Monday, January 26, 2015

Fleur Delacour-Weasley is a Fantastic Female

I have a theory that veela can sense when a man is being influenced by their magic—but Fleur may not be able to do this, or at least not as reliably as a full veela. 
Actual Veela can turn on and off their appeal, and Harry and Ron speculate that Fleur can do so Goblet of Fire. I’m not so sure. I think that a lot of her reasons for putting her name in to the goblet had to do with proving herself mentally and physically. The other students’ reaction to her being chosen shows that they clearly judge her for her beauty. Unlike from, she has never been the flower of the Beauxbaton court. She holds herself aloof, and she uses magic to her advantage, but it must be hard to know the people and be her for something that she really can’t control having, whether or not she can use it at her well. The fact that her most loved person is her sister again shows that she has difficulty interacting with people, not being judged, and if they seem to like her, separating that from the effects of her magic. She probably does not trust easily. 
Sure, we see her appreciating Bill’s looks at the end of book four, but so does Harry. Fleur’s a teenage girl. She is also brave and talented and cares a hell of a lot more about personality than books, and I can’t imagine her getting into a long-term relationship or marriage with someone without knowing that they love her for her brain and not her beauty.
TL;DR if she cannot tell whether or not someone has being affected by the Veela magic, I imagine that the year that we don’t see of her relationship with Bill was full of endless tests on her part, and him patiently breaking down barriers the way he once broke curses on tombs. I kind of want to read their story.

