marshtide: (Too-ticki)
OK. Feminist SFF and feminist books/articles about SFF. I'm making lists of stuff I might get hold of. But the lists are getting outrageously huge, and it looks like a really big chunk of the theory will be avaliable through the Swedish library system, and this is both great and terrible.

In short: if there's anyone you think is particularly brilliant or particularly terrible do please tell.

Obviously queer feminism is in some sense closest to my heart, but I'm wide open. I've covered some of the really obvious stuff in this area already, of course, but perhaps not that much.

I'm not scared of crunchy theory in English and I'm not scared of novels or moderately transparent non-fiction in Swedish. But I am scared of crunchy theory in Swedish.

(Which is to say: the next obsessive burst of Learning Stuff seems to have struck. Help.)
marshtide: (Mårran)
1. I've finished Tiger by Mian Lodalen, and I think that if it'd been around when I was fifteen it would've been perfect, basically. It deals a lot with teenage girls' sexuality, terrible things happening to people who are marginalised, and various things to do with the culture surrounding sexuality, both gay and straight, and double standards, sexual abuse, homophobia and fear of homophobia. The main character deals with already being considered an outsider and then realising she's gay, and it's a big tangled mess. It's not going onto the list as Best Book I Have Evah Read, and I am rather past the stuff it dealt with, but it was interesting, the story was pretty well-told, and I can definitely think of people I'd rec it to.

Now I'm back on Birgitta Stenberg, who is also dealing with young female sexuality, namely, hers.

2. Mian Lodalen is giving a talk in our town next month along with Maria Sveland! This is a terrible small town where nothing ever happens, so you bet I'm excited. I'm also going to have to pick up one of Maria Sveland's books before then; I've seen her talk about them a couple of times on TV but have yet to actually read one. (This one sounds pretty great.)

3. Further name: Katarina Wennstam. Non-fiction and fiction, a lot of stuff about rape culture. Certain to be depressing but probably also worth it. Saw her in a discussion along with Maria Sveland the other day (Kunskapskanalen was running various stuff from the book fair) and they both said some really great things.

4. I need some stuff to read in English, though, occasionally, before I forget how. I don't have much around that I can read without having to concentrate completely, barring a few bits of manga.
marshtide: (Too-ticki)

Quite, Maud.


("Man blir utpekad och ledsen som man och heterosexuell
Och förresten, vad betyder det där heteronormativ?
Den där tjejen borde prova på att byta perspektiv"


(Yes, I wish I had the mental energy to give you a translation as well.)
marshtide: (Default)
1. I'm reading Mian Lodalen's Tiger now. I have hopes! We'll see! It's also remarkably easy to read after Birgitta Stenberg... slight generational difference there. (And at some point I'll be going back to read more Victoria Benedictsson. Beware the verb forms?)

2. I wish Birgitta Stenberg's books were translated. I don't know as I'd recommend her to everyone, but there's a quite specific group of people who I firmly believe would think she was the best thing ever.

3. I'm actually pretty interested in going to take a look at this exhibit about fashion photography through time. It's there until the end of the year, so I just need to decide whether I'm paying-the-entrance-fee interested.

4. But this week I'll probably go and be nosy at this event (discussion of whether we should hate Strindberg or not! At the feminist bookshop! I've been wanting to go to something there for a while now, and I have a free bus card to stockholm that lasts until Friday, so the timing is good. There's another thing on Friday but it involves cake and, well, me and cake...). Watch me attempt to leave the house sometimes and venture forth into definitely Swedish-speaking environments. Ones where I'm not familiar with how the people involved talk already, I mean. ...yes, I know I don't pick easy-to-understand situations.
marshtide: (Too-ticki)
Today: trying again with this whole attending school thing.

Random links, largely in some way Val's fault (though the first one just showed up on my reading list):

1. Well, yeah. I mean, I don't think men taking an equal role in raising children is actually quite so much of a firmly entrenched idea in Sweden as people maybe imply/wish, given the issues with getting guys to for example actually take as much paternity leave as they're entitled to, but I definitely had a burst of surprise when I arrived at how common it was to see a guy going around by himself with a small child in a buggy. It made me double-take - and this despite the fact that my dad spent pretty much the same amount of time looking after me and my brother when we were kids as my mum did. I guess the thing is, in a rural part of the UK at that point in time, that was weird. And this seems to be normal.

