wise as serpents and innocent as doves

Hey, gentle readers. Sorry about my absence! As much as I enjoy linkspam, I like this blog to have actual content, and while I’ve had a few ideas kicking around in my head, none have entirely come to fruition. So this post is kind of all of them at once. In case you get confused, just come back to the thesis, which is: how Olga is Miss Marple.


My first grown-up book was Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, which I read at the end of third grade or beginning of fourth grade, and which was pretty freaking morbid for a 9 year old, and also kind of racist, but whatever. I got totally hooked on Agatha Christie and plowed my way through most of her back catalogue over the next three years. As a result, I have read almost all of her Miss Marple books and short stories, a fair amount of her Hercule Poirot works, and ALL of Tommy and Tuppence because they kind of rock. Namely, Tuppence rocks. Can I be Tuppence? But that is not the topic of this post. The topic of this post is why I really like Miss Marple.

This is Miss Marple’s schtick, for those of you who are not familiar with her: she is a little old lady who lives in St. Mary Mead, a quiet little English town, and people think that she is a tad bit doddering and off in the head. But Miss Marple is incredibly smart and a great observer of people, and she solves crimes, often using her harmless appearance to great advantage.


Recently, I have been reflecting on how much I no longer regret my decision to major in classics. For quite some time after choosing to forsake the world of togas for the world of forsaking bras, I looked at my classical period primarily as a springboard for future endeavors and six years’ worth of training to write the best Harry Potter spells OF ALL TIME. (At least, that was my motivation when I started taking Latin in 2001.) Now, however, I’ve realized that a background in classics has had other benefits, namely, accelerating my transformation into Miss Marple. Wikipedia agrees with me: “Miss Marple’s Olga’s acquaintances are sometimes bored by her frequent analogies to people and events from St. Mary Mead the internet The Past, but these analogies often lead Miss Marple Olga to a deeper realization about the true nature of a crime the patriarchy life, the universe, and everything.”

Being Miss Marple means that I spend a lot of time connecting the dots, but it also means other things, namely that I spend a lot of time sitting around going, “Somehow, Inspector Fox, I don’t think you’ll find the murder weapon in Mr. Clarendon’s shed.” In other words, I spend a lot of time debunking things. Prehistoric matriarchy! Goddess worship = female empowerment! The decline of Western civilization!

I really, really hate the “decline of Western civilization.”


In other ways, I have also been like Miss Marple. For a long time, I liked appearing to be innocent and sweet, and in some cases, namely in my relationships, I really tried for the sweet part. But when you are a grouchy and smart old lady, that tends to rear its head after a while, especially if you are trying to keep some of that on the down low. It also gets aggravating, day after day, to have people constantly underestimating and undervaluing you, assuming that you are eye candy or just She Who Keeps The Home Fires Burning (not that these in particular are Miss Marple problems).

At a certain point, appearing harmless and fluffy, having people tune you out because you don’t get straight to the point, and then surprising them when you hit them upside the head with your awesomeness isn’t subversive. It’s just kind of sad.

I’m still a grouchy old lady, though.


Ironically, after I came to the realization that it was best to just fly my freak flag and let the chips fall where they may, people started making even more erroneous and frustrating assumptions about my innocence and purity because I got Jesus. (That’s a phrase I deeply enjoy using. Like, fuck yeah, Jesus is the mud I’m rolling in! except it’s like spa mud because it’s made by God, and it’s also like regular mud because it’s outside and available to everybody, at least in rainy seasons!) What I had once enjoyed – creeping out my housemate with my tentacle bunny plushie, getting approved of by partners’ parents (hoo boy), alarming various people with the egg story (I only tell that one in person) – had lost its charm. When my mom told Martin that it was okay to tune me out sometimes, I just talk a lot, it runs in the family — that was not funny. Also, not ok.


For a long time, when I was very sick — that’s why I’m a grounchy old lady! not exaggerating, my dear readers! — I kind of forgot I was smart. I assumed people tolerated me on sufferance and attempted to buy their loyalty with baked goods. (In case you were curious, I make a truly bitchin’ three bowl devil’s food cake.)


