Feminist Friday: Women in Refrigerators

The term “women in refrigerators” comes from the world of comic books — a world that’s still opaque to many people. Fear not, though. This post is about how that term actually applies to everything else!

Women in Refrigerators - Green Lantern

From TVTropes

In 1999, writer Gail Simone first used the term “women in refrigerators” to discuss women in comics. The name comes from Green Lantern #54, which famously contains the murder of Alex DeWitt, Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern’s girlfriend. The villain Major Force stuffs her in Kyle’s refrigerator with a note so he’ll find her. This is gruesome enough, but the reason it names a whole trope is that all this happens purely to fuel Kyle’s story and Kyle’s pain. Other major examples include Gwen Stacy’s (famous and constantly-reenacted) death to motivate/de-motivate Spiderman, and Sue Dibny’s rape and murder to fuel the Identity Crisis event. This story gimmick is often turned into a verb, as in “Sara Lance got fridged on Arrow,” and it can refer to injuries as well as death.

Many friends and relatives are injured in comics. It’s part of the secret-identity narrative that those people are endangered. Plus, superheroes are often injured or killed to lend a sense of realism to a comic. But male characters are generally injured in the service of their own stories, plus they often “bounce back” quickly. Aquaman lost a hand, it was a big deal and a story element for fifteen years, and he eventually got it back. If a major character dies, you can take it as a given that he’s coming back eventually. With that main character’s wife or girlfriend, there’s no such guarantee.

So that’s comics. If you don’t read comics, what does that have to do with you? A lot, because even though the term originated with comics, the thing happens everywhere! Action movies are particularly egregious, because there’s gotta be a reason for the action hero to go on his rampage… Think about every Bond girl, Liam Neeson’s strangely kidnap-prone daughter and wife in the Taken movies, the various movies in which Harrison Ford declares he Wants His Family Back. Historical movies like Gladiator and Braveheart. Sometimes it’s mothers, like in Super 8 or Guardians of the Galaxy. 

I’m not gonna lie, I love Air Force One. I love Guardians of the GalaxyI love Batman, for goodness sake, and it happens to him all the time! No single fridging is The Problem, and I don’t believe these writers are all out to normalize violence against women. The problem with this trope is that the female character is, by definition, subservient to the male character’s story. It’s not just a side effect, it IS the trope, like it is with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope we discussed on Victim to Charm two weeks ago. These tropes happen because (straight) male characters are considered the “default,” and people build stories around them. In this case, women end up in disproportionate levels of peril.

The solution? We need more female characters with their own stories. If a woman is injured in her own comic, and it’s part of a story, okay. When the Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke, that eventually became an amazing opportunity for disability representation and led to a rich history for that character. However, her injury happened in the first place purely in service of the Commissioner’s story. Going back to my first examples, it’s the same as the difference between Aquaman’s injury and Alex’s death. Aquaman’s injury happened to Aquaman, but Alex’s death happened to Kyle. Women shouldn’t be afterthoughts and additions and perpetual supporting characters. They aren’t possessions, or extensions of their boyfriends. Women are people in their own right, and they deserve to have their stories told.

Thanks to the fantastic Modern Mythologies for inspiring this post back in December. Feminist Friday continues next week at Part Time Monster!

Report from the Alabama Museums Association Annual Meeting

I didn't take any pictures, so here's a meme that popped up on a presentation slide.

I didn’t take any pictures, so here’s a meme that popped up on a presentation slide.

Yesterday I attended the Alabama Museums Association Annual Meeting, my first industry conference! (I only went for the sessions during the day Monday, but the festivities extended before and after that).

It wasn’t a large group in the first place, but I was one of only a few students, and I think the only one not actively in a program. The conference was totally the opposite of stodgy, though — lots of people wearing tweed, yes, but all supremely friendly and enthusiastic!

My goal for the event was just to chat with people, not even for serious “networking” purposes, but just to observe and get a feel for things. Listen to what people said about how their museums function and what their different jobs entail. It’s really helpful for me to start early with that kind of thing, and I focused on the “best practices” breakout sessions for the same reason. I’m entirely pleased with my success at achieving that goal!

I have no illusions about everyone in ANY field being delightful, but these folks were super cool, each with a variety of experiences and interests coming together under the term “museum.” They were curious, smart, and enthusiastic. They like accomplishing specific goals and programs, but they’re also passionate about the driving mission of each organization.

I won’t bore you with specifics from the sessions, since I’m totally new and this was an exploratory venture in the first place — but this post is a firm recommendation that conferences can be useful for students, even if you’ve barely started!

The Sunday Post – On Moving

My family moved yesterday! It’s the first time we’ve moved in ten years. We had 24 friends come help yesterday, plus people who’d helped pack before that, and we got everything moved in and out in just a couple hours each way. Everyone was super nice and remarkably efficient at the same time, and it was much appreciated!