(Val has also mentioned a couple of times that there is training here for preschool teachers to try and counter the way gender roles are enforced in without people even being aware of what they're doing. While we're on gender roles. I haven't gone and looked it up and read up on the details but doesn't that sound amazing?)

2. Here is an article about women's football. It's from a Swedish feminist magazine, so sorry if you can't read the actual text, but the reason I'm linking it is in fact mostly the photos. Aren't they great?

3. Name to remember, which I've just found written on a post-it note and stuck to one of my notebooks: Marianne Breslauer. German photographer, Weimar republic. Just look at this stuff!
marshtide: (Too-ticki)
Sofi Oksanen - Baby Jane
Mian Londalen - Tiger
Nina Björk - Under det rosa täcket
Maria Sveland - Bitterfittan
Tove Jansson - Anteckningar från en ö (illustrerad av Tuulikki Pietilä)

& I'm reading Birgitta Stenberg's Kärlek i europa (Love in Europe) now.

Mian Londalen and Maria Sveland were guests on this week's Babel and sounded well worth a look; they were talking about feminism and someone recommended Nina Björk (feminist writer) at some stage, Sofi Oksanen is in next week's episode which reminded Val to tell me to read her, and Tove Jansson is of course my hero.

P.S. Why does my history teacher from high school want to be friends on facebook? So she can throw sheep at me for all those times I talked back in class and didn't do my homework...? Slightly weirded out now.
marshtide: (Default)
Via some random series of link-hopping, the beginning of which I've forgotten: White male authors privileged, writing by women dismissed via placement under increasingly broad heading of "chick lit". No really! I am so shocked. I never saw it coming!

To be honest, dismissing writing by women about women as Girl Stuff was seriously old in the 1880s. And long, long before, I'm sure.

Is it time to move on yet? As a culture I mean? Or is literary merit actually determined by the size of your cock? Have I had it wrong all this time?

(Also deeply shocking, from today's edition of svenska dagbladet: Sverigedemokraterna say that no-one in Sweden was prepared to made an election video for them, so they had to go to... guess! Go on, guess! Yes, that's right.



Sep. 1st, 2010 06:00 pm
marshtide: (Snufkin - The traveller)
You'll be pleased to know, though, that today I sat between a woman who is an active supporter of socialdemokraterna (social democrats) and a woman who is not sure if she will vote for miljöpartiet (greens) or vänsterpartiet (the left party). This made me feel considerably better, after various run-ins with kristdemokraterna (creepy "family values" bastards christian democrats) supporters and such over the last few days in school. We had a conversation about social justice! In terrible, terrible Swedish! On the other hand, in election terms, I do wish the polls were looking better for the red-green bunch...

In queer feminism news I also have to say that I'm finding Maud Lindström wildly theraputic at the moment. I'm almost tempted to make a project out of translating her lyrics, because man, does she ever get it. How certain experiences feel, really. And she's hilarious. I do like it when people are both right and hilarious. ♥
marshtide: (Default)
Actually, I'm on my way to bed, but I just have to leave this here. Dear Swedish-speakers in the audience, I present to you my favourite song this five minutes, written and performed by Maud Lindström, love-critical bisexual feminist singer, writer and poet:

Fröken Normal - Maud Lindström

You're welcome.

(Well, non-Swedish-speakers are welcome as well, but seeing as I love it pretty much completely for the lyrics, you know...)
marshtide: (Default)
Social interaction - even online - sure does take a lot out of me sometimes. Argh.

But in better news, I finished reading Victoria Benedictsson's Money, and it was a really damn interesting book. I've mentioned a bit about it before, of course, but let's take this from the top: it's a novel written in Sweden in the 1880s, and was a contribution to an ongoing debate taking place at the time to do with marriage and the imbalance between men and women, double standards and all. A lot of the work concerned with the topic was by men, particularly Ibsen, and I guess Strindberg as well, so in that this is a book about issues concerning women's situation that was written by a woman it is, for its time, unusual. Interestingly, Benedictsson struggled to have her work taken seriously - it was dismissed as being about women's stuff, basically, and therefore not very important. Ibsen's A Doll's House, on the other hand, while also concerning issues with marriage and criticizing the way the whole institution worked at the time, was extremely controversial, but not, as far as I know, dismissed as unimportant!

