It’s like they listened to all those rumors from the original series about Makoto being trans and…
I’m sorry but.. seriously? what bullshit is this? ANOTHER one of those posts that insists that someone isn’t biologically a woman but a trans female?
Because yes, ciswomen can’t do ANY of those things you listed above JESUS >.>;
I’m fairly sure I’m going to regret getting involved, but:
I think you’re missing the point. Bear with me for a few minutes.
When you meet a real person and don’t know all the details of their background, it’s simply because you don’t know those details. They exist. If you meet a tall, leggy, tomboyish redheaded teen who mentions being ostracized at her last school and is fascinated with wedding dresses, there is an objective truth: either she is trans, or she isn’t. There are years and years and millions of details about her that you don’t know, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, and that you can’t learn them. It doesn’t mean she can’t correct you if you’re wrong in your assumptions about her.
Fictional characters, on the other hand, only imply having the same amount of background as real characters, at least if they’re well-written. You may feel like you know, say, Caroline on The Vampire Diaries well (to pick a character whose crafted shape I admire), you may feel like she’s a fleshed-out human, but if you actually add up all the time she has onscreen, it’s shockingly little. A few hours, max, over the course of a multi-season TV show. And while there may be a bit more about her in a writer’s bible somewhere, those paltry few hours of screentime are all of her that actually exists. It’s not that she has years and years of experiences and millions of tiny details that you simply don’t know—all of that stuff that makes up a complete real human being does not exist for her. She’s written in a way to invite you to assume it, but you actually know almost nothing concrete about her.
What exists, instead, is what writers (and people who study writing) like to call “white space.” It’s all those details that the writer, intentionally or unintentionally, doesn’t fill in for the reader/viewer. They’re a blank canvas onto which the reader projects their own assumptions about the character. That’s a big part of what helps us empathize with fictional characters (and why a lot of people feel closer to or more inspired by fictional characters than by real people they know).
And part of what makes stories and the characters in them so compelling is that they work that way for most of their readers or viewers. Your version of Portia in The Merchant of Venice may have to steel herself before she goes in to make her famous speech about the quality of mercy, because she might have stage fright. Mine improvises the whole thing and speaks from the heart because that’s how public speaking works for me. I assume her silences in the script when men say stupid stuff to or around her are filled with a wry smile, because she knows she can talk circles around them when it comes to it. I assume she has compassion in her heart for Shylock, but others have seen coldness there, and all of Portia that exists (117 lines, including what are basically “yes” and “no” answers — I speak more than that in a single day of work!) doesn’t confirm or contradict either interpretation.
Shakespeare might have been able to tell us that one way or the other isn’t how he imagined her, but even in that case, it’s up to you how much authority you think what’s in an author’s head has, versus how the character actually comes out.
And millions — heck, over the course of history, billions — of people have identified with and been inspired by and found commonality and comfort and strength from characters in stories, all of that made possible by that white space being inscribed with their own assumptions and hopes and imagination.
So any random female character for whom you don’t see a birth scene with a doctor exclaiming, “It’s a girl!” is, in essence, Schrodinger’s trans woman. That history of being identified as a girl from day one (or NOT being identified as a girl from day one) doesn’t actually exist for that character. (For that matter, any female character who doesn’t have a relationship with a man onscreen or on the page is Schrodinger’s lesbian.)
What you wrote in the white space for Makoto is a history in which she’s always been identified by others as female. That’s fine! That’s cool! That’s completely valid.
What rambleonamazon and other trans women have written in that space is a history in which she wasn’t.
What she wrote in that space doesn’t have to erase what you wrote, for you. But similarly, you don’t get to tell her what she has to write on that canvas for herself (or for anyone else who wants to share her version). Neither version is objectively right or wrong, because those details don’t exist. (And honestly, even if they did, what would it matter? Reinterpreting fictional characters has been the work of writers and artists and daydreaming children and actors and creative adults since humans first started telling each other stories. It’s how Inanna became Ishtar and Aphrodite got a thousand different faces.)
Trans women have so few positive fictional portrayals, too, that are explicitly trans that interpreting Schrodinger’s trans/cis women as trans looks to me, at least as an admittedly privileged cis woman, as the course of sanity in a world that tells them that they’re not beautiful, not worth telling stories about, not capable of being heroines.
So, I guess my question to you would be: no one’s telling you what you can or can’t write in your white space for Makoto, so why are you trying to erase what others are writing in theirs?
The Harper government has so effectively eliminated the word citizen that it only seems to be used in the context of denying citizenship rights to people like child soldier Omar Khadr, stripping citizenship rights from others, or using it as bait among ethnic voters.
