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Queer Summer Reading guest post!

My guest post for Queer Summer Reading, called “Sex-Repulsed Aces in Fiction” (yeah, I could have been more creative…), is up! Here’s the intro:

Growing up, I never saw anyone like me in fiction—a sex-repulsed asexual person. This left me basically thinking I was the only person on the planet who hated the thought of ever having sex. So it’s amazing to now get to read about characters who actually have similar feelings to mine; it means so much to finally see myself reflected in stories. Here are a few sex-repulsed/averse ace characters who have especially resonated with me (all of whose names, coincidentally, start with “N”).

If you haven’t heard of Queer Summer Reading, you should definitely check it out.

I didn’t like Wonder Woman

I saw Wonder Woman a few weeks ago, and while it seems like almost every other female viewer loved it, I was actually really disappointed. Diana herself was an awesome character, and I look forward to seeing more of her, but as the first female-led superhero film I’ve ever seen, Wonder Woman let me down in multiple ways:

  1. BOOB ARMOR. My hate for it was so extreme that it distracted me during the Themyscira scenes. I’ve read enough about how impractical (and even dangerous) such armor would be that I spent those scenes fuming about female characters being costumed in unrealistic armor just to show off the fact that they have breasts.
  2. Skimpy armor. It’s established early on that the Amazons aren’t invincible; they can get cut, be killed by bullets, etc. So then why don’t they wear armor that covers their arms, chests, and thighs?? This especially grated on me when Diana traveled to a war zone, where at one point she got bombarded with bullets. Full-body armor would have been pretty nice at that point! But again, apparently female characters’ bodies just have to be on display, even if it makes no sense in-world. (I did see that recent Twitter thread about how the armor design is realistic compared to past designs, etc., but it’s still not realistic enough! I don’t want to have to settle for “better than lingerie-inspired costumes”.)
  3. Wonder Woman, apparently, shaves her legs and armpits. Even while traveling through war-torn Europe. As do all the women who live on an island of only women where no patriarchal beauty standards exist. Because apparently it would be too gross to show women having actual body hair.
  4. Along those same lines, Diana looks perfect all the time. She looks exactly the same after a fight as she does before one. No dirt, no sweat, no messed-up hair. And it’s so frustrating that women have to be unrealistically perfect, have to look pretty every moment, in order to be the lead character in a film like this. Real women don’t look perfect all the time, and in the situations she goes through in the film, Diana wouldn’t either. When I see female characters portrayed this way, I don’t feel represented; it’s not a fellow woman I’m seeing on-screen, but a skewed, patriarchal fantasy version of one.
  5. Anyway, moving on from the costuming/appearance issues: so many men. After we leave Themyscira, Diana is surrounded by men for the rest of the film. And I get it, it’s a war movie, historical accuracy, blah blah blah. But after that women-ful start, I felt cheated. It’s so typical for female main characters in movies to have a solely male supporting cast, and I had hoped this would be one movie that didn’t fall into that pattern.
  6. That brings me to… STEVE TREVOR. It felt like he was almost as much of a main character as Diana; I’m pretty sure he had about the same amount of dialogue and screen time as her. I want a movie about a female superhero, not a female superhero and some random dude who I don’t care about! (Not that Steve was a bad character; he actually treated Diana well, so it really wasn’t him I had a problem with—it was that the filmmakers chose to make him such a central character, when I would have preferred the focus to be solely on Diana.) I also hated that he had to lead her around the outside world, explaining how things worked, telling her how to dress, act, etc. I just don’t want to see my powerful warrior heroine having to be guided around by a man—“experienced dude teaches naïve woman how the world works” has been done enough, and this really felt like the wrong movie for it.
  7. And finally: the romance. Did there really have to be one? I was glad at how little it was emphasized, at least, but not every woman needs a male romantic partner! Seriously, the heteronormativity was really bad. Diana falls in love with the first man she ever meets?? Why would she even be attracted to men after growing up with only women? Ugh. (Thinking about this and my last two points, imagine if, instead, Steve’s character had been a woman. It would have been so much better. If that had been the case, I would probably be shouting my love for this movie right now instead of criticizing it.)

So yeah, we got a female superhero in a well-reviewed, financially successful movie. But that wasn’t enough for me. I’ve already been let down by the portrayals of women in the Marvel movies (again, they apparently just have to look sexy all the time, to the point that they don’t get to wear sufficient armor because then their cleavage wouldn’t be on display), and I thought this one would be different—but in the end, it felt like more of the same. As Ray Sonne writes in her review at Women Write About Comics, “[Wonder Woman] anticipates a very white and—based on interviews with Gadot and Jenkins as well as how much screen time men got in this movie in comparison to women—very male audience and not much else.” (Check out that review for more on the movie’s problematic treatment of race, which is another issue with it.)

