raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Notes on a week in Delhi and Mumbai:

-So this time I flew into Mumbai from London, to visit friends for a couple of days, and it's lovely. Unlike Delhi, it has reasonable weather all year round rather than two months out of twelve, and although it has its problems, it doesn't have Delhi's perennial issues with water. (Lately, in Delhi, you just want to cry watching water go down the drain; it's like throwing away gold dust.) Anyway, so I went to the beach and ate street pav bhaji and saw the Gateway of India (which you can't go in, any more; there was the beautiful open lit empty space inside, occupied only by a police dog having a snooze) and had tea at the Taj and generally was quite, quite useless. It was great. My mental health hasn't been the best, lately, but I think a dose of warmth and sun is never bad. Delhi, once I got there, is in the smoothing-off period, the pre-Diwali time where the shops and businesses are beginning to turn off the air conditioning. It lingered around a pleasant, dry thirty degrees, which was nice.

-Since I was last in India about eighteen months ago, my parents have sold their old house in Delhi, which was by New Delhi Railway Station, and given that it was my father's ancestral house and he did to a greater and lesser extent grow up in it, and also, it was where I spent the little time I did with my paternal grandfather, a deeply formidable gentleman who was kinder and gentler to me than he had ever been to anyone, given all of those things, god, I hated that house. When my father was young it was a nice house in a residential district, running on the rhythms of the railway station (one of the things I did like about it was the brief moment, halfway between wakefulness and sleep, every morning at five am: this is the night mail / crossing the border, in this case, the Kalka Mail), but now it's surrounded by developments, hotels and construction work, and to make things just that little bit worse, the water pressure in the area has long since fallen to basically nothing. We spent four months there the summer I was four, and it was forty-eight degrees in Delhi with no air conditioning or running water, and those days, you had to ring up Emirates to confirm your flights the day before travelling. (Did you know that? I've never met anyone who knew that. We were bumped to standby. I missed my first two months of school. I was put off my ancient and magnificent homeland for not-quite life.)

-(A related note, also: I occasionally see non-South-Asians refer to us as "desi", which is just, beyond not on, from my perspective. "Desh" means, homeland; "desi" means someone from that homeland. To presume to give that word, because it is a gift, is rank imperialism.)

-The new place, oddly enough, is very close to my mother's family. It's in CR Park, the Bengali colony which my maternal grandfather, my Dadu, was instrumental in creating in the seventies, and it's beautiful – it's a second-floor flat with two actual bedrooms (which, in south Delhi, is positively palatial) and trees in leaf brushing up against the windows. I adore it – partly for itself, because it's quiet and clean and comfortable, and as part of my family's continual quest towards non-Western modernity, it's outfitted with Indian-style bathrooms and kitchen, all cool, smooth granite and rattan and ridiculous drapes from Fabindia, and Ikea's finest in the kitchen drawers – and partly because, well. Last night I couldn't sleep, and it was maybe three or four in the morning and I got up, went to the kitchen and got myself an apple and rasmalai from the fridge, and cut the apple and put the rasmalai in the bowl, and sat for half an hour with my laptop, and ate them, then washed up the bowl, spoon and knife and put them in the rack to dry. I think maybe you have to be me to understand the significance of that. But I have my keys to the place. It's my home, too.

CR Park, too, is a good place to live. It was created as a gated community before the phrase acquired the connotations it has now – that is to say, the emphasis is on the second word. It's large and getting larger all the time – we are a short walk from the CR Park police station, CR Park Market No. 4 and the CR Park Kali Mandir Society – but all with that dusty-tree, homely feeling. Annoyingly, it's equidistant between two metro stations, Nehru Place and Kailash Colony, and thus not really walking distance from either, but just as I was complaining about that someone reminded me about the Phase III Metro work, which will build a third radial station closer than either of the others, so really, I'm very happy. I kind of want to take Shim there for a week one winter without telling any of my relatives I'm in town, and just hang out and explore.

-Speaking of which. I can't put my finger on it, and it's kind of frightening, but this kind of middle-class Delhi life has become a lot easier for me to navigate, just recently. I've been married five weeks and those five weeks have done more for my social capital than my previous decade of adult life. And it doesn't matter that Shim wasn't with me, or even that Shim isn't desi; somehow, something has changed. It's deeply insulting, of course, but that's maybe epiphenomenal? I picked up a book in the airport called Lady, you're not a man, which I liked mostly because it's basically a slim Indian feminist tract masquerading as a self-help book, and rule one is, never apologise for being a woman. This is the sort of self-help advice I can get behind. Anyway, so it is insulting, and maybe it is psychologically destructive to be a woman in a society that demands such apology (I applied to get the natural gas pipeline connected; the gas company wanted to know my husband's name before I could apply), but I don't know, I think the best way out is to carry on living the life I do. After all, India is an idea – a grand, ancient idea, for sure, but a thousand dialects and cultures, old states, new states, rural and urban and mixed, 1.1 billion people, one in six of all the people that there are, all pushed together like they fit, like it's possible for them to be one noisy nation, under no god. If there's no room for me in India, then what the hell's the point of it. (One of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me, ever, was said by my second-year institutional politics tutor, herself a desi: "She is the argumentative Indian.")

(Rule number whatever in the book is addressed to single women, living in a society that believes they need to be married before they're complete: remember all the other women who support you, cheer you, admire you, are you.. It keeps telling you there's nothing wrong with you and you don't need help, it's the worst self-help book ever.)

wedding stuff )

Anyway. It can't be helped. I am back now for seven weeks (wouldn't it be nice if I got a job in those seven weeks, gosh), peeling off the jet-lag, and listening to Jiya Re on repeat this morning, if anyone needs something cheerful to help them out of bed, and going on.
raven: Anthony Rapp playing Mark in RENT, arms lifted, in black and white (rent - vive la vie boheme)
I suspect real happiness is getting up far too late on a sunny Friday morning, stumbling into the kitchen and finding a split croissant, with cheese inside, on the table, and just in case I didn't get it, a note propped on it saying "breakfast!".