The book is about a girl, Selma, who is married at the age of sixteen to a much older man without really knowing what marriage involves, because of ideas about keeping girls pure. She simply has no idea, particularly about sex. The book is about how she deals with her situation, really; it's about her journey through to... age 23, I think, and the conclusions she comes to about marriage. It really is an attack on marriage - a very carefully worded one, but all the same.* The attack is based on the inherent inequality - a situation in which men come to the marriage armed with far more knowledge of sex, are the ones who hold property within the marriage, and the ones who can be forgiven for sexual indiscretions too - and on the fact that for a certain class of women there were few options for supporting themselves besides marriage. Benedictsson, herself in an unhappy marriage to an older man, goes so far as to describe it as like prostitution: one sells oneself for money in order to survive. I seem to remember that there are characters who express similar views in A Doll's House, actually, though I'm only familiar with that piece from reading about it. I've neither read it nor seen it produced. Anyway! It was a real issue at the time, for the reasons mentioned above - particularly that women didn't hold property and weren't encouraged or allowed to earn their own living.

The book isn't perfect. I was worried when I began it that I wouldn't be able to get into it, because Selma seemed as though she had potential but things about her world-view were really frustrating and I wasn't sure about the direction it seemed to be headed for a while right at the start. This, of course, is kind of the point, as later sections showed. I did get really into it, actually, once I'd reached the point of her marriage; I was really interested to know what would happen to her and on the whole I wasn't disappointed by what did. She also does develop into a really interesting person. I thought she was pretty great. Striding around with a riding crop didn't hurt either, and nor did the female homoeroticism that crept into one of the later sections. Ahem. But the real point is that she's a good character, which is to say, flawed and interesting and with her own kind of strength and quite a bit of development. She also has strong views and expresses them.

I did think the message felt a bit... well, I've mentioned how carefully worded it felt, in that sort of balancing-act way of not wanting to push things too far, whether for fear of being unpublishable or fear of attracting too much criticism to deal with, and it did sometimes feel a little compromised as a result. Mostly I think it got through, though. I'm sure that a few other things struck me as not quite as great as they could have been, though I foolishly didn't make notes so don't expect elaboration. Oops. Overall, though, I liked it. Quite a bit, actually. I'd recommend it.

In short: proto-feminist literature I am really glad I read!

* In the afterward to the translation I read there's a little information regarding letters she wrote to a friend while writing the book, talking about what she felt she could and couldn't say as a female author and how she felt she had to worry about these things in a way a man probably wouldn't - particularly, open discussion of sex was problematic for her, and the book is very much about sex, so one finds oneself reading between the lines. To be honest, all that considered, it still feels really pretty frank considering when it was written.
marshtide: (Default)
A bitty entry this time, because I have a few scraps I want to gather up and get rid of that I can't make into full posts in their own right at this exact (everyone-is-sick-and-chaos-reigns) moment.


Have you heard of Victoria Benedictsson? I hadn't! This might just be because I'm not very well-read, but then again, it might not be. I will add the disclaimer here that I haven't actually read her books yet, though as soon as I can get to the library there's a copy of her novel Money (Pengar) waiting for me to collect. I am pretty excited about this. It's a criticism of the inequality of marriage at the time and of the sexual double standard between men and women!

Victoria Benedictsson was a Swedish writer, working in the late 19th century. She had a pretty eventful and possibly quite scandalous life, and struggled really hard to be accepted as artistically legitimate (often being dismissed as writing about women's issues). She was concerned with women's place in society and female sexuality, and her writing apparently has a really strong element of social commentary. She also inspired/influenced (and also possibly horrified) Ibsen and Strindberg, who I bet you have heard of, because they're basically The Dudes of Scandinavian theatre & literature. (The library I worked at last year in the UK had a Scandinavian literature section, which was composed almost entirely of Ibsen, with two plays by Strindberg. That was all. For reference.) Right now she's getting a bit more attention for the fact that her writing is basically full of pretty feminist ideas, but for ages people talked about her largely as that woman who had an affair with a literary critic and then killed herself because it didn't work out, which is unfortunate. (Especially as she didn't kill herself for those reasons, as far as can be discerned from the sources avaliable, which include, you know, detailed diary entries.)

