Inherit the Sexism

I was proud and excited when my sister, writing as Gwen C. Katz, author of Among the Red Stars, kicked off the “describe yourself how a male author would describe you” phenomenon. It’s a topic I know she’s passionate about, and I completely agree with her points.

I’m reading the book Inherit the Stars, by James P. Hogan, and it’s a perfect example of what she was talking about. It was written in 1977, and envisions a near-future scenario in which people are colonizing the Moon and Mars. On the Moon, they discover a mummified human body in a space suit–and the whole thing is 50,000 years old! Dum da dum!

I’m not going to ruin the story; Mr. Hogan did that himself, the way he visualized women in the future. Here’s what I mean.

  1. The first woman character doesn’t appear until page 28. A couple other ladies are mentioned, but only as a clerk or receptionist.¬† The book leans towards more hard science and explaining technical details, and none of the main characters are technically competent women. Not one.¬†This is particularly noticeable when the author has characters say things like, “I’ll have the boys in the lab” do X, Y, or Z, or “The time has come, gentlemen, to dally no longer…” (p. 57)

    Caveat: I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I’ve read it before and I don’t recall any technically competent women appearing later.

  2. When the first female character is mentioned, here’s her full introduction:

    Lyn Garland, his personal assistant, greeted him from the screen. She was twenty-eight, pretty, and had long red hair and big, brown, intelligent eyes. (p 28)

    Thank goodness he included “intelligent” in the description. Otherwise I might’ve thought she was just a piece of ass stuck in there to keep the guys interested!

    Garland doesn’t get any actual dialogue during that introduction, however, beyond saying “Sure thing” to the boss’s request to bring in coffee. As noted previously, she’s not actually a researcher or engineer, like the other characters; she’s a secretary.

  3. After her introduction, Garland disappears for 20 pages, during which it’s all dudes talking technical stuff. (Way too complicated for the ladies!) She finally reappears on page 48 as the two main guys are trying to figure out what this mysterious table of numbers and letters means. Here’s how it goes down. I’m going to reproduce it in its full glory:

    His mumblings were interrupted as the door opened behind them. Lyn Garland walked in.

    “Hi, you guys. What’s showing today?” She moved over to stand between them and peered into the tank. “Say, tables! How about that? Where’d the come from, the books?”

    “Hello, lovely,” Gray said with a grin. “Yep.” He nodded in the direction of the scanner.

    “Hi,” Hunt answered, at last tearing his eyes away from the image. “What can we do for you?”

    She didn’t reply at once, but continued staring into the tank.

    “What are they? Any ideas?”

    “Don’t know yet. We were just talking about it when you came in.”

    She marched across the lab and bent over to peer into the top of the scanner. The smooth, tanned curve of her leg and the proud thrust of her behind under her thin skirt drew an exchange of approving glances from the two English scientists. She came back and studied the image once more.

    “Looks like a calendar, if you ask me,” she told them. Her voice left no room for dissent.

    Gray laughed. “Calendar, eh? You sound pretty sure of it. What’s this–a demonstration of infallible feminine intuition or something?” He was goading playfully.

    She turned to confront him with out-thrust jaw and hands planted firmly on hips. “Listen, Limey–I’ve got a right to an opinion, okay? So, that’s what I think it is. That’s my opinion.”

    “Okay, okay.” Gray held up his hands. “Let’s not start the War of Independence all over again. I’ll note it in the lab file: ‘Lyn thinks it’s a–‘”

    “Holy Christ!” Hunt cut him off midsentence. He was staring wide-eyed into the tank. “Do you know, she could be right! She could just be bloody right!”

    [the guys go into why she might be right. Then they ask:]

    “What on Earth made you say a calendar?”

    She shrugged and pouted her lips. “Don’t know, really. The book over there looks like a diary. Every diary I ever saw had calendars in it. So, it had to be a calendar.”

    Hunt sighed. “So much for the scientific method.”… (p. 48-50)

    What does one even say to this? How do I even start to express the depth of insulted disgust I feel at the entire scene?