Keeping an eye on debt and deficits is important. But governing means more than just balancing budgets, as citizenship implies much more than just being a taxpayer.
To be a citizen means to belong, to have responsibilities, rights and shared values. It means having a stake in the future and, in democracies, a voice in determining what that future might look like.
In Canada, it means having the guarantee that laws will be applied fairly to every person and every institution (including governments), as well as the right to an education and health care.
That is why we pay taxes. It’s the cost and the duty of belonging.
As the terminology has shifted from citizen to taxpayer over the past three decades, maybe it is only coincidental that the gap between rich and poor has widened.
Perhaps it’s also only coincidence that voter turnout has spiralled downward as the poor and the young (too many of whom are unemployed or under-employed and often burdened by huge debts from post-secondary education fees that have nearly tripled in the last two decades) decide not to bother exercising their franchise.
A growing body of economic research confirms that wealth isn’t the best predictor or guarantor of happy or healthy societies.
What matters more is feeling connected, belonging and having a say. In other words, being a full citizen.
So, as the teachers’ strike drags on and as we head into November municipal elections and a federal one in 2015, let’s reinstate “citizen” and all that it implies.
Let’s insist on it, if only as a reminder that we aren’t just taxpayers, and politicians ought to be more than just bookkeepers.
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”—
This specifically refers to a hand striking the side of a person’s face, tells quite a different story when placed in it’s proper historical context. In Jesus’s time, striking someone of a lower class ( a servant) with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person “turned the other cheek,” the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. Another alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect putting an end to the behavior or if the slapping continued the person would lawfully be deemed equal and have to be released as a servant/slave.
I can attest to the original poster’s comments. A few years back I took an intensive seminar on faith-based progressive activism, and we spent an entire unit discussing how many of Jesus’ instructions and stories were performative protests designed to shed light on and ridicule the oppressions of that time period as a way to emphasize the absurdity of the social hierarchy and give people the will and motivation to make changes for a more free and equal society.
For example, the next verse (Matthew 5:40) states “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” In that time period, men traditionally wore a shirt and a coat-like garment as their daily wear. To sue someone for their shirt was to put them in their place - suing was generally only performed to take care of outstanding debts, and to be sued for one’s shirt meant that the person was so destitute the only valuable thing they could repay with was their own clothing. However, many cultures at that time (including Hebrew peoples) had prohibitions bordering on taboo against public nudity, so for a sued man to surrender both his shirt and his coat was to turn the system on its head and symbolically state, in a very public forum, that “I have no money with which to repay this person, but they are so insistent on taking advantage of my poverty that I am leaving this hearing buck-ass naked. His greed is the cause of a shameful public spectacle.”
All of a sudden an action of power (suing someone for their shirt) becomes a powerful symbol of subversion and mockery, as the suing patron either accepts the coat (and therefore full responsibility as the cause of the other man’s shameful display) or desperately chases the protester around trying to return his clothes to him, making a fool of himself in front of his peers and the entire gathered community.
Additionally, the next verse (Matthew 5:41; “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”) was a big middle finger to the Romans who had taken over Judea and were not seen as legitimate authority by the majority of the population there. Roman law stated that a centurion on the march could require a Jew (and possibly other civilians as well, although I don’t remember explicitly) to carry his pack at any time and for any reason for one mile along the road (and because of the importance of the Roman highway system in maintaining rule over the expansive empire, the roads tended to be very well ordered and marked), however hecould not require any service beyond the next mile marker. For a Jewish civilian to carry a centurion’s pack for an entire second mile was a way to subvert the authority of the occupying forces. If the civilian wouldn’t give the pack back at the end of the first mile, the centurion would either have to forcibly take it back or report the civilian to his commanding officer (both of which would result in discipline being taken against the soldier for breaking Roman law) or wait until the civilian volunteered to return the pack, giving the Judean native implicit power over the occupying Roman and completely subverting the power structure of the Empire. Can you imagine how demoralizing that must have been for the highly ordered Roman armies that patrolled the region?
Jesus was a pacifist, but his teachings were in no way passive. There’s a reason he was practically considered a terrorist by the reigning powers, and it wasn’t because he healed the sick and fed the hungry.
So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.
I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”
Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”
Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.
But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.
He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.
I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.
White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”
This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.
This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.
I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.
This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.
If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.
The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.
(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of nonviolent resistance, and taught the practices of nonviolent resistance.)
So what did they do?
They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.
Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.
If we do it all together, we’ll be okay.
They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.
And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.
Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?
These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.
That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.
Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.
