Werewolves! Lesbians! Pot! Erotica! Fish Puppets! (Not All At Once)

I decided to browse the comics section of Kickstarter today and highlight a few of my favorite projects. The great thing about Kickstarter is that anyone with a project can join, which means a lot of women who might otherwise go unnoticed by mainstream industries end up creating the comics/films/theatrical productions/games/etc. the world needs.

So, what exactly is it that I think the world needs?

Body-Positive Erotica!

Luckily, Sarah Benkin is working on Star Power: A Body Positive Erotic Comic… Told in Rhyme.

According to the Kickstarter page, “Star Power is a 32-page book about what happens when sexual competition and body modification go too far.” What isn’t awesome about this? Currently, the project is at 24 days to go, with only $700 of its $7000 goal met. In case you’re wondering what all that money goes to, “Funding is needed for printing costs, artist fees and to cover the many incentives attached to the project.”

The world also needs more superheroines who smoke pot!

Ok, I’m not so sure about that. But, it’s certainly a niche in the comics industry that isn’t being met. The Superhighs is about two girls who save the world by smoking weed. I have literally no idea what this actually means. However, the author, Dani Marie, says that, “I was conscious of gender and sexuality as I wrote this comic book. I wanted everyone from every religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation to be able to see themselves in the comic… you don’t need to be a white heterosexual male to save the world.” Even though I’m a little lukewarm on the concept, I can definitely get behind inclusivity. With 25 days to go, The Superhighs has met $225 of their $3500 goal.

Are you into horror and lesbian werewolf protagonists? Rachel Deering and Anathema have you covered!

According to Deering, “Anathema is a six issue limited series horror comic that tells the story of Mercy Barlowe, a tormented young woman with a dark side. She must fight through treacherous lands and unspeakable horrors to reclaim her lover’s soul, which has been stolen by members of a sinister cult, bent on resurrecting a terrible and ancient evil.

In issue #1, we saw Mercy’s world torn asunder, and watched as she accepted the curse of the wolf. Can Mercy learn to harness her horrible new powers and stop the raven cult before they succeed in their vile plan? Mercy needs your help to see her journey through!”

This Kickstarter campaign is to finish the 6-issue series. Deering explains the money will specifically go to paying her artists and colorists a fair wage and paying the Amazon and Kickstarter fees. If there’s any money left over (which there is now, the $20,000 goal having been met), it will go to funding Deering’s convention appearances.

Last but not least, the world needs more videos with fish puppets.

Luckily, M. Alice LeGrow and her video on Kickstarter promoting The Elephant Book have provided us with that. (Seriously, watch the video. It’s really funny.)

Unfortunately, the comic has nothing to do with fish puppets (or elephants). What it is about: “The Elephant Book is an action/fantasy story set in Philadelphia, about a couple of kids named Williams and Fairfax (which one is which is anybody’s guess), who are caught in the middle of a power struggle between two covert groups that are seeking to either preserve or destroy the one trait that defines humanity: the power to invent.  A series four years in the making, the story spirals down levels and levels of millennium-old conspiracy and fear that has protected civilizations from the biggest trick ever played on the human race.

And this being Philadelphia, along the way everyone eats crab fries, goes to the game and ponders the mysteries of the Eternal Wawa.”

Who doesn’t love conspiracies?

If you’ve got spare monies, consider giving one (or more) of these projects some, or browse Kickstarter for some other worthy projects. Support women as active creators!

-Joanna

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Roll for Initiative, Universe

Recently while I was perusing the comic book section of Barnes and Noble, I found a novel tucked in the shelves looking really out-of-place. It was called ‘Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Dungeons and Dragons’ by Shelly Mazzanoble, and I was instantly sold. Essentially, it is a self-help (or elf-help) book written by someone who believes that Dungeons and Dragons, not Dr. Phil, holds the secrets to overcoming life’s difficulties.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Judy, Shelly’s busybody mother who sends her every self-help novel she sees offered on television. When Shelly gets a job for Wizards of the Coast (the creators of D&D and God to many nerds), an argument about the D&D stereotype inspires Shelly to go forth and prove her theory that D&D, and not Oprah, can lead you on the path to enlightenment.

Shelly conducts an interesting experiment in an attempt to find religious/spiritual resolution. For one week, every day she is devoted to a different D&D god. Monday, Avandra (God of Change), Tuesday, Kord (God of Battle, Wednesday, Ioun (God of Knowledge), Thursday, Moradin (God of Creation), Friday, Pelor (God of Sun and Summer). While I don’t think this experiment was exactly successful, it might be an interesting one to try. Even if you don’t achieve spiritual salvation, you may learn something about your personality that you didn’t realize before by making the conscious choice to act a certain way.

