Monday, November 30, 2015

Goodbye Fish, Hello Supergirl and Kamala: Why Youth Culture and Feminism Need Both of these Superwomen!

I still have tonights' and one other Supergirl episode to catch up on, but I will go ahead and tell you all that I am LOVING IT! I've been watching Gotham as well, but I had to stop for a while because I was in kind of a personal funk, and Gotham has been REALLY dark this season! I'm happier now, so I am catching up on Gotham as well. I know some of you in the comics fandom community will disagree with me, but…I thought Gotham got off to kind of a rough start this season. But it's getting better, and I look forward to seeing how this Penguin versus The Mayor war plays out. No spoilers, please! Also, I think the dynamic between Jim Gordon and Captain Barnes is interesting. I must say, though, that Gotham lost something when they lost Jada Pinkett Smith. Fish Mooney was MY FAVORITE CHARACTER on the show. She was a strong female protagonist of color, she was sexy and smart, and she didn't take any crap from the male "boss" figures in Gotham. She was mean sometimes, but she was still my heroine. I miss her terribly.

So, after missing my girl Fish Mooney, Supergirl was a breath of fresh air for me. She reminds me a lot of myself when I was a twenty something. Watching the show, I assumed her character was about 26 years old, and actress Melissa Benoit is 27. (As a side note, I did NOT realize that the actress was also Marley Rose from Glee, but that makes sense). This Supergirl figure embodies everything that society finds attractive in an American female because she's tall, thin, and blond with fair, clear skin and light blue eyes. But I can forgive them for that because that description also fits another female superhero favorite of mine, Buffy Summers; it's just interesting to notice, from my researcher's perspective. Personality wise, though, Supergirl is more unconventional just because she's so quirky, and I love that about her. Also, I think she's getting tougher and smarter as the show goes on, and I can't wait to continue to see her grow. And yes, I got a little teary-eyed in the episode I just watched because she was online chatting with her cousin Superman and thanked him for saving her life. He said you're welcome, but he promised not to do it again because he and her male crush (a tall, attractive Black man) now understand that she needs to be the one to save the day. She has something to prove, both to her cousin and to her Ally McBeal boss. 

I am still learning about feminism, but I believe Kara a.k.a. Supergirl represents third wave feminism, and her boss represents second wave feminism. Her boss reminds me a lot of Hillary Clinton, only she's a bit younger (Calista Flockhart, the actress who played her, was born in 1964). Like my mother, Supergirl/Kara's boss Cat Grant has had to work very hard to make their way to the top, which makes sense because only so many women have been truly successful in journalism up to this point. Kara, though, proves that a woman can be both adorable and strong. When Cat's article about Supergirl criticizes both her and the Millennial generation for being without substance, Kara fights back, on behalf of her superhero and her generation. Also, she makes it clear that she doesn't want her male cousin to rescue her because after all, she was sent from Krypton to help him and just got caught up in transit. To me, Supergirl is fighting for women, but especially for Millennial women who are trying to climb our way up in our chosen professions. I am only on the outer edge of this age group, but I can relate to her obstacles. I'm glad her older sister is also a brilliant bad ass and a scientist. 

Kamala Khan is of Generation Y/high school age, younger than Supergirl and me, yet she is also a woman with something to prove. Just like Supergirl is trying to live up to Clark Kent's legacy, Kamala is trying to live up to Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, the original Ms. Marvel. (By the way, does anyone else think it's weird that Supergirl and her sister have the last name Danvers? Was that intentional, or just a common name for female superheroes)? I have written about Kamala and will continue to do so because she represents intersectionality, feminism, the immigrant story, and the desire to represent teenagers and youth culture in a positive light. She and Supergirl have many things in common: they both have narratives around the immigrant story (since Supergirl is from Krypton and Kamala's family is from Pakistan), they both want to be spokeswomen for their generation, and they both want to have their own identity as superheroes, not just be a shadow of their predecessors. 

