I started this series with a strained and cheesy Doctor Who reference, and today's title was me finishing with one ("Silence in the Library," for those playing at home). Let's try and move on from my sparkling wit to discuss which kinds of books and writers get to grace bookshelves, and the social and economic processes governing this. Who gets published and who does not? Whose work gets preserved? Who gets into libraries and bookstores? Who gets to be an icon?
Steve Harvey's making headlines once again—not because of his underwhelming relationship advice but because his ex-wife Mary has called him out for cheating on her and leaving her with nothing when they divorced in 2005. Who knows if her allegations are true, but they've certainly undermined Harvey's credibility. This is good news for black women, I think.
Okay, full disclosure, right up front: I'm a babysitter. Like, professionally. So maybe my fascination with the history of this job comes from a place of pure self absorption. Then again, there's a good chance many of you readers have been babysitters at some point (BSC-inspired flyers around the neighborhood advertising your services? A totally undesirable but obligatory gig watching a younger family member?), and besides, the history of the babysitter brings up some issues much larger than diapers and bedtime, like our culture's anxiety with the financial and sexual independence of girls.
PJ Harvey is no stranger to this blog. She has consistently distanced herself from feminism as such, but our love for her is inescapable. Her music is about independence—from marriage ("The Pocket knife,"), from judgement ("Who the Fuck?")—and her vision for her autonomous career has never faltered in 20 years of music-making. Now she's got a new album, Let England Shake, coming out February 15th, and a short film to be released with EVERY SONG on the album! If you, like me, believe there is no such thing as too much Polly Jean, this is the B-sides for you.
We were big fans of Jenny Hagel's last video series Feminist Rapper, so you can imagine our delight when she tipped us off to her latest work, the short film Tech Support, directed by Erik Gernand. If you've got nine minutes to spare this afternoon, why not spend them watching a lesbian comedy about women finding love over a tech support hotline? (Warning: This video may be considered mildly NSFW, especially around the time that one of the women starts tapping out "In Your Eyes" in Morse Code on her stapler. Seriously.) Check it out:
Any moment in time is the history others might look back on. I want to look to the writing happening, and the reputations being shaped, right now. Who do you think are going to be today's feminist literary icons in future eyes, and who ought to be? And what is the point of having icons?
I can't predict the future—no, really, it's true!—so I can't tell you who are going to be recognized as great writers with feminist consciousness or consciences. I can, however, tell you who I like, and who represents the kind of expression I'd like to see more of in time to come.
What do these three actresses have in common? They've all played roles that fit into the black best friend archetype, otherwise known as BBFs. These characters exist to comfort the white heroine when she's down, to egg her on when she needs motivating or to tell her off when she loses integrity. Sometimes, though, these characters aren't black, but other women of color. Think Keiko Agena's character Lane Kim on Gilmore Girls or Mindy Kaling's character Shira in the new film No Strings Attached.
We've mostly talked about established icons of feminist interest, but now I want to look to a legacy that hasn't quite taken shape yet. Over the course of this week, we're going to talk about the how icons get to be icons, and Sookie, with her world of glitter, wisps of the unknown, and pushing boundaries, is the perfect character with which to start. The protagonist of the Southern Vampire Mysteries throws up a number of questions around the kinds of characters one sees represented, and what one might be looking for in a feminist character.
Oprah seems to seek constant validation—in Australia she surprises a pregnant mom super fan and says, "It's me! It's me! It's Oprah!" to the shocked woman—and creates frequent situations that allow her to have those validating moments, which she then broadcasts to millions of people. You know, the usual.