Today I Read… Vigilante

Image result for vigilante kady crossToday I read Vigilante by Kady Cross.

Magda is dead. She was my best friend. She was drugged and gang-raped by four of the most popular boys in school, and they filmed it, and they got away with it. She’s the one who was violated. She’s the one who was humiliated. She’s the one who got slut-shamed by everyone in town and everyone on the internet. And she’s the one who swallowed pills and died.

And me? I’m angry. I want justice. I want revenge.

Same thing, right?


I only meant to read a couple of chapters before bed. Instead, I finished the book and started my review immediately. I picked this ARC up at the OLASC17 conference this year. As I recall, the author was supposed to be there but I think she was ill. Any way, it seemed interesting, and to be honest I’ll take just about any ARC I’m given and I’ll give it a read.

And then 2017 happened.

Pink Pussy Hat marches against the fact that a rapist was elected as the President of the United States started the year, and it ends with #metoo and the house cleaning that so many companies are finally starting to do. This book is aimed at teens, and I’m older, but I’ve heard the things that Hadley, the main character, hears. I’ve felt her rage, and her sorrow, and her sense of helplessness. Cross does a fantastic job of articulating the experience of so many- too many-#yesallwomen. It’s just that Hadley gets the satisfaction of doing something about the rapists that hurt her friend. Yes, I suppose I should be all Responsible Adult and say something about how violence is never justified, but hell you probably know that. The ending is a little bit pat- I won’t spoil it, but it is more satisfying than realistic- but all in all this is a fast, compelling read, that women from around ages 14 and up (and sadly probably under) will be able to relate to. I won’t say it’s enjoyable- did you read the summary above?!? But I will say that this is the perfect book to have come out this year.

Today I Read…The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

Fangirl's Guide to the GalaxyToday I read The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: a Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs.

Are you a newcomer to the wide world of fandom? Are you not quite sure what an OTP is, even though you know that Dean and Cas belong together? Do you plan your Halloween costume months in advance and hand make each piece? Do you know why the cake is a lie, and the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything? And are you looking for someone just as passionately nerdy as you to talk to about your favourite nerdy things? Then, young fangirl padawan, you might need The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Chock full of interviews with prominent professional fangirls, invaluable tips for attending your first convention, a field guide to the more common geek groups, and much much more, this is a fantastic resource for those new to fandom, and a terrific refresher for the old hands.

This was the book I wanted most for myself from the OLA Super conference this year, and I was so happy I got a copy. Sam Maggs is a fellow member of the Toronto fandom community, a former associate editor for fabulous nerd news site The Mary Sue, one of the outgoing Cineplex pre-show hosts, and generally, pretty cool. Plus, that title–how could I possibly resist?

Way back in the dim mists of history before the internet was a thing (okay, it was the 80s), I started my fangirl life, and I entered the world of fandom just at the start of web 2.0 and when interactivity was becoming the watchword. I would have LOVED to have a guide like this way back when I was convinced that I was the only person in my city who liked Star Trek, let alone the only person at my elementary school. It wasn’t until university that I met my first real fangirl, who became my best friend. One of the best parts of fandom is sharing what you love.

In a way, I suppose I’m lucky. I don’t think I’ve ever been personally challenged on my level of geek knowledge, just because I’m a girl. My experience of the Toronto fandom community has always had a strong mixture of boy, girl, and other nerds, with women making strong contributions to our community and with fan-run events. Girl geeks are pretty common, at least in the spaces I hang out in. But like all geek girls I’ve desperately searched for myself in the media I love–a heroine who doesn’t get fridged and isn’t there to be the token female, or worse, the one-dimensional love interest (or worst of all, all three). I’ve put up with the absurdly impractical and oversexualised superhero costumes, having to look in the boys’ rows of the toy store for action figures, and every bloody nerd girl shirt being pink. I ask you, when did Supergirl or Batgirl EVER wear a hot pink costume or a hot pink glittery shield? EVER? AND WHERE IS MY BLACK WIDOW MOVIE ALREADY??? Seriously, Marvel, *ten years* from the release of Iron Man it takes you to release a female-led movie, and it’s Captain Marvel instead of Black Widow, a character you’ve already used 4 times? /rant

Back on track, chapter 4 is about Geek Girl Feminism, looking for the best representations in media and pointing out that unlike the stereotyped antisocial teen nerd boy who lives in his parents’ basement and can’t talk to girls (and his awful, AWFUL counterpart the mythical Fake Geek Girl), women make up a large part of fandom and we have the right to love what we love and to know that we are the heroes every bit as much as the guys are. (See Sam’s awesome Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism below.)