Originally Posted October 24th, 2014

Severus Snape's Refusal to Mature

To start on a light note: 
The fundamental difference between James and Severus, the real reason Lily ended up with the “arrogant, bullying toe-rag” and not the boy who had been her best friend is that Severus never matures. 
There are arguments to be made that he did not get the chance to do so. That he had more pressure on him at Hogwarts than James, and thus was not able to focus on his personality. Maybe. We don’t know what Hogwarts life was really like for either of them. Maybe things would have been different, post-war, if Lily had lived. But I don’t think they would have, because in a way, Lily did live. She was a part of Harry in more than just the eyes, and people who took the chance to know him saw that. Hell, Horace Slughorn saw that. And yet, the man who believed he loved Lily best of all didn’t, because he was too busy using a position of power to continue teenaged rivalries.
The things Snape does to Harry in class, like vanishing his potion before it can be graded, are probably things that the Marauders did to him. It’s rude, unacceptable behavior but ultimately not incredibly harmful. Grades at Hogwarts seem to be determined by end-of-year exams, not in-class assignments, and only OWLs and NEWTs really matter in the job market. GPAs aren’t a thing. It’s unfair, bullying behavior, but it’s the kind of thing that kids with undeveloped senses of empathy do to each other and then regret when they are old enough to understand the effects.*
However, it is not something that a teacher—who is in a position of authority—does to a student to retaliate against the student’s father whom the kid has never met. Particularly when the student would never think to do something like that himself. If Snape had actually gotten to know Harry from the start, he would have seen that in relation to other students, Harry seems to have been much more like Lily than like James.
I imagine that James arrogance probably came from being the only child of wix and from believing himself to be unusually adept. Maybe he picked on Snape because first-year Snape didn’t have the knowledge he thought a pureblood should have—Tobias Snape seems to have not liked magic. Meanwhile, Snape probably insulted James for being a Gryffindor, for befriending Black the Blood-Traitor, or for not being able to tie a tie. Who knows! They were eleven! And (this is speculation!) maybe when Snape got good at potions, he was vocal about that, so James Vanished his work to take him down a notch. It’s hypocritical, and unsupportive, and the mark of a rivalry. But it’s not something you take out on a kid, particular not one who has half of your one-time best friend’s genes.
Harry comes school with less magical knowledge than most muggleborns. He caught on quickly, as one imagines Snape did, but he doesn’t flaunt these accomplishments. He also never interferes with a classmate’s schoolwork. His best friend is muggleborn. He respects classmates who struggle with schoolwork, like Neville. And until sixth-year, when he believes Draco Malfoy is a Death Eater, he rarely, if ever, attacks Malfoy unprovoked, and even more rarely does he do so with anything other than words. For Merlin’s sake, in fifth year he becomes a teacher and proves himself to be far more patient than Snape has ever been. Yes, he is working with people “on his side,” but is Snape ever shown to be a better teacher to Slytherins?
Teenaged Harry is not like his father in the way he relates to other people, to the point that he is shocked and appalled by his father’s behavior in Snape’s Worst Memory, even though he has been abused by Snape for five years, and hears Snape use a slur against Lily. Meanwhile, adult Snape’s treatment of students much more closely resembles James’s treatment of his schoolyard nemesis. 
This is a blatant misuse of power. None of these kids have ever done anything to Snape, except maybe smart mouth him. Two of the ones he most antagonizes—Harry and Hermione—are the most like Lily. But in acting like the adult version of a boy whom he hated Snape is perpetuating harmful behavior, and he’s doing so in a position of much more power than James ever held over him. Moreover, he is behaving in a way that would absolutely horrify the woman he loved.
Perhaps you can say that he believes that this is the way to treat people because it is the way he was treated by the man the woman he loved eventually chose to marry, but the thing is James matured. We are told, in canon, that James became a respected, honorable person. Part of the reason Harry is so shocked by teenaged James’s bullying is because most of the people who have told him about his father have spoken of him in near-reverent tones, and these are people like Minerva McGonagall, who does not hold with using magic to bully. I can’t imagine her being okay with the things James and Severus did to each other at school, but she clearly admired James as an adult, as did other people. And I refuse to believe that an adult man who loved Lily Potter—loved her enough to allow her to bring out the best in him—would take out teenaged animosity on a child who had never met the man he disliked. 
Really, that’s the thing that bothers me the most about Severus Snape. He loved the ideal of Lily. If he’d loved the woman, he would have seen her in Harry—but not just in his eyes. He would have given the boy a chance—because that’s what Lily did.
In Snape’s Worst Memory, we are shown two fifteen-year-old boys who love Lily Evans. She shuns both of them, one because he mistreats a classmate** and the other because he uses a slur against her.*** They react differently. Snape begs Lily’s forgiveness, but when she explains what he must change, he balks. No doubt he was being threatened by the burgeoning Death Eater movement. We’ve seen how persuasive they must have been even at this time. But we are never given any canonical evidence that Snape made an attempt to break ties. At the time that Andromeda Tonks is marrying a muggleborn—surely losing a significant amount of privilege and alienating people with dark magic—Snape never  changes his word choice for Lily. And yes, it’s a matter of changing fundamental beliefs, but we have canonical characters who did so for reasons other than deep, abiding love. And I don’t believe that one should necessarily change to be loved, but if you are seeking acceptance from someone, you should not do things that are hurtful to them. Yes, he risked his life to save her, but not to save the man she loved, or her baby. I cannot imagine that Lily Potter, who died for that baby, would have been grateful for that, nor for the way he eventually treated Harry. I know there are people who think Snape shouldn’t be judged for the way he treats people, because not everyone is nice, but please look at the way he treats the woman he claims to love. 
Meanwhile, James. I’m going to acknowledge the point that he may not have ceased bullying Snape, which is a mark against him. However, after Snape’s Worst Memory, he was not picking fights with Lily’s best friend. His curses would be aimed at a person who used slurs against someone James respected, who had connections with people who were becoming more and more dangerous, and who had invented at least one spell that caused slashes to appear all over someone’s body. Still, James did not let things get too dangerous at school. He had ulterior motives for saving Snape’s life, yes, but those motives were to protect his friends—particularly Remus. I think there is a valid parallel to be made between James seeking to keep the world from finding out about Remus’s lycanthrope and Severus siding with Death Eaters against Lily to protect himself. There are privilege differentials—James with more than Severus, Remus with (potentially) less than Lily—but also danger differentials that potentially even it out.
As for Lily, we have no canonical evidence that James continued to pursue her after the scene at the lake. He did “deflate his head a bit.” Maybe he did it to earn Lily’s affection, maybe not, but either way he seems to have outgrown his bullying tendencies, or at least to have learned to channel them. We don’t have as much information about him post-Hogwarts as I’d like, but we know that he and Lily had thrice defied Voldemort. We know that he trusted his friends and would do just about anything for them. And we know that he sacrificed himself so that Lily and Harry could live. 
Lily Evans Potter is a Gryffindor. She is courageous. She has been marginalized, she has been threatened, and she has been betrayed by a childhood friend. You cannot tell me that this woman who loved deeply enough to save her child from the darkest wizard in history would have chosen to spend her life with a man who hadn’t learned to be as honorable as humanly possible. I see Lily as someone who understood that humans are fallible, but expected that the people she loved to recognize their mistakes and strive to be better people. Harry is a forgiving person, and although that attribute is ascribed to James, I think it belonged to Lily, too. After all, she came to love a man who had once been a bully, because he changed. I imagine that was hard for her, considering that the boy she had once loved so well never seemed to manage it. 
Snape did risk his life, in the end, by going to Dumbledore. He put himself into danger for her. But that marked the extent of his change in behavior. He switched his loyalties, but never his behavior. He pulled a Peter Pettigrew, but on the opposite side. And perhaps Lily would have forgiven him, as Harry did Pettigrew, and even Snape, but I cannot imagine that she ever would have been able to love him again. That, to me, is sad for everyone involved.
*Not to say that  kids don’t/shouldn’t understand that others have feelings, but developmentally adolescents are self-centered and don’t always understand that prank victims have the same feelings/emotions they do.
**That’s the simplest way to put it, but I don’t want to argue in James’s favor here. Whatever the history between him and Snape, James is a bully here, and his “prank” borders on abuse.
***Again, simplifying. The slur must have been deeply hurtful to Lily because she considered Snape her best friend.