The chapter on relationships was the most interesting to me. Shelly points out that you can learn a lot about a person by what character they create and how they handle different in-game situations. This can be applied to other RPG gaming as well. For example, I always play a big, badass tank who is all righteous fury, when in real life I am much more laid-back and prefer to settle my fights verbally rather than a bar brawl. When analyzing her boyfriend’s character, Shelly says that she would definitely never date him. While she loves Bart, his character is apparently an asshole. When creating a character we have to ability to focus on one aspect of our personalities and emphasize it, while detracting others. D&D is also a great way to meet new people. In another experiment, Shelly had her recently single and attractive friend go jogging wearing a D&D shirt. The first time out was apparently attracted the wrong kind of nerd, while the second time she met a really nice guy, they got along well, spent the day together- then she found out he was a Dungeon Master and it was over. 😦

Which brings us to the next subject: “Oh Those Charming DMs” Shelly, trying to improve her own talents when it comes to winning friends and influencing people, decided to study the behavior of the DMs. She chose four DMs (who all happened to be named Chris) and observed how they conducted themselves both at the game table and when giving presentations at the office. Shelly then used these observations and was able to convince everyone in her apartment building that they needed to spend the money to make the building repairs it sorely needed. (The previous encounter ended with Shelly punching a cookies and storming out in tears.) Needless to say, the traits she observed are exactly the traits that thousands of self-help books are dedicated to teaching. Only for these people the experience was gained through a game that they love.

For people who live life by a certain schedule or who always like things to be just so, D&D can help you too. For another week, Shelly tries to live life like her adventurer, Tabitha. Instead of carting around a purse and a bonus bag just in case of a natural disaster, Shelly cleans her life of the clutter and only lives with the basics. I am definitely guilty of these over-prepared traits, and this chapter really made me want to loosen the reigns- especially when it comes to my always obese backpack! Shelly did this experiment because Bart was finally moving in, and for someone who had been living in a space for 10 years and who is already anal retentive, allowing someone else’s stuff to occupy your shelves is a big deal.

Obviously as we have discussed before on our blog is that games like D&D are empowering. Not just for adults, but for children as well. Since I am normally on the soapbox about little girls and gender-specific children’s activities, allow me to make this brief: Little girls who play D&D can learn to be strong, monster-battling heroes- not helpless maidens.

Overall, I think this a book everyone should read. Although this may surprise you, I did not give away the gory, life-changing details. I definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book, even if you aren’t in need of any elf-help at the moment.

– BatCat

PS: Shelly wrote another book ‘Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game’. I am not sure how I feel about the title, but I am willing to give it a chance.

Love Letter to Storm

Dear Storm,

Why are just the coolest? I mean it, the coolest. Look at you! Harnessing your control of the elements with your badass glowing eyes!

Image credit: Windriderx23 on Deviantart.com

When I grow up, I want to be like you. I’m sure other women and girls feel the same way. You’re physically and emotionally strong, independent, can control the elements, and when The Dazzler wants to have girl time at the mall, you’re sort of wary of this whole thing until you start dancing. When you talk, it’s sort of funny to me in the same way that it’s funny to me when Thor talks. All in all, you’re like my favorite superheroine ever! The thing that I don’t get is, why, when you’re such a total badass, haven’t you gotten the chance to star in your own movie?

I know the easy answer: you’re a black woman. And because we live in the dumb society we live in, movie executives think that black women (in general, but especially in action movies) won’t sell movie tickets. That, for some reason, no one would want to see a movie about one of the most beloved X-Men of any gender. Not only that, but you’re (I would argue) the second-most easily recognizable superheroine. (Name one other black superheroine with white hair.)

But, I know that’s the problem. You’re a superheroine. We can’t even get THE most recognizable superheroine her own movie or TV show. Because spell check doesn’t even want to acknowledge the existence of women like you. So why should movie execs? Never mind that ever since you busted into the comics world in the ’70s, you’ve been a vital part of the X-Men. Never mind that practically everyone knows who you are. Never mind that Halle Berry, when she was a super-duper star, even played you in the X-Men movies.

