Ten Artistic Women That Deserve Celebration More Than Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is released in cinemas in Australia today. Its author, Ernest Cline, has already been broadly celebrated for his work depicting the nerd community. In fact, he was even praised by The Guardian for making his female lead in Ready Player One less one dimensional than in the books. This is apparently enough to be worthy of praise. Last year, in addition to working on Ready Player One, Cline found time to publish a poem entitled “Epic Nerd Girl Porn”, which includes him referring to women as objects (my original article on the poem can be found here).

Cline does not deserve to be celebrated as an artist or representative of the broader nerd community. To combat his misogynistic views, I would like to present:

Ten artistic women that deserve celebration more than Ernest Cline

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Gal Gadot

Gadot’s role as Wonder Woman was hugely inspirational both on and off the screen. Not only did she play the lead in the first ever successful female superhero film, but she did so while five months pregnant and suffering from severe morning sickness. She’s pretty much a real superhero!

 

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Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher was and continues to be, one of my favourite people to have ever existed. She campaigned for women’s rights and mental health awareness and didn’t care what anyone thought of her. At one point, upon hearing a high profile producer has sexually harassed one of her friends, Fisher personally delivered him a cow’s tongue in a Tiffany box with a note which read, “If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box.”

 

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Amanda Palmer

One of my absolute favourite musicians of all time. Her book, The Art of Asking, is one of the most beautiful I’ve read and talks about recognising different people’s passions for the art they are. Also, she has a song about female pubic hair.

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Leigh Alexander

A fantastic games journalist who became a fantastic writer. Alexander was one of the many people fighting against the Gamergate movement, even though it would strongly affect the space where she worked, which earns her my undying respect. She also is one of the contributors to Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, quite possibly my favourite game of the year so far.

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Michelle Yeoh

Rotten Tomatoes credits her with being the greatest action heroine of all time, and it’s probably true. Yeoh performs most of her own stunts and was the first big female name in kung fu movies. No wonder she’s gone on to captain a starship.

 

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Jamie Clayton and Freema Agyeman

These two potray one of the most successful relationships ever depicted on a television show. Nomi and Aminita’s relationship is the heart of Sense8 and proves that loving relationships are just as much of a joy to watch as suspense filled ones. The actresses’ friendship in real life is also a joy to watch on Instagram. It’s pretty adorable.

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Lana and Lily Wachowski

The Wachowski siblings (Lana pictured above) are most commonly known for their Matrix trilogy but have also made both my favourite TV show (Sense8) and my favourite film (Cloud Atlas). Their films deal with deep philosophical concepts and often demonstrates the strength of the human spirit. They have a really beautiful, unique way of seeing the world which comes across in all of their work.

 

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Katheryn Winnick

As I said in my piece on her character in Vikings, Katheryn Winnick probably plays the most kickass female character on television today. She does almost all her own stunts for her role as Lagertha, which isn’t surprising given her stunt training and martial arts background. She also got her first black belt at thirteen. When I grow up, I want to be Katheryn Winnick.

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Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin was a fantasy and science fiction author at a time when men totally dominated the field. In fact, many of her female contemporaries used male pseudonyms in order to get published. Despite this, Le Guin flourished in her field, becoming the first person to win both the Hugo and Nebula award for best novel for the same book twice. Her book Left Hand of Darkness was the first science fiction book I ever read. It and the rest of her work are a huge inspiration for me.

 

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Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley is the only person on this list to be younger than me, but she has already achieved so much more. She plays the new heroine of the Star Wars movies, Rey, and has already made her character totally beloved to the franchise. Ridley also suffers from endometriosis, like me, so seeing her talk about it so openly and achieve so much despite her illness is a massive inspiration.

Photo of Carrie Fisher provided by Gage Skidmore, photo of Ursula Le Guin provided by Marian Wood Kolisch, photo of Lana Wachowski provided by Anna Hanks, photo of Leigh Alexander by Hot Grill on Flickr and photo of Amanda Palmer by StaceyHH on Flickr.

