Junot Diaz, Speaking to students at Bergen Community College, (via aliceincrohnsland)
#This is why. #This is why we need canon femslash and not just rule!63 characters.#This is why we need more stories—media fanfic whatever—about POC. #This is why fandom exists. #To build all of the fucking mirrors that the original authors never made or only half-silvered. #Because if the creators of the original work won’t make us visible we have to do this work ourselves. #And when fandom overwhelmingly shows me that I am invisible not just in the media but within my own fandom… #…I never feel like I existed at all. #fandom
Magic Knight Rayearth: The strength of sisterhood and the rejection of self-sacrifice
Full disclosure: The following reading is based on the MKR and MKR 2 manga, not the anime. I have only seen a few episodes of the anime, and that was like, 8 years ago, so this reading is manga based only. This post DOES contain spoilers for the ENTIRE series.
In a bought of nostalgia, I recently re-read the entire Magic Knight Rayearth manga series (part 1 and 2). For those unfamiliar with the series, it is a 6 volume manga by Clamp (the same creations as Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, Tsubasa, and many others.) It is your classic Magical Girl series; three normal japanese girls are transported to a magical kingdom, given magical powers, and tasked to save the world.
I love magical girls stuff. It is very feminist in nature, and female-centric. MKR holds true to that. There are two big feminist themes that run through the series: sisterhood, and the rejection of self-sacrifice.
Not just literal sisterhood, but solidarity between women in general. Our heroes, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, had never met before they were transported to Cephiro. Yet, there is never any inter-personal conflict between them. These three instantly become best friends. They even decide to call each other sisters in the FIRST volume. Other characters actually comment on how quickly this bond formed.
And that bond is the source of their strength. In order to unlock their “Manshin” (legendary spirit mecha things), they have to prove the strength of their hearts, and for each of them, they do this by saving the others from danger. Alone, none of them would have prevailed. Together, these three girls draw strength from each other. Women are strong when they rely on each other in this narrative. It is a complete rejection of the “women are catty and always fight” bullshit that media so often pushes.
2. The rejection of self-sacrifice.
Women in narratives are often called upon to be self-sacrificing. They are martyrs, dying for their sons or husbands or countries. As though nobility for women only comes from nurturing and giving up literally all we have: our very lives.
MKR rejects that entirely. Cephiro’s “pillar” system dictates that one person (the pillar: Princess Emeraude in part 1) must dedicate their lives in total self-sacrifice to prayer in order to keep Cephiro in balance. When Emeraude falls in love with Zagato (and act that calls upon her to wish for her OWN happiness and the happiness of the person she loves), Cephiro falls into chaos, and the Magic Knights are called upon to kill her, rather than let the world crumble.
The girls are torn up when they discover the truth about WHY they had to kill Emeraude, and the entire plot of part 2 surrounds the flaws of the Pillar system. Asking a person to self-sacrifice, even for the good of an entire world, is WRONG.
Through their rejection, Hikaru (who is deemed the new pillar) and the others completely dismantle the Pillar system. Again and again in part 2, the girls are fighting to BE TRUE TO THEMSELVES. Not to save Cephiro, not for anyone else. They fight because THEY want to be true to what THEY want. It is not self sacrifice that motivates them, but rather the opposite of that.
Here the message is clear: it is not wrong, or selfish, or evil to wish for your own happiness. Any system that forces such a dichotomy between caring about yourself and caring about others is flawed and leads to pain.
MKR is not a PERFECT feminist series, there certainly are flaws here. But I deeply enjoy that the two major themes of the work are so wonderfully feminist in nature.
When we, members of an oppressed minority, criticize words, we cricize usage of language and how it harms us.
Don’t come at me with explanations about intentions.
Don’t get defensive over what you meant.
It doesn’t matter.
Did I say we criticize the insides of your brain?
Chances are pretty fucking high that I have a brain myself, and that I’m capable of seperating intention and action.
So of course, before criticizing your words, I have—somewhen in the past 28 years of being a member of a minority—considered what people could mean when they say XY.
I could not care less about why you chose to offend me/ reinforce stereotypes/ promote harmful notions.
So let me explain this theory for those of you who haven’t heard it before already.