Miss Marple is smart. She is a badass. People often forget this. That’s why, when she catches the bad guy, it’s a surprise. It shouldn’t be a surprise when women are smart, observant, socially aware. Those shouldn’t be “women’s secrets,” either. And when women talk, it’s worth listening. If people ever listened to Miss Marple finish her stories… well, those books would be a lot shorter. And possibly more morbid.
Which is fine by me.

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books to read!

I’ve been putting off posting because I want to do an in-depth look at why Elaine Showalter’s Hystories is the worst book ever written… ever (ok, that’s not true, Mere Christianity is a tough contender), but that’s taking a while. It’s rare that I read a book that is so bad that it is painful for me to read (as opposed to hilarious), but this… this is one. Anyway. You have that to look forward to!

TOP FIVE BOOKS EVERYBODY SHOULD READ AND BY EVERYBODY I MEAN YOU
The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, Sheila Jeffries. I tell everyone about this book because it is even more awesome than the title, and you know what, that is hard. I do not agree with some of the things that Jeffries says, but her work is amazing and groundbreaking and her arguments totally valid. This was my first real exposure to discussions of global and transnational feminism, and it blew me out of the water.
All Our Kin: strategies for survival in a Black community, Carol Stack. I love this book. I don’t think that this book says everything about race, or class – the author was a middle-class white ethnographer researching a poor Black community – but for insight into outside economies, it can’t be beat. It is a golden oldie.
Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman. This is basically THE book.when it comes to the history of trauma studies and current thoughts on dealing with trauma. As a survivor, this and Angela Shelton’s Warrior Workbook have been the two most helpful things for me. As She Who Is Really Into The History of 19th Century Women’s Mental Health, this book is also quite excellent.
Beyond God the Father: toward a philosophy of women’s liberation, Mary Daly. Mary Daly needs no other recommendation.
Gender Trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, Judith Butler. I feel like choosing this for #5 is a little bit of a cop-out, because everybody already knows MY PURE AND GLORIOUS LOVE for JB, but hey – this is, again, a book that everyone should read. It is not easy going. But it will make you think!

sarah g brings us this sad news…

Mary Daly, blasphemer, radical, kicker of many patriarchal asses, has died. She was 81.

From the newsbrief I just linked to:

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Daly once wrote, “There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.”

Words to live by!

yay, christmas

This is not an actual blog post, just me posting my favorite prayer because it’s Christmas.

God, it is night. The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done. Let it be.
The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray. Amen

– from the New Zealand Prayer Book

links from livejournal!

As a general rule, the links I bring to you come to me via (a) someone on livejournal or (b) Google reader, in that order of frequency. (The exception would be the links that my ex-bf sends to me… although I don’t know if I’ve actually put up any of them on the blog yet. Hi, ex-bf!)

sutlers discusses criticism of Avatar and the denial of native cultures’ agency in popular media. (See also: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar? A question to which we’d all like to know the answer.)

gabrielleabelle‘s Sunday Link Posts are a great resource for current discussion about rape in the media and blogosphere. A highlight from this week’s update is What Part of No Do You Still Not Understand? Date Rape in the time of Kobe, roofies, and Girls Gone Wild, a surprisingly level-headed discussion of date rape in a major news publication (LA Weekly). I am so sad that I just typed that. Good breakdown of the Koss study and more recent corroborating research, although bad dismissal of male survivors. :/

rm updates frequently with links that are moderately random but always interesting: topics include but are not limited to fandom, glbt issues, sexism, racism, representation of women in the media, infuriating things in the NYT (often a subsection of the previous topics), and Torchwood. She is a writer, actor, independent scholar, and professional badass, so I doubly recommend her journal.

– Not exactly political but brought a huge smile to my face: Things I Learned From Holly by theuglyvolvo. Truly lovely, rich piece about pomegranates and the process of peeling them. Also, life, you know, that stuff. Tragically standard warnings about heteronormativity apply.