It can be intimidating to insert yourself into a tightly-knit yet wildly diverse community like fandom can be, especially when you get nonsense like GamerGate giving nerdiness and gamers a bad name in the media. (Yes, it was nonsense, if you feel the need to dox and threaten to injure, rape or kill ANYONE in the name of your argument you are an asshole and you lose any modicum of respect for your argument and for you personally). That said, fandom can be an amazing place and you can meet amazing people who not only love what you love, but can share with you other amazing things that you will love. Fandom can enrich your life, give you friends and interests and sometimes even a career. Fandom is filled with smart, creative, hardworking people, and they can be very welcoming to newbies. If you want to jump into the deep end and sally forth to your first convention all on your own, go ahead– it’s how we used to do it (it’s what I did). If you want some great tips, this book is a great guide for how to venture in, both in person at cons and good online spaces to introduce yourself.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Sam made some great recommendations and I think I need to go hunt them down (and rewatch/reread any old favourites she listed). Hey Sam, any time you want to trade kickass-chick book lists, let me know. I have a feeling you would LOVE Esther Friesner’s Chicks in Chainmail anthology series. Two words: Amazon Comedy.

The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism
I am a geek girl and I am a feminist. I embrace the word “fangirl” with open arms. I don’t have to prove my nerd cred to anyone, ever. Whether I’m a comics noob, Or a fic writer typing up her next chapter, Or a hard-core gamer who sometimes forgets to sleep (Not that I ever do that), No one else gets to decide whether I do or do not belong. From SuperWhoLock to Shakarian I accept all fandom and ships As equally meaningful and important In our geek girl lives. Even if your OTP is my NOTP, I will still like you (Even if I have to unfollow your blog). I can wear makeup and R2D2 mini dresses, Or a Chewie T-shirt and ripped jeans, And the world has to deal with it; Because a geek feminist looks however she wants And doesn’t apologize. I will support empowering, lady-created media, And amazing female characters That make me feel like I could be Batgirl, If I just had some yellow Doc Martens And a vigilante complex. I’m the Doctor, not a companion; Buffy, not Bella; Nobody’s sidekick, love interest, or token female. I’m driving this ship. I’M A FANGIRL, A FEMINIST, AND A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH.

Fangirl's Litany

Today I Read…Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Cinderella Ate My DaughterToday I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein.

When Peggy Orenstein’s daughter was born, she was determined to raise her without falling into the princess trap. You know the one–the girl dressed in a hopelessly elaborate and glaringly pink gown, dreaming of the day her prince will come without actually getting up and seeing what’s taking him so darn long.

She began with the question of why girls love princesses so much, but quickly moved onto *do* all girls love everything princess, or are they trained to love princesses by the world around them? And where did this Princess Culture come from, and why? And is Princess Culture really a bad thing? What are the alternatives? And how can she save her daughter from the ravenous princess monsters?


I found this one a while ago at my local Chapters, and I admit, it was the extremely pink glitter on the cover that drew my eye. Then the title, because I like fairy tales, especially the rewritten modern ones where princesses kick ass. I read the dust jacket and it sounded interesting (and it was $5), so I bought it and read it that night. So, kudos to the person who designed the cover, it worked.

I’m a little ambivalent about the Disney Princesses–I love the movies and the songs, but when I think about their storylines and characters critically…well, there are a lot of problems, as well as a lot of good things. Belle was (is) my favourite, because she had brown hair and brown eyes and liked blue and reading, just like me! But when I was eight I discovered Star Trek, at which point I was done with princesses and moved right into action figures. You can’t dress them up, but they move a lot more and phasers are way cooler than purses. And every last action figure was in the boys’ aisles of the toy stores.

