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November Media Companion

Whipping Girl | Written By: Julia Serrano

I had seen this book on different lists for the past few years and wasn't sure if I was going to read it. I wasn't sure if it was written for me, or that I was the person who was supposed to be reading. That is, if you can say that any certain book is off limits for any person (I don't believe that to be true). My anxieties about whether or not I should abandon this reading venture were squashed by the end of the introduction.

"Perhaps the most difficult issue that I have to contend with in writing this book is the varied backgrounds of the audiences I am hoping to reach. Some readers may be transsexual themselves, or may be very active in the transgender community, but may not be tuned in to the many discourses about gender and transsexuality that exist in academia, clinical settings, feminism or queer politics. Others may take an interest in this book from a women's, queer, or gender studies perspective, being familiar with what non-trans academics have had to say about trans people, but without ever having been exposed to a transsexual woman's take on these many dialogues and debates. Still others may be completely new to the subject, having picked up the book because they want to learn more about trans sexuality, how to be a trans ally, or because they have a particular interest in the subjects of femininity and/or sexism."

At that last sentence I realized why I had remembered the book every time I thought about buying it. I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn about something that was a part of my world so that I could be a better ally. And then, that realization made me sad. It made me sad because I realized how easy that inclination was for me, meant that it would not be that easy for someone else. There are people in the world who do not want to be allies to the marginalized groups in our society. I will never understand that, but that means that I have to pick up some of the slack. This book is a great place to start.

There is a lot of information in this book. It almost felt like taking a class on the subject of transsexuality (among other things). Granted, this is just one woman's experiences, which Julia reminds you of many times, but they are experiences that should be shared nonetheless. There are very few like them. We need more of them. I think that we will start to hear more of these stories if we talk more about them. So I suggest that you pick up this book. It's a jumping off point for more educated conversation about transsexuality and I guarantee you'll relate to it in ways that you didn't think you could.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter | Written By: Peggy Orenstein

This book was crazy. Did you know that it was a guy who started the Princess revolution? The former CEO of Nike, Andy Mooney, took his daughter to a Disney on Ice show and he couldn't believe what he saw. Homemade costumes. Gross right? How had no one capitalized on this market yet? That was in 2000. By 2006, "Princess" was a three billion dollar industry.

This book made me laugh out loud at how ridiculous some aspects of our culture are, gasp at how much money people throw away on dolls, and cringe at how early young girls are starting to use cosmetics. I feel so hypocritical, but it feels weird to think about all of this and compare my childhood to the kind of person I am now. I had a Barbie Dream House, I remember loving Polly Pockets, and I was at least three different princesses for Halloween. I made my brother, who's four years younger, play dress up with me. I also played T-Ball, so I wasn't always wearing a skirt. I don't remember a lot about my childhood though (for reasons unrelated), I couldn't tell you a lot about my socialization. I know that I spent a lot of time with boys and older kids. I did become sort of a tom boy, and that phase subsided when I started high school at an all girls private school with uniforms. After giving up on pleasing people I reverted to my tom boy ways, not shaving my legs, no make up, bed head. I was always more comfortable that way. I'll always remember my dad telling me how nice I looked at my high school graduation. It was because I never dressed up, I was always comfortable and causal. So it felt nice to have my hard work get noticed, because it's fucking hard work to put a full face of make up on and do your hair. That's why I can't do it,  because I'm lazy. I don't own a hair brush. I stopped wearing bras with underwire a few years ago, opting for bralettes instead because they were way more comfortable. It's one of the best decisions I ever made. This essay went a little off the rails, but these are the kinds of things that I was thinking about while I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Barbie's waist isn't proportional to the rest of her body, Princesses don't have real jobs and they aren't self sufficient, girls don't have to play with dolls, they can be scientists and superheroes. Gender is fluid, male and female aren't mutually exclusive, and femininity is perfectly okay.

Fun Home | Written By: Alison Bechdel

A friend lent me this book so long ago and it's been sitting on my shelf until now. I figured the time to read it would present itself and it did. I loved this book. I wish that more people had the talents or ambition to write graphic memoirs. It's such an interesting and engrossing way to tell your story. Alison Bechdel had an interesting life and she shares it here with so much honesty. You see her world fully fleshed out with drawings that add texture to her descriptions of her family, surroundings, and experiences.