– Now I want to write a poem that rhymes “heteronormativity” with “nativity.” Sadly, that is beyond the scope of this blog post. (Or maybe a rap number? Does one of y’all DJ? Perhaps we should ask Victor…)


I’m having one of those weeks where I keep visualizing cases and correspondingly have a burning need to use prepositions correctly. Lingua latina, meos soxores non roxaris. (Were you aware that “r0x0r” is a deponent verb? Well… it is now.)


Further posts of substance may have to wait until after Christmas, but of course now that I’ve said that I’ll end up posting something anyway. EITHER WAY… if you’re celebrating a holiday now, I wish you a lovely one!

the unbearable fatness of being

Sometime in late 2007 or early 2008, I started following Fatshionista, a community on livejournal dedicated to plus-size fashion. There was a recent kerfluffle when the moderators decided to restrict OOTD (out of the day) posts to members who wear a US size 16 or higher. This alienated a substantial minority of its members, self-described “inbetweenies” who fall in the gap between plus sizes and straight sizes. The heretofore largely sedate sister community, Inbetweenies, was suddenly flooded with new members – many of whom were not pleased with the new state of affairs over at Fatshionista. Despite being at the smaller end of the size range at Fatshionista, inbetweenies had previously made up a significant percentage of OOTD posters, and the wake that trailed behind them as they moved to new ground was substantial.

The mods at Fatshionista had good reasons to change their previously more open-ended size cap. Fatshionista is a size-positive community; it’s not a place for people to come and feel good about themselves because they’re not as fat as “some” people. The mods also wanted to make people who were solidly plus-size feel welcome. While I’m wholly supportive of Fatshionista’s decision, I’m also one of the inbetweenies who can no longer post there.

This post is not another episode of “The Passion of the Inbetweenie”; I’m less interested in exploring the politics of Fatshionista’s new policy and more in investigating what it means to exist in this liminal state somewhere between marginalization and acceptance. For many years, I struggled with my participation in LGBT organizations — not because I was concerned about supporting the community, but because I didn’t feel like I was “queer enough.” I vacillated between taking an “ally” or a “bi pride” button every time Pride Alliance tabled in ye olde student center. Then I started making “pretty, witty, and christian!” rainbow buttons for my campus ministry’s table and decided that worrying about LGBT welcome and inclusivity in my community was more productive that staying up all night worrying about the tokenization of bisexuality in Katy Perry lovin’ college environments. (At this point, I think I’d have to elope with Cyndi Lauper to Iowa to feel adequately gay.)


Me at the Prop 8 protest in St. Louis, November ’08.

It’s a lot harder to negotiate the liminality of fatness, though, because it’s so subjective, and unlike your sexual preferences, kinda out there on display. When I said proudly in class, on embodiment day, “I’m fat,” was I reclaiming language for myself, or just promoting body hate? When I still look at myself, in the mirror, what does it mean that I see that I am fat, as opposed to, I dunno, middlingy? I love my body. I love that I have the gifts of mobility, sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, although several of those are limited or have been in the past by my disabilities. I want to be able to say, “Yeah, my body doesn’t fit into straight sizes real well, and it has fat weird places, but I’m proud of it and what I can do!” I want to reclaim fatness.

I’m just not sure if fatness is mine to reclaim.

I encourage you, gentle readers, to reply if you feel so moved; I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

link round-up

I’m in the middle of writing two other posts (the unbearable fatness of being/FWD post FINALLY FOR REALSIES), but a ton of cool links showed up on my radar today:

James Chartrand’s Constructed Masculinity Goes Far Beyond the Pen Name. Great coverage of the freelancing Bronte of our times and related Sexism Yay.

Marginalized folks shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger persons.” I am sad that this needs saying. But, hell yes, OP.

Ghosts of Shopping Past. Decaying malls! Consumerism thwarted and defied by nature! Longtime peeps know that I am all about the urban decay. And not just the makeup line. One of my favorite urbex/urban decay photographers is Rana X.

Readability is an AWESOME script that simplifies webpages and makes them much easier to read. Amazing accessibility tool. Certain fanfic websites, you will now be way easier on the ol’ eyes.