Saturday, August 30, 2014

Woman on the Edge of Time

Marge Piercy wrote this extraordinary book. The lead actor is Consuelo Ramos. We meet her in her mid-30s, as her niece knocks on the door, bloody from a beating her boyfriend pimp Geraldo gave her. Geraldo, who is several steps behind to beat on the same door and the women who are never safe behind it. Which continues a 30 year reign of beating on Connie. The family, the men, the system, the drugs, the circumstances. When you're done being beaten, when you swing back, you're incarcerated because you got no power. I'm just learning about women's science fiction - the fictional striving for a world without broken ribs and death via womanhood. Piercy beams a striking light on woman+culture, hard to look at with both eyes, but true, oh we so know it's true. Powerlessness runs like ditch water. We readers, shoeless and teeth grinding, follow Connie. Raging, hurt, battered, triumphant over the tiniest success, we are with her. Connie has a gift. She's a catcher, and someone in the future finds her. Finds her in the midst of an upswing in her treacherously brutal life, finds her in the institution her brother confines her to, finds her in the scared resentful heart of the mess of her life. She is the mutton in a psychomedical game of hasenpfeffer. When we feel most powerless, we must understand that there are millions like us. There is a choice: to die as others see our worth and our death, or to fight to realize our worth. My mother gave me a book for my 17th birthday. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. She wrote on the flyleaf "To Linda on her 17th birthday. May you read it in all good conscience." That was so close to 50 years ago. And here is Marge Piercy. Woman on The Edge of Time. May you read it in all good conscience. And then weep, wipe your eyes and move forward. The struggle for a good life goes on, for everyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Science Fiction and Women

Two months gone on my pledge to read science fiction by women for a year, I'm already struggling. Part of this is my challenge at internet searching. Part is the inclusion of fantasy with SF. Science fiction has subsets. Speculative, utopian, dystopian, and other -ian(s). SF written by women does not always have women protagonists, and some men have written good SF featuring women. I picked up a couple of books by new SF women writers, and if the thing starts out with a rape or a beating, I'm done. Aren't there other ways to launch a woman on an adventure?  I read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and she raised the bar to the stratosphere. I'm going to have to forget Breq in order to appreciate another SF story fully. Today I'm trying to find a critical anthology like Marleen Barr's Future Females, written and collected in this century. What I learned so far: utopian SF is the way women have to imagine a future that is not what we think we will live to see. There are no adventure stories featuring women because a women stepping out her door ala Bilbo Baggins will not regret she forgot her handkerchief. She will regret stepping out. No road trips, starship launches, stranger in a strange land for women. Nope. No unescorted trips to a border town on a mission of mysterious, possibly nefarious, assignment. Nope. An excellent example of this is James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled with Light!" Sheldon channels the exquisite joy of freedom, and then flips the illusion on its bloody head. Powerful storytelling. Utopian dystopian. We need a new genre. Freed from the criteria and criticism of male-dominated labeling. Oh hell, we need a new culture. Where's the hope in this one?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's What Women Do

My father and I had a heated discussion recently about why he needn't shave my brother. I take Scott to the barber shop. Dad said that I think of the outing to the barber shop like I think of a trip to the beauty parlor.  No woman he has experience of ever frequented such a place. What's that reference doing in our conversation? Because it's a cultural automatic. Women = beauty maintenance. During a later conversation he mentioned the neighbor women were gossiping–while he was gossiping about the neighbor women. Women gossip, go to beauty salons, are the weaker sex. James Muir, the sculptor of this amazing artwork, writes Truth and Justice is not what our legal system is dominated by: the rights of the individual and equality are not preeminent. Sociologically women are not equal, and are portrayed as not suitable for equality, based on perceptions cemented over centuries. Throughout our lives we women coordinate activities, orchestrate workplaces, maintain calendars and events within, elevate and accentuate positive environments, keep the peace, find and share the truth, mete out justice at work and home (based on experience and research). Men do this, too. But men are credited with these skills. Women need to expect credit as well. In the roles assigned to women culturally we hone the prowess to manage large projects and the people assigned. Traits we are labeled with are precisely the traits that allow for excellent leaders. Many of the roles we are excluded from would be the exact endeavor for us to excel. Director, CEO, priest, symphony conductor, hospital administrator. Because those roles are what women do throughout a lifetime. Add to the experience, the desire to excel and succeed and there are ideal candidates left out. We're working to open the way for advancement, for ourselves, our peers, our progeny. That's what women do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baby Brother Buddha

My brother and I were out today for breakfast and errands. We stopped at the farm plot to cut some flowers. Scott was hugging the blooms on the way home - unknown if it was because he was appreciating, or because he was saving them from my scary (to him) driving. The world's too big for him now. Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" came on the radio. At the line "forget about everything" Scott repeated it. My heart chilled. But he was hugging flowers, and when I smiled at him he smiled back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Yesterday I lost touch with my soul. That's what it felt like, when explaining to a friend at lunch what state I was experiencing.  Emotionally tapped out and unable to refill the empty spaces. She gave me a phone number to call a spiritual advisor. I fumbled the bill and was reminded that I can't keep mental track of things, that I am clumsy and confused, and unable to create anything. No writing, no jewelry, no art. The garden is no longer restorative. And I crushed a beetle between my fingers the other day, a thing I've never done. The beetle wasn't doing anything but eating my zinnia leaves. I called the advisor. He agreed to call me back later last night. I lit a candle and opened a journal page and wrote B E R E F T. I've been lucky to have a strong spiritual sense. To experience awe, joy, and humility in the mystery of creation. So the inability to touch the source feels vacant and odd. I burned out in the caregiving role years ago, and now the ashes are adrift. We had a good conversation last night. I have to change my role, take steps to build my strength again and get back on my spiritual path. Just now, that feels daunting, but I took the first step by making a phone call to ask for help. Per ardua ad alta.