Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Tag: feminism

Life’s a lottery

Sophie Mackintosh’s Blue Ticket, published 30 June 2020.

In Mackintosh’s dystopian novel girls can’t wait to enter puberty and have their first period. Their menses are a joyous event. Girls dress up and are taken to the lottery where they will draw either a blue ticket or a white ticket.

Calla grew up without her mother. She grew up being regularly measured at the clinic. She grew up knowing that her mother would want her to get a blue ticket.

A blue ticket means, you get a career and freedom. Or in other words, you don’t get to have children. You are destined to become a loose woman. Not necessarily a prostitute, but men still like to take advantage of you. Whereas a white ticket means, you’ll be a wife and mother. You’ll be cherished.

Calla is a blue ticket who wants to be a mother. Hence, she takes her fate into her own hands. She removes the IUD that was planted in her on lottery day and finds herself a nice man to start a family with. Of course it’s not going to be so easy. She has to conceal her pregnancy from everyone, even her doctor. But once the cat is out of the bag, Calla has to flee from her home. At that point she’s five months pregnant. She begins a trek north, first at random. When she meets other women, other pregnant blue tickets, they band together; protection in numbers. They know, beyond the border in the north they will be free.

The story’s morale compass shouts 1950/60s. Women are either devout mothers, or sluts. Sluts, by the way, like to party hard. They like to go out a lot. Have sex with multiple partners. They drink lots of alcohol and smoke like chimneys. Nearly everyone who’s not a white ticket smokes and drinks, it seems. At first I thought this was because this was some sort of control mechanism, but that was not the case. It’s not explained at all.

Blue ticketed women seem to know only the basics about how their bodies work. They know they have periods, and have to report back about their periods at their weekly meetings with their doctors, who seem to be shrink and GP in one. They know that they cannot have children, know how to get pregnant, but have absolutely zilch knowledge about pregnancy; they don’t know anything about food restrictions, gestation stages, or birth – didn’t they go to school? Is this an alternate history?

Babies are a rarity. Seems logical, when you think that at Calla’s lottery there was only one girl from among a group of girls that got a white ticket. So there are probably more blue ticket women out there. Made me wonder whether this ticket lottery is some sort of control mechanism to prevent overpopulation. Anyway, apparently mothers, white ticketed women, are something so special, you’ll never see them outside with their children. It’s the fathers who can be seen with large prams. It’s the fathers who get gifts when they are perambulating their child around; gifts can be baby clothing, money, baby care products. People might ask for a glimpse at the baby, after giving the fathers a gift.

So, we’re back to women being used for casual – sometimes very brutal – sex. Or women being hidden at home where they are baby factories and home makers. Men being in control of women and their reproductive organs; being the ones slapped on the back for a job well done.

Yes, we can make an argument that this book is ‘[a]n urgent inquiry into free will, social expectation, and the fraught space of motherhood’. Maybe in the 1950s. But in the early 21st century? I’d say we have come a lot further than how women are but a sliver above farm animals. I want to see female empowerment, not oppression.

1/5 Harpy Eagles

Wordslut

Wordslut. A feminist guide to taking back the English language by Amanda Montell, published 28 May 2019.

I was made aware of this sociolinguistic book by a friend, who knows that I like to learn about words, their origins, their (current) usage – in short, that I am a hedge-linguist and a wordslut. Said friend and I then did a buddy listen of the book; we both listened to the audiobook and had a Zoom meeting to talk about it. We both liked the narration by the author herself, she is snarky and has a lot of serious things to say about the English language.

Montell talks about how words lost their original meanings and how, instead of being all encompassing or empowering, they are now used against women and marginalised groups, to keep women from power; how gendered insults, like calling someone a ‘sissy’, work and should be overcome; why women should curse more, in which situations women curse and whether we need gender specific curse words – does ‘clitfuck’ work? Apart from concentrating on vocabulary alone, there is also information about grammar, for example how gender neutral pronouns work in other languages and how they might work in English. An entire chapter is dedicated to specific pronunciation and the voice women use when talking, how women can sound more authoritative and whether women should embrace phenomenons like vocal fry and up-talk.

Some of the topics stuck more with me, like the gendered insults, gossiping, women’s voice/pronunciation patterns. Some I hardly remember what Montell was talking about, gay language for example. I am not certain why, I know I listened to this chapter attentively, but my brain might have filed it under “that must be a US thing”.

I recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn about how language is used against women, how women themselves struggle with coming to terms with language, and people fighting for the equality of all people – no matter what assigned gender at birth, skin colour, or cultural background.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Proud to be a Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is one of those books that pops up on every ‘feminist books you need to read’ list. I’ve read and loved Hunger and An Untamed State, so I was familiar with some of her background story and her gut-punching writing style.

While circling through different topics, this essay collection opens and closes with pieces on what it means to be a ‘Bad Feminist’ and I whole-heartedly agree with them. Gay’s bottom line in her last essay is this: ‘I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all’, summarizing my thoughts on the matter exactly. There are so many inaccurate myths about feminism that do not offer enough room for all the contradictions day-to-day life presents. Just because I identify as a feminist does not mean I can’t listen to bad rap lyrics or that I have to stop shaving immediately.

This essay collection covers more topics than I would have expected and I especially appreciated the section about race & entertainment. I remember enjoying Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a lot, but Gay’s essay about it really made me wonder if my brain was even turned on back when I read the book. Everyone of us needs more eye-opening moments like that.

Also, if you ever wanted to know something about the hidden depths of competitive scrabble, this collection has something for you.

This was only a 4/5 star read because I missed out on some of the political or pop culture references, but that might be different for readers from the US.

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