I know this film was meaningful to many female viewers, and that’s awesome; I don’t want to take away from anyone’s enjoyment. But I feel like it’s important to talk about the negative stuff too. When I left the theater, I didn’t feel excited or empowered; I mostly felt sad. Wonder Woman reminded me of how far we still have to go before women are equally and realistically represented in film.

A+ Ships: Wes and Nash, MR. MARCH NAMES THE STARS

I wrote a guest post for Cal Spivey’s “A+ Ships” series!

C.M. Spivey

A+ Ships is an irregular feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.


Our post today comes from Tabitha. This book sounds awesome and I look forward to checking it out. Thank you, Tabitha! 

Book cover, black feather quill in ink pot over an aquamarine background, text reads Mr. March names the Stars, Rivka Aarons-Hughes Click for Goodreads

Wes loves his life traveling the Pagan festival circuit, but he loved it more when he wasn’t harangued by women a little too fond of his picture in a popular charity calendar—a calendar that mucked up his bio by stating that he’s single, but leaving out that he’s not straight.

Wes’s appeals to the company to change the bio come to nothing until Nash, a lawyer from the company, shows up and promises to do all he can to fix the problem. But though Wes quickly grows fond of Nash, and the interest seems mutual, the calendar problem shows…

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Interview: Tabitha O’Connell

I was featured on Asexual Artists today! Thank you so much to Lauren for running the site and for interviewing me. 🙂

Asexual Artists

Today we’re joined by Tabitha O’Connell. Tabitha runs one of my absolute favorite asexual blogs: Asexual Representation. She also happens to be a phenomenal writer and has just sold her first short story (YAY!). Tabitha is a fellow ace feminist, which is always awesome to see. I could not be happier to feature her on Asexual Artists. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write nonfiction about asexuality and feminism, poetry (once in a while), and fiction of all lengths. My fiction is usually either fantasy or contemporary/realistic, and I like to explore interpersonal conflicts and complex relationships, awkward situations, and characters feeling alone and navigating social spheres where they don’t really fit.

I just recently had my first short story published; it’s a bit different from what I normally write in that it’s a light, happy…

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First short story published!

My first published short story, “The Well”, appears in the April 2016 issue of Vitality. It’s super exciting having some of my fiction published! I wrote this story last year, right around the time that I wrote my first post on this blog, and it was actually Vitality itself that inspired me–discovering a magazine dedicated to non-tragic stories about queer characters made me want to write one of my own. “The Well” features an all-female community and an aro-ace protagonist. In most of my stories with ace protagonists, the character’s asexuality comes into the story in some way (whether they’re discovering it, coming to terms with it, or coming out to someone else), but in this one, it’s just a brief aside and not where the focus lies.

I had fun writing this story, and while, sadly, this is Vitality‘s last issue, I’m glad that I was able to be a part of it!

New article out on The Mary Sue!

I wrote an article about the impact of leaving Rey, and other female characters, out of kids’ merchandise, which you can read over at The Mary Sue!

Leaving Rey out—or Black Widow, or Gamora—tells boys that women aren’t worth identifying with. That women may be heroes onscreen, but when it comes to re-enacting the movies with your action figures, it’s the men who should be saving the day.

Acceptance

Last year, as I wrote about in my last (which was also my first) post, I started actually submitting some of my short stories to various online magazines. I was enthusiastic and excited; I dove in, devoting hours to researching different markets, sorting and ranking them, reading their content to figure out which ones were a good fit for my work. Eventually I submitted a few things, knowing not to have any expectations–everyone gets rejections at first, right? And I did get rejections, and that was okay; I just did a little more research, and sent my stories out again.

But somewhere along the way, in the middle of these efforts, I lost all my confidence in my writing. I saw other writers, younger than me, who already had dozens of publication credits. I saw other writers talking about how easy writing was for them, while I struggled to get anything polished enough to submit. I read the work of other writers and realized it was better than mine could ever be. Suddenly, trying to get published seemed incredibly arrogant. I got deeply discouraged, and I gave up–not just on submitting pieces, but on writing, too.

But last month, I sent off one of my few completed stories again, prompted by an upcoming submissions deadline for a magazine I enjoy. Having lost my hope and aspirations, I mostly forgot about it after that. But then, last week, I got an email from the magazine. I read the first line and thought it was another rejection–but it wasn’t.

You shouldn’t need external validation to keep doing something you love. I also know that being officially published doesn’t mean you’re good, and not getting published doesn’t mean you’re not. But I think, where I’m at right now, I did need that validation. I needed something to tell me it was worth it to keep going, that I shouldn’t just give up. That all the time and effort I’ve spent messing with words hasn’t been wasted. Having one short story accepted: it’s not really that big a deal. But to me, right now, it is.