Probably more on this topic at a later date, when I'm better informed.


I've come to a realisation lately: namely, that traditional narrative is just not really my best friend. I tried to be friends with it for a few years and I think it mostly produced stories which were fragmented anyway (but, in absolute fairness, sometimes worked quite well like that) and stories which I could not possibly finish, and while we'll certainly remain on speaking terms I think we need some space from each other. The problem with it is maybe that it implies to some degree a worldview that I have problems with, of definite beginnings and middles and ends, patterns which resolve themselves into meaning, etc., and while I can happily accept that this is exactly what a lot of stories need and that there are very good reasons for telling them in that sort of way I don't think I would actually want to write like that because I am... not really writing for those reasons, not really interested in what happens so much as the people it happens to (or around or because of or in the mind of or...) and the places it happens in. If I am interested in patterns it's maybe more why people perceive them the way they do, and the ways in which they try to make stories out of their lives.

Possibly this is some kind of terrible difficulty, but I'm not really convinced; I think it's more of a difference, and one I'm happy to play with, which means I should write a different kind of story. It's the sort of thing where just accepting it is likely to make for slightly happier writing. I'm interested in building up fragments into something of a story and I'm interested in ambiguity and making people join the dots up to a certain point, though of course one has to play carefully in this territory.

Looking at the authors I really love in a way which goes beyond "this is a good and thought-provoking read" or whatever and into the territory of starry-eyed admiration, I don't think this should be very surprising. Virginia Woolf? Experimental stylist fond of stream-of-consciousness and writing people more than writing stories. Tove Jansson? Penchant for constructing novels out of short stories in a way which works mysteriously well to create a sense of who people are; very little happens but a lot is communicated; not really a progression along a line so much as a collection of snapshots that could be rearranged and played around with. Murakami? Books full of signs which signify... well, what, exactly? A lot about creating a sense that there's a pattern and not providing any kind of key to it, and having this actually be satisfying. His endings resolve nothing and I like it.

I'm also more in love with magical realism and making the ordinary otherwise threatening or unsettling or strange than I am with just writing the ordinary or with writing the outright extraordinary. I think there is a space there for subtle wrongness and a sense of disconnection from the day-to-day, and though that genre doesn't necessarily do that and things which do that aren't necessarily of that genre I think it's an area which would be fun to play in. Any sort of lense which produces strangeness would work, because, well, that's how the world feels to me. I guess I am about the sense that things don't quite fit and that the supposedly ordinary can be the most disconcerting thing, because it often is to me.

This realisation brought to you partly by a conversation in which I got frustrated with Alice Munro's stories for being beautifully crafted and all about women's daily lives (OK, resoundingly straight women's daily lives with heavy emphasis on the men therein whether as a presence or an absence, which may just have been a part of the problem for me when it came to identifying with them) and absolutely boring to me because they feel like a part of a legendary Normal World I have never actually set foot in and wouldn't really enjoy if I got there. I simply can't connect to them, though they are probably really pretty good if you can.


A couple of links.

a. I've decided I really like the community [community profile] queering_holmes. I decided this largely because they seem to like Graham Robb's Strangers over there and because this could just be the place I'm looking for with Queer Victorian Stuff and an interest in Holmes as linked in to that context. Maybe I can air my theories about Irene Adler. Sometime when I'm feeling confident enough to be sociable. For now I'll sit and watch and feel a tiny bit gleeful.

b. I'm not actually any good at Japanese history - I've studied the bits that could reasonably be covered by a course about indigenous cultures worldwide from an archaeological perspective, which is to say, groups like the Ainu, and I've read a bunch of books about homosexuality among Samurai and monks, and I've absorbed various other information in a completely haphazard way so that the end result is a bit surreal - but here is a post about Samurai Champloo from someone who seems rather better at it. I love Samurai Champloo, for the record, and I love it as a fun and gloriously irreverent series and as a piece of commentary and also for its amazingly choreographed fight scenes. But in this case we're talking about it as a series taking a good kick at the Samurai drama genre as a whole even while theoretically playing within its borders.
marshtide: (Default)
First! Tomorrow is election day back home; I can't vote, which is a long story of bureaucratic horrors; I'm furious about it. Let's not talk about that. If you're a UK citizen, though, please just vote. (Me, terrified of Tory government? Why would I be... oh wait! Yes! Because they're biggoted bastards! Now I remember.)