    The girl gets to contribute, but not before the dudes lasciviously ogle her ass, proving she really is just there as a delectable hunk of meat. At first the men completely dismiss her insight as “female intuition.” It’s not until a man thinks she might be right that they start taking the idea seriously. And then, when she explains her reasoning, the men dismiss her logic as flawed, even though it’s actually reasonable: Nobody knows what the book mentioned is; it’s some alien artifact. It could very well be a journal or diary. But nooooo, some girl came up with that conclusion, so it’s clearly not in keeping with the “scientific method.”

    A little later, the same scientist is in a meeting with all the technical folks, Hunt goes on to introduce Garland’s ideas, without any attribution, as if they were his own:

    “What’s that?” asked a voice.

    “It’s from one of the pocket books,” Hunt replied. “I think the book is something not unlike a diary. I also believe that that”–he pointed at the sheet–“could well be a calendar.” He caught a sly wink from Lyn Garland and returned it.

    He then goes on to say he analyzed the pattern on the page and that the book is remarkably like a diary with a calendar. This, after mocking and poh-poh-ing a woman’s analysis that reached that very conclusion! So much for the scientific method, indeed.

That’s pretty much as far as I’ve gotten so far, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I want to continue.

I know the book was written in a different era, with different norms towards women. But the author was envisioning the future. He wrote about flying cars with internet connectivity, streaming movies, and video-conferencing. In the book, the world is peaceful and everyone is prosperous, and as a result, racism and classism and all that other stuff is gone. There’s no climate change. Countries pour their energy and extra resources (saved because they don’t need big militaries) into exploring space.

And yet, women only ever appear as young ladies in tight skirts serving the powerful, smart men as secretaries. The author couldn’t see past his day and age to envision a world in which women stood on equal footing with men, where a woman’s intelligence was as respected as a man’s, where a woman could lead men or participate equally in technical discussions with men.

And you know what? I think he was right. Forty years later, we’re still a society where ladies are just pussies to be grabbed by powerful men who then boast about their exploits on the record and still get elected to the highest office in the land. So I can’t really complain that the book isn’t realistic. The only unrealistic part, I guess, is the flying cars and the global peace and prosperity.

Mommying

Here’s what being Mommy looks like.

It looks like waking up at 3 am and staying up the rest of the night to hold and comfort your child as he repeatedly vomits. While he’s sitting in your lap, leaning over the toilet, you’re holding his head. Between bouts of vomiting, he murmurs, “I’m glad you’re here, Mommy.”
(No picture.)

It looks like playing the Hero Kids RPG at 6:30 am on Saturday, with Daddy GMing and Benji and I as characters. You work together to defeat a were-wolf, avoiding spiders and killing lots of wolves. During the game, your child takes a whole turn to bring your character up to full health, because he’s very worried that your character is injured.
Hero Kids: Adventure 2

It looks like going for walks in the woods together every week, rain or shine. You find a surprise patch of daffodils blooming in the woods, see innumerable trilliums and other native flowers, and avoid lots of horse droppings. But most fun of all is playing in the creek that’s really 6″ of mud with 1″ of water on top, poking it with sticks, building dams, and dropping big rocks in to make craters that fill in. On your walks, he wants to hold your hand no matter how narrow the trail.
Bridle Trails Walk: Daffodils

Bridle Trails Walk: Muddy Creek

It looks like staying home with your sick child when he has a cold, then getting the cold yourself — and then having the cold turn into the second round of pneumonia you’ve gotten in two years.
3 Generations of Face Masks

And this happens on the first week of the year it’s truly lovely — in the 70s and sunny — right when you’re about to start ramping up riding for Bike Everywhere month and the longer summer ride season. The pneumonia means you’ll miss at least a week of work and you won’t be able to help much with the child, which is real unfortunate, because this is the week all the grandparents and the regular after-school childcare are all unavailable.

Being Daddy, meanwhile, looks like trying to work as much as possible while also taking on Mommy’s jobs and all the after-school childcare.

Nobody promised parenting would be easy. It’s just the mixed-in moments of joy that make all the other moments worth it.

But I really am tired of pneumonia. Honestly.

Based on the recovery time last go-round, it’s probably ended my biking season plans before I even got to start them. I’ll spend the summer just trying to build back up to where I was last week, without any real hope of getting faster, doing the long rides I love, or keeping up with my biking buddies. I have to accept this reality and kiss goodbye the hopes and expectations I had for the season.