Originally Posted October 24th, 2014

Friday, January 23, 2015

Message from a Boy (Harassing a Lady)

Yesterday, at about four, I revived my OKCupid profile. Within hours, I received a proposition from a man asking if I'd ever thought of being with "a couple? How about a couple of writers?" which, hey, you do you, dude; however, you are twenty-two years older than me, so no thanks.

At eleven o'clock I got this:

My reply, with my face for reference.

Here's the thing, I don't expect much from dating sites. I've been on three dates in my life. I've done a lot of chatting-that-goes-nowhere. Whatever. All in good fun. And I go back and forth about officially disclosing my disability on my profile. I get more messages if I don't, but it's such a huge part of me, that often I do.

I fall into the category of rabid feminist. I will defend other women's--and men's, and nonbinary folks'--rights to do whatever they want with their bodies in a safe space. But I have a hard time identifying with the issues of unwelcome sexualization other girls face. It never happened to me. I wasn't just a girl to my guy friends in high school, I wasn't a girl at all. Not one they'd consider dating. Not a deeply romantic person with with nascent desires, just like they are. (Full disclosure: I did get asked out once, by my best friend. We had one date. No bases involved.)

So, I don't get the "hey sexy" messages on OKC. I'm sure this makes me lucky, in the realistic scheme of things. For someone raised in thee contemporary world of hypocritical beauty expectations for girls/women, it is perversely disappointing. My body is not sexualized. It is also not fetishized,in the way of other disabled people. It is desexualized.

And I've grown accustomed to that. I try not to hold myself to beauty standards my body can't attain. I like make-up, and having long, pink-streaked hair. My face is my face, I do with it what I can. Most people I know seem to understand that. Believe it or not, I'd never gotten a message like this before. Dumb luck, I guess. Or maybe it's that I've usually lived in metropolitan areas, where people had better things to do than abuse a disabled girl on the internet. The fact that this guy doesn't like it isn't what bothers me about this message--at least not consciously. What bothers me about this message is that he bothered to send it. It bothers me that a self-identifying nerd, who has interests similar to mine, decided to waste his inbox allowance on this. He's not a neckbeard--he's pasty, but not unattractive. He has a good job. Works for the Navy. And yet.

