Heads Carolina, Tails California Friday, Sep 17 2010 

What I would not give for this entry to be a book review. Do you realize how many books I have in my possession–not including the huge pile that is an avalanche all on its own? School has taken up so much of my time and to be honest–I long for summer once again when I can go to work and come home and read. I’ve taken up knitting–it is so calming. I’ve completed two hats and can’t wait to begin making scarves.

My reason for writing this entry which has nothing to do with what I would truly love to be doing right now? I could not leave this untouched for another day. I became so accustomed to reading non-stop, writing a blog, and then starting up again. So, to those who read and those who comment: I appreciate your comments and discussion… and your patience. I will one day soon get another book review up. However, this is not even half of what I am up against:

ENG 203–Introduction to Drama.
We aren’t reading books so much as we are reading plays like “Oedipus Rex”, “Everyman”, “Lysistrata”, etc. The Greeks really knew how to stress SEX without saying it. Okay, that’s a lie. At one point in “Lysistrata”, the women declare they will not be “lifting their slippers to the ceiling” or “go on all fours.” Oh joy. I am currently writing a paper about King Oedipus and Oedipus complex–riveting, wouldn’t you say?

ENG 312–Literary Criticism.
Mostly collected works by Elizabeth Bishop and a custom-made course reader thanks to the Professor. Apparently, my views are incredibly Marxist and reader based. I guess I can agree if it means that I firmly believe how you interpret literature is based on your social location and experiences. No matter, recently read a short story called “The Burning House” by Anne Beattie–amazing. Read it. I could pick apart that story all day.

ENG 326–American Immigrant Experience.
Yep, you guessed it. It is a co-taught class for History and English. The professors banter back and forth–funny as hell. We read historical accounts, participate in lectures, and discuss what we are reading. Six or seven novels and a zillion articles. To be quite honest, the topic of immigration tends to be a very touchy topic. I do not understand why. We are a nation of immigrants. On another note, you could say I am a bit of a feminist. So, despite the fact that I’ve learned to respect various cultures, I became very sad when we had to read a short story about a young Chinese couple who were to be driven apart thanks to being Americanized–which really is so true–we expect everyone to act “American.” Whatever that is–I do not really know anymore. And now that I have gone somewhere on a tangent, let us return.

HIS 211–History of Latin American Civilizations.
The professor, my roommate and I have decided, looks exceedingly like a young Michael Caine. We are reading two books in that class and the sections are so ungodly long. The class lectures are fascinating and it is quite obvious the professor is passionate about the subject: Maya, Aztecs, Incas, etc., but this English major and History minor loves to read–just not texts that are so dense that you could put a knife through it.

SPN 101–Introduction to Spanish.
Hola! Me gusta mucho! I had taken three years in middle school and high school. However, upon being called stupid and lazy, I backed away from the language that I was so close to being fluent in and slowly but surely, it became dormant. Until now. I am staying up late and having fantastic conversations with one of my roommates, Amanda, and the second best part about having these conversations: they are  completely in Spanish! Hell yes!

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As much as I love school, (if I could be paid to go to school for the rest of my life, I probably would because I love to learn) I would love to get in a car with my travel buddy, Amanda, take some good music, a couple dozen books, my laptop, and plenty of money for gas and food, and just drive without a damn map. Get lost and just be at peace with a good book in my hands. Flip a coin and go. Escape into the novels that have become (almost) like home. Call me crazy, but I love talking to the characters and sharing in their adventures–but I guess I have to come back to reality sometime. Quite honestly, I do not  enjoy reality right now and a great big bubble of positive something would do me some good. By next week, I fully intend on having SOMETHING up…this two-week business is not okay with me.

To end on a positive note–I am thoroughly excited for my Fall TV shows and supposedly, they are making a show or a movie out of the Vampire Academy series. They will not be able to do Dimitri Belikov justice. haha

Books in my possession that I have not started yet: Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs, Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, The Killing Game by Iris Johansen, and maybe three or four other books that are coming in. Oh to be able to write another entry. Until then…

Happy Reading!! 🙂

Imperfect Birds Saturday, Aug 14 2010 

 “The last time Elizabeth and Rosie had gone on a hike together, Elizabeth had brought up there friends-with-benefits business, not for the first time.” (Pg. 36)

I hate saying this. I never, ever like saying I do not like a book–again with that thing called propriety. I did not like Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott. Click here to view Barnes and Noble’s synopsis. Here is how much I disliked it–I made it to Chapter 2, and could not continue. I had to fight to get through Chapter 1.