It’s still a bit more like “camping” right now while everything gets unpacked, but the house is quite nice. I need another bookshelf (story of my life…) but this is the perfect opportunity to start sorting my books by color, since the bookshelves are starting bare! I’ve still got stuff at the old house to pack and move, because I was getting stressed about getting it all together and then ran out of boxes, and one of the things I don’t have with me is my camera cord, but there’ll be some in-progress pictures soon.

My cats made the trip in one piece, but they’re still pretty freaked out — especially Mo, the more emotive one who was much more attached to “his” stuff in the first place. First he hissed at everything, then he tried to get back in his box to go home, bless his heart. All night he alternated trying to get out the door and not-really-sleeping on my face. He’s staying in my room for the moment, but I’ve taken him on short excursions to the hall and he seems to be acclimating. He’s definitely not happy yet though.

Apologies for missing #1000speak on Friday, with moving and some other stuff going on I just couldn’t come up with anything. I’ll be reading y’all’s posts soon, though! This week may have a review or something historical or both, plus Feminist Friday and the conclusion to the Pamela series!

Novels & Human Rights Part 7: Historical Context (Social)

Last week we talked about 18th-century changes leading to Pamela’s impact, mostly in the book trade and in rising social classes. This week, we’re focusing on social changes, especially those that took place within all classes.

Daniel_Defoe_Kneller_Style

Daniel Defoe. Wikipedia

For instance, religious books had traditionally made up more than half the number of total books published, but tastes became increasingly secular in the 18th century. Defoe and Richardson compromised by writing nonreligious books that stated moral lessons, thereby appealing to both audiences. Ian Watt and other commentators also stress the rise of individualism. For novels as we know them to exist, “The society must value every individual highly enough to consider him the proper subject of its serious literature; and there must be enough variety of belief and action among ordinary people for a detailed account of them to be of interest to other ordinary people.” The slow rise of capitalism in this time encouraged individual achievement. Furthermore, division of labor among the working classes differentiated people and their experiences. Protestantism, specifically Calvinism, exerted a major influence with its emphasis on “religious self-scrutiny” and “internalization of conscience.” Robinson Crusoe, perhaps the ultimate example of an individualist novel, prominently displays self-scrutiny and conscience as well. Richardson encouraged this trend with his novels about individual women.

Changes in love and marriage more directly affected Richardson’s content. Economic and social changes made marriage more important for women than before, but also more difficult. The concept of an “elementary,” “conjugal,” or now “nuclear” family developed, meaning a woman’s marriage partner determined her future. Men married later for economic reasons, and families no longer needed spinsters – originally a term referring to unmarried women who supported their extended family by doing hand work. Without a need for those contributions, and a lessening importance of the extended family, “spinster” became a negative term referring to a dependent. Servant girls, noted above as a large group, generally worked until the age of 21 or until they married. Employers often forbade them from marrying until that age to keep them in service. Additionally, an 1801 census revealed that England simply had many more women than men. The imbalance presumably extended back through the 18th century in order to manifest at that point, and made marriage even more difficult to accomplish. Pamela showed a young servant girl marrying above her station, and the trope became a standard in the romance industry.

Pamela Fainting, Joseph Highmore

Pamela Fainting, Joseph Highmore

In contrast to the Catholic tradition of honoring celibacy, Protestant and Puritan trends emphasized marriage. Under those religious influences marriage took on a deep fascination, particularly for women, but at the same time girls were to treat all sexual references with horror until and unless marriage had been achieved. This, along with a typically Puritan emphasis on restraint of the passions even after marriage, can be seen clearly in Pamela and confirmed in Richardson’s letters. In Pamela, Richardson produced a fully-formed example of the feminine role he conceived as ideal. With the book’s popularity, that model became commonly accepted. Pamela faints at any sexual advances, is horrified by any propositions other than marriage, and refuses to entertain even the idea of marriage until an actual proposal has been issued. She fiercely defends her virtue, both sexually and regarding other qualities such as honesty. After marriage to a proper and gentlemanly husband, she submits entirely to his virtuous bidding. The middle class had embraced this sensibility in Richardson’s time, blaming the upper class for licentiousness.

A new interest in private experience formed a final element of cultural change. Individual bedrooms became conventional in the 18th century, even for servants, and internal doors gained locks. Corridors replaced room-to-room architecture, limiting interruptions in private rooms. “Closets” also appeared — small writing studies adjacent to bedrooms where women in particular could write letters to each other, as Pamela often does. Eighteenth-century England boasted an unrivaled post office, which allowed for a wide expansion of letter-writing for non-business reasons. People became interested in sharing their internal lives with each other through letters. Richardson was creating a guide to letter-writing for the poor, later published as Familiar Letters, when he got the idea for his novel.