And yet. Our society has such little acceptance for desperate--no, for DISABLED--appearances, that it is okay to say things like this. The shouts and slurs that used to be given whenever disabled people went out the door have now been moved inside, and online. This is not a positive development. But it is also not this particular bastard's fault. Our city has a smalltown mentality, but it's not small. I doubt he's ever seen me in real life. He probably doesn't have much experience with people with disabilities--some of our schools mainstream better than others, after all--perhaps all he knows how to do is express his knee-jerk reaction to the unusual. But it is the fault of society that enforces beauty standards so intensely that a guy not only can't see past the superficial, but must also scream his discomfort to the heavens.

I can take this. It's nothing I haven't heard, or thought, before. Not all disabled people can. Next time you're going on about being sexualized by MRA assholes, please remember your comrades who are desexualized, as well. Remember us. Speak of us. Fight with us.

Otherwise, the predators will have free reign over yet another oppressed group. No one wants that. Right?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Power and Privilege on ABC Family's The Fosters

I’ve seen plenty of criticism claiming that the writers and creators of The Fosters aren’t aware of the degree of privilege their characters hold. I’ll concede that, to a point, particularly given this tweet by Bradley Bredeweg, the executive producer. If everyone involved in the show truly grasped the power dynamics at hand, Brandon and Callie would not be acceptable. But, fear not Braillie shippers, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. 
I think the show has done some interesting things with privilege, particularly in the way it shifts. Similar to real life, no one on the show has a static level of privilege. Take Lena, for example. In many ways, she is highly privileged. Comfortable income, middle-class lifestyle, highly educated. However, she’s also a member of both a racial and a sexual minority. She is the one who shares the most stories of being discriminated against, and she experiences outsider status in her family due to having light skin. The these different levels of privilege allow her to be ignorant at times—her praising of Timothy edges on problematic what with the sitar joke—and somewhat judgmental when it comes to dealing with people who do not inhabit the privileged part of her world—Callie at Juvie, Daphne—but also to be vulnerable in other ways. 
Stef’s privilege is different than her wife’s. It is implied that she comes from a more blue-collar background than Lena. She also has white privilege, which the show demonstrates subtlety, such as when she comments that she “[doesn’t] understand why Dana [Lena’s mother] stresses [Lena] out so much.” This plays as an in-law joke, but once we see that Dana stresses Lena out, at this juncture, because of the way she talks about Lena’s light skin, it casts a different light on Stef’s comment—she doesn’t understand, because this has to be explained to her. However, she lacks privilege in being a woman on the police force, and coming out as a lesbian late in life, both which are things she struggles with explicitly.  
Four of the kids—Jesus, Mariana, Callie and Jude—have experienced a change in privilege. For Jesus and Mariana this happened at a young age, but the effects are still visible. While Mariana seems to be a spoiled, middle-class girl at the beginning of the show, it’s revealed that this illustrates how much she’s changed since her adoption, but also changes as she confronts her biological mother. I think we’ll continue to see her journey in this regard over the next season. Lexi seemed to be her only connection to Latin@ culture, and her hair in the promo suggests that she may be acting out against it, perhaps in light of the ostracizing she is now encountering at her—highly affluent, mostly white—school. She’s still young enough to be trying on identities, and coming to terms with the different layers of herself.
I have plenty more to say in terms of Jesus and Jude—oh, Jude, there are so many cool ways your life could go—but this is getting long, and I want to move on to Callie. Callie has the unique position of being explicitly aware of her new privilege, and of the bullshit factor involved in that. I imagine there’s plenty of rough stuff in her background—I want to know how she got her cartilage piercing, just because of the negative associations piercings seem to have on this show—but by the time she gets to Girls United, she’s in a good place. The other girls are quick to call her out on that.* They make her realize that by leaving The Fosters, she is intentionally making her life harder, and the show highlights this in that conversation between her and Brandon where they both realize that she doesn’t have to be in a position to worry about buying a kitchen table at the age of fifteen. This theme is continued after she leaves Girls United, and this is where I’m resting my hope for next season. 
Callie has gained privilege at the Fosters, and that means more than just that she’s disdainful of her classmates. It means that she understands the power that comes with privilege, which she is learning to use for good. Rather than making it easier for herself by distancing herself from the foster system, she immediately figures out how she can help other foster kids. And she doesn’t do this in an unintentionally condescending way, as Stef or Lena might. It’s a give and take, and when she does take on the judgmental point of view with Daphne, she is proven wrong. I foresee her doing more to bridge the gap between the world she inhabits now, and the world she used to inhabit to improve things for other foster kids. There’s real potential there, I think.
Overall, I really love the diversity in The Fosters, mostly because it’s more than diversity. Every characters’ background affects their life and relationships in a realistic way. None of them are perfect, not even Saint Lena. And even minor characters, like Wyatt, are layered. He’s less economically privileged than most of Anchor Beach, and ends up homeless/living with Daphne, at which point he’s clearly in over his head at that point. Arguably, the most privileged character introduced is Liam—his family golfs recreationally, Callie describes the house as the best they’d had, and she has a lot of guilt for losing that placement until she comes to grips with what happened—but the power he has because of his privilege is highly negative. On the other hand, the show doesn’t shy away from showing the result of that power. I think the result of that pre-trial hearing will be another huge motivator for Callie becoming a force for change.
I realize I haven’t addressed the white boy in the room, here. Brandon’s privilege, his arrogance, and the tendency he has to not act like he was raised by two wonderful ladies and an okay-guy are the show’s biggest failure, in terms of privilege. I’m also not thrilled about the whole injured-hand thing, because it’ll either give him more manpain, or humble him in a contrived way. So. I’m going to have to wait and see before I can really address him in terms of the generally successful ways the show deals with privilege.  
*The diversity of the girls’ backgrounds, the way their privileges collide, is explored very well on the Girls United webseries, and I hope the main show goes there soon. 

