Monday, June 23, 2014

Beyond the edge of the map

I'm not good at maps. They're tricky for me to read - I can't quite figure out how to orient myself and my directions at once. I am never the person you want to let navigate. I have a particular talent for getting lost, and I'm pretty sure that the nice lady in my GPS has given up on me as hopeless.

So perhaps it may seem strange for me to write a story with maps at the center of it, but that is exactly what I have done. "All of Our Past Places," out in the gloriously named Journal of Unlikely Cartography. It's about maps and about friendship and I'm not sure if it's about getting lost, exactly, but it is very much about being found. 

And there really is a St. Patrick's Purgatory, on Station Island, in Ireland. Seamus Heaney wrote about it, as did Marie de France, in her Espurgatoire seint Patriz, about a knight named Owein, who goes to Purgatory and returns via the cavern on the island.

Sometimes places are even more complicated than maps.

Monday, June 9, 2014

And the chick

In news that is probably not surprising to anyone reading this post, I am a woman, and I am a writer. And so, I am very interested in the relationship between women and the arts - both in the women who make art, and in how women are portrayed in art.

My friend, and kickass writer, Maria Dahvana Headley wrote this post earlier today, about all of the wonderful, women-filled movies that we are unlikely ever to see. It made me so angry to read it, because those would all be great, and she's right. That many women on screen? At the same time? And taken seriously? Not likely to happen.

I mean, think about it. We've all seen enough ensemble casts to know how this works, right? You've got the smart, handsome lead, you've got the jock, you've got the funny guy, you've got the black guy, and you've got the chick.

Being "A Woman" is not a character description. (Neither, I know, is being a person of color.) We are not interchangeable objects, able to be swapped out according to hair color. We are - sit down, because this is shocking - as complex and as complicated as men. We have stories that are as complex and as complicated, as Maria's post so elegantly points out.

But here's what happens, when being "the chick" becomes the character description. That percentage up there? It's one role out of five, or twenty percent. We see that, and it becomes normal. That's what we expect. When those five heroes slow-walk in front of the explosion, we expect to see one of them - and only one - as a woman. When we look at women in jobs that are given high social status - cardiac surgeon, tenured professor - those fields are seventeen percent female. Slightly less than one in five, but still, approximately the same percent as what we see as normal. 

And God forbid that number gets any higher  - I mean if you get a room where one out of three people in it are women, thirty-three whole percent, men will report that that room was majority female. Think about that - if men only outnumber women two to one, that is perceived to be a room overflowing with a majority of women. 

It hurts my brain to even type that sentence. Like, I seriously don't even know how that works.

Except, of course I do.

And the chick.