Tag Archives: history is awesome esp if you are kate beaton

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.


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!

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!

come with us now, if you will, gentle readers

So, I mention occasionally in this blog (and a lot more, in meatspace) that I spend a lot of time in Buffy fandom. Sometimes, this is greeted with “how totally cool, please link me up to your hot Spike/Buffy fanfic,” but more often, with bemused tolerance, and occasionally, rolled eyes. I actually suspect that more eyerolling goes on behind my back, but, you know, that’s ok. The point of this post is not the true love of Spike and Buffy (or Kirk and Spock, or Harry and Draco…). Rather, it’s transformative works. Although fanfiction is more what I do (since 1999, yo), this post largely focuses on vidding because it has a very interesting history and I think it’s more accessible to the outlander, if you will.

What is a transformative work? Well, I will give you the definition that the Organization for Transformative Works has in its FAQ, which I think is an excellent one:

A transformative work takes something extant and turns it into something with a new purpose, sensibility, or mode of expression.
Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction, real person fiction, fan vids, and fan art. The OTW is interested in all kinds of transformative works, but our priority will be to support and defend the types of works hosted in our archive, and the fans who create them. […]
The term transformative was specifically chosen to highlight in the nonprofit organization’s name one of the key legal defenses for fanworks of all kinds (including real person fiction): that they are transformative of original source materials.
A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the source with new expression, meaning, or message.” A story from Voldemort’s perspective is transformative, so is a story about a pop star that illustrates something about current attitudes toward celebrity or sexuality.

andrew in buffy 7x16 storyteller

So, my gentle readers, you may be going, “why do I care about this” and/or “is this remotely related to feminism” and/or “is this remotely related to life,” but trust me, I am going somewhere with this.

Did you know that the 90% of fic writers publishing in Star Trek zines in 1973 were female? Star Trek is considered the foundation of contemporary fandom, and also the origin of vidding culture. In the early 1980s, female vidding collectives sprung up to meet the needs of early vid makers. Collaborative effort was necessary due to the time-intensive and cost-prohibitive nature of vidding in the early days of the VCR.

Check out “Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish vidding” by Francesca Coppa.

It’s not just Star Trek. Fan culture at large is not disproportionately female. But the culture surrounding fanworks, and the creators of fan works, has historically been female-driven and women-populated. (I am aware that this is not always the case these days – anime vidding fandoms? Might be dude heavy? But my point stands.) There’s even a TV Tropes page, because we all know that TV Tropes is the true arbiter of truths on the internet: Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls.

Why do women create fan works? Back to all that “transformative works” stuff. Women are challenging, editing, and changing popular culture because we’re not satisfied with it. Fanfiction and vidding are both fertile grounds for textual de- and re-construction, and for expressions of female desire. They’re also both powerful mediums for feminist critique. As someone who literally grew up in fandom (I started reading and writing Daria fanfiction when I was 12 – yes, I’m a little embarrassed), the strong, nurturing, and largely female community I found in fandom has been a huge part of my life. I met my best friend through fandom in 2001 – through her, I discovered and decided to attend [that place where I went to undergrad]. Every time I go to a new city, there’s someone I know and want to meet up with there. Nimbus 2003 was the summer before my junior year of high school. (And here I am Nimbus. Yeah… no explanations for that one.)

So, transformative works? Important.

If you are curious about vidding as feminist critique, here are a few vids you might check out:
She Walks by jmtorres (Dollhouse). Meta on rape culture; I just linked to it in my previous post.
Bachelorette by obsessive24 (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Patriarchy in the Buffyverse. This video also showcases the epic racefail that is Joss Whedon, so forewarned is forearmed.
Origin Stories by giandujakiss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). “It’s Nikki Wood’s fucking coat.” Criticism of the series’ handling of Spike and related epic racefail.

…the title links the vid to Donna Haraway’s feminist, antiracist critique of Western civilization’s origin stories in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, much of which is based on a close reading of Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy; because superheroes have origin stories,and Slayers are superheroes, and so is Robin Wood; because the plural in the title makes you think, “Whose origin? Whose story?”; because there isn’t just one story, ever. Because I wanted to say, “Pay attention to whose stories don’t get told.”

ETA: Piece of Me by obsessive24 (Britney Spears) is a great example of a vid about celebrity culture working with non-narrative footage. obsessive24 is one of my favorite vidders, and her work is generally excellent – this is no exception. πŸ™‚

sexy tudors, fwd, & how to get olga from zero to pissed off in under a minute

This blog hasn’t gone to sleep for the holidays. Mostly, I just got sick and went crazy, which is pretty par for the course for finals, but is no less nervewracking and energy-expending.