The Great Gatsby is a story of a man that makes his fortune bootlegging and throws countless magnificent parties all in hopes of attracting the attention of his old flame Daisy.
But it’s really a story about insurmountable class barriers. Daisy will never be with Gatsby, no matter how much she claims to love him. No matter how hard Gatsby tries, he will always be stuck on West Egg, only able to admire the ‘green light’ of upper class american romanticism from afar.
Themes of insurmountable class barriers permeate the entire novel right from some of the famous opening lines:
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
And so here’s the theory:
Jay Gatsby was black, passing for white (“High yellow”)
Lower class vs upper class. Old money vs new money. East Egg vs West Egg. White vs black. Don’t believe me?
- Early in the novel, Daisy’s beau Tom goes on a full fledged rant about the oncoming threat of the rise of the black race in society
- Another reference to race is made when Nick and Gatsby pass by a limo driven by a white chauffeur with “three modish negroes”
- Numerous references are made to Gatsby’s notably dark skintone in comparison to Daisy’s lighter skintone
- “I would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York. That was comprehensible. But young men didn’t— at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they didn’t— drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.”
Not only was the insurmountable barrier between him and Daisy one of class and upbringing, but also one of race.
What we take for granted as Gatsby’s whiteness is actually a omission of detail rather than a specific indicator that he was white.
From the article Was Gatsby Black?
Thompson adds, “When I ask people what basis there is for Gatsby being white, I get silence. I have asked students, colleagues. They don’t know. They cannot give me any evidence to back up the speculation. And why haven’t people made this argument so far?”
Of course as with any theory or reading of a classic text, there’s room for disagreement:
Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli has one answer. “Because it’s mishigas! If Fitzgerald wanted to write about blacks, it wouldn’t have taken 75 years to figure it out. If that’s what Fitzgerald wanted, he would have made it perfectly clear in April 1925. Great works of literature are not fodder for guessing games. This kind of thing is bad for literature, bad for Fitzgerald, bad for ‘The Great Gatsby’ and bad for students who get exposed to this kind of guessing game.”
But why shouldn’t we play a guessing game with it? We don’t have Fitzgerald around to verify any of these details so why not have a bit of fun with the text? It’s a very modern reading of the text and it makes it not only more relatable but more heartbreaking.
Everyone has their own reasons why they can’t be with their own Daisy.
Why shouldn’t Gatsby be black? And why can’t he really be with Daisy?
In this discussion about whether or not Beethoven was black, the point is made:
Another tight question along these lines: Was Jay Gatsby black? Again, it’s probably not literally the case (as Fitzgerald intended it) –- but what’s much more interesting is everyone’s utter inability to take it seriously as a legitimate reading of the text, which it is.
Zachary Quinto, on coming out (via thebacklot)
A Saskatoon woman who identifies herself as transgender says a bridal shop in the city refused to let her try on dresses as she planned her wedding.
Rohit Singh says she was looking at outfits in Jenny’s Bridal Boutique but when she asked to try one on, she was refused.
Singh said she plans to file a formal complaint about her treatment with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
“It might happen to some other transgender that might come to the store and she will hurt the same,” Singh said. “It so embarrassed me and my husband.”
(tw: in the link for misgendering, transmisogyny)
I often think about that Goethe quote “We can only see what we know”. It´s certainly true in fields like medicine and pathology (which is where I first encountered it), but I found it really resonated with me once I applied it to representation in popular culture. I remember growing up, and that sense of fear due to never knowing if there really was a ground beneath me.
It´s funny. I was the happiest of kids, and a brave one as far as asserting my identity went. I knew who I was, but I didn´t know what I was, and THAT was the reason I always felt like I was living on borrowed time, as if one day I would wake up and be *told* I couldn´t have that life. And that would have meant the end, the utter end, because I knew if I were to ever be it could only be as who I was (already, then and now).
How incredibly, incredibly vile that I didn´t even know that yes, people could be like I was, that it was a real thing in the world, that *I* was an option.
Have you ever heard Johnny Rzeznik´s song “I´m still here” in the “Treasure Planet” movie? There´s a line that says “they can´t break me, as long as I know who I am”.
