I’ve never taken a nude photo of myself and uploaded it to a “cloud”. I barely understand what the “cloud” is, in a technological sense, and don’t use it because I FEAR CHANGE. And DICKHEAD HACKERS.

But I know a LOT of young women take nude photos of themselves, and share them with partners. Do I think it’s a good idea? Not particularly, because you never know where they will end up. But it’s not uncommon. I think if a presenter on the national broadcaster’s youth station, Triple J, asked the same question, they’d get overwhelmed with calls.

And all of this is beside the point, anyway. The point is, regardless of whether you understand why she did it or not, Jennifer Lawrence, like all the other celebrities affected, is entitled to her own privacy. If her husband is interstate — or hell, in the next room — and she wants to add a little spice to their relationship with a naughty picture, she is allowed to do so. They are consenting adults. (That’s where sexting becomes a grey area, by the way — when either party isn’t an adult yet. Then it can be legally child porn, even if it’s between two 15-year-olds. Don’t do it, kids.)

To suggest she brought it on herself by taking the photo is victim-blaming. It’s slut-shaming. She deserved it because she took the photo. Wore a short skirt. Had too much to drink. Flirted with the guy.

See where I’m going with this?

(For the record, I sent another text message to the radio station with this second point, although I don’t know if it got read out, because by then I was running late for work.)

Jennifer Lawrence and the other celebrities didn’t ask for it. By taking their pictures, they weren’t giving permission for them to be stolen. By uploading them to Apple’s supposedly secure Cloud, they weren’t giving permission for them to be stolen. They are the victims. They were robbed, and now people — some people, at least — are denigrating them for it.

They are the victims. Don’t suggest otherwise.


Legends of Chima: LEGO fail

Fair warning: I’ve got my ranty pants on today. And my feminist undergarments. They are the same as my regular undergarments, and do include a lacy bra, if you’re wondering.

This week, I picked up the first DVD set containing four or five episodes of the LEGO TV show Legends of Chima. Cool! LEGO animals! My son loves LEGO! How can we go wrong? When we got home from grocery shopping I put it on for him, and we sat down together to watch the first two episodes.

And I was horrified. Not at the rather ham-handed script — although holy infodumps, Batman — or even at the easily drawn drug metaphor between the magic “chi” that only adults can take and that seems to have addictive qualities. What really got under my skin was the gender mix in the TV show.

ChimaThe first episode starts with the main character, a bipedal lion named Leval, going to a coming of age ceremony where all of his tribe is gathered to celebrate him turning into a real warrior and getting to “take” chi. His tribe is all male. You can tell, because they’re lions and there’s not a mane-less head in sight. Where are all the female lions, I think? Weird. A fight breaks out and a bunch of other male LEGO animals attack — crocodiles, ravens and wolves.

Then there’s a flashback, and we see Leval with his friends, only one of whom is female. She’s an eagle named Eris, and although the bio on the Legends of Chima site describes her as not as “airheaded” as the rest of the eagles — who all seem to be male too, so I guess that could’ve been worse — you could’ve fooled me. By the end of the second episode she’s accidentally ended up in the middle of the dueling area on a bike thing that the website tells me is called a “Speedor” (plural: Speedorz; someone save us now!). When one of the baddies charges her, she sits there on her bike, which she suddenly doesn’t seem to know how to start, and squeals until Leval saves her. She doesn’t, you know, fly up and out of the way. With her wings. Which she has.

Even worse, the only other female characters I saw in these two episodes where the mother of Leval’s former friend (said baddie, a crocodile named Cragger), who is overbearing and manipulative, and Cragger’s sister, who is even worse. The sister’s name is Crooler. CROOLER, like “crueler”. Get it? She uses a magical flower thing to induce a blood rage in her brother, and whispers in his ear about how bad the lions are so that he starts a war.

I nearly threw up in my mouth.

The icing on the cake, though, was when I looked inside the cover and saw a flyer for other LEGO TV shows, including a bright pink add for LEGO Friends. I guess that’s the one girls are meant to be watching.

I didn’t really have an opinion when LEGO brought out the Friends range of blocks. I have friends who have little girls and they love playing house; I’m sure other girls do too. I did when I was little. But I also played with the little boy next door’s action figures. My sister and I had She-Ra dolls, and we’d play knights, or cops and robbers. I loved action stories, but I also didn’t want to pretend to be a boy to play them. Even to this day if I’m immersing myself in something like a game, I will choose to play the female character — whether that be Lara Croft or one of the female choices in the Arkham Horror board game.

I thought we’d come a long way. Frozen — with its self-rescuing princesses — gave me a lot of hope. But Legends of Chima made me realise some of us haven’t come as far as others. My son has two favourite shows right now. One is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from 2003; sure, most of the characters are male but at least April and Karai both kick ass. The other is an Avengers cartoon, which at least has the Wasp in it.

I’d love to see 50/50 representation between females and males in TV shows in general, and kids TV in particular. But, since that might be too much of a shock for some TV execs to handle, can’t we at least make the female characters that are there more than wet blankets who scream and can’t put their damned bike into gear?!

…ok, I’m done.

PS Ok, almost done. I just remembered the one thing that pissed me off in The LEGO Movie. Right at the end, when Wildstyle/Lucy is about to dump Batman, he stops her only to break up with her himself, telling her she should be with a “real hero”. Sure, Lucy and Emmet clearly liked each other. And sure, she was about to break up with Batman for that reason. But did Batman really have to tell the viewer that the hero was entitled to the hot girl? What kind of message does that give little boys? Grr.