Reel Girl is at 1,599 likes and that number is killing me, like an itch I need to scratch. Please help my OCD and “like” Reel Girl. There are many posts up on Facebook and conversations there that don’t happen here on the blog. I’d love you to be a part of all that.
If you’ve already liked Reel Girl and would like to recommend it to someone, please share the link.
You may have noticed that I haven’t been quite as obsessive about blogging as usual. Though it kills me to do it at 997 Facebook Likes (because I really would like to get a nice, even, lovely 1,000) I’ve gone deep into Fairyworld.
Most of you know that I’m writing a Middle Grade fantasy book. I’ve been working on this story for about two years and I’m about 2/3 done with the draft. Though I write everyday, when I blog, its hard for my mental energy not get stuck in the news. I don’t know if you’ve found this is true, but since becoming a mom, I need to be choose carefully where I focus my brain cells. Never have I been more aware that the space in my head is so limited. Between work and drama, schedules and crises, I have no extra bandwith (is there a better tech term? That one kept coming up when my blog was crashing and crashing, which is how I feel.)
In a way, it’s nice to be aware of limits, like the good feeling you get when you clean out the garage. I have no space for junk. Frankly, I don’t even have a garage, just tiny, flat closets in this rickety 1911 Victorian.
I don’t think blogging is junk by the way. I think it’s changing the world. I honestly don’t even know how I personally managed to sane before blogging (not to mention using the internet to connect with people who understood what I was saying and didn’t argue with me before I could complete a sentence.) It’s just I have to finish this book. For the summer, every hour is scheduled, all brain cells are committed, and this damn thing is going to get done.
I will be blogging now and then, and I do have scheduled in MG reading time, so I hope to get reviews to you. I’ll also be seeing movies with my kids that I’ll blog about. Please use this blog, Reel Girl’s FB page and Twitter feed to connect, post, and speak about issues.
But after a month or so with that blue-eyed image, I’ve decided to go with the the brown eye color of my second daughter and me. If you read Reel Girl, you know that as a brown-haired, brown-eyed child, I was endlessly annoyed by the ubiquity of blond, blue-eyed heroines. I still am. Here is me.
I hate reading a book I otherwise adore, Ramona, where the protagonist complains about her “boring” brown hair and brown eyes. I especially hate reading this part to my brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter. So fuck that. This is my blog, after all, and so Reel Girl gets brown eyes.
I also like brown eyes on Reel Girl because though her look is based on images of my three Caucasian daughters, brown-eyes make her a little more ethnically ambiguous. So here’s the new Reel Girl and feel free to name your favorite brown-eyed heroines here. I’m collecting.
Just wanted to say sorry for all the typos on Reel Girl. This is the deal. I have little time to blog, and so I blog very fast. Usually, I’ve been thinking about what I want to write when I’m driving my car, up in the middle of the night, or pushing my kid on the swing. By the time I get to the keyboard, my ideas are clear but time is fleeting. Mostly, I work on my book when I’m alone in the house but I sneak off to blog by stealing minutes when my kids and my husband are around. Invariably, while I’m writing, someone is screaming for me or there is something else I need to be doing.
I’ve tried to save drafts for later when I can proofread them, but I’ve learned that those posts never go up. For me, blogging seems to be a combination of obsessively thought out ideas that are finally shared compulsively and impulsively. Once the blog has been posted, unlike one that hasn’t been, I do go back and proofread because it’s out there for everyone to see. My pride won’t let me leave up “higher” when I meant to write “hire.”
Sometimes I give myself a hard time about this fast and sloppy style of writing. No matter how important what you’re saying is, if you spell it wrong, it can look stupid. But, as I wrote, the fast posting in fits and spurts is the only way I am able to blog in way that is fulfilling and useful. Also, that’s what kind of cool about blogging, especially if in other areas of your life, including writing, you’ve got to be exact and fastidious.
I’m posting this without re-reading and will probably be revisiting when I find a minute or two again in the day to check all the typos.
I get a lot of people telling me the issues that I blog about are stupid, irrelevant, or don’t exist at all and how miserable my children must be to have me as a mother. Then, once in a while, I get a comment like this from Jessica. Thank you, Jessica! You rock.
Hello, I’m only 14 but I’m just commenting here to express how so so so grateful and relieved I am to FINALLY find out that I’m not the only one who pays attention to all the sexism that is really all around us, even when everyone else I know thinks I’m over reacting and have gone bonkers. Especially people my age.