Originally Posted June 11th, 2014 Updated to reflect Season Two

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lost on the Couch

I've basically been on Couch Rest for the past six months. For those who say that is an exaggeration, they did not live with my. My roommates, and now my mother, can confirm. Couch and bed, that's me.

It's all been medically necessary. Starting some time in June, I got a sore on my leg that came from a fluid pocket, and not anything I did. That's the only good part about it. It drained crazy fluid and took two surgeries to close. The second one, on November 17th, required a month in the hospital post-op, and it might have been longer had the holidays not come. Also, during the July to November period, I had two MRSA infections--one from the surgical site, one from a fall. And I'm still having residual pain from my back surgery, from which I'm now over a year out, and he's not sure where that's coming from--basically I've been a hot mess.

Because of all the health problems, which basically meant I was paying way, Way, WAY too much to live on my couch, I've moved back in with my mom. I planned to do this all along, just six months from now when my lease was meant to ran out. I'm not going to stay here longer than two years, which should be long enough to pay stuff off and decide where I'll end up. Until then, my basic needs are met, and maybe I'll be sick less.

Although, I haven't stopped sneezing since I got here, so WHO THE HECK KNOWS?

I haven't been totally unproductive in that time. I wrote the posts on media you'll be seeing here, and I've been revising an MS. No huge news on that front, but things haven't been totally static either.

Media I have recently become obsessed with: In the Flesh, White Collar, The Raven Cycle books, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, Gravity Falls (hush, I was in the hospital, ok), BBC's Our Girl, The Oxford Time Travel novels by Connie Willis, The Queen's Thief series, The Wars by Timothy Findley, and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fikray (I read it three times last year....).

What'd you guys get obsessed with last year?