Now for something... still kind of about Sweden, actually. I was going to talk about Virginia Woolf but that topic has too high a brain-requirement for this week. I'm going to talk about Stieg Larsson instead.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy (about sexism, murder, financial scandals, government corruption, right-wing extremism and investigative journalism, if you can imagine), is far from perfect. I do mean far. It's pretty heavy-handed in its message and the pacing is way off and the shopping-lists littered throughout need shooting. Much of the plot is utterly ridiculous, although in certain subsets of detective/thriller stories that might be considered a plus. It feels very journalistic sometimes, which is because it was written by a journalist, though whether this is a plus or a minus is entirely down to taste. But here is what I do like about it:

Possibly triggering contents, particularly relating to sexual assault. Err, and there are probably some spoilers too. )

But overall these books are a really fine balance for me. I really enjoy them, though they're ridiculous, but I can see how a fairly small shift in how they were put together would have rendered them unreadable and fury-inducing.

I'm not sure the Swedish film managed to get that right, entirely, and I don't even know what to expect from a hollywood remake, but I'm sort of quietly suspicious. Maybe they'll pull off something really interesting. Maybe! But uh...
marshtide: (Default)
This evening, we watched a literature/culture show on SVT2. It's called Babel. I'm told it's pretty smart but also entertaining rather than stuffy. It's gender conscious, and also seems really thoughtful; I get the feeling the presenter asks very good questions. I'll go with seems and I get the feeling because of course I only understand bits and pieces; spoken Swedish is difficult for me without subtitles, and this is of course not a show for discussion of simple concepts such as one might find in a picture book*... but Native Speaker likes it a lot, and is if possible even more prone to rage at media than I am, so we're probably good. Tonight they had a male novelist on the show and asked him a lot of questions I think I'd only heard directed at female novelists in the past: about his children, his relationship with them, and how he feels his writing impacts upon his family life. It wasn't focused on to the exclusion of all else, but it got a nice little section of conversation, and oh boy, oh boy, we're actually admitting that family is not just an issue for women to worry about! I'm for this. Then they had a conversation about how the idea of genius can be really problematic.** I think I'm sold. Even with the thing where I barely understand. Roll on, fluency.

To be honest, I feel sort of refreshed by the whole thing. I'm quite used to the idea that culture shows will tend to be a bit patronising about some things, and gender is one of those; possibly I've just been embittered by The One Show back in the UK, which admittedly sells itself as a "magazine show" rather than a culture show and makes no claims to be highbrow, but is a fairly good example of the "entertaining" end of the UK TV spectrum: prone to stereotyping, good at taking ideas very much at face value, etc. More intelectual programs exist in the UK, yes, but I can't think of anything on TV that hits the same balance of smart, non-insulting and actually entertaining. There are some on the radio, maybe, but that's not a direct comparison either. (I also have more respect for BBC Radio at large than BBC TV. I have comparative-coverage-of-tricky-issues type anecdotes but then I'd be here all night, so maybe I'll save them.)

Anyway, oh boy oh boy, I know Sweden still has a lot of problems with gender equality, several of which have irritated me in recent weeks (scandal over female politician taking advantage of laws which allow couples to have the father be the one who stays home with the baby more than the mother, and how this apparently makes her a terrible human being - check. girls' football team getting horribly dismissive and patronising treatment compared to boys' football team run by same club - check.), but all the same. Feels better than home so far.

* By the way, I had never quite appreciated how difficult the language in picture books could be until I started reading them in another language. I'm just saying.

** although Swedish culture discourages people thinking they are too good, too important, or too anything, as far as I can tell - i vårt land så får man inte vara förmer and all that - so this might not be as unusual as it feels to my UK-trained mind.


marshtide: (Default)

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