Orenstein never quite comes to a definitive conclusion about what she thinks about Princess Culture. She clearly did a lot of research into a very complicated subject, but that complicated subject by its nature has no simple answer. Nothing but pink and princesses and stereotypically feminine and the drive to be blonde/blue-eyed/thin/pretty/nice/pretty/thin/perfect/pretty/thin is definitely bad for girls and the boys who have to interact with them, but is a little bit of princess okay? How much? Does the drive to get girls to like STEM subjects and playing with Lego and toy cars mean that we’re just stigmatizing those girls and later woman who do like cooking and cleaning and dollys and raising children? And what does that mean for boys who like traditionally feminine pastimes and toys?

Orenstein’s research included trips to Disneyland, the international Toy Fair in New York, American Girl Place, Pottery Barn Kids, and a child beauty pageant. She interviewed the man who came up with the idea to market the Disney Princesses together, the director of an eating disorder clinic, parents of pageant kids, and the parents of her daughter’s friends.She did research on media and marketing to children, the history of children’s toys and the gendering of those toys, child psychology and development, the origins of fairy tales, current toys for boys and girls, and what and how kids actually play. She talks a lot about how all of this research impacted how she was raising her daughter, some of her parenting decisions and what went into her thought process, discussing toys and stories with her daughter and trying to understand why she liked or didn’t like them. It’s not really intended to be a scholarly work–it’s an exploration of what princess culture means to her and for her family, and to what extent she wants to let her daughter participate and how she plans to subvert it and teach her daughter to think critically about consuming media.

This book really hit home for me in several ways. I have a little niece who’s just over a year old. Her mother loves everything pink and refuses to dress her in blue or even much green and yellow, because she thinks that adults will be confused and think that Niece is a boy if she’s wearing blue. Why the opinions of total strangers matter, I have no idea. So on one hand, FeministMe who took the women’s studies classes really wishes that Mother would lighten up a little, because green and yellow and blue and purple and red and black are all nice colours. On the other hand, AuntieMe sees all the pretty frilly dresses in the stores, and I only have so long to dress her up like a little doll before she learns to say no. Though incidentally, Niece doesn’t really like dolls–she keeps pushing them aside for her books and her car and her piano. (go niece go!)

To compound this, I worked in a children’s clothing store. The clothing was extremely gendered–all of the boys’ clothes were blue and red and sports and monsters, and all of the girls’ clothes were pink and glitter and princess and butterfly and shopping and hearts. There was very little gender-neutral stuff for infants (which is a problem for people when they need a gift and the parents have chosen not to find out the gender before the baby is born), and there was absolutely no gender neutral stuff for over the age of 18 months. Very rarely there would be an older girls’ shirt that mentioned sports or reading or math, but the majority were I’m Daddy’s Little Princess, I’m Mommy’s Favourite Shopping Buddy, I’m Cute, Sweet, and Pretty, etc. The boys’  shirts were just as bad, since there were no reading or cooking or shopping shirts, just skateboarding and basketball and ugly monsters and silly faces. But as someone working in the store, you have to play up the “oh look at how cute this is, I love it!” for the merchandise.

I liked this book. I don’t think it changed my mind on any important issues, but it did try to explore them in a thoughtful way, while still admitting to the writer’s bias–after all, the reason she did any of the research and writing was because she was against raising her daughter to be a princess. I guess the question that every parent, and adult who significantly interacts with a girl, has to ask themself is is their girl a princess and what does being a princess mean?

*BTW, Orenstein has a page on her website that lists modern princess books, movies and toys for different ages that teach girls about princesses with gumption, drive, and smarts. And I’d add to the list for YA Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, featuring Princess Cimorene who goes out looking for adventure because being a princess is boring; just about anything by Tamora Pierce, especially the Tortall series about a girl who wants to be a knight (ignoring how disappointed I was by Battle Magic because usually she’s really very good); and I’m really enjoying Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series (I’ve already reviewed Cinder and Scarlet and Cress is coming up on my to-read list).