 

Real Talk: Ernest Cline and Problems in Nerdery

TRIGGER WARNING

I seem to be doing a lot more Real Talks recently, and while that’s definitely a format I enjoy writing in, I wanted to shy away from it a bit more in the next few months. After all, this blog is a place to focus on the glitter in the world, and my Real Talk posts have a tendency to be a bit more on the depressing side. Having said that, I saw something in the last few days that it is so, SO important for me to talk about and raise awareness of that I just had to write this.

As many of you will already know, we have a movie adaptation of the book Ready Player One coming out later this year. I have never read Ready Player One, but I was certainly excited about the movie. Who wouldn’t be with all those awesome nerdy references in the trailer alone!?

But then I saw a post in a Facebook group pointing me toward a poem written by the book’s author Ernest Cline. The poster wanted to make sure the broader community knew about it before seeing the film. I checked it out, and it made me vomit a little in my mouth. It was something written in “praise” of nerd girls, but its misogynistic overtones are obvious to anyone who reads or listens to it. I don’t want to republish the poem without Cline’s permission, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to put it on my blog anyway, but for those curious to read the whole thing it can be found here (and it should be accompanied by a huge trigger warning for objectifying women, graphic sexuality and misogyny).

The poem is entitled “Epic Nerd Girl Porn”.

It contains the line “They’re objects.” in reference to women who don’t fit Cline’s description of “a real woman”, specifically in porn. The whole poem is pretty much in that vein. It’s absolutely disgusting.

There is a dark side of nerd culture which seems to speak about women that way and to be quite frank, it terrifies me. It doesn’t just terrify me for the women that Cline describes as objects though, it terrifies me for all women (and men who have been in similarly vulnerable situations). You see, in a former relationship, I was the “nerd girl” dating a guy who believed the same type of things that Cline is writing about.

To be fair to myself, I didn’t realise that my ex held those opinions when I started dating him. It took a while for them to come out, just as it took a while for him to start getting angry at me for not being what I apparently seemed to be on the packet. In my limited experience, what Cline and my ex actually mean when they talk about “nerd girls” is a fictional perfect woman who, not only looks perfect but agrees with every nerdy opinion they have, and knows everything about every nerdy thing. I, as someone who isn’t particularly academically intelligent, was simply not good enough so my ex would lose his temper with me, talk over me and call me stupid. He seemed to think of all women in this way, almost like a virgin/whore complex, except it was a nerd-girl/slut complex.

That relationship was so bad I seriously considered cutting myself off from all things nerdy (which I had loved long before the relationship) just to get away from him and some of the people associated with him when it ended. It didn’t help that three of his gaming friends came into my workplace on separate occasions to threaten me and make me feel unsafe. I was SO lucky to have a supportive workplace and incredibly workmates at the time so it never went further than that, but I still have nightmares almost two years later. I worried that all nerd culture was tarnished by men like that who thought it was their right to treat women badly, after all, hadn’t women treated them badly in high school?

At the same time, I happened to start reading and watching a bunch of games journalism and I discovered something wonderful. Those awful, awful people weren’t in charge of nerd culture anymore, in fact, they’re becoming a smaller and smaller part of it, thanks to others standing up to them and calling them out on their bullshit. Slowly but surely, nerds are becoming the accepting community that they were always meant to be. But there’s still a ways to go. Giving a man like Ernest Cline the chance to represent us as nerds of all genders is a step backwards. As much as he claims to, he clearly doesn’t have any respect for women, nerdy or otherwise.  There are better writers and there are better nerds.

I’m not going to end this post with a call to boycott Ready Player One, but instead, I will say: keep yourself informed and let yourself make your own decision. Don’t let him get away with this if you feel it’s wrong just because he’s written a nerdy movie. Gamers are better than this. Nerds are better than this. We are better than this.

 

Real Talk: Chronic Illness

I was thirteen when I started getting sick. Prior to my teenage years, I’d miss three to five days of school a year. At my worse in high school, I was missing three to five days a week. By the time I was eighteen I had been told by medical professionals to drop out of school or lose what remained of my health forever. Therefore it’s somewhat unsurprising that I don’t have my graduation certificate.