So, three things make a post, right?

lashings of ginger beer time! )

*


Here is the second thing in this post. X-Men. Hi. A few days ago [personal profile] gavagai discovered I'd never seen it and showed me the first movie having just poured me a glass of lemonade plus two and a half measures of gin. Possibly as a consequence, I enjoyed the film thoroughly. Yay, Patrick Stewart. Yay, Ian McKellen. Yay, my continued crush on Anna Paquin. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to watch X2, and then again on [personal profile] gavagai's advice I skipped the other two and watched First Class instead.

loooots more about that )

*


And here is the third thing I want to write about! [personal profile] thingswithwings gave me some of my icons to talk about. icons! )

*


Now I am going to write fanfic! Maybe. Three more days of freedom. Not that I wanted to be unemployed for the rest of my life, far from it, but I will miss writing fanfic at 3pm.
raven: Kira wearing a green tunic against a blue background (ds9 - kira in green)
I've been meaning to make this post for a while! Deep Space Nine, lovelies. People who really don't understand the silly Star Trek thing, look away now. (Except you don't get to make fun of me for it, I love science fiction and I love Star Trek and I am so done being ashamed of that.)

Deep Space Nine is the third Star Trek series. It's the only one to be set in one place, it's the only one to have a large cast of recurring characters, it's the first one not to feature a ship called Enterprise. As for what it's about: oh, god, I have no idea. It's about a space station called Deep Space Nine. It's sort of about war, and a little bit about religion, and a lot about family, and mostly about people.

I watched the pilot, "Emissary", in June 2009, and I just finished "What You Leave Behind", the final episode of the seventh season, and I have been watching this show for ten eleven months and I feel like I should say something about it that isn't just flail. I've been enormously lucky in that not one but two of my best friends were watching it for the first time at the same time as me - [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] hathy_col, thank you for a) putting up with me and b) lending me so many DVDs - and I've had a chance to properly squee. Squeee!

But first of all here are some things I don't like about it )

But what do I like about it, that is the question. Oh, so much. I love the tissue of the whole world it creates. The show begins in literal darkness. The space station is still called Terok Nor, a grim tentacular horror of a space station that is being busily trashed by the withdrawing occupying forces. The Cardassians kick stuff about, they leave. In come the Bajorans, who are throwing off the yoke of the oppressor not with a happy shout but with a sort of resigned efficiency, and the Federation, who are merely helping out. They aren't doing it all that well: Sisko's grieving for his wife and doesn't really give a shit about the assignment, Dax hasn't even been a new person all that long, O'Brien can't make the Federation and Cardassian computers work together. Bashir's all enthused that he gets to be a noble doctor working here in this third-world savage backwater, and Kira, as one of the noble savages herself, is getting ready to kick his head in.

Then, right next to the space station in the back of beyond, a stable wormhole is discovered to the Gamma Quadrant. And suddenly these people are at the centre of the world, and suddenly they have to be the best people they can be. And... oh, I love it, I do. Other Trek shows are pretty rubbish at people, interpersonal relationships, love stories, the rest of it – they're plot driven, spatial-anomaly driven, moral-dilemma driven. And Deep Space Nine is about… it's about Sisko and Jake, working out that father-and-son thing here in this very strange environment. It's about how they build ships together, go on trips together, about how Jake sets his father up on dates and Sisko yells at Jake for not doing his homework. It's about how Kira, who has been a terrorist her entire life, has been fighting the Cardassians her entire life, and has to learn now how to have friends, how to have fun, how not to fight, how to live.

(And let's pause for a moment on that: Kira, a woman with strong religious faith, who describes herself as a terrorist, who never regrets her actions, is nevertheless depicted as consistently principled and awesome.)

And then there's Julian Bashir, who incidentally is both non-white and British, who develops from annoying wunderkind to much more rounded character, and he and Miles O'Brien go on to get drunk together, play darts together, fight at the Alamo together and periodically declare their love for each other, together. And Nog, the Ferengi kid whom Jake teaches to read in the first season, who by the seventh season is a lieutenant in Starfleet, and so well-written and effective has his character development been, you absolutely believe it.

And then there's Odo, Quark and Garak, the three alien characters who are not backdrops to the humans – whose concerns and motivations are both entirely real and entirely at odds, on occasion, with those of the Federation.

And there's the whole world this takes place in: the politics of Bajor and Cardassia, the war against the Dominion, the smaller details like the Bajoran shrine on the station, the baseball in Sisko's office, the fomenting unionists in Quark's bar. The darker cast it puts on the Federation: Section 31, and the infamous root beer analogy. The brilliant, and brilliantly random recurring themes of yammok sauce (this is apparently a Cardassian condiment – why it gets so much discussion is never explained) and self-sealing stembolts (which are never explained at all). It's all so well-realised and internally consistent that these things make sense, and they're deployed with such a light and confident touch that you don't even have these sudden, self-conscious this-is-science-fiction moments, but only, these are people in a brave new world, but they're people.

Obviously I want to finish this by posting a clip from the show. I was going to post Miles and Julian getting drunk and singing Jerusalem, and then I was going to post Kira and Dax wearing the most amazing hats ever seen on television, and then I was going to post Garak, being Garak.

But now I'm going to post this: for the simple reason that it's during this little clip that my mild liking for this show made the leap into full-on love. All you need to know is that Kira has, for various reasons, just lost her job as first officer and liaison between the Federation and the Bajorans, and is preparing to leave the station.

how can you talk about skin lotion at a time like this )
raven: (misc - rang de basanti)
Question, not necessarily needing answer. Is Chak De! India a feminist film?

For those unlucky, unlucky people who haven't seen it: it's the archetypical sports film, charting the rise of the team of no-hopers to international champions, with the unusual characteristic that the team in question is the Indian women's national hockey team. (Field hockey is India's national sport. Don't pretend to be unsurprised.)