To be quite honest, this novel hit way close to home. Substance abuse, fear of losing a child, paying too much attention, not paying enough attention… an assortment of things. She addressed many issues that occur within many families today. Maybe some parents might find this book helpful to some extent in learning how to cope with whatever may or may not be going on.

However, that is not why I did not like it. The subject matter was interesting and very real. I just could not get over her writing style. I liked Bird by Bird, which was a novel for beginning writers–but they are very different styles of writing. I became bored very quickly, sadly. In that, I give Imperfect Birds a 2/2.5 out of 5. Click here for a review from the Washington Post.

Carnal Daisies Saturday, May 22 2010 

Being a woman has many stigmas attached to it. However, being a woman that is comfortable in her sexuality and not afraid of that is an entirely different matter altogether. Or is it? For hundreds of years women have been the center of all things soft and sensual, and at the same time persecuted for being too sensual. It should not be seen as socially acceptable for only a man to enjoy sex, and yet, that is currently the social norm. Women and men should be held at the same standard because there is not one person on Earth that can truly say what is and what is not sexually permissible. Celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Madonna, TLC, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga, have all independently caused stirs in the media when being vocal about sex or being a sex symbol. Women, as human beings have the right to expression and the right to live through that expression, sexual or otherwise.

Being a woman is only a part of a larger picture. According to Mary G. Dietz, “Gender is absorbed into a mixture of identifications” and “woven of many different stands” including “color, class, ethnicity, culture, sexual identity, sexuality, etc” (Dietz 411). Which means that these strands are present in all human beings, therefore, if a man is able to be open about his sexuality, as well should a woman. The key for all women is the want to discover “common threads which connect the diverse experiences of women” in a common unity (Dietz 405). In “Estrogen, Desire, and Puberty,” Natalie Angier’s words give insight to being a girl and eventually a woman: Girls can imagine futures for each other, with outrageous careers and a string of extraordinary lovers, because it is easier to be generous to another than to yourself, but imagining greatness for a friend makes it thinkable for yourself…(23). In other words, girls and women are not to think about pleasure for themselves, but to have hope for others because it would appear more socially appropriate. However, what is socially appropriate has often changed from times before World War I to presently.

Sexuality has varied from before World War I to presently. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull declared herself a contender for the United States presidency. However, Ms. Woodhull was ahead of her time and publicly proclaimed the “philosophy of free love” (Strom 114). Strom also states that: Emma Goldman… was frequently arrested for her incendiary speeches, and socialist Charlotte Perkins Gilman echoed early reformers’ belief that women should choose sexual partners on the basis of mutual love and desire… Goldman insisted that the institution [marriage] was inherently stifling for both women and men (114). At this time, marriages were not necessarily built on the idea of love, but more on security. Women would have large families and due to society’s belief that women were not truly supposed to have their own opinions, the women in question often remained faceless, or without identity as to who they were. However, as Strom notes, during the 1900’s, with surprising thanks to Freud and his psychoanalytic theory, a rather large change occurred: A new sexual sensibility… divorced sex from reproduction and emphasized sexual pleasure for its own sake for both women and men, overthrowing some of the Victorian constraints of the past (200). This was controversial because it was expected of women to be naive in their sexuality, and to not truly acknowledge it.