It took me years to get diagnosed with what was wrong, and no wonder. It started with a bout of bad glandular fever at thirteen, and Epstein-Barr at fourteen. My biggest symptom was severe stomach pain, which was diagnosed as a side-effect of endometriosis after eighteen months of tests. I should point that at the time eighteen months was considered a quick diagnosis for endo. And even after that ordeal, my endometriosis still had to be controlled by a process of trial and error (lots of trials from my doctor, lots of errors made by me).

As you can imagine, being sick didn’t do any good for my mental health. My anxiety skyrocketed. I can remember hoping my friends didn’t contact me while I was sick because I was so scared that they would suddenly see me as a weakling. My depression preyed on any sense of hope I had, as I began to imagine a future where I was stuck at home watching television for the rest of my life. Even on the days I was well enough to go to school a sense of dread filled me. Why did I even bother? I didn’t feel like anyone wanted me there.

Leaving school was a blessing in disguise for me, as I made a decision to not focus on my illness, and instead focus on putting what little energy I had into meeting the cast of my favourite TV show; a news-type thing called Hungry Beast. Turns out by being fangirl-y enough, and nice on Twitter enough some dreams do come true, and I ended up being able to meet most of them. Powered by the confidence that gave me I got a job. And started studying Journalism. And spending all my free time with friends.

And if my life were a Hollywood film, it would have rolled credits then and there.

But in reality, my sickness started catching up with me. By the time I hit my second year of studying I needed stronger medication for the endometriosis and my doctor started to notice I was no longer processing iron properly. He started me on iron tablets to no avail. Cut to a few years and a bunch of unsuccessful attempts at different procedures and medications later, and I find out that my liver can no longer cope with the pain medication I use to tame the extreme pain that is endometriosis.

The next few years are waves of health and sickness, pushing myself to appear healthy and then crashing as my body reminds me I’m not. One of my friend’s mothers in high school said that she would love to be chronically ill, “It’d be so much fun to lie on the couch all day.” I was so angry with her at the time, but now I just worry that that’s all people see in me.

I spend so much of the time worrying that people see me as lazy or worthless, so I try to combat it by pushing myself, only to become sicker. I worry that people will think I don’t like them or care about them when I cancel plans when the reality is I’m at home wishing I could see their faces. I worry that I’m not good enough for my friends, and sometimes their patience and loyalty truly baffle me when they still offer support after twelve years of this. Most of all I worry that people will leave me to live their lives when I haven’t even begun to fully live mine.

I think my friend’s mother thought that I spend most of my time relaxing, and from a certain standpoint that is true. There are days when I am up for an hour before needing a three-hour nap to have the energy to continue. But mostly that “relaxing” is finding a way to live vaguely normally: to make sure I feed my partner and myself, to make sure I have clean clothes, to write in my blog, to keep the house vaguely tidy. Then there are the doctor’s appointments, and the endless tests, and people’s almost constant advice until that too dies away.

In the end, your life becomes smaller. Big dreams are forced to narrow down into small goals. Group catchups are forced into individual brief chats at your home. Independence becomes reliance on others. It hurts and it frustrates.

I’m lucky. I still have some hope that one day it will change, and for now, that hope has to be enough.

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It’s rare that I do this, but I’d like to dedicate this blog to those who have got me through my illness by visiting me when I was sick, by dropping off school work when I was too sick to be in school and by being there for me to talk to over the years. Without you all, my life would be utter misery. Thank you!

Real Talk: Australia says “YES” to Marriage Equality

For now, we celebrate. The voluntary postal survey results are in. Around 80% of the population voted, and a little over 61% of those people voted in favour of marriage equality. It was a yes.

I was at a results announcement in Canberra on Wednesday morning. I watched the terror, the anticipation. What if it was a no? How would the LGBTQIA+ community cope? How would any of us cope, knowing the level of intolerance that was in our country?

Then came the words, “For the national result, Yes responses; seven million, eight hundred and seventeen thousand, two hundred twenty-four, representing sixty-one point six percent…”

Yes had won.

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I cried. I hugged the nearest person. I texted my best friends, my old neighbours and my oldest friend, all of whom are part of the LGBTQIA community, to congratulate them. Then I remembered to text my mother the result (she is deaf and doesn’t have a TV or a computer right now). She was overjoyed.

Love had won.