The Mega Fauna Kickstarter fundraiser has reached it’s target goal! Thanks to everyone who contributed, we have more than enough money to publish this all-aged graphic novel anthology! And if you still want a copy of the book or one of the other great products we’re offering, the fundraiser still has four days left! What are you waiting for? Visit the Mega Fauna Kickstarter right now!
Are you the one who made that little comic thing based on my dumb post from a while back? If so, I'd just like to say, that was absolutely beautiful! I loved it! The art, the concept, the whole thing was just lovely. Good job! I'm glad something as wonderful as that little comic thing came out of that ridiculous post.
Yup that’s me. I’m glad you liked it. My goal was to criticize your comment, but not in a mean way. So I guess that worked. :-/ I’m glad it could be taken in the spirit in which it was intended.
I’m a historian who studies burial in the early middle ages, and the burial of women with weapons is one of my specialties! I’m in the process of publishing research about a woman buried with a spear in the 6th century, and am excited to see this important topic being discussed here outside the ivory tower at Tor.com.
The bad news first: while many women have been found buried with weapons, the evidence doesn’t support the claim made in the title of equal gender representation on the battlefield. The 2011 study that the article cites concludes: ‘Although the results presented here cannot be used to determine the number of female settlers, they do suggest that the ratio of females to males may have been somewhere between a third to roughly equal.’ The key thing to note is the word ‘settlers’: the article is arguing that women migrated from Scandinavia to England with the invading Viking army in the 9th century. Several of these women, the article notes, were buried with weapons, but they are still far outnumbered by the armed men. Most of the women settlers mentioned in the study were buried with ‘traditional’ female outfits: brooches that held up their aprons.
The good news, though: while women buried with weapons are rare, they *are* being found, and this is in large part thanks to an increased willingness to trust the bone specialists. Archaeologists have been using bones to identify the biological sex of skeletons for the past century, but when burials were found which didn’t fit their notions of ‘normal,’ they tended to assume that the bone analysts had made a mistake. This is not entirely unreasonable, because bones are often so badly decomposed that it is impossible to tell the sex of the person. But I can point to cases where the bones clearly belong to a woman, and the archaeologists insisted that it had to be a man because only men were warriors. That’s modern sexism plain and simple, and bad archaeology. But thankfully, archaeologists in recent decades have become aware of this problem, and as a result, more and more women are showing up with weapons!
But women with weapons are still a minority, usually fewer than 10% at any given cemetery. Sometimes there are no women with weapons in a cemetery at all. So they existed, but the evidence suggests weapons were still most commonly associated with men.
There are a few things to conclude from this.
First, we’re just talking about graves (because that’s what survives for archaeologists to dig up). Just because a woman is buried in an apron, does not mean she wasn’t a warrior before she died. There was no rule (as far as we know) that warriors had to be buried with their weapons. What if they wanted to leave them to their daughters instead? And who says a warrior woman can’t wear a dress to her own funeral? There might be many warrior women who are invisible because they were buried in ‘traditional’ female outfits.
Second, we can’t be sure that everyone buried with a weapon was a warrior. We find infants buried with weapons sometimes; they clearly weren’t fighters (though perhaps they would have been had they grown up?). Weapons were powerful ritual objects with lots of magic and social power, and a woman might be buried with one for a reason other than fighting, such as her connection to the ruling family, ownership of land, or role as priestess or magical healer.
Third, we shouldn’t rush to map our modern ideas of how gender *should have been* onto the past. We should study the past for what it is, whether that’s good or bad. Archaeologists who ignored evidence that Viking women weren’t all housewives caused great harm, but going to the other side and saying that men and women were equal on the Viking battlefield isn’t really any better. It minimizes the reality of gender inequality that Viking women had to struggle against, much like the inequality faced by their modern counterparts.
But finally, we do need to continue to reimagine the world of sword and sorcery to reflect the real role played by women in the past. Because some women *did* fight, even if they weren’t in the majority, and that’s incredibly important. And shoot, when we write fantasy, why not imagine that 50% of the warriors on the battlefield were women? That might not be how it was, but this is fantasy, and we can write the world as it SHOULD be.
“Your name is Tasbeeh. Don’t let them call you by anything else.”
My mother speaks to me in Arabic; the command sounds more forceful in her mother tongue, a Libyan dialect that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds. I am seven years old and it has never occurred to me to disobey my mother. Until twelve years old, I would believe God gave her the supernatural ability to tell when I’m lying.
“Don’t let them give you an English nickname,” my mother insists once again, “I didn’t raise amreekan.”