Also, it's pretty fantastic. I watched it again recently and Shim ended up drawing up a chair so he could read the subtitles, and we cheered and groaned in the right places. I highly recommend this vid as a much better introduction to it, and, in fact, a just a brilliant vid in general. I've recommended it before, it's fabulous.

And on the face of it, it ought to be a feminist film. It's a film about women's success, after all - women succeeding at something together. It passes the Bechdel test in every scene. It's about power, and how to find it. The problem, though, is that the main protagonist is not one of the women - he's their coach, Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan, who else), who's coaching them after, years before, having been accused of throwing an India v. Pakistan match, and their success redeems him. And nowhere is it more obvious that it's his story is the fact the film begins and ends with him - the women have their individual arcs, but these are resolved, literally, over the credits - the closing shot of the film is of Khan returning to his childhood home.

And further, the individual arcs of the women are not always given the attention they deserve, either. While they all have stories, it's notable that the ones that get the most time are Vidya, Preeti, and Bindia, the three middle-class city girls. Which isn't to say their stories don't have feminist undercurrents - I absolutely love that the film doesn't, for a second, avoid the point that these women's families think their dedication to their sport makes them unmarriagable, and doesn't avoid the choices they have to make.

But I wanted more about Soimoi, a woman from Jharkhand whose Hindi is limited and English non-existent, who gets called junglee by the others, and about Mary and Molly, Christians from the north-east who get called "foreign" rather than Indian. My favourite is Komal, who is tiny and determined (hey, guess why I love her), and is going to play hockey rather than get married. What I mean to say is, all the dynamics of bias other than gender are right there for you to see, it is in no way a perfect film.

But at the same time... I suspect to analyse this film from a Western feminist perspective is interesting but not helpful. This is India we're talking about - India, and Indians, and it's this post that reminded me today of Chak De! India, this is the country where a woman needs a broken mirror to go and see a film.

Which brings me to the point of all of this, really: that scene, That notorious scene, near the beginning of the film, which I remember everyone talking about when the film was first released, some in disgust, but most with a quiet understated glee. Simply put: a man makes a crude remark at a professional female athlete in public. She ignores him. He tries it on again. She tries harder to ignore him. Her friend, also a professional athlete, loses her temper and punches him in the face. He gets pissed off and calls over his friends. And then fifteen other professional athletes punch him in the face.

Look, watch it. here it is )
raven: panel from PhD comics, woman with speech bubble: "Wait a minute... I'm the only female in this class!" (misc - ppe)
I am reading a case called Royal Bank of Scotland v Etridge (2001). It's quite a well-known case, and a fairly interesting one. It goes like this. Say you are married, or civil-partnered, and you live with your partner in a house that you both own. Say you then decide to start a business, and need a loan for the purpose. The bank wants security for the loan, so you offer up the only thing you have - your house. The bank agrees, Land Registry enters the restriction on your title to your property, you get the money.

Then the inevitable happens. The business fails and you default on the loan. In order to get back the money, the bank exercises its power of sale. And you're thrown out of your home - but so is your partner, through no fault of theirs, and they may not even have known that all this was going on, considering all that was required from them was one signature, possibly years before.

The House of Lords was keen to stop this happening, and in this case it set out guidelines for what a lender must do when making a loan of this type. Nothing dramatic - it must satisfy itself that practical implications of the transaction have been set out in a "meaningful way" to the other partner before it proceeds with the loan.

So far, so hoopy. In some ways this is just the sort of common law that appeals to me; there's a problem, the court takes a simple logical action, it fixes it. Very neat, very sensible.

But here's the issue. The wording of the judgement is as follows:

"It is important that a wife (or anyone in a like position) should not charge her interest in the matrimonial home to secure the borrowing of her husband (or anyone in a like position) without fully understanding the nature and effect of the proposed transaction and that the decision is hers, to agree or not to agree."

And later:

"It is important that lenders should feel able to advance money... on the security of the wife's interest in the matrimonial home..."

The textbook, published in 2009, I should add, writes:

"The lender is entitled to proceed on the basis that the solicitor advising the wife has done so properly."

And:

"[If going ahead with the transaction] the solicitor should explain to the wife the purpose for which he (the solicitor) has become involved..."

There's layers and layers of issues below this - at one level it's about undue influence, which suggests it's a tool to stop women being taken advantage of, and at another level it's about introducing transparency.

But the judgement is on the most obvious level, about husbands and wives. It's about how a husband takes out a loan, and doesn't tell his wife; it's about how a wife must have it explained. There's a clear, clear assumption that it will be a man who takes out a business loan, not a woman, and that it will be the wife who needs the situation explaining. The judgement was made in 2001, note: it wasn't Lord Denning in the 1970s getting paternalistic on us, it was made less than ten years ago. It's not a profound point that I'm leading up to here, but nevertheless I want to make it: the sheer and obvious sexism in it is what gets me down. It's not that you have to analyse it carefully to see that it's there, it's just there, waving a little patriarchy flag and wearing a shiny hat.

It was made before the Civil Partnership Act, of course - but that is retroactively implied into it, so there's one blessing, but hmph. Hmph.
raven: placard in red paint: "Leviticus hates your polyester blends" (politics - leviticus)
It's been an interesting morning - I may have alternative career plans! Also I got a haircut! - and now I need lunch and coffee before sitting down to an afternoon of civil litigation, but first, a word about the Stupak amendment.

In brief: the US House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill. It is called the Affordable Health Care For America Act and expands federal healthcare provision enormously - 36 million more people will be eligible for Medicaid, most employers will be required to provide healthcare coverage for their workers, and there will be a government-funded "public option". Also notably, health insurers will be prevented from refusing coverage based on medical history (no more gender-based "pre-existing conditions" such as pregnancy, rape and domestic violence) and the exemption for insurance companies from antitrust legislation will be repealed.