Next week we’ll make some causal links and tie everything up in a conclusion!

Review: Ms. Marvel #12

Welcome to the Ms. Marvel Valentine’s Day special! This issue takes place before the events of Axis! Score! That means I won’t get spoiled! Also — I just found out that S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 was about Kamala, because I saw it in a store. It’s a nice little story, check it out if you want to see all Kamala’s appearances, but it’s nothing extraordinary.

Ms. Marvel #12 cover

Speaking of “nothing extraordinary,” this issue seemed pretty light and filler-y for me. A fill-in-the-blanks Valentine’s special about truth potions in the punch at a high school dance. It seemed like the characters were just saying what you’d expect them say, it didn’t have that spark of originality and depth. I was really looking forward to seeing my two favorite characters meet, but they hardly even talk to each other and when they do, it’s a surface-level conversation. So, I guess we finally have an issue of Ms. Marvel that’s not as good as the rest. Hey, it happens. Maybe it was the time constraints, doing an extra issue in between two regularly-scheduled releases.

Ms. Marvel #12 Bruno

But Bruno’s being awesome about it, like he always is!

The main significance of this issue is its confirmation that Bruno likes Kamala. I figured he did, but it looks like we’re setting up an unrequited crush thing. Kamala doesn’t seem to realize what he was trying to tell her, and the description of issue #13 has her crushing on a new arrival of some kind. So, I just hope this arc works out well and doesn’t get too “high school soap opera” before its done.

And they do call Loki “Hipster Viking” the whole time, which makes up for a lot!

Let’s Talk Writing Fears

e26c506b64119da3e4da44247aab9842My biggest — and possibly strangest — writing fear is that by the time I’ve learned to be a good writer, I’ll already have written all the stories that mean the most to me, and they won’t be very good because I was still just learning. What’s yours? We can have a little cheerleading session.

The Sunday Post – A to Z!

As you may have noticed from the snazzy sidebar logo, I’ve officially signed up for the Blogging from A to Z challenge in April! I couldn’t do it last year because of school and finals, but I’ve had my eye on it ever since. I’ve got my theme and letters all planned out — I waited until I knew for sure I had all the letters before I signed up, because I’m me — but for now, it’s a secret. Your only hint is that I’ve got to read a few books before I can do all the posts. ;)

I’m also thrilled to be contributing an A to Z post to Sourcerer in the middle of April, the topic of which is also currently a secret, but check out that announcement post for A to Z tips! :D

Coming Up:

A little writing discussion, Ms. Marvel’s Valentine’s Day special, #1000Speak, and a Pamela post.

I’m only a few issues behind on Loki now, and I’d meant to catch up before his appearance in Ms. Marvel on Wednesday, but I finally decided to just wait until after Axis comes out in March. I’ve finished Loki’s “March to Axis” issues and the first page of the next issue already had Axis spoilers, and I really want to read that event, sooooo… Yeah. I read a lot of comics out of order, but I don’t actually like doing it that way, it’s just a necessity for older comics.

Novels & Human Rights Part 6: Historical Context (The Book Trade)

When I started this project, I had no idea what a radical century I’d be examining. The 1700s bore a host of social changes and crazy new thoughts coming out of the Enlightenment that started around 1650. One day I’ll read about it more comprehensively, but my year is 1740, and I’ll focus on factors allowing Pamela to have a major social impact. First, the more technical changes regarding the book trade.

The century saw a substantial increase in literacy. Previously, with many people illiterate or semi-literate, the pool of potential readers was a small minority of the total population. Printers at the beginning of the 18th century published fewer than 100 books per year. Yet by 1800, the annual average increased to approximately 370 books. Publishers still issued no more than 10,000 copies of most books, but contemporaries felt the reading population was expanding dramatically. (And it was, comparatively speaking). Reports from Daniel Defoe and Gregory King indicate that at least half the population lived at or below the poverty level in 1700, earning less than 20 pounds each year. One quarter of the population constituted the upper classes. The final quarter made up a middle class of tradesmen, successful farmers, and similar occupations, earning between 38 and 60 pounds per year. The middle class, which expanded over the 1700s, became the source of the new readership.

A Young Girl Reading

A Young Girl Reading (1776), Jean Honore Fragonard

These people were shopkeepers, independent businessmen, administrators, and clerks – all with some level of literacy and disposable income. Women formed a disproportionate number of these readers, since upper-class women had always had the most leisure time and, as they became able, lower-class families imitated the upper classes.