You know what else bothers me, Storm? The fact that I can’t go into stores like Target and buy Storm T-shirts like I can buy T-shirts of Hulk or whoever. (I’d have to buy them in the men’s section, but that’s a whole ‘nother letter.) You’d think that Marvel would love to market you. If I were Marvel, I would market the crap out of you. You know why? Yes, because you’re a total badass. But also because you are so visually recognizable. People, the kinds of people who’d be buying superhero shirts, would look at a Storm shirt and go, hey that’s Storm. Part of the reason why certain superheroes still get merchandise without a recent movie release is that they stand out visually. They don’t look like other superheroes. And nobody else looks like you, Storm. How could they? No one else’s mom is a Kenyan witch-priestess princess.

Someone tried telling me that regular non-comics people wouldn’t recognize you or care about you if they did make a Storm movie. I don’t believe that. I don’t know for sure how many people would recognize you (though I’m willing to bet it’s a lot), but it’s not like people only watch movies because they decided to before they saw a commercial for them. The point of trailers and marketing is to make people interested in movies. And, tell me Storm, who wouldn’t want to see someone wielding lighting and creating windstorms in the name of justice?

And since when has anyone who doesn’t care about superheroes known about Deadpool? He’s getting his own movie, and he’s not even half as cool as you, Storm. So I don’t want people to give me this bullshit about how people wouldn’t want to see your movie because they don’t know who you are. (Sorry about the language, Storm, but this really bothers me.) When I Google “Storm,” your Wikipedia page is the second link, despite the fact that your name is a common noun. But, you know, you’re not that well-known or anything.

There are a few other things that bother me, Storm, like why you aren’t in the X-Men Vs. Avengers series, and why they made you marry the Black Panther. (No offense to him or anything, but Storm, you’re an untameable force of nature! You don’t need him! They just married you two so that they could inexplicably pander to the women and black readers, as though all we really wanted was a black supercouple, not constant, positive portrayals of people like us.)

But anyway, the thing that bothers me the most is that, despite being one of the most visible superheroines (or -heroes, really), you’re practically invisible from non-comics pop culture. Even though, you as you are, without any changes, are already an amazing role model for girls and women, you get thrown into the corner, because the racist, sexist world of media and marketing has decided you aren’t worth their time. In reality, they aren’t worth your time. Because even though they might try to make excuses and place the blame on the public, I know, and I’m pretty sure you know, that it’s really just that they can’t handle your power and your poise. They want to control you by silencing you, but they can’t, because you already control yourself. They can’t tame you and belittle you, so they try to destroy you by ignoring you. They would do anything to destroy what you represent. But you won’t let them, and I know you never will.

Lots of love and admiration,

Joanna xoxo

Repost: End of Gender- Not Your Mother’s Storybooks

Malic White, Submitted by Malic White on April 13, 2012 – 11:25am; tagged books, children, transgender. Originally posted on bitchmedia.net

The cover of Be Who You Are depicts a "boy" looking in the mirror at herself as a girl.

In 2008, Marcus Ewert’s storybook, 10,000 Dresses, offered transgender children their very own fairy tale. The book’s protagonist, Bailey, dreams of wearing a crystal gown. Bailey’s family insists that boys don’t wear dresses, but when Bailey befriends a neighbor with a sewing machine, she makes a dress that fits the girl she knows she is.

Bailey’s story of family rejection reflects an experience shared by far too many gender-nonconforming children. But as more and more parents think critically about gender, a new wave of children’s books depicts families who encourage their kids to be who they are.

When Jennifer Carr‘s oldest child confessed that she felt like a girl inside, Carr searched for a relatable storybook that would help her child feel less alone. She brought home 10,000 Dresses, but Carr’s children didn’t like that Bailey’s family rejected her because she was transgender.

Carr needed a book that reflected her child’s experience, a story of acceptance and familial support. So Carr wrote that book herself.

In 2011 Carr published Be Who You Are, a storybook about a male-assigned child who tells her parents she feels like a girl inside. Her parents tell her to “be who you are,” and Nick grows out her hair, wears dresses, and changes her name to “Hope.”

While Carr was struggling to understand her child’s gender identity in Chicago, Seattle mom Cheryl Kilodavis was consulting experts about her son, who had taken to wearing princess costumes. At first, Kilodavis tried to redirect her son’s interests, worried that his love for tiaras would make him a target for bullies. But pediatricians and child psychologists put Kilodavis’ mind at ease.

The photo of Kilodavis' son depicts a "princess boy" wearing a purple tutu and a sparkly sequin hat.“The verdict was: He is a happy and healthy little boy who just likes pretty things and likes to dress up,” Kilodavis told Parents magazine. “The advice was not to over-encourage it or over-discourage it.”