Of course, girls are not buying the 24/7 princess culture all on their own. So the question is not only why they like it (which is fairly obvious) but what it offers their parents. Julie may have been onto something on that front: princesses are, by definition, special, elevated creatures. And don’t we all feel our girls are extraordinary, unique, and beautiful? Don’t we want them to share that belief for as long as possible, to think that—just by their existence, by birthright—they are the chosen ones? Wouldn’t we like their lives to be forever charmed, infused with magic and sparkle? I know I want that for my daughter.

Or do I? Among other things, princesses tend to be rather isolated in their singularity. Navigating the new world of friendships is what preschool is all about, yet the DPs, you will recall, won’t even look at one another. Daisy had only one fight with her best friend during their three years of preschool—a conflict so devastating that, at pickup time, I found the other girl sobbing in the hallway, barely able to breathe. The source of their disagreement? My darling daughter had insisted that there could be only one Cinderella in their games—only one girl who reigned supreme—and it was she. Several hours and a small tantrum later, she apologized to the girl, saying that from now on there could be two Cinderellas. But the truth was, Daisy had gotten it right the first time: there is only one princess in the Disney tales, one girl who gets to be exalted. Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but, at least among the best-known stories, they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support.

Let’s review: princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married (among the DP picture books at Barnes & Noble: My Perfect Wedding and Happily Ever After Stories) and be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Their value derives largely from their appearance. They are rabid materialists. They might affect your daughter’s interest in math. And yet… parents cannot resist them. Princesses seem to have tapped into our unspoken, nonrational wishes. They may also assuage our fears: Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty may be sources of comfort, of stability in a rapidly changing world. Our daughters will shortly be tweeting and Facebooking and doing things that have yet to be invented, things that are beyond our ken. Princesses are uncomplicated, classic, something solid that we can understand and share with them, even if they are a bit problematic. They provide a way to play with our girls that is similar to how we played, a common language of childhood fun. That certainly fits into what Disney found in a survey of preschool girls’ mothers: rather than “beautiful,” the women more strongly associate princesses with “creating fantasy,” “inspiring,” “compassionate.”

And “safe.” That one piqued my interest. By “safe,” I would wager that they mean that being a Princess fends off premature sexualization, or what parents often refer to as the pressure “to grow up too soon.” There is that undeniable sweetness, that poignancy of seeing girls clomp off to the “ball” in their incongruous heels and gowns. They are so gleeful, so guileless, so delightfully delighted. The historian Gary Cross, who writes extensively on childhood and consumption, calls such parental response “wondrous innocence.” Children’s wide-eyed excitement over the products we buy them pierces through our own boredom as consumers and as adults, reconnecting us to our childhoods: it makes us feel again. The problem is that our very dependence on our children’s joy erodes it: over time, they become as jaded as we are by new purchases—perhaps more so. They rebel against the “cuteness” in which we’ve indulged them—and, if we’re honest, imposed upon them—by taking on the studied irony and indifferent affect of “cool.”

Though both boys and girls engage in that cute-to-cool trajectory, for girls specifically, being “cool” means looking hot. Given that, then, there may indeed be, or at least could be, a link between princess diadems and Lindsay Lohan’s panties (or lack thereof ). But in the short term, when you’re watching your preschooler earnestly waving her wand, it sure doesn’t feel that way. To the contrary: princess play feels like proof of our daughters’ innocence, protection against the sexualization it may actually be courting. It reassures us that, despite the pressure to be precocious, little girls are still—and ever will be—little girls. And that knowledge restores our faith not only in wonder but, quite possibly, in goodness itself. Recall that the current princess craze took off right around the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and continued its rise through the recession: maybe, as another cultural historian suggested to me, the desire to encourage our girls’ imperial fantasies is, at least in part, a reaction to a newly unstable world. We need their innocence not only for consumerist but for spiritual redemption.

Today I Read…The Friday Society

The Friday SocietyToday I read The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress. You can find Adrienne’s blog here  and the book trailer for The Friday Society here.