Unfortunately, women who are comfortable in their sexuality have unintentionally brought with them baggage created by other people—baggage in the form of words. As Feona Attwood notes in “Sluts and Riot Grrrls: Female Identity and Sexual Agency,” “By the twentieth century it [‘slut’] had become ‘a widespread term of abuse’ for women who did not ‘accept the double standards of society’” (233). These double standards being it was acceptable for a man to openly bed whomever he chose and a woman was immediately degraded for participating in similar acts. In “The Pleasure Principle,” a New York Times article written by Patricia Leigh Brown and Carol Pogash, an interviewee, Ms. Daedone states, “In our culture, women have been conditioned to have closed sexuality and open feelings, and men to have open sexuality and closed feelings. There’s this whole area of resistance and shame.” For men, emotion and intimacy do not seem to go hand-in-hand, and for some, intimacy is not included in sexual activities between men and women, or even same sex partners. In the 1968, a bra-burning occurred, and a year later, a feminist group known as Redstockings made this comment regarding female sexuality and the financial oppression: We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of violence (Strom 296). Women are sometimes seen as a means to an end—furthering the family line for instance. For some men, like Henry VIII, women were just that; not to be appreciated, but to be used for their bodies. But if a woman were to enjoy having sex, she would be called a whore or other choice terms. On the other hand, a good deal of woman have begun to stand up against the people who use these words as derogatory, and have transformed them into words of empowerment for the very woman that enjoys sex.

However, in recent years, the term ‘slut’ has taken on a new meaning—one that all women can take to heart. She is “‘a woman who takes her pleasure as a man does… without guilt or remorse’, one of the ‘sex-warriors, the independent owner-operators who bring great honor to our gender’” (235). Almost as if saying, “‘Yeah, I’m a slut. My body belongs to me. I sleep with who I want… I’m not your property’” (236). This is empowering because girls will learn from various kinds of women: fake women, real women, women in between (Angier 22). Girls should learn at a young age that they are beautiful no matter what and understand that as they mature, their sexuality will bloom and become a huge part of who they are and what they are about. Strom notes that “Modern-day women had often struggled for the freedom to explore their own sexuality and sexual pleasure,” however restrictions repress the ability to do so with the idea that “women who wished to avoid rape should stay home; if they went out at night or to the ‘wrong places,’ or wore the wrong clothing, they were often said to ‘deserve’ whatever they got” (298). No one deserves to have someone’s pleasure forced upon them, and to say that only shows how little society thinks of women.

In Natalie Angier’s essay, the author remarks that, Experience, after all, is a trustworthier friend than intuition. How many times do you have to encounter a man who reminds you of your cold, aloof, angry, hypercritical, and infinitely alluring father before you can recognize the phenotype in your sleep and know enough to keep your eyes and nose and hormones far, far away (20). The answer probably being once is enough. Hormones have not only a great deal to do with the attraction between individuals, but also the amounts of fat women and men have on their bodies. Angier states that women have a 27% average of fat, while men have approximately 15% (21). Due to ever-changing levels, women sometimes have more or less fat on their body. Society is constantly unsure how to handle this which leaves many females asking: Is there something wrong with me? Being comfortable in her body is part of a woman’s sexuality and if society is consistently questioning what amount of fat is attractive on females, then she needs to transcend society’s ideas and form her own. The New York Times interviewee, Ms. Daedone notes: “In our culture, admitting our bodies matter is almost an admission of failure. I don’t think women will really experience freedom until they own their sexuality.”

Women have every right in their world to express their sexuality. Being a women who is comfortable in her sexuality means that “‘you can be a bombshell and wear black panties and still be really smart’” (Attwood 239). Enjoying sex does not mean he/she is unintelligent and self-righteous—if anything, men and women should enjoy sex because it is not just for reproduction, but pleasure. If sex is supposed to be an intimate bond between people, a battle between men and women as to who is superior defeats the purpose and ultimately goes on to cause continual issues in social environments. Behind closed doors, women are just as likely as a man to ask for or demand sex—it does not make it better or worse, it just is. It is no body’s right to deprive “women of knowledge about their own bodies” (Strom 298). As Angier states, “The world needs your wild, pounding, dreaming heart” (23).

 

Works Cited

Angier, Natalie. “Estrogen, Desire, and Puberty.” Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Edward M. White, and Shane Borrowman. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River:    Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 14-23.

Attwood, Feona “Sluts and Riot Grrrls: Female Identity and Sexual Agency.” Journal of Gender Studies 16.3 (2007): 233-247. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.

Brown, Patricia Leigh and Pogash, Carol.  “The Pleasure Principle.” New York Times  15  Mar. 2009, Late Edition (East Coast): New York Times, ProQuest. Web.  29 Nov. 2009.

Dietz, Mary G. “Current Controversies in Feminist Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science    6.1 (2003): 399-431. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.

Strom, Sharon Hartman. Women’s Rights (Major Issues in American History). New York: Greenwood, 2003.