When I was in Ninth Grade, I won a thing.
That thing, in particular, was a thirty dollar Barnes & Noble gift certificate. I was still too young for a part-time job, so I didn’t have this kind of spending cash on me, ever. I felt like a god.
Drunk with power, I fancy-stepped my way to my local B&N. I was ready to choose new books based solely on the most important of qualities…BADASS COVER ART. I walked away with a handful of paperbacks, most of which were horrible (I’m looking at you, Man-Kzin Wars III) or simply forgettable.
One book did not disappoint. I fell down the rabbit hole into a series that proved to be as badass as the cover art promised (Again, Man-Kzin Wars III, way to drop the ball on that one). With more than a dozen books in the series, I devoured them. I bought cassette tapes of ballads sung by bards in the stories. And the characters. Oh, the characters. I loved them. Gryphons, mages, but most importantly, lots of women. Different kinds of women. So many amazing women. I looked up to them, wrote bad fiction that lifted entire portions of dialogue and character descriptions, dreamed of writing something that the author would include in an anthology.
This year I decided in a fit of nostalgia to revisit the books I loved so damn much. I wanted to reconnect with my old friends…
…and I found myself facing Mary Sues. Lots of them. Perfect, perfect, perfect. A fantasy world full of Anakin Skywalkers and Nancy Drews and Wesley Crushers. I felt crushed. I had remembered such complex, deep characters and didn’t see those women in front of me at all anymore. Where were those strong women who kept me safe through the worst four years of my life?
Which led me to an important realization as I soldiered on through book after book. That’s why I needed them. Because they were Mary Sues. These books were not written to draw my attention to all the ugly bumps and whiskers of the real world. They were somewhere to hide. I was painfully aware that I was being judged by my peers and adults and found lacking. I was a fuckup. And sometimes a fuckup needs to feel like a Mary Sue. As an adult, these characters felt a little thin because they lacked the real world knowledge I, as an adult, had learned and earned. But that’s the thing…these books weren’t FOR this current version of myself. Who I am now doesn’t need a flawless hero because I’m comfortable with the idea that valuable people are also flawed.
There is a reason that most fanfiction authors, specifically girls, start with a Mary Sue. It’s because girls are taught that they are never enough. You can’t be too loud, too quiet, too smart, too stupid. You can’t ask too many questions or know too many answers. No one is flocking to you for advice. Then something wonderful happens. The girl who was told she’s stupid finds out that she can be a better wizard than Albus Dumbledore. And that is something very important. Terrible at sports? You’re a warrior who does backflips and Legolas thinks you’re THE BEST. No friends? You get a standing ovation from Han Solo and the entire Rebel Alliance when you crash-land safely on Hoth after blowing up the Super Double Death Star. It’s all about you. Everyone in your favorite universe is TOTALLY ALL ABOUT YOU.
I started writing fanfiction the way most girls did, by re-inventing themselves.
Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything.
As a girl, being “selfish” was the worst thing you could be. Now you live in Narnia and Prince Caspian just proposed marriage to you. Why? Your SELF is what saved everyone from that sea serpent. Plus your hair looks totally great braided like that.
In time, hopefully, these hardworking fanfiction authors realize that it’s okay to be somewhere in the middle and their characters adjust to respond to that. As people grow and learn, characters grow and learn. Turns out your Elven Mage is more interesting if he isn’t also the best swordsman in the kingdom. Not everyone needs to be hopelessly in love with your Queen for her to be a great ruler. There are all kinds of ways for people to start owning who they are, and embracing the things that make them so beautifully weird and complicated.
Personally, though, I think it’s a lot more fun learning how to trust yourself and others if you all happen to be riding dragons.
Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything.
A girl making herself the hero of her own story is a radical act. Stop shaming girls for doing it. Stop shaming yourself for it.
This. “Unrealistic” wish-fulfillment characters have existed (and been critically acclaimed!) since Ancient Greece at the very least. They have a time and a place. Look down on them if you want to, but then I expect you to take your Batman and Spider Man and Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and Jesus and Odysseus and Iron Man and all those other characters through a Mary Sue Litmus test and then look at the results.
Tl;dr: Stop picking on little girls.
(Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say that all of those male characters are Mary Sues, but they are very definitely characters who, if they’d been female, would face a disproportionate amount of skepticism and contempt for being just a little too special.)
So this blog sort of completely wandered away from Zombies, Run! really, and I’m sorry about that. I do still love the app, and I will get back into it, but right now I’m cycling to work, meaning that I’m on my bike for about 20km each day and putting running on top of that… yeah. Eventually.