Whenever my little sister turns on the TV to watch cartoons, I can’t help but start counting how many female characters there are, yet only to groan in frustration afterwards because there are always more male characters. And the main characters are never females. That is, unless the show’s target audience are girls.
Or whenever I read a book, or watch a movie. It’s always the same. Always.
Even the fact that we’re supposed to use our Dad’s surname as our own, instead of our Mom’s.
I feel truly angry about all this. I wish there were something I could do.
Yet I’ve learned keep it to myself, because whenever I tell someone, anyone, they just roll their eyes like I’m crazy. I’m just a stupid little girl. No one takes it seriously. No one takes ME seriously But they should. Because all this has to change.
It’s really sad how other girls/women don’t even seem to care. I honestly don’t understand. How could anyone think that sexism is “gone”?!
Anyway, I’m so grateful that I have found this blog. Thank you so much. I’m sure you are a very, very good mum.
The bad news is Reel Girl ran out of bandwith not once, but twice. ARGH.
The good news is the sexist posters from kids movies are back up. If you haven’t seen them, you can look now.
You should also check out Laura Beck’s post on Jezebel. She writes about the bad influence the limited representations of females has on kids:
As for how it leaves girls feeling, this is probably something many of us can relate to. As a child, I strived for the perfection of a Disney Princess, perhaps subconsciously knowing I’d never achieve that, I started imagining myself in the shoes of more adventurous male characters. I’ve talked to many women who’ve had similar experiences, this sort of transference. Lacking decent female role models, it’s not surprising many girls live stories through the eyes of boys and men.
There’s a passage in Margaret Cho’s hilarious 2002 autobiography I’m the One That I Want that talks about this in terms of race. This is paraphrased, but she basically says that, as a young girls, she couldn’t wait to grow up and become white like everyone on TV. Heartbreaking, and I think this experience resonates with many people. When you don’t see yourself reflected in media, you push yourself into it.
Beck also goes on to tell a creepy but unsurprising story:
Now, a personal anecdote. I have a friend who’s a writer working in children’s TV. She’s constantly taking meetings and pitching stories, and she told me when she first started in the business, she pitched stories with girl leads. However, after being told to change the protagonist to a male character more than a few times — and once being told to actually turn the movie into a live action rom com for adult women!? — she now pitches almost entirely male-driven stories. And guess what? She’s selling.
What is surprising is that so many people buy the bullshit line: “Girls will see movies about boys, but boys won’t see movies about girls.”
How can we see cool movies about girls when no one will make them?
Today is my birthday! Right now my husband is dropping our three kids off at my sisters, then we get to see a movie and go out for dinner. I am so excited and feel incredibly lucky for my family. I am trying to decide between “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” I’m thinking I’ll go with ZDT because I know I will see SLP eventually, but I think if I don’t see ZDT in a theater, I may not see it at all.
Since I’ve been blogging, I usually write every year about how great my 40s are. This continues to be the best decade of my life so far. I am really enjoying the ages that my kids are right now: 3, 6, and 9. I feel so lucky I’ve already been pregnant and given birth and now I get to enjoy these remarkable creatures. No more babies to keep me up at night, no more poo diapers to change, but I’m still, pretty much, their favorite person to hang out with. Two of them can read which is so fun. Last night, the two older ones and I all got in my bed with our separate books, cuddled up and listened to the rain on the roof. It was heaven.
Career-wise, in your 40s, you realize you don’t have time to waste. It’s now or never. At least, that’s how I feel. A couple years ago, I left a non-profit I was with since I was 28. I stopped doing what I felt I should do and followed my heart. Now I am writing an MG book which is my passion, along with blogging which helps me stay connected while I write. It’s scary, taking the leap and pursuing a dream, but it also feels so great and right to focus my time, energy, and resources on what makes me happy, fulfilled, and what really matters to me. My energy feels endless.
January 6 is the Twelfth Night, the epiphany. I hope you all have a magical, insightful year. I think 2013 is going to be amazing.
I’m thrilled that my letter is in a national magazine with the reach and audience that the New York Times has. It’s a tiny step, obviously, but I’m hoping that more people, and parents especially, will start realizing and reacting to how sexist kidworld is. Almost every time children go to the movies, they learn that boys are more important than girls.
What about movies for children? I have three young daughters. Aside from the pink ghetto, kids’ media — whether PBS or Disney — put male characters front and center. Female characters are sidelined or not there at all — just look at the posters for children’s movies (with the exception of ‘‘Brave’’). There is no reason for the imaginary world to be sexist.