Kilodavis eventually authored My Princess Boy, a picture book about a young boy with an affinity for “girl things.” The protagonist, Dyson, isn’t transgender, but he certainly defies gender norms. Like Hope’s family in Be Who You Are, Dyson’s family loves him exactly the way he is.

The book has led some online commentators to question Kilodavis’ parenting methods, and Kilodavis isn’t alone. Jennifer Carr has also faced criticism for parents who disagree with her message.

“I had people saying wolves should raise my children instead of me,” Carr told the Windy City Times.

But most of the feedback that Kilodavis and Carr receive has been overwhelmingly positive.

Kilodavis and Carr are filling a void in children’s literature that doesn’t only help kids—these books are showing parents what supportive families look like, and for that, these radical mothers deserve some serious props.

To find one of Cheryl Kilodavis’ Acceptance Play Groups in your area, visit her website. Follow Jennifer Carr’s story on her blog, Today You Are You.

Recently I have been playing with the idea of writing my own children’s book. I tutor elementary schoolers at my local library in reading. I have one tutoree in particular who has touched me deeply. She is a first grader who likes black and red and is constantly called an evil tomboy by her classmates and older sister. Needless to say, she reminds me a lot of me. She also likes playing practical jokes and tricking people (my other, more villainous alter-ego is a trickster). My tutoree was very reserved and shy when we first met this January, but now that the program is over we get along famously. Her mother personally thanked me and told me that I really helped her daughter out in more than just reading. She is more confident and is thinking about things in new ways- they want me to be her tutor all next year as well.

I want to write a children’s book about her. For girls like her. Its really hard to find picture books that she’ll find interesting when all of the ones about little girls are like: sleepovers, pink, and stupid. I want to write a book about a tricky girl who likes dark colors. I want to write about how she is not evil, she is just herself. She doesn’t have to like pink or purple to be good. Color preference doesn’t make you inherently good or evil. Only the choices you make and how you treat people determines that.

-BatCat

#YesToFemaleDoctor

Internets! I just found the most amazing website ever!

Doctor Her is a website dedicated to fan posts about Doctor Who from a feminist perspective that is also concerned with not alienating (dis)abled, trans*, genderqueer, GLBQ people, and people of color. They paraphrase bell hooks in their About page! They use the term “kyriarchy!” I can’t handle this!

I stumbled across a totally awesome post Courtney Stoker wrote called “NuWho, poverty, and class: Or, the poor women are totally screwed.” In it, she examines the lives and fates of Rose, Martha, and Donna, arguing primarily that Donna and Rose get totally shafted because of their lower class status. If you’re interested in insightful anti-oppressive commentary on Doctor Who, visit this website. Now. Well, finish this post first. But then go.

And now to explain the title of this post, I also found out today that SFX Magazine started #yestofemaledoctor and #notofemaledoctor.

These two basically sum up my position:

https://twitter.com/erinpuff/statuses/184043723674488833

I would also add that I’m sick of lazy science fiction that is only willing to challenge norms like “Time travel’s not possible!” and “Aliens aren’t real!”, but never heteronormative assumptions about gender and sex. (I also just realized that Courtney Stoker, author of the aforementioned article, also is responsible for that first tweet. Is she just the coolest person ever?)

If you have a Twitter account, please tell the world, Yes to a Female Doctor! (I’m not going to be mad if you say no, but I will wonder why you read this blog.) Even if this is never, ever going to make the producers of the show let the Doctor regenerate into a woman, the world needs to know you support challenging heterosexist norms that place men at the center of the universe! (That’s right, the whole universe!)

-Joanna

P.S. If I seem a little excitable today, it might be the cold meds talking.

More Wonder Women!

So as you all may remember, Joanna first blogged about Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superwomen on February 9th. Since that time, they have raised the money and premiered the documentary at the SXSW film festival! Those who donated will receive their gifts sometime this summer. Why the wait? I don’t know. But it’s slowly killing me.

Anyway these lovely ladies have also been in contact with my mother, who is writing an article about the film and the filmmakers for her newspaper. What follows is my very first ever byline for her paper about Wonder Women and positive female role models:

When flipping through the television channels, magazine ads, or books in the children’s and young adult section you may find that there is a void. There is a large, gaping hole looming out of the pink ghetto of sex-segregated toy stores that was once filled by an empowering role model. Wonder Woman. The name conjures an image of stars, action, adventure, and a tall amazon who stands tall against her foes. During the 70s Wonder Woman was played by Lynda Carter on a popular television show of the same name. But what has happened between then and now? Wonder Women!: The Untold Story of American Superwomen is a documentary by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Kelcy Edwards traces the evolution of Wonder Woman from her debut in comics during the 1940s to today. Additionally, the film explores how cultural perspectives of women roles have changed overtime through comics and other aspects of popular culture by interviewing real-life superheroes like Gloria Steinem and those involved with the Wonder Woman legacy.