So far, so hoopy. The Stupak Amendment, with which this Act has been passsed, is as follows:

"No funds authorised or appropriated by this Act... may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury or physical injury which would... place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed... or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest."[1]

In other words, to get this Act passed, someone had to be the sacrificial lamb and 150 million American women were it. (Also, something else I have just spotted - the obvious women are excluded, women who want abortions for what are nauseatingly called "social" reasons, because pregnancy is not the right thing for them, but also, women who have mental illnesses which pregnancy would exacerbate are excluded, too.)

I actually have no further commentary to make on the issue, and I wondered if that were just me, but actually, I think there is nothing very profound to say about it. Institutional politics, particularly in the United States, is boring and it doesn't yield to analysis. Feminist analysis of the narratives of privilege and oppression, that is interesting; so is sociological thinking about why people think the way they do such that amendments like this are seen as a good idea, but on the institutional level of why, in the specific instance, the House of Representatives has voted like this, I'm coming up with nothing. They voted like this because they're misogynists, fundamentalists, or spineless; you can lobby them, but to be effective, you either run for the House of Representatives or wait for the current incumbents to die, or both. You can't argue, you can't write about women's rights to their own bodies, you can't talk about restriction of reproductive options as a form of control of women. Well, you can, but it's a category error to think you can convince an edifice of misogyny to change their minds because that, I think, fundamentally misunderstands why they hold the opinions they do - it's not because they arrived at them through logical argument.

(Evidence in point: thirty-nine Democrats voted against the reform bill. Twenty-one of them, besides Stupak, voted for the amendment. Institutional politics defies logical analysis.)[2]

I don't know. That's it. It'll go the Senate. The haircut looks quite cute, but has that new-hair feel of belonging to someone else who's much cooler than me. I really ought to do some work.



[1] Yes, yes, this is not proper legal citation.

[2] From here. And yes, lawyers are allowed to run a defence in the alternative, but I suspect it's not the same thing.

HATE

Apr. 14th, 2009 04:43 pm
raven: (misc - pride)
So, my day was going pretty badly, and then there were death threats!

Remember the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women? The Pink Chaddi Campaign was a wonderful, wry, smart and pointed form of protest - because, let's face it, Hindutva activists are usually quite stupid, and witty humiliation as an argumentative technique is the best way to deal with them other than hitting them with iron bars and setting them on fire.

The Facebook group of the Consortium - I'm not linking to it, for reasons that will be clear in a moment - has been hacked and renamed "the only good bong is a dead one".

I hate everybody. And the Indian men of the world can go fuck themselves, with ginger.

edited to add: the Hindu discusses it.

Miscellany

Mar. 30th, 2009 02:57 pm
raven: (misc - liberal)
It's really nice to be home. I didn't have the quietest of weekends, really; I was at Amicus training again on Saturday, and that was kind of sort of exhausting. Practical, not theory, so lots of running around with my hands in my pockets trying to make myself as good an investigator as possible, i.e., not very good. The funny thing is, I find, is that the other side of the law - the private sector side, the type of law done by the large impressive firms with the large impressive training contracts - is so... sleek, so glossy, so very talkative. You have to get in the habit of talking and dressing sharply. It's wearing. Whereas, for this sort of thing, you dress, talk and think forgettable. Clean jeans and brushed hair, a notepad any colour but yellow, and you sit and you listen. Your client is on trial for his life, but... well, right now he's not going anywhere. I really enjoyed the change. That said, I don't know if I could really do this work: do it for real with real people and be all things to them, a good lawyer, but a good listener and someone who can get people to tell me, not the right things, but the real things.

That bothers me about law as I see it, here - it's all telling you what you want to hear. I tell interviewers what they want to hear, they tell me what they think I should hear, and none of it bears any resemblance to reality. That might be a problem endemic in the law itself - it's interesting, of course, that the Law, this great amorphous thing I spend every waking hour on these days, isn't a thing about how things are, but it's something that people do. We've written about it so much that we've made it exist. And there's no doubt that electric chairs do exist. That's a real sense you get, actually: that the judicial system induces this twilight state, so people taken away to spend forty years in prison are still thinking, where am I, what's going on, there's been some mistake, this isn't real.

The saddest part was the bit on Atkins v Virginia, a 2002 case where the Supreme Court established that it is unconstitutional to execute someone with "mental retardation", undefined. I find it horrifying that this is actually a point at issue, but there you are. Lots of people have been executed who have had the mental age of nine-year-olds. And it's still perfectly possible to execute someone with the mental age of an eleven-year-old, or a nine-year-old on a good day. It puts investigators in the awful position of going to see the person's community, their their teachers and their elderly mother, and ask things like, was he a bit slow? Was he incapable of washing himself, and will you talk about it on a stand in front of hundreds of strangers?

Yeah. It's not good for your view on humanity, this sort of thing. On Saturday night I went out gloomily and was cheered by a nice dinner in Soho with [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne and [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] deathbyshinies and [livejournal.com profile] liminreid, which was cheering but, as I said, I couldn't go dancing afterwards because the Sunday the clocks go forward was the one Sunday in the year I had to be up at seven am. And go to another day of lectures and workshops and try interviewing people myself, which I have to say I did spectacularly not well at all, and then run across the city to get a train up north, which was eerily quiet, and lacking in announcements and indeed people, and didn't stop, and gave me this muted feeling that I might be on the Caldonian Sleeper or the first train into the Twilight Zone.

That said, I did wake up at seven this morning, have a momentary panic as to where I was, realise that a) it was my own bed and b) the alarm clock belonged to someone else, and roll over and go back to sleep. I shall have to be careful. I am NOT ON HOLIDAY. This cannot be emphasised enough. Not on holiday. Yes.