Cora, Nellie and Michiko have never met, but they have a lot in common. They all live in London in 1900. They are all the talented, intelligent, strong-willed assistants of famous, powerful men. And together they find a dead body after a ball, a discovery which leads to many questions: Who was the man, and who killed him? Who is killing poor young women in the slums of London, and why don’t the police care? Why is creepy Dr. Mantis so obsessed with eyes? And most importantly, who blew up St. Paul’s Cathedral, and how can the girls stop this mysterious person from blowing up the rest of London as well?

Together Cora, Nellie and Michiko will learn that they have much more to offer the world than just being a lab assistant, a magician’s assistant, and a weapons demonstrator, and that their only limitations are the ones that they accept.


I know I’ve been on a bit of a steampunk kick lately, and I just want you to know there are more coming. The one nice thing about being out of school and unemployed is all the leisure time to read–thank goodness for the library so I can do it for free. ;p This was one of the books I picked up at the OLA Super Conference in January (you can find my review of the conference here). One of the biggest advantages physical books have over ebooks is that you can get the physical book signed by the author, if you meet them. It’s one of the reasons I like going to conventions like Ad Astra– the chance to meet the creator of a work, ask them questions, and tell them what their work means to you. It makes the book my copy, not just any copy. The Friday Society autograph

One thing that I really liked about this book was that Kress didn’t go for the obvious choice of making the men that the girls work for to be abusive monsters. Cora used to be a street kid, but since being employed by Lord White, she has been educated, housed and cared for, and he values her work both in the lab and managing his life. He perhaps doesn’t say it as often as he should, but he genuinely treats her well. The same thing happens with Nellie’s relationship with the Great Raheem–she used to dance in a burlesque club before becoming his stage assistant, and she does wear skimpy clothing, but she enjoys her pretty costumes, and she is very clearly not a bimbo. Raheem, also failing to conform to the stereotype of a foreign man treating women badly, is both kind and trusts Nellie’s judgement. Michiko’s master Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw breaks the trend by being verbally abusive to her, but that’s also good since it shows that men can’t all be stuck in one box anymore than women can.

Because Nellie and Cora’s lives aren’t that bad, I think they need even more courage to act and change–their lives are good, but they could be even better if they take the risk and stretch their wings. Michiko has already demonstrated her courage by leaving Japan with Callum–he turns out to be a bad man who does not fulfill the promises he made to her, but she still took the leap. It’s easy to be brave when you don’t have anything to lose–it’s harder when you’re jumping from the plateau and not the cliff.

The book comes in on the longer side of YA novels at 437 pages, but most of the chapters are fairly short, so it shouldn’t be a very hard read. The girls are older teenagers, and I think I’d give the book to teenagers as well, for one scene where they have a girls’ night drinking party at Nellie’s home. The scene is played for laughs–it’s a way for the three of them to bond and destress after finding a dead body in the streets–but it is something to keep in mind. There is also a bit of romance, but it is by no means the main focus of the book. Cora is attracted to the new assistant Lord White hires, but decides he’s an ass when he makes it clear that he only likes her looks and doesn’t respect her as a person. Nellie flirts with the young Officer Murphy, earnest and shy, who tries to investigate the murders of the flower girls even though his superiors don’t care how many poor people get killed.


“Do you really want to be an inventor?” she asked. It didn’t seem like he did. All he’d done in the afternoon was reorganize, yet again, the tools and update the stock sheet. He hadn’t even touched the device, which Cora hadn’t minded one bit. And she had it on good authority from the glass blower, who was still on the premises when she’d gotten in last night, that Andrew had spent most of the afternoon napping in the corner.

Andrew sighed. “I thought I did. On the surface, it all looks marvelous. But after these past few days, I’ve realized it’s a lot of dull work. To be honest, I don’t know what I want, and I don’t think it really matters. Why should someone like me work?”

Cora thought that an odd question. “Because it’s satisfying, because . . . of passion . . .”

Andrew pulled his chair in close at that, and brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. “I have passion . . .”

Cora’s heart was pounding fast again. She didn’t understand how he could have such an effect on her when what he was saying was so pathetic. “Look at Lord White . . .”

“I’d rather look at you . . .”