I never let myself be bullied into changing my gender identity or romantic attraction compass despite many, many attempts, but still, that line. That line. When I knew, when I found out there was a LGBTQIA community in the world, that was when I knew I could really move forward, that my life was indeed my life, that I would never have to cede it to an automated intruder.
All kids deserve that. All kids deserve that feeling as soon as they can have feelings. When I hear the infamous wail “but what about the children”, I hit the boiling point, and I hurt remembering the little kid I was, who was always maybe fearing in the back of their mind that SOME FORCE would come and take their life away. Not my toys, my life. Who we are (who we decide to be, who we built ourselves to be) IS our life.
Visibility in pop culture is literally a matter of life and death. Isolation as a kid brings such a powerful, insidious devastation. It saps your heart´s strength if the loneliness becomes too pronounced. So many kids, so many people have been the loneliest people in the world.
There´s a moment in the manga “Dragon Quest” where the heroes are trying to determine what sacred attribute belongs to whom. There are 5 attributes, and strength is not nominally amongst them, interestingly. But during this arc, there´s a quote about who is really strong. You´d think at first that the main hero, a young powerful boy named Dai, would be the one hinted at. But no, the one who really stands for that value is actually the princess Leona, a mage and healer who actually has the most spine of anyone in the team, never loses her moral sense of direction, often refocuses the heroes team´s fight against evil and whose unbreakable will is born from a daunting determination to protect her people. Her attribute is justice, and it´s the reason she´s the one who embodies strength, and that struck me deeply. And then one da, on a black womanist blog, I found the words “Our heritage is our power”, that originated in the book “Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spitituality”.
That is exactly it. Knowing who are the ones that came before you, and to whom you owe so much, and knowing there will be others after you who will be a part of you infuses you with such responsibility, with such power, and with such awe, with such hope, with such perseverance, that you finally feel at peace with your place in the struggle. Knowing you´re standing on the shoulders of giants (because there´s ALWAYS someone who was there before, and we can kind of imagine how hard it was then) makes you stand taller, makes you stand more firmly against injustice, so that maybe one day those who come later stand tall on your shoulders.
The fact that popular culture rarely shows any diversity? The fact that so many people have to fight for scraps so that they can appear every once in a while, as tokens? The fact that our stories are never ever told in a way in which everyone can see them? It effectively cuts us off from our place in history, our place in humanity, our community and our destiny, rendering us directionless like swans without their wings, flailing around in the hopes they´ll somehow find water.
Stories don´t only tell fiction, they also build truths. There are countless trans* kids like me, queer kids like me, and poor and black and foreign and happily fat and deaf and Vietnamese and in divorced households and second-generation immigrant kids that need stories about them so they can consolidate the truths they see in themselves. What about the children, indeed. The real tragedy about giving bigoted opinions a legitimate platform is that it necessitates delegitimizing the existence of the people stigmatized by prejudice. You can´t give equal respect to both groups, unequivocally.
Existing publically is a right, and human rights are also human duties, a wonderful expression I recently ran across (I can´t remember where, unfortunately). In artistic endeavours, that duty belongs to every storyteller.
And for those actors, writers or showrunners who refuse to unapologetically include us in their works, they don´t get to pretend they´re on the good side. They´re building brick walls of silence around the hearts of those who most need stories to believe in themselves and in the world. I was that kid for whom the most sacred of wonders would not have been discovering that unicorns and sentient robots were real, but that I was. That I was allowed to exist as I was and revel in the joy of it.
Privilege is like the first rule of Fight Club, right? If you don´t talk about it, then it´s like it doesn´t even exist. Growing up I looked around me and popular culture never talked about anything I knew to be me. It was like I didn´t exist. Get it? This is not about displeasure; this is about erasure. Many people would look at me and they would see nothing but themselves, because they didn´t know and thus they couldn´t see. If we don´t exist in widespread discourse we remain mysteries even to ourselves until we finally find the words to know we are real.
What´s funny is that there were plenty of works of popular culture, plenty of cis straight stories which I loved and where I found somebody I strongly identified with, ´cause we´re human, you know? Now tell me if there are many trans* queer characters the mainstream audience grew up to idolize. I don´t want to live in a world where some humans are more equal than others; I NEED to not live in that world. So no. Your right to intolerance is not as legitimate as my right to visibility. To legitimacy. Intolerance is not legitimate full stop