...and here I am, feeling a little like an unspoken sentence. Notes and queries:

-[livejournal.com profile] deathbyshinies has started a Secret Histories Project. As she puts it, it is a blog devoted to "little random tidbits of historical fact that make you sit up and go 'BLOODY HELL, WHY DID NOBODY EVER TELL ME ABOUT THAT!'" (Examples already mentioned: Alan Turing's homosexuality; the fact there were South Asian people living in Britain before 1700 (I was never told this at school); Helen Keller's socialist and feminist activism.) Definitely worth looking at.

-A brief unrelated rant, also. Why is there a sudden resurgence, recently, of the "it's only natural" argument? I keep seeing this: polamory is natural, wanting to have children is natural. I really thought that the blogosphere had finally got over this one, but apparently not. Okay, internets. Saying something is "natural" is an argumentative faux-pas of the worst order. Because, to begin with, you're implying that polyamory or childbearing or whatever are worthy of respect only because they are some inalienable feature about how people are. You're devaluaing people's choices pertaining to either of those things. Sure, childbearing is natural. So is living in trees, so is killing people who don't agree with you. Natural does not equate to good, and for good reason. People choose to have kids - it's the choice that's worthy of preservation and respect, not the entirely fallacious biological imperative behind the choice.

And as for polyamory being "natural" - maybe it is natural for people to want multiple relationships, I don't know, and maybe monogamy is a stifling yoke upon the natural impetus of society blah blah whatever (I remain to be convinced of that last one, I must say). But it's worthy of respect, surely, whatever its provenance? It's worthy of respect if it's the way people have always lived or if it was invented out of whole cloth by L. Ron Hubbard in 1971. I'm just boggled that people still think this is a smart tack to take. I suppose it's the gay-gene for the twenty-first century. My god it's hard to be a liberal.

Okay, I'm going to stop yelling now. To finish: the clocks went forward and I was very upset. There is now more light in the evenings, and I am less upset. Thus, I leave you with the Spring Arrangements Bill. [livejournal.com profile] shimgray can recite it on command. This fills me with joy.

miscellany

Mar. 4th, 2009 10:59 pm
raven: black and wite Kaylee, against the background of her parasol in colour (firefly - kaylee's parasol)
I do wish Feministing wouldn't talk the way it does about, well, stuff. Skin-whitening products are Bad and Wrong, I quite agree, yes indeed. But... you know. There's a reason for them. Colourism, I've seen it called, but it's a kind of internalised racism or just plain old self-hatred that makes people like me think our skin ought to be whiter, and, you know what? It's my business, mine and my people's business, what we do about that, and I can't help but think it's terribly presumptuous for someone who's never been a part of a culture where this is an endemic feature to jump in and start spouting about the Bad and Wrong.

(And, just for the record? If there was some magic cream that would let me pass for white? I'd take it in an instant, and I'd pay more than $70 for it, too.)

In other news, [livejournal.com profile] lgbtfest is open for prompt-claiming, and I am having to resist very hard and not claiming... well, lots. I especially love the Harry Potter ones, becuse they twist off two identifiable nexuses (not a word I have used in the plural before): the thought that the magical world is much more socially conservative than ours, and the equally convincing thought that, well, they have magic. Rather than come out as trans, you might go to a back street for a potion as soon as you were sure it's what you wanted. I want someone to write that, actually. I'd also love someone to write about Voldemort's persecution of queer people and how that intersected with issues of birth, and oh, queer issues in the Potterverse generally.

In other other news, a brief vid rec (unlike me, I know): How Much Is That Geisha In The Window, a really gorgeous, savage indictment of the invisible Asians in Firefly. I don't entirely agree with the thesis, but the vid is stunning and very smart.

In other other other news, Small Cat just woke up and looked at me in a disapproving fashion. Back to equity and trusts. One day I will understand the law. Today is not that day.

November

Nov. 2nd, 2008 05:15 pm
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
I'm having a bad few days, mental-health wise. After a week or so on the up, I then decided that sleeping eighteen hours out of every twenty-four was quite, quite reasonable. In the words of my favourite author, if I did sleep any more, I might as well be dead and save on my board and lodging. When awake, I have been grumpy and entirely unable to get anything done. It's been... special. Still taking my pills, of course. I continue to be therapied at. I wish the sun would come back, that would help. Last night I tried to cheer myself up by trying something new with my eye glitter. This time, liquid metallic green with a layer of green glitter with a touch of silver on top of that. It worked, but I might not wear it anywhere but to a Hallowe'en party.

Anyway. Tuesday, November 4th. I'm looking forward to it. I really, really am. Because, well, I don't think that Barack Obama is the messiah. I don't think he's going to change the world forever. But I think he's a nice chap with a good sense of humour, with sensible policies, who inhaled in college (that was the point) and has kids who make fun of his pants. And when he speaks, he gives the impression of being intelligent, witty and charismatic. That's... that's great. I can go with that. I can endorse this whole-heartedly. I wish I could vote for him, but I can't, and I wish I could donate money to his campaign, but I can't. I can, however, sit up all night on Tuesday and drink. This is what I plan to do.

(In the meantime, John McCain is aware of the internet.)

In the meantime, it's cold and wet and cold again. It's November, I guess. Still here.

Despite the gloom, though, it has been a good and robust day for democracy as an abstract concept, which is actually what I meant to make this post about before my brain abruptly went south for the winter. This morning at half eleven [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I were woken by the local councillors, who wished to know our opinions on the local council and its many achievements, and to leave behind a leaflet about their surgery. ("Bob and Oscar's Rolling Surgery" - srsly. I am not making that up. The leaflet has a picture of them being cheery. It's all very English.

(The thing is, though, I couldn't actually think of something I wanted to complain to the council about. The bin men come regularly and recycle. The roads are well-lit. The speed limits are low enough to make life easy for cyclists. The leaves are swept by small men on comically enormous blowing machines. It's as though... stuff gets done. My council wants to know my opinion, and I can't think of anything because I think it's doing pretty well. I think this is definitely a sign of a healthy democracy.)