Not only that, the ACT where I live recorded the highest yes percentage of any state or territory in Australia, a whopping 75%. I couldn’t be more proud. I went to the street party in the city, I listened to Penny Wong (a politician who was one of the biggest supporters of marriage equality, and is gay herself, for those of you not in Australia) speak to the crowd. I listened to people sing about freedom, change and equality. I cried some more.

We had won.

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But now, it’s a week later and the realities have settled in. Australia has said yes but our parliament has not. We have been promised marriage equality by Christmas by our prime minister, but that hasn’t happened yet. There are politicians who, despite their constituents having voted yes, are still determined to vote no on any bill that will change the definition of marriage. While the bill the parliament will vote on has been decided, there is still a lot of talk of amending it to protect the right to discriminate. Not just to protect the right of priests and celebrants to refuse to perform marriages (which is already covered by our laws protecting religious freedom), but to allow people to kick LGBTQIA+ people out of their businesses, shops and restaurants, to refuse them service based on their sexuality. There are still people who seek to tarnish this giant step forward by manipulating it to allow them to openly parade their bigotry. And that’s terrifying.

It means that, unfortunately, this is not the end of our fight. Until it’s accepted by our parliament, we must keep pushing for marriage equality. Until it’s rejected by our parliament, we must keep fighting the bigotry we’ve seen over the last three-plus months (and the many years before). It’s exhausting, but my exhaustion is nothing compared to those in the LGBTQIA+ community. I am fighting for the rights of others, they are fighting for the rights that have been denied them. So I vow to fight harder. To make my voice louder. To be stronger, until their rights are protected by Australian law. Until we achieve equality, not just in marriage, but in the treatment of all LGBTQIA+ people.

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Photos were taken at the Big Gay Out Community Picnic, and the Official Canberra Results Street Party. Additional photo by Caitlyn McKenzie.

Real Talk: Marriage Equality

This blog is mostly about films, and TV, and my love of stories in general, but occasionally there are important things outside of the media I want to discuss, and this is one of them.

I live in Australia and at the moment my country is holding a postal plebiscite on whether the Australian Constitution should be changed to recognise same-sex marriage. This survey is being run by the same people that screwed up the national census about a year ago, and won’t bind the Australian government to pass marriage equality. It’s dumb, but unfortunately, it’s the only way my country is likely to get something that is so important to so many people.

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Full disclosure, I’m not gay or bi, but this is still incredibly, incredibly important to me. It’s at least partially because my childhood best friends are gay, and got married last year. I was so proud to be able to stand beside them as their bridesmaid and sign their Partners for Life certificate. But it’s not enough. Their relationship still isn’t considered equal in the eyes of the government. They will still have to fight as they have all their lives to remain equal, to be recognised as each other’s most important family member unless we do something about it.

It’s also partially important to me because of my future children, nieces, nephews and maybe even grandkids. I have no way of knowing their sexuality or gender before they are born or grow, or before they are ready to tell me. I want them to have all their options open. I want them to be able to be there for their partner should the worst happen and one of them end up in hospital. I want their partner to be able to be the first point to call if something goes horribly wrong. I want their partner to be an equal part of my life, no matter what their gender.

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But it’s more than that, marriage equality is most important to me as a human who wants equal rights for all. I don’t want any more children crying in a corner for fear of coming out to their family. I don’t want any more partners left out of the loop by officials because their relationship isn’t recognised in the eyes of the state. I don’t want to sit by while the LGBTQIA+ community is treated as less than everyone else. I want to stand up and fight for their rights because it is overwhelmingly the right thing to do.

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I pledge to fight for a yes vote until the last second of the vote being counted.

I pledge to continue fighting for equal rights for EVERYONE in the LGBTQIA+ community after this plebiscite is finished.

I pledge to support anyone who needs it no matter what the outcome of this vote.

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Please, please, please Australia, take time to think about the people this most effects. It’s not about religious freedoms, freedom of speech or what we teach in schools. It’s about basic human decency. Let’s show the world that Australia is not a country filled with bigots, but rather a place where human rights are honoured. It’s only a first step, but an important one.

Please vote yes.

 

All images were taken at the Canberra Marriage Equality rally on the 22 of October.