But I just “liked” a post in the Good Omens fandom because that’s sort of where I sit right now, and I kinda regret the fact that my main blog is geared towards one fandom and I made my Good Omens blog a side blog of this one… So the poor Good Omens people look here when I like stuff and are like WTF.
Good Omens blog here, where more creative stuff happens than on this blog right now (though admittedly, not a lot more).
Do I go through the painful process of making a new tumblr account so that I can make my GO blog a main one? How do people migrate stuff? CAN you migrate stuff? Everything I’ve seen points to the fact that you just CAN’T. Tough shit if you made a side blog before understanding the implications of this, user, have a nice day.
Look, it’s our friendly male-privileged anon come to tell me I’m being all womanly hysterical.
I’m assuming you’re a guy. If you’re a girl, and this doesn’t piss you off, I’m a little concerned, honestly.
The fact is that it is a big deal, and you just earned yourself a free lecture on why so siddown and shaddup.
Cracked ran a rather diverting article today on
"6 Insane Sex Myths People Used to Teach as Facts"including things like how westerners apparently thought that Chinese women who immigrated had sideways vaginas and that doctors attributed any number of problems to the fact that they believed women’s uteri could detach themselves when the woman was not pregnant and scamper around the woman’s innards like some sort of wayward jellyfish blob.Hilarious, right? Can’t believe people used to think that! Oh, how naive they all were!Which brings us to women-pee-out-of-their-vagina.People back then kind of have an excuse for stupid notions, because a lot of the time there wasn’t the technology or research or scientific community to call them out on it in order to spread information that was actually factual.We do not have that excuse today.Yes, I heard that, greyface in sunglasses in the second row."well we don’t teach ridiculous stuff like that!"Spoiler Alert: We totally do.Stuff like the complete erasure of parts of female anatomy, publicly taught and widespread misinformation about others and the fact that I learned more about my own body with 15 minutes on Wikipedia than I did in two mandatory Health classes and a Medical Anatomy class.Send your arguments at me, believe me, they don’t hold water."The clitoris doesn’t have anything to do with reproduction!"Sex Ed covers more than just reproduction. Every time they sent me home with a little paper for your parent/guardian to sign, they said they would be talking about anatomy as well as reproduction."Well, female anatomy is a lot more complicated…"Doesn’t that mean they should spend more time covering it rather than skipping over the parts they deem ‘unnecessary’? Even in my Medical Anatomy class when we had the diagrams to label, despite there being a clitoris in the diagram, there wasn’t a lil line to write down what it was."Maybe they didn’t think it was appropriate to talk about for high school."Female pleasure.So lewd.How dare they.Get the pitchforks and burn the witch."They don’t talk about male pleasure either!"Bitch, please.I heard aaaaalll about what happens when a dude is aroused and orgasms with the erections and ejaculations and all that nonsense.Girl orgasms are apparently not a thing. And, depending on the class, neither was female arousal.(Which I find decidedly disturbing, as a side note.)"Female orgasms aren’t a part of reproduction either."Maybe not.BUT IT IS A SIMPLE PHYSICAL REACTION THAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT IF ONLY FOR SCIENTIFIC AND MEDICAL ACCURACY."Fine. The clitoris is controversial. That hardly covers the entire spectrum of female sexuality having misinformation and crap."Apparently you didn’t read the part up above about how I did not learn what happens when a woman is aroused or orgasms in three years of classes that are supposed to teach me about this thing."If it took you 15 minutes on Wikipedia to figure stuff out, why are you so mad? That’s hardly a waste of time."Because I deserve to know about my own body, and when schools teach Sex Ed in any form, they are taking on the responsibility of teaching me that.And yet, I learned absolutely nothing useful.That’s a problem."Okay, okay. They don’t talk about female sexual reactions, and that’s kinda sexist."You know what else is kinda sexist? Telling men that sex is great and women that it’s going to hurt and suck and also you’ll get pregnant and die.What am I talking about, you say?The hymen. You know, the thing that covers a woman’s vaginal opening and breaks and there’s blood and that’s how you can tell if your girlfriend is lying about whether or not you’re her first.Well guess what, buddy-boy, you dumped that girl for no reason because that’s not actually what a hymen is and you’re also a jerk.The hymen is a flexible membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening (usually in a sort of crescent shape when they are but a wee lass) and did you notice the word up there? ‘Flexible’? Do you know what that means? It means that if a woman is sufficiently aroused, it prolly ain’t gonna break. (wow do you think this myth has anything to do with the lack of knowledge we’re taught about female arousal???)I mean dude you can shove a baby outta that thing and it returns to its original shape, you can’t tell if a woman is a virgin or not by the state of her hymen anyways. They can tear during exercise n stuff as well but there is literally not much of a reason why sex should be painful for girls and why you call it “popping the cherry”OH WAIT MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE DUDES LIKE TO THINK THAT THEIR DICK HAS MAGICAL POWERS THAT FOREVER CHANGES A WOMAN’S LIFE AND SHE’S NEVER BE THE SAME AFTER YOU WRECKED THAT TIGHT LIL HOLE.Well, fun fact, if she’s tight that means you kind of suck balls at the whole sex thing.This isn’t just a matter of some people making a mistake about how women urinate. This is part of a long history of the suppression of female sexuality to the point that when you get a damn diagram of the vulva, apparently they don’t mark where the urethra is because man we don’t want to spend too much time talking about ladyparts frick who knows what’s hiding down there…
In my own 7th grade health class, and even in goddam 11th and 12th grade highschool biology, they left out female pleasure to such an extent as a thing, that I thought orgasm and penile ejaculation were synonymous. That orgasm was only a penis-owning thing; that orgasm was when those with penises spewed sperm, not that it was a pleasurable climax, not that it was its own thing, not that people with vaginas could experience them.