Also, yesterday I found out that Sefton Council want to know if I wish to vote in Sefton. I'm a little torn on this issue - I am quite fond of Sefton Council, as they are cheerfully hung between Labour and the Lib Dems and accordingly also get a lot done. I don't know. Local government is usually unexciting, but it's a nice thing to wake up on a Sunday morning and be reminded that I'm a citizen. I'm still amazed at the concept of democracy, don't mind me. Am reading The White Tiger at the moment, the Booker Prize winner, and thus feel bound to qualify that: legitimate democracy, it's really great.

The day has been spent, also, watching The West Wing and avoiding an essay on EU preliminary ruling procedure. I like uncodified constitutions and the common law, I like being part of a system from within; I was never quite sold on the concept of political science, despite studying it for three years, because structural and constructivist political analysis is rigorous and academic but... dry. It has no style and no ticker tape and wet mornings waving placards and rosettes, it deliberately avoids telling you that you are an ordinary person in an ordinary place and you matter. Which is well and good and exactly how it ought to be, but makes me glad I'm now within and not without. Woman is by nature a political animal, I guess.

I would be a bad feminist if I had uncritical faith in the liberal democratic system, and a muddy thinker, too - but I kind of think that there are times and places for considered debate, and other times for sitting back and thinking oh wow, we made this.[1]



[1] yes we could.

misc.

Oct. 24th, 2008 06:35 pm
raven: panel from PhD comics, woman with speech bubble: "Wait a minute... I'm the only female in this class!" (misc - ppe)
That Cat, having just run riot around the living room, settled herself down to take a big bite out of my golden-syrupped waffles. I picked her up by the middle - the kitten I could once scoop up in one hand now works quite well as a draught excluder - and put her in the kitchen, and closed the door.

Poor kitty. Cue much wailing. "You don't looooooove me! You hate me! I bet I'm adopted!"

I ate my waffles, put the plate down and let her back in. Cue much purring, finger licking, and finally settling herself down to lick the golden syrup off the plate. Fine, I thought. Okay, she's rotting her little teeth, but she's due to lose them in the few weeks or so.

Then she shoved her little nose into the mug on the table, pushed it off and bounced down onto the floor. I sat up and found her cheerfully lapping up half a mug of black coffee. This is, I would argue, all the proof one needs that she is not adopted. She would have none of that. I put her back in the kitchen and all was peace.

And then small, stripy, kitty paws appeared under the kitchen door. They flailed. They flailed some more. Then a tiny kitty nose. Then a tiny kitty miaow. "S'okay, if you don't love me. I'll just. I'll just starve. It's okay."

In conclusion: I give up. I have a cat enthusiastically investigating the back of my jeans. With her claws. If anyone asks, I've just got into kink. Is less embarrassing than Defeat By Four-Month-Old Kitten.

In other news, I'm still here. Went to all my classes and lectures this week, save one. I still love the law. As for my brain... well. Still here. Having been offered it, I have so far resisted switching my meds to amitryptyline, because it's a tricyclic and the side-effects will probably be too awful for me to function. I went to my first session of talk-therapy on Wednesday. My counsellor is middle-aged, balding and has ears that stick out to here. I like him a lot. He said, tell me about your family. I told him about my family. I told him my father is a cheerful aging hippie, my mother is both awesome and occasionally crazy. He said, tell me about your friends. I told him about them. He asked, how do you cope with life and depression.

I did not say: I make convoluted puns on the internet. I eat waffles. I pick up my cat and sing, "Kitty in the sky with diamonds!" My dearest friend comes in from Norfolk and sexually propositions me.

I said: humour.

He laughed, and told me that he didn't like to make sweeping predictions so early on in the therapy-process, and he hadn't known me too long, but, well, "I think you'll probably be fine."

In other other news:

Truly idiotic post from Feministing today - apparently we should not be in long-distance relationships because they're not environmentally-friendly. As well as being idiotic in itself, this post exemplifies one of the things that annoy me about the big feminist blogs (Feministing, Feministe, Pandagon): they're so very definite about what a feminist, or in this case, a social progessive, is like. Occasionally that approach backfires spectacularly - see Amanda Marcotte's incredibly racist book covers, for example - but not often enough for my liking. Possibly this is just the week white privilege is pissing me off, but hell, white privilege pisses me off.

(Random bit of rage for the day: people keep talking about Christmas. Christmas is in December, for heaven's sake. I belong to a religious tradition that is also subscribed to by a billion people. The major winter religious festival of this religious tradition is, er, on Monday. Have I heard a single thing from the media, or the world at large, about this? Have I fuck.)

(Note: I am aware that this is not white privilege per se. I have never found a good term to describe it. I once described it as "orthopraxic cultural privilege", but I don't think it'll catch on.)

(Further note: [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong gave me a Diwali card. This is awesome.)

I stop babbling now, yesyes. I am going to re-read Whipping Girl now.
raven: panel from PhD comics, woman with speech bubble: "Wait a minute... I'm the only female in this class!" (misc - ppe)
In last night's presidential debate, John McCain used finger quotes around "women's health", to emphasise exactly how meaningless and facile a concept that is, and how much disdain he has for women, their health, and presumably, a decent proportion of their vote.

Hi. I am aware of my limitations. I am, particularly, aware of the fact I needed a two-hour nap after school today, because I am just that much made of fail. But, you know. I'm a human being. I'm an individual, and I'm a woman, and my body belongs to me.

Also? I am a baby lawyer. One day, I'll just be a lawyer. Small, timely reminder today of why that is, and why that's important. Constitutional literalism is an interesting thing; the right to privacy that Roe v Wade is based on does not, according to some commentators, have a constitutional existence. Now, I'm not an enormous fan of the American fetishisation of constitutional sovereignty anyway, but that's not the point. So help me god, the point is that women are people. That a human body, and what goes into it, and what feeds off it, and what may be done to it, is solely within the domain of the person it belongs to. As this post about constitutional literalism points out, it's not just Roe v Wade, either. The so-called right to privacy covers contraception and other reproductive freedoms, too. And, you know, freedom matters. Whether you squeeze it out of a centuries-old document or you stand up and say, from radical cloth, that women are people, it's kind of important.