In the ‘pink ghetto’, the ‘girls’ section of toy stores, we typically find baby dolls, Barbies of various professions,  Disney Princesses, and dress-up clothes. Sure, its nice to know that little girls can be a mommy or a vet when they grow up- but how do these things help them cope with difficult situations? In the ‘boys’ sections of toy stores are lined with action figures of positive role models. The girls are left with Disney pop-stars and Barbie.

“Girls actually need superheroes much more than boys when you come right down to it, because 90% of violence in the world is against females. Certainly women need protectors even more, and what is revolutionary of course is to have a female protector not a male protector.” – Gloria Steinem, from Wonder Women!

So how does Barbie protect us? Barbie, Disney, and baby dolls may inspire young girls to value friendships and dream about their potential future roles, but they do not protect us. Girls need a positive role model who shows them that they are and can be strong.

“I thought it was my job to show women that, this guy’s knocking you around well, you know, knock him back.” -Lynda Carter, from Wonder Women!

If I had the access to records and data, I would like to do a study that correlates watching Wonder Woman and how likely women are to fight back in domestic abuse cases.

Reflecting upon Wonder Women! and the overwhelming lack of strong role models in pop culture has made me grateful for the strong role models and experiences of my childhood. I was lucky enough to have a mother who idolizes Wonder Woman to teach me how to stand up for myself and Girl Scouts for helping me understand who I am and explore my interests. You cannot pick who your mother is, but you can join Girl Scouts. Through this organization girls become strong together and are encouraged to become leaders. Whether its Girl Scouts, Wonder Woman, or your mother having a strong positive female role model is essential for all girls and women if we ever want to fill that void in the pink ghetto.

-BatCat

Why, Moffat, Why?

Now that Doctor Who-related buzz is all over the ‘nets, I figured I’d give my take on it all.

Early last week, it was announced that, beginning with the next Christmas special, Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing the new companion.

It’s probably unfair to say right now that I’m a little disappointed. It’s impossible to tell what kind of character she will play, especially since Doctor Who keeps itself under very tight wraps. She herself seems like a perfectly nice person and everything. I just can’t help thinking the choice is a little too safe. She’s inoffensively pretty, the kind of companion we’ve seen a thousand times. I wanted a man, or someone older, or a squishy alien, or someone who isn’t white. Something different.

There are rumors that she might be an alien and/or a lesbian. If she is an alien, I sincerely doubt that Steven Moffat would allow them to put alien makeup on her pretty face, so she’d just be an alien that looks human. If she’s a lesbian, I’m sure it will be handled completely wrong, with Coleman playing a performative, hot lesbian instead of a real-life lesbian. Besides, alien-lesbian sounds a lot more like Russell T. Davies’ area of expertise, not Moffat’s.

While I’m on the subject of aliens: Why aren’t there more of them in the teaser trailer? Why does it make it look like it’s the sequel to Cowboys & Aliens?

For those of you who haven’t seen it:

 

I’m tired of Doctor Who being all about trendy alt history. I like alternative history, don’t get me wrong. But I think the show has done it to death, and I want hard sci fi back. I want aliens in spaceships, not in the Old West, and as much as I love Daleks, I wish we’d see less of them, too. It always feels like they realized they forgot aliens, so they throw in some Daleks.

To make me even more apprehensive about the new season, Moffat has said that, “Who she’s playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor’s standards, this isn’t your usual boy meets girl.” Someone make this pain end. What I get from this is that the story will be pointlessly convoluted instead of good, and she’s going to fall in love with the Doctor. (Or, because it’s not the “usual boy meets girl,” the Doctor falls in love with the companion, and she doesn’t fall in love with him. Inversion! Genius!)

I’m especially missing Donna’s not-fawning-over-the-Doctor ways right now. And more than anything, I’m missing Russell T. Davies. You can say a lot of things about how Doctor Who, even Russell T.-era Who, problematizes female characters. But Russell T. didn’t have woman problems the way Steven Moffat does. For some extra reading, an excellent article about Steven Moffat’s woman problem can be found here at Starburst Magazine’s website.

We can argue til we’re blue in the face about Moffat’s woman problem in the context of Doctor Who, but the fact is that if a man casts an actress because he likes her legs, he’s probably sexist. I don’t really look forward to watching the new season, but I do look forward to deconstructing it.

-Joanna