Technological innovations also assisted the explosion of the book industry. Efficiency in book production spiked dramatically in the early 18th century. Authors were commonly paid by the page, so they switched from traditional poetry to natural, stream-of-consciousness prose that was quicker and easier to write. Writers could earn more money for the same amount of time, and include much more exposition if they chose. Richardson would’ve had a lot of trouble with his painstaking realism otherwise — his later book, Clarissa, is over 1,000 pages long! I believe he wanted to include those details for stylistic reasons, but it also can’t have hurt that he’d make more money for longer books.

It’s also no coincidence that when large numbers of books could be printed, booksellers became interested in books that would sell to large numbers of people! Books entered the capitalistic marketplace, now appealing to the masses rather than wealthy patrons. Booksellers had the final say on which books to promote. Contemporaries worried that this system simply appealed to the lowest common denominator of readers and disregarded established conventions… In reality, numerous experimental publications existed, and booksellers did not exert tyrannical control over what authors could write. Authors conducted experiments without urging from booksellers, and when they surprised themselves with success, booksellers jumped on the bandwagon. The upper classes were concerned that their monopoly on books would be replaced by a bookseller monopoly, and I guess it sort of was… But in general authors had wide leeway for experimentation, representative of the growing power and confidence of the middle class overall. Defoe and Richardson, both middle-class tradesmen, appealed effectively to middle- and lower-class interests.

Apprentices and household servants often merged into one upwardly-mobile group in contemporary discourse. These young adults possessed leisure time, could access books in their employers’ houses, received wages along with room and board, and needed to be literate in order to carry out their daily tasks. These people also spent more time with the upper classes, absorbing aristocratic habits. Pamela, a member of the “household servant” class, references a variety of contemporary books in her letters. She lists “a little Time for Reading” as one of the qualifications she hopes for in a new job, and says she will often occupy herself with books after she is married. All of this is realistic, down to the specific titles she would have been able to purchase, making her instantly relatable to much of Richardson’s audience. Again, circumstantial empathy is the easiest to produce.

Next week we’ll cover more of the important social changes in the 1700s!

Review: “Loki: Agent of Asgard #7″

I do my Loki reviews in the form of live reactions as I go along, paying special attention to Loki’s possible genderfluidity/bisexuality/etc… And there will be a flurry of them this week as I’m trying to catch up. Skip to the Final Thoughts to avoid spoilers!

Loki Agent of Asgard 7 cover

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We last left Loki imprisoned in Von Doom’s time box, an invisible Verity looking on. We also have Valeria, a three-year-old supergenius who I neglected to mention in the last issue because I didn’t know who she was. Apparently she’s the younger child of Reed and Sue Richards, and also Von Doom’s goddaughter. I have no idea why she’s helping Von Doom trap mischief-gods in Latveria, the Wikipedia article didn’t get that far, but she is indeed very smart.

Loki Agent of Asgard 7 Verity and Valeria

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Never tell me Doom doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Continue reading

Review: “Loki: Agent of Asgard #6″

I do my Loki reviews in the form of live reactions as I go along, paying special attention to Loki’s possible genderfluidity/bisexuality/etc… And there will be a flurry of them this week as I’m trying to catch up. Skip to the Final Thoughts to avoid spoilers!

Loki Agent of Asgard 6 cover

At this point, Loki is no longer the “Agent of Asgard.” He’s now a free agent, so to speak. We’re starting a new arc with a sorta-clean slate… As clean as it gets, anyway. This issue is also marked “March to Axis.” I fully intend to read the Axis storyline, but only once it’s collected, so we’ll just have to muddle through as best we can (and hope I don’t get spoiled too badly, but if I do I’ll warn you.)

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Loki Agent of Asgard 6 Von Doom

Victor Von Doom takes a little trip to the future, discovers it’s a barren wasteland and old-Loki is taking the credit, so Doom decides to kill Loki in the present. Logical.

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Loki Agent of Asgard 6 Verity

Yaaaay, Verity!

(Yes, I expect I will do this every time Verity appears…)

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I confess, I had my doubts about Von Doom’s homicidal resolution. However, so far he’s doing rather well. He’s always been a little bombastic, but he’s made logical inferences about the nature of magic in Loki’s series and he’s meeting a god on his own turf, using “conversation” as a weapon. Very interesting.

Loki Agent of Asgard 6

OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP gotta read the next issue RIGHT NOW, I’m sorry I doubted you Doom, THIS IS LEGIT PERIL!

Final Thoughts:

Still no verdict on whether or not it’ll make sense without reading Axis, but it’s great so far! We have yet another fascinating twist on meta-story, and just when I was getting confident that Loki would effortlessly handle any plot against him, Von Doom decides to up the ante. Plus it looks like Verity will be an important player this time around, and I’ve been looking forward to that since her first appearance!