I believe that young women (and yes, thirty something women in addition to teenage girls and twenty something year old women) need Kamala and Supergirl to inspire us. We still live in a world where women make 75 cents to every dollar men make, where women are objectified, and where women have to fight harder to make it professionally and to get what we want out of life. I have thought to myself more than once, "I have a great life, but it would have been easier if I had been born a man. People would better appreciate my wit and my intelligence, and I wouldn't have to obsess about my physical appearance quite so much). As someone who was in gifted programs in school, had reconstructive jaw surgery, overcame bullying, overcame a learning disability, had a difficult geographic move when I was a teenager, and has endured a fair amount of personal loss for someone my age, the stories of these superwomen resonate with me. And yes, Kara should be Superwoman, not Supergirl. If I have a daughter, then I hope she'll have it easier than I did growing up, even though I still feel that I am growing up. Hopefully, she'll find her own super powers and learn to use them to make life better for the women who follow her lead. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Fledgling

Fledgling Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! It was Octavia E. Butler's last novel, and she was the first Black woman to truly make a mark in Speculative fiction in the U.S. I read the book because my colleague and I are working on a book chapter about teaching fantasy literature with a critical literacy lens, and we thought this novel would be a good fit for an advanced high school classroom. I believe it would, especially when comparing it to other vampire stories. The novel deals with such important issues as race, gender, power, feminism, family dynamics, and socioeconomic privilege in a way that is captivating and interesting to read, which is why I love the speculative fiction genre. I finished the novel quickly in part because I was so engaged with it. Every chapter ended with a captivating cliff hanger that encouraged me to read on, and the pacing of the novel was perfect! I definitely want to read more of this author's work. Also, the novel gives me additional insights to consider for my comprehensive exam essays. I loved reading this book! If you like speculative fiction and literature with powerful female characters, this book is for you. This book is why I do what I do; more speculative fiction and books with strong female protagonists of color need to make their way into the literary canon.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov

Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov by Kirin Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a breath of fresh air and a perfect mix of the theory and practice of writing autoethnography and evocative ethnography. The writing style was accessible, and the activities are ones that I can see myself doing on a day when I feel stuck. I also think it would be a helpful read for those interested in writing creative nonfiction, whether or not it has an autoethnographic focus. I loved this book, and reading it made me feel like I was having coffee with a writing buddy to discuss our research and our art. Also, I loved the references to other literary ethnographers and found the examples helpful for scene building and sensory detail development, the writing skills that I most need to further develop.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review: A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility

A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility A Thrice-Told Tale: Feminism, Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility by Margery Wolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feminism, ethnographic study, postmodernism, and evocative ethnography…of course I enjoyed it! In particular, I enjoyed the creative/imaginative piece. I thought it was very compelling, and it made a strong case for evocative ethnography and autoethnography, both of which are methodologies I am passionate about. My only critique is that I would have liked fewer field notes and more commentary about them. Field notes can be dry to read if you are not the researcher herself, and more commentary would have helped me better understand how she wrote both her traditional academic piece and her more evocative piece. Overall, I loved the book, especially the parts where she discussed how feminist theory and postmodern theory inform her work. I am seeing more and more how feminism affects my understandings and my daily life, so I could relate to these ruminations.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: Blue

Blue Blue by Patricia Leavy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed Low Fat Love and American Circumstance, but this has been my favorite book of Patricia Leavy's so far. Tash, Penelope, and Jason are all characters who I would enjoy having as my friends. The book offers thoughtful insight on being a twentysomething in a big city, and it brought back memories for me. I also loved the references to pop culture and the social commentary on art. This is a very worthwhile read, especially for people interested in arts-based research, gender issue, and social fiction.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography

The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography by Carolyn Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book overall, and it helped me to gain a better understanding of autoethnography and the ethical implications of this methodology. It was dialogue intensive with narrative writing, and it was a nice balance between academic discourse and the storytelling style of novels. I think parts of it could have been condensed, but overall, I got a lot out of reading it. I feel encouraged to write more autoethnographic pieces. It makes sense that I would gravitate toward a methodology that is a blend of literature, psychology, and sociology. It also does a good job of addressing some of the critiques of autoethnography. It is more introspective, but if it's done well, it helps people to think more deeply about their own introspection and themselves as related to sociocultural issues. Also, it can be therapeutic to write, as I am already finding.

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