Help yourself to some Sexy Tudors.

Something to look forward to: I have been asked to write a guest post for FWD/Forward by my friend Anna, which will show up sometime in the next week or two. I will definitely link to it from here, but I encourage you to check out FWD if you haven’t already! Right now, I’m trying to decide what to write about.

I also totally forgot to submit an abstract for Slayage. Rats. Oh well. I will go anyway, and have a good time, and not have to stress about presenting a paper.

Next time on the olgablog: a really angry post about the treatment of Ravenswood Community Services and our neighbors in the NYT/Chicago Tribune. RCS is what I do every Tuesday night. It is not about “rescuing” the “unfortunate.” Jesus said, “Take, eat–” This shit ain’t rocket science. We are all children of God, ok? Likewise, please don’t make condescending statements about those with whom we share this neck of the woods – we work hard to have a good relationship with them. This is not about a battle between bourgeois hypocrisy and the victims of poverty. And suggesting this, o NYT writer… just makes you look like a dick.

random thoughts & links

(I actually spend a lot of time coming up with silly tags for my posts. If you are curious about my new tag for jesus-posts, “faith (sans evil serape),” well… )

Jack, our intern at church, gave a great sermon this morning about Ruth, being in the Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame, and the boldness of women as the backbone of the church. The book of Ruth is one of my favorites in the bible. I would say that it ties with the Gospel of Matthew, which is also the one that got made into a musical <3. (We should have a performance of Godspell at my church. It would be awesome.)

Following some linkes for info on the house passing the new health care bill, I ended up finding this great review of Karen Armstrong’s new book, The Case for God, which I am now going to have to buy ASAP. I think I mentioned in class a while ago (when we were reading the Evelyn Fox Keller essay?) that I feel really, really strongly about science and religion being unmixy things. Armstrong’s book makes a great argument for that; the review on DailyKos is great, so I recommend reading it even if you think you’ll probably give the book a pass. This might motivate me to read Plato’s Apology again in Greek. Or maybe not.

I was looking for the picture I’ll link to a moment, and found an excellent blog post from a while back that might provide some food for thought for y’all: Non-Survivor Privilege and Silence. The first statement she makes is perhaps the heart of the post:

Once you survive abuse or violation, you have a knowledge of the human capacity for nastiness that others around you don’t share.


I’m having a poopy weekend for mental health. Fortunately, I have wonderful, patient friends who are being helpful and supportive of my crazy self. Tonight, I am taking it easy, reading fun stuff, eating delicious pot stickers, and cuddling with my friend Cat’s cat (no, seriously). I just keep reminding myself that if I take one thing at a time, it will all get done, and I only have to worry about one thing at a time.

Here’s something happy with which to conclude my post: my grandma and Amelia Earhart (plus a bunch of other young women in science). Grandma is the person farthest on the left; also, Purdue University, B.S., class of 1939! She passed away in 2008, and I miss her greatly. She was hard of hearing, loud, and bossy. The resemblance is clear. πŸ˜‰

conferences (I promise the vampires are academically relevant)

Successful day at the library today! Man, I whine about the library a lot, but they have a ton of awesome new books on disability theory/PWD/women & disability. Today’s AWESOME find (while checking in books): Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media! Not only is this freakin’ awesome, it’s also perfect for a paper that I’m writing. Other library loot: Gilead (it’s been rec’d to me by about a billion people; I keep confusing it with The Handmaid’s Tale), Creating Mental Illness (right up my alley!), and What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide (I am morbidly curious, in addition to being mildly appalled).

I’m a tiny bit stressed because, in addition to finishing my final project/papers for my two classes, I also need to whip up two abstracts for Slayage (OMG I AM SO EXCITED) and 11th Annual Graduate Symposium on Womens and Gender History. The papers are due on 11/18 & 11/21; the cfp deadlines are, respectively, 12/1 and 11/15. On the bright side, I am pretty sure that I know all about what I want to submit for the latter conference (19th c. narratives of mental health stuff). For Slayage, I have some ideas, but there is SO MUCH literature reviewing I have to do. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving weekend, no pun intended!

(Also, my fellow graduate students? You should totally be submitting abstracts to the Graduate Symposium, too! It’s at UIUC, so not too far away. We could carpool. If you have a car.)

I really want to go to WisCon, but I have a feeling that WisCon is just not in the cards this year because it’s so close to Slayage. WisCon is every year and Slayage is not, so I know where my priorities lie. :/

Also, if it is not totally obvious? Olga == nerdcore.

I will conclude this post with a link to Kate Beaton, whom I adore, and you will, too: DUDE WATCHIN’ WITH THE BRONTES.