My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth. Eight years in this country and she’s still not convinced she lives here. She wears her headscarf tightly around her neck, wades across the school lawn in long, floor-skimming skirts. Eight years in this country and her tongue refuses to bend and soften for the English language. It embarrasses me, her heavy Arab tongue, wrapping itself so forcefully around the clumsy syllables of English, strangling them out of their meaning.
But she is fierce and fearless. I have never heard her apologize to anyone. She will hold up long grocery lines checking and double-checking the receipt in case they’re trying to cheat us. My humiliation is heavy enough for the both of us. My English is not. Sometimes I step away, so people don’t know we’re together but my dark hair and skin betray me as a member of her tribe.
On my first day of school, my mother presses a kiss to my cheek.
“Your name is Tasbeeh,” she says again, like I’ve forgotten. “Tasbeeh.”
Roll call is the worst part of my day. After a long list of Brittanys, Jonathans, Ashleys, and Yen-but-call-me-Jens, the teacher rests on my name in silence. She squints. She has never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is this h doing at the end? Maybe it is a typo.
“Tasbeeh,” I mutter, with my hand half up in the air. “Tasbeeh.”
“Do you go by anything else?”
“No,” I say. “Just Tasbeeh. Tas-beeh.”
“Tazbee. All right. Alex?”
She moves on before I can correct her. She said it wrong. She said it so wrong. I have never heard my name said so ugly before, like it’s a burden. Her entire face contorts as she says it, like she is expelling a distasteful thing from her mouth. She avoids saying it for the rest of the day, but she has already baptized me with this new name. It is the name everyone knows me by, now, for the next six years I am in elementary school. “Tazbee,” a name with no grace, no meaning, no history; it belongs in no language.
“Tazbee,” says one of the students on the playground, later. “Like Tazmanian Devil?” Everyone laughs. I laugh too. It is funny, if you think about it.
I do not correct anyone for years. One day, in third grade, a plane flies above our school.
“Your dad up there, Bin Laden?” The voice comes from behind. It is dripping in derision.
“My name is Tazbee,” I say. I said it in this heavy English accent, so he may know who I am. I am American. But when I turn around they are gone.
I go to middle school far, far away. It is a 30-minute drive from our house. It’s a beautiful set of buildings located a few blocks off the beach. I have never in my life seen so many blond people, so many colored irises. This is a school full of Ashtons and Penelopes, Patricks and Sophias. Beautiful names that belong to beautiful faces. The kind of names that promise a lifetime of social triumph.
I am one of two headscarved girls at this new school. We are assigned the same gym class. We are the only ones in sweatpants and long-sleeved undershirts. We are both dreading roll call. When the gym teacher pauses at my name, I am already red with humiliation.
“How do I say your name?” she asks.
“Tazbee,” I say.
“Can I just call you Tess?”
I want to say yes. Call me Tess. But my mother will know, somehow. She will see it written in my eyes. God will whisper it in her ear. Her disappointment will overwhelm me.
“No,” I say, “Please call me Tazbee.”
I don’t hear her say it for the rest of the year.
My history teacher calls me Tashbah for the entire year. It does not matter how often I correct her, she reverts to that misshapen sneeze of a word. It is the ugliest conglomeration of sounds I have ever heard.
When my mother comes to parents’ night, she corrects her angrily, “Tasbeeh. Her name is Tasbeeh.” My history teacher grimaces. I want the world to swallow me up.
My college professors don’t even bother. I will only know them for a few months of the year. They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”
My name is a burden. My name is a burden. My name is a burden. I am a burden.
On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.
At the start of a new semester, I walk into a math class. My teacher is blond and blue-eyed. I don’t remember his name. When he comes to mine on the roll call, he takes the requisite pause. I hold my breath.
“How do I pronounce your name?” he asks.
I say, “Just call me Tess.”
“Is that how it’s pronounced?”
I say, “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”
“That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,” he said. “What is your name?”
When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tasbeeh. He repeats it back to me several times until he’s got it. It is difficult for his American tongue. His has none of the strength, none of the force of my mother’s. But he gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so deserving of a name. My name feels like a crown.
“Thank you for my name, mama.”
When the barista asks me my name, sharpie poised above the coffee cup, I tell him: “My name is Tasbeeh. It’s a tough t clinging to a soft a, which melts into a silky ssss, which loosely hugs the b, and the rest of my name is a hard whisper — eeh. Tasbeeh. My name is Tasbeeh. Hold it in your mouth until it becomes a prayer. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tasbeeeeeeeh – sand let the h heat your throat like cinnamon. Tasbeeh. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tasbeeh. It means giving glory to God. Tasbeeh. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and give God what he is due”—