I'm really not a great believer in armchair activism. I'm a baby lawyer for just that reason. Because I can blog, and express outrage, but also, can go to school every day and read my textbooks and pass my exams and grow up to be someone who matters. And now I return to the black lagoon. I have a) a lot of land law and b) no spoons at all.
raven: (doctor who - welcome to hell)
The first thing I remembered when waking up this morning: we're out of coffee. In retrospect, I should've known it might not shape up to be a good day.

...sigh. Anyway. That sort of day, so this sort of post. Things that are indeed good about life:

1. The fact that the Wednesday market stall that sells the industrial quantities of sugar is back, and the drawer next to my bed is actually, literally overflowing with sugar. Mmm, liquorice. Mmm, dark chocolate. Mmm, biscuts. Mmm, regression to primary school. You get the picture.

2. Nobody has actually ever had "Final Honours School" written in the appropriate box on a death certificate. (Also, I have never accidentally certified my own death. This is not the case for her, my mum reports.)

3. Philosophy is, indeed, an entirely useless degree. However, in my case it is masked by the wonderful, wonderful degree title of "Philosophy, Politics and Economics", despite my having done twelve weeks of economics in my first year and thrown a textbook down the attic stairs.

4. Very few graduates actually starve.

(However, am going to echo [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse in saying hi, my name is Raven, and the only way I could know less about my degree subject is if I were actually dead.)

5. Oxford is a stunningly beautiful city, and springtime cloaks it in blossoms and fluffy clouds and sunshine. Also enormous gaggles of American tourists and random bagpipers on Cornmarket, but you can't have everything in life.

6. For reasons I am not sure I can satisfactorily explain, everything in our freezer tastes of cider. I don't think this is a good or bad thing, exactly, but it certainly adds an interesting note to a stir-fry.

7. The now well-commented-on and well-documented Open-Source Boob Project, otherwise known as skeeviness-onna-stick. It's not a good thing, of course, but the comments and discussion have kept me amused for a couple of days, and I had a very nice chat with [livejournal.com profile] emily_shore today, in which I got all my ranting out of my system.

(I hadn't written about it here because, well, my life is becoming this xkcd at the moment. Seriously. It actually happened word-for-word a couple of days ago. I leave it as an exercise to the gentle reader to guess which side of the exchange I was on.)

(Yes more parenthesis what of it. Um. Why has there been such an outbreak of stupidity on the internet lately, anyway? Seems everywhere I go, someone is saying something grossly offensive about women, about queer people, or about us filthy ethnics. After many, many years - literally - I may, after Finals, finally bring myself to make a post about my experience, yes, me, me-as-person, not me-as-PPEist, of White Privilege and How I Don't Have It. This is entirely far too long a digression, but what the hell. I always resist this sort of post, because I'm a strong disbeliever in anecdotal evidence - citation needed, oh my god, and "it happened to me once" is not a reliable third-party source - but it seems the level of stupidity on the issue is reaching critical mass, at least for me. For fuck's sake, world. Stop being racist. It's Not Good.)

8. If all goes well, it's actually only about a month until I see [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat again. I have had to sort of push back how excited I am about this to the back of my head, but, er. Much, much excitement.

9. I have awesome feminist friends.

10. I have lots of work to do.

No, that isn't a good thing. I am going to do it now watch me go yes.
raven: (misc - thine own self)
I should be reading for, and also actually writing, an essay on Chinese foreign policy right now, but I don't want to, I want to a) watch Angels in America or b) go shoe-shopping or c) sleep all day or d) some combination of the above. I was supposed to go to a lecture today, but I couldn't get out of bed. It is so awful to say you physically couldn't get out of bed until twenty-five minutes past twelve, but I couldn't. It wasn't just vague laziness, as it usually is, but more along the lines of being glued flat. I couldn't do it.

I was therefore only awake for twenty minutes before leaving the house, during which Claire popped in to tell me she'd found Jesus. I found this a tiny bit surprising. Just a bit. It eventually became clear that she has practice exam questions coming out of her ears, and one of them is actually, possibly, perhaps, a picture of Jesus Christ. It seemed an auspicious beginning for the day. I went outside, nearly walked straight into [livejournal.com profile] wadiekin, wailed a little bit about how much I was already failing at the day –

(yes, I’m incapable of doing anything else; can it be just said for the record right now that Michaelmas ’07 was the term Iona Failed)

– because I didn’t get up before twelve twenty-five and it all seemed slightly hopeless. I was going to [livejournal.com profile] yuletide lunch with [livejournal.com profile] ou3fs, which was a resounding success as long as we do not define success by “talking about [livejournal.com profile] yuletide”. Instead, more or less everyone turned up and talked about New Year’s, and shoes, and I think Blake’s 7 at some point..

Speaking of which, I actually found this quite interesting. The other night I had a bunch of people in my room, mostly female, who got to talking about clothes. And shoes. And ball dresses. clothes, feminism and guilt )

Despite Chinese foreign policy, the last couple of days have been very nice indeed. I have been co-dependent with [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong - in the last ten days or so, we have communicated via LJ comments, LJ messages, Facebook wall posts, Facebook messaging, ordinary email, Herald webmail, Google Talk, phone, text, and pidge, and failing that, realised we live a quarter of a mile apart and have gone round to see each other – and eaten faaaaar too much chocolate and done no exercise, and on Monday night lots of people I love came around to watch Angels In America, and it was great.

(Seriously, how much do I love Prior? I still haven’t seen all of it – am about half an hour into Perestroika now – but I thought I loved him as a character before he turned up looking like Morticia Adams, and now, well. Heeee. Love.)