Can you imagine gender equality? Really see it? What does it look like to you? Or is it impossible to picture because we are so influenced by how things “are?” Or perhaps, too difficult because my idea of gender equality could be different than your idea of gender equality?
I’ve been thinking about all of this because I’ve been hard at work on Reel Girl’s new logo. I’m creating the image with an exceptional artist I met on line, and in order to come up with the right symbol, we’ve been revisiting the blog’s title, tagline, and mission.
“Imagining gender equality in the fantasy world” has never felt more appropriate. Now, more than ever, three years after I started blogging, I am amazed, fascinated, inspired, and disheartened by the way I see fantasy create reality and reality create fantasy in an endless loop.
What happens when children, even pre-birth, experience a world that is so saturated with gender segregation? How do parents’s expectations for their sons versus their daughters affect brain growth?
However, the traditional dichotomy of nature versus nurture that has dominated Western philosophy and psychology has been profoundly challenged by recent advances in neurophysiology. The stratification model of human experience, nature versus nurture– was predicated on the assumption that human biology was a complete package at birth…
The brain of the newborn, we now know, is only partially developed. Nerve cells and neural pathways are incomplete at birth; they are shaped to a considerable extent by the baby’s experience with others.
To show this visually, Mitchell uses Escher’s “Drawing Hands.”
Would this be a great logo for my blog or what? If only Escher wouldn’t mind. I could stick some jewelry on those fingers, maybe some cool nail polish too? A Bic pen “for her” in those big, strong hands?
Too heady, I know. But looking at this image reminded me of Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain. She wrote:
“Babies are born ready to absorb the sounds, grammar, and intonation of any language, but then the brain wires it up only to perceive and produce a specific language. After puberty, its possible to learn another language but far more difficult. I think of gender differences similarly. The ones that exist become amplified by the two different cultures that boys and girls are immersed in from birth. This contributes to the way their emotional and cognitive circuits get wired.”
Both Mitchell and Eliot support the idea that humans are born into the world with “potentials.” Qualities humans are designed for can “turn on” or “emerge.”
These ideas on brain development take on the basic assumptions of Enlightenment, the driving theory behind the last century, which Mitchell summarizes as “a correct, rational, scientific, fantasy-free way to understand the world.” Mitchell summarizes the Enlightenment world view into three basic assumptions:
(1) All genuine questions have answers
(2) All true answers are discoverable and teachable to others
(3) All answers are in principle compatible
Mitchell describes reality, or realities, instead where fantasy and reality continually create each other i.e. the Escher drawing. Mitchell writes:
It is the hallmark of the shift in basic psychoanalytic sensibility that the prototype of mental health for many contemporary psychoanalyitc authors is not the scientist but the artist. A continual objective take on reality is regarded as neither possible nor valuable in contrast to the ability to develop and move in and out of different perspectives of reality.
When I read this, it seemed radical to me. Most of everything I’ve ever learned or heard about artists is not a model for psychological health, but rather that they are “totured.” Artists are crazy, art comes out of pain, and all that.
Kramer argues artists are not creative because of their depression but in spite of it. Depression is a “stuck switch,” the opposite of resilience. Art, a career of it, requires resilience. (So does long term romance, by the way which is the real topic of Mitchell’s fantastic book.)
I have to say, these theories make sense as far as my experience writing a Middle Grade book. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half, and if I’ve learned one thing about writing: it requires optimism and faith.
I’ve written novels before, but I’ve never been able to stick with one as it gets torn up and put back together multiple times. I think the difference here is that I know a MG book requires plot. (Maybe all books do, but I was never so committed to plot before.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve faced a plot problem that completely overwhelmed me. The only way to get through the challenge is to believe there is a way out, a solution. The only way to find that solution is to be able to try on multiple outcomes. For me, that is a terrifying process of allowing one version to disintegrate and another to emerge. But, the more I do it, the better I get at it. It’s a skill, like any other skill.
Mitchell wrote Can Love Last in 2002. In the ten years since, more information on “brain plasticity” continues to emerge and support his thesis. It seems that not only is Mitchell correct (he died soon after he wrote the book) but that the only place he was off was in believing “brain plasticity” didn’t last for a lifetime.
Until recently, our 20s were considered the point when our brain’s wiring was basically complete. But new evidence suggests that not only can we learn into old age, but the structure of our brains can continue to change and develop.
Could imagination be far more powerful and useful than we, well, ever imagined?