And that’s just biking! I have deadlines at work that I should be moving towards, projects and release-related stuff to write. It’s not going to be pretty.

It’s hard.

Under the Weather

Last Friday, I stayed home from work with Benji and his upset gastrointestinal tract. That, thankfully, only lasted a couple days, and then turned into a cold that seems to involve mostly coughing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I now get to experience firsthand the joys of whatever virus this is. It’s mostly deep lung coughing and generally restricted airways, with a little bit of nasal congestion and an overall sense of extra tiredness.

There’s no good time to get sick, of course, but we had a release last night at work. That’s a particularly unfortunate time to come down with something, when I have to start extra-late at work and do a lot of extra preparing for the release.

I’m also bummed because, after several weeks of relentlessly cold and wet weather, we may actually have a few days when I would normally want to go outside. Maybe I’ll feel perkier tomorrow, but I know that today I barely dragged myself out of bed to work. I didn’t want to take a sick day, but I’ll leave work early.

Tomorrow’s another day.

Live Note to My Blog

Yesterday at work I got to do some… well, not exactly creative writing, but writing that was more creative than usual. Our marketing department it starting a blog–I guess they heard it’s what kids are doing these days?!–and I get to be one of the occasional contributors.

Yesterday I wrote my first post for them, and it reminded me of how much fun it can be to write with fewer constraints. I got to use a more playful, casual tone when taking about a new feature and I didn’t have to worry about getting all the technical details perfectly documented. So novel! (Actually it was more in the 50-word story length, nowhere near a novel.)

Anyway, it reminded me of how much I love to write and that I do have this poor, neglected blog that only gets a couple posts a month these days. I’m sorry, little blog! I still love you. I know the only reader left is my mom, but I’m not giving up on you.

I hope we can see more of each other in the future.

Easter-Time Happenings

Happy Easter! Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I was thankful to spend the first half of the day with a group of my biking friends doing a super hard ride. I don’t know why it felt so much harder than previous rides, but I felt like I got a great workout… at least, I trust that’s what that leg-burning feeling means.

I also accidentally gave myself a chainring tattoo, which didn’t wash off in the shower. I figured would look real great with my skirt at church on Easter.
Chainring Tattoo
Luckily I had some dark nylons that hid it pretty well, I think.

After Benji got up from quiet time, he and I met my friend Ellen and her Norwegian buhund Lakka at Bridle Trails. We had one of our nicest Bridle Trails walks to date, having such a good time that we walked all the way from one end of the park to the other, a good two hours in the woods. The extra daylight has really helped out with this activity.

Bridle Trails with Benji, Ellen, and Lakka

On the walk, we saw our first trillum of the season… and then lots more! I love trillium; they are so delightfully Washington.
Bridle Trails Trillium

We also helped Lakka practice lots of tricks, and Benji practiced doing those tricks, too. He’s decided he wants to be a dog, which I’m okay with because he’s far more obedient as a dog than as a kid.
Benji and Lakka: all the way up
This was Lakka and Benji practicing “all the way up,” the command to get up on a log.

Benji and Lakka: find it
Benji hid a piece of cheese in a woodpecker hole and told Lakka, “find it!” Which she did, with alacrity.

All in all, an excellent, if exhausting, day.

Sunday proved no less tiring, but also nice enough. Benji and I started the day with “empty tombs” — donuts with donut holes on top. You remove the donut hole and voila! There’s nothing inside, just like when Jesus rose from the dead!

Here’s our family looking real classy at the photo booth after church.
Easter 2018

And, despite cold temperatures and spitting rain, Benji participated in the church Easter egg hunt, where he got a super-extra-bonus egg. Thank goodness most of the eggs didn’t have candy.
Easter Egg Hunt Prize

After quiet time, we went over to my parents’ house for an Easter dinner with Ian’s parents and grandparents. It was nice. Benji even ate some stuff.

And, last but not least, I came up with an April Fool’s joke that continues to amuse me. I did a test run on our bananas…
April Fool's Googly Eyes 1

…and then I was able to do it to mom and dad’s fruit without them noticing (at least, until someone pointed it out).
April Fool's Googly Eyes 2