Everyone's been talking about Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. While book reviewers raved and readers waited with great anticipation for the August 31st release date, authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner both saw all the hype as a platform from which to start asking questions about why books written by women don't get this kind of attention.
While the decision to paralyze Barbara Gordon was certainly a misogynistic one, the way that her character develops after the shooting speaks to the transformative power of information and technology...and librarians! Last week we looked at Barbara Gordon's character prior to The Killing Joke. She was a librarian by day and Batgirl by night. Her role as a librarian disguised her alter ego as Batgirl; reasserting the stereotype of librarians as meek and the opposite of badass. But this all changes after The Killing Joke. Thanks to a few writers who decided to make the best of what had happened to Gordon, Gordon's character decides to embrace her identity as a skilled librarian. She becomes Oracle, a computer hacker who discovers that access to information is a pretty phenomenal superpower.
Meet Barbara Gordon, librarian at the Gotham City Public Library by day, and crime-fightin' wonder Batgirl by night. Gordon was first introduced to the Batman comics and TV show in 1966, as an attempt to bring in female readers and viewers. While previous female characters (Batwoman and Bat-girl) were introduced in an attempt to dodge accusations of homosexuality between Batman and Robin, Batgirl wasn't there for romance as much as she was for ass-kicking. And did I mention that she was a librarian?
This past spring, Revolutionary Voices, a multicultural queer youth anthology published in 2000, was pulled from the shelves at a Mount Holly, New Jersey high school library. A formal complaint was filed by Beverly Marinelli, a resident of Lumberton, NJ who just happens to belong to a local chapter of Glenn Beck's 9.12 project. Marinelli stated that the book is "pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate". Following the request to remove the book, a review committee voted to take the book off the shelves at the school library.
Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie, has been described by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as "the first creative resource by and for queer and questioning youth of every color, class, religion, gender and ability". The anthology is comprised of prose, art, letters, diary entries, and performance pieces.
This summer, I'm reading lots of young adult literature. Re-visiting some of my favorites from high school, catching up on some of the gems I missed, and paging through what has been published since I reached adulthood. I invite you to do the same. Re-read an old favorite, or discover a new one. You don't need to be a teen, parent, teacher, or librarian to read YA Lit. All you need is an interest in how stories are being told to teenagers.
It's a Wonderful Life tells us a story about what it means to be a librarian. In this alternate reality, Mary is portrayed as a librarian in order to convey just how bad things got without George around. Mary is an old maid, and in 1946, "old maid" was synonymous with "librarian".
This character certainly reflects societal beliefs about librarians in 1946: that librarians were single, unhappy women. Librarian identity in film has become a bit more complex since then, but Mary's character is still all too familiar.
Hot Pantz provides readers with an understanding of anatomy, recipes to conquer yeast infections and hormonal imbalances, an extensive glossary of self-healing herbs, a list of aphrodisiacs, and it provides instructions on how to give foot massages that will alleviate cramps! I can't tell you how often I consult this zine, or how excited I've been to share information from this zine with a friend in need.
This week marks the first From the Bitch Library post that examines the history of female librarianship as well as the relationship between feminism and libraries.
Image: Melvil Dewey
Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System, is oftentimes praised for having created a new job field for women in the US. In 1883, Dewey was hired as the head librarian at Columbia College (which later turned into Columbia University), and he soon convinced the trustees to let him open a library school. At the time, Columbia College only allowed women into a special women's college, so Dewey's plans to invite women to join the library school were controversial. His first class was comprised of 20 people, 17 of whom were women. While many have focused on Dewey's success in educating and opening up jobs for women, attention is rarely paid to why he felt women would make great librarians. Spoiler alert: he held some pretty sexist beliefs.
Dames on Frames: A Feminist Bike Zine is the first in a series of four zines that explore the relationship between feminism and bikes. When Claire Stoscheck was in Bogotá, Colombia — the city that is said to have the most extensive bike paths in the world — she realized that only around 1-2% of the bicycle commuters she saw on the streets were women. Stoscheck began to ask questions about Bogotá's gender gap in bicycle riding, which then led to questions about the relationships between gender and bikes when she went home to the Twin Cities.