Also, there was microwaveable sponge pudding, which we didn’t eat that night in the end, and not pie. But there was lots of sugar, and I keep finding mugs and glasses and cutlery in improbable places, like under the bed, and it was only about the second time this term that I’ve filled my room with people and it was lovely.

I am suffering lately, though, from an odd convergence, which is manifesting as my putting my head in my hands and yelling, “Secret double life!” I always used to have, you see, a secret double life par excellence. When I was thirteen, fandom was my little secret. And it didn’t stay that way - [livejournal.com profile] hathy_col arrived in a burst of, well, enthusiasm and squee and potatoes, and changed my life – but it was still somewhat distinct. I talked about it at school to people who knew about it already, which helps enforce the separation, I think. But since I’ve been here in Oxford, and particularly since Maria joined OULES, it’s all coming together in a big blur and is upsetting my notions of how life should be a little bit. It’s a good thing, it’s a great thing that my friends are now one glorious mess of out-there fannish beautiful people who talk in cat macros, but it still worries me a tiny bit. I love it here, I do. Maria and I were chatting online at three am about how people should write fic about Plato and Socrates where they’re in a band with toga-clad groupies, and at length I said we should maybe make some peppermint tea and I went into the kitchen to find her teary-eyed with laughter, and yes, that’s it, that’s what I want, I have always wanted not to be an outsider in my real life, and now I’m not and it is so great I’m actually becoming incoherent.

That is a very long paragraph.

Er. Dear self,

Write about Chinese foreign policy. Remember that? See the books all over your room? Recall the deadline today at five? YES. THAT.

Sincerely,

you.
raven: lit tealight against dark background (stock - diya)
I've had a peculiar sort of day. Mostly, it's been gloriously sunny and warm outside, and I've been stuck in the Indian Institute Library since ten o'clock this morning, up five flights of stairs so significantly closer to the blue sky and dreaming spires, but still, not in the sunshine. I popped out in the morning to see [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet emerge from Exam Schools, having finished Finals, and joined the cloud tipping glitter, balloons and congratulations on her head, but didn't stay for the party - I tramped fairly miserable back across to the Indian Institute and moped there for the entire afternoon. It was livened up briefly by [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong, who is still great, smuggling sweeties into the Bodleian and reading out funny bits from How To Lie With Statistics.

Still, by about eleven, I was feeling thoroughly despairing. I'm writing an essay on the importance of gender politics in India, as mentioned before, and it's so awful I wish I'd done economic liberalisation instead. Not that the essay itself is bad, but the material. In India, women are mostly illiterate. They're overworked, underfed, and more than ninety percent of aborted foetuses are female. Since I've started writing this essay, six Indian women have been raped and two have been burned alive for dowry payments. They are abused and tortured, oppressed and villified, they are downtrodden, ignored, derided and unfranchised, bought and sold. It makes miserable reading and even more miserable writing, which probably explains why it's taking me so long to write this thing; I just keep stopping because I can't take another reason to despair.

So when Ben came up with a bag of KFC chicken, I was delighted to see him. He suggested I get some food and join him outside on the terrace. Yes, we do, indeed, have a terrace. It's a flat surface of flagstones that is alternately too cold and too hot to sit on comfortably - the flagstones radiate heat - but out in the silent, warm night air, it was perfect. I think there are some people that are just good to be around, and he's one of them - in any case, it was very soothing to be sat out there, talking about nothing much. (Er - the sheer sweetness of the night, the play Sky was in tonight, the word I couldn't think of to describe Ben's chicken (it turned out to be "bilobal") and, after a bit, I explained the Gettier Problem and Ben tried to explain to me why maths isn't a very specialised type of philosophy.)

The ironic thing, of course, is just when I was considering renouncing my citizenship, part of the reason I was enjoying it out there so much is that it's a lot like India in early summer. I'm wearing my favourite skirt, today - short, ruffly denim, it flares out when I walk, I love it - with footless tights and bare feet, which is very like the traditional clothes for an Indian summer, and the night had that mix of cool and the radiating heat of the day, and the quiet, and the scent of elderflower and roses from the tubs of flowers beneath. We'd been sitting there, quietly talking, for a while, when Maria opened her window and she and Liya appeared to demand some of our midnight feast. Sky blew in, like a tornado, talked helter-skelter about the play - it went well - waved at me, kissed Ben, asked to borrow some money and disappeared off to the King's Arms.

Sometimes this is what you need, I think; quiet, and semi-darkness, and people who love you within reach in the dark. It did me some good.

After a while, the porter appeared from behind us, carrying a torch. I had this sudden weird thought - we're not allowed out here? we're not allowed to eat out here? - but he merely asked, "How long have you two been sitting out here?"

"About twenty minutes," I said.

"Have you seen anyone moving across the field?"

Apparently there's been a prowler who tried to break into some of the graduate accommodation across the field, whom we would have seen if we'd been paying attention. Or maybe not; the field's very dark at night, and you can barely see the ground from where we were sitting. With a stern instruction to Maria to close her window, he went off again.

"It's all very Gaudy Night," I said. (Er: in the novel, which also features night-time prowling about, Dorothy Sayers situates Shrewsbury College on Balliol's hallowed sports ground. Which is the field, naturally, that Ben and I were sitting above and looking across.)

We watched, and after a bit we saw a torch beam flickering on and off on the grass. I rang Balliol, and was informed me it was just the porters themselves and not to worry we'd get murdered in our beds, or anything. We went back to Gettier for a while, until I realised I really, really have to work.

And I do. This essay is not fun. At all.

Still, the only patriarchal oppression I have experienced this evening is, er, a man tracking mud all over my floor. And I'm sure if I went after him and yelled, he'd come back and clean it up. (He's having kittens over a computing project, so I won't.) And I had a soft, quiet interlude in a life that that's better than hundreds of thousands of others'.

Back to work.

August 2017

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