Alison came out as a lesbian in college. She wrote a letter home to her parents, and received a letter in response. Her parents were somewhat divided on the subject, for very different reasons, some of which Alison was not yet aware of. Her sexuality, before and after coming out, was a source of tension in her relationship with her father. He died soon after she came out and she spent her life after that trying to unravel the mysteries he left behind. You'll have to read her story for yourself to find out, and it's totally worth it.

Pariah | Dir by: Dee Rees

 

Pariah is one of my all time favorite movies. I recommend it to people every chance that I get. When we set the themes for the newsletter for the year, my first thought at this month's theme was "oh my god yes I'm going to watch Pariah and I'm going to cry and feel and be alive." Those were probably my exact thoughts. I don't watch this movie often,it's too sad. I've probably seen it three times, including the viewing before writing this. I always end up watching it during times when I need a reminder that it's okay to feel and be alive. It always makes me feel better about whatever may be making me sad, and it makes me long for connection. It's the story of a Brooklyn teenager, Alike (ah-lee-kay), struggling to find her sexual identity. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, filled with love and courage and strong characters. I don't want to say too much because I definitely think you should watch it for yourself. I will leave you with a poem that Alike writes and reads aloud later in the movie. It kills me every time.

"Heartbreak opens onto the sunrise

For even breaking is opening

And I am broken

I’m open

Broken to the new light without pushing in

Open to the possibilities within, pushing out

See the love shine in through my cracks?

See the light shine out through me?

I  am broken

I am open

I am broken open

See the love light shining through me

Shining through my cracks

Through the gaps

My spirit takes journey

My spirit takes flight

Could not have risen otherwise

And I am not running

I’m choosing

Running is not a choice from the breaking

Breaking is freeing

Broken is freedom

I am not broken

I’m free."

Orange is the New Black | Created by: Jenji Kohan

Orange is the New Black can be hit or miss for me. Piper definitely became my least favorite character over the course of four seasons (but her circumstances towards the end of season four did garner my sympathies). The show ultimately became more interesting to me hen the supporting characters moved to the forefront. And if you ask me about TV shows that portray strong, well written women, this would be one ofthem. Despite all of it's flaws, and there are many, this show loves it's characters. It treats them all with respect and shows their vulnerabilities. The use of flashbacks to tell each individual character's story is a plot device that on another show could get old, but here, there are so many interesting characters that you end up begging for the next flashback.

I knew that I had read a great comment about the show's treatment of sexuality. Of course it was from my favorite Vulture critic MZS, "It's treatment of sexuality is unusually complex and open-hearted. There are no binaries here, orientation is treated as more of a spectrum, or as something mysterious and ultimately undefinable." I think that this is what sets the show apart from so many others that try to say something about sexuality, especially women's sexuality. The women on this show either changed because of their imprisonment, or became truer versions of themselves in the process. We get to watch Piper's journey through prison while she loses parts of herself and become more aware of others. Piper and the other women at Litchfield are exploring their sexuality because they can, and it is something to be explored, with an open mind and an open heart.

Transparent | Created by: Jill Soloway

I wanted to write about this since we decided the topic for this month. In my opinion, Amazon's series Transparent is television's best, most well-rounded representation of the LGBTQ community. It shine a prominent light on the dismissed, forgotten trans community, showing the different stages of a person transitioning and trying to live a normal life. Maura, the main character of the show, was born as Mort. He married a woman and had three children. Once he retired from teaching and his children were all grown, he decided to begin his transition into Maura, his true self. Each season of the show deals with a stage of Maura transition. From the first to the now third season, we watch Maura come out to her family, then the outer world, then begin living life fully as Maura. Coming out to her family was difficult, but living as her honest self is a completely new obstacle. Maura is a privileged person, coming from upper middle class wealth. A much easier transition than most trans people, who are often forced into prostitution and poverty because of work discrimination. The beauty of this show is that they complete address the privilege. Maura is learning along the way that she has it so much easier than most. Even though Maura is a retired professor and prides herself on her openness, she realizes that she is far more ignorant than she thought. She also sees that the trans community is often left out of the LGBTQ world, not having a strong prominence in the community. It is something that should have light and it's refreshing to have a popular show dedicated to that. I appreciate that Transparent shines light on the queer community, who are also forgotten. They distinguish so many forms of sexuality, leaving the audience more knowledgeable yet they continue to inform us.