You want to know how we were told about the clitoris? Through less than two sentences in seventh grade health class. “This is the clitoris: it’s like a button and and can get harder”. That’s it. That’s it.
Can we talk about how dangerous this is, actually?
Yes. I said dangerous. Not because I’m a girl and I would like sex to be enjoyable thank you, but because we’re teaching women that a men have a right to have sex be enjoyable where we do not.
We’re teaching women that if she is uncomfortable or in pain, that is normal and she has no right to complain.
We’re teaching women to do something because it makes a man happy, regardless of how she feels.
We’re teaching women to be the submissive, receptive partner rather than an active participant.
I didn’t learn about a woman’s arousal or a woman’s orgasm simply because apparently that isn’t important.
It doesn’t matter if a woman is enjoying it.
It doesn’t matter if she likes what you’re doing.
We teach these things in a public setting, and we wonder why youth are legitimately confused about what constitutes rape, and why it is a bad thing that has a profoundly negative and possibly permanent effect on the victim.
Don’t tl;dr this one - it’s very worth reflecting on and talking about.
Again: I once got into an argument with an eighteen-year-old male classmate about whether or not women could masturbate. Not “did”, could. And this guy was a guy who was in a lot of advanced courses, and had a bunch of female friends.
A programmer is going out for a stroll one evening. His wife asks him to swing by the store and pick up a gallon of milk, and if they had eggs, to get a dozen. He returned with twelve gallons of milk and said “They had eggs.”
“In a world where people don’t see in color until they find their true mate”
OH MY GOD
HELLO YES I WOULD LIKE ONE 40K FIC PLEASE
I HAVE READ ONE WHERE PEOPLE ARE BLIND UNTIL THEY MEET THEIR SOULMATE BUT OMG
(I am having all these thoughts about paired people being all “omg but the unpaired people and their clashing clothes”)
There is something like this already. A series of books, in fact. *desperately googles stuff to try and figure out what it is* I think it may have been the Dark Series by Christine Feehan? It’s a vampire and werewolf type scenario, and I’m sketchy on the details because I read them so long ago… but something like the men slowly lose the ability to see colour and feel emotion as they age, until they either find their true mate or they finally turn to the dark side (excuse inadvertent Star Wars reference) and their brothers are forced to hunt and eliminate them.
You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.
If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”
On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.
The fourth point: If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.
There’s a man with whom I went out on a single date—afternoon coffee, for one hour by the clock—on July 25th. In the two days after the date, he sent me about fifteen e-mails, scolding me for non-responsiveness. I e-mailed him back, saying, “Look, this is a disproportionate response to a single date. You are making me uncomfortable. Do not contact me again.” It is now October 7th. Does he still e-mail?
Yeah. He does. About every two weeks.
This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.
So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.
For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data.”
an excerpt from Phaedra Starling’s “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced” (via lostgrrrls)
HOLY FUCK THE TRUTH.
Can every one of my male followers read this? And please, before you get defensive (“I would never rape anyone!”) keep in mind, women being afraid of Shrodinger’s Rapists (oh my god i still can’t get over the encompassing brilliance of this phrase) is a conditioned, learned response from being immersed in rape culture and the evolution of sexism and sexual violence in our society from the day we’re born. And unfortunately, it’s very difficult to unlearn without the efforts of all genders to dismantle it. Which is where you come in.
It’s also just rude and disrespectful to patently ignore what someone has told you regarding their personal space, body, and time. Get a clue.
I will always reblog this. Always.