“He’s rich. He’s a lord. But he gave up his seat in the House of Lords so that he could run for Parliament. So that he could follow his passion of someday being Prime Minister. He didn’t need to do any of it. And this, this laboratory . . . he works just as hard here and only charges for the pleasure so that people don’t figure out he’s someone that can afford to do without. He gives away all the money he earns here to charity, and . . .”

Andrew’s fingers had made it to her neck and were gently caressing it. She lost her train of thought.

“You really like to talk about Lord White,” he said, leaning in and kissing her cheek.

“Well, he’s my boss . . .”

“Not everyone speaks of their bosses like you do.”

“He took me in . . .” She could feel his hot breath on her ear and she closed her eyes.

“What do you think he wants from you?”

That made her open her eyes.

“Wants from me?”

“You know what I mean . . .”

“No,” she said, gently pushing him back so they were face-to-face again, “I don’t.”

Andrew shook his head. “Oh, come on, Cora. Look at you. You’re lovely. And you worship him . . .”

“I don’t worship—”

“He’s trained you well. What else could he possibly want from you?”

Her passion had changed drastically into hot rage. It was an easy transition to make. “I don’t know, maybe he wants my talent. Maybe he wants my company because I’m interesting. Maybe he can’t live without me since I organize every facet of his life, know his dietary restrictions, keep track of every penny in his bank account, all his plans for the future.”

“Now, don’t get angry . . .”

“Why not? Why shouldn’t I get angry? You’ve just said my value as a person is wrapped up in my appearance and—”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Look, just stop, okay? Let’s not fight again. Besides, you have a lot of work to do.” He tried to smile, but she gave him a look that prevented it.

“You’re right. I do.”

Typically, anger distracted her from whatever she was doing, but there was something in this particular brand of rage that suited the task at hand perfectly. It had something to do with proving to Andrew that she was more than just a pretty face.

“I’m really sorry,” he said quietly a few moments later.

“No, you aren’t.”

“I’m not sorry for thinking what I did; after all, you are beautiful. But I didn’t mean there wasn’t anything else to you. I just didn’t think Lord White was aware of it.”

“Well, he is.”


She hadn’t stopped working, but she directed her focus back where it belonged.

“So we’re friends again?”

She looked up at him and gave him a look of death.

“I’ll take that as a yes?”


TO THE CITIZENS of London and its surrounding Burroughs:

Are you being blackmailed? Does a loved one’s untimely demise seem suspiciously tied to a brother’s new bank account? Are you receiving threats of a personal and/or physically painful nature? Fear not, for salvation is at hand.

We are a trio of lady heroes. If you need us, we will be there. Respond to this advertisement by post, and we shall come to your aid.

We have many talents and skills. But above all things, we know how to assist.


Yours sincerely,

Hyde, the Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle


The Friday Society


Thoughts on the new DC Reboot

So I haven’t read any of the new DC rebooted comics- my superhero intake tends to be a little random, mostly on account of grad-school-induced brokeishness. And with the reviews I’ve been reading, I don’t think I’m going to start.

Let me say that I try to keep firm control of my inner feminazi. Something has to be pretty damn offensive to get me up on my soapbox. And I don’t really mind t&a in comics- to a point. Comics have always hypersexualized and overexaggerated both male and female physiques. It’s a part of the aesthetic, to make the characters larger than life in every way possible. However, what I cannot stand is when the female character exists solely as a set of t&a and has no actual character development to back it up. Sexiness is part of a character, it does not replace character. If your comic is intended to be only gratuitous t&a, stop insulting me and all of the other comic readers (male and female) who read them for PLOT as well as picture. Just be honest and sell the the pictures without the word bubbles in a brown wrapper on the top shelf with a complimentary travel pack of Kleenex. (No, this is not an indictment against pornography either.)

Just to connect this post to class, here’s come comments from people who put it much better than I do. And my presentation topic is on graphic novels and manga…

A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics’ sexed-up reboot of Starfire:

And for a slightly older perspective

The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their  ‘Liberated Sexuality’

Read More:

A Response from a Female Comic Book Fan